What the heck is a megaraptor? Join Adele and Monash University PhD candidate Jake Kotevski on a wild wide through the Cretaceous and uncover the truth about these mysterious carnivorous dinosaurs and their humongous claws.
Adele: Today on the show we're joined by my palaeo BFF, PhD candidate Jake Kotevski to talk about megaraptors. This episode we talk about almost theropod dinosaur on the planet, why representation matters and more Jurassic Park facts than you can poke a stick at.
Pals in Palaeo presents Megaraptors with Jake Kotevski.
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Adele: Pals in Palaeo acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land throughout Australia and recognises First Nations People as the original scientists, engineers and technologists of this land. We recognise their connections to land, all waterways and community.
We pays our respects to the Elders past, present and emerging, and extends respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today. This episode was recorded on Whadjuk Nyoongar country, and fossils of megaraptors are known from Koa country, Yuwaalaraay country and Bunurong country, as well as overseas.
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Adele: I'm your host palaeontologist, PhD candidate and Jurassic Park fangirl, Adele Pentland. You can keep up to date with the show by following me on Instagram @palsinpalaeo or find us on Facebook.
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Adele: I'm so pumped about today's episode, my guest is one of my best friends Jake who I've mentioned before on the show. Full disclosure, the first time we met in person after we'd been Internet friends for the best part of a year, we were at the pub together for 7 hours. We were at the Standard Hotel in Fitzroy, it was absolutely packed and honestly I'm surprised they didn't kick us off the table. We could not stop talking so it's no surprise to me that this episode is longer than normal but there's heaps of banter, we cover a lot of different topics and there's heaps of goof info on theropod dinosaurs.
Adele: Before we get into all that, a quick random fossil fact for you to start things off. So during the chat we talk about some of the theropod or meat eating dinosaur fossils found in Australia and Jake mentioned the Cape Paterson Claw. It's the first dinosaur fossil recognised by western scientists from Australia and it is, indeed from a theropod. Unfortunately it's quite weathered, you can still see the basic shape, and a bit of the vascular groove, the groove along the side of the claw but it's slightly eroded and basically been battered by the wind and the waves. I should also mention that it was found at Eagle's Nest near Cape Paterson, hence the nickname the Cape Paterson Claw.
Adele: Now because it's lost some of its shape, unfortunately we don't know which group pf theropods this claw belonged to. The most common theropods from across Australia are megaraptors, but there's other groups too. That's the science surrounding this specific fossil but the actual random fossil fact, is that Australia's National Dinosaur Day, the 7th of May is the day that the Cape Paterson Claw was found.
Adele: It was discovered way back in 1903 by Scottish geologist William Ferguson on the Cretaceous coast of Victoria, and if you want to see this fossil, it's on display at the Melbourne Museum. I low-key want to speculate more about what type of theropod this claw belonged to but honestly I'm no expert when it comes to theropods and my gut feeling is that it's impossible to know for sure. Also this episode is insanely long already and jammed pack full of top tier theropod facts.
Adele: One last thing, with this recording, you might hear the sounds of Sunday roast getting prepared, dogs barking, and there's also a glass table smashing to smithereens. It's full of excitement. Anyway, enjoy.
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Adele Pentland (03:46.991)
Adele: This is Pals in Paleo, the show where we talk about form, function and family of your favourite fossils. And I also just have a great excuse to talk to some of my favourite people in paleontology. Today on the show, we have a really special guest. One of my best friends in paleo, Jake Kotevski.
Jake: Good pronunciation.
Adele: Oh, thanks. How's it going?
Jake: Yeah, pretty good. Just cruising, trying to make my way through the danger that is paleontology.
Adele: Yeah. And for context, so we are recording in Perth and we are just about to head into a full-on week of Aussie Palaeo for Palaeo Down Under 3.
Jake: First conference for me, so a little daunting and exciting at the same time. First time I get to present my research and...
Adele: Well, aside from doing your other milestones and stuff, I should say Jake is a PhD candidate at Monash University. Or do you want to introduce yourself?
Jake: Yeah, no, that's fine. So Adele and I know each other because we share Steve, our dinosaur dad, / main supervisor.
Adele: Shout out Steve Poropat.
Jake: Good on you, Steve. But I'm also with Professor now Alistair Evans at Monash and Associate Professor Justin Adams. And my PhD is focused on pretty much all the theropod material that's been found out of Victoria. So we have a lot of scrappy individual bones, but by far the largest collection in Australia of theropods. And they're just kind of sitting there waiting for something to happen, so I'm looking at them. But part of that collection is the Megaraptors. And they're just a weird, really cool group that are seemingly dominant in Australia.
Adele: They're basically like the real life Jurassic Park velociraptors. No?
Jake: Oh God no. They're mega. They're not raptors.
Adele: Okay. Yeah. Oh, that's right. Raptor means something in taxonomy. Yeah, it does. Gosh. Bird people again are just like, that's not what that word means.
Jake: Technically, I'm a bird person. Yeah, true. Really, really, really old bird person. Yeah, no, they're not like the dinosaur raptor. They've got that claw, but it's on the hand instead of the foot. And it was really big. So we thought, oh, you know, megaraptor, big raptor.
Adele: That's how they got their name. Oh, I never knew that.
Jake: So the original description of Megaraptor was ‘98.
Adele: And it's from?
Jake: It's from Argentina.
Jake: I'm pretty sure it's Fernando Novas.
Adele: Probably Novas.
Jake: It sounds like a Fernando Novas. Yeah. Anyway, there was just an individual really big claw that looked like the velociraptor, the Dromaeosaur claw. Megaraptor. And then six years later, they found another specimen but with the claw associated with the hand bones. And so it was something with large claws on the hand but that's where the name derives from.
Adele: Yeah, you have to be really careful when you name something like oviraptor as well, you know egg thief.
Jake: Well, they're fairly certain that was sitting on the nest rather than raiding a nest now last time
Adele: Yeah, yeah, that's what I remember hearing last time too. So it's not an egg thief It's actually just a good mom
Jake: who's getting like getting a lot of flak for just sitting on her nest.
Adele: Yeah, it's unfortunate Your origin story. Were you bitten by a radioactive fossil?
Jake: No, I'm part of this ugh, unfortunate generation that’s grown up with Jurassic Park and-
Adele: Steven Spielberg, look what you've done.
Jake: Spielberg and Michael Crichton influenced my life in more ways than they could know. I took it a step further and I based my entire life on that movie. You know, I grew up in a European household and so studying through high school was very much a “what is going to earn you money and a well-paying, you know, a well-stable, well-paying job?” And I always wanted to be a palaeontologist but didn't seem like there was much going on in paleontology in Australia. So I moved into genetics.
Adele: We're working on it.
Jake: We're doing our best.
Adele: Genetics the other thing from Jurassic Park.
Jake: The other thing from Jurassic Park, genetics. Like I said it dictated my life. So I did a degree at Latrobe Uni, did a Bioscience degree, majored in genetics, hated it.
Adele: Was it smooth sailing?
Jake: It was not smooth sailing. Oh god no. The old adage, P’s get degrees, failed a couple units here and there.
Adele: Was it because you weren't interested in it and your heart wasn't in it?
Jake: I think there's a mixture of things. I was...
Adele: Because I know you're incredibly passionate and driven about the things that interest you.
Jake: It was I think a combination of growing up as a loser in high school and then coming to uni and nobody cares about your social standing and so you make a bunch of friends and you want to socialise. I think secretly my heart wasn't in it. I also met my now wife back then and kind of pulled away from focusing on studying and more onto focusing on dating. So just a combination of factors where I was just, you know what, I'm gonna finish it but I'm not gonna enjoy it. So look, I don't regret that degree. I wouldn't be where I am without it. But no, I finished in 2015.
Adele: And it doesn't really relate to what you're doing now with your PhD either.
Jake: No, look, I mean, I majored in genetics, but also did zoology. Thank God I did the zoology part, because there's so much. Just even basic anatomy, I'd be lost without. But no, I finished the degree, and then I almost fell into the hospitality trap. I sat around for two years, just working and not doing anything, and... Again, Jurassic Park, I watched the movie more times than I'd like to admit in a year and I'll read the book once a year and-
Adele: You also have like a pretty sweet Jurassic Park inspired tattoo as well.
Jake: I've got the tattoo, I've got the bag, I've got t-shirts.
Adele: And it's not like a little tattoo either.
Jake: No, it's a bit ridiculous.
Adele: It covers up most of sort of your like-
Jake: Yeah, upper left arm. I've got a Tyrannosaur that's kind of- It's based on the artwork for Jurassic World Evolution 2, the video game.
Adele: Okay. Very specific.
Jake: Literally took that T rex, because I'm like, it's the Jurassic Park T rex. It looks chunky, not like the kind of-
Adele: Shrink wrapped.?
Jake: Gaunt looking one from the Newer Jurassic World movies. That's what I want. That's why I'm here. And then we gave him some Cretaceous background. Literally my artist was like, what do I draw? I'm like, Google Cretaceous background, go nuts. And it worked.
Adele: I still can't believe people will look at the feet poking out and they'll be like, “Oh, do you have a chicken tattoo?”
Jake: Most of it, most of my conversations like, is that a chicken or a dinosaur? I respect a bit of it's chicken, but I really want to see the dinosaur. Great conversation starter. Yeah, no, so that degree was kind of a stepping stone.
So I’d finished reading Jurassic Park and I was like, you know, is there paleontology in Australia? So I Googled it. First result for me was Jeff Stillwell at Monash University. So again, we share it on a supervisor.
Jake: So I contacted Jeff because my scores weren't too great. I had to come back and do a second degree, but because I had passing grades, I was able to get credit. So it was a good time for me because I'd just moved out of home. You need to pay rent and other things. So I was only having to do nine out of the 24 required units during COVID. So yeah, it was good to do a reduced load in a weird stressful time. But nah, I got through the degree in two and a half years, got into honours, finished with a high honours mark. And at that stage, Jeff was not in a position to offer me a PhD. I'd worked on some material from Morocco that Jeff had access to and Steve helped me out with it. And I bought him a beer and I just wanted to thank him and-
Adele: Because he wasn't your supervisor-
Jake: No, I barely knew him. So he gave a guest talk for first year Earth science at Monash and Marion Anderson introduced me to him and I had a bit of a chat with him. And I just kept in very, very brief touch. I mean, during COVID Steve did some live videos on Facebook for Age of Dinosaur.
Adele: Oh yeah, yeah, during lockdown.
Jake: So I watched along and he was like, if you have any questions, send me an email. And I sent like fan letter emails to Steve Poropat. Just being like, I admire you so much. What should I do here? Yeah, anyway, I invited him on to just have a look at this Honours project and bought him a beer for his thanks. And he said, do you want to do a PhD?
And I said, “I’m kind of sick of studying. I've done two degrees of eight years of study.” I'd like to get a paying job out of hospitality.
Adele: Yeah, that’s eight years of uni, not including 13 years of high school and primary school. So yeah. You know, you just, you said, do you want to do a PhD? I'm like, well, you know, yeah, but I need a job. I'm sick of hospitality. Like I need to get out. He's like, you can get a scholarship. I'm like, yeah, sure. I didn't know that. Nobody told me these things. I'm a first-generation scientist. I don't know these things. Nothing was available to me so I’ve kind of figured it out on the way.
Adele: Yeah, so you study full time and because of that, you have a scholarship that essentially pays you a wage.
Jake: Yeah, yeah, the Australian government is very good for PhD students, you get a stipend that is just a set fortnightly wage.
