2023 was a remarkable year for dinosaur fossil finds. Paleontologists across the globe unearthed a myriad of well-preserved remains, providing new insights into the ancient giants that roamed Earth millions of years ago. Here is a short list of some of the amazing and important finds made in 2023.
Mammals may have preyed on dinosaurs
Given the dominance of dinosaurs, it seems unlikely that they faced threats from mammals. However, a 125 million-year-old fossil of a small, badger-like animal locked in a tussle with a bipedal dinosaur tells a different story. The remains show the mammal's front paws grabbing the dinosaur's mouth. Its jaws are clamped down on the ribs, and their hind limbs are intertwined. Scientists assert this suggests the mammal was not defending itself against the dinosaur. Instead, it was instigating the fight.
Dinosaurs with necks longer than a school bus
Sauropods were known to have long necks, with some stretching out almost 30 feet (nine meters). The extended reach allowed the herbivores to feed on surrounding vegetation without moving. This enabled the massive dinosaurs to maximize their food intake while conserving energy.
However, the Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum has taken the neck length to a new level. Fossils of the late Jurassic Chinese sauropod's neck suggest that it may have been 49.5 feet (15.1 meters) long. This is about six times longer than a giraffe's neck.
Further evaluation of the remains indicated that the dinosaur's long neck was held up by small bones called cervical ribs that jutted out from the neck vertebrae. The researchers also believe that the bones were filled with air, making the neck weight more manageable.
The Tyrannosaurus rex may have had lips
The Tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex) has always been portrayed with its razor-sharp teeth jutting out of its jaw. However, a March 2023 study suggests that the T. rex and other theropods had scaly lips that covered their massive teeth. The scientists hypothesize that they protected the dinosaur's teeth, preventing them from drying out.
Some sharp-clawed dinosaurs preferred plants
With its fearsome toe claws and sharp teeth, the Troodon had always been presumed to be a carnivore. However, analysis of chemical remnants preserved in the dinosaur's fossils indicates that the small, bird-like theropods preferred plants over animals. This discovery has caused scientists to question the diet of other dinosaurs with similar features.
Dinosaurs enjoyed drumsticks, too!
Most chicken lovers will agree that the tastiest part is the drumstick — the meaty segment of the bird's leg attached to the thighs. A recently found Gorgosaurus libratus fossil indicates that the slightly smaller cousin of the dreaded T. rex may have also preferred them.
The well-preserved skeleton still had its last two meals in the stomach. Each comprised a pair of hind legs from a small, bird-like dinosaur. This indicates tyrannosaurs may not have mindlessly gobbled up their prey's entire body. Instead, they carefully ripped out the meatiest and most nutritious part.
Resources: Smithsonian.com, newatlas.com, zmscience.com