Kuiper poses with a stegosaurus statue.

Kuiper makes a friend at Prehistoric Gardens

Kuiper makes a new (life-sized!) friend at Prehistoric Gardens on the southern Oregon Coast. Steggy was built in the 1950s by a hard-working man named Ernie Nelson. Ernie took great care to ensure the accuracy of his dinos’ proportions and scale, but the stripes are all his. He is rumored to have said something like “No-one knows what color they were so I’ll paint them however I want.” Can’t argue with that! The park is now operated by Ernie’s grandchildren (and it is dog friendly!!)

We tend to think of dinosaurs frolicking together like one big Mesozoic cartoon, but did you know that Stegosaurus is more chronologically distant from the T-rex than we are? Stegosaurus (along with his sudden but inevitable betrayer Allosaurus) lived about 150 million years ago. T-rex didn’t show up until around 70 million years ago.

Despite longstanding rumors, Stegosaurus did not in fact have a brain in its butt (nor did any other dinosaur.) There is an unusually large hollow spot in their vertebrae near the pelvis, but the current best guess is that this held a “glycogen body,” a feature of the spinal cord found in modern birds. We’re not positive what it does in birds, either, but we’re pretttttty sure it’s not a brain.

Although you can’t see the tail in this picture, this statue reflects how our understanding of Stegosaurus has changed over the years. We now know that Stegos had fairly longthy necks, that they most likely carried their tail above the ground, and that the plates on their back were aligned in two staggered rows rather than in neat pairs. We’re still trying to figure out what the plates were for, though.

We now know that they were covered in keratin (the stuff that fingernails and rhino horns are made out of) so they probably weren’t super useful for regulating body temperature. They probably didn’t make very good body armor, either, since they were attached to the skin rather than the skeleton. It’s possible they evolved just for show, like a peacock’s tail!

What’s your favorite dinosaur? How did you first learn about it?

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BkqiijgA68P/

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