Adele: So money goes in, you don't have to think about it. So I actually don't get a stipend, but that's because I study part-time. But yeah, it's just kind of nice to know that side of things is taken care of so you can actually focus on your research and your project.
Jake: I mean, you're effectively working a job. Like you're doing something that'll benefit you in the long run. You're doing a PhD, it'll get you a higher degree, but you're pretty much working five days a week.
Adele: Yeah, if you're taking it seriously, yeah.
Jake: Yeah, If you really wanna do well, you're there five days a week. Yeah, no, Steve again, was just not in a position to offer me because his contract was lapsing at Swinburne. Peak COVID, he was in a weird spot, he didn't know what he was gonna do. And it was like, I've been needing to get someone to look at the theropods in Victoria, just cause you know, it's a lot of grunt work, they're isolated, scrappy bones, but there's a lot of them. Would you want to do that? Sure.
Adele: Like a primary supervisor.
Jake: Just a primary supervisor who's established. Yeah, at a university because they are sort of allocated funds and resources to have students.
Adele: Like you've got to be associated with the uni to sort of bring that to the table. You can have other people on who are based at museums and stuff, but...
Jake: Yeah, you can have big supervisory teams, but you need someone established at a university nine times out of ten. And again, through the Honours Project, I met Professor Alastair Evans. He worked with Jeff quite a bit.
Jake: And he’s worked with Steve in the past and we were CT scanning the fossil I was working on for my honours and I just approached him I was like hey here's a project, here’s a main supervisor, Al is a specialist in tooth morphology so dinosaurs aren't really his
Adele: He's Dr. Teeth Al on Twitter?
Jake: It's something like that
Adele: Yeah I remember he took me for second year biology at Monash
Jake: He also has the Evans evo morph lab you know he's got a broad interest range and he said if Steve's there as your
Jake: As your expert in your field and I'm here there is logistics, PhD, stuff that you need to do, you know, hitting your milestones, development and whatnot. It'll work. Let's just talk about your project.
Adele: Yeah, milestones are kind of like, they're like performance reviews almost.
Jake: It's literally a performance, a one year performance review.
Adele: Are you hitting your KPIs?
Jake: Yeah, literally KPIs for science. It's pretty much a, they're very hard to fail. Yeah. It's do work and present your work. Yeah. Or don't do work, don't present anything and then you're in trouble.
Adele: You're on probation, essentially.
Jake: You pretty much have to do nothing to fail the milestones. They're just there as a formality.
Adele: They also just want to make sure that you're on the right track. Because they don't want to have someone who's been paid tens of thousands of dollars and then after three years it's like, you've been doing this? No, no, you should have been doing this other thing.
Jake: Yeah, yeah. And it's also a good way to make sure your supervisors know that you're on the right track. You get a panel who actually checks in and makes sure your supervisors aren't taking advantage of you.
Adele: Yes, yes. You can tell on your supervisors if things aren't going well.
Jake: And flip side, they can tell on you. It's very good mutual ground. It's just a necessity thing.
Jake: It's not that big a deal. No. But it just kind of worked out nicely. I've got the marks for honours and moved over to biology again. So back to the origin. And that's how we are here today. And we're a year and a half in already. It just goes quick.
Adele: It flies, yeah, absolutely.
Jake: So I'm doing it full-time as opposed to Adele who's doing it part-time. So at this rate, we'll probably finish around a similar time.
Adele: That's gonna be a big party. Cannot wait. So we didn't give background to this before, but most people would be familiar with this group, theropod dinosaurs. They walk around on two legs. Most of them eat meat, but not all of them.
Jake: Think of T rex and velociraptor. I assume most people who listen to Pals in Palaeo will have seen Jurassic Park. Or heard about T rex. Or heard about T rex at least.
Adele: It's a relatively obscure dinosaur, I know.
Jake: No one's ever heard of it. If it's got a relatively big head, a long tail, and it's bipedal, it's probably a theropod. They're just a big group of animals that gave rise to the birds. All known predatory dinosaurs are theropods. As far as we can tell, there are no predatory non-theropod dinosaurs.
Adele: Say that again?
Jake: All the meat eaters are theropods.
Adele: Yeah, okay.
Jake: Nothing, none of the other dinosaur groups contain meat eating dinosaurs. As far as we know.
Adele: Oh, yeah, yeah. Okay, I'm picking up what you're putting down.
Jake: I mean, from the fossil record that we can tell, the meat eaters are theropods.
Adele: It doesn't look like sauropods are eating meat. No, we don't think so. It doesn't look like stegosaurs are eating meat.
Jake: I mean, if sauropods are eating meat, it's a lot of meat. Oh, yeah. It's a lot of meat. Oh, and with their tiny little heads and their tiny nub teeth?
Jake: No. Not gonna happen. No. Yeah, no, they're the meat eating dinosaurs. I tend to refer to them as the iconic dinosaurs because I mean you tell anyone T rex and they know T rex. T rex is the movie star. That's the hero dinosaur.
Adele: Sometimes a villain.
Jake: Steve will disagree and say sauropods because they're so, you know, the biggest land animals and that's their iconic draw. It's subjective but-
Adele: And we're all biased as well.
Jake: Everyone likes their group.
Adele: Yes, absolutely.
Jake: Adele will argue with me up and down about pterosaurs being better. We're not going to win this fight.
Adele: They could fly. Not all theropods could fly.
Jake: Yeah, maybe they could. They did.
Adele: All of them?
Jake: They did, some of them did.
Adele: If a T rex can fly, we're in trouble. Yeah, so. When we built that time machine, eh?
Jake: Yes, anyway, theropods, meat-eating dinosaurs.
Adele: Mostly Australian stuff.
Jake: Yeah, yeah, so.
Adele: And Victoria.
Jake: My personal preference is large theropods, like your hyper carnivores. You think the big ones, T rex size, like they're what I love and what I'm passionate about. But so far in the Australian record, we don't have anything bigger than a horse for a theropod. Like we said before, megaraptors.
Adele: So probably the best known one would be Australovenator wintonensis.
Jake: It hits a couple of landmarks. It's the most complete theropod skeleton from Australia. It's the most complete Megaraptoran from Australia. It's the only one with skull material. It's the only valid species from more than one bone. It just hits all the landmarks. And yeah, Australovenator is roughly the size of a horse.
Adele: I should know this better because I worked at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum as a tour guide, but it’s 5 to 6 metres long from nose to tail. So that would be like 16 feet.
Jake: Yeah, slightly taller than the average human. Like literally at least the height of a horse.
Adele: Yeah 16 maybe just shy of 20 feet from nose to tail.
Jake: The tails just give them that edge.
Adele: Yeah that's true but still we have a life-size bronze statue of Australovenator at the front of the Australian Aged Dinosaurs Museum and if not a dinosaur you would want to meet in a dark alley. Like it would mess you up.
Jake: Yeah there are.
Adele: It’s Jack the Ripper, essentially.
Jake: Those big claws, they just have these big hands, these big claws. It's just not really seen in other dinosaurs-
Adele: And then the teeth as well are relatively small.
Jake: Yeah, it’s really strange.
Adele: So it's not like big banana shape or anything like that. It looks like the claws are basically what they use to catch their prey and maybe rip them apart a little bit. Those teeth are small in their jaws and they still have serrations, but they're not big, chunky things.
Jake: They're not bone crushers like the Tyrannosaurs.
Adele: They're like what, an inch?
Jake: Yeah. They're very, very small.
Adele: They’re three or four centimeters.
Jake: They're not big. Steve likes to use the term face-first predator. And a face-first predator is you're hunting with your mouth. So T rex is a bone crunching-
Adele: So dogs are a face-first predator.
Jake: Yeah. And when we talk about theropods, you know, the tyrannosaurs and some of the other big stuff like the abelisaurs, face-first, they've got relatively robust big heads, reduced forelimbs. They're hunting with their face. Megaraptors and some other groups, things like dromaeosaurs, we go limb first, because that's the first thing to contact the prey. It seems from what we can tell megaraptors are hunting with their hands and their claws and the teeth are there for feeding. They probably still could bite something and oh yeah but it's not excluding it but it doesn't seem to be the primary adaption for hunting. But yeah megaraptors we see them in Australia we see them in South America they make it all the way to the end of the Cretaceous they get really big.
Adele: The end of the Cretaceous and then wiped out-
Jake: And then gone with the rest of them at the end K-PG, 66 million years ago. We see them in the last era of the Cretaceous over in Argentina and by that point they get really big. So they're kind of a mysterious group because most of the theropods that get big, there seems to be a correlation between increasing the size of their head and reducing their forelimbs. We see that in the Tyrannosaurus, most iconic, you know T rex with his nubbly little hands. You see it in the carcharodontosaurs. They popped up many tens of millions of years before the Tyrannosaurus. They did the same thing, big heads reduced forelimbs. The abelisaurs, things like Carnotaurus.
Adele: It evolved multiple times, in all these different unrelated lineages.
Jake: They always happened.
Adele: I mean they shared a common ancestor but it's happened you know across these different continents that are separated and...
Jake: The megaraptors went against the trend. They got big in South America but they kept the big four limbs as far as we can tell and I guess the more elongate snout with the smaller teeth. So they're doing something completely different to what we understand theropods do. Broadly they're hunting and they're preying on other dinosaurs but exactly what they're doing is much more of a mystery.
Adele: So I guess there’s still like lots of big mysteries as to whether they would have hunted in packs. And what are they specializing in as well? They're probably not hunting fish because their teeth aren't sort of that conical spike shaped with grooves for catching slippery prey. They could have still, but they're not like specking into it either.
Jake: Yeah, the thing is one of the Spinosaur adaptions seems to be the hooked claws as well as the teeth. So sometimes the claws could be a fish hunting thing, but they might not be specialised. This is the thing. The kicker with megaraptors is that they're very incomplete. We've got around 10 species. I've got to double check the actual amount.
Adele: Hey, just wanted to clear this up. Now, depending on who you ask, the total number of megaraptor species does vary, but if Megaraptora is the sister group to Tyrannosauroidea, then there's 10 species. As of this recording, this is the most recent take on the whole situation, which was published by Rolando et al. in 2022 when they named and described Maip macrothorax and I'll chuck a link to that paper in the show notes. Hope that makes sense. Okay back to the episode.
Jake: But 9 out of 10 are represented by a single skeleton.
Adele: So one individual defines its entire species. We don't have any other reference material to sort of relate back to it.
Jake: This is as of this recording.
Adele: N equals 1.
Jake: N equals 1 for majority.
Jake: They’re all about less than 15% complete. They’re pretty scrappy animals there is very little overlap-
Adele: But like 100% skeletons are rare.
Jake: Oh yeah 100% is rare but just the deposits we get in Gondwana are not like you know you can just stroll along through Utah and find a nearly complete T rex and you can tell so much.
Adele: And it's not the bottom of a beautiful still lake bed like in some of the fossil localities in China. we're not getting like a Pompeii situation there's not volcanic ash just preserving something in life. I know in Winton it's um, muddy billabongs, you know…
Jake: And that's ideal for Australia. I mean Victoria, the stuff I work on, it's big rivers.
Adele: Big rivers, fast flowing water too.
Jake: You think, you think at least a kilometre across. Minimum 30 meters deep flowing constantly. It's coming from all off these-
Adele: With freshwater plesiosaurs in them as well. Like if a carcass is in there, if I was a plesiosaur, I'd be getting a bit of something from a carcass, if it washed in.
