|The Speculative Dinosaur Project|
The Speculative Dinosaur Project, also known as Spec, is a speculative biology project based on the Dinosaur Survival Scenario, most specifically on the K-T absence aspect of it. As of yet, it is in a development hell, but a site showing the situation of project in 2006 is present ; take a look at the Notes and News section, where you'll find the Yahoo Club's adress. A book will be written as soon as the project is over.
Note: as this project is in a development hell this information is derived from what is in the Yahoo Club, which is more up-dated than the one in the main site. Also, you might add images from the site or the yahoo club if permission is offered.
Spec, usually considered as an accurate version of Dougal Dixon's infamous book, takes place in the present, and is narrated in the eyes of a team of explorers (which presumably travelled to a parallel world where Spec takes place). In this world, dinosaurs have survived as the eerie mass extinction that killed them off in our Earth never occured, and evolved during the 65 million years that composed the ever changing Cenozoic. Under a stronger evolutionary pressure than ever before, the end result was a world that, while familiar, is still quite different from the late Cretaceous.
Main Article: List of animals in The Speculative Dinosaur Project
The most successfull linage of dinosaurs, these are divided into two main modern groups, Ceratosauria and Coelurosauria (though historically, during the Paleogene, allosaurs and spinosaurs did existed in Australia and Africa/Eurasia respectively, before dying out in the Miocene due to environmental changes). Ceratosaurs are represented by the huge abelisaurs, represented by huge predators restricted to the tropical and subtropical latitudes of Africa and Asia; the noasaurs, represented by a malagasy carnivore (the Cain, Cain cursor) and weird ant-eating dinosaurs known as kagrus derived from Masiakasaurus; and the genus Tauropanthera, derived from Deltadromeus. All modern ceratosaurs are of Gondwannan ancestry, having evolved in Africa and India and later invaded south Eurasia; they are all restricted to the tropical latitudes of the Old World, being absent from Australia and the Americas.
Coelurosaurs are way more diverse, thanks to their fuzzy covering that allowed them to conquer colder zones. Archeoplumes are the most basal modern forms, being ancient critter that evolved on Africa or India and that are found exclusively on these landmasses, being restricted to a few opportunistic small predators covered in quills. After them come the much more successfull errorosauroid tyrannosaurs, which evolved from the giants of the Cretaceous in the Eocene, when the tropical rainforest covered world forced them to decrease in size via neoteny, and in addition they conserved the down covering that their ancestor's chicks had, thus conquering successfully the colder zones of Eurasia and the Americas as dog/hyena analogues, with a giant species (the Saber Tyrant, Smilotyrannus imperator) occupying a niche similar to that of Smilodon. In the Old World smaller species do occur in tropical latitudes as dog analogues, while in South America there's also a native subspecies of the Saber Tyrant. Within coelurosaurs there's also the australian cedunosaurs, a linage of fairly conservative theropods that were originally intended to be descendents of Nqwebasaurus (now considered a basal alvarezsaurid), and that might end up as very very basal tyrannosaurs of indian origin that colonised Australia during the Miocene via island hoopping in Indonesia. Mostly represented as small opportunistic predators not unlike foxes, with a few larger ornithomimid like species.
However, in spite of the presence of these several basal coelurosaurs, the most diverse linage of modern dinosaurs are maniraptors, the feathered clade that produced birds. At the base of the linage there are the ratite like alvarezsaurids, which have their arms reduced to small claws and that occupy insectivorous ant-eating niches in the tropical and subtropical areas of Asia, Madagascar, Australasia and South America. Right after come therizinosaurs, a very unusual herbivorous linage that dates from the Jurassic, and that nowdays occupies giant sloth, panda, mammoth and camel niches, being quite uncommon in Africa and South America due to the diversity of sauropods and the presence of gorillabirds (keep reading) in Africa and of large herbivorous troodonts in South America. Oviraptors as a whole became a very successfull linage, being divided in two main groups: Oviraptoroidea and Suinavoidea. The first is composed of more carnivorous species, such as the bear analogues known as vulgures, the terror bird like gryphons from South America and the aquatic mollusc eating waldos, while the later evolved in Africa from Avimimus like ancestors that produced ratite and fowl like forms as well as the forementioned gorillabirds and the mountain dweeling ramfowl/alpine streks. Troodontids also survived to the modern days, though mostly reduced to an ibis like wading creature from Eurasia and a few ratite like species from South America. Dromeosaurs are present as the large predatory draks, which are typical dromeosaurs that evolved from Velociraptor like forms and that occupy large feline niches, as well as by the smaller unenlagiine mattiraptors, which occupied the niches of the typical troodontids in the Old World and the Americas, leaving them only specialised niches. Arboreal forms known as arbros from a polyphyletic collection of arboreal forms that evolved three times from unenlagiines, microraptorines and Bambiraptor, while the winged rahonavids still roam Africa and Madagascar (note that they might be bobunked however), and likely are closely related to the flightless mattiraptors.
