All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
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11 10, 2014

How Did Huge Sauropods Manage to Get Along Together?

By | October 11th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Dietary Niche Partitioning Amongst the Sauropoda

A team of British scientists have been tackling one of the biggest puzzles in palaeontology and a sophisticated analysis of dinosaur skull bones might just have helped them solve a mystery of gigantic proportions.  Sauropods, that group of long-necked dinosaurs that include such famous creatures as Diplodocus, Brachiosaurus and Apatosaurus (formerly known as Brontosaurus), ate vast quantities of plant material.  These huge animals with many individuals exceeding twenty metres in length and weighing many times more than a bull African elephant, would have been capable of stripping an area of vegetation, but the fossil record shows that in many parts of the world, lots of different species of Sauropod seem to have co-existed.  The scientists, a joint research team from Bristol University and the Natural History Museum (London), propose that Late Jurassic Sauropod skulls became specially adapted to help them feed on different types of plant material.  In this way, the skull morphology helped the long-necked dinosaurs divide up the available food resources between them, therefore limiting the amount of direct competition.

Previous studies had shown that in areas where lots of different species of Sauropods co-existed their body shapes and ability to angle their necks may have allowed the development of different feeding strategies with each species preferring to feed on a particular part of the flora that was available.

Proposed Sauropod Feeding Strategies

Long necks for different feeding envelopes.

Long necks for different feeding envelopes.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In the picture above, models made by Safari Ltd help to illustrate current thinking about the feeding adaptations of members of the Sauropoda.  Diplodocids such as Diplodocus and Apatosaurus with their very long necks and relatively horizontal feeding platforms probably specialised in feeding on ferns, cycads and plants that made up the vegetative understorey.  Whilst in the middle, dinosaurs such as camarasaurids a member of a different family of Sauropods called the Macronaria could feed on a wider range of plant material, cycads and seed ferns as well as being able to strip leaves off small trees.  The dinosaur in the bottom of the picture is a member of the Brachiosauridae (Brachiosaurus).  These dinosaurs had much longer forelimbs than hindlimbs and as a result, their heads were held much higher.  These dinosaurs probably specialised in feeding from the very tops of the tallest trees, parts of the vegetative canopy not available to other plant-eating dinosaurs (unless they knocked the trees down).  The tree in the picture is an Agathis conifer, a model also made by Safari Ltd.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of prehistoric plant models and dinosaurs (Safari Ltd): Carnegie Collectibles and Wild Safari Dinos Models

A Detailed Model of the Skull of Camarasaurus

Camarasaurus was probably the most common Sauropod living in the western United States during the Late Jurassic.

Camarasaurus was probably the most common Sauropod living in the western United States during the Late Jurassic.

Picture Credit: David Button

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Based on counts of the fossilised bones, Camarasaurus seems to have been the most common of all the different types of Sauropod known from the Morrison Formation.  Perhaps this dinosaur was more of a “generalist” when it came to diet.  A half-way house between the long-necked diplodocids and the giraffe-like brachiosaurids.  An ability to feed on a wide variety of plants, including the tougher plants not available to the likes of Diplodocus and Apatosaurus, could have led to this particular genus of long-necked dinosaur being one of the most successful in the Late Jurassic of the western North America, to the south of the Sundance Sea.”

Building on previous studies, the British team looked specifically at the Sauropod fauna associated with the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of the western United States.  At least ten different species of Sauropod are known from this formation, one of the most intensely studied fossiliferous formations in the Americas.  Although the Morrison Formation deposits represent a number of habitats, some of the most famous fossil beds such as those making up the Salt Wash Member indicate that some parts of the Morrison Formation represent deposits laid down in harsh, semi-arid environments, not the sort of place where one might expect vast numbers of different types of Sauropod.  Despite the harsh conditions, the fossil record shows that lots of different Sauropods co-existed.  When the diverse faunas of modern day Africa are considered, these habitats only support one truly huge, extant species – the elephant.  So how did the Sauropods get along with each other?

Bristol University’s PhD student David Button worked in collaboration with the Natural History Museum to examine how the skulls of different long-necked dinosaurs may have been adapted to help them feed on different types of plant.  Digital reconstructions were made of the skulls of Camarasaurus and Diplodocus using data compiled from Computerised tomography (CT scans).  From this data, a biomechanical model of the Camarasaurus skull was created and then this skull was compared to an existing digital model of the Diplodocus.  Finite Element Analysis (FEA), was used to assess the stresses that each skull could take.  FEA analysis is used in engineering to calculate loads and stress bearings in complex shapes, this research showed that the box-like skull of Camarasaurus gave this dinosaur a stronger bite.  Camarasaurus could have coped with tougher vegetation than Diplodocus.  The weaker bite and more delicate skull of Diplodocus would have restricted this animal to softer plant material such as ferns.  Diplodocus could have compensated for this to some extent by using its strong neck muscles to help detach plant material through movements of the head.

