Fossil Hunting at Cleeve Hill

Fossil Hunting at Cleeve Hill

Having had to spend some time in the south of England due to work commitments one of our team members had the opportunity to visit a popular fossil collecting site at Cleeve Common in Gloucestershire.

The area is popular with hikers and walkers as Cleeve Hill itself, is the highest point in the county of Gloucestershire as we recall and from the top there are stunning views of the English countryside.

The View from Cleeve Hill

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The views from this location are wonderful and although there are no toilets or other facilities at this site, it is a wonderful place to walk and take a picnic.

There is a private golf course on Cleeve Hill, and care should be taken to avoid the players and give them plenty of room, particularly considering the hilly nature of the course that they are playing on.  However, a public car park is available and makes a great starting point to explore the geological formation that are exposed along the western side of the hill.  Cleeve Hill has the remains of many old quarries and it is here in the scree and rubble that a number of good fossils can be found, given a keen eye and a little patience.

The exposed fossiliferous rocks date from the Jurassic period (Aalenian/Bajocian faunal stages), 178-166 million years ago and represent marine deposits.  Similar strata can be found elsewhere in the United Kingdom, notably in Dorset and also in Lincolnshire.

Hammering at the bedrock is not permitted, and care must be taken when close to overhangs as rocks have been known to fall, but with a little care some interesting fossils can be located.  We found a number of excellent examples of brachiopods associated with Jurassic Oolite rocks (shell fish) from this location and a couple of fragments of Belemnite guards (Belemnites are a group of extinct cephalopods).  The crystalline structure of the guard can still clearly be made out, although the Belemnites were not as numerous as in locations such as Charmouth near Lyme Regis.

A Belemnite (Extinct Cephalopod)

Belemnite Model

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view a model of a Belemnite and dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys and Dinosaur Models

One of the pleasant things about visiting a site like this is that sometimes you can find yourselves in little, tucked away exposed faces of rock were lots of fossils can be seen.  Towards, the end of our visit, it was decided to explore one last rise and as made our ascent the location did not seem very promising.  However, on reaching the top we were rewarded with the discovery of a hidden away area of rock and scree slope which had lots and lots of fossils to observe and photograph.

The “Hideaway” at Cleeve Hill

The “Hideaway” at Cleeve Hill

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This particular location is probably very well known to local collectors.  It is very probably featured in guidebooks, but to us it was a magical place that we simply stumbled upon at the very end of our trip that made the journey well worthwhile.  We were able to observe and photograph a number of fossils in situ and we had the site to ourselves (apart from one baby rabbit).  This might not be the Flaming Cliffs of Mongolia but sat on the grass leaning back on our rucksacks with a sandwich and a cup of coffee we felt like we were a million miles away.

Swan Neck Posture of Sauropods – The Great Debate

Did Long-Necked Dinosaurs Hold their Heads Up High?

The debate over the posture of the Sauropodomorphs has been opened up again with a new research paper published by a team from the University of Portsmouth, England.  The research findings based on close examination of the cervical vertebrae of a number of Sauropods plus comparisons with extant mammals and birds indicate that some of these long-necked dinosaurs may have been able to lift their heads high into trees to feed.

This work is in contrast to an earlier Australian study (published in April 2009), postulating that the hearts of these massive animal’s were not able to sustain enough blood pressure to permit blood circulation if their heads were held in a more vertical position.

By examining the skeletons of living animals, animals which share the dinosaur’s unique upright stance (mammals and birds), the University of Portsmouth team have concluded that the long-necked dinosaurs may have held their heads higher for much of the time.

The research, led by Dr. Mike Taylor could re-shape the way museums pose their Sauropod exhibits.  The classic interpretation of the stance of Sauropods (the swan-like neck), was first put forward in the late 19th Century when almost complete skeletons of dinosaurs such as Diplodocus and Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus) were excavated from the Morrison Formation in the Western United States.  Such large animals became the central attraction at many museums when they were put on display and the papers written about them did depict them with their heads held high.  Often in conjunction with this stance they were depicted in water, as it was thought that these animals were to heavy to walk around on land comfortably.

The “Classical” View of Sauropods (Brachiosaurus)

Picture Credit: Lindahall.org

In the illustration above, a group of Sauropods (Brachiosaurus altithorax) are shown wading in deep water with their necks held in an almost vertical position.

