Last Day of the Bournemouth International Centre Dinosaur Event

Last Day for Dinosaur Encounters at the BIC

Today, the 31st August, is the last day of the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) Dinosaurs Encounter exhibition.  By tonight the doors to the dinosaur exhibit will have closed for the last time and the engineers and technical experts will be working over the next few days to dismantle and crate up the various animatronic dinosaurs that have been on display.

No doubt these mechanical marvels will be making an appearance at another venue in the near future, but for the time being we have to see them packed off and the sets cleared ready for the next event to be staged at the Bournemouth Pavilion.

The Solent Hall has echoed to the sounds of Triceratops, Ankylosaurus, Oviraptors and Ornithomimids over the last few weeks but by 5pm this evening the hall will be silent as the great prehistoric animal models are switched off at this venue and the first part of the breakdown of the sets takes place.

We met lots of lovely people when we worked down at the event, it does not seem like two months ago when we were helping to open the event and meet all the journalists and hoteliers as we promoted the exhibition.  Our fossils and casts even got their very own dressing room.  This was really handy as we had somewhere safe to store them and we could then bring lots of different ones out to show the visitors.  Many thousands will have seen the event over the Summer months, all of them enthusiastically met by the helpful Bournemouth staff.

I know the management team at the Pavilion received some lovely comments from the visitors, especially all the excited young dinosaur fans who came to meet the prehistoric animals and take part in the activities organised by the Bournemouth Pavilion team.

We remember the little blind boy and his Mum and Dad who came to visit on the opening weekend.  We got out lots of fossils and replica casts and this one special dinosaur fan and his parents got to hold Mammoth teeth, T. rex claws, the skull cap of an Ankylosaurus and the lower jawbone of an adult Triceratops.  We think this made his day.  He was certainly very excited and could hardly contain his excitement as his fingers traced over the contours of each fossil.

Our thanks to everyone at the Bournemouth Pavilion who helped to make the event such an enjoyable experience for all the visitors.

Ankylosaur Tail Clubs – They had a Smashing Time

New Study adds Weight to the Tale of the Ankylosaurus Tail

When you share a habitat with Tyrannosaurs it may be a good survival strategy for herbivores to be able to look after themselves.  Ankylosaurs when in danger from a predator faced their attacker with their tail clubs swinging, this is the conclusion from a new study into the tails of armoured dinosaurs from a team of Canadian researchers.

In a paper published in the on line scientific journal PLoS One by University of Alberta Department of Biological Sciences member Victoria Megan Arbour, the tails of a number of different sized late Cretaceous Ankylosaurs are compared and their potential impact forces measured.

Scientists have speculated that the large bony clubs on the end of the tails of many different types of Ankylosaur may well have helped these relatively slow moving animals fend off attacks from bipedal predators such as Tyrannosaurus rex.  Studies carried out by British scientists a few years ago concluded that the forces generated by a large Ankylosaurus tail, swung through a lateral arc would be capable of breaking the leg bones of an adult Tyrannosaurus rex.  Indeed, the largest fully mounted Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton known to date (“Sue” in the Chicago Museum), had a broken fibula that had subsequently healed.  It has been suggested that this injury had been caused by a blow from an Ankylosaur’s tail, although the exact nature of this pathology is difficult to determine and the healing was complicated by a bacterial infection (osteomyelitis).  Such are the difficulties encountered when trying to interpret what different pathologies on a fossilised skeleton can tell scientists about that animal’s way of life.

This new study used computerised tomographic scans (CT scans) so that the scientists could examine the internal structure of the bones within an Ankylosaur’s tail.  The researchers studied the way in which the caudal vertebrae were interlocked and the structure of the ossified tendons that gave the tail its rigidity.  Using computer models and statistical analysis the researchers were able to calculate the power of a swing from a large Ankylosaurs tail and the potential damage an impact from the bony club on the end of the tail might have been capable of causing.

The team found that the tail could be moved to a 100-degree angle sideways, though vertical mobility was a bit more limited.  Being able to swing a tail club out sideways may have acted as a useful deterrent to stop an attack from a large, bipedal predator such as a Tyrannosaurus rex.

