December 8th

Box #8 in our count down is Guanlong…

Days 1-5 of the count down.
Days 6-10 of the count down
Days 11-15 of the count down
Days 16-20 of the count down
Days 21-25 of the count down
Guanlong, an ancient relative of Tyrannosaurus rex

Guanlong: the “Crowned Dragon”

Guanlong lived in late Jurassic China, and is the first known member of a group of dinosaurs that grew into the famous Tyrannosaurs. It was much smaller than its powerful relatives, just over 11ft (3.5m) long for the largest known, and it had three fingers instead of the two.

The “crown” in its name comes from the delicate crest on its head, which appears to be a popular style for bipedal carnivores at the time. Like the crests of Dilophosaurus and Monolophosaurus, there are elaborate chambers and air pockets, so as delicate as the crest looks on the fossil, it may have been larger in life. A similar thing can be seen in modern birds like toucans and hornbills. The skull itself looks delicate, but a combination of honeycombed air pockets and hard keratin make for a large, often colorful crest that is also light weight. Brittle and no use for combat, but very good for showy displays.

Would this flamboyance be only in the crest, or would Guanlong have other flashes of color like wattles? It is impossible to know for sure of course, but one can take inspiration from modern birds. Several hornbills have bright crests and equally bright fleshy bits, others have more subdued black crests and bright red wattles, while others don’t care for the extra frills and sport a classic orange for their crest…in other words, it looks like there aren’t very many rules, and a paleoartist can have fun with speculation. The only point to keep in mind is an animal’s habitat. There are usually general patterns of color depending on the environment they live in.

Other speculation artists can play with is feathering. Dilong was a relatively close cousin (once removed) to Guanlong, and shaggy, furlike feathers were preserved on it and several other tyrannosaurs, so it is very probable that Guanlong had feathers. Exactly where and how thick a coverage is impossible to say, but one can take a few cues from modern birds of similar size, as well as estimated feather coverage from known fossils.

3 thoughts on “December 8th

  1. I’m sure Guanlong isn’t the first of the tyrannosauroids, that would go to Proceratosaurus and Kileskus from the older Middle Jurassic epoch. But I am still happy for you covering this dinosaur, it really is a wonder of sorts.
    As for me, today I want to mention Antarctanax, a Triassic archosauriform from Antarctica. It lived not long after the biggest extinction event Earth had ever faced, the Permian-Triassic extinction. First discovered during a 2010-2011 expedition to Antarctica’s Transantarctic Mountains and known from a partial skeleton, this reptile was about the size of an iguana and is most intriguing for the fact that when and where it lived further supports that Antarctica was a place of rapid evolution and diversification. It likely lived alongside synapsids such as Lystrosaurus, which also survived the Permian-Triassic extinction. At this point, the continent of Antarctica is beginning to diversify and the paleontology of it is further increasing especially for such a difficult area to find fossils in.

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    1. I’m simply reminding you that I’m still waiting for you to reply to this comment. Do so when you can, I’m not forcing you at all.

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