Monday, December 30, 2013
A dinosaur for old time's sake
Welcome to my new Blog. Its been quite a while since Dracovenator died a quiet death. For those who don't know I have shifted continents and now live in Alice Springs, in central Australia. I'm still a palaeontologist, although I no longer teach at a university. This is my personal blog, in which I hope to continue to bring you news and views from the fields of biology, evolution and palaeontology while showcasing some of the wildlife that I encounter here in Central Australia. I'll still pay close attention to may favourite saurians but maybe not quite as much as I did in the past. I have somewhat drifted away from dinosaur research as they are extremely thin on the ground here. So for starters lets take a quick look at what could well be called the fossil emblem of the Northern Territory: Dromornis stirtoni cast of a composite skeleton. And it actually is a dinosaur, although not in the sense most people think of when you hear the word 'dinosaur'. Despite its imposing size it is one of those 'swell-headed, stump-tailed maniraptorans' or 'birds' as most people call them. This is Dromornis stirtoni, a nearly 3 metre tall giant whose remains are abundantly preserved at Alcoota, a remarkable site north-east of Alice Springs that is packed with the remains of thousands of bones from animals that lived in central Australia approximately 8 million years ago. Dromornis was a member of the Dromornithidae, or Mihirung family. These giant flightless birds were once thought to be related to ostriches and emus but are now thought to be more closely related to ducks and geese. There isn't much written about these interesting birds - if you'd like to learn more the only real place to get all available information is Peter Murray and Pat Vickers-Rich's book Magnificent Mihirungs published by Indiana University Press.