An Illustration of an Ankylosaurus Fighting with a Tyrannosaur

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks

The lead author of the paper, Ms Arbour writes in the paper:

“The gross and internal morphology of Ankylosaurid tail clubs suggests that these structures evolved for delivering forceful impacts.  Muscle scars on the pelvis suggest that a large M. longissimus caudae was present, which may have resulted in a powerful swing. Ankylosaurid caudal vertebrae are lightly constructed, resulting in a slender tail.  However, Ankylosaurids with average to large knobs [bony osteoderms on the tail end], were able to generate large impact forces”.

Using a relatively simplified model the team were able to assess the potential impact damage of a range of different sized Ankylosaur tail clubs.  The models used assumed that the swinging action of the tail was driven by the tail muscles and that the hips and powerful hind limbs of the Ankylosaur were not directly involved in generating the swinging motion.  In this instance, the simplified model very probably underestimates the impact force of this dinosaur’s tail club.  The paper discusses the possibility of hips and hind limbs being involved in generating the tail swing and concludes that Ankylosaurs probably did use their massive back sides to help generate a powerful swing.

The smaller bony clubs, assumed to have come from immature adults and juveniles were not capable of generating the impact forces required to break bone.  For Ms Megan and her colleagues, another reason for the evolution of large tail clubs may need to be considered.  As well as interspecific defence (i.e. large tail clubs used by Ankylosaurs to defend themselves from predators), these clubs may have been used for intraspecific purposes.  If the largest clubs are associated with large, mature adults the clubs could have been used in ritual fights to decide mating rights and other social behaviour issues.  The Canadian team comment on this possibility, stating that the clubs probably grew and developed as the animal’s grew and extant species such as giraffes use their necks in fights amongst males, so could the tail clubs of Ankylosaurs also be used for intraspecific contests?  The Canadian team hope to study the rib bones of Ankylosaurs for signs of trauma and injury that may have been caused by intraspecific fights.

A Schematic Diagram showing Ankylosaur Tail Structure

The business end of an Ankylosaurus

Picture Credit: Megan et al

It is interesting to compare this study on the impact forces of Ankylosaur tails with the recent study on the “sweet spot” of Glyptodonts and their armoured tails.  This work, published recently in the scientific journal the Proceedings of the Royal Society – Biology, from a team of South American researchers demonstrated that the armoured tails of Glyptodonts had evolved into very efficient and effective tail clubs with a “sweet spot” often associated with the largest tail spike, an adaptation that permitted these mammals to inflict maximum damage on any other animal that can too close.  The author’s of this particular paper compared the armoured tails of these prehistoric mammals to the precisely engineered sports equipment used by professional tennis players and such like.

To read this article: Prehistoric Mammals Anyone for Tennis?

The nature of the Sue rex injury, the badly broken fibula (if indeed the pathology does represent a fracture), is somewhat puzzling, if it is assumed that this particular injury was caused by the blow from an Ankylosaurs tail.  The fibula was broken along nearly half its length, this indicates that if this pathology was the result of a fight with an Ankylosaur the blow was not delivered very precisely, or the weapon itself was not designed for delivering a blow with concentrated force in a confined target area.  Such damage caused by a blow from the bony tail club would have been limited to the direct impact area, the trauma of the impact would not have been transferred along 50% of the length of the bone.  However, it is possible that the sort of forces capable of being generated by a large Ankylosaurus with a subsequently large bony tail club, would have been able to cause such an injury with effectively half the fibula being hit at the same time by one, massive powerful blow.

Sir David Attenborough’s Life Stories (BBC Radio 4)

Sir David Attenborough’s Life Stories – A selection of short talks by Sir David Attenborough

In this digital age with so many different forms of media it is sometimes easy to forget the importance of radio.  Whilst most of the United Kingdom is undergoing the digital revolution with television broadcast media at the moment, for radio, the change over to digital programming and all the added benefits that the transition brings has already taken place.

We have several digital radios, one in the office, others around the warehouse, even one in the dinosaur fan.  The van radio is quite a sophisticated device, it allows mobile phones and other equipment to be used by the passenger whilst providing updates on the Test match and other valuable information for the driver.

