All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//February
9 02, 2016

Inspiring Dinosaur Themed Activities for Reception Classes

By | February 9th, 2016|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Reception Classes Get Creative with Dinosaurs

As Everything Dinosaur team members visit schools up and down the country delivering dinosaur workshops, they get to meet lots of teachers and it is always a pleasure to see the engaging and imaginative ways in which teaching teams are delivering the national curriculum.  Take for example, the two Reception classes at Higher Openshaw Community School (Manchester).  These two classes have been learning all about dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals this term.  A tour of the classrooms provided an insight into the highly creative and imaginative teaching activities that the children had been enjoying.  It seems even the playground had been taken over at one point as teachers, Miss Burke and Mrs Ashworth had made painted outlines of dinosaurs to help the children appreciate the size and scale of some prehistoric monsters.

Reception Children Explore Ideas About Extinction

Reception children explore ideas about dinosaur extinction.

Reception children explore ideas about dinosaur extinction.

Picture Credit: Higher Openshaw Community School/Everything Dinosaur

There were lots of examples of children’s writing on display in the well-organised classrooms.  There was even a special dinosaur exploration area to help the children understand more about life in the past.  As the term topic draws to a close, the Reception classes will be looking at extinction theories and during Everything Dinosaur’s visit, a number of the children were keen to point out that “a rock fell from the sky and killed all the dinosaurs”, well, these budding palaeontologists seem to have grasped the fundamentals of the extraterrestrial impact theory that’s for sure.

However, the teachers are keen to look at other extinction theories, such as the influence on our planet’s climate as a result of the massive amount of Late Cretaceous volcanic activity.  Hence the very colourful volcano display in Miss Burke’s classroom.  Coloured tissue paper makes great lava and the volcano provides a focal point, around which examples of the children’s hand-writing and independent research can be exhibited.

Some of the children have started to use examples of similes in their hand-writing exercises, this demonstrates excellent progress for Foundation Stage 2.  The children have obviously been as speedy as Velociraptors in picking up simile usage.

Dinosaurs as a term topic provides excellent opportunities to move the children gradually away from free flowing play activities to more structured formal learning, in preparation for the move up to Year 1.  The children had certainly been having a lot of fun, the scheme of work for this term topic had been skilfully crafted by the teachers with the able support of the enthusiastic teaching assistants.

Fossil Themed Sand Tray Activities

Both classrooms had sand trays so that a mini-dinosaur excavation activity could be set up for the children.  Ms Saylaby explained that she had placed some real fossils into the sand so that the children could learn about how fossils form, where they are found and how they are excavated.  We supported this element, by letting the children handle real fossils during our workshop, some of which, as the children discovered, felt very cold and were really, really heavy!

Reception Children Learn About Fossils

Real fossils and fossil models to explore in a sand tray activity.

Real fossils and fossil models to explore in a sand tray activity.

Picture Credit: Higher Openshaw Community School/Everything Dinosaur

Some of the fossils in the sand tray in Mrs Ashworth’s class are shown in the photograph above, the fossil expert from Everything Dinosaur explained how the fossils formed and which animals they represent.  There were some particularly nice examples of Gryphaea in the tray.  Gryphaea (graff-fee-ah) formed dense beds, very much like oysters today and they are common as fossils on the North Yorkshire and Cleveland coasts.  Palaeontologists can learn a lot from these fossils, as growth rings are often preserved on the fossilised shells.  They also suggest that these fossils formed in shallow seas, close to an ancient coastline.  The specimens in the tray date from the Jurassic.

The Fossils in the Sand Tray Come from a Jurassic Sea

Dolphin-like prehistoric animals.

Providing information about prehistoric habitats.

The fossil models also seen  in the sand tray come from a set that we at Everything Dinosaur know very well.  This is the Ancient Fossils Set, which we use in our teaching work: Set of Ten Ancient Fossils they are great for creative play.

Our dinosaur workshop and the extension activities provided will help the teaching team to round off the term topic.  Clearly, the children have really enjoyed all the activities and benefited from such an enriching learning environment that the hard-working staff at Higher Openshaw Community School have created.

