Category Archives: Dinosaurs

FEBRUARY DINOSAUR OF THE MONTH: PROTOCERATOPS ANDREWSI

This being Valentine’s Day, here’s my second monthly post featuring a new dinosaur discovery. Astute readers know that Protoceratops andrewsi, which is a predecessor to the ever-popular Triceratops, is hardly a newly unearthed species. However, a recent study of thirty specimens of these intriguing, sheep-sized dinosaurs looked at a specific physical trait that these dinosaurs might have found attractive in a mate. Like other Ceratopsians, Protoceratops possesses a distinctive and elaborate neck frill whose function is not immediate apparent.

The new study relied on 3D scans to document growth patterns of Protoceratops’ neck frills, and included specimens ranging from day-old hatchlings all the way up to full-sized adults. The evidence established that the neck frills grew at a faster rate than the dinosaurs’ skulls, thus ending up disproportionately large. While it is difficult to ascertain the onset of sexual maturity in an extinct dinosaur, the rapid growth of the neck frills appeared to be a sexually-selected trait.

Of course, anatomical features can serve multiple purposes, Previous hypotheses have suggested the neck frill served to protect the dinosaur’s vulnerable neck from predators such as Velociraptors found in the same environment. It’s also possible the neck frill helped in regulating internal body temperature, thereby preventing over-heating. Another idea is that the frills permitted individuals to more easily recognize one another, perhaps from a distance where there is a clear line of sight. Perhaps the frills enabled Protoceratops to appear bigger and fiercer than they were, thereby prompting those Velociraptors to go after smaller and less intimidating prey.

Where does this leave us? I, for one, am rather drawn to the idea that seventy five million years before Valentine’s Day was a thing, the Laurasian Protoceratopsians were eying each other’s neck frills.

Come back next month for my St. Patrick’s Day dinosaur.

DINOSAUR OF THE MONTH CLUB

How many dinosaurs are there? People ask me this from time to time and it’s a harder question than you might think. Do they mean how many individual critters trod the Earth or how many different species of dinosaurs were there? Those aren’t easy questions either, given that they reached every single continent, including Antarctica. Also, vast areas were not conducive to preservation. While we know quite a bit about some species in certain regions and time periods, more are discovered every year. In fact, dozens of “new” species are announced, named, analyzed, and/or sketched every year.

Yes, I said dozens, which means I can’t keep up! However, I can focus on some neat new discoveries. With that, I am launching a regular (here’s hoping!) new feature of Blogging the Mesozoic: a monthly post about a neat new discovery. Here’s the first one:

Ubirajara jubatus hails from Brazil. I picked it because South American dinosaurs simply don’t get nearly enough love despite being some of the largest dinosaurs ever found. But not this one, which is about the size of a turkey. It’s a carnivorous compagnathid from the Crato Formation 110-120 million years ago.

What makes it cool?

  1. It’s the first South American non-avian dinosaur fossil to show indisputable evidence of fluffy feathers, or perhaps proto-feathers. Plus it had spike-like projections from its shoulders.
  2. The coloration is rather a guess, but it might have been as brilliantly plumed as parrots or macaws, Or possibly it was more sedate. Until we have traces of pigmentation, it’s hard to say.
  3. We don’t know which direction those stiff filaments pointed. Here’s a neat article with illustrations as to some possibilities. I’m fascinated by how paleontologists and illustrators work together to develop various alternatives from crushed and incomplete fossilized remains.
  4. The name combines the indigenous Tupi word for “lord of the spear” with the Latin word for “maned” or “crested.”

What makes it controversial?
The specimen was exported from Brazil to Germany for study in 1995, where it still remains. The legality of the export is under investigation.

WRITING ABOUT WRITING ABOUT DINOSAURS

Dear Readers, The marvelous Catherine Schaff-Stump prodded me into revealing a few of my tricks for bringing dinosaurs to life in your imaginations. Hears hoping the writers among you may find something useful in creating wonders of your own. Oh, and hey, if you’ve never checked out Cath’s Abigail Rath series, you are in for a treat!

WONDERFUL BOOKS BY TAOS TOOLBOX WRITERS!

I’m thrilled to say that my interactive fiction game, T-Rex Time Machine is but one of a double handful of science fiction and fantasy works written by Taos Toolbox alums in the past year or so. Hope you’ll check out the wealth of reading featured on Walter Jon Williams’ blog. They all make great last-minute gifts for yourself or someone else!

                    

Where to Catch Me at Balticon

Memorial Day Weekend, come hear me read from one of my dinosaur stories and talk about time travel, shopping at Target in Middle Earth, critiquing, writing methods, predatory business practices, anthropomorphism, and who knows what else! Here is my schedule for Balticon:

Friday, May 25

6pm  Anthropomorphism in SFF

Panel Discussion:  Tom Doyle (moderator), Joy Ward, Walt Boyes, Rosemary Claire Smith, Michelle Sonnier

Learn how to tell stories from an animal’s unique perspective without resorting to writing humans in fursuits.