Many of us at Everything Dinosaur, have fallen back in love with the radio and for some of us, we have only just begun to realise the rich variety and diversity of radio programming in the UK.  All the automatic digital tuning stations on each set are used and at the touch of a button the listener can switch from Radio 7 (comedy, sci-fi and drama), to Radio 5, 5 Sports Extra and back again, all in crystal clear clarity.

The controllers at Radio 4 deserve a special mention.  This station, (news, current affairs and information), has always provided an excellent range of programming, the Archers (longest running soap in the country- “an everyday story of country folk”), is popular, as are the science programmes.

Over the last few weeks, the BBC have been broadcasting on Radio 4 a series of short monologues by Sir David Attenborough entitled “David Attenborough’s Life Stories”.  Each ten minute programme is a talk by Sir David on the natural histories of creatures and plants from around the world.  Broadcast twice a week (Friday evenings 8.50pm GMT) and repeated on the following Sunday 8.50am GMT), it has proved to be essential listening.  Not only is Sir David an eloquent and erudite speaker, but his love and fascination for the natural world really comes over in these short programmes.  His life long interest in nature has proved a rich and fertile ground from which to create this series of twenty talks.  He has covered a wide variety of topics, from recalling his first encounter with a South American Sloth, to musing over the discovery of Archaeopterxy.

One of his recent episodes covered the story of how he was duped into buying a pair of mating Trilobites from a local trader in Morocco.  A number of our team members have been lucky enough to travel to that country and we too have been taken in by the fantastic fossil specimens of these Arthropods that can be purchased by the roadside.  His most recent programme covered the story of the discovery of a Coelacanth and the controversy over how closely related this particular type of prehistoric fish was to the first Tetrapods.

Next weeks ten minute programme is about the Dodo.  Radio 4 are to be congratulated for creating such an informative and interesting series.  A programme narrated by a knowledgeable person covering subjects that they love and are enthused by.  Sometimes it is the most simple programme ideas that are the most effective.

Good luck to the Radio 4 production team behind these programmes and good luck to you Sir David Attenborough, may you continue to have many more adventures whilst filming the natural world, and hopefully you will commit some more stories to tape so that Radio 4 can produce a second series.

To read an article about a recently caught Coelacanth: Coelacanth caught off Zanzibar

Aussie Dinosaurs come Thick and Fast – Introducing “Zac” the Titanosaur

Australian Palaeontologist announces Discovery of New Dinosaur in Queensland

Australia is beginning to rival China when it comes to announcing the discovery of new types of dinosaur.  Hot on the heels of last month’s announcement of the discovery of two new Titanosaurs and a new Theropod (meat-eater), the Australian press is carrying reports of another exciting dinosaur discovery from down under.

An expedition has uncovered the fossilised remains of a large Sauropod at a site to the west of Eromanga, in southwest Queensland.  This area of Queensland is proving to be a real hot spot for mid Cretaceous dinosaur remains and this new find is one of a number of dinosaur discoveries made recently in the area.

To read the article about three new types of dinosaur discovered at Winton: A Trio of newly Discovered Australian Dinosaurs

The fossils are believed to represent a new genus of Titanosaur, a long-necked dinosaur that may have had dermal armour.  Preliminary examination dates the fossils to around 97 million years ago (Albian/Cenomanian faunal stages).  During this time, (mid Cretaceous), the area was covered by a shallow inland sea.  The sea is named after the nearby town of Eromanga, ironic as one of modern day Eromanga’s claims to fame is that it is the town in Australia furthest away from the sea.

Although, not the largest specimen of an Australian Titanosaur known to date, the Queensland Museum palaeontologists who studied the fossils are confident that this dinosaur is going to turn out to be one of the most complete sets of fossil bones discovered in the area to date.  Like many other palaeontologists, the dinosaur has been given a nick-name whilst the scientists and volunteers work at the dig site.  This dinosaur has been named “Zac”.

It will be sometime before “Zac” is formerly named and described, there is a lot of work to do on the delicate fossils in the meantime, however, the Queensland Museum team are confident that this particular dinosaur will turn out to be one of the most important dinosaur discoveries made in Australia.

