Crocodile Sinks Teeth into Australian Dentist

Dentist Survives Saltwater Crocodile Attack

A dentist fishing with friends got more than he bargained for when he was savagely attacked by a 2.5 metre long Saltwater Crocodile.  The attack which left the dentist with puncture wounds and gashes to his upper chest was swiftly curtailed by a elbow to the throat of his assailant.

Dentist Bruce Rudeforth, from Broome (Western Australia) survived the attack from a two and a half metre long Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) which leapt into his fishing dinghy and clamped its jaws around his upper chest.  The 59-year-old, experienced fisherman was busy baiting up his lines last Wednesday afternoon, hoping to catch a Barramundi or two when the unexpected assault took place.  The attack happened in Secure Bay, an area known to be frequented by many large crocodiles, but such aggression is rarely encountered.

Dr. Rudeforth stated:

“Out of the corner of my eye, this came at me.  It bit into my shoulder and I stood up and gave it one in the throat with my free elbow – I presume that is what made it let go.”

The crocodile remained in the dinghy for several seconds and it was touch and go whether it would lunge again, according to Dr. Rudeforth.

Dr. Rudeforth After the Crocodile Attack

Picture Credit: The Western Australian

Dr Rudeforth was bleeding underneath his shredded shirt, but the encounter with this predator was not over.  After the crocodile had disappeared underwater it returned again, forcing the dentist and his fishing mate Neil Fong to defend themselves with the boat’s oars.

Dr Rudeforth added:

“With the other hand I had the outboard started and we were going backwards at a million miles an hour.”

Once the pair made it back to a bigger boat, where their three other fishing colleagues were, Dr Rudeforth was treated by his brother-in-law and fellow Broome dentist Peter Ellies.  Dr Ellies used a local anaesthetic from the boat’s first aid kit to numb the pain and stitch the wounds.

Rather than call off the week-long trip, with typical Aussie gusto, Dr Rudeforth decided to continue fishing with stitches in the wounds for several days.

He commented:

“It takes a lot to organise a trip like that, so why come home.”

Undeterred by his experience the doctor has not been put off returning to Secure Bay, but he warned other visitors that the behaviour of the crocodiles in the area may have changed.

Not long before the attack, he and the other man had caught two Barramundi and lost two others while fishing along the side of a creek.  He stated that the attack came without any warning.

We have been doing this for years and years and there are always crocodiles around.  They usually hang out at a comfortable distance, just waiting for you to make a mistake, but on this trip we had lots of episodes where they came right at us and were aggressive.”

He had one theory that as more and more people ventured into the area, they might be feeding the crocodiles in some way.

Feeding crocodiles is a very dangerous practice, he added:

“That is causing them [crocodiles] to associate humans with food.  It that’s the case, then there will be more and more of this sort of stuff happening.”

Pterosaurs and More Pterosaurs

Illustrating Ornithocheirus

We seem to be having a run of Pterosauria based articles at the moment.  No sooner has Sir David Attenborough discussed the Azhdarchidae, specifically Quetzalcoatlus northropi in his Radio 4 programme “Life Stories” and we review it, then we are asked to prepare an illustration of another Pterosaur for an Everything Dinosaur fact sheet.

This time we are concentrating on another large Pterosaur but one from earlier in the Cretaceous then the Azhdarchids such as Quetzalcoatlus and Hatzegopteryx.  We are working on a Ornithocheirus (O. mesembrinus) fact sheet to accompany the soon to be introduced Collecta Ornithocheirus model.  The difficulty with this particular branch of the Pterosaur family tree is firstly to identify what do we actually mean by Ornithocheirus.  The Pterosaur family known as Ornithocheiridae was first described by Harry Govier Seeley in 1870.  Seeley a former student of Sir Richard Owen studied a number of Pterosaur fossils found on the Isle of Wight and elsewhere in southern England.  He erected the Ornithocheiridae family as part of his attempts to classify the very fragmentary, and in many cases very worn Pterosaur fossils he was working with.  As far as we know, he was the first academic to publish a book for popular consumption solely devoted to the Pterosauria – “Dragons in the Air” published in 1901.

