Tag Archives: Paleontology

Pokemon Sword and Shield’s Amazing Potential to Honor the History of Paleontology

So, Pokemon Sword and Shield have an amazing opportunity that Gamefreak shouldn’t pass up.  And that opportunity is fossils.

As a fossil maniac, I appreciate the many different fossil Pokemon Gamefreak has designed over the years.  Some of them are based on more popular ancient animals, like the T-Rex, and others not as much, like the crinoid and Anomalocaris.  I was very disappointed that Pokemon Sun and Moon didn’t introduce new fossil Pokemon.  But I can begrudgingly accept this as Hawaii isn’t really known for its fossils.  As a string of recent land masses, Hawaii does not have a long biological history.  What fossil are preserved are destroyed as the ocean washes away the oldest islands.

But Galar is different because it’s set in England.  Not only does England have fossils but it represents the beginnings of paleontology and the birthplace of the word “dinosaur.”  Since practically ancient times, humans knew about the existence of fossils but didn’t fully understand what they represented.  They could have been mythological beasts or animals once present in the Garden of Eden.  It wasn’t until the Enlightenment era that scientists, such as anatomist Georges Cuvier, realized that these fossils belonged to animals that were thousands if not millions of years old.  That through gradual change over many, many years, animals come and go and create a succession, of sorts, to the modern era.  Even more astonishingly, some of these animals were unlike anything alive today; they were so wild and out there they deserved their own classification.

Ichthyosaurus.  Image credit: John Sibbick/Science Photo Library

A Plesiosaur

By the early 1800s, English scientists were pushing the field of paleontology from a curious idea to a serious subject.  One notable collector was Mary Anning whose achievements include finding the first Ichthyosaurus (a fish-like reptile), two nearly complete Plesiosaurus (a long-neck swimming reptile), and other fossils such as shells and a Pterosaur.   The Plesiosaurus were especially important as only bits and pieces were found until her discovery.  These additions continued speculation on what these animals are, or were, and how they fit in Earth’s history.

The curious animals became more comprehensive as new specimens came to light.  In 1824, two different fossilized animals were found and described as Megalosaurus and Iguanodon.  These animals, along with the aforementioned Ichthyosaurus and Plesiosaurus, were the inspiration of English scientist Gideon Mantell’s famous paper titled “Age of Reptiles” where he placed these animals in this era and divided it up into three periods which later became known as the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous.  Just a year after this publication Mantell founded and described another ancient reptile which he named Hylaeosaurus in 1832.  However, it wasn’t until 1841 when famed anatomist Sir Richard Owen united Megalosaurus, Iguanodon, and Hylaeosaurus into one branch which he named “Dinosauria,” terrible lizard.

This of course is a rather brief review of Paleontology’s early history.  I encourage you to look into as it’s very fascinating.  I like the interpretation of Iguanodon as a lumbering, rhino-like giant iguana, to its modern appearance as a gracile, slender animal with a prominent thumb spike.  There’s also the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs which was possibly one of the first, large-scale interpretations of ancient animals.  The park contains all the previously mentioned animals and more.

Image result for crystal palace dinosaurs dinner

While the park dinosaurs were being built, a New Year’s Eve dinner was held inside the still incomplete Iguanodon specimen which is quite frankly, a great way to start the new year!

But I would like to instead pivot back to the matter at hand.  The fossil Pokemon of Galar.  It would be very remiss of Gamefreak not to include any of these animals as Pokemon Sword and Shield’s fossils.  The way I see it we can go down two, neatly packaged, routes.

The first route is to have fossil Pokemon based on Ichthyosaurus and Plesiosaurus with their respective fossils being Tail and Flipper.  These two animals lived in the same time period in the same habitat so it wouldn’t be surprising to find fossils of them next to each other.  As for typing…well that’s probably the major downside to them.

Rock/Water is the fourth most common dual type combination in Pokemon as of Generation VII.  Both of these Pokemon would solidly be in that category (as a side note, I have very mixed feelings about Fossil Pokemon’s Rock typing so we’re ignoring that for now).  But would our Pokemon have to be Rock/Water?  Sure in Generation I both Kabutops and Omastar were Rock/Water while in Generation III, Armaldo was Rock/Bug and Cradily was Rock/Grass even though their respective animal was definitely aquatic.

With that in mind I would still give the Ichthyosaur Pokemon a Rock/Water typing since it’s just too much like a fish.  It fits it so well!  Yet for our Plesiosaur Pokemon I think we can give it Rock/Dragon without batting an eye.  Just like Armaldo it could still learn Water attacks but it would stay close to home with its dual typing.  But mark my words!!!  If it wasn’t for the Rock requirement our Plesiosaur would be Water/Dragon easily and it would be soooooo gooooood.

Let’s turn our attention to our three English Dinosaurs; Megalosaurus, Iguanodon, and Hylaeosaurus.  Hmm…right away I can see a problem…there’s three of them.  Now you could do a scenario where there’s two “regular” fossils and one “special” one like in Generation I but I don’t think we have to worry about that.  Megalosaurus is a therapod dinosaur.  A very iconic group of dinosaurs who were (about 99% of the time) carnivorous and bipedal.  Some had small heads and long arms, others had large heads and short arms but they all had similar body plans.  And as I’m sure you folks can see where I’m going with this, we already have a therapod Pokemon, Tyrantrum.

Left, a modern interpretation of Megalosaurus.  Right, the mid-1800’s interpretation of Megalosaurus.  Image credit: Mark Garlick/University of Warwick.

Unfortunately, as best as we can tell, Megalosaurus was a rather “average” looking therapod.  Nothing wrong with that but it doesn’t really stand out compared to the more outlandish therapods like Spinosaurus or Therizinosaurus.  And although Gamefreak doesn’t mind reusing animals multiple times (and even using a Monkey Grass Pokemon twice!), I think it would be a waste of time for them to reuse a standard therapod when the paleontological record offers so much more.