Queensland Museum palaeontologist, Scott Hocknull, stated:

“The discoveries made this year confirm the south-west Queensland site is likely to be of great significance – not only for Australia – but for a wider scientific understanding of the age of dinosaurs”.

Other dinosaurs from this region include the primitive mid Jurassic Sauropod Rhoetosaurus , a member of the Cetiosauridae perhaps?  This dinosaur has been dated to around 175 million years ago.

A Scale Drawing of the Australian Sauropod (Cetiosauridae?) Rhoetosaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view a model of Rhoetosaurus: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

Scientists are confident that more prehistoric animal remains will be found in the area, providing a detailed insight into life down under during the mid Cretaceous.

It seems that Australia is putting itself firmly on the map when it comes to finding dinosaurs.  Now, if only they could put together a decent cricket team..

The Original King Kong – Gigantopithecus

Gigantopithecus blacki – The Original King Kong

The original King Kong film was released in 1933.  Merian C Cooper (who produced the film) along with Edgar Wallace (the writer of the screen play) wrote the story, a twist on “Beauty and the Beast” between them.  It was the pioneering special effects engineer Willis H. O’Brien that brought King Kong, the gigantic ape and the prehistoric animals that shared Skull Island to life.  The 1925 film “The Lost World” was a very big influence on the original King Kong movie.  In the novel, the Lost World, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a team of daring explorers led by Professor Challenger venture up a remote plateau and encounter prehistoric creatures.

Kong the great ape, is worshipped by the natives on Skull Island.  Kong falls for the beautiful actress that accompanies the explorers as they visit the island.  The actress is offered to Kong as a sacrifice, but the huge simian does not eat her but steals her away into the jungle.  Kong is eventually captured and taken to New York as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”.  However, the ape escapes from his shackles and meets his end on top of the Empire State Building in perhaps one of the most memorable scenes in the whole of cinema.

Giant apes the size of Kong, as far as we can tell from the fossil record did not exist, Kong was the figment of the script writer’s imagination.  The fossil record for primates and early human ancestors is actually very incomplete, although there is no credible evidence to suggest that giant gorillas roamed the Earth.  However, sometimes real life can reflect fiction.  Two years after the film King Kong was released a German palaeoanthropologist Ralph von Koenigswald purchased a very large molar from a Hong Kong pharmacy.  Animal teeth and bones are commonly used in Chinese medicine, even today.  Chinese doctors used “dragons teeth” found in remote caves in a number of traditional medicines.  Koenigswald correctly identified the tooth as a molar from an unknown, giant primate species.  He went onto name the animal Gigantopithecus blacki.

Gigantopithecus fossils are known from South east Asia (China and Vietnam), this animal lived during the Pliocene epoch but survived into the Pleistocene, before finally becoming extinct approximately 200,000 years ago.  Like Orangutans and Gorillas extant species today, the males were much larger than females.  A mature male could weigh over 500 kilogrammes and stand 3.1 metres tall.

A Scale Drawing of Gigantopithecus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Although known from a few fragments of jawbone the rest of the animal has been deduced following studies of extant species of primate.  Fortunately, for our ancestors and other hominids such as Homo erectus, Gigantopithecus was a herbivore, feeding mainly on bamboo.

Prehistoric Mammals – Anyone for Tennis?

New Research Indicates the Glyptodonts were Classy Swingers

A Sabre-Tooth Cat on the prowl for an easy meal, might mistake the slow moving, ground hugging Glyptodont for an easy target, after all, this armoured prehistoric mammal was hardly able to flee from such a predator.  However, as well as being covered in dermal body armour, strong enough to deter even the most ferocious bites, members of the Glyptodontidae had another means of defence, and a recent scientific study has provided an insight into just how effective this defence was.

A number of Glyptodont species have been named and described, many with elaborate tail spikes and clubs, some of which resemble medieval maces and other brutal weapons.  A new study, from a team of South American scientists indicates that these clumsy looking beasts were able to swing their tails and clubs with the precision of a Kevin Petersen off-drive or a Roger Federer back hand.