The Ornithocheirid Pterosaurs appear to have had an almost world-wide distribution and it is quite likely that other fragmentary Pterosaur fossils from South America, England, Africa and Australia will be assigned to this family.  It is equally likely that many fossils at the moment ascribed to Ornithocheirus species will be re-classified as more complete fossils are found.

Thanks to the ground breaking documentary series “Walking with Dinosaurs”, in which an Ornithocheirus was strongly featured, many people assume this was the largest flying animal of all time.  Indeed, large specimens ascribed to this genus have been discovered in Brazil, but most scientists do not believe that these creatures had wingspans in excess of 11 metres as seen in the television programme.  One of the largest species known at present O. mesembrinus, the species we are basing our fact sheet on probably had a wingspan no more than six metres long – still very impressive though.

The Everything Dinosaur Scale Drawing of Ornithocheirus (O. mesembrinus)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This new model should be with us shortly, it will be coloured black and the model will give the impression of being covered in fair, downy hair in recognition of fossil evidence and an indication that these creatures were indeed warm-blooded; why have insulating body hair if you are cold-blooded?  The black body colouration is based on the fact that dark colours absorb heat more quickly and do not reflect as much into the air, so if this animal needed to keep itself warm, being coloured black would have been useful.

To view the rest of the Collecta model range (Pterosaur models)  and other dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys (Girls and Boys) – Dinosaur Models

Barcelona Party Amongst the Dinosaurs

Barcelona’s Footballers Celebrate at the Natural History Museum

After their 3-1 triumph over Manchester United at Wembley on Saturday evening, where would the newly crowned kings of European football go to celebrate their win?  To the Natural History Museum in South Kensington of course, where the likes of  Dani Alves, Andres Iniesta and the mercurial Lionel Messi partied amongst the dinosaurs and other exhibits at this popular tourist attraction.

Four times winners of the European Cup, Barcelona are reported to have paid £30,000 to hire this venue for the evening, the equivalent of less than a day’s pay for their star players.  Having made Manchester United look like footballing dinosaurs in what turned out to be a very one-sided final, it seems fitting that the Barcelona stars and club officials should celebrate amongst the dinosaur exhibits and other ancient artefacts.

When asked about the unusual venue for the post-match party, a spokesman for the Catalonian club stated that Barcelona are not really about players falling out of nightclubs and wanted something which befitted the club’s standing and status.

Although the value of the Barcelona team can be measured in the tens of millions, these young multi-millionaires should feel at home amongst the exhibits as many of the specimens on show are insured for more than the players are worth.

Lionel Messi Finding a T. rex Too Much

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Perhaps Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola will set a new trend amongst the footballing elite with other football clubs choosing museums and other cultural venues to host their end of season parties.  Chelsea’s Christmas party at the V and A?

Review of David Attenborough’s Life Stories – Quetzalcoatlus

Review of Life Stories – Quetzalcoatlus

In yesterday evening’s, Radio 4 broadcast, naturalist and presenter Sir David Attenborough discussed Quetzalcoatlus (Q. northropi).  In this ten minute programme, part of the “Life Stories” series written and presented by Sir David, he talked about the discovery of the first Pterosaur fossils, how the name Pterodactyl came into scientific usage (merci Cuvier), and the finding of the fragmentary fossils of a huge flying reptile in Texas in 1971.

It was great to hear him discuss the contribution of Mary Anning and his thoughts on how Quetzalcoatlus, the name of the flying reptile discovered in Texas, might have lived.  The long stiff neck and the large, toothless beak may have been used to probe inside the carcases of dead dinosaurs.  Sir David had observed vultures with their long necks reaching inside the body cavities of dead antelopes in Africa, so he surmised that an animal such as Quetzalcoatlus  may have had a similar niche in the Late Cretaceous food chain.