Out of all maniraptors, birds are the most diverse clade. At the base of the phylogenetic tree perch the Xenornithes, descendents of Confusiusornis that became diverse as the small winged bunglebirds and the flightless arboreal parrot like carpos from the Old World. Enantiornithes are still a common clade, present as the grebe like ebergs, the predatory "avisaurs" (which might not be end up related to Avisaurus as originally intended, due to the fact that said bird was closely related to the toothless Gobipteryx and because it is only known from leg bones it might had been beaked), the finch and parrot like allospiziformes, the passerine like twitiaviformes and the hoatzin like gondwanaviformes. Euornithes are represented by the pigeon like descendents of Apsaravis and by the diverse sea bird clades known as Ichthyornithes and Hesperornithes, the first occupying albatross, gannet, skimmer, auk, tern, flamingo and New World vulture niches and the later diversifying as cormorant and loon like birds and as flightless marine predators. Neornithes, while obviously less diverse than on our world, are nonetheless common, though their diversity occured in different ways from that in our world. Paleognaths, for instance, restricted to ratites on our world, are common as rail, shorebird, crane, quail, ibis and bustard like forms, with several flightless species in islands and a linage of winged predators known as rocs. Galliformes, while occuring as ground birds where the oviraptorian bantams and quail like paleognaths and screamers are less common, are more diverse as arboreal forms; anseriformes are more common than on our world, though anatidae is represented mostly by ducks, as geese and swan niches were taken by relatives of magpie-geese and merganser niches were taken by ebergs; screamers produced several galliforme like forms, specially on Australia, as well as huge moa like birds in New Zealand. Pseudodontorns occupy seagull and Old World vulture niches, whereas heron like relatives of the sunbitterns occur widespread across the tropics and penguins diversified on the southern seas, ranging from "normal" forms to weird species like the screaming ninja penguins of death. Within higher landbirds there is the largest diversity of neornithes, represented by Coraciiformes (kingfishers and nearcrows), Spadaviformes (jaubs and pickerpeckers) and the Piciformes (muzzle toucans and barbets), as well as a single species that might be analogous to our world's passerines, the new zealander Tangerine (Miravis convincii)
Sauropods are represented by titanosaurs, the last living linage. Within it there are the typical browsing gihugrongos, which occur in temperate or tropical dry forests in the Old World and North America, the grazing grassbags, represented by an african species and a few insular ones in the Mediterranean, and by the aquatic mokeles, the most successfull linage, which are a clade of aquatic armoured herbivores present in Africa, Asia, Australia and any islands around or between those landmasses, from the Mediterranean and Indonesian islands to Madagascar. Older ornithischian clades have declined somewhat; pachycephalosaurs are all but gone, ankylosaurs are restricted to the Caribean islands, and ceratopsians, while having success during the Oligocene and Miocene periods, are curently reduced to tropical giants on Asia, Africa and South America; one linage, the undaurs, became large forest browsers, which evolved thanks to the fact titanosaurs are absent from dense tropical rainforests. Hadrosaurs are also largely gone, being reduced to tropical giants on South America and Australia, but ornithopods as a whole are a very successfull linage. In South America, the disappearence of sauropods allowed huge browsers known as false-sauropods to evolve, while Australasia and Madagascar have several species of small ornithopods, and their closest relatives are the most successfull ornithopod linage ever, Laurasiornithopoda.
At the base of Laurasiornithopoda lie duckgongs and vanguards, the first being aquatic seagrass eaters from tropical waters (and thus the first aquatic ornithischians) and the later are browsing ankylosaur analogues from Asia and the Americas. More advanced laurasiornithopods are represented by jackalopes and formosicorns; the first are two legged runners analogous to gazzeles and pronghorns, while the later are vaguely hadrosaur like forms represented by the american singers, the eurasio-american "typical" formosicorns, the Old and New World clade vaguely ceratopsian like catoblepines and the african and south asian ungulapedes. As a whole formosicorns represent the analogues on Spec to our world's bovines and deer, and are remarkable due to the throat pouches in which they incubate their eggs, which means that they don't need to build nests as other ornithopods such as jackalopes do.
Besides these typical herbivorous clades, there's also the feline and bear like rhynchoraptors, heterodontosaur descendents unlike any other ornithischian. Like laurasiornithopods they have throat pouches to guard the eggs on.