8 02, 2016

Australopithecus sediba – Jaw Study Suggests a More Delicate Bite

By | February 8th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Australopithecus sediba – Bio-mechanical Study Hints at Diet

South Africa might be regarded by many as the “cradle of humanity”, thanks to the wealth of Australopithecus and early hominin fossils found in that part of the world.  Thanks to a collaborative research effort involving a bio-mechanical study of skull strength and bite forces, it seems that further light is being shed on the diet of one of southern Africa’s most famous early residents Australopithecus sediba.  This new research may help palaeoanthropologists to further refine the evolutionary position A. sediba in relation to the hominins and ultimately this Australopith’s relationship to our own species.

H. sapiens Compared to A. sediba and Pan troglodytes (Chimpanzee)

A. sediba is in the middle, the human to the left of the picture with the chimp skeleton on the right.

A. sediba is in the middle, the human to the left of the picture with the chimp skeleton on the right.

Picture Credit: University of Witwatersrand

Fossils which came to be known as A. sediba were discovered in 2008 at the famous dig site of Malapa in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, located around thirty miles north-west of the city of Johannesburg.  Research published in 2012 suggested that this gracile, possible early human ancestor, had lived on a eclectic woodland diet including hard foods mixed with tree bark, fruit, leaves and other plants.  Other research, reported upon by Everything Dinosaur in 2013, provided further insight into the dietary habits of early hominins.

To see the article on research into early hominin diets: From a Forest Diet to a Savannah Smorgasbord

To read an article explaining how A. sediba came to be named: South African “Cradle Fossil” Named

This new study carried out by an international team of researchers, including Professors Lee Berger and Kristian Carlson from the Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI) at the University of the Witwatersrand, now shows that Australopithecus sediba did not have the jaw and tooth structure necessary to exist on a steady diet of hard foods.  This may have important implications on how this species of Australopith is viewed in terms of its evolutionary link to that line of hominins that eventually led to our own kind.

Bio-mechanical Study Indicates that A. sediba Did Not Have “Nutcracker Jaws”

Bite Force Study on A. sediba cranium.

Bite Force Study on A. sediba cranium.

Picture Credit: Image of MH1 by Brett Eloff provided courtesy of Lee Berger (University of the Witwatersrand).

The picture above show the fossilised skull of A. sediba (specimen number MH1) and a finite element model of the skull depicting strains experienced during a simulated bite on the its back teeth (premolars).  “Warm” colours indicate high mechanical strain, whilst “cool” colours indicate areas of low strain on the skull.

Commenting on the research, published today in the scientific journal “Nature Communications”, Professor David Strait (Washington University, St Louis, USA) stated:

“Most Australopiths had amazing adaptations in their jaws, teeth and faces that allowed them to process foods that were difficult to chew or crack open.  Among other things, they were able to efficiently bite down on foods with very high forces.”

Co-author Dr Justin Ledogar, researcher at the University of New England in Australia added:

“Australopithecus sediba is thought by some researchers to lie near the ancestry of Homo, the group to which our species belongs, yet we find that A. sediba had an important limitation on its ability to bite powerfully; if it had bitten as hard as possible on its molar teeth using the full force of its chewing muscles, it would have dislocated its jaw.”

Not Biting Off More Than It Could Chew

Bio-mechanical modelling based on a computer generated replica of the fossil skull material does not provide conclusive evidence that Australopithecus sediba was on the direct evolutionary line towards Homo, but it does indicate that dietary changes were shaping the evolutionary paths of early human species.  The data acquired from the bio-mechanical analysis does not dispute the possibility that A. sediba occasionally ate hard foods such as nuts and bark.  However, limitations on the amount of bite force that the skull could withstand suggests that hard foods needing to be processed with high bite forces were not an important component of the diet of this species.

About Australopithecus sediba:

Australopithecus sediba, a diminutive pre-human species that lived about two million years ago in southern Africa, has been heralded as a possible ancestor or close relative of Homo, our own family.  Australopiths appear in the fossil record about four million years ago, and although they have some human traits such as the ability to walk upright on two legs, most of them lack other characteristically human features such as a large brain, flat faces with small jaws and teeth, and advanced use of tools.  Humans, members of the genus Homo, are almost certainly descended from an Australopith ancestor, and A. sediba is a candidate to be either that ancestor or something similar to it.

