Episode 444: Dinosaurs in the Badlands: Featuring 2 Producers from Prehistoric Planet 2

Episode 444: Dinosaurs in the Badlands: Featuring 2 Producers from Prehistoric Planet 2. Volcanoes, deserts, and other inhospitable places that dinosaurs lived.


Mike Gunton and Tim Walker, Mike Gunton is the Executive Producer and Director of the BBC’s Natural History Unit and Tim Walker is the showrunner and producer of Prehistoric Planet & Prehistoric Planet 2


The dinosaur of the day: Isisaurus

  • Titanosaur that lived in the Late Cretaceous in what is now India and Pakistan (Lameta Formation and Pab Formation, which were about the same age)
  • Reconstructions make it look kind of hunched over, with a short neck for a sauropod, with very long legs
  • But like other sauropods, in that is fairly large, long tail, walks on four legs, has a proportionally small, elongated skull
  • In Prehistoric Planet, pretty stout
  • Medium-sized, estimated to be about 59 ft (18 m) long and weighed 15 metric tons
  • Humerus was about 58 in (148 cm) long
  • In 2009, Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week posted that the reconstruction of Isisaurus was “weird as heck”
  • Said that there are conflicting reconstructions that are also weird (both reconstructions based on data from the original paper, though one is from the scale bars in the figures in the paper and one is from measurements written in the paper)
  • Advocated measuring the skeleton again to determine if the scale bars or the published measurements are accurate
  • Wrote: “We know that Isisaurus must have been pretty darn weird because its cervicals are so short”
  • Type species is Isisaurus colberti
  • Originally thought to be Titanosaurus colberti
  • Named Titanosaurus colberti in 1997 by Sohan Lal Jain and Saswati Bandyopadhyay
  • Species name in honor of Edwin Colbert “foremost exponent of dinosaurs”
  • Sohan Jain and Saswati Bandyopadhyay wrote: “The earliest record of titanosaurids anywhere in the world was established in India in 1877” (Titanosaurus found in the Lameta Formation, which is below the Deccan Traps)
  • All fragments found, but enough to name Titanosaurus
  • Fossils of Isisaurus collected between 1984 and 1986
  • Found a well-preserved, partly articulated skeleton of 65 bones (includes vertebrae, ribs, parts of the shoulder, left arm, pelvis), missing skull, hind limb, and foot bones (possibly due to erosion)
  • Because of being articulated, probably buried close to where it died
  • Differences in the tail vertebrae from other Titanosaurus species (including more slightly curved surfaces)
  • Also differences in the shoulder and arm bones
  • In 2003, Jeffrey Wilson and Paul Upchurch renamed it to Isisaurus colberti
  • Wilson and Upchurch re-evaluated all Titanosaurus species and found only five to be valid (found the type species “indicus” to be invalid)
  • Genus name means “Isi lizard”
  • Genus name Isi is in honor of the Indian Statistical Institute “which houses India’s foremost collection of Mesozoic fossil vertebrates and whose scholars discovered and described the holotype skeleton”
  • Other sauropods found in what is now India include Titanosaurus (multiple species) and Jainosaurus
  • Lived alongside Jainosaurus
  • In 2011, Jeffrey Wilson, Paul Barrett, and Matthew Carrano referred a “nearly complete, relatively undeformed braincase” to Isisaurus. Braincase was found in the Pab Formation in Pakistan
  • Said there hadn’t yet been any systematic comparison between sauropods found in both the Pab and Lameta Formations, “and there remains a strong possibility that more of the remains collected from the Pab Formation will be referable to Isisaurus and Jainosaurus”
  • Also possible there were other titanosaur species
  • Said Jainosaurus and Isisaurus don’t seem to be closely related, and that they “represent distinct titanosaur lineages”
  • Coprolites thought to come from Isisaurus contained fungus, which are known to infect tree leaves and cause leaf spot and red rot (look how they sound). If those coprolites belong to Isisaurus, means it ate a variety of different tree leaves, and probably was a high browser, like camels and giraffes today
  • Based on the fungus, Isisaurus probably lived in a tropical-subtropical climate
  • Other dinosaurs found around the same time and place include abelisaurs such as Indosuchus and Rajasaurus
  • Other animals that lived around the same time and place include fish, shrimp, gastropods, turtles, crocodiles

Fun Fact:

The Triassic-Jurassic extinction event, one of the largest extinction events in Earth’s history, was likely caused by volcanic eruptions similar to those that formed the Deccan traps.

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