Field of Science

Top Ten Follow-up

Paul W. complained that ten was too few for the previous post, so I'll add the runners-up to bring the total to twenty-four. They were:

Brachytrachelopan mesai: The short-necked sauropod of South America - a smashing little stunner that surprised us all. You've got to love the name, too.

Carnotaurus sastrei: Another real oddball. Combine the boxy horned skull with the ridiculously tiny forearms (it makes Tyrannosaurus look like a gorilla) and it's a mystery what this creature was doing for a living.

Diplodocus carnegii: Another classic sauropod. I think my scoring system favoured sauropods a little - they pretty much all scored highly in the 'impressiveness' box, but how are you going to call these giants anything else?

Microraptor gui: The 'four-winged' miniature marvel that inspired much passionate debate on its flying abilities (also, the first non-avian dinosaur to be claimed as a flier). Though there is still no agreement about whether the long feathers preserved on the legs formed functional wings, the evolution of flight in dinosaurs will never be viewed so simplistically again.

Opisthocoelicaudia skarzynskii: My favourite sauropod as a kid. Let's have that name again - Opisthocoelicaudia. Just kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Even better than Parasaurolophus.

Plateosaurus longiceps: Prosauropods are kind of the poor relative in the dinosaur family - never given much time, and about the only major group to not even have a cameo on a Jurassic Park movie. That said, Plateosaurus is the archetypal prosauropod (by definition, as it happens).

Stegosaurus ungulatus: Everyone knows this critter. As David Marjanovic has pointed out, the original thagomiser.

Turiasaurus riodevensis: Europe's largest known dinosaur, and type of a previously unknown group of sauropods. There's something vaguely funny about a previously unseen sauropod.

Centrosaurus apertus: It was either this one or Styracosaurus albertensis. Like Triceratops, but funkier.

Coelophysis bauri: When one is used to thinking of dinosaur finds as a few disarticulated remains, the Ghost Ranch deposit with more individuals of Coelophysis than can be counted are just stunning.

Herrerasaurus ischigualastensis: The prototype of later theropods. Herrerasaurus may no longer be the basalmost known dinosaur - recent workers favour a position very basal saurischian, plus there's always Eoraptor to trump it - but I still have a soft spot for the big lunk.

Pachyrhinosaurus canadensis: The ceratopsian that ditched the ceras, favouring a big ol' ugly boss instead. Still not to be messed with.

Psittacosaurus mongoliensis: I used this species as stand-in for the whole seemingly endless run of Psittacosaurus species. Every time I turn around there seems to be another one. They've been found huddled together in nests, they've been found with apparent long quills on the tail, they've been found halfway down a mammalian gullet. You can't escape them.

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