Dr Justin Ledogar explained:

“Humans also have this limitation on biting forcefully and we suspect that early Homo had it as well, yet the other Australopiths that we have examined are not nearly as limited in this regard.  This means that whereas some Australopith populations were evolving adaptations to maximise their ability to bite powerfully, others (including A. sediba) were evolving in the opposite direction.”

Foods that were important to the survival of Australopithecus sediba probably could have been eaten relatively easy without the need for high bite forces.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the support of the University of Witwatersrand in the compilation of this article.

7 02, 2016

The Wildebeest and Lambeosaurine Connection?

By | February 7th, 2016|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Ancient Beast “Honked Like a Hadrosaur”

Convergent evolution throws up strange bedfellows from time to time.  Scientists studying an ancient bone bed have uncovered extensive fossil material from an ancient wildebeest that shows that this hoofed mammal had a raised nasal dome, reminiscent of a hollow crested duck-billed dinosaur.  Researchers have suggested that the bizarre anatomical structures helped these herd animals communicate more effectively.  It’s a question of what evolution did for the likes of Corythosaurus some 75 million years ago has been repeated in a Pleistocene bovine from around 75,000 years ago.

A Trumpeting Wildebeest – Rusingoryx atopocranion

Honking to communicate in the hot savannah.

Honking to communicate in the hot savannah.

Picture Credit: Todd Marshall

The ancient ungulate (hoofed mammal), was poorly known until a bone bed containing the remains of at least twenty-four individuals was discovered on Kenya’s Rusinga Island.  The fossilised remains, which includes juveniles as well as adult animals, has enabled scientists to piece together a much more comprehensive picture of the anatomy of this grazing mammal, part of a diverse African bovine fauna that flourished on the hot, dry savannah of southern Africa during the Pleistocene Epoch.

Stone tool marks on the bones indicate that these animals were butchered and it has been suggested that Middle Stone Age people had driven the animals into a river and ambushed them, or perhaps, a tribe benefited from a chance discovery of a group of these creatures who had recently drowned in a flood event.

Hollowed-out Headgear

The wildebeest is known as Rusingoryx atopocranion, but until now it had only been known from partial remains, including incomplete skulls.  The Rusinga excavation, supported by the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration has uncovered a total of six skulls, most of them complete.  Thanks to these fossils, scientists have a much better idea of what these animals actually looked like.

Commenting on the new evidence, lead author of the study, Haley O’Brien (Ohio University) stated:

“The first time I saw them my jaw completely dropped”.

Previous studies based on much less complete fossil material had speculated that Rusingoryx possessed a proboscis, but the new skulls discount this idea.  Instead, they reveal that R. atopocranion had a high nasal dome in front of its eyes, a sort of “cow with a Roman nose”.  The raised naris was hollow, encasing a winding, circuitous nasal passage.

The Skull of Rusingoryx (R. atopocranion)

The dome shaped skull (raised nasal bones).

The dome shaped skull (raised nasal bones).

Picture Credit: Haley O’Brien

PhD student Haley explained:

“There aren’t any living animals with a nasal apparatus like this, but there are some fossil ones.  Outside and in, the nose of Rusingoryx resembles the hollow crests of the “duck-billed” dinosaurs, animals like Corythosaurus and Lambeosaurus, which lived about 75 million years earlier.  Both groups essentially push the nasal part of their airway into the crest and they’re using similar suites of bones to form the crest itself.”

The Skull of the Mexican Lambeosaurine Velafrons (Velafrons coahuilensis)

Raised nasals - an example of convergent evolution.

Raised nasals – an example of convergent evolution.

Picture Credit: Paul Fraughton/Salt Lake Tribune

Commenting on the similarities between Rusingoryx and Late Cretaceous duck-billed dinosaurs, palaeontologist David Evans (Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto), stated that he was “blown away” by the skulls of Rusingoryx, he added:

“The resemblance between Rusingoryx and some hollow-crested dinosaurs in the form of the nasal structures is truly striking.”