However, there is more than one way in which to articulate the vertebrae of a long-necked dinosaur and a different interpretation has taken hold over the last few years, one that shows these dinosaurs with their heads held in a more horizontal position.  Indeed, the range of movement of the necks of Sauropods is believed to be very limited according to some scientists.  Sauropods such as Nigersaurus (Nigersaurus taqueti), which was named and formerly described in 1999, may have been specialist feeders on low growing vegetation and had no need to lift their heads high to feed.  In fact the structure of the vertebrae of this strange dinosaur from Africa is so bizarre that some scientists have marvelled at how it could have lifted its head at all.

The Bizarre Sauropodomorph Nigersaurus – A Specialist Low Browser?

The “Lawn Mower” Sauropod

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view a model of Nigersaurus: Dinosaur Models and Dinosaur Toys

However, acknowledging the number of conflicting theories regarding the stance and posture of these large dinosaurs, Dr Mike Taylor and his team are not suggesting that museums reassemble their Sauropod exhibits.

He went onto comment:

“The Diplodocus in the main hall vestibule of the Natural History Museum [London] is in a perfectly good posture.  It is one within a whole range of movement that would have been entirely possible”.

The University of Portsmouth researchers used X-rays and other sophisticated techniques to plot the range of movement and structure of the necks of several Sauropods and then compared them to the movement shown in living animals.  Based on this study, the team have concluded that Sauropods could have held their heads high (natural resting position).

Dr Taylor and his colleagues concluded that the necks of mammals and birds (who share an upright stance with dinosaurs), have necks that are “strongly vertically inclined”.  Based on these comparisons they team have suggested that Sauropods too, could hold their heads high.  Explaining that fossil bones could only provide part of the story and it was important to consider muscle structure; the team have concluded that these huge necks could have been more flexible than the bones themselves suggest.

The problem is soft-tissue in dinosaurs is very rarely preserved and with Sauropods even finding an articulated neck in association with skull material is an extremely rare event in itself.

Dr Taylor added, that based on this new study:

“We can be confident that they [Sauropods] held their heads upright”.

This theory is in direct contrast to work published by an Australian team of scientists led by Dr Roger Seymour, who proposed that the elevation of the skull above the heart would have caused enormous problems with blood pressure, raising it to perhaps lethal levels as the dinosaurs tried to pump blood to their elevated brains.

To read more about the Australian team’s work: Dinosaurs with their Heads Held High – the Debate Continues

Dr Taylor is not convinced by the argument put forward by the Australian team.

“There are some [living animals] where the heart is able to exert much greater pressure than Seymour’s equations predict [is possible].  We don’t see why that couldn’t also be true in Sauropods.”

Dr Paul Barrett, a palaeontologist from London’s Natural History Museum, the person responsible for designing the Diplodocus in the museum’s model series, thinks the Sauropods were likely to have been able to lift their heads high, but he remains unconvinced that would have been their “resting posture”.

Dr Barret stated:

“It would require lots of muscular activity, and put a lot of strain on their hearts”.

Dr Barrett explained that, since it is impossible to know how thick the pads of connective tissue between the dinosaurs’ vertebrae were, it is difficult to estimate how much of a role this tissue, along with muscles and tendons, played in the animals’ range of movement.

He went onto add:

“Finding a model in biology to explain the stance and posture of these creatures is not easy”.

To view Dr Paul Barrett’s model interpretation of Diplodocus: Dinosaur Toys for Girls and Boys – Dinosaur Models

This debate is liable to run and run as further fossil evidence is uncovered.  Perhaps scientists will be fortunate to find a more complete fossil of a Sauropod, perhaps a juvenile with some soft tissue preserved so we can gain a better understanding of the range of movement of these amazing prehistoric animals.

The changing scientific opinion regarding Sauropodomorphs: The Changing Views on Sauropods

Nigersaurus – The Mesozoic Lawn Mower

Nigersaurus – The Mesozoic Lawn Mower

The diversity of the dinosaur families (in the taxonomic sense) is now becoming better established and understood with the increasing number of fossil discoveries from around the world.  The break up of the super-continent Pangaea led to the separation and isolation of a number of different types of dinosaur and this provided the catalyst to permit increased diversity.  The dinosaurs were quick to exploit a whole range of environmental niches, this is well illustrated by examining the immense diversity in a dinosaur Sub-Order such as the Sauropodomorpha, the long-necked herbivores with lizard-like feet.  Members of the Sauropodomorpha include some very famous and well-known dinosaurs, creatures such as Diplodocus, Camarasaurus and the huge Apatosaurus.

