All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//January
11 01, 2017

Hyoliths Find a Home

By | January 11th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Ancient, Long Extinct Animal Finds Place on Tree of Life

A bizarre shelled marine creature’s place in the Animal Kingdom has finally been resolved thanks to the efforts of a remarkable student at the University of Toronto.  Undergraduate student Joseph Moysiuk has identified Hyoliths, not as members of the Mollusca, which many palaeontologists had previously believed, but as lophophores and as such, they are closely related to brachiopods.

An Illustration of the Hyolith Haplophrentis

The Hyolith Haplophrentis.

An illustration of the Hyolith Haplophrentis.

Picture Credit: Royal Ontario Museum/Danielle Dufault

In the Hyolith illustration above, a tiny brachiopod can be seen attached to the nearest appendage of Haplophrentis.

The distinctive appearance and structure of the Hyolith skeleton has obstructed previous attempts to classify these animals.  All Hyoliths had an elongated, bilaterally symmetrical cone-shaped shell and a smaller cap-like shell that covered the opening of the conical shell (known as an operculum).  Some species also bore a pair of rigid, curved spines (helens) that protruded from between the conical shell and operculum (the shell cap), structures with no equivalents in any other group of animals.

Extensive Fossil Record

The mineralised external skeletons (argonite) and their sessile/semi-sessile habit (living on the seabed), gives these animals, which range in size from 1 cm to around 5 cm in length, a good fossil preservation potential.  The earliest fossil evidence for this type of creature occurs in rocks dating from around 540 million years ago (Cambrian).  These filter feeders seem to have persisted throughout the Palaeozoic and the Hyolith fossil record is relatively abundant and geographically widespread.  The Hyolitha were very diverse during the Cambrian and the subsequent Ordovician geological period, before their fossil record and their presence as an important member of marine benthos communities (animals and plants living on the sea floor) declines.  Hyoliths are one of many types of marine invertebrate that failed to survive into the Mesozoic.

The Cambrian Hyolith Haplophrentis

Burgess Shale Hyolith fossil.

Soft tissue of a Cambrian Hyolith (Haplophrentis) has been preserved.

Picture Credit:  Royal Ontario Museum

In the picture of a Hyolith fossil above, (genus Haplophrentis – H. carinatus), the conical shape of the shell can be clearly made out and the partially extended lophophore (feeding organ) can be seen.  The lophophore consisting of numerous, blackened, thin, finger-like extensions is highlighted against the operculum.  The curved spines are the helens.

Writing in the academic journal “Nature”, student Joseph Moysiuk and his fellow authors, Durham University’s Martin Smith and Burgess Shale fossil expert Jean-Bernard Caron, studied over 1,500 fossil specimens from the mid-Cambrian strata that represent elements of the Burgess Shale (British Columbia) and the Spence Shale Formations (Idaho and Utah).  The Hyolith material (Haplophrentis) and its exceptional state of preservation permitted the team to assess the soft tissue structures and from this information the team were able to deduce their taxonomic affinities.

Dr Caron explained:

“Burgess Shale fossils are exceptional because they show preservation of soft tissues which are not usually preserved in normal conditions.”

Not Closely Related to Snails, Cephalopods and Other Molluscs

The analysis showed that Hyoliths are not closely related to snails, squid or other members of the Mollusca.  They are instead, more closely related to the Brachiopoda, a group of animals with a rich fossil record but with few extant representatives.  Brachiopods have a soft body enclosed between upper and lower shells (valves), unlike the left and right arrangement of valves in bivalve molluscs.  Brachiopods open their valves at the front when feeding but otherwise keep them closed to protect their feeding apparatus and other body parts.

Student Moysiuk commented:

“Our most important and surprising discovery is the Hyolith feeding structure, which is a row of flexible tentacles extending away from the mouth, contained within the cavity between the lower conical shell and upper cap-like shell.  Only one group of living animals – the brachiopods, has a comparable feeding structure enclosed by a pair of valves.  This finding demonstrates that brachiopods, and not molluscs, are the closest surviving relatives of Hyoliths.”

The undergraduate added:

“It suggests that these Hyoliths fed on organic material suspended in water as living brachiopods do today, sweeping food into their mouths with their tentacles,”

A Diagram Showing the Proposed Anatomy of a Hyolith

Haplophrentis anatomy.

Diagrams showing the anatomy of the Cambrian Hyolith Haplophrentis.