As a side note, it would be balls awesome if Gamefreak gave us Megalosaurus but based on its original interpretation as a quadrupedal carnivore with a fat-crocodile mouth and a dragging tail.  It would be kind of horrifying and sad for the Megalosaurus Pokemon but really cool!  Like, the lore would be that due to an incomplete skeleton, the reconstructed dinosaur could not resume its original shape and instead pieced together what it had to make its now misaligned form.  That would be wild.

Image result for iguanodon

Iguanodon

Anyway, that leaves us with Iguanodon (Thumbspike Fossil) and Hylaeosaurus (Plate Fossil) and luckily we haven’t had dinosaurs based on them yet!   This is perfect and their body variation can really lend itself well to some cool type combinations.  First, Iguanodon, I imagined three different type combos with them.  Rock/Normal would be my initial suggestion as these guys are one of the most common dinosaurs you can find, they were basically the elk of the dinosaur world.  But you also have that trademark thumbspike that is so well known on Iguanodon that you just have to use it somehow.  Perhaps as an electrical rod?  So maybe Rock/Electric?  Maybe it can be used to inject poison into its foes so Rock/Poison?  Any of these three suggestions would be interesting.

Image result for hylaeosaurus

Hylaeosaurus

As for Hylaeosaurus, the armor plating, trademark of all Ankylosauria, immediately suggests a Rock/Steel type which is a nice fallback.  Hylaeosaurus also had spikes protruding from its sides which suggests a porcupine-esque defense so Rock/Poison would be delightful.  I could also imagine Gamefreak throwing a curveball and making it Rock/Fire similar to how they made Aurorus Rock/Ice.

If I had my druthers I would make Fossil Pokemon out of Iguanodon and Hylaeosaurus and make the Plesiosaur a modern Pokemon.  This works very well thanks to the folklore surrounding Nessie and the occurrence of modern fossil-based Pokemon like Aggron and Tropius.  And the Plesiosaur can be Water/Dragon which would be great!

So there you have it.  Will it happen?  I’m banking on no unfortunately.  Although Gamefreak has been doing very well lately designing Pokemon that are inspired by their respective region, I can’t imagine them going the extra mile to put that paleontology flavor in.  Now a Pokemon based on the Loch Ness Monster?  Sure, I can buy that but I won’t be holding my breath.  We shall see.  Fingers crossed!

Fossil Butte Article for National Fossil Day

Hello everyone, it’s been awhile since my last update but I figure I’ll show you what I’ve been up to.  My assignment here at Fossil Butte National Monument was to write an article about this place for National Fossil Day.  This year, every month, a Cenozoic park is featured on the National Park Service website.  September is Fossil Butte’s month and I wrote the article for it!  Check it out!

https://nature.nps.gov/geology/nationalfossilday/cenozoic_fobu.cfm

Consider this my usual Monday update.  I’ve been busy in the meanwhile working at FOBU doing the standard stuff I mentioned before such as manning the front desk and preparing fossils.  It’s still been fun here and I’ve been enjoying working with my colleagues.  I’ve also been writing some articles for the blog in the future so stay tuned for that.  Until next time!

The Lake’s Shore

The Sun rises upon the Lake’s shore
The Sun settles upon the Butte’s face

Animals stir from their slumber
Now they can seek cool relief

Fish chew on the spongy algae
Rabbits munch on the lush sage brush

The boa sleeps on the tree tops
The garter slithers by the roots

Trees wave gently from the Lake’s shore
The grass waves back

Bats stalk silently overhead
Badgers dig diligently below

A horse browses the dense underbrush
A deer grazes the sparse grasslands

Lunge, lunge, the crocodile snaps at its prey
Pounce, pounce, the lion tackles its prey

Stocky birds walk the muddy lake’s shore
The sage grouse hide beneath their namesake

Schooling fish scatter from a slight disturbance
The lone prairie dog stands alert from foes

Over the landscape loom palm fronds, they see all
In the hillside huddle aspen groves, they see few

Blue, smothered with green and unknown colors
Brown, blended with green and freckled with flowers

Larger, wetter, call her Begetter
Smaller, drier, call her Harbor

I see it now

A gar swims through the tall grass
And a turtle wades through the dry ground

A chipmunk rests on a lotus leaf
And a pronghorn laps at the lifegiver

Are they one and the same?
This butte that towers over its dry land
And this lake that rests at its bottom

The animals and plants
From two different times
From two different habitats
Yet share the same landscape

They may be dead but they’re still alive
The Begetter may be gone
But the Harbor remembers
She holds tight to what is once was
And reveals to those who only look

I only have to peer outside
And experience their lives implied

The Sun may be setting on the Lake’s shore
But the Sun is rising on the Butte’s face

Ghost Fish

Ghost fish Ghost fish

Tee dum Tee dum

Trapped in the purple Hillza

beNeath the grassHoppers Trillza

Ghost fish Ghost fish

Bazaw Bazaw

Backbone Missing

Ostracods Twistings

Ghost fish Ghost fish

Bazaw Bazaw

Living PostParaDise

Nothing’s here Nothing nice

Ghost fish Ghost fish

Tee dum Tee dum

Dismal Life-like

Salty Bleak-life

Ghost fish Ghost fish

Chip chip Chip chip

Stare Right with the Whita

Stare Back with the Blacka.

Ghost fish Ghost fish

Tee dum Tee dum

Ghost fish Ghost fish

Chip chip Chip chip

Chip

chip

My First Week as an Intern at Fossil Butte National Monument

First off, I have to apologize for my infrequent posting on my site but I wanted to let you all know that I have completed my first week as an intern at Fossil Butte National Monument! Long story short, it was amazing and I’m so far having a great time at FOBU. Already, I’m doing many of the things that I always wanted to do as a park ranger (although to be clear I’m not officially one yet). Tours, fossil preparation, hiking, greeting visitors, and finding fossils neatly summarize my first week at FOBU. Now, to be honest, the experience is not all flowers and sage bushes, sometimes, it can get a little slow in the visitor center or at the Research Quarry but that’s not really surprising given FOBU’s status as a lesser known National Monument. In fact, I have already talked to several visitors who only know of the Monument because they were in the area and they wanted to check it out.