Jake: You’re hungry, you’re going to eat whatever you can. Yeah, they're just a weird group animals and it's weird because the early ones pop up in Australia and Asia at a time-
Adele: And we're not connected-
Jake: No, this is a time that we're separated Australia and Asia aren't connected at this point
Adele: What time period are we talking about? Cretaceous?
Jake: Cretaceous, yeah, so the last era of the dinosaurs I work on things between 120 to 105 probably Victoria across two deposits But we get them to about 95 is Winton?
Adele: Yeah, 95, 96. And then this group megaraptors, they're known in Victoria, known from New South Wales, which is another state in Australia, opalized fossils of this group have turned up, and then Winton. So spanning 20 odd million years, we have this group represented.
Jake: 25 million years. Yeah, and from what we can tell, they're the only relatively large theropod popping up. From all signs, they're the dominant predators in Eastern Australia, at least.
Adele: I know on our sauropod digs in Winton, it's really common to find in amongst the sauropod skeleton a shed tooth from a megaraptorid.
Jake: And that happens in Argentina. So there was a bit of a theory that Megaraptors maybe scavenged or hunted sauropods somehow. Victoria goes against this trend.
Both: Because we don't have the sauropods.
Jake: So they're eating something else.
Adele: Well, ornithopods, you have tons of ornithopods.
Jake: Look, there's plenty of small herbivores too.
Adele: There's the Elaphrasaurine. There are some small theropods. And Noasaurids as well are also known.
Jake: We've got a really big record of theropods in Australia, it’s just we don't have many species because it's hard to name a species on one bone and most of our stuff is a single bone. Sometimes the bone's not complete. Often it's crushed or broken in half or...
Adele: It's been through the wringer. It's not a nice pretty museum specimen. It doesn't look like it's from an animal that died just yesterday. You can tell it's millions of years old because it has that roughness to it and the other difficulty of working with isolated specimens. So just one bone and here one bone there, well, are they from the same animal? You don't know.
Jake: And that's the thing, what happens when you name a species off a leg bone, and then you pop up with a hand bone that seems to be the same group of animals, how do you know it is the same or different animal? How do you know it's the same species? How do you know it's not the same species?
Adele: At the end of the day, you don't.
Jake: We don't. And yeah, theropods, they're just like pterosaurs. Hollow bones, they're a bit easier to crush. They don't preserve as well as sturdy ornithopod bones. That's just the record we get. And it's a lot more detective work
Jake: And you’re trying to work out, okay, what group of animals is this one bone versus what group of animals does this overall animal belong to?
Adele: And I should say like digging down in Victoria is not easy either. We've both been on some of the digs down there and it's not super intense, but it's not easy either. It's very-
Jake: Unique, and look I'll give a quick shout out to the dinosaur dreaming volunteer group.
Adele: They're amazing.
Jake: They've been doing this for 40 plus years the amount of material they've pulled out is just phenomenal and the stuff they've found. They’ve multiple sites.
Adele: Melissa Lowry as well, an incredible fossil prospector trained by Mike Cleland who has been on the podcast before.
Jake: Yeah. They're freaks. They spot things.
Adele: Freaks in the best possible way. We say that with so much love, affection and respect.
Jake: They're just.
Adele: These are people that we've both been lucky enough to sort of be mentored by and super welcoming group.
Jake: The two major ways we get stuff in Vic is it's all lots of hard work. There's one way which our sedimentologists select the location and we dig and a lot of the digging is you go down to the shoreline at low tide-
Adele: You get to your spot, you spend an hour maybe an hour and a half shovelling wet sand because of the permits that we have… So I think I mentioned this before on the Koolasuchus episode. It's like Parks Victoria?
Adele: So we can't build permanent structures on those dig sites. So if all the sand gets washed into where we were yesterday, you've got to get your shovel getting back to where you were before to get to your rock layer and it's really hard rock, it's like concrete.
Jake: Yeah, it's tough stuff. So you're pretty much a day on a dinosaur dreaming dig, is you get out at low tide, you dig out the sand, you get to the rock after lunch usually. We break up as much rock as we can, we look for tiny little scraps of bone that may or may not be there.
Adele: From mammals, Tom Rich, one of the big proponents and drivers behind dinosaur dreaming, he works on mammals and the general rule of thumb is you break the material up into like sugar cube size, like one cubic centimetre.
Jake: Yeah. Looking for tiny bits of mammals.
Jake: They want mammals that keep finding dinosaurs. So I'm benefiting from this.
Adele: Hey, they found some pterosaurs too.
Jake: They found pterosaurs.
Adele: It's been good.
Jake: Yep. And then you leave it when tide comes back in.
Adele: Yeah. You might bring some of your rocks as well.
Jake: Well, we do. You take them back and then you spend a couple of hours breaking up the rock at headquarters. And then you'll have dinner. You have a nice early night and then you're back at the beach again, shovelling sand the next day. The ocean is our best friend and our enemy there.
Jake: Because it's eroding the rock and exposing things, but it's also just making the digging hard. The other option is what Mike and Melissa do. And they just have this ridiculous eagle eye vision and they go and stroll through the rocks and they just pick out the most obscure colours or shapes that turn out to be some of the most incredible fossils.
Adele: Yeah, which is how Mike found the holotype of Koolasuchus cleelandi. And to me, it's really hard to pick out the bone down in Victoria because it doesn't pop out to me. The rock is sort of like this ashy grey colour and the bone is sort of like a chocolatey brown. Dark brown.
Jake: It's kind of like, it kind of looks like wet wood.
Jake: And it's very, it's not distinct in the rock. Especially if-
Adele: Like charcoal stands out because it's black and shiny. We sometimes get seed cases as well. They're shiny, but the bone, yeah.
Jake: It almost looks the exact same colour. Yeah. And most of the time the rock's gonna be wet because you're on the shoreline.
Adele: Yep, funny that.
Jake: But yeah, Mike and Melissa will just, they'll find incredible things. You just sit in there working one day and you get an email and Melissa's found something, Mike's cut it out with a rock saw and oh my God, it's X and Y and this is the most incredible things you'll see. I mean, they're keeping it going at the moment. Dinosaur dreaming is usually restricted to once a year. So we try and get as much as we can and with COVID and bushfires, it was, yeah. But no, Mike and Melissa have just found so much through that time. They weren't as restricted with lockdowns out there as far as I'm aware. So they got more and-
Adele: I don't think they had like a five kilometre radius or anything ridiculous. No, they think they- Melbourne had it very intense.
Jake: Yeah. The amount of stuff they're finding and the quality of it is just phenomenal.
Adele: Yeah, so you're gonna be kept pretty busy.
Jake: Melissa just keeps finding things and I just keep working on them. It's great. There's some exciting stuff. Cough cough hint hint.
Adele: Watch this space. Have we talked about that taxonomy of-
Jake: Oh god. Megaraptors are a little bit of a mess.
Adele: It's not easy to include something that isn't that complete and well known in a phylogenetic analysis.
Jake: Most of phylogeny is how related is bone X to bone X in a different animal and megaraptors not only are they very much overlap in their bones. All taxonomy and no beer makes Jake something something. Most of the best characters for phylogeny is skull material and Megaraptor skulls are very, very scrappy. We've got a composite because you get little bits from individual ones.
Adele: And then you can sort of Frankenstein it together.
Jake: And you Frankenstein it. Yeah. But I mean, we've got this idea of this elongate, narrow snouted thing with small teeth, but the narrow snout comes from a baby Megaraptor. And the brain case comes from another bloke called Murusraptor.
Jake: The lower jaws come from Banjo, which is completely different.
Adele: Yeah, Australovenator. And then the problem of including a baby is that the proportions change.
Jake: Proportions change and sometimes what we think is a character of evolution is actually a character of growth.
Adele: They'll grow out of it.
Jake: Yeah, it'll change. But when you put in what they are currently, it gives you a different outcome. So they're scrappy and what we think they are is being all over the show. I mean, the original analysis, raptors, they haven't been put into a phylogeny with raptors as far as I can tell. They’ve never been placed there. They originally popped up as allosaurs. Big claws were a feature of the allosaur group on the forelimb.
So they spat out next to a group called the neovenators, which neovenator is from the UK. And they're closely related to the carcharodontosaurs, a large group of theropods from Gondwana, Africa. And big heads.
Adele: Small arms.
Jake: Probably hunted sauropods. Got really big, the largest theropod in the world, giganotosaurus, if we don't talk about Spinosaurus. We don't talk about Spinosaurus.
Adele: Laughing. One of the rules of theropod dinosaurs.
Jake: Don't touch that thing. They've got their thing going on. It was placed in there and then it was revised and they popped up within the Tyrannosaurs as Tyrannosauroids. So they were kind of sisters to the Tyrannosaurids, the group that includes the big ones like T rex, Tarbosaurus, Albertosaurus.
Adele: So known from North America, Asia.
Jake: Maybe elsewhere. It's hard to tell. Was redone again and it seemingly looks like they're related to Tyrannosauroids within the big group coelurosaurs. Coelurosaurs is what gives you tyrannosaurs, the dromaeosaurs, birds,
Adele Pentland (32:15.316)
Jake: Birds come out of coelurosaurs.
Adele: It's a big group. And it encompasses a lot of different.
Jake: There's a lot in there.
Jake: Most well-known theropods are from Coelurosauria. So they're early coelurosaurs as far as we can tell from the material we've got. Again, this is based on scrappy material and what phylogenies are we using that include juvenile remains and scrappy remains. And then do you put in one bone from Victoria as well as a 15% Winton formation megaraptor as well as a... where do you draw the line? What is useful here?
Adele: And then… I, I was shocked before when we were talking before we hit record you said there was one specimen... no it's two specimens but they're scored as if they were one thing and to me I was like that should be illegal. I, I over-reacted because I love paleontology but yeah it's...
Jake: Look, it gets hard. The specimens are from the same deposit, they were recorded as two separate specimens-
Adele: If they're not from the same locality… Anyway…
Jake: It's hard to tell. It's, yeah.
Adele: Basically the bottom line is that it's very difficult because the way someone scores one thing will be a little bit different to how someone else scores. So sometimes when I'm doing my stuff, I'll actually look at someone's paper, look at their material, but then also try and think what did they mean by this? And how should I then act accordingly to be in line with them?
Jake: And a lot of it can be really subjective.
Adele: Yeah, absolutely.
Jake: I mean, there's one theropod skull bone frontal.
Adele: Yeah, if we're looking at the skull, where is it sort of in relation to the eye?
Jake: It's sitting above the eye. Sometimes it forms part of the orbital rim, the socket for the eye. And on the ventral surface underneath the inner surface, we can actually see bone shape that sits around the brain. So it's part of the brain case. Now it's got a character for the shape of the frontal. The options are usually sub triangular, sub quadrangular, kind of rectangular or kind of triangular. But I mean, if it's kind of rectangular, then it also could be kind of trying because it's by one or the other.
Adele: If they don't say it is sub-triangular or sub-quadrangular in what view as well, woof.
Jake: Yeah, look, at least this one gives you dorsal view, but it can be subjective. And then some phylogenetic analyses are great in that they'll give you the list of all the characters and they'll refer you to an example of where they got it. Say this paper or here's a figure of these three animals. Here's how they look different. Here's an example of each thing. Sometimes a really good one will say sub-quadrangular frontal, sub-rectangular frontal, here's an example of a sub-quadrangular.
Adele: This is what we mean by this, essentially.
Jake: This is what we mean when we say this. And you can look at it and be like, okay, I agree. I disagree. It's good to know what you're referring to.