Physicist Dr. Rudemar Ernesto Blanco and his colleagues from the Faculty of Science in Montevideo, Uruguay conducted experiments to assess the mechanical efficiency of the various tail clubs found on Glyptodonts.  Their research, published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society Biology, suggest that just like cricket bats and tennis racquets, the tails of Glyptodonts had a “sweet spot” and this coincided with the positioning of the largest spike or part of the tail club.

This new study provides evidence that the Glyptodonts were no push overs when it came to a prehistoric pecking order.  Their tail spikes and clubs were highly adapted to deliver accurate, powerful blows on any other creature brave enough to challenge them.  These tail clubs were not just used to fend of predators, but also used to settle disputes amongst rivals, perhaps fighting over mating rights.  A number of Glyptodont fossils have been discovered with broken skulls, perhaps testimony to the power and accuracy of a rival’s tail club.

Stars of the tennis circuit or cricket know the importance of hitting the ball with the correct part of the bat, proper use of such equipment can prevent wrist injuries and ensure a tennis ball is hit with more power or a cricket ball is thumped effortlessly to the boundary.  It seems that natural selection may have led to the evolution of “sweet spot” amongst Glyptodonts.

A Scale Drawing of a Glyptodont (Glyptodon clavipes)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To see a scale model of a Glyptodon: Dinosaur Toys and Prehistoric Animals – Dinosaur Models

Dr. Blanco and his team were inspired by previous studies into the mechanics of tennis racquets and baseball bats to try to engineer a better designed instrument for the sports person to use.  A large, “sweet spot” or “centre of percussion” provides a considerable advantage.  The Glyptodonts originated in South America, perhaps the absence of large mammalian predators allowed this particular family from the order Xenarthra to grow large and evolve into many numerous forms.  The fossil record shows that Glyptodonts migrated into North America when the land bridge connecting South America to the northern part of the Americas was formed.  Indeed, one member of the Xenarthra is still spreading northwards to this day – the armadillo.

Dr. Blanco commented:

“We found in several of the large species the centre of percussion was almost at the same position of the largest spike in the tail.  These spikes were probably useful to increase the damage during a tail blow like those in the middle age spiked mace”.

Studies of smaller species of Glyptodonts carried out by the South American team indicate that smaller animals used their tail clubs in slightly different ways when compared to the larger species.  These animals probably used their tail clubs in more varied ways with less power and precision.

Asked to comment on this aspect of their research Dr. Blanco stated:

“We concluded several large species of Glyptodonts used the tail clubs mainly for powerful blows in ritualised fighting but the small species used the tail clubs also in other situations as defence against predators”.

It seems that many of these larger species of Glyptodonts (some were up to 3 metres long), were very capable of wielding their tail clubs with devastating effect.  Perhaps the hungry Smilodon had better look elsewhere for a meal.

We at Everything Dinosaur have our very own “sweet spot” for the Glyptodonts.  As a fossil group, their significance cannot be doubted after all, Charles Darwin studied them and the Glyptodon name (means grooved or carved tooth) was first used by Sir Richard Owen.  Glyptodonts are often included in Ice Age mammal box sets, although they were more associated with inter-glacial periods and warmer climates than the northern hemisphere mammal models that normally accompany them in these box sets.

We especially like the Glyptodon mother and baby soft toys.  It is hard to imagine these cute creatures wanting to hurt anyone.

Glyptodon Mother and Baby

Prehistoric Mammal (Glyptodont Soft Toys)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the mum and baby Glyptodon set and dinosaur stuffed animals: Dinosaur Stuffed Toys and Prehistoric Animals

Writing Yourself into the History Books using Prehistoric Ink

Ancient Cephalopod Ink Sac – Provides Ink for Self Portrait

Although the solid piece of a Belemnite’s skeleton (the guard) is a common find on the beaches of Charmouth and Lyme Regis (Dorset, England), finding the preserved soft body tissues of any Cephalopod is an extremely rare event.  However, such is the state of preservation at one fossil site in Wiltshire, that not only have soft tissues been preserved but scientists have been able to reconstitute the ink from the squid-like creature’s ink sac and then write and draw with it.

