2021 Year in Review

2021 Selected Interesting Dinosaur Papers

2021 was another banner year for dinosaurs!  Let's go through, month by month, and revisit some of my favorites!

Thank you kindly,

BC

January
We learned the incredibly well-preserved Psittacosaurus (specimen number SMF R 4970) from the Early Cretaceous Jehol Formation of Liaoning, China is one of the most incredibly preserved fossils ever discovered.  The specimen not only had quills (!) preserved along its tail but also evidence of color, specifically differentiated colors in the cloacal region.  Why?  No one is sure but possibly it could flash colors to startle predators, or maybe it was used for sexual selection?  Yet another amazing discovery that leads to even more mysteries!

 

China continued to provide amazing specimens, here one can read about a brooding (not in a sad or angry meaning :-)) oviraptorid atop a nest of eggs with embryos inside!  Brooding is seen in modern birds, and this is yet more evidence of the ties of birds and dinosaurs.

February
As a sauropod lad, anything related to my beloved long-necked, long-tailed, heavy-bodied tetrapods catches my eye.  This month saw the world introduced to Dzharatitanis kingi, the believed to be a rebbachisaurid sauropod from Asia.  This would make it the first representative of this group in Asia.  Studies later in 2021 suggest it is actually a titanosaurid.  Only additional material will solve this mystery!

 

Amazing use of CT scanning on a skull of the rebbachisaurid Limaysaurus shows the future of paleontology.  The authors were able to CT scan a skull and learn lots of new information including that it had much larger olfactory capabilities than the titanosaurids they lived alongside.

 

March
Tamarro insperatus is the first troodontid dinosaur from Europe.  It is named from a single long bone that was histologically analyzed.  The study shows it grew remarkably fast and was among the largest of the Troodontids.

 

Thanks to another amazing Mongolian find we learned even more about ankylosaurid armor from this new, as-yet-unnamed, specimen.  The armor was found in situ, meaning in place, and it definitely shows how the side scutes were attached.  Amazing!

 

April
Evidence that sauropods lacked feathers continues to be found, with amazing patches of Diplodocus skin being described from the famous Mother's Day Quarry in the Bighorn Basin of Montana.

 

We also met Ornatops and Yamatosaurus,  two new hadrosaurs named this month!  Yamatosaurus suggested to the authors that saurolophine hadrosaurs may have originated in Asia and then migrated to North America.  Ornatops had a bizarre nose and head crest and continues the long line of interestingly-skulled hadrosaurs.

 

May
We meet the first duckbill found in Africa, Ajnabia odyseus was announced.  This caught everyone by surprise as they hadn't been seen in Africa before.  It appears it either rafted, swam, or took advantage of various ocean levels to migrate there from Europe.  Amazing!

 

The world's oldest centrosaurine, Menefeeceratops, also was named this month.  Hanging out in New Mexico, it represents yet another incredible ceratopsian discovery from the Menefee Formation (think Zuniceratops from the 00s!).  I can't wait to see what else comes from this modern-day gold mine of new dinosaurs!

 

June
The big Australian sauropod Australotitan was described.  Not only is it the longest and heaviest dinosaur yet found in Australia, it approached the upper tier in dinosaur size!

 

Finally, eggs and hatchlings of dinosaurs in Arctic settings indicates some dinosaurs were able to live year-round in cold weather.  Their metabolism is still something of a mystery but, at least for the smaller dinosaurs, they certainly appear to be endothermic like their bird cousins.

 

July
We met Ypupiara, an unenlagiine named from bones that were destroyed in the Rio de Janeiro Natural History Museum.  The specimen is important as it further refines the dinosaur/bird transition.  Though it is lost to science excellent photos and a great description are now available thanks to this paper.

 

Aerosteon, a megaraptoran, had its osteology described in detail for the first time.  This may be the largest of the megaraptorids, with sizes estimated from 20 to 35 feet in length.  It was heavily pneumatized with an air-sac system similar to birds today.
 
August
Two awesome sauropods, Hamititan (a titanosaur) and Silutitan (a euhelopid sauropod), are named from the Early Cretaceous of China.  Though named from only parts of the skeleton (Hamititan from a tail series, Silutitan from a few cervical vertebrae in articulation) the elements were diagnostic enough to merit being named.  Sauropod diversity continues to grow everywhere we look!

 

The first theropod from Pakistan, Vitakrisaurus, was named in August.  It is the best-preserved abelisauroid from Pakistan and was preserved with vertebrae and limb elements.  More to come from Pakistan I am sure!

 

September
We are introduced to the first Late Cretaceous carcharodontosaurid from Central Asia, Ulughbegsaurus.  It is the latest occurrence of carcharodontosaurids and tyrannosaurids living side by side, demonstrating the two predators likely were niche-partioned.

 

We meet two new spinosauridsCeratosuchops inferodios and Riparovenator milnerae, from the UK.  The authors suggested spinosaurs originated in Europe and the migrated to Africa and South America millions of years later.  More to come for sure on this front!

 

October
Two new Pakistani titanosaurid sauropods Balochisaurus and Nicksaurus were named.

 

The coelophysoid theropod Pendraig was named in October.  This coelophysoid theropod from the Late Triassic had a small body and may have lived on an island.

 

November
Dr. Curtice announces Supersaurus as the world's longest dinosaur.  With a length that may have reached 140' this animal is otherworldly in size, being longer than 3 large school busses nose to tail.

 

Stegouros was announced as a primitive ankylosaurid with a tail that looked like a Mayan sword.  It is one of my favorite dinosaurs ever!

 

Issi is a sauropodomorph from the Late Triassic of Greenland!  Two skulls of this Triassic dinosaur were discovered and show it is a close cousin to Plateosaurus.

 

December
The amazing embryonic oviraptorid theropod egg paper can be read here.  This paper is important as it shows yet another character shared with dinosaurs and birds, in this case how they are positioned in the egg.

 

Early Cretaceous amber was announced from Spain and revealed an entire insect and arthropod world that we previously knew little about.  Incredible!

 

This is but a fraction of the new dinosaurs that were named in 2021.  Additionally, technology plays a growing role in the description of new dinosaurs by virtue of 3D scanning and imaging.  I cannot wait for the discoveries in 2022!  Stay tuned for our very own brachiosaurid work ;-)!

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