One of the more unusual members of the Sauropodomorpha was Nigersaurus (Nigersaurus taqueti), pronounced nee-zehr-sore-us.  This Sauropod seems to have specialised in feeding on low growing vegetation such as ferns, horsetails and since the fossils of this animal are dated to the Aptian/Albian faunal stages (112-110 million years ago), it may have eaten flowering plants.  Indeed, this broad muzzled, 9 metre long dinosaur may have specialised in cropping small plants, close to the ground and so may have been one of the first animals to adapt to eating the earliest Angiosperms (flowering plants).

An Illustration of the Bizarre Sauropod Nigersaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view a 1:20 scale model of Nigersaurus: Dinosaur Models and Dinosaur Toys

This dinosaur was formerly named and described in 1999 and the species name honours the famous French palaeontologist Philippe Taquet who first led expeditions to Niger in search of vertebrate fossils.

The structure of the skull and neck bones indicate that Nigersaurus may have held its head close to the ground.  Some of the bones of this dinosaur are extremely delicate, some skull bones are wafer thin and the vertebrae contain a number of air sacs (pleurocoels) to help lighten them.

It is intriguing to speculate that in order to avoid competition with other Sauropods that shared its habitat, Nigersaurus may have adapted to a grazing type of feeding behaviour.  This dinosaur may have specialised in eating ground dwelling, low growing plants.  The long neck would have enabled this dinosaur to graze over a large area without having to move its bulky body very far.  This is an extremely efficient form of feeding, one advantage the Sauropods had over smaller, herbivorous dinosaurs such as the Ornithopods.  The Sauropodomorpha survived until the very end of the dinosaurs with giant Titanosaurs such as the North American Alamosaurus finally becoming extinct at the end of the Cretaceous.

New 1:40 Scale Model of Tyrannosaurus rex (Procon/Collecta Series)

New 1:40 Scale Model of T. rex (Procon/Collecta Series)

A lot has happened to the Procon range since team members at Everything Dinosaur were asked to advise on the prototype models for series one and two of their prehistoric animal model range.  From the initial six models that were introduced under the Procon banner, a whole prehistoric family of models representing a variety of Dinosauria have now been introduced.

It had always been planned to introduce a larger range of models, ones which would actually be to scale similar to the Schleich Saurus range for example. We had seen prototypes approximately 3 years ago and discussed some suggested changes particularly to the Pteranodon (Pterosaur, flying reptile) model the designers were working on. The Tyrannosaurus rex model is particularly impressive and now that the project has been completed and we have seen this new interpretation of this most famous of all dinosaurs leave the factory we can be justifiably proud of our contribution to the design process.

The New Tyrannosaurus rex Model

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To learn more about the model: Dinosaur Toys for Girls and Boys – Dinosaur Models

If a model range based on the Order Dinosauria is going to be launched then it really has to include a T. rex. However, this latest model, now marketed under the brand Collecta depicts this Tyrannosaur in a very different posture. The animal is almost bowing down and the model shows T. rex with its massive head lowered towards the ground and its strong tail sticking up behind it balance this pose. The detail is excellent and a lot of care and consideration has gone into creating an appropriate skin texture and this huge predator is coloured dark green with flashes of pale yellow showing on its underside.  The sturdy, robust jaws are wide open and the individual teeth well painted.  The attention to detail is remarkable considering the low price of the model.

Tyrannosaurus rex is depicted with vertical pupils.  These are similar to the pupils seen in modern crocodilians which can close down to a small vertical slit, an adaptation of a nocturnal hunter to be able to cope with the higher levels of light entering the eye during the day.  Vertical pupils such as these are found in a number of animals including constrictors, vipers and geckos.  These animals are all associated with living in low light levels such as rain forests or having a primarily nocturnal existence. Studies of the endocasts of Tyrannosaurs indicate that they had excellent vision, although whether they had a vertical pupil is speculation.  After all, a six tonne biped would want to know where it was placing its feet for fear of tripping over. However, it is likely that Tyrannosaurs took advantage of low light conditions such as dawn and twilight to hunt.  Modern apex predators such as lions and wolves do this.