The fossil in question is a Belemnite, the scientists who made the discovery commented that the chances of finding such an exquisitely well preserved Belemnite specimen, one that had soft parts including an ink sac still preserved as “a billion to one chance”.

Many scientists talk about a discovery re-writing the fossil record, but in this instance the researchers were able to liquefy the ink contained in the preserved remains of a 155 million year old creature and draw the animal as it would have looked in life and even sign its Latin name Belemnotheutis antiquus under this unusual self portrait.

The word “Belemnite” comes from the ancient Greek for a dart.  The internal skeleton or guard (made from tough, resistant calcite),  is a very common find, particularly at the famous “Belemnite beds” on the Charmouth side of the Lyme Regis bay area.

An Illustration of a Belemnite

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The specimen that yielded the ink for the self portrait came from a site near Christian Malford in Wiltshire.  This location had been originally discovered by engineers building the Great Western Railway in the 19th Century but the directions to it were lost and a team of researchers from the British Geological Survey set out to see if they could re-locate it.  This is a case of real fossil detective work.  They had some original notes to go on, plus the fact that the fossil site had to be found somewhere along the Wiltshire stretch of the old Great Western Railway.  Fortunately, the team were able to rediscover this special site, and some of their subsequent excavations were filmed as part of the BBC/Open University series “The Fossil Detectives”.  The site when it was discovered in the early 1840s, was quickly recognised as being of very great importance.  A number of leading scientists in the embryonic study of palaeontology wrote papers on the specimens found at the site, including Sir Richard Owen and Gideon Mantell.

Some Fossilised Belemnite Guards (Dorset)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The pound coin provides a scale for these various pieces of fossil Belemnite guard found in just a few minutes whilst searching the high water mark at Charmouth beach.

Belemnites resembled squids and they probably fulfilled the same role in the marine food chain as many squid species do today. They had ten arms of equal length and each arm had as series of between 30-50 curved hooks that helped them to grasp prey and manipulate it towards their beak-shaped mouths. Many fossils of the marine reptiles known as Ichthyosaurs have Belemnite hooks preserved in the area where the stomach would have been. This indicates that many of these marine predators preyed on Belemnites and that they were an important food source.  Scientists have estimated that although the origins of the Belemnite family can be traced back to the Palaeozoic it was during the Mesozoic that this group rapidly diversified and expanded.  An estimated 2,000 species of Belemnite are known in the fossil record.  Despite being hugely successful in marine environments, no trace of Belemnite fossils have ever been found in strata derived from a freshwater environment.  It seems that Belemnites were entirely marine and nektonic (swimming actively).

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

Fossils of Cephalopods with soft tissue elements preserved are extremely rare.  The picture below shows a superbly preserved specimen of a Belemnotheutis spp.  The animal is facing towards the right and some of the hooks associated with the tentacles can be seen in the top right corner of the picture.  Belemnites probably swam backwards by projecting a jet of water through a syphon-like structure that was positioned under the front of their bodies.

A Belemnite with Soft Tissue Elements Preserved

Belemnite Fossil

Picture Credit: Palaeo News Files

We think the picture above, represents a Belemnotheutis spp. from the famous Solnhofen limestone deposits in Germany.

The British Geological Survey team removed a total of 240 tonnes of rock in the ten days or so they had to explore the site.  A number of extremely well preserved invertebrate fossils were found, including one of the squid-like animal that was able to yield ink from its fossilised remains.  The dark, stained area of the fossil was carefully treated with an ammonia solution which permitted the ink to be liquefied and used for the illustration.

The amazing preservation was the result of what palaeontologists call the ”Medusa effect”.  Fossilisation occurs very quickly, permineralisation is rapid and soft body parts are fossilised as well.  The soft tissue becomes mineralised with phosphatic elements and even eyes and delicate tentacles are captured by this very rare process.

Commenting on the re-discovery of the Victorian fossil site, Dr. Phil Wilby of the British Geological Survey stated:

“It’s among the world’s best fossil preservation.  It’s a squid-like creature, but it’s not like anything we have in the world today.   You really don’t imagine anything so soft could be so well preserved three dimensionally.  It still looks as if it is modern squid ink.  It’s absolutely incredible to find something like this.  We felt that drawing the animal with it would be the ultimate self-portrait”.