Now, what makes FOBU so special is its status as a Fossil Lagerstätte. A Lagerstätte is a fossil quarry that has either an exceedingly high amount of preserved fossils (like Dinosaur National Monument or La Brea Tar Pits) or fossils that are preserved in exceptional quality (think Burgess Shale). FOBU satisfies both of these categories by having an exceptionally high and diverse amount of fossils (ranging from fish to bats) that are preserved in excellent quality (skin impressions, flowers, feathers, coprolites and even cartilaginous bone). As such, FOBU paints a picture of a world quite different from its modern, semi-arid desert climate. A lake stretched across Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah, known as Fossil Lake, deposited the vast array of fossils. This lake was a semi-tropical paradise and was the home for stingrays, crocodilians, large soft-shelled turtles, early horses, palm trees, ferns, and much more. This diversity helped established FOBU as a national monument and is the reason why I’m here today and writing to you this article. I applied for an internship at a national monument via the GeoCorps program and FOBU was one of the monuments I had chosen. I had actually visited FOBU years ago and became reacquainted with it when I took a Fossil Ecosystems course last year and learned about its vast diversity. Needless to say, I was pretty stoked when I got offered the position. SO Here’s a list of the things that I have done and noticed in no particular order

-I started working on a fish at the fossil preparation lab. The setup is arranged so that visitors can see your work on a tv screen and personally ask you questions about what you’re doing. I’ve never worked on fish before so it was a bit awkward at first but now I’m getting the hang of it. It will be awhile before I get actually good at it though.

-I sworn in my first Junior Ranger! Her name was Sarah and I believe she was six.

-Most common question at the visitor center is “Where’s the bathroom” haha

-I never used a cash register before so that is surprisingly one of the more stressful things to learn although I’m somewhat used to it now.

Mioplosus Fossil

-Got to give some mini tours at the Historic Quarry and show some excited visitors some freshly excavated fossil fish. That was awesome. I even got a photo holding up one of the fish with some children. I even found a fish eating another fish! That was rad (although I didn’t notice that at first due to the fossil’s state).

Research Qua

-On Fridays and Saturdays, I work with another colleague at the Research Quarry although we only work when there are guests present. We have to protect and preserve the monument but at the same time we have to interpret and demonstrate paleontology so it becomes a bit of a paradox. When guests aren’t at the Research Quarry, we have to sit and wait for them to come up before we can continue.

-Saturday morning I gave my first two tours to a rock group from Logan, Wyoming. I eagerly volunteered for the tour and gave my whole schpeal to them. I got a round of applause from them at the end that, whether done sympathetically or not, was nonetheless appreciated! Some of the visitors told me that I did a good job afterwards. I still have things to improve on (I kind of faltered at the bird and plant fossils) but I thought I did a pretty good job overall. It was fuuuuun.

-It’s been surprisingly cool and rainy here. I have to sometime wear jackets in the middle of the day and it can get to the low fifties at night. I was told it was quite hot before I arrived.

-I’ve been cramming as much knowledge as I can about this place. Geologic history, park history, species’ names, or where to eat in Kemmerer, it’s kind of intense but at the same time, it’s easy to do considering I’m constantly exposed to the information. This video succinctly summarizes my view of the whole thing. Fossil Butte View -We can hike off trail so I’ve been doing that more and more. I’m not exaggerating too much when I say that no matter where you hike in FOBU, you’re going to get a good view.

-Kemmerer, the nearby small town, has expensive grocery food but the liquor is at a reasonable price, take that for what you will.

-I live in fear of running over the cute, fat prairie dogs. They stand by the side of the road, on the verge or running across the street despite the approaching vehicles.

-Internet is very scattered out here but I can get wireless access at the local public library and, of all places, a Mexican restaurant called Taco Time. God bless you Taco Time and your so-so burritos. That’s all for now! I’ll write updates every now about my experiences here and I will try my best to continue on my usual articles. Until next time!

Paleontology Misconceptions: Introduction, Megaloceros (the “Irish Elk”) and Orthogenesis

For the past few months, I have been stewing over what kind of paleontological articles I could write for my blog.  It’s easy to write and talk about comics, cartoons, and video games as you rely on experience and personal opinion.  Scientific articles, however, are more difficult for me as not only do they have to be interesting to the reader but they also have to be more objective and lean more heavy on up-to-date resources.  However, while I was sitting in the back row of the Introduction to Biology course (part of my requirement for being a lab TA), I was struck with an idea that was brought about my cool and collect professor.

In paleontology (and other sciences as well but I’m more attuned to the paleo ones) there is a large amount of misconceptions that many people believe to be true.  Some misconceptions are more innocently ignorant (pterodactyls and mosasaurs are dinosaurs) while others deceit even fossil enthusiasts today.  These misconceptions still hang around because they were long believed to be true, were over simplified, or were romanticized to the point that they have to be correct because it sounds so perfect.

Today, I adduce to you a fine example of a romanticized misconception.

Meet Megaloceros giganteus, a large mammalian deer that lived during the Pleistocene.  It’s also known as the “Irish Elk.”

And already, right from the get-go, we see two misconceptions that lead you astray from what this beast represents.

Irish Elk

The funny thing about Megaloceros’ common name is how plain wrong it is; Megaloceros is not exclusively found in Ireland and it is a deer not an elk.  First off, it can be found throughout Europe, North Africa, and well into western Asia (Lister 1994) so it has quite a diverse range.  Its association towards Ireland stems from its initial discovery there as well as the plentiful amount of specimens preserved in the Irish Bogs (http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/mammal/artio/irishelk.html and Gould 1977).  Irish poet Seamus Heaney even mentioned Megaloceros in his poem “Bogland” which is a short poem about the bogs of Ireland.

