Across my twitter feed today we welcomed a new dinosaur. Brontomerus mcintoshi was named for it’s “thunder-thighs” and as honour to retired physicist and avocational paleontologist “Jack” McIntosh.
I hope Jack has no hang-ups about his thighs, as I can assure you if someone called a dinosaur “Thunder-thighs skelletti” I would whap them with my peg leg.
But I’m sure Jack is pleased to hand his name to this butt-kicking dinosaur. With huge thigh muscles, as shown by bone fragments, Brontomerus may have kicked his way out of hairy situations.
The authors of the paper suggest kicking could have been used by males fighting over females (or indeed, females fighting over males, which I put forward as an equally possible alternative.) If capable of delivering crippling kicks, they probably used their legs against predators as well.
Another suggestion is that Brontomerus used the thighs as a kind of “dinosaur four-wheel drive,” according to co author Matt Wedel, which helped them climb rough and hilly terrain.
The paper is based on a healthy smattering of bone samples from two individuals, a juvenile (a few years old) and an adult. The samples represent about 10% of the total skeleton, not much, but people work with less. With an incomplete skeleton, caution has been advised in describing its behaviour and good-looks. But I say, if you want to go ahead and imagine the dino as Xena trained in kickboxing, why the hell not?
Brontomerus is a sauropod, one of the long-necks, as are the familiar members Apatosaurus, Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus (my personal favourite. It’s fun to say!) It was found in Utah, North America, and lived about 110 million years ago.
Until recently, the Early Cretaceous Period was a bit of a black hole for fossils. After the stegosaurus, but before T-rex and duckbills, there was a gap. Now paleontologists are looking at rocks from that period, they’re uncovering more about that mysterious time.
According to Mike Taylor’s fact sheet on Brontomerus, “although the first dinosaurs were named almost 200 years ago, more than half of all known dinosaurs have been discovered in the last 30 years.” At least it’s not just me.
Check out their blog or read the paper (warning: PDF)
Michael P. Taylor, Mathew J. Wedel, and Richard L. Cifelli (2011). A new sauropod dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous Cedar Mountain Formation, Utah, USA Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 56 (1), 75-98 : DOI: 10.4202/app.2010.0073