Crcodillians are very diverse on Spec; whereas the familiar eusuchians are mostly represented as alligatoroids (which, being unusually omnivorous, are fairly adaptable and flexible in terms of lifestyle, having produced mollusc eaters, aquatic herbivores and filter feeeders besides the typical caimans and alligators), the crocodile like goniopholids and the gharial like dyrosaurids occupy the large aquatic ambush predator and specialised fish eater niches respectively, but most of Spec's uniqueness comes with the land crocs, represented by the herbivorous hoplocrocs from Africa and Madagascar, the hyena like scavenging crunchercrocs from the Old World, the predatory felisuchids and the australasian monitor analogues the wolfcrocs. A particular clade of land crocs inhabits South America, the viriosaurids, which evolved from Effigia like ancestors that converged heavily on ornithopods (note that they were originally supposed to be ornithopods themselves, but eventually all ornithopods bu hadrosaurs and false-sauropods were erased from pre-Ishtmus South America.
Pterosaurs, originally extinct in the first version of the project, are now well present, both as the nightjar like anurognathid descendents and as azhdarchids, mostly present as stork like forms but also as hornbill like frugivores and also as fligthless predators known as carnocursorids, that dominate Australia alongside rhynchoraptors. Other oddities, like frigatebird like pteranodontids, might or might not be accepted.
Choristoderes are represented as gharial like animals that occupy the niche of dyrosaurids in the Americas, while sphenodontians became a somewhat diverse clade on Ocenia, ranging from typical tuataras to armoured scavengers and iguana like herbivores with beaks. Plesiosaurs still exist as a few freshwater and marine species of elasmosaurids, while turtles are mostly aquatic reptiles, with meolanids being the main terrestrial tortoises; some produced massive ankylosaur like forms, that avoid competition with vanguards, are mostly grazers. Squamates so far are the most diverse clade of non-dinosaurian reptiles, with a few unusual groups such as treeguanas (originally intended to be arboreal ornithopods) and obviously the marine mosasaurs, now represented as freshwater eel like forms and marine shark like forms, a few quite similar to ichthyosaurs.
Since the Mesozoic that mammals seem to have had tendencies of diversifying in spite of the reign of the dinosaurs, and thus its no wonder that, in Spec, mammals became bigger and more diverse. Monotremates, rather than just being oddballs, are actually a majormammal group, represented by several species on Australia and New Zealand and occupying several insectivorous niches there. A particular linage, Cancridontia, became fully marine and now comepete with waldos and mollusc eating crocodillians over molluscivore niches, and produced some cetacean like forms akin to beaked whales. On the air, the primitive mammals known as volaticotheres took the niches occupied by bats on our world, while the multituberculates, the once diverse group known as the "rodents of the Mesozoic", while having declined in diversity, are still a very successfull mammal group, ranging from the now rare arboreal forms to huge borrowing mammals, denizens of Europe's and North America's swamps and even mustelid like predators in South America. However, the most diverse mammal linage is Theria, which includes metatherians and eutherians. Metatherians are represented by canine and wolverine like descendents of stagodonts, the mustelid and seal like deltatheroids, several mole and shrew like groups, the arboreal South American sparassodonts and the vaguely primate like polydolopoidomorphs and the australian bandicoots, which became diverse to the point of occupying most rodent niches on the continent.
Eutherians, aside from a few primitive malagasy forms, are exclusively represented by the ever so successfull placentals. Afrotheria is represented by tenrecs, which are present all over the Old World as hedgehog analogues, by elephant shrews, by the bizarre vaguely tapir like mammal Sut (Setech occultus), by colugo like forms (originally intended to be cimolestans) and by the pseudo-hyraxes, similar to our world's hyraxes but more cursorial. Xenarthrans are represented by armadillos and the bipedal bastard-sloths, and Xernarthra is itself part of Antarctitheria, which also includes the small, ungulate like south american un-gulates, the australian tingamarroids and the marine gloops, which compete with the dinosaurian duckgongs. Laurasitheria is only represented by omnivorous Solenodon like mammals such as hellrats and by civet analogues (presumably mesonychians), and while true rodents aren't present lagomorphs are extremely diverse, both as the small muroid like xenotheres and the ungulate like paraselenodonts, the later competing directly with herbivore dinosaurs. Primates, aside from lemurs and galagos, are represented both as the raccoon like pokemuroids and by the flying elphabas, the late being the only mammals with wings made of feather like fur. Scadentians aren't that different from our world's, but nonetheless more diverse.
Squids and octupi are less common in Spec than on our world and restricted to deeper waters; instead, the shallower seas are dominated by ammonites and belemnoids, the later spawned an impressive linage of cephalopods that took over filter feeding niches on Spec, the baleen squids. Fish aren't remarkably different from our world's, but some extinct clades like hybodont sharks and ichthyodectids are present as marine or freshwater predators; sarcopterygians are also hinted to be more diverse than on our world, though the issue hasn't been touched upon. Plants are largely similar to our's, but older clades like gingkos, cycads and Araucaria are more common and widespread.