Megaloceros, map, distribution, biogeography, eurasia

Map from Lister (1994).

But being geographically confused seems trifling when many people assume that Megaloceros is an elk.  This doesn’t seem like a big deal until you realize that people in Eurasia use the term “elk” to refer to the animal that North American people refer as “moose.”  And THAT…is where the confusion lies.  Megaloceros is not a moose it’s a deer.  It was originally confused to be a moose because only moose were known at the time to have antlers that came even close to the size of Megaloceros (Gould 1977).

This moose-association was eventually taken down once enough viable specimens could be used for anatomical comparison.  Even the advent of genetic technology, which has the habit of shaking phylogenetic trees hard, did nothing to subvert this new-found truth and only enhanced Megaloceros’ position by placing it as a sister taxon to the fallow deer (Lister et al. 2005 and Hughes et al. 2006).

As such, many scientists nowadays call Megaloceros the “Giant Deer.” And though I think this name does not sound as majestic as “Irish Elk,” it is nonetheless 100% more correct and should be used more often.

But now let us get to the heart of the matter of the Giant Misconception for our Giant Deer.

You may be familiar with the Giant Deer in high school biological textbooks or as an example for Hardy-Weinberg sexual selection.  Similar to peacocks, males had large antlers to showcase their sexy fitness.  A display of dominance will win over any lucky gal and together, they can make adorable, small Giant Deer.

But.

For a long time, the prevailing hypothesis behind the demise of the Giant Deer was that their antlers were so huge that eventually their size drove them to extinction.  Their constant selection for bigger antlers meant they became too unwieldy, too energy costly, or just plain too heavy for the males to support.  Basically, the Giant Deer became too sexy.

This “Too Sexy for My Antlers” hypothesis was accepted as truth until the mid-20th century when paleontologists discredited it as being farfetched and countered that the antlers were the right size relative to the Giant Deer’s body (Gould 1977).   However, no one bothered to test this new hypothesis out!  This was until famous paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould stepped in and experimented with the hypothesis himself in 1973.  In his simple experiment, he analyzed modern deer specimens and compared the size of their antlers relative to their shoulder height.  He then compared his data to that of the Giant Deer.  What he found was that the antlers were not as dangerously large as everyone once thought they were.  In fact, they were at the expected level if you were to have a modern day deer of that size.

Photograph of Stephen Jay Gould from The Simpsons.

The importance of Gould’s discovery goes farther than determining the antler size of an extinct deer.  It discredited a long dead notion that continued to propagate the “Too Sexy for My Antlers” hypothesis.  There was this “theory” that existed in the late 1800s and early 1900s called orthogenesis that some scientists used to counter Darwin’s Theory of Evolution (and btw, before I forget, happy early birthday Charles).

Instead of Natural Selection, species evolve in a direct, linear path.  Species are evolving to a final end product that they are destined for.  As such, some orthogenesis scientists used the Giant Deer as an example of evolution that went too extreme and killed the species.  Taken from Gould (1977), orthogenesis supporter and paleontologist R. S. Lull said “Natural selection will not account for overspecialization, for it is manifest that, while an organ can be brought to the point of perfection by selection, it would never be carried to a condition where it is an actual menace to survival…[as in] the great branching antlers of the extinct Irish deer.”

Gould’s experiment was the final nail in a long-forgotten, already decaying coffin.  It was evidence that took down a dying idea that stubbornly eked out a living for many decades.  And yet while the scientific community had learned the new ideas and rejected the old ones, I would beg to differ that the public had been so quick to adapt as well.

Even I, who was a paleo-nut in high school, assumed that the Irish Elk died out due to its impressive antlers.  No one had bothered to correct me that it had a diverse geographical range, or that it was technically a deer, or that its antlers were the right size until I was a graduate student.  I would even go far as to argue that I was unknowingly accepting orthogenetic ideas while learning about biology and evolution.

I should try to get off my soap box before I become too preachy so I’ll end with this.  While writing this article, I was not aware of the orthogenesis hypothesis as I was never taught it before, even with all the biological courses I had taken.  I was taught Lamarckism and other discredited theories but never orthogenesis.  However, I think orthogenesis should be taught in basic biological courses as blooming scientists can learn what evolution is and is not.  They can learn why scientists thought orthogenesis is true and why it was ultimately rejected.  Learning about it can give a better understanding on how life works and why they should not accept this dead hypothesis.

And hey, if teachers were to educate their students about orthogenesis, students might even learn more about the Giant Deer and how, despite its outlandish appearance, it did not go extinct from being too sexy.

If you are interested in the crazy history of the Giant Deer, I recommend you to check out Gould’s “The Misnamed Mistreated and Misunderstood Irish Elk.”  It’s an enthralling read and greatly expands many of the concepts information I touched upon in this article.

 

Bibliography

Gould, Stephen Jay. “Positive allometry of antlers in the “Irish elk”, Megaloceros giganteus.” (1973): 375-376.

Gould, Stephen Jay. “MISNAMED, MISTREATED, AND MISUNDERSTOOD IRISH-ELK.” Natural History 82.3 (1977): 10.

Hughes, Sandrine, et al. “Molecular phylogeny of the extinct giant deer, Megaloceros giganteus.” Molecular phylogenetics and evolution 40.1 (2006): 285-291.

Lister, Adrian M. “The evolution of the giant deer, Megaloceros giganteus (Blumenbach).” Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 112.1‐2 (1994): 65-100.

Lister, A. M., et al. “The phylogenetic position of the ‘giant deer’Megaloceros giganteus.” Nature 438.7069 (2005): 850-853.

Ancient Animals and their Fakemon: Oviraptor

Oviraptor: Therapoda Dinosaur, Late Cretaceous

The hubris of science can be ironic at times.

In 1924, a partial skeleton, known as AMNH (American Museum of Natural History) 6517 was found in the Mongolia desert next to an egg nest (AMNH 6508).  Discovered by Roy Chapman Andrews and later named by Harry Fairfield Osborn, AMNH 6517 became known as Oviraptor philoceratops.  Its name meaning “egg thief” and “lover of ceratopsians,” Oviraptor immediately became a hit and cemented itself in the pages of children’s books as the dinosaur that ate embryonic babies.

