|Acrocanthosaurus and Ceratosaurus are the newest dinosaurs at Animal Adventures Inc. Keep reading to learn more about them.|
The geneticist is at it again! Dr. Steve Stevenson, head of Animal Adventures Institute (AAI), his “second-in-command” Oliver Oviraptor and his other assistants have once again recreated new species of dinosaurs for Animal Adventures Inc. In this article, I wrote about how the institute's paleontological team headed by Dr. Samuel “Sammy” Adamson had retrieved several fossils of extinct dinosaurs from various locales around the world and brought them back to the institute. Most of the specimens didn't yield dinosaur DNA for cloning, so they were sent to various museums. Two dinosaur specimens however did yield DNA and over the past several months, Dr. Steve and the others were able to successfully clone, hatch and rear two species of dinosaurs!
When I heard the news . . . you guessed it, my trusty, junior photographer, Daniel P. Smithwater and I went to AAI. to have a chat with the scientist about his latest “creations”. When asked about them, he was quoted for saying, “Well, I don't normally like to use the word 'creations' to refer to the creatures I've bio-engineered from extinction. That's because technically, I didn't create them. God did that 6,000 years ago. He created dinosaurs and everything else in the universe (along with the universe itself) out of nothing but nothing. All I'm doing is using genetic information that's already been created to recreate a creature that's been extinct for at least hundreds of years.”
Dr. Steve's new creatures are two species of theropod dinosaurs called Acrocanthosaurus atokensis and Ceratosaurus nasicornis. Theropods were the group of dinosaurs that contained two-legged and carnivorous dinosaurs (though some theropods were herbivores or omnivorous). “We were really excited about recreating these two dinosaur species,” Dr. Steve says. “The last new large carnivorous dinosaur we cloned was Carnotaurus. Since that time, we've only cloned herbivores, and small carnivores.”
After hearing this news, I asked Dr. Steve to give me a little information on the two dinosaurs. He started with Ceratosaurus. He said, “Ceratosaurus is a pretty cool dinosaur. It's a relatively small carnivore with a large three-crested head, two relatively short arms, strong back legs and a long tail. It grows about 20 feet in length and weighs approximately a ton.” He went on to explain where the animal lived and what its environment was like. “This theropod lived in what is now the southwestern United States; we find their fossils in places like Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, where the climate used to be much wetter and was probably covered in floodplains, gallery forests, fern prairies and open woodlands. Other Ceratosaurus fossils have been found in Tanzania and Portugal. This dinosaur lived in an environment full of giants. Along with small ornithopods, you'd also find creatures like stegosaurs, ankylosaurs and medium-sized iguanodonts. You also would have seen the amazing sauropods, or long-necked dinosaurs like Apatosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Dinheirosaurus and Diplodocus depending on which continent we're talking about.” I asked Dr. Steve what Ceratosaurus hunted in the wild. “Ceratosaurus was a relatively small dinosaur, as dinosaurs go,” the scientist said, a”nd would have hunted anything from a small ornithopod like Othneilosaurus, to a stegosaur like Stegosaurus.” However, Ceratosaurus, Dr. Steve said, wasn't the largest killer on the block – it faced competition from larger dinosaurs such as Allosaurus and Torvosaurus.
Then we switched to the topic of what on earth Ceratosaurus' head crests were for. Dr. Steve is quoted for saying, “This dinosaur had three crests on its head: one above each eye and a larger one on the snout. Initially, Ceratosaurus' crests were thought to be used as weaponry. The tiny problem was that they were really too fragile for that behavior. We now know that they were used for display; the dinosaur would use them to ward off rival creatures and attract potential mates.”
Feeling I'd learned a lot about Ceratosaurus, I told Dr. Steve that I wanted to learn about the other dinosaur he cloned: Acrocanthosaurus. He said to me that Acrocanthosaurus was one of the largest North American carnivores. It was around 40 feet in length and weighed five tons! “Acrocanthosaurus was in a group of theropods called the carnosaurs,” Dr. Steve explains, “they were a vicious predators, some of which growing larger than Tyrannosaurus! They lived in a completely different environment than the one Ceratosaurus lived in. Its fossils have been found in southwestern states as well, in places like Utah, Texas and Oklahoma, where it's the state fossil. The environment it lived in was filled with a wide array of other dinosaurs such as iguanodonts like Tenontosaurus, ankylosaurs like Gastonia, sauropods like Sauroposeidon and Brontomerus. There were also smaller predators in the ecosystem, including the vicious raptor Deinonychus.” The name Deinonychus sounded very familiar to me, so I asked the geneticist to tell me more about that dinosaur.
“Deinonychus was a close relative of Velociraptor – they were both in the dromaeosaur family,” says Dr. Steve. “Deinonychus stood about five feet tall and stretched 11-13 feet from nose to tail. Like Velociraptor, they were probably pack-hunting dinosaurs and bore a six-inch retractable claw on each foot that it used to help finish off its prey. They weren't large enough to be much competition to Acrocanthosaurus.” He went on to say, “And speaking of predatory habits, perhaps I should tell you about what Acrocanthosaurus ate. Based on the skeleton design, this carnosaur was suited to hunting iguanodontids and even sauropods. Its arms weren't very flexible, but they were quite strong and sharply clawed.”
At that point in the conversation, I had noticed that Acrocanthosaurus had a ridge along its back. I had seen something similar in an unrelated family of dinosaurs known as the spinosaurids, which includes species of dinosaurs like Spinosaurus and Suchomimus. Those dinosaurs have tall sails on their backs used for temperature regulation and for display. Perhaps Acrocanthosaurus had a ridge along its back for the same purpose. I asked Dr. Steve about it. His reply was, “Acrocanthosaurus had tall vertebra on its neck, back and tail. Unlike the ones on Spinosaurus which supported a sail of skin, these supported a ridge of some skin, but also of muscles. This would have made the neck quite strong. However, we also believe that the ridge along its back was used for display purposes as well.”
In my opinion, Dr. Steve and his team have cloned a great pair of dinosaurs back from extinction. I can't wait to see what he'll work on next!
|The ferocious Acrocanthosaurus is one of the largest carnivores at AAI.|
|Ceratosaurus is a medium-sized carnivore with three crests on its head for display.|
Written by: Mr. Smiley
Photographer: Daniel P. Smithwater
Edited by: Christian Ryan, Joy Hammond
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