Picture Credit: Royal Ontario Museum/Danielle Dufault

The Function of the Helens

Examination of the orientation of the helens in multiple Hyolith specimens from the Burgess Shale suggests that these spines may have been used like stilts to lift the body of the animal above the sediment, elevating the feeding apparatus to enhance feeding.

Dr Caron led recent field exhibitions to the Burgess Shale.  This resulted in the discovery of many specimens that form the basis of this research.  The key specimens came from recently discovered deposits near Stanley Glacier and Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park, about twenty miles south-east of the original Burgess Shale site in Yoho National Park.

Exploring the Burgess Shale

Exploring the Burgess Shales.

Student Joseph Moysiuk (left) in the field with Dr Jean-Bernard Caron.

Picture Credit: Joseph Moysiuk

Palaeontology lecturer Martin Smith expressed his delight at being able to help solve a 175-year-old palaeontological puzzle.  Hyolith fossils have been included in a number of fossil studies previously, but until now, where these creatures featured in the tree of life remained open to speculation.

Dr Smith stated:

“Resolving the debate over the Hyoliths adds to our understanding of the Cambrian Explosion, the period of rapid evolutionary development when most major animal groups emerge in the fossil record.  Our study reiterates the importance of soft tissue preservation from Burgess Shale-type deposits in illuminating the evolutionary history of creatures about which we still know very little.”

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of the University of Toronto in the compilation of this article.

10 01, 2017

In Praise of “TheDinosaurMan 245”

By | January 10th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur videos, Main Page|0 Comments

Praising All Dinosaur Model Reviewers

At Everything Dinosaur, we get lots of emails and letters from fans of dinosaurs and prehistoric animal model collecting.  We do read them all and we respond to all those that require a reply.  Answering questions and commenting on all the amazing things that we get sent from our customers is something that we have always tried to do.  These days, the overwhelming majority of our correspondence is via email, the number of letters that we receive as a proportion of the total is dropping year on year.  However, we do get a great many thank you letters from school children who have taken part in our dinosaur and fossil themed workshops.  We are keen to encourage the children with their hand-writing and a thank you letter makes a great extension exercise for the teachers.

We also receive lots of links to videos that dinosaur model fans have made.  A wide variety of subjects are covered, from comments about model collections, suggestions for new replicas, unboxing videos, lists of favourite dinosaurs even homemade “Jurassic Park” movies.  We do our best to watch as many as we can, although, there never seems to be enough hours in the day, what with all our other commitments.  Around ten days ago, we were emailed by the father of a young dinosaur fan who contacted us to thank Everything Dinosaur for the speedy dispatch of some dinosaur models.  We were also informed, that, like many of our customers, his son posted up prehistoric animal themed videos.  The young man’s video channel contains reviews of his Everything Dinosaur purchases, collection updates, as well as video game footage.  The eager young video maker goes by the moniker “TheDinosaurMan 245”.

Everything Dinosaur Unboxing Video by “TheDinosaurMan 245”

Video Credit: “TheDinosaurMan 245”

In Praise of All the Dinosaur Model Video Makers

We used to make some videos ourselves, these were our way of helping to pass on some of the background on new models as well as providing information about the prehistoric animals the models represented.  With so much going on in the company, we just don’t get the time to make them anymore, but those videos we have made, have had millions of views and we are grateful for every “like” and comment received.

Today, we pay tribute to all those collectors of dinosaurs and prehistoric animal models, who take the time and trouble to share their passion and enthusiasm for this hobby.

Our thanks to “TheDinosaurMan 245” and to everyone like him, who are fascinated with dinosaurs and enjoying telling the world about their collections.

9 01, 2017

Palaeontology Predictions for 2017

By | January 9th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Palaeontology Predictions for 2017

As 2017 commences, the start of a new year is often a good time to consider what changes, developments and news stories we might expect to blog about in the next twelve months.  For scientists, including those who specialise in the Earth sciences, 2017 will no doubt be filled with exciting discoveries.  The team at Everything Dinosaur has compiled a list of predictions, trying to guess what the next year will bring, it’s just a bit of fun, we shall see how things turn out in another year likely to be remembered for some remarkable fossil discoveries.

Here in no particular order are our predictions for 2017:

A New Epoch – Arise the Anthropocene!

The work of the Anthropocene Work Group (AWG), will once again enter the scientific spotlight as the debate regarding the introduction of new geological epoch to mark the trend in global warming “hots up”.  Our forecast, the 1950’s could be formally recognised as the start of the Anthropocene.

The Start of a New Geological Epoch Gains Further Acceptance

Plastic pollution, the impact of mankind on the environment

Non-biodegradable plastics and other debris on a beach – the impact of our species on the planet.

