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10 Domed Facts About Stegoceras

Sebastian BergmannWikimedia Commons//CC BY-SA 2.0

Thanks to its similar-sounding name, todays dino will always get mixed up with the spiky-tailed, crowd-pleasingStegosaurus. If you caught these two standing side by side, however, youd have no trouble telling them apart. BipedalStegocerashad a very different profile and led a very different lifestyle.

Stegocerasprobably didnt win many arm wrestling contests with those short and weak forelimbs.

Seventy-two million years ago,Stegoceras novomexicanumroamed the American Southwest. At around four feet long, it would have been dwarfed byStegosaurus validum,a better-known species which measured in at just over six feet from end to end.

Coined by paleontologistLawrence Lambein 1902, the moniker references that bumpy dome on the dinos head.

The biggest difference betweenStegocerasand us (in terms of breathing) is that it would have breathed more like a bird or reptile in that it took longer, deeper breaths,saysOhio University doctoral student Jason Bourke. When Bourke and his colleagues performed a CT scan of aStegocerasskull last year, they sniffed out some amazing new facts about the way this dino breathed. For example, each breath likely helped keep its brain from overheating by cooling cranial blood vessels. Also, because reptiles lack nose hairs,Stegocerasmust have relied heavily on mucous to avoid inhaling small, airborne objects.

Both ofStegoceras eyes faced forwardwhich means this dino had depth perception. Not all were so lucky: Manyprimitive specieshad eyes that were oriented in slightly different directions. Though this let them take in more scenery, these guys would have struggled with discerning distances.

As paleontologist Eric Snivleypoints out, one can see alternating layers of stiff and compliant bone in the domes of these dinosaurs Its almost as if they are wearing a double motorcycle helmet. For reasons were still figuring out, spongy skull materialrestedbeneath a solid outer surface.

7. Its Range Stretched from Alberta to New Mexico.

Next time youre in Edmonton, check out the University of Albertas excellentStegocerasdisplay. Two mounted specimens can also be seen at theRoyal Tyrell Museum(located about 85 miles northeast of Calgary).

Hey, hindsight is 20/20. Scientists now know thatTroodonwas a nimble, sickle-clawed predator, as evidenced by multiple skeletons. For many years, however, we had nothing but its isolated teeth to work with. In the early 20th century, a handful of these pearly whites were foundnearan assortment of partialStegocerasskull remains. So, naturally, some paleontologists assumed that they all belonged to a weird, thick-headed chimera-saurus rather than two separate dinos.

9.StegocerasHad an S or U-Shaped Neck

Older paintings ofStegoceras(and its relatives) show the animal keeping its neck perfectly straightened and parallel with the ground, ready to ram into whatever might be stupid enough to mess with it. But in life, the creatures neck was habitually curved [PDF].

Afterscanningthe skulls ofStegoceras,a similar dinosaur namedPrenocephale, and 10 still-living hoofed mammals, an international paleontology team concluded that these dinos may have beeneven betterat butting heads than todays bighorn sheep or musk ox. Their research indicates thatStegoceras skull was great at dissipating impact forces caused by collisions with solid objects.

This doesnt necessarily prove that these guys went on head-to-head ramming sessions. Some experts believe thatStegoceraspreferred flanking each other by swinging those bowling ball-like heads into their rivals sides. Frankly, both techniques sound painfulbe glad youll never have to worry about incurring the wrath of a belligerentStegoceras.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth installment in theJurassic Parkfranchise, is skulking into theaters on June 22. That makes now the perfect time to revisit theoriginal filmin LEGO form.

This LEGO set, spotted byNerdist, depicts some of the most suspenseful scenes from the 1993 movie. Theres the main computer room where Ariana Richardss Lex shows off her hacker skills while Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) struggle to keep a hungry dinosaur from barging in. Just like in the film, the door features a deadbolt lock thats velociraptor-proof (though, unfortunately for the characters, the detachable window is not). Other Easter eggs hidden in this part include a map of Isla Nublar and a screener saver of LEGO Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight).

In the neighboring room, youll find the cold storage unit where the dinosaur embryos are kept, along with the fake shaving cream can Nedry uses to steal them. The final section is the kitchen, where Tim (Joseph Mazzello) and Lex are stalked by the velociraptor. Theres less room for them to hide in the LEGO version compared to the movie set, but there is at least one functioning cabinet for Lex to tuck herself into. Closer inspection reveals even more details from the film, like the lime-green Jello Lex is eating when the raptors first arrive and the step ladder the gang uses to escape into the air ducts during the final chase.

TheJurassic Park Velociraptor Chaseset is currently available from the LEGO shop for $40.

WHY? is our attempt to answerall the questions every little kid asks. Do you have a question? Send it .

Actually, there are still dinosaurs: Birds! But lets talk about that a little later. Scientists have found clues in rocks and fossils that tell us that by 65 million years ago, theclimate(CLY-met), or usual weather, of the Earth had changed a lot, becoming cooler and drier. That was hard on the heat-loving dinosaurs. But thats not why almost all of the dinosaurs becameextinct, or disappeared forever. Scientists think a terrible event occurred that killed them off.

In 1991, scientists discovered a huge 110-mile-long crater, or hole, in the Gulf of Mexico. They think this crater was made by a giant, fiery, 6-mile-wideasteroid(AST-er-oyd) from space that smashed into the Earth about 65 million years ago. The impact was more powerful than any bomb we have ever known. Scientists believe this event killed most plant and animal lifeincluding the dinosaurs.The asteroid probably causedshockwaves, earthquakes, fireballs, wildfires, and tidal, or really big, waves. It also sent huge amounts of dust and gas into the atmosphere, which is like a big blanket of air that surrounds the Earth. That was really bad for the planet.

The dust blocked sunlight, making the planet very cold and dark. Then, over time, the gases trapped heat, causing the Earth to get even hotter than it was before the asteroid hit. This change was deadly for most dinosaurs, and they became extinct. But birds survived. Many millions of years earlier, they hadevolved(ee-VOL-ved), or changed slowly over time, from one group of dinosaurs. And when the dinosaurs disappeared, mammalsdiversified(die-VERSE-uh-fide), or changed, into many different kinds of animalsincluding us, many millions of years later. So the next time you see a bird swoop by, wave hello to the little flying dinosaur!

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