Close up of the 1:40 Scale  Collecta Tyrannosaurus rex

Up close to Tyrannosaurus rex

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Collecta scale model of Tyrannosaurus rex is a welcome addition to the plethora of T. rex models available.  The fine detail and accurate anatomical interpretation of this fearsome beast will make this model a “must have” for most serious collectors.

Introducing Sarcosuchus – A Giant Crocodile from the Mesozoic

Sarcosuchus – A Giant Crocodile from the Age of Reptiles

Scientists continue to debate which of the crocodilians known from the fossil record was the largest.  This is not an easy puzzle to solve, the lack of articulated specimens and skull material in particular makes drawing conclusions difficult.  There are a number of contenders, the broad snouted Eosuchian Deinosuchus (Terrible Crocodile) of late Cretaceous America, the fierce Purussaurus (Purus River Lizard) from Brazil dated to the Miocene or Sarcosuchus (Flesh Crocodile) from Cretaceous Africa to name but a few.

Sarcosuchus was an enormous, heavily armoured crocodile and is regarded by many scientists as the largest species of crocodile known from the fossil record, or at least certainly a contender.  Estimates of body size and mass vary but scientists generally state that fully grown animals would have been in excess of 12 metres in length and weighed as much as 8,000 kilogrammes.  The largest species of crocodile around today is the Estuarine or Salt Water crocodile.  Adults can grow up to 6 metres long and weigh more than a tonne.

To view a model of Sarcosuchus and other prehistoric animals: Collecta Prehistoric Animal Models

A Scale drawing of Sarcosuchus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The first fossils of this huge animal were found by a French scientific expedition to Niger and the south, central part of the Sahara desert.  Some isolated plates of dermal armour (scutes) and teeth were excavated and removed for study in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  In 1964, a team of geologists discovered an almost complete skull and this was shipped to Paris and studied by the famous French palaeontologists Philippe Taquet and France de Broin.  In 1966, the French team formally named and described the species, before returning the fossil material to Niger.  Professor Paul Sereno, led further expeditions to the Niger in 1997 and 2000 and uncovered a number of new specimens including one with almost half the skeleton intact including most of the backbone.

Reconstructed Skull of Sarcosuchus

Picture Credit: Patrina Malone

An exhibition was opened in Australia, to celebrate the birth of the famous naturalist and scientist Charles Darwin.  It features a number of crocodile exhibits including Sarcosuchus.  Don’t be fooled by the enormous size of the skull in comparison to the gentleman standing in the picture.  This layout is typical of the shots seen in many magazines and newspapers to promote a museum exhibition.  The man is standing behind the Sarcosuchus skull, and although the skull is large it is not quite as big as the picture would have us believe – a sort of crocodilian optical illusion.

To read more about this exhibition: Crocodile Exhibit Opens in Australia

Reflections on Lyme Regis – Rockwatch – The Club for Young Geologists

Lyme Regis Reflections – Rockwatch the Greatest Club on Earth!

After a pleasant couple of days digging for fossils at Church Cliffs between Lyme Regis and Charmouth on the Dorset coast and participating in the Fossil Festival we get the chance to reflect on our bus-man’s holiday.

One of the great pleasures of the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival is that we get the chance to meet up with all kinds of people involved with geology, palaeontology and general science.  The festival has become a magnet for science enthusiasts from all sorts of organisations representing a myriad of scientific disciplines.

For example, whilst enjoying an evening walk back from the famous harbour with its Cobb, as featured in the film of the John Fowles novel “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”; we bumped into Sue Brown, the Chairperson of Rockwatch.

Rockwatch, is a nationwide club for junior geologists, or indeed young persons with an interest in Earth sciences.  Part of the Geologists Association, Rockwatch is a club for anyone fascinated with rocks, fossils, landscapes and minerals, giving young people the chance learn more about geology and to be a part of the world renowned Geologist Association, one of the oldest scientific institutes dedicated to geology in the world.