More Mini Dinos – The “Microsaurs” are Coming!

The very biggest dinosaurs (see next prediction), might get all the media attention, but team members at Everything Dinosaur foresee that more fossil evidence will emerge indicating a hither to virtually unknown type of dinosaur – very small Theropods, not much bigger than a mouse.  Tantalising evidence has emerged in recent years of tiny, bipedal dinosaurs that occupied an invertebrate hunting niche amongst the leaf litter of Mesozoic forests.  Small woodland animals generally have a very low fossil preservation potential and the delicate bones of such small creatures would be, in all likelihood, too fragile to survive fossilisation in all but the most perfect of geological circumstances.  However, improved CT scanning technology and a greater focus on the hunt for micro-fauna might just mean that 2017 becomes the year of the “Microsaur”!

More Fossil Evidence Suggesting Tiny Dinosaurs Predicted

The tiny dinosaur Minisauripus.

Minisauripus, potentially the smallest dinosaur known to science.

Picture Credit: Zhang Zongda/China Daily

“Enormosaurus” to Get a Formal Scientific Name

From the sublime to the ridiculous.  Early last year, the American Museum of Natural History erected a life-size cast of the largest dinosaur yet discovered, a huge 37-metre long giant from South America.  The dinosaur, a Titanosaur, is so large that it is just a bit too big for its new home the Wallach Orientation Centre on the museum’s fourth floor.  It’s head and neck extend out towards the visitor lifts.  Despite having been on public display for nearly a year, the fossilised remains of this Cretaceous monster have yet to be formally described.  We predict that “Enormosaurus” will get a binomial scientific name in 2017.

A Field Team Member Poses Next to the Giant Femur of “Enormosaurus”

Giant femur of a Titanosaur.

The thigh bone of one of the giant Titanosaurs.

Picture Credit: Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio (MEF)

In January 2016, Sir David Attenborough narrated a remarkable documentary all about this huge plant-eater.

To read our article about Sir David Attenborough and the huge Titanosaur: Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur

Chinese Feathered Dinosaurs Get Us Brits into a Flap

With the arrival of the eagerly anticipated “Dinosaurs of China – Ground Shakers to Feathered Flyers” exhibition in the summer of 2017, Chinese dinosaurs are going to be very much in our thoughts but expect new research into feathered Theropods from China to hit the headlines this year as well.  The exhibition, which starts in July is a three-way partnership between the University of Nottingham, Nottingham City Council and the Chinese Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology.  Expect the likes of Gigantoraptor and Mamenchisaurus to cause a bit of a stir in the East Midlands.

Chinese Feathered Dinosaurs Are Coming to the UK

Gigantoraptor displays.

Feathers used for display and courtship.

Picture Credit: BBC Planet Dinosaur television series.

New Website from Everything Dinosaur

Plans are well advanced for a new website from Everything Dinosaur and we predict that it will go live in the early spring of this year.  It has lots more interactivity and it is mobile device friendly.  It should be live in time to welcome the myriad of new prehistoric animal models Everything Dinosaur intends to introduce over the next twelve months.

A Bigger, Better Everything Dinosaur Website for 2017

Everything Dinosaur's new website.

The new website from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Fossil Sites and Vandalism

Sadly, we also expect this year to feature several news stories and reports of deliberate damage to fossil sites and fossils from thoughtless collectors.  Stories of the deliberate damage and vandalism are becoming more commonplace and with the strong “black market” for dinosaur fossils driving demand, we are bracing ourselves for having to write a number of articles this year that involve damage to valuable scientific specimens and important fossil-rich locations.

Expecting to Report on More Cases of Damage and Vandalism

Smashed up fossils.

“Fossil Vandalism”

Picture Credit: Scottish National Heritage

Dinosaur Eggs Make the News

Last but not least, our final prediction for 2017 is that somewhere around the world, perhaps in Canada, Portugal or in India, a series of dinosaur eggs and fossil nests will be discovered.  A number of nest sites are known but dinosaur eggs and the potential embryos that they might contain remain exceptionally rare.  Let’s hope that we can blog about some “egg-citing” news in 2017.

Relatively Little is Known About Dinosaur Nesting Behaviour and Dinosaur Embryology

"Bony Bonnie" from Rebor.