Convergent Evolution

The dome shaped nasal area of Rusingoryx is an example of convergent evolution, whereby unrelated organisms evolve independently similar features, such as the streamlined bodies and tail flukes of dolphins and ichthyosaurs.  These are adaptations to similar habitats or ecological niches.

However, faced (no pun intended), with this strange-faced wildebeest, the big question is what sort of function did these domed noses have?

A number of ideas have been put forward:

  • The expanded naris played a role in cooling or warming incoming air

The large nose of Rusingoryx may certainly have been able to undertake this function and all mammals have some ability to do this, thanks to scroll-like bones called turbinates that increase the surface area of the nose.  As Rusingoryx lived in a very hot, dry environment this theory is plausible, but the dome’s internal anatomy did not support this conclusion.

  • The raised domes were used in ritual combat

A number of bovines use their skulls as battering rams to settle disputes and as defensive weapons.  However, the skull bones of Rusingoryx are very thin, much thinner than those of extant Artiodactyls (even-toed hoofed mammals) that indulge in such behaviour.

  • The nasal area acted as a resonating chamber for sound

Social, hoofed, herd-dwelling herbivores tend to be quite vocal.  They have ways to modulate their vocal tracts to increase the variety and range of sounds that they can make.  The skull anatomy suggests that the big dome-faced wildebeest used this structure to vocalise.

Student O’Brien explained:

“We calculated a frequency of between 250 and 750 hertz, which is not only pretty low, it also overlaps with the sonic frequencies of a vuvuzela.  Rusingoryx could very likely make a low trumpeting sound but there’s a good chance it could also vocalise in stealth mode.”

Being able to communicate at a low frequency making it difficult for some predators to hear, has a distinct evolutionary advantage, human hunters for example would have had difficulty picking up these sounds.  In addition, a herd of these animals would have been capable of making a lot of noise, much like a stadium full of South African football fans waving their vuvuzelas.

6 02, 2016

Quick Preview of New for 2016 Papo Models

By | February 6th, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur videos, Main Page|0 Comments

Papo Dinosaurs Previewed (Plus that Papo Kaprosuchus)

As the excitement builds with dinosaur fans and model collectors awaiting the new for 2016 prehistoric animal models from Papo, we thought we would tease Papo fans a little by publishing a short video which shows all five models.  In this short (1 minute 10 second video), an Everything Dinosaur team member introduces the five new replicas and talks briefly about two of them, the Baryonyx and the Papo Kaprosuchus (prehistoric crocodile).  All the models have that “unique” Papo stamp and they are welcome additions to the Papo prehistoric animal model range.

Everything Dinosaur’s Quick Preview of the New Papo Prehistoric Animal Models

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Articulated Jaws

All the new Papo 2016 prehistoric animal releases have articulated jaws, however, the Kaprosuchus has an articulated upper jaw, a contrast to the other four dinosaur models who all possess articulated lower jaws.  This short video gives our team member the opportunity to demonstrate this.

Release Dates

Everything Dinosaur is expecting an update from Papo with regards to release dates towards the end of this month, for the time being here is the information available so far:

  • Papo Baryonyx – quarter 1 (before the end of March)
  • Papo Feathered Velociraptor – quarter 1 (before the end of April)
  • Papo Running T. rex colour variant – quarter 1 (before the end of April)
  • Papo Kaprosuchus – quarter 2 (June/July 2016 or perhaps earlier)
  • Papo Green Velociraptor – quarter 2 (June/July 2016)

When we have more information on these models we will post the updates onto Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook and other social media pages.

Papo Baryonyx – Tripodal Stance

Everything Dinosaur is aware that there have been a number of images released on other websites that show the Papo Baryonyx in a different pose to the one seen in the official pictures, the new Papo catalogue and in this video.  These images purport to show this replica in a pose with the tail raised, lifted off the ground.  It might be possible to train this model and to have this dinosaur stand in a bipedal stance, but in all the models that Everything Dinosaur team members have viewed, that long tail was resting on the floor.  We would urge all dinosaur fans and collectors to be cautious about this claim from other websites.

The Papo Baryonyx Dinosaur Model (New for 2016)

Available from Everything Dinosaur in a few weeks.