Based in London, Rockwatch sends out a special magazine three times a year to members, it features loads of information, stories, quizzes, puzzles… lots and lots of super stuff is crammed into each edition.  It takes really complicated science and makes it easy to understand.  For instance, if you ever want to know about Earthquakes or meteorites there is an article somewhere in the Rockwatch magazine archives which you can refer to.

Best of all, members of Rockwatch get exclusive invitations to special Rockwatch Club events taking place round the country.  If you have ever wanted to meet a real geologist or to go out fossil hunting with a professional, then Rockwatch is the club for you.

If you want to be a “Rock Star” (pardon the pun), then we would heartily recommend Rockwatch, their magazine even features the latest news on dinosaur discoveries.

To learn more about Rockwatch: Rockwatch

To learn more about the Geologists Association: The Geologists Association

Sue and her enthusiastic team had been making Jurassic landscapes, as part of the Fossil Festival, reflecting on the age of the rock strata all around them, we think that this was a very appropriate activity to set in Lyme Regis.  I am sure Mary Anning herself, would have approved.

Back to Lyme Regis – Looking for Ichthyosaur Vertebrae

Back to Lyme Regis – on the Hunt for Ichthyosaur Vertebrae

This weekend saw some of the Everything Dinosaur team members off to one of their favourite haunts, the fossil rich beaches of Lyme Regis and Charmouth on the hunt for more Lower Lias Jurassic fossils.  They were really lucky with the weather, the days preceding their trip were wet and miserable but they need not have worried.  The micro-climate of that part of the Dorset coast came to their rescue and they found themselves basking in temperatures in excess of 20 degrees Celsius. 

The trip coincided with the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival “Evolution Rocks”.  This festival is held over the Bank Holiday weekend in May and this year’s theme was naturally Darwin and Darwinism.  The UNESCO World Heritage coastline is a beautiful part of the world in which to explore evolution in action, the multitude of ammonites and other fossils that can be found on the beach make the area a magnet for fossil collectors.

Although, most of the time this weekend was spent on the beaches east of Lyme Regis (between Church Cliffs and Black Ven), Everything Dinosaur staff could not but help meeting friends in the town in the evening from the various institutions which were involved in the festival.

There were a number of organised fossil walks over the weekend with a number of local collectors and specialists taking parties out onto the beaches to search for fossils.  This is an excellent way for the uninitiated to learn more about the geology of this area and to find fossils of belemnites and ammonites on the beach.  With the guide’s local expertise and knowledge most people are able to find a fossil or two.

The Wonderful Jurassic Coast of Lyme Regis

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture shows the wonderful, but dangerous cliffs at Lyme Regis/Charmouth.  The area in the right of the picture is part of the 2008 landslip site, the worst landslip at Lyme Regis for 100 hundred years.

Our mission this weekend was to find some Ichthyosaur vertebrae, a number were picked up on the beaches east of Lyme Regis over the weekend, including one beautifully preserved neck vertebrae just a few feet from where we were looking.  It takes a while to get your eye in but with the help of a local guide most visitors to the area can take away their very own fossil.  For example, one lucky member of a guided tour found some coprolite (prehistoric poo).  This could have come from an Ichthyosaur or shark (there were fish scales in it), it is hard to identify what organism left this little package however, with a little bit of luck these are the sort of things that you can find when you scour the beaches.

Ichthyosaurs were a group of marine reptiles that were fully adapted to a life in the sea.  Although descended from reptiles that lived on land, these animals evolved streamlined bodies, powerful tails and flippers and were superbly adapted to a marine existence.  Known as “fish lizards”, Ichthyosaurs were a hugely successful group.  Originating in the mid Triassic these reptiles roamed the oceans of the world almost to the end of the Mesozoic.

An Illustration of a Typical Ichthyosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view a model of an Ichthyosaur and dinosaur toys: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

With such a large number of people on the beach, somebody is bound to find something interesting.  The team members at Everything Dinosaur, tend to get out early (checking the tide times carefully of course).  Despite many hours carefully studying the beach, no Ichthyosaur vertebrae were found by members of the team.  However, they did find some lovely specimens of pyritised Promicroceras (a small ammonite, known by locals as a “Prom”).

Ah well, better luck next time.  Perhaps the best thing to do is to choose a day in the winter after a storm with a low tide in plenty of daylight so that fossil hunting can be carried out on a slightly less crowded beach.