The talk was delivered in Sir David’s usual elegant and erudite style, just a couple of points that our sharp-eared team members who listened picked up on.  Firstly, the concept of Quetzalcoatlus scavenging the carcases of T. rex and Giganotosaurus was mentioned.  Whilst in theory, Quetzalcoatlus could have fed on the remains of Tyrannosaurus, Giganotosaurus (G. carolini) lived in South America a long way from where the fossil remains of this Pterosaur have been found and indeed, Giganotosaurus lived millions of years earlier.

Also, although other Azhdarchidae fossil sites (Quetzalcoatlus is a member of the Azhdarchidae Pterosaur family), were briefly mentioned, there is  a debate as to whether this particular Pterosaur is the largest flying creature known to science.  Recently, the fossils of another large Pterosaur have been uncovered in eastern Europe.  This animal has been named Hatzegopteryx (H. thambema) and it may have had an even bigger wingspan.

However, these points are only minor.  It would have been good to have heard a little about Sir David’s views on the fact that until the discovery of the fossils of Quetzalcoatlus, large Pterosaur fossils were nearly all associated with marine environments, whereas Quetzalcoatlus many have lived far inland.  It was wonderful to hear how enthusiastically Sir David described watching a remote controlled Pterosaur model flying over the Dorset cliffs, as part of a television documentary programme.

Try to catch the repeat if you can on Radio 4 this Sunday at 8.45am or thereabouts.

David Attenborough and Quetzalcoatlus

Quetzalcoatlus Featured Tonight on UK Radio Programme

Named after an Aztec god, Quetzalcoatlus whose fossils were first discovered in the 1970s, may have been one of the largest flying creatures of all time.   This huge animal, with an wingspan in excess of perhaps 12 metres lived during the Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian faunal stage), and Sir David Attenborough discusses this prehistoric animal in his excellent radio series “Life Stories” tonight on Radio 4 (20.50pm BST).

This series consists of a number of personal essays narrated by Sir David, recounting his experiences during his long career as a broadcaster and naturalist.  Each episode is just ten minutes long but the nation’s most popular natural world presenter is able to convey his enthusiasm and passion for his subject.

An Illustration of the Pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view a range of Pterosaur models included models representing Quetzalcoatlus and dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

Repeated early Sunday morning, this is a programme well-worth listening to.  We shall get out our models of Quetzalcoatlus so that they can listen too.

Anomalocarids – Bigger than Thought and Part of Ordovician Fauna

World’s First Super Predator – Bigger and Longer Lasting than Previously Thought

Emerging out of the Burgess Shale deposits from British Columbia (Canada) is evidence of a remarkable marine community, indeed this famous geological deposit has yielded some of the most extraordinary fossils from the Cambrian Period found anywhere in the world.  It is from strata such as this that evidence of the great diversity of Cambrian life has been gathered – the so called “Cambrian explosion”.

One of the most fascinating creatures around during this time was Anomalocaris “odd shrimp”, a nektonic (free-swimming) Arthropod, around ten times bigger than any other animal known from that time and it is heralded as the world’s first super predator.  This animal grew to in excess of sixty centimetres long, it had two large eyes situated on stalks on the side of its Cephalon (head area) and two, large, spiky appendages that were held out in front of the animal and were probably used to grab prey items.  Underneath the head, there was a circular mouth lined with sharp teeth.  Anomalocaris was a segmented animal with flaps on each of its body segments that it undulated up and down in a wave-like motion to propel it through the water.  Scientists had thought that like many animals from the Burgess Shale, Anomalocaris was an evolutionary dead end and that these creatures become extinct sometime in the Cambrian Period around 510 million years ago.

An Illustration of an Anomalocaris

Picture Credit: BBC Worldwide/Framestore

However, previous scientific thinking has once again been turned on its head with the discovery of fossil evidence indicating that Cambrian fauna, including Anomalocarids, and giant ones at that, were alive and well and living into the Ordovician.

Palaeontologists have discovered that a group of these remarkable ancient sea creatures existed for much longer and grew to much larger sizes than previously thought, thanks to extraordinarily well-preserved fossils discovered recently in Morocco.

