Top Ten Dinosaur and Fossil News Stories of 2009

Another year gone by, my word, the Holocene seems to be whizzing by.  Anyway, it is that time of year when we reflect on all the amazing dinosaur and prehistoric animal discoveries and news articles that we have written about over the last year.  There are so many to choose from, we have tried to write an article or post up a picture everyday over the last twelve months or so.  However, we have carefully studied the blog site’s statistics and we have produced a list of the top ten most popular news stories that we published in 2009 – a sort of top ten of dinosaur and prehistoric themed articles.

So here it is, in the traditional countdown from number ten to the top spot:

10). Pterosaurs – The Flying Mystery – New Evidence

An article on that very popular but very mysterious group; the Pterosaurs starts our top ten countdown, we published an article providing some information on the work of a team of researchers from Bristol University and University College (Dublin) on the position of the pteroid bone.  The position of the pteroid plays a significant role in determining the flight characteristics and capabilities of these flying reptiles.

To read this article: How Pterosaurs Flew – New Research

9). Tiny Canadian Dinosaur Hints at Reptilian not Mammalian Predatory Role

Alberta (Canada) pops up in our prehistoric animal news story top ten, with an article published by scientists in association with the University of Calgary regarding the discovery of the smallest dinosaur known from North America.  Hesperonychus, a tiny Dromaeosaur believed to be closely related to the Chinese dinosaur Microraptor gui an animal so small that it could quite easily have perched on the palm of a child’s hand.  Famous palaeontologist Phil Currie and his co-author, Dr. Nicholas Longrich postulate on the idea that small Theropod dinosaurs filled the ecological niche of tiny predators in the Mesozoic, the Cretaceous equivalent of the stoats and weasels we see today.

To read the article on Hesperonychus: Tiny Canadian Dinosaur Hints at Reptilian not Mammalian Predatory Niche

8). Life on Mars?

We write articles on the global search for new prehistoric animal species, but an article featuring the search for extraterrestrial life published in early December flies into our top ten news stories of the last year.  The development of new technologies and research techniques has enabled scientists to examine in great detail the meteorite from Allen Hills with its evidence of micro-fossils, indicating that primitive life may have existed on Mars.

To read more about the latest research on the Martian meteorite: Life on Mars? New research into potential Microscopic Fossils on Martian Meteorite

7). A year of Dinosaur Auctions – Pop over to Paris for a Bargain

Once again this year, we have featured a number of news stories about dinosaur and other fossil sales.  Whether writing about “Samson” the robust T. rex that went up for auction, or the sale of duckbilled dinosaurs and other Ornithischians, there have certainly been a few opportunities to grab yourself a relic from prehistory over the last twelve months.  In at number seven is an article written about an auction of prehistoric animal fossils and other artefacts that took place at Christie’s in Paris.  The article published in April, detailed the auction of a number of rare items, including the remains of Psittacosaurus, the reconstructed jaws of Megalodon and an entire Cave Bear skeleton, all going under the hammer.

To read more about the Paris auction: Pop to Paris to Pick Up a Prehistoric Relic

6).  Girl Finds Dinosaur Bone from the Mid Cretaceous

Always a pleasure to read about dinosaur discoveries, especially when finds are made by people who would not regard themselves as professionals or even gifted amateurs.  An article published in November gives hope to anyone who has ever wandered along a road cutting or turned over a few rocks on a beach in the hope of finding a dinosaur fossil.  For young Gabrielle Block a trip with her family to the Laurel Dinosaur Park in Maryland (USA), proved to be memorable as she unearthed her very own dinosaur fossil.  Believed to be part of the caudal vertebra (tail bone) of a Dromaeosaur, this fossil has been dated to around 100 million years ago.  It has been sent to the Smithsonian Institute for further analysis.

To read more about Gabrielle’s discovery: Girl Finds Dinosaur Bone from the Mid Cretaceous

5).  Titanoboa – Huge Prehistoric Snake

Crashing into the top five comes a story straight out of a Stephen King novel.  Scientists have described the fossil remains of a giant, prehistoric snake that lived in South America.  Fragmentary fossils found as a result of mining activity in northeastern Columbia have led to the naming and describing of a new genus of enormous constrictor-like snake called Titanoboa.  At an estimated 15 metres in length this colossal animal was the length of a school bus and probably weighed as much as an adult Bison.

