Episode 445: Dinosaurs in Swamps: Featuring Prehistoric Planet 2

Episode 445: Dinosaurs in Swamps: Featuring Prehistoric Planet 2. Pachycephalosaurus head-butting, Austroraptor fishing, T. rex stalking prey at night, and more dinosaur action in the Cretaceous swamps


The dinosaur of the day: Falcatakely

  • Lived at same time and place as the animals featured in episode 3 of Prehistoric Planet 2
  • Enantiornithean that lived in the Late Cretaceous in what is now northern Madagascar (Maevarano Formation)
  • About crow-sized
  • Had a deep, long beak, about 3.5 in (9 cm) long
  • Beak looked similar to a toucan’s
  • As an enantiornithine, in many ways, would have looked like a modern bird
  • Had a high, long face that looked like a modern bird
  • But had teeth in the premaxilla
  • Described by Patrick O’Connor and others in 2020
  • Found a nearly complete, well preserved skull in 2010
  • CT scanned the skull in 2017
  • Skull is small, at about 3 in (8 cm) long
  • Parts of the fossil are paper thin
  • Maxilla is less than 1 mm thick
  • Had a narrow preorbital region (in front of the eye socket)
  • Type and only species is Falcatakely forsterae
  • Genus name means “small scythe”, and refers to the shape of the beak
  • Species name is in honor of Catherine Forster’s “contributions to work on Madagascan paravians”
  • Unexpected that it looked superficially like a toucan
  • Example of convergent evolution (Falcatakely evolved the toucan-like beak tens of millions of years before toucans and other modern birds, and they’re pretty distantly related)
  • Found a complex series of grooves on the bone that showed it had a large beak
  • Had a beak shape like a modern bird, with a high, long upper bill
  • However, the face had similar bones as Velociraptor and other non-avian dinosaurs
  • Like non-avian dinosaurs, had a bone under its beak and a large upper jawbone (a large maxilla and small premaxilla), unlike modern birds where there is just one bone under the beak (the premaxilla)
  • Probably used its beak for a lot of purposes, including moving objects, grooming, and feeding
  • Lived in a swampy floodplain that had wet and dry seasons

Fun Fact:

T. rex had the largest eyes of any dinosaur. But several modern animals have larger eyes than even the largest T. rex.

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