Dinosaurs Ruled in 2017—Here Are the Incredible Discoveries You May Have Missed

nodosaur
The fossil nodosaur Borealopelta. Machario on Wikipedia

2017 was an incredible year for paleontology. Three states declared official "state dinosaurs" and paleontologists made countless dino finds around the world. Here are some of the most important discoveries that changed our understanding of the enormous beasts that once ruled the Earth. 

The Patagotitan was named the Biggest Land Animal Ever

10_20_Patagotitan Museum attendees walk by the head of the newly named Patagotitan mayorum, a 122-foot titanosaur, at the American Museum of Natural History, in New York. A generic dinosaur costume can be customized for a stylized Patagotitan look. Shannon Stapleton/REUTERS

In 2013, a Patagonian shepherd discovered the fossilized remains of an enormous long-necked dinosaur. For years it would remain nameless, simply called “The Titanosaur,” referring to the taxonomic clade to which it belonged, in the halls of the American Museum of Natural History where visitors could see a life-sized skeleton reconstruction.

In 2017, scientists finally published a paper about the animal, including the declaration that it was the largest animal to ever walk the Earth. They also gave the dinosaur a name: Patagotitan mayorum.

Museum Unveils the Best-Preserved Nodosaur Fossil Ever

An armored dinosaur that died 110 million years ago left one of the most well-preserved sets of dinosaur remains ever found. In May 2017, the Royall Tyrell Museum of Paleontology in Alberta unveiled the remains of the plant-eating, spiny Borealopelta. Paleontologists and viewers alike could see the preserved spiny plates, armor and even patches of skin from this ancient, newly-discovered creature.  

The dinosaur family tree may have been wrong this whole time

Dinosaur_Family_Tree_Rewrite The old dinosaur family tree and the proposed re-write. Nature

Typically, dinosaurs are organized into ornithschians (bird-hipped) and saurischians (lizard-hipped.) But in March, a paleontologist from the University of Cambridge rocked the foundation of dinosaur classification with a new theory, as seen above.

For the last century, paleontologists have grouped sauropods (like long-necked dinos) and theropods (like T. Rex and Velociraptor) in the saurischia division of dinosaurs, and ceratopsians (like triceratops) in ornitshia. But, according to paradign-shifting research, theropods like T. Rex should move into ornittschians with Triceratops, and long-bodied, toothy herrarasaurs.

The new theory, which would mean dinosaur phylogeny would need to be completely revamped, hasn't been formally adapted into the field, but the science behind it is strong and may lead to major changes. 

Paleontologists found a tick that had eaten dinosaur blood preserved in amber

Dinosaur_feather_and_tick_in_amber Hard tick grasping a dinosaur feather preserved in 99 million-year-old Burmese amber. Modified from the open access article published in Nature Communications: 'Ticks parasitised feathered dinosaurs as revealed by Cretaceous amber assemblages.' Peñalver, Arillo, Delclòs, Peris, Grimaldi, Anderson, Nascimbene, Pérez-de la Fuente

Just like in the premise to the Jurassic Park franchise, scientists found in ancient amber a tick full of blood that may have belonged to a dinosaur. Another tick was found latched onto a dinosaur feather in amber, described in a study published in December. These discoveries, for the first time, proved that ticks sucked the blood of dinos.

A world-record deposit of hundreds of pterosaur eggs was uncovered

pterosaureggs Hundreds of pterosaur bones on the surface, demonstrating the richness of these sites. Alexander Kellner (Museu Nacional/UFRJ)

Pterosaurs are not dinosaurs, but they were related and lived among them. That’s why any dino-lover can appreciate this record-breaking discovery of hundreds of pterosaur eggs, some of which contained the remains of "Hamipterus" embryos.

Researchers noticed that the wing bones in the embryos were less developed than the leg bones, which implies that the animals could walk but not fly when they were born. Further, paleontologists believe this means that the pterosaur parents must have stuck around to raise their young until they learned to fly. 

2017 proved to be a fruitful year for dinosaur discoveries. With Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom playing in 2018, maybe more dinosaur enthusiasts will continue this trend into the new year.