Available from Everything Dinosaur in a few weeks.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

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

Although the video only provides a quick glimpse of these five new replicas, hopefully fans of the Papo range, collectors and dinosaur enthusiasts of all ages have had their appetites whetted.  We look forward to adding all five of these new for 2016 models to our range over the next few months or so.

5 02, 2016

Small Abelisaurid from Argentina

By | February 5th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

Not all of Argentina’s Dinosaurs were Giants

Last month Everything Dinosaur published details of a new super-sized Titanosaur from Argentina.  An enormous animal that was to be featured in a special BBC television documentary “Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur”.  However, not all of Argentina’s dinosaurs were huge, scientists writing in the journal “Science Direct” have reported the discovery of fossil meat-eating dinosaur bones that may represent one of the smallest abelisaurids known from South America.

To read about the new giant dinosaur: “Sir David Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur”

Not All South American Abelisauridae were the Size of Carnotaurus

"Meat-eating Bull" from Papo.

“Meat-eating Bull” from Papo.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Researchers from a number of Argentinian institutions operating under the collective umbrella of CONICET – The National Scientific and Technical Research Council, the country’s main academic body responsible for the promotion of science and technology, have reported finding the partial and fragmentary remains of a new abelisaurid dinosaur from north-west Patagonia.

The Rich Fossil Assemblage of the Candeleros Formation

Field work exploring the sandstone strata of the Candeleros Formation (Neuquén Province), has uncovered a partial femur, ribs, toe bones, a fragmentary pelvis, two fused sacral centra (from the vertebrae fused to the hip region) and a small piece of skull bone, identified as a frontal.  Although a histological analysis reveals that the animal was fully mature when it died, perhaps around fourteen years old, it is estimated to have been a little over four metres long and to have weighed about 240 kilogrammes.  That’s about half the length of Carnotaurus and around one quarter of the body weight.   This dinosaur is one of the smallest abelisaurids known and a study of the bone fibres indicates that this dinosaur had a relatively lower growth rate when compared to other abelisaurids such as the much larger Aucasaurus garridoi, whose fossils also come from Argentina but from younger deposits.  Aucasaurus roamed Argentina around 85 million years ago, whereas this as yet, unnamed member of the Abelisauridae lived some eight million years earlier.

This new type of meat-eating dinosaur extends the Theropod fauna of the Candeleros Formation.  As well as a number of abelisaurids, the Candeleros Formation is associated with carcharodontosaurids, a dromaeosaurid and alvarezsaurids.

3 02, 2016

Reception Childen Get Excited About Dinosaurs

By | February 3rd, 2016|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Reception Classes Study Dinosaurs

It has been a busy day at Mount Carmel RC Primary (Manchester, England) as the two classes of Reception children have been learning about dinosaurs and fossils with a special workshop conducted by an Everything Dinosaur team member.  The children in Foundation Stage Two, have been studying dinosaurs and life in the past over the course of this half-term and they were keen to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the subject.  With the help of the enthusiastic teaching team, the eager pupils had created lots of artwork and some super examples of hand-writing in their dinosaur workbooks.

The bright and well-organised classrooms were adorned with lots of prehistoric animal themed work that the children had produced.  Our dinosaur expert has heard a rumour that one of the teachers has found some dinosaur eggs, we hope the children have thought about what materials might make a good nest for a dinosaur!

What will happen when the egg hatches?  We will have to wait and see…

A Busy Morning

Splitting the morning into two roughly equal sessions, divided by the mid-morning break, we were able to deliver very tactile learning with lots of fossil handling.  It was a good job that some of the children had managed to have a hearty breakfast, several of the fossils and other artefacts were heavy, but thanks to the helpful teaching assistants, the children were able cope.  Lots of photographs were taken, we especially liked the snarling dinosaur faces on the big class photograph at the end of each workshop – very scary!

The children in the two Reception classes have even been doing some homework, what a bunch of enthusiastic palaeontologists they are.  One of the teachers showed our dinosaur expert a beautiful picture that Edith had brought in to show her friends at school.  It is a wonderful picture of a Tyrannosaurus rex.  Can you remember how many fingers T. rex had altogether?