However, with such an accusatory name, no one knew what were inside the eggs.  Everyone assumed they belonged to Protoceratops due to their fossil abundance nearby.

outdated oviraptor

Oviraptor’s incomplete holotype also made it hard to determine what exactly it looked like.  The result gave them some hooooooorible paleoart.

Barsbold (1977) was among the first to question this hypothesis by analyzing the dinosaur’s skull and concluded that it had a powerful bite.  Powerful enough that it could eat hard shell organisms such as mollusks. Because of which a strict egg-only diet would make the strong jaws pointless.  Maybe it ate eggs but it probably ate a lot of other things as well.

Norell et al. (1994) finally threw credible doubt onto Osborn’s original hypothesis when they analyzed an Oviraptoridae embryo (IGM 100/971) still trapped in its shell.  IGM 100/971 looked so similar to AMNH 6508 that Norell et al. declared the latter specimen to be an Oviraptor nest.  The skeleton that was found with the nest was most likely a brooding adult and not an egg-stealing thief.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other dinosaurian hypothesis that had made such a 180.  Here we have a dinosaur that was viewed with respite and now is looked upon with happiness.  To be fair, Oviraptor could have still eaten eggs as its diet but that’s not the point.  The point is that our perception of this dinosaur has changed from a baby-killing bandit to an offspring-concerned parent.  That is hilarious.

Oviraptor can also be found in the Flaming Cliffs of the Gobi Desert along with a host of other animals.  There are the small lizards and mammals and of course other dinosaurs.  Most famous of which would be Velociraptor and its rival Protoceratops, along with the weird Therizinosaurus and the ferocious Tarbosaurus.  The rock record also reveals, interestingly enough, that the climate of the time was probably similar to the modern day Gobi Desert.  A braided, teaming with life, river dominated the otherwise dry, sandy environment (Fastovsky et al. 1997).  Some dinosaurs were even uncovered in a desiccated position with their head pulled back and their spine extremely arched.  Some were just completely buried by a sandstorm such as the Oviraptor specimen discovered by Andrews.

Dinotopia, Oviraptor

From Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time

Oviraptor has not shown up much in pop culture.  I know of two occasions; one in the documentary Dinosaur Planet and the second in the first Dinotopia book.  In the book, Oviraptor was instead called Ovinutrix (“egg wet nurse”) and they took care of dinosaur eggs in Romano’s Hatchery.  The twist?  The book came out in 1992.  Two years before Norell et al. took down the egg eating hypothesis.  What was supposed to be taken as a humorous joke instead came out as a concept that was not scientifically outdated.  What’s more, James Gurney’s, the author of Dinotopia, name change righted a wrong that should have never befallen the dinosaur in the first place.

 

OVALOOTER

Fakemon, Oviraptor, Ovalooter

Type: Fairy/Ghost

Stats: HP: 80,   Attack: 80,   Defense: 70,   Special Attack: 80,   Special Defense: 60,   Speed: 90

Ability: Pick Up, Frisk

Moves Learned Upon Leveling Up:

Start-Covet

Start-Tail Whip

6-Confusion

9-Baby Doll Eyes

13-Sand Tomb

17-Charm

22-Bite

27-Fling

31-Light Screen

35-Soft Boiled

39-Bestow

43-Disarming Voice

47–Play Rough

52-Earthquake

Learnable TMs and HMs: Hone Claws, Dragon Claw, Psyshock, Calm Mind, Roar, Toxic, Hidden Power, Sunny Day, Light Screen, Safeguard, Frustration, Solar Beam, Smack Down, Earthquake, Return, Dig, Psychic, Double Team, Reflect, Sandstorm, Rock Tomb, Aerial Ace, Façade, Rest, Attract, Thief, Round, Echoed Voice, Steal Wing, Fling, Psych Up, Dragon Tail, Sleep Talk, Substitute, Confide

Egg Group: Field

Held Items: Oval Stone: 50%

Pokedex Description Version One: It loves to collect egg-shaped objects.  It’s not unusual to find one with eggs from other species.

Pokedex Description Version Two: It raises the babies of other pokemon it has found.  Prototops are the most common species they take care of.

Evolution: None known at this time

Basic Background: While driving with my gf two months ago, I said aloud, “You know, all my Ancient Fakemon came out before Generation VI.  I have no Fairy Type fakemon.  I should come up with one.” And it was right there and then that Oviraptor sprang into my head.  Of course!  Many modern paleoart interpret Oviraptoridae species with elaborate feathers.  If dinosaurian pokemon had fairies it would be the ones with elaborate feathers.

From there, she and I played around with it until we had what we wanted.  Unlike the previous two entries where I had them totally figured out and she just did the art, for Ovalooter, we came up with the ideas, design, naming, and so forth on an equal basis.

It was certainly fun coming up with a fakemon from scratch as it had been awhile for me.  This one I kind of let loose and enjoyed myself.  Ovalooter is basically a combination of Chansey and Linoone in that it just steals eggs and such and raises them as their own.  I love it.  Being a desert pokemon, Ovalooter was almost required to have that Ground Secondary Typing.  It is similar to the Nidos, Krookodile, and Flygon as Ovalooter is more of a field based pokemon and less a digging pokemon.

 

Barsbold, R., 1977. Kinetism and pecual structure of the jaw apparatus of oviraptors (Therapoda, Saurishia). Sovmestnaya Sovetsko-Mongol’skaya Paleontologicheskaya Ekspeditsiya Trudy, vol 163, p. 34-47.

Fastovsky, D.E., Badamgarav D., Ishimoto, H., Watabe, M., Weishampel, D.B., 1997. The Paleoenvironments of Turgrikin-Shireh (Gobi Desert, Mongolia) and Aspects of the Taphonomy and Paleoecology of Protoceratops (Dinosauria: Ornithischichia).  Palaios, vol 12, p. 59-70.