David Button concluded:

“Our results show that although neither could chew, the skulls of both dinosaurs were sophisticated cropping tools.  This study indicates that differences in diet between these two dinosaurs would have allowed them to co-exist.”

The research team used a number of biomechanical measurements from other Morrison Formation Sauropods to calculate the different types of feeding adaptations, providing evidence for different diets and overall a conclusion that dietary niche partitioning did occur in the Sauropoda.

Comparing the Skulls of a Typical Camarasaurid and Diplodocid

Analysis of fossil bone helped the researchers determine the size and location of jaw muscles.

Analysis of fossil bone helped the researchers determine the size and location of jaw muscles.

Picture Credit: David Button

In the picture above, the box-like skull of Camarasaurus is shown left (a) with a typical skull of a Diplodocus (b).

Co-author of the scientific paper, which has been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society Biology, Professor Emily Rayfield (Bristol University) stated:

“In modern animal communities differences in diet such as this, termed dietary niche partitioning, allow multiple species to co-exist by reducing competition for food.  Although, dietary niche partitioning has been suspected between Morrison Formation Sauropods based on their structural features and patterns of tooth-wear, this is the first study to provide strong, numerical, biomechanical evidence for its presence in a fossil community.”

This new research may help palaeontologists to understand more about how the Sauropoda evolved.  Sauropods from the Dashanpu Quarry region of China dating from the Middle Jurassic may also show similar adaptations over skull morphology and bite strength as reflected in the research done on the slightly later Sauropods from the Morrison Formation.

In addition, this analysis may help scientists to unravel the mechanisms responsible for supporting the high diversities of mega-herbivores found in other Mesozoic and Cenozoic animal populations, particularly those in resource limited environments.

For related articles on Sauropod feeding strategies:

Ostrich Necks Provide Clues to Sauropod Neck Flexibility

Diplodocus Feeding – a biter or a comber?

Evidence for Seasonal Migrations Amongst Camarasaurids

10 10, 2014

A Review of the Collecta Bistahieversor Model

By | October 10th, 2014|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Product Reviews|0 Comments

The Collecta Bistahieversor Model Reviewed

New for 2014 from Collecta in their not-to-scale prehistoric animal model series is this replica of Bistahieversor (pronounced Bis-tar-hee-eh-ver-sore), a member of the Tyrannosaur family  from New Mexico and distantly related to the much more famous T. rex  this is Everything Dinosaur’s review of this dinosaur replica.

The Collecta Bistahieversor Dinosaur Model

New for Summer 2014

New for Summer 2014

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

During the Late Cretaceous much of North America was covered by a huge sea.  This was called the Western Interior Seaway and it stretched from what is now the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Gulf of Mexico in the south.  The landmasses that bordered this inland sea were dominated by dinosaurs and what scientists are now recognising is that despite the mix of dinosaurs in the north and the south being very similar – Ceratopsians, Lambeosaurines, ankylosaurids, tyrannosaurids and so forth, the genera and species making up those faunas differed markedly across North America.  What you have is distinct regional ecosystems.  What we term “provinciality” and you can explore lots of articles about this on the Everything Dinosaur web log.

To read an article about the regional diversity of horned dinosaurs in North America: A Surge in Mountain Building May Have Led to Dinosaur Diversification

Bistahieversor fossils come from the oldest part of the Kirtland Formation, exposed in New Mexico, strata dating to around 74.5 million years ago.  Isolated teeth very typical of a large Tyrannosaur had been found for many years and these were thought to represent types of Tyrannosaur known from fossilised bones found in Montana and Alberta (Canada) in the north.  A partial skull found in 1990 was associated with Tyrannosaur fossil material from Montana, (potentially Daspletosaurus), but gradually as more body fossils were discovered in this part of the San Juan Basin, it was realised that these fossils represented the remains of a distinct southern genus of tyrannosaurid.  Following a review in 2010, the genus Bistahieversor (B. sealeyi) was established.

The name means “Bistahi Destroyer”, the genus honours the local Navajo indian population, the word “Bisti” means “place of the adobe formations” in the local dialect.  The trivial name honours museum volunteer Paul Sealey, who found the fossils of an adult animal in 1997.