The Ordovician Anomalocaridid Evidence

Picture Credit: Yale University/AFP Getty Images

Peter Van Roy (now at Ghent University in Belgium) and Derek Briggs, director of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, have discovered a giant fossilised Anomalocarid that measures one metre in length. The Anomalocaridid fossils, preserved in silicate based concretions reveal a series of blade-like filaments in each segment across the animal’s back, which scientists think might have functioned as gills.

In addition, the creature dates back to the Ordovician period, a time of intense bio-diversification that followed the Cambrian, meaning these animals existed for 30 million years longer than previously realised.

Professor Briggs commented:

“The Anomalocaridids are one of the most iconic groups of Cambrian animals.  These giant invertebrate predators and scavengers have come to symbolise the unfamiliar morphologies displayed by organisms that branched off from early lineages leading to modern marine animals, and then went extinct.  Now we know that they died out much more recently than we thought.”

The specimens are just part of a new trove of fossils from Morocco that includes thousands of examples of soft-bodied marine fauna dating back to the early Ordovician period, 488 to 472 million years ago.  Because hard shells fossilise and are preserved more readily than soft tissue, scientists had an incomplete and biased view of the marine life that existed during the Ordovician period before the recent discoveries in Morocco.  The animals found in Morocco inhabited a muddy sea floor in fairly deep water, and were trapped by sediment clouds that buried them and preserved their soft bodies.

Peter Van Roy added:

“The new discoveries in Morocco indicate that animals characteristic of the Cambrian, such as the Anomalocaridids continued to have a considerable impact on the biodiversity and ecology of marine communities many millions of years later.”

The paper on this remarkable discovery appears in the scientific journal – Nature.

Messel Shales Provide Evidence of Lizard-Snake Divide

Fossil Discovery Sheds Light on Squamata Evolution

One of the most important fossil sites in the world for early Tertiary life is a large quarry area in Messel, near Frankfurt in southern Germany.  Around fifty million years ago this location was a large freshwater lake, surrounded by dense tropical forest.  The lake bed preserves the remains of plants and animals in amazing detail, preserving a record of an ecosystem dating from the Palaeogene Period.

The Messel shales are an UNESCO World Heritage site, such is their geological importance, providing evidence of the diversification of mammal genera after the dinosaur mass extinction.  This location has provided a number of very important fossils, such as over seventy fossil horses, with the largest standing only sixty centimetres tall at the shoulder.  Now an scientific analysis of one particular fossil, the only specimen found to date is helping scientists to identify when limbless lizards evolved and their relationship to other members of the Order Squamata (snakes).

Although genetic studies suggest that snakes are related to monitor lizards and iguanas, they are anatomically more similar to a group of earthworm-like creatures called worm lizards.  Now a new study helps clear the confusion, suggesting that worm lizards are related not to snakes, but to Lacertids, a group of limbed lizards found in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Writing in the journal Nature, researchers identify a 47-million-year-old fossilised lizard from the Messel shales that appears to be a common relative to both Lacertids and worm lizards.

The Beautifully Preserved Fossil of Cryptolacerta hassiaca

Picture Credit: Robert Reisz

Johannes Müller, a palaeozoologist at the Natural History Museum (Berlin) and one of the research scientists involved in this project stated that the fossil suggests:

“This was the transitionary animal, it was exactly what we were looking for.  It indirectly implies that identifying burrowing worm lizards with snakes is a mistake.”

Dr. Müller and his co-authors used X-ray computed tomography, or CT scans, to study the skull of the fossilised lizard and compare it with those of extant lizards and snakes.  They found that the fossilised lizard had a thickened, capsule-like skull with no external ear opening, similar to the anatomical structure of worm lizards.

The lizard fossil has been formally described and named Cryptolacerta hassiaca, it is less than three inches in length and is the only known specimen of its kind found to date.