Norell, M.A., Clark, J.M., Demberelyin, D., Rhinchen, B., Chiappe, L.M., Davidson, A.R., McKenna, M.C., Altangerel, P.,  Novacek, M.J., 1994.. A Theropod Dinosaur Embryo and the Affnities of the Flaming Cliffs Dinosaur Eggs.  Science, Vol. 266, No. 5186, p. 779-782

 

Ancient Animals and their Fakemon: Stegosaurus

Stegosaurus: Ornithischian Dinosaur, Late Jurassic

Ask anyone in the street to name three dinosaurs and they’ll probably give you Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, then StegosaurusStegosaurus is one of the most famous dinosaurs due to its instantly recognizable anatomy.  The big lumbering body with a comically small head, the mountainous back with huge dorsal plates, and the long spikes jutting from its tail; yes, no other dinosaur, save other stegosaurians, fit this description.  Stegosaurus was discovered by Othniel Charles Marsh during the Bone Wars in the latter part of the 1800’s.  As such, it has had a rich history of scientific curiosity and pop culture influence.

Perhaps one of the more controversial aspects of Stegosaurus is the function of their dorsal plates.  The first, and currently debunked, hypothesis was that the plates were used as defense.  However, this is unlikely due to the relatively thin plates and how they only covered the back and not the more vulnerable sides.  More likely were the two other hypotheses thermoregulation and display.

Stegosaurus could have used their plates for thermoregulation by rotating their bodies relative to the sun.  Farlow et al. (1976) were among the first researchers to test this hypothesis by designing a Stegosaurus model and observing how well the plates could absorb or dissipate heat.  Their results highly supported the hypothesis and they reasoned Stegosaurus could orient themselves relative to wind currents for better absorption or dissipation of heat.  Main et al. (2005) disagree with the thermoregulation hypothesis as there is no proper blood circulation structure that could adequately carry and dispel heat away from the body.  Also, other stegosaurians were more likely to have spikes than plates on their backs suggesting spikes were a basal trait that evolved later into plates.  As such, thermoregulation, if it even played a role, was not the main function for the Stegosaurus’ plates.

Stegosaurus, Walking with Dinosaurs

From Walking with Dinosaurs Episode 2

Main et al. (2005) concluded that the plates were more likely used for both sexual and defensive display.  Since dinosaurs had relatively good eyesight, the plates would have been highly useful for the aforementioned purposes.  Indeed, Carpenter (1998) suggested that if attacked by a foe, the Stegosaurus would laterally display its body to appear more menacing.  It would then pump blood into its plates to make them blush and appear frightening.  This behavior is well reasoned due to the highly vascularized nature of the plates.  Either way, it’s likely that the Stegosaurus employed both of these functions for its plates.

thagomizer

The tail spikes have a more humorous story to them.  Though some scientists simply call them “the tail spikes” others took on the more informal name of “thagomizer” which was based off of the Far Side cartoon as seen above.  Indeed, there’s really nothing else like the thagomizer and I just think the name fits.  Regardless of what you call them, there was some debate on whether the thagomizer was really used for attacking purposes or not.  Solid evidence came through in McWhinney (good lord, that’s his name?) et al. (2001) and Carpenter et al. (2005) papers. McWhinney et al., (2001) analyzed many Stegosaurian spikes and found that some of them had trauma-induced bone fractures and were healing or became diseased during their owner’s lifetime.  Carpenter et al. (2005) analyzed a healed punctured wound in an Allosaurus tail vertebra and was able to match it with the tail spikes in Stegosaurus.  Both of these evidence pieces support a willing intent for defense by Stegosaurus which in my book is pretty awesome.

Stegosaurus has shown up many many times in pop culture so I’ll try to keep the list down to the big ones.  First off, this dinosaur has been seen in several movies, initially in King Kong and later in other big movies such as The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and The Land Before Time.  It also starred in one of the most famous scenes in Fantasia; I especially remember this scene because the fight fit extraordinarily well with Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring with its loud, scary music and its build up to the climatic fight.  Stegosaurus is also a favorite in many dinosaur documentaries such as Walking with Dinosaurs and When Dinosaurs Roamed America.  Finally, and on a personal note, in the science fiction book Bones of the Earth, paleontologist and protagonist Richard Leyster was delivered a head of a Stegosaurus in the prologue so he could dissect it and be convinced that time travelling was real.  I remember reading this book in Junior High and was convinced from that scene alone that if I wanted to be a good paleontologist, I better know my biology.

Stegosaurus, Rite of Spring, Fantasia

——

STEGHOST

 Steghost

Type: Ghost

Stats: HP: 120,   Attack: 105,   Defense: 70,   Special Attack: 68,   Special Defense: 83,   Speed: 49

Ability: Intimidate, Solar Power, Hidden Ability: Sap Sipper

Moves Learned Upon Leveling Up:

Start-Lick

Start-Tail Whip

7-Mean Look

11-Yawn

16-Astonish

20-Iron Tail

24-Swords Dance

29-Spikes, Toxic Spikes

35-Poison Tail

42-Amnesia

49-Belch

55-Synthesis

60-Thagomize

Learnable TMs and HMs Calm Mind, Roar, Toxic, Bulk Up, Venoshock, Hidden Power, Sunny Day, Taunt, Ice Beam, Blizzard, Hyper Beam, Light Screen, Protect, Rain Dance, Safeguard, Frustration, Solar Beam, Thunderbolt, Thunder, Earthquake, Return, Shadow Ball, Double Team, Sludge Bomb, Reflect, Sludge Wave, Flamethrower, Sludge Bomb, Fire Blast, Torment, Façade, Rest, Attract, Thief, Low Sweep, Energy Ball, False Swipe, Fling, Quash, Will-O-Wisp, Shadow Claw, Payback, Swords Dance, Psych Up, Dragon Tail,  Poison Jab, Sleep Talk, Substitute, Nature Power, Dark Pulse, Strength

Special Moves: Thagomize: Ghost Type, Power: 90, PP: 15, Accuracy: 100%.  The user builds up antimatter on its thagomizer and then attacks the foe with it.  10% chance of poisoning the foe.