A Wonderful Dinosaur Picture Sent in by Edith (Reception Class)

Edith painted a lovely dinosaur picture.

Edith painted a lovely dinosaur picture.

Picture Credit: Edith (Mount Carmel RC Primary School)

What a colourful picture Edith!  Lots of reds, blues and yellows and even a splash of white to help the green dinosaur feel at home.  We like the black eyes that you gave your Tyrannosaurus rex.  His eyes match the black stripe running down his back, at least we presume it’s a boy, it could be a girl T. rex.  Can the children remember the special fact our dinosaur expert told them about the Tyrannosaurus rex girls?

Extension Activities

After the visit, it was straight back to the office to email over the promised extension activities and fact sheets to help support the teaching team and their scheme of work.  We did set some of our “pinkie palaeontologist challenges”, including the design of the children’s very own dinosaur and an exercise which involved the careful measuring of dinosaur footprints.  We even sent over a picture of a T. rex and asked if the children could have a go at labelling the various parts of his body, those small arms, the fingers and the skull of course.

Reception Children Challenged to Label a Dinosaur

Can you label a T. rex?

Can you label a T. rex?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We are glad all the children had a great time and thanks again for the super drawing Edith.

2 02, 2016

Duck-Billed Dinosaurs – Sweet Home Alabama!

By | February 2nd, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|2 Comments

Alabama Fossil Sheds Light on the Origins of Duck-Billed Dinosaurs

The Duck-Billed dinosaurs, or to be more precise, the Hadrosauroidea were a super-family of plant-eating, bird-hipped dinosaurs that dominated Late Cretaceous ecosystems throughout most of the northern latitudes.  The fossils of these large dinosaurs, some of which evolved into the biggest facultative bipeds known to science, can be seen in museums throughout the world, but little is known about the evolutionary origins of this very successful part of the Dinosauria.  However, a remarkable fossil find from Alabama (south-eastern United States), is helping to shed new light on the origins of the duck-billed dinosaurs.

The Fossils of Eotrachodon orientalis Laid Out

The skull and jaw bones including the predentary are nearest the camera.

The skull and jaw bones including the predentary are nearest the camera.

Picture Credit: Jun Ebersole, McWane Science Centre

The beautifully preserved fossils were found by amateur fossil hunters exploring a creek in Montgomery County, Alabama, when they come across one of the bones eroding out of the soft marine sediment.  Thanks to the efforts of an international team of researchers, the fossil material has been carefully prepared and it has been confirmed that these bones and the few teeth (see bottom right hand corner of the photograph), represent a new species of primitive duck-billed dinosaur.  The dinosaur has been named Eotrachodon orientalis (dawn rough tooth from the east).  It is the most complete primitive hadrosaurid dinosaur ever to be found in the eastern United States.

An Illustration and Scale Drawing of E. orientalis

The orange shaded area indicate fossils found.

The orange shaded area indicate fossils found.

Picture Credit: Florida State University with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

In Honour of Trachodon

Lead author of the scientific paper, published this week in the “Journal of Vertebrate  Palaeontology”, Albert Prieto-Marquez, stated that the genus name honours Trachodon, a name that would be very well known to fans of dinosaurs.  Trachodon is the genus erected in 1856 by Joseph Leidy as a result of fragmentary bones and teeth having been excavated from the Upper Cretaceous rocks (Judith River Formation) of Montana.  It was one of the very first American dinosaurs described, the first duck-billed dinosaur to be named (although some of the teeth used to describe it were later identified as Ceratopsian), and although the name is now regarded as a nomen dubium (not a valid genus), Trachodon appeared in countless books about dinosaurs for the best part of 120 years.  The popularity of Trachodon was helped by wonderful illustrations produced by palaeoartists such as Zdenek Burian (Trachodon and Tyrannosaurus rex).

Trachodon Became the Archetypal Duck-Billed Dinosaur

An illustration of Trachodon.

