You’ve likely seen the meme “Your job can wait.” Describe your favorite dinosaur to us. Fortunately for us, that’s a daily conversation at IFLScience, but it’s interesting to note how frequently childhood favorites like T. Rex, Stegosaurus, and Triceratops are mentioned. Even though Jurassic World: Resurrection introduced the world to some lesser-known (and maybe more accurate) prehistoric creatures, a lot of really cool stuff that has gone unnoticed has happened. I’ll pass on the basic dinosaur the next time this question is posed.
The dinosaur of punk rock
A few dinosaurs had mohawks, did you know that? Paleontologists aren’t exactly sure why this guy seems to have his on backward, though you may have done.
When you think of dinosaurs, you probably picture the amazing array of teeth, jaws, and claws that most carnivores possess, but don’t underestimate herbivores either. The 2019 discovery of Bajadasaurus pronuspinax, or “downhill lizard,” was equipped with peculiar neck spikes that resembled porcupines and measured almost a meter in length.
B. pronuspinax is a member of the Dicraeosauridae family of sauropods, which is related to the Diplodocidae. These enormous, long-necked, and tail-wielding behemoths roamed what is now Argentine Patagonia approximately 140 million years ago during the Lower Cretaceous, long before the famous titanosaurs for which this region is known.
Only one other species of Dicraeosauridae is known to have neck spines; however, these spines are much smaller and point backward, similar to those found on porcupines or echidnas. On the other hand, B. pronuspinax appears to have spikes pointing over its head, forward, in the incorrect direction.
These long, thin spikes may be defensive spines that the creature uses to protect its long, vulnerable neck when it is grazing or squatting. This is the theory put forth by paleontologists. Although the spines are made of bone, they most likely have keratin covering them, which is much tougher than bone and less likely to fracture or break off on impact if attacked. Think of it like the horn of a rhino.
Of course, they might have served additional purposes like thermoregulation or even sexual selection, just like any other peculiar appendage on these long-extinct animals (think sails, plates, and frills). Though there is still much to learn about these lesser-known sauropods, Bajadasaurus stands out from the rest thanks to its unique appearance.
The dinosaur equivalent of Edward Scissorhands
This one might be familiar to you from Jurassic World: Dominion, but the notion that it could evolve into a Giganotosaurus is just wishful thinking (the author is a fan).
Therizinosaurus cheloniformis, the lone species in its genus, was a very large herbivorous therapod that was only known from a few teeth and its powerful arms that ended in enormous, terrifying claws. Therizinosaurus, which means “scythe lizard,” got its name from these enormous claws, which also give paleontologists a headache because they make no sense.
Between 220 million and 66 million years ago, during the Late Triassic and Cretaceous, Therizinosaurus was a living species. Its estimated height is over 7 meters (23 feet) tall, with the possibility of reaching up to 10 meters (30 feet). This is about the same height as a Tyrannosaurus rex. However, it has a rather awkward body that has been dubbed “pot-bellied” and “big-bottomed,” with a long neck, short legs, feathers, and a beak. It doesn’t sound all that amazing until you see the claws: the largest known animal’s spectacular, meter-long scythes that resemble Edward Scissorhands.
With these enormous, gigantic salad scoops, what did it do? Paleontologists aren’t exactly sure, though. It has long been unclear why a dinosaur with such large claws would be necessary for something that otherwise suggests it was a plant-eating animal, but they most definitely weren’t piercing Giganatosaurus’s neck.
According to a study conducted earlier this year, these enormous claws would not have been able to repel or combat an attacker because they would have been too fragile to handle the pressure. Rather, they imply that their main purpose was exhibition, either to attract attention from women or to frighten others away.
It’s also adorable that it’s been suggested that they used them for grooming; since Therizinosaurus had feathers, they could have used them as elaborate combs on each other, though you know how disastrously wrong that can go from Edward Scissorhands.
Therizinosaurus merely goes to demonstrate that your favorite dinosaur need not always be the flashiest or scariest; sometimes it can just be the strange person in the corner who is clumsy with its hands.
The all-time “horniest” dinosaur
Imagine how Kosmoceratops richardsoni must have felt with its fifteen, yes fifteen, full-size horns on its enormous two-meter-long (6-foot) skull. Maybe you’ve attended an event and felt overdressed. It had ten oddly curled-over spikes on its frill that, to be honest, looked like every bad choice ever made to get bangs. It also had horns above each eye, on its nose, and emerging from each cheek.
Kosmoceratops was found in 2006 and is thought to have existed 76 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period in what is now southern Utah. Its head was enormous in comparison to its body size, measuring approximately 5 meters (16.4 feet) from snout to tail. It is known from only two fossils. For all its being the most elaborately crowned dinosaur ever discovered, no one is examining its torso. The name Kosmoceratops, which means “ornamented horned face” in Greek and is frequently used for dinosaur taxonomy, was given by its discoverers quite literally.
What gave, then, for their head to have more decorations than a Christmas tree? The horns, like a peacock’s tail or a deer’s antlers, are thought to have been for sexual selection because they would have offered little protection—nothing that the animal’s massive ceratopsid frill couldn’t supply anyway. Males who have impressive ornamentation can attract more mates and deter potential suitors.
Strangely, ceratopsians don’t appear to experience sexual dimorphism, so the females would have had identical bells and whistles. Once more, paleontologists surmise that either mutual sexual selection occurred or that the females imitated the males’ elaborate headgear to avoid being eaten by predators.
Kosmoceratops can teach us all a valuable lesson: more is more when it comes to accessories.
That’s it. Keep that in mind the next time you see the “Your job can wait” message. Instead of waiting for someone to mention a T. rex, start the conversation by saying, “Have I got the dinosaur for you!” Tell us about your favorite dinosaur.