The Collecta model stands on a base, it is the second , large Tyrannosaur model in the not-to-scale series to be placed on a base, the first being the modified T. rex with prey replica.  It is a very striking pose, the skin texture has been finished to give the impression of a shaggy, feathery coat.  Here is a model of a feathered Tyrannosaur reflecting the very latest in Theropd interpretation and part of a trend for more feathered dinosaur models, which we know is going to continue into 2015 and beyond.

The body proportions are based on what is known from the fossil material, particularly the adult specimen discovered in 1997, by Paul Sealey.  The skull sports a distinctive cranial crest and this has been further augmented by the model makers with the addition of a tuft of shaggy, black and white proto-feathers.  The crest on the skull may have been synonymous with a mature adult animal as no evidence for a crest was found on the fossilised skull of a juvenile which was discovered two years earlier (1995).

Like all the Collecta replicas, this is a beautiful model with a well-crafted paint regime consisting of tawny, black and white stripes which contrast nicely with the cream coloured belly.  Even the base has lots of detail, the feet seem to sink into the base to give the impression of a heavy animal walking across soft sand.

A Model of a Tyrannosaur Named in 2010

One of our field rulers provides scale.

One of our field rulers provides scale.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This model measures around 13cm in length.  Based on an adult animal being around 8.5 metres we estimate that this replica is in approximately 1:65 scale.  The powerful animal with its strong tail and robust skull probably weighed around 2.5 tonnes and it was very likely the apex predator in the coastal plain habitat found to the south of the Western Interior Seaway.

This is a beautifully crafted, hand-painted replica of  Bistahieversor, a dinosaur that was only named and scientifically described back in 2010.  It is an exciting addition to the Collecta range of prehistoric animal models and it is great to see more tyrannosaurids represented, especially feathered ones.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of Collecta prehistoric animal models: Collecta Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models

9 10, 2014

Indonesian Cave Paintings Change Ideas About the Origin of Art

By | October 9th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Oldest Prehistoric Cave Art in the World Perhaps – An Indonesian Cave Art Exhibition

The human ability to think in abstract terms is often cited as one of the key differences between our species and those in the rest of the animal kingdom.  Our love of art and visual depiction can be traced back to the Late Palaeolithic but the thought that since cave paintings are confined to France and Spain, therefore art began in Europe, has been challenged thanks to an amazing discovery on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

A joint Australian and Indonesian team of anthropologists have uncovered a series of ancient human hand stencils and paintings of animals in seven cave sites in the southern portion of Sulawesi island.  Although a rural location, these caves (Karst Maros) had been visited by a number of tourists and backpackers, but until now nobody knew just how old some of the paintings were.

A Number of Ancient Human Hand Stencils were Part of the Study

Ancient human "handy" work.

Ancient human “handy” work.

Picture Credit: Maxime Aubert

Archaeologists and palaeoanthropologists had long been puzzled by the appearance in southern Europe around 40-35 thousand years ago of a rich and varied range of artwork, including rock paintings and carved figures, but the absence or scarcity of similar art found elsewhere in the world.  Homo sapiens migrated into southern Asia and the Far East but little evidence of any form of culture in terms of works of art has been left behind on these migration routes.

Using a dating method that is based on the radioactive decay of uranium to thorium in small mineral growths that had formed on the paintings, the scientists were able to determine the minimum age of the paintings.  One hand stencil has been dated to circa 39,900 years ago, making it the oldest human hand print known to science.  A painting of a wild pig, an animal probably hunted by these ancient humans, has been dated to at least 35,400 years ago.  The artwork and images had been created by using red ochre, the materials and painting techniques used seem to be very similar to those found in caves of a similar age in western Europe.

Commenting on the significance of this study, Maxine Aubert of Griffith University (Queensland), one of the researchers stated:

“It was previously thought that Western Europe was the centre piece of a symbolic explosion in early human artistic activity such as cave painting and other forms of image making, including figurative art, around 40,000 years ago.”

This new research suggests that the rock art traditions seen on Sulawesi are at least as old as the oldest known European art.   One of the implications of this new study is that it has now been demonstrated that humans were producing very similar types of rock art by 40,000 years ago but at opposite ends of the Pleistocene Eurasian world.

The Oldest Human Hand Stencil and the Animal Drawing

Cave paintings at least 35,400 years old with hand stencils at least 39,900 years old.

Cave paintings at least 35,400 years old with hand stencils at least 39,900 years old.

Picture Credit: Maxime Aubert (green highlighting circles added by Everything Dinosaur)

The artwork is very faded in the above photograph, so we have circled in green the rock art that was studied.  It is feared, that just like the cave art in some European caves, modern pollution could damage these ancient Indonesian drawings.