Drumheller Decides to Revive Its Dinosaurs

Committee Acts to Revive a Town’s Dinosaurs

Drumheller, a town in the province of Alberta (Canada) can claim to be the dinosaur capital of that country, what with its close proximity to the Royal Tyrrell Museum and the famous Dinosaur Provincial Park with its amazing late Cretaceous fossil rich strata.  Unfortunately, some of the most famous landmarks in and around the town, the colourful concrete dinosaurs, are looking a little tired, so a committee has been set up to help organise their restoration.

The concrete dinosaurs, Sauropods, horned dinosaurs and plenty of meat-eaters are a feature of this little town and staff at Everything Dinosaur, have taken lots of photographs of these sculptures – they are a source of pride for the community and a tourist attraction in their own right with lots of tourists having their pictures taken alongside them.

Unfortunately, the harsh Canadian winter has led to the cracking and peeling of the paint on many of the sculptures, some have also been vandalised.  Recently, it was decided  that a committee of the Drumheller and District Chamber of Commerce should be put together to restore the dinosaurs back to their best and maybe even add a few more.

One of the Spectacular Dinosaur Sculptures at Drumheller

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

One of the committee members, Ed Mah stated that volunteers would be welcome to help with the restoration project.

He said:

“Our goal right now, first and foremost, is the refurbishment of the dinosaurs we have, so we are going through and making sure they are all fixed up and giving them a fresh coat of paint.  We are also looking at fundraising so we can purchase more dinosaurs.”

He went on to say that the fundraising campaign had already started, in a bid to add to the various models on display around the town.  The committee intends to erect a range of different dinosaur sculptures, from realistic ones to more cartoonish examples.

Ed Mah went on to say:

“We are going all over the board, and some of them are literally going to be art pieces.”

About twenty of the dinosaurs are already sponsored by local businesses.  These sponsorship funds are pooled for the maintenance of the prehistoric animals.  However, the current income levels are not enough to pay for all the maintenance work required.

A number of local community groups are alread involved in the dinosaur preservation project and the committee hopes to attract even more local residents to help with fund raising, creating and painting the new dinosaur sculptures.

Ed Mah concluded:

“It is exciting, it started with talking about refurbishing what we have and it grew from there.  We have big aspirations at this moment, and I am hoping we are able to pull through.”

A number of Everything Dinosaur team members have visited Drumheller as part of their duties for the company.  It is a beautiful and fascinating place and the dinosaurs are a real attraction in the town.

The Trilobite Hunt – Deep into Wales

The Everything Dinosaur Trilobite Excursion

Finally, the day arrived when we could set off to Wales in order to explore a quarry which was rich in Trilobite fossils.  This was the first time that we had visited this location and we were not to be disappointed.  The location in Powys, is actually a private quarry and permission must be granted by the owner before we could visit.  After booking into a delightful local Bed and Breakfast establishment that evening, we awoke refreshed and ready to go on our long awaited Trilobite hunt.

Fortified by an English (should that be Welsh) cooked breakfast, we set off to drive the short distance to the quarry.  Having found our way to the site and parked the van, our first challenge was to negotiate the curious sheep that quickly gathered to investigate us.

Curious Welsh Sheep Come to Say Hello

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Unfortunately, we discovered that the large plastic bucket that we use to carry our tools in – geological hammer, chisels, a plastic sheet for sitting on etc. must have been the same size and shape as the bucket that the sheep get fed out of.  They thought the Everything Dinosaur team members were about to provide them with lunch.

Once over the gate and passed the by now very disappointed sheep, we made our way to the actual fossil site.  We had been advised that Trilobite remains, particularly Ogyginus genera were superabundant and soon we all had found various specimens.  Fossils of cast pygidium were particularly common. There was no need to split many of the rocks, although splitting those amongst the scree slope proved relatively easy – just a case of striking the rock with the head end of our geological hammer at the right angle.  We even found one or two examples of Trinucleid Trilobites, easily distinguished by their over-sized cephalons.  The shales had layers of ash that were prominent in some places of the quarry, betraying this marine environment’s volcanic history – things have changed a lot since the Ordovician.

