Your Dino Mummy Questions, Answered

Ed. Note: Leonardo has only been on display in Dinosaur Mummy CSI: Cretaceous Science Investigation for a few weeks – but we’ve already gotten a ton of fascinating questions from visitors. In this post, Dr. Bakker  answers them. If you have a question about Leonardo – or anything on exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science – send it to blogadmin@hmns.org and we’ll post the answer here.

Dinosaur Mummy CSI presents scans of Leonardo that show gut contents and even a possible heart. Does Leonardo have lungs preserved?

There are some curious iron concretions revealed by the x-rays here but nothing definite.

Duck-bill dinosaurs do not have hollowed-out bones of the sort we see in birds and raptors and tyrannosaurs. Therefore we don’t expect that they had the very small lungs and big air chambers in the body cavity characteristic of modern birds.

The lungs would be tucked up high in the chest, covered by rib numbers 3,4,5,6 – if the lungs were like those of birds and crocodiles.

The drawings of Leonardo in the exhibit are very colorful – how do you know what colors dinosaurs had on their skin?

…theoretical stripes.

Think “Okapi.” That’s the giraffe-like thing in wet woodlands today.

Dinosaurs had bird-style eyes, so camouflage had to match habitat colors. Dull browns and greys were not good enough to fool an eagle-eyed gorgosaur.

Early Judithian environs had wet forests with big conifer trees and, in the rainy season, thick underbrush. Dry season would bring browns & rust colors.

So……..Mike Berglund (a dinosaur illustrator) has made a testable theory with his partially banded Brachy. Breaking the profile by having the tail a different color would help flummox predators, who would have a more difficult time seeing the whole body and tail shape. The thick verticals would help the beast blend in among the tree trunks.

How can we test color ideas?  More paleo-environmental research. More thinking about fossil pollen, turtles, crocodiles & salamanders….all witnesses to rainfall, groundwater, and floral geometry.

What animals alive today would be most like Leonardo?

Eland
Creative Commons License photo credit: The Anti-ZIM

The Antelope Family – most diverse family of medium-large planteaters on land today. The Antelope Family includes cows and buffalo, gazelles and oryx, funny-faced hartebeest and gnu, cute duikers and stately eland. Muskoxen and sheep and goats. Antelope supply most of the prey for lions, leopards, cheetah and hyenas.

The Duckbill Family is the most diverse, big-ish plant-eaters in the last part of the dinosaurian age, the Late Cretaceous. The Duckbill Family includes our HMNS Edmontosaurus, and the Trombone Dinosaur, Parasaurolophus (kids’ favorite). And the “Good-Mother” Maiasaura, who left us fossil eggs and nests. Leo’s species, Brachylophosaurus, is a duckbill too. Duckbills supplied most of the prey for all the tyrannosaur meateaters, such as Gorgosaurus, Daspletosaurusand the famous Tyrannosaurus rex.

The technical name for the Antelope Family is Family Bovidae, or “bovids” for short.

The technical name for the Duck Bill Family is Family Hadrosauridae, or “hadrosaurs” for short.*

Want to learn more about Leonardo and other dinosaurs?
See how we moved the 6-ton fossil into the museum.
See David Temple repairing and gluing a fossil back together.
Draw a dinosaur with Dr. Bakker.

Science Doesn’t Sleep (7.3.08)

Lotus heart
Creative Commons License photo credit: tanakawho

So here’s what went down after you logged off.

A short circuit may take down the Phoenix Mars Lander – NASA scientists are treating the next soil test as possibly the last.

Brain food. And, heart food.

Would you like to know what your Congressional leader thinks about science? Scientists and Engineers for America has your back.

Endangered species: you may be even more endangered than we thought.

Double threat: the location of stone age cave drawings appear to have been chosen for musical reasons.

Curiously, no cherry trees were found on the property. National Geographic has photos of George Washington’s childhood home – identified from an excavation of the foundation.

After the fireworks die down tomorrow night, keep looking. Mars, Saturn and the bright star Regalus will be lined up all in a row.

Looking Back…

In case you were wondering about notable science events that happened around June 27th…

Its just not quite as convenient as an ipod. On June 29th, 1888, the first recording of a classical song was made. The first song recorded was Handel’s “Israel in Egypt,” and it was recorded on a new piece of technology called the phonograph cylinder developed by Thomas Edison. Unfortunately, the new techonology could not hold 80 gigs of music.

Saturn portrait
Creative Commons License photo credit: Elsie esq.

Are we there yet? On July 1st, 2004, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft finally reached its destination of Saturn after travelling through space for almost seven years. The craft split into two pieces upon reaching Saturn; the Cassini orbiter entered Saturn’s orbit while the Huygens probe continued on to land on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan. You can view images the probes have taken of saturn and its moons here.

On July 2nd, 1900, the first Zeppelin was tested. The German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin obtained a patent in 1895 and began constructing his first model in 1889, which was completed almost a year later. The initial flight only lasted eighteen minutes; the zeppelin was forced to land after the winding mechanism broke. Probably the most famous zeppelin moment was when the largest airship ever constructed, the Hindenburg  exploded while landing in front of a crowd of thousands. 35 of the 97 passengers on board were killed. The following video is a newreel that was released about the Hindenburg crash shortly after the explosion.

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Robocop
Creative Commons License photo credit: Karl Palutke

Suffering from a broken heart? On July 2nd, 2001, AbioCor created the first truly artificial heart. It runs on a rechargable power source. The heart is still being perfected, as it currently extends the life of a patient by only 12 to 17 months. Also, due to the large size of the technology, it can only be implanted in large patients. However, it’s only a matter of time until anyone can resemble RoboCop.