Jake: Some of them don't. Some of them is just like, oh yeah, we based this on a paper we looked at. And sometimes it's like, oh no, we travelled all around the world and did it ourselves.
Adele: Yeah, but it's really hard to get funding to do that. We would love to do it. Don't get me wrong, but-
Jake: Funding can be severely limited. We do our best. You can't be too picky. You have to do science within the bounds of funding.
Adele: I don't like scoring something unless I've seen it in person as well. That's my preference, not everyone will do that too. And I've seen something that I did with Ferrodraco is that I revised character scores because I knew the group that published that new data set they hadn't seen that specimen in person. And then I was like, “this is wrong, this is wrong”, let me go fix this.
Jake: Yep, it's just part of the science.
Adele: Yeah absolutely and I'm not having a go at them either and saying they did the wrong thing but we just build on top of each
Jake: Yeah, and I mean that's just science and you know it's great too when someone from Argentina wants to know something about an Australian specimen.
Adele: Oh, I love it when anyone wants to know stuff about Australian fossils. It makes me so happy
Jake: It's so exciting and you know if someone's to ask you, “Hey. Can you look at this thing for me and contribute as part of this thing?”, Sure! It's great. Yeah, I'm happy to help because it's better to have an in-person observation of course again subjective between two different people. But when you're limited by funding…
Jake: When you're limited by funding if you can send them photos and do-
Adele: Oh gosh you can do a zoom meeting if you wanted to.
Jake: You do the best you can.
Adele: Make a 3D model, send it to them.
Jake: There's plenty of options.
Adele: They can then rotate it around.
Jake: It's the next best thing. Just technology's making paleontology so much easier.
Adele: Hell, you could 3D print a 3D model of something and then you've got it in your hand to work with. Yeah, if only. You do that a little bit sometimes with some of your-
Jake: Just a tad.
Adele: Just a little bit.
Jake: I mean, if they're publicly available. Yes. They're allowed to be downloaded and 3D printed. And you know what? It makes your life easier. I'm a very visual learner.
Adele: Yes, same.
Jake: I can't sit there and look at a paper and say I get this and this and this.
Jake: If they have a 3D model that I can print, or there's something online that I can rotate and I can see the features. And as I read through, look at it, makes my life easier.
Adele: Yeah, when I go through papers and stuff, that would probably be best, but otherwise I've got two tabs open. One is the text and the other is the picture. I have to just flick back and forth a lot for things to click in my mind. I can't think in three dimensions. When I did structural geology, it, I just learned that it's not intuitive for me, that side of things.
Adele: Anatomy is a little bit easier, but I'm not at the superpower level yet of just looking at something and being like, oh yeah, it's got like a muscle this big. And there are people who can do that, but I'm not there.
Jake: Well, I mean, that was part of the genetics thing for me. You can't visualize the DNA that well. And it's so hard for me to work with something.
Adele: Mr. DNA, as charismatic as he is, he's...
Jake: It's not a bone. You can't hold DNA in your hand, rotate it around and look at the features. And I think that was part of the struggle for me. It's just when I'm sitting there with a fossil in my hands, just rotating it, writing down what I think, picturing it as part of a bigger animal. You hold it and you're like, this was a living breathing thing, however many millions of years ago. What was it doing? How did this bone contribute to this animal? And that's something I find very important in paleontology too, is it's not just a bone. This was part of an animal. And I try to think of them as the overall animal. How did this contribute to the animal? What was the morphology? What was it doing? How did this change throughout different ones?
Adele: How does it compare and contrast with other ones at the same time or across time, but different continents.
Jake: And it's all detective work because what if you have X bone from the skull and the only thing it's related to is a claw from South America. It's like okay cool.
Adele: Find more clues.
Jake: Look it's happening. Victoria we've been collecting stuff from Dinosaur Dreaming for at least 40 years. South America has just gone nuts over the last 30 years. They've just exploded in their paleontology. They're getting so many megaraptors. They're filling in gaps for us.
Adele: It's amazing.
Jake: Australovenator fills in gaps for them too. The forearm, the dentary so the lower part of the jaw bone. It fills gaps.
Adele: From the forearm we can do range of motion.
Jake: And they have done, they did musculature recently in megaraptorines and they've got really significant musculature in the hand. All signs are pointing towards grabby boys with Freddy Krueger sickle hands.
Adele: They're not, Therizinosaurus level of crazy. They look actually like claws. They don't look like just giant knives. It's curved.
Jake: It's the velociraptor from Jurassic Park, the foot claw, but on a hand.
Adele: Yeah. Imagine Sam Neill just raking it across your chest because you've upset him.
Adele: And disrespected his boys.
Jake: And he's gonna need two hands to hold it. It's, it's absolutely massive. There's little ones too. I mean there's little ones in Southeast Asia, Australia, and then they start to get bigger and some of them just get massive. They're just a weird interesting group and I wanted to work on big theropods. We're limited by what we have in Australia. They're a unique group. We're still learning so much about megaraptors. We've only known about the group for 25 years. Compared to T rex which was early 1900s.
Adele: And so much research still comes out on it. I feel like… this is probably an exaggeration, but I feel like there's a new paper on T rex every month.
Jake: Everyone wants a slice of T rex. Look, if you're not a T rex Theropod researcher and you publish something you're gonna have a news article that says, “This thing that was smaller than a T rex. Or this thing that was not related to T rex” - they have to name drop T rex. It's the superstar.
Adele: People will be happy to know I have finally started watching Prehistoric Planet! I picked up in one episode T rex was just used as a reference point for all these different body types.
Jake: Yeah, it just happens. I mean, it makes sense with things like Tarbosaurus. I'm pretty sure features in that show too. And it's just an early Tyrannosaurus. It's not as big. It's pushing it, but it's not as big.
Adele: It's not American either.
Jake: They're just very lucky with their fossils. They get such complete stuff. We don't get that complete kind of material here. Well, not as far as we've got.
Adele: Imagine if we got Melissa Lowery in Winton. Laughing
Jake: I think she's specialized for that weird Victorian ocean rock. She just knows what to look for.
Adele: Yeah, that's true. And normally you can't just walk along the surface and find a skeleton. Our black soil is just busting bones so you just find a fragment and then it's a case of okay if I dig down two meters maybe I'll actually start to find some good stuff.
Jake: It's just a different kind of way of funding for fossils and look I mean...
Adele: I just said Winton just because...
Jake: You gotta talk about your home ground. Adele works on Winton formation. I'm stuck in Victoria with...
Adele: I work on Toolebuc sometimes.
Jake: You do Toolebuc at times.
Adele: I'm firmly Queensland now that I've defected from Melbourne where I'm originally from.
Jake: Well, Melbourne doesn't have that much pterosaur stuff.
Adele: I know, I've already done some of them.
Jake: Yeah, I know. Now I work on Eumeralla Formation. So the Otway Coast, that's the younger one, about 105 to 110 million, and the Upper Strzelecki Group.
Adele: What town is sort of, I guess, close to Eumeralla?
Jake: I'll find out. While we're on that note though, Flat Rocks is part of the Upper Strzelecki Group. We informally call it the Wonthaggi Formation. That's pretty much-
Adele: Near Wonthaggi. That's easy for me to remember.
Jake: For those familiar with Victoria, we're kind of near Philip Island from San Remo to Inverloch.
Adele: Where the Penguin Parade is. Yeah. So you get these cool living dinosaurs that waddle around, they're gorgeous and then you also have dinosaur bones. Good time to be had.
Jake: Yeah, and that's a little bit older, so that's 120, 120ish, to 115.
Adele: And again, like Koolasuchus, when your megaraptors were alive, Victoria was much further south than it is today.
Jake: The time we’re working in, is we're just pulling away from Antarctica but we're still in the pole yeah there's a big rift valley.
Adele: Australia is rifting and that rifting process is also creating the sediments that then surround the bones.
Jake: You've got those big high energy rivers if you get buried by a nice gently lapping ocean you'll fossilize well cough cough T rex, Triceratops. If you fall into the Ganges River and get bashed up against the rocks and all that's left of you is a...
Adele: Your face doesn't look as pretty. Your face is probably gone.
Jake: Yeah half of your toes left. That's what I'm working with. Rare occasions, something nice will pop up. Some of the ornithopods preserve a bit better, but the theropods are just so flimsy, their bones.
Adele: It's either that or we've been targeting maybe the wrong deposits. By sort of focusing on these mammals, maybe we're not sort of finding evidence of bigger things. The dinosaur stuff.
Jake: Yeah. And look, just the one thing, the Wonthaggi Formation, it goes really deep and really far underneath Victoria, but it's pretty deep.
Adele: It just happens to be exposed on the coast because people haven't been allowed to build things or if they did, they would have eroded the wave action of the ocean.
Jake: It's where we can access the deposit.
Adele: It's where we can see it.
Jake: It's where you can see it. Winton's easy because you can kind of see something and it's so much open land. It's hard to dig a road in short.
Adele: Just get the property owner and get them to get their tractor or the loader or the mini digger and you just start going for it. Nowadays, the Dinosaur Dreaming digs will happen on the shore platform itself. Back in the day, it used to be dynamiting into a cliff to bring the rock up to then break it up.
Jake: I heard a story that Tom Rich wanted to commission decommissioned battleship to broadside Dinosaur Cove.
Adele: Oh my gosh.
Jake: I don't think the Aussie government or whoever was happy with that idea. But no they used to dynamite it and get stuff out then they closed it off. Now it's just funny how safety regulations change now when you're at Dinosaur Dreaming digs it's “Give this rock wall a wide berth because a rock the size of a ute just fell off”. We're not going near that today.
Adele: Don't sit on rock that looks like it's just fallen out of the cliff, because you are in danger. And we also have to wear high vis vests.
Adele: I love wearing a, it's meant for a kid and it says Junior Palaeo on it. It has like the brushes and stuff. I'm such a big dork.
Jake: Yeah. That's great. Yeah, now when you're on one of those digs, you're between the ocean and rock walls that are falling apart.
Adele: It’s fun.
Jake: And you know what? Sometimes these rock walls drop a fossil. Sometimes there's something preserved in there that falls down and you get something nice.
Adele: Also there might be jellyfish. Do you get blue ringed octopus down there?
Jake: I actually don't know.
Adele: No, I don't know. Anyway. Australia.
Jake: Australia! It's a dangerous place no matter what you do, including paleontology. It's just what we do.
Adele: For science.
Jake. For science. Yeah. We do our best for science.
Adele: We do the best with the fossils that we have.
Jake: We brave our dangerous coasts and venomous and poisonous animals. And at least there's no big spiders down there on the coast as far as I've seen.
Adele: No, although the horse flies at certain times of the year.
Jake: We have to, when we stay at the Airbnb's down for Dino Dreaming, we have to take care of the really big bitey ants before we set up our tents.
Adele: Oh yeah.
Jake: A couple of the guys are actually deathly allergic to these ants. So we have to go through with this specific stuff and get rid of the ants, before we set up.
Adele: This is how you get ants.
Jake: This is how you get ants.
Adele: Normally it's a Simpsons quote, but today it's an Archer quote apparently.
Jake: It's a whole process getting a dinosaur out in Victoria.
Adele: Yeah, but then because there's so much work that still has to be done, it's, I guess, high effort, high reward.
Jake: Yeah, I mean, we have such a big record and such a little understanding of it. We've had a couple of things, from my count, in Museums Victoria, the collection, there's at least 250 bones.
