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Kissing Dinosaurs

image credit: Daisy Lin

You know you are in dinosaur heaven when you are welcomed by a huge statue of a dinosaur, and when I say huge, I mean huge. The town of Erenhot in Northern China is home to what is known as the “Kissing Dinosaurs”, two enormous Brontosauruses, stretching their long necks over the highway, to meet in what looks like a kiss.

The Brontosauruses are 34 meters wide, 19 meters tall, and together reach 80 meters across. That’s MASSIVE! It’s also, according to science’s best guess, larger than life. And make sure you stop to take pictures (duh!) before you pass the Kissing Dinosaurs! They have dino friends; dotting the surrounding area are smaller statues of other dinosaurs like T-Rex, Pachycephalosaurus, Triceratops, and avian dinosaurs.

This amazing site is located on the Sino-Mongolian border, on the main highway. It was built in 2007 to remind the world of the town’s reputation as a fossil hub, and it really is! During the 1920s, dinosaur fossils were discovered in the Erlian Basin, and one of those fossils is still the biggest, and best-preserved fossil to have ever been found in Asia. People started calling it, “Dinosaur City”, and rightly so.

The town of Erlian (sometimes called Erenhot) is definitely a dinosaur town. Not only do they have the huge Brontos to welcome you in, but they also have an amazing museum for you to see many of the fossils that have been found in the surrounding area. The town in Northern China was home to more than 20 different species of dinosaurs, with the most famous being the Gigantoraptor. This 8-meter-long birdlike predator was discovered in 2005. And as if that wasn’t cool enough, they even have a theme park; “Dinosaur Fairyland”.

As far as Dinosaur holidays go, this is definitely one that should be on every dino lover’s list. Giant brontosauruses kissing, dino statues, a museum; even a theme park. Doesn’t that sound like a dino-mite vacation? It’s definitely on my list of places to see!

If you have been to “Dinosaur City”, or have pictures of Erenhot to share, We would LOVE to see them! Send us an email or tag us with your pictures on Instagram! And don’t forget to sign up for our email newsletter! You will hear about fun dino stuff, and even get a dinosaur treat on your birthday from Vester the Velociraptor!

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Baby Yingliang

getty images
Have you heard about Baby Yingliang? Baby Yingliang is the name of one of the most exquisitely preserved dinosaur embryos that have ever been found. For a paleontologist to find a dinosaur egg or nest is rare, and those that have been found are usually incomplete, or the bones are dislocated. This is part of the reason we don’t actually know what baby dinosaurs look like before they hatch. With this discovery, researchers can hopefully get a better picture of that!

And guess what? For the “Are dinosaurs birds or reptiles?” question, BabyYingliang is an oviraptorosaur. Oviraptorosaurs are part of a group of Theropods. Researchers believe that Theropods are closely related to birds, and with the discovery of Baby Yingliang, their theory is even more substantial! Baby Yingliang is shown to be in a “tucking” position, a position that is unique to modern baby birds before hatching. This doesn’t mean all dinosaurs are birds (check out this blog for more on that topic!), but it definitely gives us evidence that some dinosaurs were!

Life reconstruction of a close-to-hatching oviraptorosaur dinosaur embryo, based on the new specimen, Baby Yingliang. Image Credit: Lida Xing

Baby Yingliang was found in the Ganzhou region of Southern China and ended up in storage in a museum for almost 15 years before the museum staff of the Yingliang Stone Nature History noticed the exquisitely preserved bones through some cracks in the egg. They were sorting through some boxes that were in storage and discovered the fossils. What a beautiful thing to find in storage! I certainly don’t have anything like that in my attic!

It’s amazing discoveries like Baby Yingliang that help us understand more about what dinosaurs actually looked like. Researchers now have an even stronger theory that today’s modern birds evolved over millions of years from Theropod dinosaurs. Hopefully, we can look forward to more discoveries like this one for more evidence of that hypothesis!

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Can Dinosaurs Be Cloned?

The simple answer is no. Well, not yet, anyway, and highly unlikely. Let’s start by talking about where Jurassic Park got it right.

Amber does exist. Amber is tree resin that has been fossilized and preserved due to high pressure and temperature, covered by many layers of sediment over thousands of years. Eventually, it can harden to make a gemstone that is actually quite expensive, and people do turn it into jewelry! It is possible for things to get trapped in the amber; scientists have indeed found mosquitoes and biting flies preserved in amber from the time of the dinosaurs, but unfortunately, the amber only preserves the outside, the “husk”, not the soft tissue. Any tasty snack they had before getting trapped doesn’t get preserved.

