All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
/2010
9 07, 2010

Herrera’s Lizard – Herrerasaurus

By | July 9th, 2010|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Herrerasaurus – Dinosaur or not?

The first fossils of this prehistoric animal were found in 1959 by a goat herder (Victorino Herrera) – and this animal was named after him.  It was not until 1988 that skull material of this Triassic prehistoric animal was found and the name Herrerasaurus formerly assigned.

Known from strata close to the city of San Juan, the same formation that yielded evidence of the early Saurischian dinosaur Eoraptor (E. lunenesis), scientist have struggled to place Herrerasaurus within the Dinosauria clade.  It as been assigned basal Theropod status.  The animal, although one of the largest terrestrial vertebrates known from the mid Triassic (approximately 228 million years ago) may not have been a dinosaur at all.  One of the diagnostic features of Dinosauria are the number of sacral vertebrae that are attached to the hip bones.  Dinosaurs have at least three vertebrae attached to the sacrum, Herrerasaurus only had two.  Three vertebrae attached to the sacrum is a trait shared between Dinosauria and some other Archosaurs, but Herrerasaurus seems to be the exception to this rule.

This animal does possess some primitive Dinosaurian features but also a number of other strange aspects of anatomy – such as the fenestra (hole) in the lower jaw and the numerous fenestrae in the skull.  The size of this meat-eater has also been the subject of considerable conjecture with estimates ranging from 2 metres in length right up to lengths in excess of 6 metres.

An Illustration of Herrerasaurus

Herrerasaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Most scientists now place Herrerasaurus in the Theropoda, ascribing it to a basal Theropod.  It lived during a time when the dinosaurs were yet to establish themselves as the dominant large terrestrial animals, only about 5% of vertebrate fossil material recovered from the mid Triassic rocks of north-western Argentina has been assigned to the Dinosauria, the bulk of the fossils found are from synapsids or other Archosaurs.

8 07, 2010

Nightmare Whale from Prehistory

By | July 8th, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|3 Comments

New Species of Cetacean Reveals Fearsome Ancestry of Sperm Whales

A mystery that has puzzled scientists for many years may have finally been solved.  In parts of the arid and desert region of southern Peru, a number of strange teeth, obviously a meat-eaters and very big, have been found by locals and scientists from time to time.  These fossils are associated with marine deposits and date from the early Pliocene Epoch, but nobody was sure what sort of animal the teeth represented.  During much of the Pliocene a considerable portion of what was to become the northern part of South America was submerged under a warm, shallow tropical sea.  A number of super marine predators are known from Pliocene deposits from this part of the world, an example being Megalodon (Carcharodon megalodon), a giant shark, so big that it could fit an adult Great White shark into its mouth.

However, the strange, fossilised teeth from Peru did not resemble the triangular and serrated teeth of a shark, there must have been something else lurking in the water, perhaps a predator capable of tackling Megalodon.

The discovery of a 3-metre long partial skull, complete with elements of the jaws and more teeth have solved this particular palaeontological puzzle.  It seems there was a giant killer whale, an ancestor of the modern Sperm Whale that swam in the shallow waters that were to become Peru.  Some of the teeth are nearly 30 cms long making them as big as the teeth of the biggest carnivorous dinosaurs.

The animal has been dubbed Leviathan melvillei (after Herman Melville, the American writer who wrote the fictional account of Moby Dick).  A description of the fossils has been reproduced in the scientific journal “Nature”.  These fossils represent the largest fossil Sperm Whale ever found, and unlike modern, extant Sperm Whales which prey mainly on soft bodied creatures such as squid and have relatively weak jaws and teeth usually restricted to the lower jaw only L. melvillei was equipped with a formidable array of teeth and was probably a hunter of other large whales, Cetaceans and even Megalodon.

An Illustration of Leviathan melvillei

Picture Credit: Associated Press

Commenting on the discovery, Dr. Oliver Lambert of the Natural History Museum in France stated:

“This Sperm Whale could firmly hold large prey with its interlocking teeth, inflict deep wounds and tear large pieces from the body of the victim.  With their large size and robust jaws, Leviathan adults were surely free from predation.”