The Trilobite Site (Tile Quarry)

Searching for Trilobites in Wales

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Gloves proved very handy (no pun intended), the rocks have sharp edges and the wearing of gloves avoids cut fingers and scratches.  After a couple of hours of searching we settled down to our picnic lunch, admiring the wonderful views of the Welsh countryside as we did so.  There were no Red Kites to be seen (we had been told to look out for them), but the boggy ground seemed to be home to a number of newts that we were careful leave in peace.

A Selection of our Trilobite Finds

A selection of our Trilobite Fossils

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture shows some of our finds, the ruler and twenty-pence piece provide scale.

After a bit more searching and one or two rain showers, we decided to call it a day, we had a review of our finds on site took some more photographs and then packed up, making sure that we left no litter.  A most enjoyable day, rounded off by a visit to a superb Thai restaurant and then a bit of bat watching as we wandered back to the B and B.

Our thanks to Pete Lawrence for the pointers,  over the next few days we will sort through the fossils that we brought back and put some on display in our warehouse display cases.

We had been lucky with the weather, although we had dressed as if we were going up the north face of the Eiger (be prepared is our motto, as there is no shelter in the quarry), we only had one or two light showers to contend with.  On the way back we stopped to take a picture of the beautiful bluebells growing in profusion further down the hill.

The Wonderful Welsh Scenery

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture shows the very pretty bluebells that were in full flower, lower down the slopes.  This picture enabled us to use some of our newly learnt skills as we experiment with CS5 Photoshop.  There was an ugly telegraph pole in this photograph and we at first struggled to remove it from our picture, however this is how we resolved that particular problem.

1).  Changed status of background layer (layer_1) so that we could manipulate image

2).  Roughly highlighted offending pole using the pen tool (any selection tool would have done).

3).  When selection selected, right click – fill – then in the drop down box click on content aware, press return and hey presto the object disappears and the background is cleverly filled in around the object.

Old Hollow Tooth – Woolly Rhinoceros

Coelodonta antiquitatis – Our Favourite Perissodactyl

The origins of the ungulates (hoofed mammals) go back to the Palaeocene and this great group of mammals that includes such familiar creatures as deer, pigs, camels, horses not to mention whales and dolphins, was soon divided into animals with even-toed hooves (Artiodactyls) and the odd-toed hooves (Perissodactyls).

From this vast group of warm-blooded animals it is difficult to pick a favourite but if pushed we would say that it would be that member of the Perissodactyls – the Woolly Rhino (Coelodonta antiquitatis).  These members of the rhinoceros family may have evolved in China, but they spread right across the northern hemisphere and survived up to around 10,000 years ago.

Standing around 2.2 metres tall at the shoulder, these heavy weight grazers resemble the rhinos found in Africa today, but have a thick coat of fur and extraordinarily long horns, sometimes more than 2 metres long.

An Illustration of a Woolly Rhino

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The man we have drawn provides an approximate scale.

Named and described by the German naturalist J. F. Blumenbach in 1807, these shaggy animals had short legs, short ears (adaptations for a cold climate) and most probably short eyesight (rhinos today have poor vision).  Weighing up to 2,000 kilogrammes, with perhaps some males being even heavier these were extremely dangerous animals despite being entirely herbivorous.

There are several reasons why we like the Woolly Rhino, firstly there are lots of fossils of them, from their preserved horns and skin to their shed teeth.  The fossils of these creatures have been found all over Europe and in parts of the UK.  Secondly, these animals are often featured in movies and artwork showing Ice Age animals and thirdly, there are some super cave paintings of them provided by our ancestors.  We also love all the stories and myths that surround these animals, for example fossil Woolly Rhino horns eroding out of the permafrost in Siberia were mistaken for the giant claws of a huge bird that was supposed to live in the far north.  The natives would tell stories of this ferocious monster that could snatch up a reindeer in its terrible claws.  It was many years before the link was made between these claw-like fossils and the remains of Ice Age animals that had once roamed that part of the world.

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