Self Portrait 155 million Years in the Making

Fossil ink used to make drawing.

Picture Credit: BGS

Dr. Wilby can be seen in the above photograph proudly showing off the drawing of the ancient marine animal.  When asked whether other drawings would be made using the prehistoric ink, Dr. Wilby stated that this material was so valuable that it would be very unlikely that more drawings would be made.  Part of the remaining ink sac and ink has already been despatched to Yale University in Connecticut (United States) for further, more detailed analysis.

The British Geological Survey team remain unsure as to why conditions arose at the bottom of the sea at this precise location 155 million years ago that permitted such exquisite preservation of organic remains.

Dr. Wilby stated:

“About 155 million years ago, millions of these animals were dying in this precise area.  We don’t know why that is.  In normal circumstances, the decomposition process means only the hard parts of animal are preserved, such as the bones, shell and teeth.  The odds of this find are easily a billion to one and probably much greater”.

Such fossils can tell scientists much more about these strange, squid-like creatures than the rostrum or phragmocone remains.  The fossilised soft tissue once studied will enable scientists to discover whether this particular Belemnite was a fast or slow swimmer by analysing the structure of the preserved muscle fibre impressions.

More than twenty of these very special fossils have been removed from the site and added to the British Geological Survey collection at Nottingham.  It is hoped that over the next few months more data on these extinct creatures will be obtained as the fossils are prepared and studied under laboratory conditions.

One thing is for sure, a Belemnite has literally managed to write its name in the fossil record.

Mammoth Tooth Found on Golf Course

Mammoth Tooth Found on Golf Course

Golfers may be used to having to avoid bunkers and water hazards but having to ensure they miss the remains of a prehistoric animal on the course is certainly a bit unusual.  The members at Morrison Lake Country Club in Saranac, Michigan will be facing this prospect after a 4 kilogramme Mammoth tooth was found in a small stream on their golf course.

A sharp eyed groundskeeper spotted the fossil and brought it to the attention of the golf course owner.  After an examination, the strange object was confirmed as being the tooth of a Mammoth and that it would be at least 10,000 years old.  Teeth of such creatures can be found washed out of Quaternary aged gravels and do turn up in some unusual places.  However, the groundskeeper believes that other elements of the skeleton including parts of the tusk and vertebrae may also be present.

It seems that part of the golf course may have to be closed in the near future to allow palaeontologists to have a thorough examination of the area.  Think they will need more than a sand wedge to extricate Mammoth remains.

Triassic Dinosaur Footprints Found up a Mountain in Switzerland

Evidence of Huge Triassic Carnivore Found up a Swiss Mountain

Switzerland might be more famous for cuckoo clocks and Swiss army knives but it is gaining a bit of a reputation as a hot spot for Triassic dinosaur remains.  For example, back in 2007 the discovery of a huge bone bed of Plateosaurs was announced by scientists from the University of Bonn.  The site in question is regarded as the largest congregation of dinosaur bones ever found in Europe.

To read more about the bone bed: Huge Bone Bed found in Switzerland

A team of researchers from the Natural History Museum in Basel have found a set of three-toed dinosaur footprints, half-way up a mountain.  The footprints, believed to be from a bipedal, Theropod dinosaur are some of the largest footprints of their kind ever found in Europe.  The tracks indicate that approximately 210 million years ago, this area of Europe was stalked by a large predatory dinosaur, perhaps more than 6 metres long.  Evidence of such a large, carnivorous dinosaur from such ancient sediments has caused scientists to re-think the evolution of the Theropod lineage, footprints of this size are known from the early Jurassic but not from the late Triassic.  This indicates that large meat-eating dinosaurs evolved earlier than previously thought.

During the Triassic, Switzerland was part of a huge landmass in the northern hemisphere called Laurentia, this part of the world was a coastal plain and a number of important Mesozoic fossils have been found in the country, but never before has evidence of such a large meat-eating dinosaur been discovered.  The footprints measure up to 40cm long and indicate a very large carnivorous dinosaur, perhaps exceeding Liliensternus, a late Triassic carnivore, a member of the Coelophysoidea whose fossils have been found in Germany and France.