An illustration of Trachodon.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Now Trachodon has been honoured with a valid genus (Eotrachodon).  At perhaps, nine metres long, Eotrachodon orientalis was certainly not the biggest, but the fossil find is extremely significant none-the-less.  Firstly dinosaur fossil finds are rare from the south-eastern United States.  To read an article about which U.S. States have dinosaur fossils: 37th U.S. State with A Dinosaur Fossil

Commenting on the significance of the discovery, one of the authors of the scientific paper, Gregory Erickson (Florida State University) explained:

“This is a really important animal in telling us how they came to be and how they spread all over the world.”

Did the Hadrosaurs Originate in Appalachia?

Whilst the specimen was being prepared at the McWane Science Centre (Birmingham, Alabama), the scientists were able to piece together the skull bones and identify a modified nasal area of the skull that had, until now been regarded as a characteristic associated with Saurolophine hadrosaurids (solid-crested and crestless forms).  Dating the fossil to the Late Santonian faunal stage (83 million years ago), it suggests that the duck-billed dinosaurs originated on the continental landmass known as Appalachia.  During the Late Cretaceous, North America was split by into two by a wide sea (the Western Interior Seaway), Laramidia lay to the west, whilst the larger landmass of Appalachia lay to the east.  Phylogenetic analysis indicates that Eotrachodon is a basal member of the hadrosaurids and thus, it can be postulated that this group of dinosaurs evolved on Appalachia.  Land bridges formed as the Western Interior Seaway permitted these dinosaurs to migrate off this continental landmass and to spread to other parts of the Late Cretaceous world.

Reseracher Jun Ebersole, (McWane Science Centre), stated:

“For roughly 100 million years, the dinosaurs were not able to cross this barrier.  The discovery of Eotrachodon suggests that duck-billed dinosaurs originated in Appalachia and dispersed to other parts of the world at some point after the seaway lowered, opening a land corridor to western North America.”

Fossil Find Suggests Hadrosaurids Originated from Appalachia

Sweet Home Alabama.

Sweet Home Alabama!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A View of the Left Lateral Side of the Skull

Scale bar = 5cm

Scale bar = 5cm

Picture Credit: Albert Prieto-Marquez et al

1 02, 2016

Getting Ready for Masiakasaurus

By | February 1st, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Getting Ready for the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Masiakasaurus

Arriving later this month will be the new Wild Safari Prehistoric World models.  Amongst these eagerly awaited replicas will be a model of the fearsome Masiakasaurus (M. knopfleri).  Classified as a member of the abelisaurid group of Theropod dinosaurs, this lithe hunter roamed the semi-arid plains of Madagascar.  A number of fossil specimens are known and the species name comes from the rock musician Mark Knopfler, whose music was being played by field team members as they toiled in the sun to extract the first of this dinosaur’s fossil bones.  This dinosaur was named in 2001.

A Scale Illustration of the Bizarre Masiakasaurus

Unusual Theropod dinosaur.

Unusual Theropod dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Measuring no more than two metres in length and weighing about forty kilogrammes, this dinosaur had to avoid the much bigger Majungasaurus (also known as Majungatholus).  The diet of this dinosaur remains open to speculation.  Some palaeontologists have argued that the lower jaw with its strange arrangement of teeth that point forwards and are hooked upwards indicates that this dinosaur may have specialised in catching fish.  Although, a generalist feeder and scavenger have also been proposed with regards to this Theropod’s eating habits.

Madagascar – The World’s Oldest Island

By the end of the Cretaceous (Maastrichtian faunal stage), Madagascar had fully detached from the remnants of the super-continent Gondwana.  It was an island just like Madagascar today, but it was much hotter and prone to extreme droughts.  Scientists who have studied the ancient palaeoclimate suggest that there were occasional devastating floods, but for much of the time there was little rainfall.  The inhabitants of the island, including a diverse dinosaur fauna, faced long periods of drought.  This would have put the animal population under extreme pressure and evidence of cannibalism has been uncovered amongst the apex predators.  It has been suggested that the skull of a Majungatholus that showed bite marks indicated that Masiakasaurus had fed on the remains of one of these fallen giants.  However, the scratch marks in the fossil bone do not match the dentition of Masiakasaurus.  It is now thought that another Majungatholus attacked, killed and ate the Majungatholus, the first evidence of cannibalism documented in the Dinosauria of the Late Cretaceous.

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