To read an article about the damage being done to cave paintings in Europe due to rising levels of fungi: Cave Paintings Might Be Lost Forever

The scientists hope to use this radioactive dating technique to accurately date other rock art sites in Asia and Australia.  By doing this they hope to better understand human migration and the movement of abstract ideas through the ancient population as it migrated eastwards.

8 10, 2014

Venezuela’s Second Dinosaur – Tachiraptor

By | October 8th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans|0 Comments

Tachiraptor admirabilis – Tracing the Origins of the Big Theropods

Venezuelan dinosaurs must be a bit like buses, you wait for years for one to come along and then two arrive almost simultaneously.  Back in August of this year, we reported on the discovery of Venezuela’s first ever dinosaur, a small, plant-eater from the very Early Jurassic.  This dinosaur was named Laquintasaura venezuelae and it was the first dinosaur named from the north of South America.  Two months later and a second paper about a new Venezuelan dinosaur, this time a meat-eater, is about to be published.  Say hello to Tachiraptor, a bipedal, fast-running carnivore that may very well have been a predator Laquintasaura.

An Artists Impression of Tachiraptor Attacking Laquintasaura

A carnivorous Tachiraptor attacks a flock of Laquintasaura dinosaurs.

A carnivorous Tachiraptor attacks a flock of Laquintasaura dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Maurílio Oliveira

The illustration above shows the fearsome, newly described Theropod Tachiraptor attacking a small flock of primitive, Ornithopod dinosaurs (Laquintasaura), whilst a couple of alarmed Rhamphorhynchid Pterosaurs take flight.

To read more about Laquintasaura: Laquintasaura – What Does it All Mean?

The artist has chosen to illustrate both the dinosaurs in the picture as feathered creatures.  During the Early Jurassic, around 200 million years ago, approximately the time that both Tachiraptor and Laquintasaura lived, Venezuela was close to the equator.  The sandstone deposits in which the fossils were found indicate a flood plain environment.  This flood plain was surrounded by harsh, inhospitable deserts that probably did not support much vertebrate life.  Day temperatures would have been high, but just like many desert areas close to the equator today, at night, temperatures would have plummeted.  Relatively small animals like Tachiraptor and the even smaller Laquintasaura may have sported a coat of insulating feathers to help keep them warm.  A recent dinosaur discovery from Siberia (Kulindadromeus), suggests that many early types of dinosaur may have been feathered, although no fossil evidence for feathers in both Laquintasaura and Tachiraptor has been found (as far as we at Everything Dinosaur know), it seems reasonable at this point to depict these Early Jurassic members of the Dinosauria as feathered.

To read more about the discovery of Kulindadromeus: Information on Early Feathered Dinosaurs

If Laquintasaura has been described as being about the size of a red fox (Vulpes vulpes), then to keep the canine motif, the predatory Tachiraptor may have been around the size of a grey wolf (Canis lupis), with a total length of 1.5 metres.  The size estimate is based on the two fossil bones ascribed to this genus discovered so far.  The fossils represent lower leg bones from two individuals, the research team responsible for the excavation and study of this new Theropod (Universidade de São Paulo), Brazil found the bones back in 2013 in the same cutting between the towns of La Grita and Seboruco where the fossils of Laquintasaura had been found.  Tachiraptor admirabilis honours the Venezuelan state of Táchira, the species name is in commemoration of the 1813 campaign led by Simón Bolívar to form a republic (known in Spanish as the Campaña Admirable – admirable campaign).

Tachiraptor – The Name Means “Robber of Táchira”

An agile, lithe predatory dinosaur.

An agile, lithe predatory dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Dr. Max Cardoso Langer, of the palaeontology department of São Paulo University, one of the scientists involved with this study, explained that the fossil material consisted of a tibia and a second lower leg bone that was fragmented.  However, the locality and morphology of these scrappy fossils gave the research team the confidence to assign a new genus.  Although the exact taxonomic affinity within the Theropoda could not be established as the fossils date from the Hettangian faunal stage, it was most likely a basal Theropod.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“Very little is known about the dinosaurs that lived in the very Early Jurassic.  When Tachiraptor and Laquintasaura roamed Venezuela some 200 million years ago, the world was recovering from a mass extinction event.  The fossils of these two dinosaurs will help palaeontologists to understand better the implications for the Dinosauria after the Triassic/Jurassic mass extinction.”

7 10, 2014

When was Deinonychus Named?

By | October 7th, 2014|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|0 Comments

Providing Information on Deinonychus

Yesterday we were emailed by one young dinosaur fan who asked when was the fearsome dinosaur called Deinonychus named?  Our team members are always happy to help out and we emailed over the information, some Dromaeosauridae themed drawing materials and a fact sheet to assist this budding palaeontologist.

Barnum Brown, the great American fossil hunter discovered the bones of a fast, agile predatory dinosaur in Wyoming back in 1931.  He named this animal Daptosaurus (D. agilis), the name means “active lizard”.  This was an informal name for the dinosaur, the fossilised bones were never officially described.  It was not until the 1960’s when another great American scientist and explorer, John Ostrom, found more bones of this lithe but powerful dinosaur that the story of Deinonychus really begins.  Deinonychus (D. antirrhopus), the name means “terrible claw” due to that sharp, sickle-shaped second toe claw, was formally named in 1969.

An Image of Deinonychus

Fast-running, active, warm-blooded dinosaurs

Fast-running, active, warm-blooded dinosaurs

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Ostrom speculated that Deinonychus was a very active animal, capable of the sort of movements more akin to a mammal or a bird than to a reptile.  He argued that dinosaurs such as Deinonychus were probably endothermic (warm-blooded). He depicted them as very active creatures, challenging the widely held view at the time of the Dinosauria being slow, cumbersome creatures.  John Ostrom was ahead of his time in this respect.

6 10, 2014

Everything Dinosaur Video Review – Collecta Bistahieversor

By | October 6th, 2014|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Everything Dinosaur videos|0 Comments

A Video Review of the Collecta Bistahieversor Dinosaur Model

Team members have been so busy preparing for new models as 2015 approaches that we have still got a couple of reviews of the 2014 releases to complete.  This is going to be rectified this month and the first of our last video reviews of new 2014 releases is a short video which features the rather wonderful Collecta Bistahieversor dinosaur model.

In the video (six minutes, forty-one seconds long), we discuss the significance of this New Mexico tyrannosaurid in terms of the provinciality of North American dinosaurs.  We look at the model and reflect on how this replica is based on the known fossil material.  We think this is our first feathered Tyrannosaur model video review, however, we suspect that it is not going to be our last.  Expect more feathered tyrannosaurids next year.

Everything Dinosaur Reviews the Collecta Bistahieversor Model

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To see all the videos that Everything Dinosaur has published on its Youtube channel: Everything Dinosaur on Youtube

5 10, 2014

Dinosaur Tracks in Danger of Becoming Extinct

By | October 5th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Cal Orck’o Dinosaur Tracks Threatened

To the north-east of the city of Sucre in central Bolivia lies one of the most remarkable fossil sites anywhere in the world. The Huellas de Dinosaurio de Cal Orck´o which translates as the “dinosaur footprints on the lime hill”.  For here, preserved on a sheer slope, are the fossilised tracks of dinosaurs, more than 5,000 individual prints, in excess of 350 trackways providing a spectacular trace fossil record of life in the Late Cretaceous some 68 million years ago.  However, extraction of material to support the local cement works could be endangering the entire site according to local conservationists.

The Spectacular Dinosaur Tracks Exposed at Cal Orck’o

View from the viewing platform from the dinosaur museum.

View from the viewing platform from the dinosaur museum.

Picture Credit: Google Maps/AFP

 Although less famous than the Lark Quarry site (Australia) and the Sauropoda tracks found in Gansu Province (China), the Bolivian site represents one of the biggest, if not the biggest collection of dinosaur footprints discovered to date.   At least eight types of dinosaur trackways have been identified.  There are the huge footprints of gigantic Titanosaurs, tracks made by some of the largest land animals that ever existed.  Many of the individual prints measure more than 100 centimetres in diameter and indicate dinosaurs around twenty metres or more in length.  There are also tracks of Ornithopods and ankylosaurids.  Meat-eaters are represented too, the largest three-toed tracks identified as having been made by Theropod dinosaurs most probably represent tracks made by abelisaurids, the nearby Parque Cretácico (Cretaceous Park) contains a number of life-size, colourful replicas of the dinosaurs that once roamed this part of Gondwanaland.

Photograph of a Typical Late Cretaceous Abelisaurid (Carnotaurus Probably)

Cretaceous Park Museum illustrates the prehistoric fauna.

Cretaceous Park Museum illustrates the prehistoric fauna.

Picture Credit: Thewanderingscott.com

 The park and viewing platforms were opened in 2006, a collaboration between a number of scientific institutions including the Natural History Museum of Basel (Switzerland) whose research teams did much to document and map the tracks between 1998 and 2003, with the support of the Bolivian Government.  Fossilised tracks had been found by cement industry workers and quarry men for many years before the discovery in 1994 of the extensive trackways.  The cliff site and the nearby Cretaceous Park attract in the region of 120,000 tourists each year.

However, the nearby cement factory could be endangering the fossilised footprints as the quarrying of limestone takes place nearby.  The quarry work and frequent dynamiting of rock faces to expose new material could be undermining the entire site and making the sixty-eight million year old fossils in danger of collapse.

Elizabeth Baldivieso, the administrator of Parque Cretácico stated:

“The cliff has been quite affected by the many years of extraction of raw material.”

The regional Tourism and Cultural Secretary, Juan Jose Padilla disagrees, referring to Elizabeth Baldivieso’s description as “somewhat alarmist”.  The cement company, Fancesa jointly owned by a local university, the city and regional administrators has vowed to protect the site.

Pointing Out a Set of Dinosaur Tracks on the Near Vertical Surface
Dinosaur tracks on the near vertical cliff face.

Dinosaur tracks on the near vertical cliff face.

Picture Credit: Google Maps/AFP

The dinosaur tracks appear to indicate that these ancient creatures were climbing an almost sheer vertical cliff face.  However, back some 68 million years ago, the landscape was flat and muddy.  Over time plate movements pushed up the floodplain creating the near vertical trackways which stretch for around fifteen hundred metres or so.

This location was proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009, but the cement company opposed the application and it was eventually turned down.  Campaigners are hoping to re-apply for UNESCO World Heritage status in 2015.  This would provide much greater protection to the fossil trackways and we at Everything Dinosaur wish the Bolivian Government and conservationists every success with the re-submission.

To read an article written by Everything Dinosaur about the discovery of some Early Cretaceous dinosaur footprints in Bolivia: Farmer Describes Dinosaur Tracks to Scientists

4 10, 2014

Extensive Dinosaur Bone Bed Discovered in Northern Mexico

By | October 4th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans|0 Comments

Joint Mexican and German Field Team Discover Extensive Dinosaur Remains in Chihuahua Desert

The Chihuahua Desert covers much of northern Mexico and stretches across the border into the United States.  At around  160,000 square miles it is the second biggest desert in North America, the United Kingdom would fit into this semi-arid and true desert habitat one and a half times.  This vast area is widely recognised as supporting one of the most diverse and speciose desert ecosystems on Earth, it is ironic then to report that a team of palaeontologists have discovered a site in the Chihuahua Desert that might represent one of the most concentrated areas of Late Cretaceous dinosaur bones anywhere in the world.

Mapping and Recording Fossil Evidence

A dinosaur bone bed

A dinosaur bone bed

Picture Credit: Reuters

A field research team exploring Upper Cretaceous strata have reportedly found the remains of at least fourteen dinosaurs on a site measuring fifty by two hundred metres.  Such concentrations of prehistoric animal bones although rare, have been found elsewhere in North America, perhaps most famously in Canada where a number of single species Ceratopsian bone beds have been excavated, but we at Everything Dinosaur are unaware of such a concentration in Mexico.  The research team consists of scientists from the University of Heidelberg, the State Museum of Natural History in Karlsruhe and the Desert Museum in Saltillo (30 miles south-west of Monterrey, Mexico).  Although there has been no data published as yet confirming the identity of these animals to the genus level, we suspect that much of the material may represent fossils of duck-billed dinosaurs.  In a statement, reported in a German newspaper, the field team have announced the discovery of at least fifteen more specimens at a nearby location, just a few miles away from the concentration.  Both sites represent riverine deposits and along with the fifteen other, more scattered specimens, the scientists have found fossils of turtles, small crocodilians and the teeth of a number of Cretaceous mammals.

During the Late Cretaceous much of northern Mexico was an extensive flood plain and low lying coastal area with the Western Interior Seaway to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the south.  This landmass formed part of the southern provinces of the island continent of Laramidia which stretched from Mexico in the south up to the northern tip of Alaska.

A Bone Bed Containing Extensive Dinosaur Fossil Remains

Bone beds such as this can tell scientist a lot about a particular species of dinosaur.

Bone beds such as this can tell scientist a lot about a particular species of dinosaur.

Picture courtesy of Alamlar.ir newspics

To read about the discovery of a huge dinosaur “graveyard” in Switzerland: Dinosaur “Graveyard” Discovered

Commenting on the on-going field work, palaeontologist Eberhard Frey (State Museum of Natural History in Karlsruhe) said:

“There is a huge delta here with several rivers flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.  This was a very active ecosystem.  We have not only found dinosaur bones, but also four different species of turtle, remains of very small crocodiles and the teeth of early mammals”.

Trace fossils have also been found in the area including some three-toed footprints indicating the presence of a large Theropod dinosaur in the locality.

Außerplanmäßiger Professor Frey added:

“This week we have found three teeth of Theropods.  These are diagnostic features that allow us to determine the species more precisely.”

An Everything Dinosaur team member stated that it was likely that more information about the fossils will be published next year as the field team expected to return to the excavation site in 2015 to further map the area, remove more fossil material and examine the surrounding area.

Scientists have learned a great deal about the flora and fauna of the this part of the continent of Laramidia in recent years.  It was just six years ago that scientists, including researchers from the Desert Museum in Saltillo published a paper on the first, unique dinosaur genus to have been identified in Mexico.

To read more about this research: Viva Mexico! New Species of Duck-Billed Dinosaur Described

Last week, a new species of armoured dinosaur (Ziapelta sanjuanensis) was announced.  The fossils of this plant-eating member of the Ankylosauridae family were discovered across the border in the southern United States (New Mexico)

To read more about this fossil find: New Armoured Dinosaur from New Mexico

3 10, 2014

Year 2 Dinosaur Workshop Extension

By | October 3rd, 2014|Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Teaching|0 Comments

St Joseph and St Bede R.C. Primary make Dinosaur Video

Year 2 under the supervision of their enthusiastic teachers made a comic strip and video presentation after a visit by Everything Dinosaur.  Our team members had conducted a dinosaur workshop with the class back in September and as part of a planned extension activity we had pretended to leave a clutch of dinosaur eggs behind for the schoolchildren to discover and then look after.

The children asked if they could look after the eggs and we agreed.  However, disaster has struck, one of the eggs has hatched and a baby dinosaur has escaped.

St Joseph and St Bede Primary School Children Make a Video

Picture Credit: St Joseph and St Bede R.C. Primary School

We think the baby dinosaur is going to be all right.  It was spotted on the school’s CCTV climbing out of a window and heading off out of the school gates to start a “dinosaur adventure”.  We provide lots of extension activities and support to schools when we conduct dinosaur and fossil workshops in schools.  One of the suggestions we have made, is for the dinosaur to be pictured (photoshop comes in very handy), at a number of famous landmarks.  The “Cretaceous critter” can then send the class postcards and emails all about where it has been and what it has done.  The children can plot the dinosaur’s travels on a map (great for helping with geography lessons).  They can also write back to the dinosaur, which in itself is a great lesson plan for a creative writing session.

Where has our Baby Dinosaur Got To?

Dinosaur adventure!

Dinosaur adventure!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Congratulations to the school children and the teaching team for making such a super video.

2 10, 2014

From Dinosaur Arms to the Wings of Birds

By | October 2nd, 2014|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

New Study Helps to Explain How Dinosaurs Got their Wings

Most scientists now agree the feathers originated in the Dinosauria and that Aves (birds) are descendants from a group of bipedal, very bird-like dinosaurs that make up a portion of a larger group of dinosaurs known as the Theropoda.  In essence, the birds we know today evolved from dinosaurs (specifically the Maniraptora).  However, despite a lot of fossil evidence to indicate that the birds are closely related to and descended from the Dinosauria there have been one or two areas that have led to some confusion.  Take for example, the wrist bones.  The numerous wrist bones in dinosaurs and their relatively immobile wrists evolved over time into the highly flexible wrists with fewer bones that scientists see today in living birds.  The wrist bones in birds helps to manage the forces involved in the movements of the wing in flight.  They also permit the wings to be folded back when the bird is not flying, so how the wrist bones of dinosaurs evolved into the specialised and highly modified wrist bones of birds has been the subject of much debate.

The Evolution of a Wrist Designed for a Wing

The evolution of a wrist bone adapted to flight.

The evolution of a wrist bone adapted to flight.

Picture Credit: Davide Bonnadonna

A new study by a team of scientists based at the Universidae de Chile (University of Chile), Santiago, Chile and published in the academic journal PLOS Biology may have solved this palaeontological puzzle.

Nine into Four Does Go

Let’s start with a very simple explanation of the problem.  Scientists studying living species, in this case birds and specifically ducks, chickens, lapwings, finches and budgerigars that were used in this study, can examine in minute detail the living organism.  They can also study embryos to see how the bones in the wrist are formed.  The scientists can also study the wrist bones and embryos of reptiles such as caiman to provide data on the wrist bones and embryonic growth of other types of Archosaurs.  The Archosauria is the Division of Reptilia that contains the dinosaurs and crocodiles, it is from the Archosaurs that the birds evolved.  These scientists can see how the anatomy of an animal develops.  Techniques such as cell and molecular biology studies can reveal all sorts of information with regards to how the wrists of extant (living organisms) form.  Palaeontologists, on the other hand, (no pun intended) only have a very incomplete fossil record to study.  So scientists are using different data sources to study wrist bone evolution.

Research to help identify the wrist bones in dinosaurs and the corresponding bones in the wrists of birds draws data from two radically different sources:

  • cell biology, extant organisms and embryology
  • fossils of birds, fossils of dinosaurs, studies of the bones of extinct animals

This new study shows how the modern bird wrist with its four bones, arranged in an approximate square shape corresponds to the nine bones found in non-avian dinosaurs.  The team have looked at how dinosaur wrists evolved and report on previously undetected evolutionary processes including loss, fusion and in one case, a re-evolution of a bone once lost in the Dinosauria.

A Critical Advance in Understanding

This new study effectively combined these two areas of research.  The laboratory run by Alexander Vargas (University of Chile) and lead author of the study, developed a new method of looking at specific proteins in the embryos and produced three-dimensional maps to demonstrate how the wrist bones formed.  This new method has been named whole-mount immunostaining.  It allows scientists to observe skeletal development in embryos much better than before.  At the same time, the research team re-examined the fossils of dinosaurs and prehistoric birds in a bid to tie the two strands of research together.

The Semilunate Bone

Back in the 1960’s the palaeontologist John Ostrom, re-ignited the bird/dinosaurs debate by proposing that fearsome, sickle-clawed predators such as Deinonychus (D. antirrhopus) were agile, active animals and very bird-like.  He proposed that the semilunate bone, one of the four bones making up the square-shaped arrangement of bones in a modern bird’s wrist had actually formed from the fusing of two bones present in dinosaur fossils, such as those bones found in the wrists of dinosaurs like Deinonychus and its relatives.  This new technique, confirms that Ostrom was right.

Deinonychus Part of the Dinosaurs to Birds Story

A fearsome Deinonychus dinosaur

A fearsome Deinonychus dinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Whole-mount immunostaining and the mapping of cartilage formation and proteins in the embryos of birds, allowed the scientists to confirm that the semilunate in Aves does form from as two separate cartilages which fuse and ossify into a single bone, proving that Ostrom was very probably on the right track nearly fifty years ago.

Dr. Vargas explained:

“These findings eliminate persistent doubts that existed over exactly how the bones of the wrist evolved and iron out arguments about wrist development being incompatible with birds originating from dinosaurs.”

This research has helped scientists to work out how the nine bones found in the wrists of some Theropod dinosaurs gradually evolved into the four bones seen in modern birds.  In addition, this study produced a surprise, a result that was not expected.  A small bone present in the wrists of a group of dinosaurs known as the Sauropoda, disappeared in the bipedal Theropods, but re-evolved when some Theropods began to fly.

Sauropods and Theropod dinosaurs are closely related.  They represent the two types of dinosaur that make up the Saurischia (lizard-hipped dinosaurs).  Sauropods walked on all fours and had a small bone in their wrist called the pisiform that had a function in their four-legged, quadrupedal stance.  Theropod dinosaurs were essentially bipeds (walking on their hind limbs).  The arms of these dinosaurs were no longer used for walking but for catching and subduing prey.  Over millions of years the pisiform bone was lost from the wrists of the two-legged Theropods.  However, the authors of this study discovered that the pisiform had reappeared in early birds, probably as an adaptation for flight, where this small wrist bone permits the transmission of force on the down-stroke of a wing beat whilst restricting flexibility on the up-stroke phase of a wing beat.

The Evolution of the Wrist from Dinosaurs to Birds

From

From dinosaurs to birds ( Dinosauria – Theropoda – Maniraptora – Aves)

Picture Credit: PLOS Biology

The chart shows the colour coded bones and how they changed over time.  For example, the pisiform bone (red) can be found in the Early Jurassic Ornithopod Heterodontosaurus (not a Theropod) and in the Late Triassic Theropod Coelophysis.  This bone is lost in later Theropods such as Allosaurus and Guanlong but evolves again in primitive birds such as Sapeornis.  Sapeornis was about the size of a seagull, it seems to have been a strong flyer.  It lived during the Early Cretaceous.

The colour coded chart also shows how the square-shaped arrangement of bones in a modern bird such as the chicken evolved, with the fusion of the distal carpal 1 and the distal carpal 2 bones (yellow and green).  In the Maniraptoran Falcarius, a member of the Therizinosauroidea and not a direct ancestor of birds, these two bones are distinct.  However, in those Maniraptorans believed to be more closely related to the birds, indeed, the ancestors of Aves, dinosaurs such as Khaan, Deinonychus and Yixianosaurus these two carpals become fused to form the semilunate found in the wrists of modern birds.

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