Dr. Lambert went on to add:

“It was a kind of sea monster.  It’s interesting to note that at the same time in the same waters was another monster, which was a giant shark [Megalodon] about 15 metres long.  It’s possible they may have fought each other.”

Based on the fossils recovered from the Peruvian desert, it seems likely that L. melvillei may have been up to 15 metres long itself.

A Comparison of the Teeth with the Lower Jaw Teeth of a Modern Sperm Whale

A comparison of whale teeth

The teeth labelled A, B and C are fossil teeth from the lower jaw of the Pliocene Sperm Whale these are compared to D and E, teeth from the lower jaw of an extant Sperm Whale.  Compare these teeth to the typical, triangular and serrated tooth of a large shark in the picture below.

A Replica of a Tooth from Megalodon (Carcharodon megalodon)

Giant Shark Tooth

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This new discovery has attracted the attention of a number of institutions and academics, Anthony Friscia, a palaeontologist at the University of California (Los Angeles), commented on the fact that finds of large teeth had hinted at the existence of an ancient super predator, but without further fossils such as the skull bones, scientists were not able to pinpoint precisely what the animal was.

Calling this huge beast the “killer whales of their time, although on a much grander scale”, the palaeontologist added:

“The fact that they [the researchers] have found the entire jaw – well, almost the entire skull, is what’s unprecedented.”

Much of the original fossil material will remain in Peru, but reconstructions of the fossilised teeth will be on exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Rotterdam (Netherlands).

7 07, 2010

Going to the Movies – Did Ancient Humans Enjoy the “Cinema”?

By | July 7th, 2010|Educational Activities, Main Page|0 Comments

Did Prehistoric Man enjoy a Primitive version of the Cinema?

We live in an age where TV screens are getting bigger and bigger.  High definition, surround sound, home cinema experience, these are the modern “buzz” words when it comes to choice of a television set.  It seems that these days, at least in terms of televisions that “bigger is best”, or are the advertisers tapping into a primeval instinct held deep within the most primitive part of our brains for a feast of the senses experience when it comes to home entertainment?

A new study by a joint British/Austrian team of researchers studying rock art and cave paintings from around the world suggests that our ancestors created these images as part of a more holistic story telling experience – a feast for the eyes and the ears in the darkness.  Could this be the prehistoric equivalent of going to the cinema to sit in the dark and watch a film with Dolby sound?

Could Cave Paintings and Engravings be a form of Audio-Visual Experience?

Picture Credit: French Ministry of Culture

Carvings in rock found all over Europe dating back to approximately 6,000 years ago share common symbols and images and, what is more they tend to be drawn in the darkest, most hidden of locations perhaps suggesting this artwork was more than mere pictorial illustrations of these ancient people’s lives and environment.

Researchers from Cambridge University (UK) and Sankt Poelten’s University of Applied Sciences (Austria) state that there may be more to these pictures than just simple illustrations.

Frederick Baker of Cambridge University commented:

“The cliff engravings… in our opinion are not just pictures but are part of an audiovisual performance.  There were still no moving image but [the pictures] created sequences like in animation… this was not just a treat for the eyes but also for the ears, as these rock engravings are especially found in locations with particular echoes”.

He went onto add:

“In this sense, the rock engravings are not just static images but pictures that created a story in the mind of the viewer – just like at the cinema.”

In a bid to recreate this audio-visual experience the researchers have teamed up with Weimar’s Bauhaus University in Germany and intend to use computer technology to establish the sequence of images and animate them just like a modern cartoon.

To read a previous article exploring the relationship between cave paintings and sounds: The Link between Sound and Images in Palaeolithic Art

The images, some of which pre-date the Bronze Age, depict scenes such as fights, hunting, animals and dances.  Strangely, women are very rarely portrayed and the team have yet to find a illustration of death.

This animation project is being centred around the northern Lombardy region of Italy, a location with a large cluster of ancient cave art and engravings.  Previous studies have concluded that the siting of such drawings may have been significant.  They are often drawn in the most inaccessible parts of caves, perhaps the locations added to the experience.  Tests on the acoustics in caves also indicate that the illustrations were located in the best place to produce eerie sounds and echoes – perhaps all part of the audio-visual experience for our ancestors.

Wide screen cave painting anybody?

6 07, 2010

Digging up a Fossilised Elephant in your Backyard

By | July 6th, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Tennessee Homeowner Gets a “Jumbo” Surprise when Excavating Swimming Pool

Contractors excavating a new swimming pool for a resident of Brighton (Tennessee, United States), got a shock when they uncovered the fossilised jaw bones of an ancient elephant.

Elephants may be strongly associated with Africa today, but in prehistory this particularly diverse and widespread group of mammals were present in Europe, Asia and the Americas as well as Africa.

For homeowner Jim Leydon, approximately 2.5 metres under the area due to be dug out to become a swimming pool, was the last resting place of an prehistoric animal, not the sort of thing you would expect to find in your backyard.

Recalling the discovery, Mr Leyden commented:

“My wife called and said, your’e not going to believe it… they found a dinosaur”.

The Fossils found in the Brighton Backyard

Picture Credit: whec images

The picture shows elements of the jaw with a badly worn but still very visible molar tooth to the left of the picture.  Reports on the internet have misrepresented this find as being that of a dinosaur.  This is not the first instance of large, prehistoric animal remains being misidentified by the media.

Back in 2008, we reported on the discovery of large fossilised bones being found on a bus in Peru.  At the time these too were claimed as being “from a dinosaur” but they were most probably from a prehistoric elephant – part of the fossil smuggling that takes place in some parts of the world.

To read more about this story: “Dinosaur” Bones Found on a Bus in Peru

The jaw is definitely Proboscidea (animals with trunks) but the exact classification remains uncertain.

The animal has been tentatively described as a Trilophodon, an extinct Mastodon, a prehistoric elephant with four tusks.  No accurate date for the fossils has been determined, with estimates from two million years to as little as 30,000 years old for the remains.  The Leydon family intend to donate the fossils to the museum.

A conservator from the Memphis Pink Palace Museum was called in and carefully excavated the bones before work on the swimming pool could be resumed.  Experts at the museum have stated that Trilophodon bones have been found in Texas but this is a first for the mid-south area of Tennessee.

Prehistoric mammal fossils are not uncommon in the United States, as recently as 12,000 years ago there was an extensive and diverse array of mega fauna mammals.  However, finding the remains of a prehistoric elephant underneath your swimming pool is an exceptional discovery.

We resisted the urge to write anything about “trunks”.

5 07, 2010

Everything Dinosaurs Bedding and Matching Curtains Now Available

By | July 5th, 2010|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Newsletters, Main Page|10 Comments

Exclusive Bedding and Matching Dinosaur Themed Curtains from Everything Dinosaur

New from Everything Dinosaur, our dinosaur themed bedding with matching dinosaur curtains.  British made from 100%, heavy duty cotton these new items are a welcome addition to our extensive dinosaur range.  The single dinosaur duvet set (measuring 200cm x 140cm wide) has a matching dinosaur pillow case and the curtains (made from the same dinosaur inspired fabric), measure 135cm with a 140cm drop.

The Dinosaur Themed Duvet Set and Matching Curtains

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The material features four famous and very important dinosaurs, each one carefully chosen by our experts.  The sets are also supplied with fact sheets on the dinosaurs featured and scale drawings so that young dinosaur fans can add their own, unique finishing touches to their dinosaur themed room.

To view the Dinosaur Bedding and Bedroom Accessories: Dinosaur Bedding and Dinosaur Bedroom Accessories

The beautifully illustrated dinosaurs are Apatosaurus – chosen because young palaeontologists will know that this dinosaur used to be called Brontosaurus (we explain how this happened in the fact sheet that comes with these items), also included is Herrerasaurus, a big meat-eating dinosaur that represents dinosaurs of the Triassic and an ancestor of all the big, carnivorous dinosaurs that were to come later.  The design also features Protoceratops, known as the “sheep of the Cretaceous”, after all, what do you do when you go to sleep, count sheep or count dinosaurs!  We just had to have this all important and perhaps the most extensively researched dinosaur in our design.  Finally there is Troodon, perhaps the smartest dinosaur known in the fossil record, reflecting that clever young dinosaur fans will be able to spot this dinosaur and know exactly what it stands for and why it is important.