 

Saturday, May 26

11am  Stopping the Clocks: Time Travel in Writing

Panel Discussion: Andy Love (moderator), Brian Groover, Jack Clemons, Rosemary Claire Smith, Ian Randal Strock

In 1888, H.G. Wells wrote his first time travel story, “The Chronic Argonauts.” 130 years later, the concept is as popular as ever , with people still trying new takes on it. Why is time travel so perennial a theme? What are some of the different rules we’ve seen, and how do they make for good storytelling?

1pm You Can’t Shop at Target in Middle Earth

Panel Discussion: Walt Boyes (moderator), Melissa Scott, Denise Clemons, Ada Palmer, Rosemary Claire Smith

In your original fantasy setting, everything the characters own has to come from somewhere. Let’s talk about how to build a believable material culture for your world.

2pm Recognizing Predatory Business Practices

Panel Discussion: D.H. Aire (moderator), James R. Stratton, Neil Clarke, Rosemary Claire Smith, Lawrence Watt-Evans

How to look for signs that you might not be dealing with a legitimate company – including common tactics such as pay-to-play, signing over derivative works, and others.

 

Sunday, May 27

12pm Readings: Sarah Avery, Rosemary Claire Smith, Carl Paolino

Reading

Authors Sarah Avery, Rosemary Claire Smith, and Carl Paolino read from their work.

5pm  How to Incorporate Critique

Panel Discussion:  Joshua Bilmes (moderator), Day Al-Mohamed, John Appel, Leah Cypess, Rosemary Claire Smith

What do you do when you have two readers giving you different or even contradictory feedback? How much are you willing to let the feedback change your work?

Monday, May 28

10am  Outlining vs. Pantsing

Panel Discussion: Paul E. Cooley, Devin Jackson Randall, Rosemary Claire Smith, Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Some storytellers require a detailed outline to start fleshing out their story, but others prefer to write by the seat of the pants. What are some techniques to help you get better at one when you prefer the other? Authors and gamemasters welcome!

Hope to see lots of you there!

Unreliable Narrators Interview!

Cath, Chris, George & Chia (a/k/a the Unreliable Narrators) interviewed me about T-Rex Time Machine for their podcast! It was great fun talking to these talented writers about dinosaurs, creating an interactive fiction adventure, and much else. Have a listen.

While you’re at it, have a look at my game. It’s your chance to take your best friend back millions of years to see living dinosaurs.

 

POP QUIZ

What stands almost as tall as a giraffe, has hollow bones as thin as a playing card, and a 33-foot wing span?

No, it isn’t some imaginary creature, but rather an extinct pterosaur that lived during the Cretaceous. I feature its relatives in T-Rex Time Machine, my interactive fiction RPG. Soon, you’ll soon get to spend time with this fabulous critter plus a slew of dinosaurs, courtesy of me, Choice of Games, and the raging power of your imagination. In the meantime, you could read some of my other dinosaur stories or check out some other remarkable games from Choice of Games. To say that I am excited about unleashing it upon the world is a vast understatement.

One neat thing about the games produced by Choice of Games is that you can play them again and again by selecting different attributes for your character, even different names and genders.

Beta Testing My Dinosaur Game

T-Rex Time Machine went into beta test this morning. That’s the name of my interactive fiction game in which you will soon get to spend time with the dinosaurs, courtesy of me, Choice of Games, and the raging power of your imagination. The current plan is for the game to be available this upcoming holiday season. In the meantime, you could read some of my other dinosaur stories or check out some other remarkable games from Choice of Games. To say that I am excited about unleashing it upon the world is a vast understatement.

HERE’S TO NATIONAL FOSSIL DAY!

What’s new on this day dedicated to things ancient? Quite a lot! We have not just a slew of new species, but also spectacular preservation such as:

Did you know that since 1990 or thereabouts, more new dinosaur species have been identified by their fossil remains than in all the previous years during which scientists had been studying dinosaurs?

Lastly, hats off to the National Park Service, purveyors of insights about fossils:

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossilday/index.htm

Here’s wishing you a happy National Fossil Day.

See You at the Baltimore Book Festival!

This weekend, I’ll be at the Baltimore Book Festival (Inner Harbor), in the SFWA tent, talking about human adaptations, science fiction and dinosaurs! Hope you’ll drop by if you’re local and have a listen. Come find out about my forthcoming project: an interactive game featuring dinosaurs and you. Plus there are so many other great panels at this 3-day event (Fri.-Sun.). It’s free!

Here’s my schedule:

Saturday

11 AM Humans, Adapt!: How Humans and Cultures Adapt in Fiction
From the zombie apocalypse to invasive government to zero gravity to uploaded consciousness, our panel discusses humanity’s ability to adapt to new environments in fantasy and science fiction, and the resilience of the body and spirit.
Authors: Carrie DiRisio, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Erin Roberts, Christopher Mark Rose, Rosemary Claire Smith

12 Noon Dinosaurs, Diseases, and Dwarf Stars: Actual Science in Science Fiction
From eclipses to eoraptors, we’ll talk about great science in fiction. May the facts be with you!
Authors: Gwendolyn Clare, Jack Clemons, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Vivian Shaw, Rosemary Claire Smith

Check out the full schedule.

Save

Save

Save

%d bloggers like this: