All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//August
21 08, 2013

Study of Neanderthal Hand Axes Suggests Two European Neanderthal Cultures

By | August 21st, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Design of Hand Axes Reveals Distinctive Neanderthal Cultures

A study by a postgraduate researcher at the University of Southampton has found that Neanderthals were more culturally complex than previously acknowledged.  Two cultural traditions existed among Neanderthals living in what is now northern Europe between 115,000 to 35,000 years ago.  Dr Karen Ruebens from the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins (CAHO) and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council examined the design of 1,300 stone tools originating from eighty Neanderthal sites in five European countries; France, Germany, Belgium, Britain and the Netherlands.

Her investigations uncovered new evidence that two separate hand axe traditions or designs existed – one in a region now spanning south-western France and Britain – the other in Germany and further to the East.  In addition, she found an area covering modern day Belgium and the Netherlands that demonstrates a transition between the two.  Two separate hand axe traditions or designs that have been identified by this analysis are, firstly the Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition (MTA on the map below), in a region now spanning south-western France and Britain and the Keilmessergruppen Tradition (KMG on the map below), in Germany and further to the East.

Evidence for Regionality in Neanderthal Cultures

Distinct cultures identified with a transitional zone.

Distinct cultures identified with a transitional zone.

Picture Credit: Dr. Karen Ruebens

The map above marks the approximate boundaries of the different cultures with a transitional zone which features Mousterian with Bifacial tools (marked MBT) between the two distinct tool making cultures.  Please note, the English Channel did not exist during the time of the Neanderthals.  Low sea levels at this time in Earth’s history permitted the United Kingdom to remain part of the European mainland, the UK did not become an island until about 8,000 years ago.

Dr. Ruebens commented:

“In Germany and France there appears to be two separate hand axe traditions, with clear boundaries, indicating completely separate, independent developments.  The transition zone in Belgium and Northern France indicates contact between the different groups of Neanderthals, which is generally difficult to identify but has been much talked about, especially in relation to later contacts with groups of modern humans.  This area can be seen as a melting pot of ideas where mobile groups of Neanderthals, both from the eastern and western tradition, would pass by – influencing each other’s designs and leaving behind a more varied record of bifacial tools.”

The University of Southampton research has revealed Neanderthals in the western region made symmetrical, triangular and heart-shaped hand axes, while during the same time period, in the eastern region, they produced asymmetrically shaped bifacial knives.

This research has been published shortly after another paper shed further light on the culture of Neanderthals.  A study of Neanderthal bone tools found in France and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) suggested that Neanderthals developed specialised tools for working animal skins many thousands of years before such tools became associated with our own species.

To read more about this research: Neanderthals Made the First Specialised Bone Tools in Europe

Dr Ruebens went onto add:

“Distinct ways of making a hand axe were passed on from generation to generation and for long enough to become visible in the archaeological record.  This indicates a strong mechanism of social learning within these two groups and says something about the stability and connectivity of the Neanderthal populations.  Making stone tools was not merely an opportunistic task.  A lot of time, effort and tradition were invested and these tools carry a certain amount of socio-cultural information, which does not contribute directly to their function.”

The study’s extensive analysis also shows other factors which could have influenced hand axe design, such as raw material availability to Neanderthals, the function of their sites, or the repeated reuse and sharpening of tools – did not have an impact in this instance.  This research provides a new perspective on the regionality of the Neanderthal population of western Europe.

Examples of the Different Types of Hand Axe

Examples of hand axes used in the study.

Examples of hand axes used in the study.

Picture Credit: Dr. Karen Ruebens

Key to the hand axes in the picture above:

Left: Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition hand axes, from top to bottom – cordiform hand axe from Le Moustier, France; triangular hand axe from St. Just en Chaussée, France; hand axe from Lynford, UK (Karen Ruebens). Right: Keilmessergruppen Tradition hand axes, from top to bottom – keilmesser from Sesselfesgrotte, Germany; keilmesser from Abri du Musée, France; faustkeilblatt from Königsaue, Germany.

Intriguingly, this study suggests that those Neanderthals that went on to live in Britain, have closer affinities to those Neanderthals from south-western France than they do to Neanderthal populations from Germany, central and western France as well as central Europe.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of the University of Southampton in the compilation of this article.

20 08, 2013

Papo Dimetrodon – A Video Review

By | August 20th, 2013|Everything Dinosaur Products, Everything Dinosaur videos, Product Reviews|3 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Reviews the Papo Dimetrodon Model

The last of the 2013 model releases in Papo’s prehistoric animal range of replicas is the Dimetrodon.  It has been worth the wait, as this is a wonderful model of this Permian predator.  Dimetrodon may have existed long before the Dinosauria evolved, but for some reason this sail-backed reptile is synonymous with dinosaur model collections.  Papo, as a French company refer to their range of prehistoric animal replicas as “Dinosaures”, this can be a little confusing as it now includes a mammal-like reptile, one that is only very distantly related to that part of the reptile family tree that gave rise to the dinosaurs.

Team members at Everything Dinosaur have made a short video review of the model.  In this video, it lasts around 5 minutes, we look at the model in detail, highlight some features and discuss fossil evidence that relates to the Dimetrodon genera.

Everything Dinosaur’s Video Review of the Papo Dimetrodon Model

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Earlier in the year, Papo added a Carnotaurus and a Woolly Rhino model replica to their prehistoric animal model range.  Only one of the models introduced this year is actually a dinosaur.  It is good to see the design team at Papo working on a variety of prehistoric creatures.  We know that plans are progressing well with regards to new model introductions for 2014, from the reviews we have received so far for the 2013 models, Papo will have to work hard to maintain their high standards.

Papo models available at Everything Dinosaur: Papo Models

19 08, 2013

Fruit Eating Crocodiles

By | August 19th, 2013|Animal News Stories|0 Comments

New Study Shows that a Number of Crocodilians Eat Fruit

They may have a blood thirsty reputation, after all, a number of species are man-eaters and all crocodiles have strong jaws and a powerful bite but a new study has revealed that a significant proportion of crocodilians eat fruit.  Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) consume fruit as does the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), both species are dangerous and are known to attack people..  Surprising revelations, but it turns out that these reptiles are not entirely carnivorous.  In a study by the Wildlife Conservation Society, one that no doubt involved studying lots of crocodile poo as well as reviewing a substantial amount of literature, it seems that more than dozen crocodile species enjoy an occasional taste of fruit to go along with their normal diets of fish, mammals, amphibians, other reptiles and birds.

This research, which has been published in the academic publication the Journal of Zoology,  provides new insight into the possible role that crocodilians, some of which have large territories, may play in forest regeneration through digesting and passing seeds from fruits.  Some seeds and nuts are regurgitated whilst others pass through the digestive tract.  Those seeds that do and get deposited after being passed through a crocodile’s stomach and intestines, even get supplied with their very own nutrient rich pile of dung.  Chemical and mechanical scarification of seeds probably occurs in the stomach, but what effects these processes have on seed viability is unknown. Because crocodilians have large territories and undertake lengthy movements, seeds are likely transported well beyond the parent plant before being voided.  Little is known about the ultimate fate of seeds ingested by crocodilians, however, deposition sites could prove suitable for seed germination.

Surprising Insights into the Diets of Crocodilians

American Alligators eat fruit.

American Alligators eat fruit.

The researchers looked at eighteen species of crocodilian ranging from the American alligator to the ferocious Nile crocodile and found thirteen of the species consumed some form of fruit and vegetable matter including a variety of berries, legumes, nuts, and grains.  Some of the plant material ingested, may have been involuntary, incidental and as a consequence of capturing and eating herbivores, however, evidence was gathered to show that plant matter was deliberately consumed and occasionally in surprisingly large quantities.  Despite having remained virtually unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs, much remains to be learned about how crocodilians process carbohydrates and other plant-based nutrients.  Fruit eating and the consumption of plant matter must yield some nutritional rewards for crocodilians.