The footprints were found at approximately 3,300 metres on a mountain in Ela Nature Reserve.  During the late Triassic this part of the world had a tropical climate and it seems that the footprints were made when this dinosaur walked across a shallow area of salty water.  The prints were fossilised and then over millions of years geological pressure forced the strata to buckle and fold forming the Alps. The prints are difficult to spot, they are only visible when direct sunlight does not shine on them, and to see them tourists will have to endure an eight hour hike.  Hopefully, casts will be made and these will be put on display at a local museum and visitor centre.

A Picture of one of the Fossilised Footprints

Picture Credit: Basil Thüring, Basel Natural History Museum (Basel)

The three-toed print can be just made out in the centre of the photograph.  As trackways have been discovered (a set of fossil footprints), the Swiss scientists hope to calculate how fast this dinosaur was moving.  Other dinosaur footprints are known from this area but they are all herbivores, most likely Prosauropods such as Plateosaurus.

It is impossible to state precisely what sort of Theropod dinosaur made these footprints.  It could be a very large Coelophysid or perhaps a primitive Ceratosaur.  The fossil record for meat-eating dinosaurs of the late Triassic is particularly poor.

If it was a crested meat-eater it may have resembled a Liliensternus, but at this time this is pure speculation.

An Illustration of Liliensternus

Liliensternus Dinosaur Drawing

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view a model of Liliensternus: Dinosaur Models for Girls and Boys – Dinosaur Toys

Pterosaur Locomotion – New Evidence to support a Quadruped Gait

More Evidence to support a Quadrupedal stance in Pterosaurs

The Pterosaurs are an extinct group of flying reptiles.  Known from the fossil bearing strata dating from the Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous, these bizarre creatures were the first truly diverse and successful flying vertebrates (not withstanding one or two genera of Permian gliders).  The wings of these strange reptiles were formed out of skin that stretched from the body over the forelimbs and were supported by an elongated fourth digit.

For many years scientists have debated the aerial capabilities of these flying reptiles.  Studies of endocasts of braincases and papers written on these animal’s ability to balance have been published and many researchers now believe that these animals were very capable fliers.  However, whilst graceful and fully at home whilst airborne, how these animals moved around on the ground has long been debated.  It has been argued, almost since the first Pterosaur fossils were studied in the 18th Century, that these animals were clumsy on land.  Some scientists have proposed that these animals had a bipedal stance (especially the larger Pterosaurs such as the Late Cretaceous Azhdarchids), whilst others have proposed a quadrupedal stance.

Ichnologists (scientists who specialise in the study of footprints and tracks), have found a number of Pterosaur trackways.  A paper was published recently on a set of tracks made by a large Pterosaur and preserved in late Cretaceous strata in Mexico.  These indicate a quadruped gait and stance.  This evidence is supported by trace fossils from perhaps the best preserved Pterosaur trackway site in the world, that found in the late Jurassic limestone deposits of Crayssac in south-western France.

A number of Pterosaur tracks have been identified in the Crayssac site.  Some scientists have argued that previously described Pterosaur trackways may actually be Crocodilian but the absence of a tail drag and five digit impressions at the French location suggest that the majority of the trackways ascribed to various types of Pterosaur have been accurately described.

A number of different sized and different length trackways are known from this region.  They indicate the presence of a number of different types of Pterosaur in the environment at the time.  The trackways were made in shallow, inter-tidal water and some of the tracks are several metres in length.  Crucially, the tracks indicate a quadrupedal gait, and, surprisingly measurements taken by French scientists indicate that some of these Pterosaurs were capable of moving quite quickly when on the ground.  How these animals took off, or landed has yet to be determined, but it is suggested that these graceful reptiles were capable of touching down or taking off in a similar fashion to modern birds.  Some of the footprints indicate that certain species had webbed feet, an adaptation to their marine environment.  Perhaps these animals filled an ecological niche similar to extant Pelicans of today.

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