Smithsonian Magazine: Top 10 Dinosaur Discoveries of 2023 Revealed

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Dinosaurs left behind so many mysteries that paleontologists still cannot solve many of them. Fortunately, there are those that scientists can cope with. And thanks to this, discoveries about dinosaurs are emerging that are worthy of becoming this year’s best.

1. Mammals fought back against dinosaurs

Although dinosaurs are considered almost the masters of the Mesozoic era, smaller mammals were not so simple either. The proof of this was ancient badger fossilwhich bit into the ribs of the dinosaur.

While researchers don’t yet know why the mammal and dinosaur were fighting, damaged bones indicate the badger was biting its opponent hard and not paying attention to its size.

2. Some Dinosaurs Lay Amazing Eggs

Some dinosaurs have amazed researchers with their eggs this year. For example, as did the long-necked Qianlong shouhu, the ancient ancestor of the apatosaurs.

The Qianlong eggs impressed scientists because they were leathery, hinting that early dinosaur eggs had flexible shells.

3. The dinosaur, created by a predator, chewed grass

Paleontologists spent several long years trying to describe Troodon – two-legged dinosaurs, whose height rarely exceeded one meter, and whose average weight was some 50 kilos. Previously, they were represented as scaly, clumsy and cold-blooded, but in 2023, researchers found that troodons were warm-blooded and feathered, ran quickly and generally acquired more and more “bird-like” features.

Moreover, despite the sharp teeth and claws that would have helped Troodon take down lizards and mammals, this dinosaur seemed to prefer to eat plants.

4. Giant dinosaurs evolved again and again

Paleontologists have also discovered that dinosaurs were constantly evolving. An analysis of 250 species of sauropods helped them establish this. He showed that the already gigantic representatives of this group of dinosaurs constantly grew – at least 36 times over the course of one hundred million years.

The discovery highlights that there were likely different evolutionary pathways for dinosaurs to grow in different habitats.

5. How did young tyrannosaurs eat?

Looking into the stomach of a 5-year-old Gorgosaurus, which roamed the Earth 75 million years ago, paleontologists discovered in it the remains of two small herbivorous dinosaurs of the species Citipes elegans, similar to birds. Moreover, instead of swallowing the prey whole, the young tyrannosaurus ate only the hind limbs – the fleshiest parts.

This specimen provided the first direct evidence that the diet of young gorgosaurs was different from that of their adult counterparts, which caught large prey, bit through bones, and scraped and tore flesh from carcasses.

6. Who destroyed the dinosaur replicas

At the end of the 19th century, an impressive Paleozoic museum was about to open in New York’s Central Park, featuring life-size replicas of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. But in 1871, an unknown person destroyed and buried all the figures.

The destruction was attributed to one of the most unprincipled and corrupt politicians, William Tweed, whose name became a byword for political corruption. But 162 years later he was acquitted.

Now the perpetrator of the outrage was identified as the influential lawyer and businessman Henry Hilton, who, according to the researchers, generally “demonstrated an eccentric and destructive approach to cultural artifacts, as well as a remarkable ability to destroy everything he touched.”

For example, he previously became famous for ordering the bronze statue and skeleton of a whale, donated to the American Museum of Natural History, to be painted white. So the dinosaur story seems to have been another one of his bizarre escapades.

7. A new species of dinosaur was discovered in Chile

In June 2023, paleontologists discovered the remains unknown species of “duck-billed” dinosaur (hadrosaurids) that lived on Earth 72 million years ago. It was a herbivorous dinosaur that lived in what is now the far south of Chile. According to researchers, these lizards reached from 3.5 to 4 m in length and weighed up to 1 ton.

They had a slender build, could easily stand on either two or four legs depending on the level at which the vegetation was located, and they had large beaks flattened at the front, reminiscent of a duck’s, but with sharper edges and rows of huge teeth.

The species was named Gonkoken nanoi. From the language of the Tehuelche people, the first part of the name is translated as “similar to a silver duck or swan”, the second part is a tribute to the person who helped paleontologists in excavations. Now paleontologists are figuring out how these ancient lizards got to South America.

8. Dust from the asteroid impact floated around for years.

Also this year, researchers studied the asteroid that marked the end of the Cretaceous period. As a result of the disaster, about 75% of life on Earth was destroyed, and debris from the impact created an infrared pulse that almost immediately set the planet on fire. But the consequences of the collision lasted much longer.

Scientists found that the silicate dust generated by the impact persisted for 15 years, interfering with photosynthesis and promoting cooling as life recovered.

9. Dinosaur with the longest neck

Owner one of the longest necks of all time paleontologists named the mamensisaurus (Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum). Fossils of this plant-eating dinosaur, which scientists reanalyzed in March 2023, showed that its neck was more than 14 meters long – just like the largest dinosaurs of all time.

What’s more, the study found that bones protruding from the neck vertebrae helped provide stability to the dinosaur’s neck and evolved at the same time as air pockets in its neck bones grew larger. The stability these bone bridges provided allowed dinosaurs to develop lighter, more fragile neck vertebrae, opening up the possibility of evolution.

10. Tyrannosaurs had lips

Typically, tyrannosaurs are depicted with fully visible teeth, like modern crocodiles, but scientists discovered that in fact, tyrannosaurs’ teeth were hidden behind their lips. Scientists were prompted to this conclusion by the enamel of dinosaur teeth – it was thin. And if tyrannosaurs didn’t have lips, it would quickly dry out and crack, and toothless dinosaurs wouldn’t last very long.

In addition, it turned out that tyrannosaurs did not have the necessary muscles to purse their lips – they were more like scales with keratin and soft tissue covering the outside of the teeth, rather than large, fleshy and plump lips like humans.

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