The fact sheets supplied with these items will help explain things for those adults who may not be as perceptive as the young palaeontologists in their family.

4 07, 2010

No News on the Dinosaur Hunting by Boat Expedition

By | July 4th, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

No Updates from the Dinosaur Hunting by Boat Expedition

Sunday, July 4th and no update available from the Dinosaur Hunting by Boat web log.  This plucky group of modern-day adventurers led by Darren Tanke of the Royal Tyrrell Museum (Alberta, Canada), were attempting to re-create the famous expeditions of Barnum Brown and the American Museum of Natural History that took place one hundred  years ago.

The team had built a special, flat-bottomed vessel that was designed to replicate the boat used by Barnum Brown and his expedition to explore the Red Deer River for signs of dinosaur fossils.  The voyagers had run into difficulties on the first leg of their epic trip, and after several mishaps they were forced to abandon the first stretch of water and move to a different part of the river system, in a bid to find calmer conditions.  Plagued by mosquitoes and with the ever present fear of becoming stranded on submerged rocks we hope everyone is OK.

We will continue to monitor the situation and post updates as and when we can.

We are keeping our fingers crossed for you guys!

3 07, 2010

Better Fortune for Dinosaur Hunting by Boat Crew

By | July 3rd, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Better Weather and Calmer Water Ahead for Scow Crew

The crew of the scow, the “Peter C. Kaisen”, after a difficult start to their epic voyage can look forward to better river rafting conditions over the next few days.  According to Darren Tanke (expedition leader), the weather is improving and the scow has been transported to a part of the Red Deer river with fewer rapids.

The latest update from the dinosaur hunting by boat web log reads:

“Morning of July 2 here now.  We got the scow pulled off the big rock, [the vessel had been stuck on a submerged rock and the scow had to be lifted off and transported to a safer part of the river].  It was a tricky lift for the crane crew but they got the job done.  We drove east and are now at Content Bridge where highway 21 crosses the Red Deer. Here and below, the river is very placid without rapids and moves at about walking speed so will be less technically challenging.  We will be going to Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park over the next two days.  Mosquitoes dreadful here.  Nice and sunny and looks like a great day for a float.

With luck we may be able to get some pictures of the crew as they continue in the footsteps of the 1910 Barnum Brown dinosaur hunting expedition.

We at Everything Dinosaur are all keeping our fingers crossed hoping that they do not encounter too many more problems.

The scenary in Alberta is truly spectacular, it is also very varied, not surprising really when one considers the size of the province.  The Rockies are truly amazing but having worked in the fossiliferous strata of the Drumheller area for me, it is the amazing “moonscape-like” landscape that was most inspiring.

The Spectacular Scenary of Alberta

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

2 07, 2010

Update on the Dinosaur Hunting by Boat Expedition

By | July 2nd, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Dangerous Water Threatens Scow, Red Deer River proving Difficult to Tame

The brave and hardy adventurers aboard the scow (flat-bottomed river vessel) called the Peter C. Kaisen have encountered more difficulties during their voyage to re-create the dinosaur hunting by boat expedition led by Barnum Brown in 1910.

The latest update from the Dinosaur Hunting by Boat web log reads:

“Another frustrating couple days.  We had Perry come and fix the scow best he could until thundershowers intervened.  After the repairs were done we went to leave and discovered we were high centred on a big rock, no amount of pushing would help.  We could spin the scow around, but not off the rock.  Hours of work and we gained 6 inches. That rock, and our obvious inexperience on this faster stretch of river (leading to the previous accidents) forces me to pull the scow out and move it downstream to a section of river with no big rocks and a gentler gradient and more placid water.  I feel it is simply too dangerous for us rookies to attempt it alone.  It looks easy when you look at the river but once you are on it it is a different story.  Later today, Dan’s Oilfield Service and others will come to our rescue and drag us up the bank or lift us out of the river and take us downstream to Content Bridge where highway 21 crosses the Red Deer River.

The 2010 expedition leader, Darren Tanke is still having problems uploading images, but we are keeping our fingers crossed for him and the rest of the team, so far at least their expedition has been very eventful.