An Artist’s Impression of Titanoboa

Picture Credit: Jason Bourque

To read more about this discovery: Titanoboa – Huge Snake of the Palaeocene Epoch

4).  How did Liopleurodon Get its Name?

Those fierce marine reptiles; the Pliosaurs make two appearances in the top four of our news stories of the year.  It seems that the likes of Liopleurodon and Kronosaurus are as popular as ever and the number four in our list of the most read and popular articles over the last twelve months describes how Liopleurodon got its name.  It seems that old “smooth-sided tooth” remains a favourite with this article written in March appearing in our top five, and we are looking forward to introducing a new Liopleurodon scale model in a few months time.

To read more on Liopleurodon: How did Liopleurodon get its Name?

3).  T. rex a “Kitten” Compared to Dorset Sea Monster

When we write an article about a fierce carnivore that could have seen off a Tyrannosaurus rex, we are pretty confident about attracting lots of page views and readers.  This article about the discovery of the huge jaw bones of a Pliosaur on the “Jurassic Coast” of Dorset comes in at number three.  The jaws, at something in excess of 2.4 metres indicate a beast of between 10-16 metres in length.  The fossils have been recovered from some Kimmeridgian aged strata and it is hoped that more remains of this huge creature may be found in the future.

A Picture of the Jaws of the Unnamed Pliosaur

Picture Credit: Dorset County Council

To read more about this Jurassic Pliosaur: T. rex a “Kitten” compared to Dorset Sea Monster say Experts

2).  World’s Oldest Spider’s Web found Entombed in Amber

The Arthropods enter our top ten at number two, with this amazing story published in November about the discovery of ancient spiders silk strands in a piece of amber (fossilised tree resin).  An amateur palaeontologist, looking for dinosaur fossils on a beach along the Sussex coast found a 140 million year old piece of amber that contained the preserved remains of spider silk.  Scientists have claimed this to be the oldest spider’s web discovered to date.

A Close up Photograph of the Silk Preserved in the Amber Nodule

Picture Credit: National Pictures

Scientists were able to analyse the contents of the amber, by using a technique called microscopic imaging. This involved slicing the amber into very thin slices then using sophisticated imaging techniques to reveal its contents.

To read more about this amazing discovery: World’s Oldest Spider’s Web found Entombed in Amber

1).  Dakota – New Discoveries from the Dinosaur Mummy

Fittingly for a blog called “Everything Dinosaur” our most popular article published this year concerns the latest information that has been obtained from the study of “Dakota” a superbly preserved Hadrosaurine dinosaur.

An article featuring the work of a team of scientists led by researchers from the University of Manchester, England, about the identification of preserved organic molecules in the skin of a dinosaur that died approximately 66 million years ago makes it to our top spot for 2009.

The beautifully preserved fossil of a large, herbivorous duck-billed dinosaur, a Hadrosaurine (Edmontosaurus) has been the subject of a National Geographic documentary as the scientists tried to understand what processes had taken place leading to such detailed preservation.

In a paper published in the prestigious scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the team report that the dinosaur’s soft tissues were prevented from decay as it was buried quickly by fine sediments and the fossil was sealed in a mineral cast.  The lack of oxygen helped the preservation process as the soft tissues reacted with the minerals in the sediment to form a kind of protective seal around parts of the fossil leading to a remarkable state of preservation.  Over the last few years, we have featured the research on this incredible fossil as the dedicated team of scientists continue their analysis of this long dead Ornithischian.

In an article we printed back in July, the scientific team reported finding traces of the original organic matter of the dinosaur mixed up with minerals formed during the preservation process.  This amazing fossil contains microscopic, cell-like structures although the proteins that made them have long since decayed.

A Picture of Preserved Dinosaur Skin in Situ

Picture Credit: Xinhua/Reuters

To read more about this fascinating work: Amazing Dinosaur Mummy Yields more Secrets

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