Adele: That's nuts.
Jake: At least.
Adele: Some are on display.
Jake: There's 250-
Adele: The nice ones are on display.
Jake: The best ones are on display. The ones that are species usually. But if there's 250 and less than 50 of them have been published on. So the official descriptions, less than 50. We're not talking about teeth. There's so many teeth.
Adele: Yeah, teeth are.
Jake: You can kind of lump teeth together.
Adele: I'm sorry, yes, teeth are in, teeth are part of the skeleton, but they're not bones.
Jake: Teeth are good when they're with the jaw.
Adele: Teeth are good when they're also embedded in something that it was eating.
Adele: That's also fun.
Jake: Isolated teeth, not great, especially in theropods because they're constantly shedding teeth and growing new ones.
Adele: That's the dinosaur thing generally.
Jake: It's just the dinosaur adaption.
Adele: But I suppose if you're scavenging a carcass as well, you might bust one.
Jake: And look, I mean, when all the stuff in Victoria was published, we had older ideas of what might be present here. What groups and what animals might be present in our deposits.
Adele: And then the understanding of those family groups as well was different back then.
Jake: It just changed, megaraptors being the key example.
Jake: I mean, there's quite a few things that were called neovenators because let's go as broad as possible with the megaraptors. And this is the group they're part of. If megaraptors are not neovenators, that's technically incorrect.
Adele: Yeah, you sometimes have to be careful when you're reading through old papers to then see. It's the label on the wine situation. The wine hasn't changed, but the label has. And you sometimes have to watch out, otherwise you'll trip up on that stuff.
Jake: Exactly, and I mean, the last big review was 2012, was dedicated to Theropods.
Jake: Roger Benson.
Adele: Roger Benson.
Jake: Steve did a review of Cretaceous stuff from Victoria in 2018, but that wasn't restricted to theropods. That was a monster paper, but he did not go through every individual theropod.
Adele: Yeah. He was summarizing what other people had said about them. He wasn't sort of-
Jake: And he tweaked some of that stuff. Some of the stuff was never in there.
Adele: Steve knows theropods as well, cause he published on some of the megaraptors in 2019.
Jake: Yeah. And he got the new stuff, the Otway claw, beautiful claw.
Adele: Yeah, it's gorgeous.
Jake: That's our prized megaraptor claw.
Adele: It is a beautiful specimen. The few saw cuts through it are slightly unfortunate, but it's just, it's a gorgeous bone. You can see it. It's definitely a claw.
Jake: You put it next to the megaraptor and you can tell this is the same thing, just a different size. They're doing the exact same thing.
Adele: And it's the biggest megaraptor in Australia?
Jake: Nope. It's just one of the better complete ones.
Adele: The biggest one? What am I getting confused with?
Jake: You're thinking a punch bowl claw.
Jake: But that's scrappy. Punch bowl claw is like 50% and it's the back end.
Adele: And it's from the punch bowl site.
Jake: Upper Wonthaggi Formation. It's a bit older but Dr. Matt White has done analysis where he's reconstructed the entire claw using some 3D programs.
Adele: Oh yeah.
Jake: And it's bigger. It's bigger than Banjo. It's bigger than lightning claw from New South Wales. So that currently as far as we can tell is the largest theropod in Australia.
Adele: And we should say as well, Megaraptors have three digits on their hand. The first digit is the biggest, second is a little bit smaller and then third is relatively small compared to the other ones.
Jake: It seems like they focus on at least the first two who are doing the most of the work.
Adele: Third one's probably, I don't know, just probably more for holding, I guess.
Jake: Yeah, but the first one's the iconic, the big megaraptor claw.
Adele: When we find a fossil claw, that's the bone, but it was then covered in a layer of keratin, which is the same thing I think an elephant's hair is made up of. So they would have been even bigger. How big, we don't know.
Jake: It's hard to estimate. I mean, we can kind of guess on stuff with birds. Birds cover stuff in keratin, and of course birds come from theropods, but how much?
Adele: It varies from group to group it would vary depending on what they're using with it as well but when you look at a claw it has that shape but then often it has a groove and that's where the blood vessel is… What I'm getting at here is that if you trim a nail too short, it'll make an animal bleed.
Jake: It's hard to judge. I mean Megaraptor claws already look extreme just imagine them with the keratin.
Adele: It's something else entirely.
Jake: Insane. You can't think of something using something that. We don’t have animals like theropods nowadays.
Adele: Cause they'd be like as big as a hand.
Jake: Bigger. I mean, Otway claw is... It was 15 centimetres from the top of my head.
Adele: So that would be like five inches, something.
Jake: Something like that. Megaraptor is almost double the size. Megaraptor is a mid-size Megaraptor.
Adele: Oh. So what's the biggest?
Jake: The biggest was named last year. It's called Maip macrothorax. I'm pretty sure it translates to the shadow of death. Yeah, I'm pretty sure Maip is an Argentinian demon or ghost or something.
Adele: That's so metal, I love it.
Jake: It is great. That is the largest one. It's also the latest one, Late Cretaceous.
Adele: Ah, okay. Following this trend and getting bigger.
Jake: And this is the one pushing Allosaur and bigger sizes. Smallest one that we know of, depends whether or not we class them as megaraptors. There's the three from Asia.
Adele: Oh, taxonomy. We love you.
Jake: So you've got Phuwiangvenator, which is a hunter of Phuwiang from Thailand. You've also got Vayuraptor, the Vayu thief. They're both from Thailand. They might be, they look like they are. There's also Fukuiraptor.
Adele: They look like they are megaraptors.
Jake: They look like the megaraptors, but they're from the Northern hemisphere. Everything else is from the South.
Adele: And Thailand's.
Jake: Thailand's, Laurasia. The issue with megaraptors is our record of them hits 130 million years ago, part of the Cretaceous. We don't have anything earlier.
Adele: So if we find those early fossils.
Jake: They might have popped up earlier, spread throughout the North and South, died out in the North, become successful in the South.
Jake: In the North, tyrannosaurs got big. And T rex is incredibly successful because it filled every ecological role. Because. The juveniles could scavenge, the mid-sized ones scavenging slash hunting, the big ones purely hunting. They just out-competed everything else because they filled every role throughout their growth series.
Adele: And the reason why that's sort of a thing not just in tyrannosaurs, not just in dinosaurs, but in animal groups in general is it's something called niche partitioning.
Adele: So it's not a great idea for the adults, the teenagers, and the babies of the one species to all be eating the same food source.
Adele: Because if you run out of food as well, you're all wiped out, you're all in danger. But if you're just spreading the load as it were then you won't get hit when times get tough as much and then
Jake: Unless a meteor hits you.
Adele: Sighs Don’t mention the war.
Jake: Niche partitioning doesn't beat meteors. No, Tyrannosaurs just out-competed everything. They were just so successful.
Adele: Yeah, so a juvenile Tyrannosaur could basically fill the same role in the ecosystem as, I guess, some of our Australian megaraptors.
Jake: Exactly, but they didn't seem to be that successful in the South, or by the time they were becoming successful, the continents had separated. The Megaraptors managed to become successful in the South. I mean, they seem to be around the same time as the Abelisaurs. Another group of stubby face-
Adele: They're in prehistoric planet with the blue arms waving around.
Adele: Yeah. Jazz hands.
Jake: The demon bull. I love Carnotaurus. I have a soft spot for that dinosaur.
Adele: It's a great dinosaur.
Jake: But they look like they've almost lost their arms completely.
Adele: Well, like they don't have fingers.
Jake: They've just got little ball and socket joints.
Adele: They've got a ball and socket joint, which is really weird. And then I don't think they have wrist bones.
Jake: No, they're just a weird group. But they're present along with Megaraptors and the, I'm pretty sure, similar age carcharodontosaurs. The carcharodontosaurs drop off after an anoxic event.
Jake: I'm pretty sure it's an anoxic event. I could be making it up. I'm fairly certain it is.
Adele: Hey, it's Adele. So Jake and I did a quick search online. And as it turns out, there is an anoxic event, but it's not what kills off the carcharodontosaurs. The anoxic event, which is basically when they run out of oxygen, that happens at the end of the Cenomanian. But this particular group of dinosaurs is around until the end of the Turonian. So they hang on for another four million years or so. A bunch of other stuff was happening during this time though, and that's all linked to the Cretaceous Thermal Maximum, which caused a global greenhouse effect. So there was elevated global temperatures, in part caused by elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide or CO2. But yeah, just wanted to clear this up, but let's check back in with Jake.
Jake: But the carcharodontosaurs have a barrier in the later Cretaceous. They don't make it all the way. And then the abelisaurs and the megaraptors the abelisaurs get big or bigger and fill the major like the apex predator roles.
Adele: As in-
Jake: You're the king, you're
Adele: Nothing will eat you.
Jake: Yeah. You eat what you want and nothing eats you that's when you're mature yeah. Looks like megaraptors got large with the abelisaurs and they probably didn't share a niche abelisaurs hunting is face first and megaraptors is limb first. So they're doing different things look they probably hunted similar animals
Adele: Yeah, I just had a thought with face first verse limb first, do you think it has to do with manoeuvrability?
Jake: Possibly. It's hard to tell. The weird thing with theropods and probably why I love them so much, there's nothing on earth like them. I mean, you look at a triceratops and an elephant, you can kinda, your picture is something, it's a big herbivore. You can kind of understand what it's doing.
Adele: Like, triceratops is big. I did not really get a sense of how big.
Jake: Until you saw Horridus?
Adele: Until I saw Horridus, which is, I guess, the now famous triceratops specimen that's on display at Melbourne Museum. I didn't realize how big they were. I mean, to be fair though, before I started working on the farm, I didn't realize how big cows were in person until, you know, you realize, “Oh, if this animal just bumps me, they could break my back.”
Jake: Animals are big. Animals get big. The thing I'm driving at is that a Triceratops and an elephant, you can kind of understand they'd fill a similar role in the ecosystem. It's a large herbivore. It's territorial, probably. I mean, they're doing some of the things.
Adele: The bulls would have been for sure.
Jake: Yeah. What is a T rex doing? What do we compare T rex to?
Jake: Imagine something the size of a horse, with a claw larger than your head. Stalking you, what are you gonna do?
Adele: We sort of touched on like how big they are. I think at the hip, Australovenator’s one and a half meters tall.
Jake: That sounds right.
Adele: And then weight wise, it would be like estimates of between 500 kilos to 1000 kilos, which would be like 1100 pounds to 2200 pounds.
Jake: And Australovenator is considered slender.
Adele: Yeah, yeah.
Jake: He's on the thinner end. Gracile, like quick running.
Adele: Just lighter built.
Jake: And yes, so that's on the small end. It's something else. It's just an alien world.
Jake: And there's some mystery to it. It's why I'm here. I mean, I sat there in Jurassic Park and T rex smashes down the gate and four-year-old Jake is like, that is the greatest thing I've ever seen.
Adele: I thought you were scared.
Jake: I was scared the first time.
Adele: But you were four.
Jake: I was the type of scared where I was hiding behind mum’s shoulder but you're peeking out over the top?
Adele: But you're also like, let me get a look at this.
Adele: What's going on?
Jake: Yeah. Well, the first time I watched it, I was scared. The second time is like, that is the greatest thing on earth. I'm going to dedicate my life to that. And here we are. There's nothing like them.
Adele: It’s funny how sometimes you can try and turn your back and ignore the parts of you that are just sort of innate. They come back in the end even if you try and suppress that love. Like I love paleontology because I love animals. I love learning about animals as well. This just lets me do it with animals that are extinct. They're not around. Nowadays...