The View of the Beach (Charmouth looking towards Lyme Regis)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

With such beautiful Bank Holiday weather, the Everything Dinosaur team were never going to get the beach all to themselves. Sometimes, fossil hunting can be a very lonely experience, but on the Dorset coast in the lovely late Spring sunshine, this was certainly not the case.

For the first time visitor to the area taking part in an organised fossil walk is perhaps the best way to appreciate the geological importance of the area.  There are a number of excellent guides available, for example Brandon Lennon (professional fossil collector), take parties out daily on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays from Lyme Bay.  These trips take place for most of the tourist season and with Brandon’s expertise even the most inexperience fossil hunter is very likely to come away with their own little piece of Jurassic treasure.

Brandon Lennon’s Fossil Walks: Fossil Walks with Brandon Lennon

Schleich Dinosaur Models Have a Taste for Fruit

Schleich Dinosaurs Have a Liking for Strawberries

A member of the Everything Dinosaur team came across this cleverly staged photograph created by Schleich of Germany that shows a selection of their models, including some Schleich dinosaurs picking and eating fruit.

Schleich Dinosaurs Eat Fruit

Dinosaurs and other models from Schleich help themselves to strawberries.

Dinosaurs and other models from Schleich help themselves to strawberries.

Picture Credit: Schleich

It seems the farmer concerned is having his or her strawberry field raided by dinosaurs such as Velociraptor, Spinosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex.  Could vertebrate palaeontologists have got Theropod dinosaurs so wrong? Ironically, one of the biggest pests of outdoor strawberry crops are birds, which gorge themselves on the fruit given a chance.  It seems, that according to Schleich at least, these ancient relations to today’s modern Aves also had a taste for strawberries.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of Schleich dinosaur toys: Schleich Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models from Everything Dinosaur

Congratulations to Schleich on a very clever photograph.

Time to Scour the Beach

Time to Scour the Beach

A number of our team members are spending the day at Charmouth, near Lyme Regis.  The predicted dry, warm Bank Holiday weather has drawn us to the south coast and we are going to be scouting around the beach looking for Ichthyosaur bones and Ammonites.

With a bit of luck we will find some interesting pieces.  The great thing about palaeontology is that unlike other forms of science you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment, just good walking shoes, waterproof clothing and some basic tools.  At Lyme Regis we don’t bother hammering away at the nodes that we find, we much prefer to scan the foreshore to see what time and tide has produced.

Depending on the tide time tables we will probably be out on the beach shortly after 9am and spend most of the day on them.  Our intention is to cover the area from Lyme Regis to Charmouth to see if we can find any vertebrate bones, our focus will be around Church cliffs, but we will probably go along the beach to Charmouth itself.  Should be a nice day for a bit of beach combing.

Who or what was Desmatosuchus?

Who or What was Desmatosuchus?

Another unusual question posed today by email from the mother of a young dinosaur fan that had come across a picture of a very odd looking prehistoric animal in a children’s reference book.  We were asked what sort of animal was a Desmatosuchus?

Desmatosuchus (Desmatosuchus haploceras) was certainly not a dinosaur, although these animals did live at the time when the dinosaurs were becoming the established, dominant mega fauna of the late Triassic.  Desmatosuchus was an Aetosaur, a member of the Archosaur group from which the Order Dinosauria evolved.  The term Aetosaur means “eagle lizards”, as when first studied; it was remarked upon by some scientists how the skulls of these reptiles resembled birds.  All Aetosaurs discovered to date seem to have been plant-eaters, slow moving animals covered in varying degrees of dermal armour.

Fossils of Desmatosuchus are associated with the western United States and specimens up to 4 metres long and perhaps representing individuals weighing as much as 500 kilogrammes have been found.

An Illustration of Desmatosuchus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Like the majority of Aetosaurs, Desmatosuchus had heavy body armour consisting of four-sided plates running along its back, encasing the tail and the belly region.  It also had a pair of shoulder horns which were probably used to deter potential attackers.  The posture is typically semi-erect but the bones of the foot and teeth have puzzled scientists.  They are not sure whether Desmatosuchus was semi-aquatic, perhaps filling a niche in the eco-system as a form of Triassic Hippo.

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