Egg Group: Monster

Pokedex Description Version One: When frightened, a Steghost’s body will disappear leaving only its plates visible to confuse and scare off its foe.

Pokedex Description Version Two: A Steghost’s thagomizer can kill an attacking foe with one mighty swipe.  The victim can also be poisoned by it as well.

Evolution: Evolves from Kentrospirit at level 32.

Basic Background: I’ll be honest; I made Stegosaurus a ghost type because you could easily corrupt his name into Steghost.  But this worked pretty well in my favor thanks to those scary plates of his!  It’s also pretty liberating to not give Stegosaurus a typical type like Grass Type.  With Ghost Type, you can explore different possibilities or ideas that other types couldn’t explore.  Like antimatter!  Since Giratina is antimatter I reasoned that other ghosts could also employ the antimatter so thus, Thagomize was created.  I also realized that there wasn’t a strong Ghost Type move so Thagomize had a base power of 90 and is similar to Thunderbolt and Ice Beam.

Steghost uses aposematic coloration to confuse and frighten its enemies.  The brightly shaded and contrasting plates draw the eye to them and mute the rest of the dull-colored body.  These bright colors can warn predators not to mess with Steghost, especially how it can poison its enemies with its thagomizer.

Steghost was part of my story fairly early on and was one of the first members in the protagonist’s team.  He caught him, in his first form as a Kentrospirit, in the Sprout Tower.  The protagonist found him cowering near the top of the tower and managed to pick up the heavy beast in order to save him.  When the ghosts surrounded them near the entrance of the tower, Kentrospirit found its courage and illuminated its spines and plates creating a frightful-looking monster.  The Kentrospirit, and later Steghost, would become a steady member on the team ever since that experience.

Steghost was designed with a competitive use in mind.  He could be staller with Intimidate and the use of Spikes, Toxic Spikes, Synthesis, Will-o-wisp, Amnesia, and Yawn.  He could be a physical attacker with Grass Sipper and the use of his physical attacks and Swords Dance.  Or he could be a special attacker in Sunny Teams with Solar Power and the use of  Synthesis and special attack moves.

 

Carpenter, K., Chure, D., Kirkland, J. I., Denver Museum of Natural History, 1998. The Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation: an interdisciplinary study Part 2. Taylor & Francis. p. 137

Carpenter, K., Sanders, F., McWhinney, L. A., and Wood, L., 2005. Evidence for predator-prey relationships: Examples for Allosaurus and Stegosaurus. In Carpenter, Kenneth (ed.). The Carnivorous Dinosaurs. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. p. 325.

Farlow, J.O., Thompson, C.V., Rosner, D.E., 1976. Plates of the dinosaur Stegosaurus: Forced convection heat loss fins? Science. 192: 1123–1125.

Main, R. P., Ricqles, A., Horner, J. R., and Padian, K., 2005.  The evolution and function of thyreophoran dinosaur scutes: implications for plate function in stegosaurs. Paleobiology. 31:291-314.

McWhinney, L. A., Rothschild, B. M., and Carpenter, K., 2001. Posttraumatic Chronic Osteomyelitis in Stegosaurus dermal spikes. In Carpenter, Kenneth(ed). The Armored Dinosaurs. Indiana University Press. pp. 141–156

Ancient Animals and Their Fakemon: Introduction and Dunkleosteus

Since 2007, I have been working an extensive side project that combines two of my favorite things in life; Paleontology and Pokemon.  Basically, it was pokemon that was directly inspired from actual paleontological animals.  It was originally supposed to be a fanfic where ancient pokemon were coming through time portals and the protagonist had to figure out why it was happening before major damage happens.  However, the story was so big that I didn’t have the time or patience to do it.  The idea also resurfaced again years later when I came up with the notion of having my ancient fakemon in an RPG.  It too didn’t work out.

But the results of my hard work did not fade away; I had kept many entries where I meticulously wrote tons of data on these ancient fakemon.  Now that I have a blog, I thought now was probably the best time to show the world these creations.  Starting today, I will publish a post describing an ancient animal (what is it, why I like it, any interesting tidbits) and its inspired fakemon (typing, stats, moves, their initial roles in the storyline and such).  These posts will only be released on Fridays, however, not every Friday will have an Ancient Fakemon post.  I hope you enjoy them.

And brother, I think I picked a good one to start with.

————

Dunkleosteus: Placoderm organism, Late Devonian

dunkleosteus

Image created by and is found on http://www.sebmeyerart.com/

I fear this animal.

I can’t explain why exactly, maybe it’s the soulless eyes, maybe it’s it terrifying appearance, or maybe it’s something else entirely.  Whatever the case, I do not want to be in the water if this fish is swimming about.

Dunkleosteus terrelli is a placoderm, a relatively successful group of bony armored fish that dominated the seas during the Devonian Period.  This unique group of animals died at the end of the Devonian Period leaving no modern day relatives.  They are classified by their armor plated body structure which gave them protection at the sacrifice of speed.  Most of them were bottom dwellers and clung to the seafloor.  The Arthrodirans, a group within the placoderms, escaped the seafloor and actively swam in the water column.

Dunkleosteus is one of those Arthrodirans.  The largest placoderm discovered; Dunkleosteus could reach up to 10 meters in length. Its “teeth” were not traditional teeth like you and I have but modified bone that functions as teeth.  The blade-like “teeth” could continuously sharpen as the predator was feasting on its prey which is pretty wild.