Jake: I was doomed from the start. When I was born a co-worker of mum and dad's bought me a plush dinosaur. And there's a photo of me somewhere as a newborn with just this dinosaur plush that's about my size. So from day one I was doomed and then you know Jurassic Park comes out.
Adele: You should have cut in your conference slides.
Jake: I don't know where the photo is.
Adele: Oh no!
Jake: It's somewhere. From there it was Jurassic Park and Dinosaur Encyclopedias. I used to stay at my grandma's. My grandparents don't speak English but...
Adele: Because you're Macedonian?
Jake: I'm Macedonian. Yeah. My grandparents are immigrants and I'd sit there with my grandma and she used to watch the Macedonian news on SBS and I'd sit there with an encyclopedia and I'd sketch dinosaurs and she'd send them to the program and they'd air these dinosaur sketches that they'd drawn on SBS. SBS is like a local Australian TV channel. They'll do international news and they're quite reliable.
Adele: So they showed it on the Macedonian news.
Jake: On the Macedonian news they're like, this is Cena Kotevski’s grandson Jake, drew... They just said dinosaur. Yeah it went from that. I used to take the dinosaur encyclopedias to primary school and got to a point where I was giving talks to all the grade 2.
Adele: Oh so what you do now?
Jake: What I do now but less professional. Actually I reckon I was more professional back then in grade 2.
Adele: When I was a tour guide those kids. Like love them absolutely love them but there's something about when you're a kid and you can talk to an adult on their level about a topic.
Jake: Yeah I gotta tell you my story for that is so I got married in Harcourt last year and my celebrant and her husband organized the Harcourt Apple Fest every year they have like a town festival and one of the things I caught is famous for his apples and they loved that I was a palaeontologist I mean I got talking to him as I'm waiting for my wife to rock up to the actual wedding nervous as hell and my celebrant’s husband has asked me, do you wanna give a talk about dinosaurs at Harcourt?
I'm like, sure. Didn't think anything of it and he emailed me a couple months later. And he's like, are you still keen to talk? We'll call it dinosaurs of Harcourt. I'm like, oh yeah, sure, what kind of rock do you have? Granite, just volcanic rock. I'm like, I'll do my best.
Adele: Very not good for dinosaur bones, granite.
Jake: It's difficult to preserve.
Adele: Same with basalt.
Adele: Funnily enough, we need sedimentary rock. We need things from rivers.
Adele: You need stuff to preserve it. We don't want volcanoes.
Adele: Volcanic ash? Fine. It's technically a sedimentary rock. Volcanoes? No, lava, bad.
Jake: Bad, not good. So I rock up to this talk, not knowing what to expect. I've had a cider, they've given me a frozen apple pie for my troubles. I set up to talk and I'm following on this lady who had given a performance for these kids. It's like 50 kids sitting cross-legged. It's like I'm a primary school teacher and I just started giving a spiel about Victorian dinosaurs and the whole deal. If my wife and her family all showed up to watch and support, it was great. And I just finished my talk. I'm like, can I ask her any questions? And this kid puts his hand up.
And he's like, my favourite dinosaur is Acrocanthosaurus. I'm like, cool. I like that dinosaur too, great pronunciation. And then someone else is like, do you know Giganotosaurus? There was no questions. It was just listing off dinosaurs. That's all it was.
Adele: I love that. I wish I could have that for the conference this week. I don't think it's gonna happen though. I think I will get-
Jake: It's not. You gotta be a bit more professional. If we were going to the icebreaker, it would just be like, what's your favourite dinosaur? The worst was a kid asked me about Nanotyrannus.
Adele: Oh no.
Jake: And so Nanotyrannus is, in the air whether or not.
Adele: It's contentious, there's debate.
Jake: It's either a very small Tyrannosaur or just baby T rex. It's never settled, it's always one or the other. And this kid asked me about Nanotyrannus. And as far as I'm aware, it's not valid. It's a juvenile Tyrannosaur. But this kid was adamant about Nanotyrannus for a year. And I'm trying to be polite because it's like a 12 year old kid and Ange is just in the back like, hand across the neck like, shut up, Jake, shut up. Don't do that. Be nice to the poor boy. It's like, he seems very keen. I need to give him the academic treatment quickly.
Jake: But just kids, there's something else. They just want to rack off their knowledge of dinosaurs. They're great. I love it. I love talking to kids. They're the most keen audience for this.
Adele: That's true. Just sponges of information and...
Jake: They'll remember it. Yes. If you tell them the name Australovenator, they will commit it to memory. People in Melbourne still can't say it.
Adele: This is why we have the nickname Banjo.
Jake: This is why you have Banjo. Dr. Fitzgerald, the curator at Melbourne Museum. I know he's taken a bit of a laugh out of it but he calls it the Lovinator.
Adele: Oh yeah. I’ve heard it pronounced as, “Austro”, “Lovenator”.
Jake: I think the one that made me shudder the most was Jurassic world evolution two. Austro low venator. He’s not low down… he's-
Adele: Anyway and the reason I’m pretty convinced that I pronounce it right because I used to work at the museum where the holotype is and we base our pronunciation off the guy who named it he came up with that word so…
Jake: And I mean look people still mispronounce dinosaurs.
Adele: Oh absolutely.
Jake: I hate when I say something and Steve corrects me-
Adele: That's what dino dad's for.
Jake: But it’s just, I'm like, I can't even pronounce a dinosaur name. What am I doing?
Adele: Yeah, I have that sometimes though. Doing a PhD is quite a solo endeavour. So it can often be quite a lot of reading and you don't actually get to sort of discuss the names of the groups of the animals that you're working on with peers that often.
Jake: My entire lab, I mean, they're not a dinosaur lab. So there's tooth morphology or beak shape or whale morphology. I'm the only one doing dinosaurs. And even then within dinosaurs, I'm specialized. I'm theropods. In theropods, megaraptors. And so, I'll read something. When you only read it, how are you gonna know? And especially if it's from a different language.
Adele: Yeah, it's really hard. It's really great when people put pronunciation guides in.
Jake: Here's our species, here's our etymology. So here's what the name means.
Jake: And here's how you pronounce them.
Jake: And that's why I know Maip macrothorax is the shadow of death. Maip is a demon the shadow of death and macrothorax means large chest because it's got a broad chest. I think it is a great name.
Adele: It's great.
Jake: Some of them I don't like pop culture named ones.
Adele: Oh, yeah.
Jake: Some of them sound great. There was a carcharodontosaurus named Meraxes off one of the dragons from Song of Ice and Fire. I think that's one of the better ones.
Adele: So Game of Thrones.
Jake: Game of Thrones style dragon. I think that's one of the better ones because I mean, dragons, we tend to think are based on dinosaur bone.
Adele: I would say pterosaurs, but we can argue about that later.
Jake: Wingless dragons, sure, whatever.
Adele: Land dragons.
Jake: Land dragons, there's land dragons. I mean, Chinese dragons don't have wings.
Adele: No, but they can fly around using some, probably magic.
Jake: I'm pretty sure it's magic, but they don't have to have wings. Depends on your classification of dragon. If we go for a European dragon.
Adele: Oh, Welsh dragon.
Jake: A Welsh dragon. Yes. That diverged quick. I don't know where we're before the dragon talk.
Adele: How about we pick up, cause I actually haven't talked about this aspect of your work. You're part of a project working on a dinosaur trail for the Bass Coast. Yeah. So this is something that's trying to be pushed. There's a proposal going on by the Bass coast dinosaur council. Sorry the Bass Coast Council.
Adele: Yeah, it's just a Shire council.
Jake: It's not the dinosaur council. It's just the Shire council.
Adele: Can we start the dinosaur council?
Jake: I'd love to.
Adele: I can make pins, I can make stickers.
Jake: I'd be really keen on that. What they're aiming to do is create a trail along the Bass Coast, which is the Wonthaggi Formation, build some sites dedicated to the dinosaurs and Cretaceous animals found along.
Adele: And it kind of compliments, there are some other sites down in Victoria where you'll be going for a walk on the beach, but then all of a sudden, instead of seeing a signpost saying, these are the types of birds you'll see around, this is the vegetation, you'll see,
Both: These are the dinosaurs.
Adele: And it's really cool for people who, especially didn't expect to see it too. Some people know, I remember there was one girl on that day. Yeah, that one day that we went down. And she knew that we find dinosaurs in that area and she saw us and her mother and her grandmother were there as well. And they were like, “are you guys palaeontologists” and we're like, “yeah, we're finding dinosaurs”. And she screamed with joy.
Jake: I remember that specifically, cause we were breaking rock.
Jake: We'd done a one day Dinosaur Dreaming dig. I'd invited Adele down because her and her husband, Harry were over for a visit. It was around Christmas time. And yeah, we're just sitting there rock breaking and I just hear this little girl scream, palaeontologists. And we'll look over this like five year old girl sprinting over and her mom and her grandma brought her down.
Adele: She was wearing dinosaur stuff too.
Jake: She had a Jurassic world T-shirt. And I think the two things that made it for her was meeting palaeontologists, but also meeting Adele. Meeting a female palaeontologist I think it just blew her mind she's like oh my god I can do this and it's a great thing to see too yeah it shouldn't be gender restricted and that's a great thing about science.
Adele: But it's like you can't be what you can't see exactly um and there's so many famous male palaeontologists yeah I mean hell when I found out that uh professor Jingmai O'Connor is also half Chinese wanted to be a vet originally as well… and it's ridiculous for me to compare Professor O’Connor because she’s incredibly accomplished, the head of her own lab.
Adele: But it's awesome to be like, I can do that.
Jake: Yeah, it's possible.
Adele: And to sort of know that you can do that for someone else as well. It's great.
Jake: Yeah, I mean, one for me is Dr. Jorgo Ristevski. He's very recently a doctor, but he's also Macedonian. I'm pretty sure he's from Macedonia.
Adele: Oh yeah.
Jake: I didn't think there was any other Macedonian palaeontologist. I mean, I'm second generation. I'm technically Australian, but that's my heritage. And I saw that he was a Macedonian immigrant and he was doing his PhD and I emailed him and like, I didn't realize there was anyone else. It's not as much as I'm a white male, like it's the palaeontologist that's usually seen. But today someone else of my obscure nationality was successful in this field as well, was just like, this is the thing I can do. It's just kind of that nice support network, unintentionally supporting you.
Adele: Yeah, you don't sort of realize that I guess you have these storylines about this is what it means to be a palaeontologist. Like for me, I think I still have this invisible rule in my head that palaeontologists wear khaki. I don't really like wearing khaki. I don’t.
Jake: I mean, I live in tracksuit pants and hoodies. Like it's just not my thing, but my vision of a palaeontologist was Dr. Alan Grant. The cargo pants, the loose fitted shirt, the bandana and the hat, or, you know, Robert Backer did so much for paleontology. And there's just that famous photo of him. He's holding a theropod forearm. He's got his hat. He's got his huge beard. He's in like cargo pants and it's either a flannel or some kind of shirt. That was the idea of a palaeontologist, just an outdoorsman and from the Jurassic Park book, that’s what Dr. Grant considers a real palaeontologist, not “teacup palaeontologists” who sit in museum collections and don't do any of the field work. I just find it funny. I think there's so many valid ways to do it.
Adele: There's room for both. I know people who love going out into the field. Once they've found it, in their mind, it's then up to someone else to pick up where they've left off. And then I also know some incredibly accomplished palaeontologists that don't like field work. Field work's not for everyone. I love it. Get on the beers.
