Thursday, December 27, 2012

A New Breed of Terrible Lizards!

Dr. Steve has cloned a host of prehistoric creatures: Stegosaurus (left), Guanlong (background), Inostrancevia (front center), Scutosaurus (right front), Dracorex (far left)
Finally, it's time! The moment you all have been waiting for - we finally get to know what Dr. Steve Stevenson, head geneist (a scientist who works with genes and DNA) at Animal Adventures Institute has been cloning these last few months. And it has been a lot. When we heard Dr. Steve was finished with his latest cloning project, my trusty junior photographer Daniel P. Smithwater and I headed over to his lab to check it out. In one of our earlier issues of Smiley's News: Waking the Sleeping Dinosaurs, we discussed that Dr. Steve had just received the fossils from Dr. Samuel Adamson's latest fossil hunting expeditions. Well, those specimens finally came to light. So who are these new creatures? Well, considering I had never seen any of these creatures before, we put that question to Dr. Steve. He says, "We've cloned a host of creatures to live on the planet once again. As you already know, most of the creatures we've cloned here at the institute were brought back from Dr. Adamson's fossil hunt. The one exception is the Stegosaurus. We've had Stegosaurus DNA in the "Fossil Storage" for a long time. I actually forgot it was back there. Most of what's back there is unidentified, so whenever we are going to clone creatures from the "Fossil Storage" we never know what we're going to get!" Then I asked Dr. Steve what was so special about these new animals. "Well, let's start with the Inostrancevia," says Dr. Steve, "she's a member of the gorgonopsid group, that's a group of reptiles that acted a bit like mammals. They grew about as big as a bear and have twice the ferocity in the wild! You might have also noticed that she has a pair of four-inch saber-teeth in her mouth. Saber-toothed cats weren't the only saber-toothed animals around. Our Inostrancevia uses those canines to rip into prey, which would have included another animal we've cloned: Scutosaurus." When I asked him if he was going to feed it to the Inostrancevia, his response was, "Of course not, but that's what they ate in the wild. The Scutosaurus is a turtle-like reptile that weighs a full ton. Fortunately then, that it was a vegetarian!" Then the scientist moved onto the Guanlong, "Guanlong we just cloned might look like an insignificant dinosaur, but it's actually a cousin of the much larger and much more famous Tyrannosaurus rex! The crest on it's head was used for display purposes. That then brings us to our final animal: Dracorex. Now Dracorex has a really interesting full name: Dracorex hogwartsia. The first name is due to its appearance to a medieval dragon and the last name, as you might have guessed, is relating to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from the Harry Potter books (which this paper does not endorse, by the way. Check out the link I provided by clicking on "Harry Potter" in the previous sentence). Dracorex was a pachycephalesaur living in North America back when dinosaurs lived on our planet. He's an omnivore and enjoys a mixture of fruits, leaves, nuts, young roots and shoots and insects in his diet." I then recalled the Edmontosaurus he mentioned in the "Waking the Sleeping Dinosaurs" article we had a few months ago and asked why that wasn't cloned. Dr. Steve is quoted for saying, "Unfortunately, the Edmontosaurus specimen didn't yield DNA, so we shipped the fossils off to the Museum of Natural History so they could study them. Whenever our fossils don't yield DNA, we always just send them to museums around the United States so that they may use them." Well, even if the Edmontosaurus wasn't "clonable", I'd say that Dr. Steve has definitely cloned a great set of amazing prehistoric creatures God once created to live on this earth, all those thousands (not millions) of years ago.

Bonus Story: The Pitter-Patter of Tiny Three-Toed Feet
Morgan Parasaurolophus with her parents
Along with the excitement surrounding the new creatures Dr. Steve cloned, there's even more news! The Parasaurolophus eggs we mentioned in the Dinosaurs Reproducing After Their Own Kinds article we had a few months ago finally hatched! Well, one did. Dr. Elizabeth Sorkin (the head veterinarian at Animal Adventures Institute) wasn't sure why the other four eggs didn't hatch, but the proud Parasaurolophus parents are just glad to have been blessed with kids. "We're are just so excited!" says Mrs. Parasaurolophus. "I've always loved babies and this one is no exception! We hadrosaurs (or duck-billed dinosaurs) are famous for our nurturing habits. Did you know that one of my cousins, Maiasaura is named "Good Mother Lizard" because many of their fossils have been found next to neatly arranged eggs?" When asked what they named the newborn, she says, "We decided that she looked an awful lot like a Morgan. Yes, she looks just like a Morgan!"

Written by: Mr. Smiley
Photographed by: Daniel P. Smithwater
Edited by: Christian Ryan

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