Seed dispersal by reptiles is known as saurochory and it had been thought that these carnivores were incapable of digesting vegetable proteins.  However, evidence of fruit eating (frugivory), was found in more than seventy percent of the species for which there was dietary information available.  Thirty-four families and forty-six plant genera were consumed by crocodilians, the majority were fleshy fruits, how crocodiles find fruits to consume is poorly understood, but crocodiles probably find plant food by a combination of airborne and waterborne cues.  Large fruits falling into water and making a splash may also prompt crocodiles to investigate the disturbance and feed.

Crocodilians – Evidence Suggests That They Eat Fruit

Five-a-day for crocodiles?

Five-a-day for crocodiles?

Commenting on the research, lead author Steven Platt of the Wildlife Conservation Society stated:

“Although underreported, fruit eating appears widespread among crocodilians.  Given the biomass of crocodiles in many subtropical and tropical wetlands and their capacity for ingesting large numbers of fruits, we consider it likely that crocodilians function as significant seed dispersal agents in many freshwater ecosystems.”

A spokes person from Everything Dinosaur suggested that seed dispersal could have been a role carried out by prehistoric crocodiles.  During the Cretaceous, Crocodyliformes and even Champsosaurs could have carried out a similar function.

The spokes person said:

“This study shows that more than half the crocodilian species alive today consume fruit and other vegetable matter, it just goes to show how remarkable these reptiles are and how important these apex predators might be to the maintenance of diversity of both fauna and flora in their habitats.”

18 08, 2013

Tracing the Origins of the Multituberculates

By | August 18th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Earliest Complete Fossil of Multituberculate Found

The Mesozoic might be referred to as the “Age of Reptiles” but scurrying around the dinosaurs was a very wide variety of early mammals, descendants of which are familiar to us as placentals, monotremes or marsupials.  The problem with studying primitive mammal fossils from the Mesozoic is that for much of the time when dinosaurs roamed, mammals remained small and their delicate, light bones did not fossilise well.  The study of early mammal specimens is exceptionally difficult due to the paucity of fossil remains.  Any small mammal that died, was likely to be scavenged long before fossilisation could possibly take place.  Much of what we know about Jurassic and Cretaceous mammals, for example, comes from the study of faecal remains (coprolites).  Indeed, many mammals lived in environments where fossilisation was very unlikely to occur.

The remains of mammals either hunted and killed or scavenged would sometimes be left in droppings and these could perhaps fossilise  thus preserving the undigested remains of the animal.  The fossil record of small mammals is thus made up mostly of fragments of jawbones, and teeth and it is from these tiny remains that palaeontologists have been able to piece together the story of mammalian evolution.

However, a team of researchers writing in the academic journal “Science” have published a report on a 160 million year old fossil multituberculate, found in China.  This is one of the earliest examples of a multituberculate mammal known to science and indicates that these small, chisel-teethed creatures existed for over 125 million years, making them the most successful mammalian group in terms of longevity.

The New Fossil Discovery (Rugosodon eurasiaticus)

160 million year old multituberculate fossil

160 million year old multituberculate fossil

Picture Credit: University of Chicago and Chinese Academy of Sciences

The fossil of Rugosodon eurasiaticus is preserved in two shale slabs in part (left) and counterpart (right).  The animal is estimated to have weighed 80 grammes when alive.  The sediments at the site of discovery are lake sediments with embedded volcanic layers.  The fossil assemblage of Rugosodon also includes a number of feathered dinosaur and pterosaur remains.

The distinctive of multituberculate teeth have tiny bumps on the molars, similar in habit and size to today’s rodents, these furry creatures were probably the most abundant mammal around during the time of the dinosaurs.  Although, a very successful group, their fossil remains are extremely fragmented, but now scientists have a beautifully, near complete specimen to study.

Commenting on the discovery, which was made in the finely grained strata of Liaoning Province (China), Professor Zhe-Xi Luo (University of Chicago) stated:

“Now we finally have a compelte skeletal fossil that allows us to paint a coherent picture of the evolutionary origin of these prolific and important ancient mammals.”

The animal has been named Rugosodon eurasiaticus, the slab and counter slab of the fossil specimen have allowed palaeontologists to examine some of the anatomical adaptations that may have helped this group become so successful. For instance, scientists were already aware that around sixty-five million years ago, there were a number of multituberculate species that could hyper extend their ankles.  This would have made them very fast and agile.  The remains of R. eurasiaticus reveal mobile and flexible ankle bones too, although the fossil is nearly one hundred million years older.  According to the research team, the flexible ankles and its small size could have helped this group of early mammals adapt to a wide range of environmental niches, including tunnel digging and living in trees.

Scurrying Around a Jurassic Lakeside

An illustration of an ancient mammal.

An illustration of an ancient mammal.

Above an illustration of R. eurasiaticus.

Picture Credit: University of Chicago/April Isch

By the dental features, Rugosodon eurasiaticus closely resembles the teeth of some multituberculate mammals of the Late Jurassic of Western Europe, suggesting that Europe and Asia had extensive mammal faunal inter-changes in the Jurassic.

Examination of the small teeth preserved in the delicate jaws of this seventeen centimetre long specimen indicate that it was an omnivore, probably hunting at night along the large lakes of this part of Jurassic China, catching worms, insects, amphibians as well as eating ferns and mosses.  This specimen is important as it suggests that later herbivorous multituberculates were descended from omnivores.

Professor Luo added:

 “Essentially, multituberculates were the first important mammal group to occupy an herbivorous niche.  They were able to exploit a part of the ecosystem that was not accessible to many other vertebrates, including other Mesozoic mammals.  This superb feeding function, together with versatile locomotor adaptations, explains why multituberculates were so successful and diverse.  Now we have a sense of what they started off with, thanks to the discovery of Rugosodon.”

17 08, 2013

Step Forward the Pachyrhinosaurs – Stars of Forthcoming Dinosaur Film

By | August 17th, 2013|Dinosaur Fans|0 Comments

 Details of the Plot of the Eagerly Awaited “Walking with Dinosaurs in 3-D”

The film “Walking with Dinosaurs in 3-D” is due to have its premier on December 20th this year, team members at Everything Dinosaur have reviewed the trailer and now we can reveal the basic storyline. Get ready to join a herd of Pachyrhinosaurs on their long migration and battle for survival in the Late Cretaceous.  The film, which has involved the BBC and a number of other commercial partners, features the stories of three Pachyrhinosaurs, Patchi, his brother Scowler and a female called Juniper.  From the hazards of hatching through to surviving into adulthood and the challenges of becoming herd leader, the movie features a host of CGI created prehistoric animals that lived in North America in what is termed the Maastrichtian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous.

Three species of Pachyrhinosaur are currently recognised, the first of which P. canadensis was named and described back in 1950.  A member of the horned dinosaurs group, there was a substantial ridge of bone above the nose (a boss).  Some scientists have suggested that this ridge supported a single horn, a trait seen in other Centrosaurines, however, despite many fossil finds including almost complete individuals, no evidence of an actual nose horn has been found to date.  This ridge of bone gives this genus its name, Pachyrhinosaurus means “thick-nosed lizard”.

Three Species of Pachyrhinosaurs have been Described to Date

Three species of Pachyrhinosaur have been described to date.

Three species of Pachyrhinosaur have been described to date.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The film makers have opted to give their CGI created Pachyrhinosaurs no nose horn although the prominent boss is present and to our eyes it seems that the Pachyrhinosaur species featured is P. canadensis.  The  promoters of the movie have created the strapline “the biggest 3-D event in 100 million years”, not accurate, as the action takes place around 70 million years ago, the strapline’s chronological error being most likely attributed to the needs of marketing overriding and concerns for palaeontology.  After all, this is entertainment, although a number of palaeontologists and other academics have acted as scientific consultants to the production crew.  Sceptics have already dubbed this “March of the Penguins meets Bambi”, but no matter, the film will make millions for all those associated with it including 20th Century Fox.

One of the problems the story tellers encountered was how to make the hero Patchi stand out from the rest of the Pachyrhinosaur herd.  An early Dromaeosaur attack gives our horned-headed hero a deformed frill, the right fenestra was damaged and the covering of skin lost, so that our protagonist can be easily spotted – he’s the one with a hole in his head – literally.

Palaeontologist Scott Sampson, who advised on the film commented:

“This is Pachyrhinosaurus’ chance to shine.  It’s an ornate and just phenomenal creature.   A lot of other dinosaurs haven’t had the exposure that T. rex or Triceratops get.   So it’s nice to see some others become part of the dinosaur iconography.”

Along with the Ceratopsians, expect to see fearsome Tyrannosaurs, (the villain of the piece is a ferocious Gorgosaurus called Gorgon), armoured dinosaurs, Hadrosaurs and giant Azhdarchid Pterosaurs, some of which attempt to make a baby Pachyrhinosaurus a tasty snack.

Co-director Barry Cook explained that the story unfolds with the help of a narrator called Alex, one of the Alexornis birds.  Birds were a very common sight in the Late Cretaceous of North America.  This narration is supplemented with in-the-moment voice-overs from the main characters “as if we are hearing their thoughts”, according to Barry.

Pachyrhinosaurs Get Star Billing

An adult Pachyrhinosaurus surveys the situation.

An adult Pachyrhinosaurus surveys the situation.

Picture Credit: 20th Century Fox

The film makers have not used any puppetry, unlike the seminal BBC television series “Walking with Dinosaurs” which first aired in 1999.  Close up shots of the prehistoric animals in this iconic series were achieved by the use of sophisticated marionettes.   These days, advanced computer imagery means that the dinosaurs are all created using software, there are no strings or glove puppets to be seen.  The film does have one thing in common with the original BBC series, it proved very hard to find suitable locations in which to place the CGI dinosaurs.  In the end, the production team chose to film in Alaska (rugged mountain shots) and New Zealand.  Ironically, Pachyrhinosaurs would have felt very much at home in Alaska, the fossils of one of the recently discovered species of Pachyrhinosaur (P. perotorum) were discovered in Alaska.

To read about this fossil find: New Species of Pachyrhinosaur Announced

The film is going to get a lot children (and their parents) very excited on its release in just under four months time.

16 08, 2013

Jurassic Park IV – Look out for “Badass” Dinosaurs

By | August 16th, 2013|Dinosaur Fans|0 Comments

Film Director Comments About Potential Dinosaur Stars in Jurassic Park IV

Dinosaur fans and movie goers have been speculating about what sort of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals are likely to be featured in the latest instalment of the Jurassic Park franchise which is due for release in 2015.  The director of Jurassic Park IV, Colin Trevorrow, has commented that he is very excited about the project and states that one of the main dinosaur characters will be one that has not yet appeared in any of the first three films.

The Director stated:

“We have a new one that’s pretty cool.  I’m not going to tell you anything about it, but… it’s pretty badass.”

He poured cold water on rumours that had been speculating that dinosaurs would be domesticated in Jurassic Park IV.  A number of forums on the internet had talked about muzzled T. rex, but the director warned dinosaur fans not to take such matters too seriously.

When asked again about the sort of nasty dinosaurs that could feature, Colin added:

“I think Jack Horner said something about that too… I feel like, obviously, everyone’s favourite is the Tyrannosaurus rex and there’s just something so iconic about that animal.”

Expect more rumours and stories to circulate before the first CGI rushes provide an insight into the actual dinosaur stars of the film.  An insider at Everything Dinosaur has commented that audiences might get the chance to see some mighty marine reptiles when the film has its premier in just under two years time.

To read an earlier article on the super, scary dinosaurs associated with the film: Scary Dinosaurs in Jurassic Park IV

15 08, 2013

Ostrich Necks Provide Clues to Sauropod Neck Flexibility

By | August 15th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Those Not so Flexible Sauropods

The Sauropoda, that group of large, lizard-hipped dinosaurs with their long necks, huge bodies and long tails* have fascinated palaeontologists ever since the first enormous fossil bones of these plant-eaters were discovered.  Most natural history museums, if they are big enough, will feature Sauropods amongst their dinosaur exhibits.  Although much has been learned about these Late Triassic to Late Cretaceous creatures since the days of Marsh, Cope and Riggs, palaeontologists still puzzle over many aspects of their anatomy.  For example, just how flexible were those long necks?

New Study into the Long Necks of Sauropoda

New study shows Sauropod necks not all that flexible.

New study shows Sauropod necks not all that flexible.

In a new, collaborative study between researchers from the University of Utah, the Natural History Museum (London) and Bristol University the neck bones, and soft tissues of the necks of female ostriches have been used to try to model the flexibility of Sauropod necks.  Why does this matter?  Well, the flexibility of the neck has all sorts of implications for the Sauropoda.  For example, very flexible Sauropod necks would imply that these animals could reach high to feed on the tops of trees, or dip their heads very low to feed at ground level.  This feeding range, often referred to as the “feeding envelope” can be examined and contrasted amongst different Sauropod genera permitting scientists to understand more about the feeding habits of certain species that co-existed.

Previous studies had focused on the articulation and degree of movement possible by examining the cervical vertebrae (neck bones) of Sauropods.  In this study, the team examined the bones and soft tissue found in ostrich necks (Struthio camelus), ostriches were chosen as they too, have elongated necks and the soft tissue such as muscle groups in the neck region are broadly comparable with that of Sauropods.

The researchers measured the flexibility of the flightless birds with all their muscle tissue intact, and then slowly removed the muscles to test how this changed the situation and altered the range of movement possible.  The team’s findings suggest the soft tissues and cartilage associated with the long-necks of Sauropods would have restricted their neck movements.  This has implications for the way these dinosaurs are depicted in films, books and displayed in museums.

Matthew Cobley from the University of Utah, one of the authors of the scientific paper that has been published in PLoS One (Public Library of Science) commented:

“Previous studies looked at the skeleton on its own and the assumption was that flexibility is limited by the bones of the skeleton, but our study shows it’s actually the soft tissue around it.”

The flexibility of the necks of these herbivores will have an effect on the feeding strategies that these creatures can adopt. There is a wide degree of variation in the shape of the cervical vertebrae, their number and the length of the neck in Sauropods.  Each type of Sauropod would most likely, have adaptations for exploiting food resources within a given environment. Dinosaurs with different necks and other adaptations could reach and feed on different types of vegetation. With variation in feeding habits, an ecosystem could support a more diverse range of mega-herbivores.

Variation in Sauropod Necks – Adaptations for Different Feeding Strategies Perhaps?

Long necks for different feeding envelopes.

Long necks for different feeding envelopes.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Safari Ltd

In the illustration above, examples of different Sauropod anatomies can be seen, from Diplodocid (top), Camarasaurid (middle) and Brachiosaurid (bottom).  The necks of these animals are very different, suggesting that each type of long-necked dinosaur was adapted to feeding on certain types of vegetation.  The Diplodocids may have been browsers, whilst the Brachiosaurs may have been better suited to feeding from the tops of trees.

It has been calculated that some large species would have had to consume as much as 400 kilogrammes of vegetation a day to sustain their immense bodies.  A herd of these herbivores would very quickly strip an area of suitable plant matter.  The competition for food amongst different species would drive the evolution of more specialised feeding and this may help explain why there is a large variation of Sauropod species found in places such as the Dashanpu Quarry fossil sites in Sichuan Province, China.

These Jurassic aged sediments have revealed the fossilised bones of at least four different types of long-necked dinosaur.  Each was very probably adapted for feeding in a certain way.  Sauropods such as Mamenchisaurus and Omeisaurus with their extremely long necks would have specialised in one feeding method, whilst their contemporary, Shunosaurus with its much shorter neck would have probably browsed on other types of vegetation.

* Not all members of the Sauropoda were huge.  This is a very diverse group of Dinosauria, some Sauropods such as the Titanosaur Magyarosaurus  from the Hateg Formation may have reached lengths no longer than four metres and perhaps this dwarf Titanosaur might have weighed about the same as a modern dairy cow.

14 08, 2013

Wild Safari Dinos Diabloceratops Dinosaur Model Reviewed

By | August 14th, 2013|Everything Dinosaur videos, Product Reviews|0 Comments

A Video Review of the Wild Safari Dinos Diabloceratops Dinosaur Model

With so many new horned dinosaurs being discovered over the last five years or so, model manufacturers have been working hard to catch up with all the new genera.  As part of Safari Limited’s new prehistoric animal replicas launched this year, a model of the Ceratopsian known as Diabloceratops (D. eatoni) was introduced into their Wild Safari Dinos prehistoric animal range.

Everything Dinosaur has produced a brief video review of “Devil Horned Face”, in this short video (5:50) we discuss the discovery of the fossils in Utah and explain a little about how this new model reflects the fossil material.

Everything Dinosaur’s Video Review of Diabloceratops

Video credit: Everything Dinosaur

This Middle Campanian Ceratopsian has been assigned to the Centrosaurine group of horned dinosaurs, it is regarded as a basal member and hopefully more fossil material will be discovered on the Kaiparowits Plateau, at least half-a-dozen different dinosaurs are known from this part of southern Utah.  Around 80 million years ago the area we now know as Utah in the western United States was a lush, verdant environment that supported a large number of different dinosaur species.

To view the range of Safari Ltd prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur: Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models

Although not actually a scale model, our team members have looked at the estimated size of Diabloceratops worked out from the skull material assigned to this species, based on this data and careful measurements of the  model, we have calculated the approximate scale of this well-painted replica.  More details about this and other aspects of Diabloceratops in the video review.

13 08, 2013

Neanderthals Made the First Specialised Bone Tools In Europe

By | August 13th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Geology, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Neanderthals Shaped Animal Bones So That They Could Work Leather

For many thousands of years, modern humans (Homo sapiens) and Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) lived in western Europe, it is not known how much interaction there was between these two species of hominids.  Neanderthals, far from being the slow-witted, ape-men of Victorian literature were very well adapted to living in cold climates, skilled tool makers and very capable hunters. In Neanderthal fossil sites dated to near the time when this species became extinct, a few thousand years after the arrival of modern humans in western Europe, tools and other objects have been found that are very similar to those found in contemporaneous fossil sites of modern humans.  Neanderthals show behaviours similar to those associated with modern humans and have similar fine tools, such as small stone blades and bone implements.

Evidence of Neanderthals Being Skilled Leather Workers

Very clever and innovative Neanderthals.

Very clever and innovative Neanderthals.

It had been thought that much of these sophisticated behaviours inferred from artefacts found at Neanderthal fossil sites, had been developed as a result of contact between Neanderthals and our own species.  Modern humans arrived in western Europe around 40,000 years ago and it is after this date that such sophisticated tools turn up in Neanderthal dig sites.

In a new study, published in the academic journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), a team of researchers report the discovery of specialised bone tools previously only associated with Homo sapiens that date from a Neanderthal site that is at least 50,000 years old  – before (so it is thought),  the arrival of modern man in western Europe.  This suggests that Neanderthals did not learn sophisticated tool making skills from us, they may have developed such technologies themselves.

Co-author of the study, Zenobia Jacobs of the University of Wollongong (New South Wales, Australia) stated that the tools were polishing tools made from animal bones.  These “lissoir” tools were used to work the hides of animals and the Neanderthal bone tools predate similar discoveries made in western Europe by about 10,000 years.  The tools were found in south-western France and the University of Wollongong has been engaged in a major project to assess Neanderthal and early human European cultures.  This new study, forms just part of the University’s research.

This discovery implies that the two hominid species either learned how to work animal skins separately, or modern humans may have picked up the skills required from the Neanderthals.  Dr. Jacobs suggests that it may have been the later, with modern humans learning from Neanderthals.

The Bone Tools Discovered at the Site in South-western France

Bone tools shaped by Neanderthals for working animal skins.

Bone tools shaped by Neanderthals for working animal skins.

Picture Credit: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Picture A shows a bone tool, the dotted line shows the original shape of the bone before it was sculpted and shaped into a tool for use in leather work.  The close up images of the bones show evidence of wear as seen in modern lissoir tools used today in the fashion industry.