Jake: But there’s so many ways we can do paleontology in the world.
Jake: Back in the day, it was collect the bone, describe the bone. You can now CT scan a skull and invert the skull to guess what the brain looked like.
Adele: You can be a neuroscientist of extinct animals.
Jake: People are taking bones and theoretically reconstructing muscle over the bones based on the attachment sites and making 3D models of dinosaurs. Like Prehistoric Planet is groundbreaking. That looks real. You could think they went back in time and just recorded.
Adele: Yeah, I agree with you. The visuals are stunning and it really creates that kind of illusion.
Jake: They look like animals.
Adele: Yeah and that's beautiful.
Jake: They are animals. That's the thing the one drawback I find from Jurassic Park is dinosaurs were turned into monsters. T rex was Godzilla. Look I'll give Jurassic Park the original at least.
Adele: Oh they had those beautiful moments of this is a sauropod just eating vegetation it's not really bothered by our presence.
Jake: T rex I feel was just a big animal that was hungry and defending its territory. The Raptors were abused, I mean they were kept in a tiny cage, and they were intelligent. I mean they'd probably have it out for humans. That one I feel like is animals, but because of Jurassic Park and what they did, dinosaurs became movie monsters.
Adele: Yeah. Is what I find. 100% agree.
Jake: It's just an ancient world that no longer exists. Lions aren't out there murdering everything every day. No. They're living peaceful lives and they just need to eat. That's what they do. And that's what dinosaurs do. I love that the narrative is shifting. We've gone into how did these animals live and breathe every day. A theropod is probably not gonna go out of its way to try and psychotically kill everything because there's a cost to hunting. If you're hunting something with horns that can injure you.
Adele: It's like a cost benefit analysis that animals are doing subconsciously, weighing up the pros and cons. You don't wanna be in energy debt. You don't want to have spent more energy getting something than you'll get by eating it. And it's anything. Because your body's gonna shut down. If you do that too much, it's game over.
Jake: It just weighs it up for a megaraptor. Let's have a look at the small nimble footed ornithopod or something a bit larger. Let's weigh it up. The little one, if I catch it, great, easy meal, but this seems quicker than me. So if I don't get it straight away, how much time am I gonna spend chasing it and burning energy? The big one, it's not gonna run as fast, but I need a lot more strength to bring it down. Is this worth it?
Adele: In my head, as you're saying all this, I'm thinking, I need to eat 20 chicken nuggets to be as full as if I ate a proper meal.
Jake: Yep. What's going to be more worth it? It's a cost benefit thing and theropods are just not these psychotic-
Adele: Yeah, they're not assassins that are just like: “must destroy”.
Jake: It's an animal. It wants to live. It wants to survive So its survival is feeding on other animals It's only going to kill what it needs to eat or you know defend its territory aggressively possibly or scavenge more times herbivores are the aggressive ones hippos terrify me.
Adele: Oh, hippos kill so many people.
Jake: I would not cross a hippo. I would not cross a hippo and they're just so large and so territorial.
Jake: Could you imagine a sauropod?
Adele: Oh no I don't want to
Jake: You watch African elephants charging people with the ears out and the territorial display but just the size of those things.
Adele: Oh yeah.
Jake: Imagine trying to stop you can't Patagotitan.
Adele: Absolutely not.
Jake: That thing is immense you just can't imagine some of these animals. It's just a completely different world and yeah.
Adele: Say the femur, the leg bone of Patagotitan it'd be like more than a human.
Jake: The thigh bone is just monstrous in them.
Adele: And then the rest of the animal…
Jake: So, Dinosaurs of Patagonia is doing a touring exhibit of Australia at the moment and I was fortunate enough to see it at Queensland Museum-
Adele: I'm gonna see it at the end of this week.
Jake: That's so good.
Adele: I'm gonna spend hours there.
Jake: So unfortunately for me I haven't been to many museums. Melbourne Museum was kind of my main knowledge of dinosaur
Adele: Yeah, so you sort of grew up in Victoria.
Jake: I grew up in Victoria-
Adele: and that's where you're based now.
Jake: That's where I'm still based. And so the Melbourne Museum has great replicas of things like Tarbosaurus and Velociraptor and such.
Adele: I think they have a Gallimimus?
Adele: Yeah, I remember we were working on a neck bone from a weird theropod, not a megaraptor. And to get our heads around what we were looking at, we were just like, oh, we'll just look at the public exhibit.
Jake: Yeah, because there's examples of different groups, but that was my knowledge. And so I went to dinosaurs at Patagonia and Carcharodontosaurs are my favourite group. And they have a replica of one called Tyrannotitan. And it just dwarfed the Tarbosaurus replica at Melbourne Museum. And you just look at this thing, my Lord. I was just admiring everything and I was there with my wife and she points me over, and they had a replica of giganotosaurus' skull. I've got a photo with it, but I reckon I could lie down and that head was bigger than me. I'm about 176 centimetres tall. I'm five foot 10. That thing's head looked like it was longer than me. They're just something else. I can and I can't wrap my head around them at the same time.
Adele: It feels like when I'm looking at it in my head, the loading screen, little circles going around, I'll still be like, huh, but hang on a minute. It's just that on a loop. We don't have a reference point for it in any of our modern-day ecosystems, so it's very hard for us to… understand.
Jake: And I find that humans as pattern seeking, you want to look for like. You don't have your like with a lot of dinosaurs. So what do you compare to? Birds and crocs.
Adele: Yeah. The modern day relatives that we still have around that we can look at.
Jake: Anytime we try to reconstruct dinosaurs beyond bones, often birds and crocs are used as the reference because crocs are the last thing to diverge before the dinosaurs. And birds come from the dinosaurs. Now, of course, birds are just theropods. They don't represent some of the major dinosaur clades.
Jake: And crocs aren't dinosaurs, but they're the closest living relatives we have.
Adele: And we don't have that many species within crocs that are around today.
Adele: It's a fraction of what used to be around.
Jake: And not to mention they've had 65 million plus however more million before they diverged of evolution separate from these animals.
Jake: So they're probably not even showing us the true condition. It's the old lipless versus lipped theropods thing. Could T rex give you a smooch or were his teeth on display? And they use crocs and birds, but birds are hard because birds don't have teeth-
Adele: Crocs are in water a lot of the time, the groups that we have around today, spent a lot of time in the water.
Adele: I thought there was something about like the lip needed to cover it. Cause if the teeth are dry.
Jake: This is the new paper this year. So the argument was that croc teeth was significant.
Adele: I'll drop a link in the show notes.
Jake: Sorry, it was an alligator. It was an alligator tooth and it was significantly more eroded on the exterior surface versus a theropod tooth. And their argument was the theropod tooth was kept in a moist environment, i.e. lips. Yeah. I believe there could be better arguments, but I still subscribe to lips on theropods.
Adele: Yeah. Like, it's- Wonder if that got picked up on the mic-
Jake: I hope so. We're staying with our colleague Ruairidh at the moment.
Adele: Ruairidh Duncan, bless him.
Jake: It's been a day- Wonderful. And I've had the best week of my life so far. It's been a great time.
Adele: It's been a fantastic time. I don't know if we've covered this. Megaraptors.
Adele: They also have two dogs. Megaraptors, did they have feathers?
Jake: I am very conservative with Theropod feathers. We went from no feathers at all, and then we started getting examples, and people would put feathers on every theropod. And now it seems to be, if there is an example, given feathers.
Adele: Because feathers can sometimes fossilize.
Jake: It is quite rare. We have one here in Koonwarra from Victoria. This fossilized theropod feathers.
Adele: I got confused when you said here.
Jake: Sorry, we're in Perth. I'm so used to talking in Victoria that it's fine. There is a fossilized feather of a theropod.
Adele: And it is beautiful.
Jake: It is incredible.
Adele: You look at it, if you showed it to anyone, they'd be like, that's feather.
Jake: Yeah. Coelurosaurs are the ones that have feathers. Tyrannosaurs, there is examples of tyrannosaurs, like Yutyrannus is a feathered tyrannosaur. The entire thing's covered in feathers. It's phenomenal. The Dromaeosaurs, it looks like they have feathers. There's no evidence for a Megaraptora feather yet. That's not to say yes, that's not to say no. Till we have the evidence, I will say they don't have feathers.
Jake: That's just the way I take it. Someone could be the same and say, because we don't have evidence and most Coelurosaurs have feathers, we should give it feathers. It just depends which way you subscribe to it. They may or may not have feathers.
Adele: I feel like if someone is a paleo artist as well, the context is really important.
Adele: Down in Victoria in the Cretaceous, even though it is close to Antarctica, it wasn't frozen.
Jake: No, but it was cold for that world.
Adele: It was temperate. So feathers might've been a really big advantage.
Jake: And that's where we get the feathered pteropods is at the poles at the extremes, Yutyrannus, Nanuqsaurus, which is Alaskan, I think. I can't remember the name of the deposit. This is a Ruairidh question, because he loves that deposit. It's got Pachyrhinosaurus as well, which is a weird ceratopsian related to triceratops.
Adele: Hey, it's Adele, again. I totally forgot to ask Ruairidh but I looked it up and it's the Prince Creek Formation as seen on Prehistoric Planet season 2. Also Jake wanted me to let you know that Nanuqsaurus isn't the best evidence for feathers in polar dinosaurs because that specimen is just known from a dentary, a lower jaw, but Yutyrannus definitely has feathers. Anyway back to Jake and back to feathers.
Jake: There's feathered ones at the extremes but I mean then some of the Dromaeosaurs are not at the extremes and they've got feathers. We don't know what the adaptation might have been. I mean birds, it's display, it's flight. Not all theropods flew.
Adele: It's insulation as well. Insulation. And then penguins are swimming around and it's waterproof.
Jake: Yep. That's the thing. We don't know.
Adele: I guess it depends on whether great-great-great grandparents have feathers and then if you just retain that and whether you can sort of co-opt it for the new things that you're doing.
Adele: So like the penguins again.
Jake: Exactly. Need more fossils of things with scrappy fossils already.
Adele: Mummified megaraptor. That’d be a great movie! I'd watch that.
Jake: Yeah, I'd get around that.
Adele: It can have monster behaviour. It's fine. It's a mummy.
Jake: Only if Brendan Fraser's in it.
Adele: Oh yes, please.
Jake: Bless that man.
Adele: The entire original mummy cast.
Jake: Just redo it with a megaraptor instead of Imhotep.
Adele: Yeah, and then instead of, I'm a librarian. I'm palaeontologist.
Jake: So good. They probably did. I wouldn't be surprised if they did. The moment we don't see any. So I would say. Who knows? I prefer to have the evidence to do feathers.
Adele: Yeah, no, that's fair enough.
Jake: Because there's, I mean, there are examples, but they're so rare. And I guess that's a fossilization thing.
Adele: Yes. Soft tissues are hard. Keratin, things that basically aren't bone or exoskeletons if you work in inverts or if you work in paleobotany, unless it's fossil spore and pollen grains or something that has a waxy cuticle, they don't fossilize very well.
Adele: Not a great fossil record for moss or mushrooms.
Adele: That's why I haven’t covered it on the podcast before.
Jake: But yeah. Yeah, look, someone could make the argument against me that feathers don't preserve that well. And they possibly did.
Adele: Oh, this is your podcast episode.
Jake: My reasoning is we haven't seen any yet, but I wouldn't be surprised.
