Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hello, Spinops!

In case you haven't yet noticed, there's a new horned dinosaur in town: Spinops sternbergorum, yet another example of the ceratopsians' incredible evolutionary radiation.

Spinops sternbergorum, as envisioned by Dmitry Bogdanov

This animal has special significance for me, because it is the first new dinosaur for which I have been senior author. In a lot of ways, that's a childhood dream coming true!

Best of all, it was a lot of fun to work with some respected colleagues. Michael Ryan (ceratopsian expert extraordinaire) and I enjoyed bouncing ideas off of each other (even if we haven't yet reached a consensus on epiparietal homology, as acknowledged in the paper), and Mark Loewen added another ceratopsian voice to the mix. Darren Tanke offered his historical perspective (particularly important for this specimen, which was found in 1916), and Dennis Braman's expertise in palynology was absolutely invaluable. All of us owe a huge debt to Paul Barret's efforts at the Natural History Museum (London), where the type material is held, as well as for his cladistic wizardry. Last but certainly not least, Mark Graham did a bang-up job with preparing the fossil. When I first saw the holotype parietal, it was upside down and embedded in plaster. Mark took this and made it beautiful!

The art was contributed by several different folks. Phil Hurst took some exceptionally high-quality photographs, and Lukas Panzarin rendered the bones with his usual finesse. Our first life restoration of Spinops was undertaken by Dmitry Bogdanov, and it deservedly has been shown widely in the press.

Speaking of art, our representation of Spinops is conservative. We don't know what the frill looked like to the outside of the big spikes, so it is quite possible that there were more than what illustrated. So to the paleoartists out there: make it as spiky as you want! Anything is possible (until we find more fossils that tell us otherwise).

The specimens of Spinops have a long and interesting history, which has been detailed elsewhere. So, I encourage you to check out Brian Switek's write-up at Dinosaur Tracking, an excellent story by John Mangels in Cleveland's Plain Dealer, a story in The Telegraph, the NHM's press page, the Cleveland Museum's press page, or my own museum's web site.

If you're looking for something completely different, check out The Gawker's take on Spinops. It's snarky and quite funny. Many folks have taken some offense at it, but I'm positively delighted to be featured amongst the celebrity gossip - the story is decidedly tongue-in-cheek!

Finally, if you're really interested in digging deeper, check out the original paper, published in Acta Palaeontologia Polonica. It's open access and free to read by anyone!

Citation: Farke, A. A., M. J. Ryan, P. M. Barrett, D. H. Tanke, D. R. Braman, M. A. Loewen, and M. R. Graham. 2011. A new centrosaurine from the Late Cretaceous of Alberta, Canada, and the evolution of parietal ornamentation in horned dinosaurs. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 56(4):691-702. doi:10.4202/app.2010.0121 [link to the original paper]


Michael Simeon/ Krishna Raviprasad said...


Mike Taylor said...

Congratulation, Andy! Nice to see a pleasantly short and easy-to-pronounce name for once, too.