2 07, 2010

China’s Largest Dinosaur Themed Amusement Park Opens

By | July 2nd, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Dino Theme Park Makes its Debut

China’s largest dinosaur themed amusement park – Dino Theme Park opened yesterday in Beijing (China).  The exhibition which includes many of the most important fossils to be discovered to date in China covers approximately 25,000 square metres and is just a flying reptile’s wing beat away from the Birds Nest stadium which was the centre of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The majority of the casts and replicas have been supplied by the nearby Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology which is believed to have something like 220,000 fossil specimens in its catalogue.

Curious Visitors Examine a Sauropod

Picture Credit: Sino.com cn

In the picture above, Wang Xiangyuan, the curator of the Palaeozoological Museum of China introduces the dinosaur fossils on display at the dinosaur amusement park.

According to the official publicity for this exhibition, Dino Theme Park aims to provide zero distance contact with the dinosaurs for both children and adults.  The organisers claim that “the giant simulation of dinosaurs and fossil restoration laboratories are dizzying”.

The amusement park has three main exhibition halls namely the “Return to Jurassic”, the “Ice Age Site”, and an “Exploration into the Scientific World of Dinosaurs”.

In the dinosaur inhabited artificial forest of the “Return to Jurassic”, visitors are guaranteed to experience a real time journey back to the Jurassic age with hi-tech sound and visual effects.

While in the “Ice Age Site”, giant models of extinct animals like Smilodon and Woolly Mammoth still roam about the exhibition hall to remind people of the Ice Ages.

During the “Exploration into the Scientific World of Dinosaurs”, a treasured collection of dinosaur fossils are on exhibit.

Commentators have stated that this is the first time the very rare and valuable fossils from Chinese premier palaeontological research institute have been exhibited outside the museum.  In addition, the park will set up a special section for the live show of how to repair the dinosaur fossils.  Professionals from the museum will explain to visitors the process of fossil restoration.

The park is also equipped with a 3-D cinema in which two dinosaur-featured movies imported from the United States will be on show.

1 07, 2010

Scow Party Make Slow Progress on Day 1 of Voyage

By | July 1st, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Main Page|0 Comments

Trees, Tiller Trouble and Tornadoes – 1910 Expedition Re-enactment Crew Set Off

Those plucky adventurers attempting to re-create the 1910 Barnum Brown expedition travelling along the Red Deer River in Alberta by scow (flat bottomed, river craft) have encountered some tricky situations already on their epic voyage.

The Peter C. Kaisen (the name of the scow, it being the name of a palaeontology technician at the American Museum of Natural History, one of the assistants to Barnum  Brown), was loaded onto a flat bed trailer on Monday in readiness for its journey later that day to the launch site on the Red Deer River.

The scow was launched and this exciting expedition was finally underway after many years of planning and a great deal of hard work and preparation.  Unfortunately, things did not run quite as smoothly as planned.

Here is an update from the Dinosaur Hunting by Boat web log:

“Not good news I’m afraid.  We got away OK at 3:15 yesterday, but only a couple kilometres downstream hit a bridge piling side on.  Some smashed drinking glasses and ceramic mixing bowls were the only minor damage in the kitchen.  One of the tiller support blocks was smashed but usable, I [Darren Tanke – the expedition’s leader], was able to nail it back together.  After that a leaning tree tried to swipe the tent off the scow.  A collision with the bank shattered the tiller block again, and snapped a tiller clean in two. We then had a rough landing and endured a nasty thunderstorm and we heard of a tornado in the area.  We camped on some flat land right above where we stopped.  We only made 12 kilometres yesterday.  Perry is on his way to do some repairs.  Travelling by scow is very challenging as we are discovering this the hard way.  In places it is swift (10 km/hr.) with shallow rapids, but placid for the most part so far.  We hope to continue on again later today (10 am on the 30th as I write this)”.

With every expedition there are always some “teething” problems to be encountered and overcome, the resilience of the 2010 crew is to be admired and of course, it is only by re-enacting the voyage of the 1910 expedition that  a full appreciation of the difficulties of exploring and mapping the Red Deer River area can be had.

Best of luck to everyone involved – keep going.

To read more about the scow expedition: Spirit of Adventure Lives On with Epic Voyage Along Red Deer River

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