DunkleosteusSannoble

Dunkleosteus status as the top predator in the seas is well founded due to its size and biting behavior.  Anderson and Westneat (2009) estimated that Dunkleosteus could open its huge mouth in about 60 milliseconds.  This rapid expansion created a vacuum which sucked water and prey into its mouth.  Once the prey was in its mouth, Dunkleosteus would then crush or pierce its prey from as high as 6170 N at the tip of the mouth to a staggering 7495 N at the back of the mouth (for reference, we can only bite at 294 N at the tip of our mouths).  This bite force is so large that only the great white shark and the alligator can match it (see Huber et al. (2005) for a general list of animal bites and Wroe et al. (2008) for shark bites).  Both of these methods meant that Dunkleosteus was feeding on prey that was both elusive and armor-covered such as ammonoids, arthropods, and other placoderms (Anderson and Westneat 2009).

Dunkleosteus, Dinotopia

Dunkleosteus has shown up a few times in pop culture.  The first time I saw him was actually in the second Dinotopia book, The World Beneath, where the armored fish snapped off the claw of the protagonists’ underwater ship and briefly fought a Kronosaurus.  The second time I saw him was again in Dinotopia only this time it was in the tv movies (where he was also terrifying albeit more angler fish-like).  Dunkleosteus most famous appearance would probably be in the BBC’s Sea Monsters where Nigel Thornberry Marven journeyed to the seven deadliest seas in Earth’s history.  Dunkleosteus and his Devonian Sea was ranked the Fifth Most Deadly Sea.  Nigel wanted to interact with a Dunkleosteus so he got into a round shark cage and tried to get a closer look at the fish.

I WILL EAT YOUR SOUL

“I WILL EAT YOUR SOUL!!”

I have to say, if that was me, that would be a big bag of nope.  Like I said before, I fear this creature so I don’t want to be ANYWHERE near this guy when I’m out on sea.  God, being eaten by him would probably be a cross between a shark and a hippo. *shudder*

——–

CLUNKLESTEEL
Clunklesteel, Fakemon

Type: Water/Steel

Stats: HP: 82,   Attack: 125,   Defense: 125,   Special Attack: 55,   Special Defense: 78,   Speed: 55

Ability: Strong Jaw.  Hidden Ability: Hyper Cutter

Moves Learned Upon Leveling Up:

Start-Splash
Start-Iron Defense
15-Flail
20-Bite
22-Water Sprout
25-Headbutt
29-Shear Bite
33-Glare
37-Thunder Fang/Ice Fang
40-Metal Sound
43-Skull Bash
46-Screech
50-Aqua Tail
53-Crunch

Learnable TMs and HMs: Roar, Toxic, Hidden Power, Protect, Rain Dance, Safeguard, Frustration, Return, Brick Break, Double Team, Sandstorm, Rock Tomb, Façade, Rest, Attract, Round, Scald, Stone Edge, Rock Slide, Swagger, Sleep Talk, Substitute, Flash Cannon, Rock Smash, Snarl, Confide, Surf, Strength, Waterfall

Special Moves: Shear Bite: Steel Type, Power: 40, PP: 20, Accuracy: 100%.  Sheer Bite raises the user’s Attack by one stage after damaging the opponent.

Egg Group: Water 2

Pokedex Description Version One: Scientists can tell how old a Clunklesteel is by the amount of rust that grows on their backs.

Pokedex Description Version Two: Clunklesteel have been known to ram small boats and even pierce the hulls using their steel-bladed teeth.

Basic Background: Clunklesteel is based off of Dunkleosteus.  Clunklesteel was one of the easiest fakemon to come up and play around with.  The armor nature combined with his fish status means he makes a great Steel/Water type pokemon.  The Ability Strong Jaw also fits perfectly with his terrifyingly biting force.  His famous chompers means that biting moves like Crunch or Thunder Fang are great compliments to him.  Clunklesteel’s nature means he has great Defense and Attack at the cost of his Speed and Special Attack.

Shear Bite is a move made specifically for Clunklesteel.  The continuously sharpening of his blade-like chompers fits well as a move.  Shear Bite is the Steel Type version of Power-Up Punch.

Clunklesteel played an important part in my story.  Originally, the protagonist had met a Clunklesteel when he was a kid and was traumatize by it and has since been afraid of the ocean.  The same Clunklesteel had come back when the protagonist unknowingly released it and a bunch of other prehistoric animals at a terrorist facility.  The Clunklesteel began to hunt him relentlessly and violently defeated the protagonist at every battle they met.  Each time, he was too scared to act confidently in the face of his feared foe.  One of the battles even cost him his pokemon.  It wasn’t until near the finale of the story when the protagonist had finally faced his fear, defeated it, and captured the placoderm pokemon.

I always imagined him as being a mindless machine and with this design that my girlfriend came up with, that mindless machine really shined through.  Don’t think, just eat and go, eat and go.

Finally, Clunklesteel evolves from Sillylepis (formerly Placoderp before that term became controversial) and is based off of Silurolepis, a primitive placoderm found in the Late Silurian.  Sillylepis evolves at level 20 to Clunklesteel and is similar to Magikarp due to both having poor stats and a poor moveset.

Alternative Names: Placodoom, Placodeath, Dunksteelus

I hope you enjoy the first Ancient Animals and Their Fakemon!  When time permits, I’ll make more of these later.

 

REFERENCES

Anderson P.S.L., Westneat M.W., 2009.  A biomechanical model of feeding kinematics for Dunkleosteus terrelli (Arthrodira,Placodermi).  Paleobiology.  35:251-269.

Huber D.R., Eason T.G., Hueter R.E., and Motta P.J., 2005.  Analysis of the bite force and mechanical design of the feeding mechanism of the durophagous horn shark Heterodontus francisci.  The Journal of Experimental Biology. 208:3553-3571.

Wroe S., Huber D.R., Lowry M., McHenry C., Moreno K., Clausen P., Cunningham E., Dean M.N., and Summers A.P. 2008. Three-dimensional computer analysis of white shark jaw mechanics: how hard can a great white bite?  Journal of Zoology. 276:336-342.

And Berkeley website on the “Introduction to the Placodermi” http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/vertebrates/basalfish/placodermi.html