Adele: In terms of pop culture stuff and megaraptors, I guess you mentioned before, we've only had 25 years or so to sort of get familiar with this group.
Jake: It's still obscure.
Adele: Most people don't know what a megaraptor is.
Jake: And if I say megaraptor most think, oh yeah, big velociraptor. And they're not, they're not even close.
Adele: They're not household names.
Jake: No, they're definitely not. I reckon if you're in Argentina, possibly, it's one of their big things. I've never been, I don't know, but they find a lot of them.
Adele: You know how Australia has like a bunch of big things? We need a big megaraptor.
Jake: Replace the big koala, that thing gives me nightmares.
Adele: It's horrifying. When I saw it, it has glowing red eyes.
Jake: Yeah, I don't like it at all.
Adele: It's like a koala trying to be Thylacoleo.
Jake: Yeah, it's not okay.
Adele: Being, I'm a drop bear.
Jake: It's not okay. I really dislike it. Give us big Banjo. I'd be much happier with that.
Adele: Not the instrument.
Jake: Not the instrument.
Adele: We want the dino.
Jake: The big Australovenator. His name's Banjo.
Jake: It's his informal name.
Both: Named after Banjo Patterson.
Jake: Didn't he write Waltzing Matilda and Winton?
Jake: I only learned that recently. It's great.
Adele: Great claim to fame. Good job Winton.
Jake: Good on you Winton. Australovenator and Banjo Patterson. And some sauropods.
Adele: And of course some sauropods. And I guess something called Ferrodraco but we don't talk about that.
Jake: They're not what I care about. Don't tell Steve, I like sauropods.
Adele: We love you dino dad. Please don’t disown us.
Jake: I’m saying this of my own free will. Sauropods are cool.
Adele: Steve's coming over here for dinner as well, so we have to watch our mouth and not bad mouth. Sauropods, I guess.
Jake: Sauropods are cool.
Adele: They're cool.
Jake: My order is theropods, sauropods, and then the rest.
Adele: Oh ouch, okay, whatever.
Jake: Pterosaurs aren't dinosaurs.
Adele: That's true.
Jake: I like pterosaurs. Pterosaurs are the better of the reptiles of the Cretaceous. Prefer them to marine reptiles.
Adele: They fly.
Jake: Azhdarchids are just chef's kiss. What are you doing with that head?
Adele: How are you getting around?
Jake: Why are you a demon stalk?
Adele: Why are you the size of a giraffe?
Jake: How are you flying with that head? I believe you fly and you have wings.
Adele: Oh yeah, and the wing bones look like every other pterosaur essentially.
Adele: Like the muscle attachments and stuff for members of that group.
Jake: Isn't it just the heads look bigger than their bodies half the time?
Adele: I had a conversation with someone for another podcast, Just the Zoo of Us, and they said when we first saw, it might have been Hatzegopteryx on screen, they were like, what is the head of this animal? Which is fair enough. I know pterosaurs, I know what I'm looking at, but it's...
Jake: I reckon that would have been it for me if it wasn't theropods, it would have been azhdarchids. There's something else. They're just so trippy.
Adele: They’re nuts.
Jake: It would have been azhdarchids, or tapejarids. I love those crests.
Adele: Tapejarids are gorgeous.
Jake: They're so cool.
Adele: I'm really looking forward to going to Brazil and hopefully seeing some of those fossils in person.
Jake: I'd love to see Tapejara. That would be it for me. I just like the-
Adele: The weirdos.
Jake: The weirdos, the avian looking things. I know pterosaurs are so removed from avians, but we can't have an analogue. Birds fly, pterosaurs flew.
Jake: I mean, it's just a big stork.
Adele: Yeah, when you have a knife for a face.
Jake: Not much is gonna mess with you.
Adele: No, I wouldn't.
Jake: Pretty sure Hatzegopteryx would be hunting us if it was around today.
Jake: What is it from Avatar, the big one? Taruk, Last Shadow. That's what I feel like having a living azhdarchid would be.
Adele: So for pop culture, I reckon if Jurassic Park got remade, like the first one.
Jake: Don't do that. No more remakes, don't touch it.
Adele: No, like.
Adele: No more remakes, please. What if we had a Megaraptor?
Jake: No one could ever replace Sam Neill as Dr Alan Grant.
Adele: That's true.
Jake: Don't touch that. Do you know that this has been an obscure trivia?
Adele: Okay, let's go.
Jake: The original rights for the movie almost went to a different director and he wanted Arnie.
Adele: No, that's not right.
Jake: He wanted to stick with the horror themes of the book versus what Spielberg made it. It's still somewhat horror, but not as much.
Adele: I feel like it's jump scare horror, which I can deal with.
Jake: They change a few things. Hammond's not a good person in the book. He's greedy, rich man and he doesn't live through the book. Spoiler alert, sorry.
Adele: Way to ruin a book that’s been around for what, 30 years?
Jake: Yeah, yeah. About that. Gennaro the lawyer is actually a good guy. He suplexes a velociraptor. The hunter Muldoon is a drunk and Crichton the author makes up this thing that dinosaur nervous systems are throughout the entire animal. So just like shooting the head doesn't stop it. And so for this Muldoon orders laser guided rocket launchers and that's how he kills the Raptors. He just blows them up.
Jake: With rocket launchers. The book is wild man.
Jake: The Dilophosaurus disembowels Nedry the… the book’s so much more brutal. So they wanted to stick with the original horror themes, but yeah, he wanted Arnie as Grant. Could you imagine that?
Adele: No, well I can and it's wrong.
Jake: Just imagine Arnie in Predator, but with the hat and the glasses. Do not touch the movie, the movie is perfect as it is. It's a movie about-
Adele: Okay, well we'll just have to make our own thing. Prehistoric Planet, season three, please. Let's just have some megaraptors. Dr. Naish, please.
Jake: Well, look, they do late Cretaceous, and when the show was made, my Macrothorax wasn't described.
Adele: They've got some relatively recent stuff in there too.
Jake: Yeah. What was it? Dr. James Napoli? He named the species that was in it? It was a really weird theropod. I can't remember the name off the top of my head.
Adele: I can't remember either. And I watched it for hours on the plane yesterday. So this is embarrassing.
Jake: Citipati? Maybe?
Adele: So the name we were looking for is Kuru Kula. And I'll put a link to the scientific paper on that dinosaur as well as the tweet. Anyway, back to the episode.
Jake: It's an oviraptor, I think. I could be wrong. But I remember him going nuts on Twitter because he's like, Oh my God, I didn't know you guys put my dinosaur in your show. Thank you so much.
Jake: That's the dream. Having your name species as pop culture thing would be great.
Jake: I want to see Ferrodraco in one day.
Adele: My thing is a Yowie.
Jake: Love a Yowie. I mean, we've got some exposure through Walking with Dinosaurs, the Australian dinosaur stuff. For those who love Walking with Dinosaurs, the Australian dinosaurs episode, I'm pretty sure they have an Allosaurus in it. All the stuff that was Allosaurus back then is now Megaraptor.
Jake: How the times change.
Adele: So there is something-
Jake: So not Megaraptor, Megaraptor is in pop culture.
Adele: Yeah, no, that sounds right.
Jake: They have Koolasuchus.
Adele: Yes, Koolasuchus. Muttaburrasaurus. I mentioned it in the episode I did on Koolasuchus. So it's Spirits of the Ice Forest.
Jake: That's the one.
Adele: Okay, so if you love Megaraptors, go back and watch that.
Jake: Spirits of the Ice Forest. It's got a Leaellynasaura, a Muttaburrasaurus, a Koolasuchus.
Jake: A mammal.
Adele: I think there are pterosaurs in the background, but they're not given names.
Jake: Unidentified polar allosaur. So they never gave it a name and they identified it as a dwarf allosaur. The bone that they based it on was shown to be a megaraptor.
Adele: By Steve?
Jake: Pretty sure it was Steve. Yeah probably. 2018 in the Victorian Review. Or the 2019 Megaraptors paper. But yeah, they had what is actually a megaraptor in Walking with Dinosaurs. That's our exposure. That's our claim to fame.
Adele: Yeah and then I just want to bring this up just because there's sometimes reports of a Spinosaurus from Victoria. That's probably a juvenile megaraptor.
Jake: I think Steve built upon someone on someone else's work. I actually remember writing this recently. Fernando Novas, I think, 2013, said it probably was in a spinosaur. And I think Steve doubled down on that comment. Pretty sure it's not a spinosaur.
Adele: Anyway, so again-
Jake: Probably a little megaraptor. If there's anything of decent size in Victoria, and we think it's a group that is never seen here before, it's gonna become a megaraptor.
Adele: Yeah, that's basically-
Jake: The way our track record goes. And with the scrappiness of megaraptors, maybe that's what they are. Maybe we've just grouped in a bunch of weird looking dudes who look the same.
Adele: If we do that enough. Maybe we'll get that skeleton.
Jake: Maybe we'll make something up. We'll cobble together Frankenstein based on partial skeletons. Adele: Excellent.
Jake: And that's our megaraptor.
Adele: Thank you so much for telling us about megaraptors and just theropods in general. Your a wealth of knowledge.
Jake: People love these things. I love them. I love to talk about them. I love them. People want to listen. Thank you for having me on.
Adele: No worries.
Jake: Loving the show. I have to do the plug of this is great. Oh. It's great to hear. Great to see a mate doing well with something she loves and...
Adele: Thank you.
Jake: Happy to be a part of it too.
- - -
Adele: What an absolute legend, thanks Jake for chatting to me about megaraptors and sharing your insane encyclopaedic knowledge of Jurassic Park.
If this is your first time listening to Pals in Palaeo, thanks so much for listening I hope you enjoyed the banter between the two of us. I'd super appreciate it if you could leave a review on Apple Podcasts or leave a 5 star rating on Spotify, those two things make a massive difference and genuinely help keep the show going.
Otherwise you can support the show by grabbing some stickers from our online shop, they're pretty durable and made from waterproof vinyl so if you like stickers, check out the link to the shop in the shownotes.
Thanks to Francy for editing the podcast, Crumpet Club House and Jenny Zhao for our podcast cover art and Hello Kelly for our theme music.
If you love Hello Kelly check out their album Sweet Nostalgia however you're listening to this episode. You won't regret it, the title track Sweet Nostalgia is hands down one of my favourite songs.
Big thanks to César Peuchmarin for soundboarding ideas with me, and you can listen to his dulcet tones on his Death By Birding an adventure through avian theropods with a lot of swears in the mix.
Pals in Palaeo will be back soon with fresh facts on old fossils but until next time,
Catch you on the flip side, and just keep digging
2013, Morphological comparisons of metacarpal I for Australovenator wintonensis and Rapator ornitholestoides: implications for their taxonomic relationships. Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology
A large-clawed theropod (Dinosauria: Tetanurae) from the Lower Cretaceous of Australia and the Gondwanan origin of megaraptorid theropods
New megaraptorid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) remains from the Lower Cretaceous Eumeralla Formation of Cape Otway, Victoria, Australia
Early Cretaceous polar biotas of Victoria, southeastern Australia—an overview of research to date
A large Megaraptoridae (Theropoda: Coelurosauria) from Upper Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) of Patagonia, Argentina
A New Dromaeosaurid (Dinosauria: Coelurosauria) from Khulsan, Central Mongolia
A Diminutive New Tyrannosaur from the Top of the World
Theropod dinosaur facial reconstruction and the importance of soft tissues in paleobiology
Dinosaurs may have had scaly 'lips' to protect their teeth from damage