Dr Jacobs said the tools were used to smooth and burnish deer hides and make them water resistant.  They were identically shaped to plastic lissoir tools used today by top fashion houses.  The specialised bone tools  have microscopic wear patterns preserved on them, the wear is consistent with the use of lissoir in modern times to obtain supple, lustrous, and more impermeable hides.

The discovery contradicts theories that Neanderthals were “cognitively challenged dead-ends” who had been supplanted by Homo sapiens because they were stupid, Dr Jacobs said.  Neanderthals have also been found to have had the genetic and anatomical features necessary for speech.

Dr. Jacobs added:

“I don’t think they were stupid at all.  They were probably quite capable of inventing all sorts of things that modern humans would like to claim as their own.”

Dr Jacobs commented that  it had long been believed that humans began behaving in a modern fashion, characterised by the use of symbols, when they reached Europe.

“Now it’s generally accepted that we probably had those abilities over the last 100 to 150 thousand years,” the doctor stated.

While it is not clear why Homo sapiens displaced the Neanderthals, Dr Jacobs said there had been plenty of interbreeding and most people now had between 2.5 per cent and 4 per cent of Neanderthal DNA in their genes.

She quipped:

“Maybe those leather workers are the ones with more Neanderthal genes.”

As these finds clearly predate the oldest known age for the use of similar objects in Europe by anatomically modern humans, they could also be evidence for cultural diffusion from Neanderthals to modern humans.

12 08, 2013

Romantic Megalodon Teeth – Couple Find Matching Halves of Fossil Tooth

By | August 12th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|1 Comment

Texan Couple Play “Matching Pairs” with Fossilised Megalodon Tooth 

An American couple on holiday in Florida have an unusual memento of their vacation as each partner discovered part of the fossilised remains of a prehistoric shark tooth.  Last month, Texans Wes and Kerry Kirpach were holidaying at the beach resort of Venice (Florida) and during a dive off the coast to look for fossilised teeth they found the matching halves of a tooth from a Megalodon shark (Carcharodon megalodon).

Venice is on the Gulf of Mexico coast of the Sunshine State, situated around fifty miles south of Tampa, it is regarded by many fossil hunters as the “shark tooth capital of the world” because of the wealth of shark fossil material divers and beachcombers can find.

A Carcharodon megalodon Fossil Tooth

A large fossil tooth from a Carcharodon megalodon.

A large fossil tooth from a Carcharodon megalodon.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The couple have dived looking for shark teeth on many occasions and Wes was delighted to find a 9 centimetre long broken shark’s tooth, a fossil from the ferocious, whale-hunting Megalodon, which some scientists claim may have reached lengths of over fifteen metres.  Kerry found a similar sized tooth just a hour later.  Once the two pieces were examined, the cracks and breaks in the fossils could be seen to match each other, the couple had both found pieces of the same tooth.  Such an occurrence is extremely rare as depositional and tidal action will often disperse fossil fragments over a wide area, however, given the large number of fossils that have aggregated in the sea off Venice, it seems that unlikely events such as this are possible.

A Reconstructed Set of Megalodon Jaws

A set of jaws from a Megalodon

A set of jaws from a Megalodon

Picture Credit: Press Association

A fully grown Megalodon shark may have had up to 290 triangular teeth in its jaws and it has been claimed that the largest of these predators with its enormous jaws could swallow a Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) whole. The teeth of sharks are embedded into their fleshy gums and are not attached directly to the jaws.  These teeth are replaced constantly during the life-time of the animal with some sharks losing more than 20,000 teeth.  Replacement teeth steadily move forward as older teeth at the front are lost.  Shark teeth fossils are relatively common in a number of marine fossil deposits.  The broken tooth found by the Kirpach’s may be as much as four million years old.  Fortunately, for divers and for others who venture into the sea today, the Megalodon shark is believed to have become extinct around 1.6 million years ago.

A spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Giant sharks such as Carcharodon megalodon continue to fascinate, only yesterday one of our team members, whilst helping out a museum exhibition, was asked about their extinction.  Finding a piece of such a large prehistoric shark tooth is  rare and to have your partner come up with the matching half just a few minutes later is truly remarkable.”

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