Lebanese amber specimen from the Early Cretaceous Period

There is fun news though! Scientists have found blood residue inside ancient bugs! They just weren’t found in amber, they were found in bones! Dr. Susie Maidment and a team of researchers from the Natural History Museum in the UK have discovered what they interpret to be red blood cells inside a dinosaur bone from the cretaceous period, and in 2020, scientists from the US and China found cartilage that possibly contains Dino DNA. Unfortunately though, just because you find dinosaur blood cells, doesn’t mean you have found dinosaur DNA. DNA is super vulnerable. It breaks down rapidly and has to be handled in very strict conditions.

Here’s where Jurassic Park went a bit wrong. In order to clone something, you need an intact, living cell, and a living host of the same species. Science dinosaurs are extinct, it would be pretty hard to use one as a host. In Jurassic Park, they took fragmented DNA, figured out where the holes were and filled the DNA sequence with frog DNA, then used a lab to grow the dinosaur. The big problem with this is, that if you don’t have the full sequence already, you don’t know where the holes are! Even if you did, it wouldn’t help filling it with frog DNA; you would need to use birds. Or crocodiles maybe, but definitely not frogs.

Compsognathus: SMNS, R. Haring. & M. Aurich

Scientists are giving it a go though. There are a few labs that are trying to reverse engineer extinct animals. Scientists see this as a possible way to bring back species that have gone extinct during the time that humans have inhabited our planet. For dinosaurs, you could in theory take a chicken and try to give it a long tail or teeth! Really though, would it be a dinosaur, if it was reverse engineered, and not grown from actual DNA?

Scientists have successfully cloned certain animals already, but that’s because they already had the DNA of the animal, and they are working on reverse engineering extinct species that we already know could survive living now with care and protection. Without finding perfectly preserved, complete dinosaur DNA, the chances of cloning a real dinosaur is basically impossible. Even if it was possible, we’ve seen how that movie ends! Like Dr. Malcolm says, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should.”

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Facts About Mosasaurus

You know that intense scene in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, where the guy is clinging to the ladder under the helicopter? They fly away, barely escaping a T-Rex, just to be then eaten by the mighty Mosasaurus? You heave a sigh of relief, just get it snatched from you mid-breath. Well, although it’s a really cool scene, and even more cool that the Mosasaurus is finally getting some attention in pop culture, they don’t have all the facts quite right.

Mosasurus was not as big as Jurassic World would like us to think. They were actually not much bigger than Tyrannosaurus Rex! The largest discovered specimen had a length of up to 17 metres. The largest blue whales today are around 30 metres long, so the Mosasaurus wasn’t even the largest sea creature the earth has known.

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a terrifying creature! Mosasaurus had double-hinged jaws that would allow it to swallow its prey whole. It also had a second row of teeth on the top of its mouth, used to keep a strong hold of its meal. This apex predator from the Late Cretaceous period had a skull that was designed for crushing and they would make easy meals of other sea dwellers, such as fish, sharks and even other Mosasaurs.

Technically Mosasaurus isn’t a dinosaur; they were prehistoric marine reptiles similar to modern-day lizards and snakes rather than dinosaurs, but for dinosaur lovers like me, that’s just semantics! The name Mosasaur was given to this mighty aquatic beast because it was first found in Holland, by the Meuse River, “Mosa”, and “Sauros” is Greek for “Lizard”. Mosasaurus was one of the very first dinosaurs ever discovered, way back in the 1700’s, however back then they didn’t know what dinosaurs were, and thought it was a whale. It wasn’t until the 1820’s when Georges Cuvier examined it, that scientists realised that extinct species had lived on the earth before us.

It’s super cool to see different dinosaurs represented in movies and pop culture, even if they aren’t exactly accurate. To be fair, what we actually know about each dino often changes with each new discovery, so who knows? Maybe one day we will find larger fossils of Mosasaurus! Regardless, this massive sea monster is one of my favourite dinosaurs, even if it’s just a little bit scary!

What’s your favourite Dinosaur? Send us an email or tag us with your pictures on Instagram! We would love to hear about them! And don’t forget to sign up for our email newsletter! You will hear about fun dino stuff, and even get a dinosaur treat on your birthday from Vester the Velociraptor!