The Rebor Club Selection Lourinhanosaurus replica.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

8 01, 2017

An Ammonite Aquarium

By | January 8th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

An Ammonite Aquarium Model Display

At Everything Dinosaur, we get sent lots of pictures from customers of their prehistoric animal model collections.  We are always most impressed with the collections and also impressed with the remarkable and innovative ways that fans of prehistoric animals display their models.  For instance, model collector Paleo Paul recently emailed over to us some photographs of a couple of ammonites that he had set up to look as if these cephalopods had been photographed underwater.

The Wild Safari Prehistoric Life Ammonite on Display

Ammonite replica in an aquarium.

The Wild Safari Prehistoric Life Ammonite replica.

Picture Credit: Paleo Paul

The photograph above shows the Wild Safari Prehistoric Life ammonite replica (a model that was introduced into the range in 2014), the shot has been carefully set up to make it look like the ammonite was photographed swimming just a few centimetres from the sea bed.  The use of a flash, mirrors the powerful glare of underwater search lights used by divers and the bright light helps to provide depth and shade to the image, enhancing the perspective.  It is a very clever way of showcasing a prehistoric animal replica, the ammonite model standing out and clearly defined against the sand representing the seabed and the light- coloured rock placed immediately behind the model.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s review of the Wild Safari Prehistoric Life ammonite replica: Ammonite Model Reviewed

Two Ammonite Replicas on Display

Two Ammonite models on display.

Ammonite models on display.

Picture Credit: Paleo Paul

In a second photograph, the Bullyland large ammonite model has been placed in the foreground and the two figures look really good together.  The Wild Safari Prehistoric Life replica might represent one species, whilst the Bullyland ammonite figure could represent a second species.  The hypernome on the underside of the Bullyland ammonite is clearly visible and the angle that the model has been placed at gives the impression that the mollusc is about to shoot backwards and speed out of the shot.   Once again, it is a cleverly composed photograph with the distinctive spiral shells of the models, framed in the picture.

Ammonite Models and Replicas

The Wild Safari Prehistoric Life ammonite is around thirteen centimetres long and the shell some six centimetres across, whereas, the rare, Bullyland ammonite is a little larger, measuring nineteen centimetres in length with a shell diameter of more than nine centimetres.  The size of these models makes placing them alongside other marine animal replicas quite tricky when creating dioramas.  Even if these models were to represent a very big ammonite genus, perhaps the Late Jurassic Titanites, whose fossil shells can be more than a metre across, they would still look very much out of proportion when displayed next to 1:40 scale marine reptile replicas.

We commend Paleo Paul for finding such a creative way of overcoming this problem, creating an ammonite aquarium.

7 01, 2017

Preparing for Prehistoric Times (Winter 2017)

By | January 7th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Magazine Reviews, Main Page, Prehistoric Times|0 Comments

Prehistoric Times – Sneak Preview (Winter 2017)

Banish those January blues with a sneak preview of the next issue of the magazine for dinosaur fans and collectors of prehistoric animal merchandise – “Prehistoric Times”.  The next issue of this quarterly magazine is currently at the printers and once off the presses it will be rushed out to subscribers at tip-top speed.  Once again, it is a spectacular front cover as a Pterosaur aims to avoid getting caught up in a tornado whilst of group of alarmed Ceratopsians look on from below.

Due Out Very Soon Prehistoric Times Issue 120

Prehistoric Times Issue 117

The front cover of “Prehistoric Times” magazine (Winter 2017).

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks

Gregory S. Paul’s “Field Guide to Dinosaurs”

One of the highlights of issue 120 will be a feature on Gregory S. Paul’s “The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs”.  As this blog article is being written, the second edition of this book sits proudly on the desk.  It is being used as a reference to check some information on the Late Triassic Theropod Coelophysis bauri in preparation for a revised and updated fact sheet we are writing.  The forthcoming magazine will focus on this book and provide a comprehensive review of this excellent hardback which has been compiled by one of the most respected dinosaur experts and illustrators.  On the subject of illustrators, the magazine will continue its trend of commemorating some of the best palaeoartists from times gone by with an article about Zdeněk Burian, the Czech artist and book illustrator, regarded as one of the pioneers of scientific illustration.

To read more about Prehistoric Times and to subscribe: Prehistoric Times Magazine

Toxodon and Concavenator

The two featured prehistoric animals in issue 120 are the large herbivorous mammal Toxodon and the Early Cretaceous Theropod Concavenator.  We are looking forward to seeing all the reader supplied artwork along with all the regular items such as Tracy Lee Ford’s immensely informative “How to Draw Dinosaurs” and Phil Hore’s prehistoric creature profiles.   The winter 2017 edition will also include a review of the top news stories on fossils and dinosaur discoveries over the last twelve months – this really is a jam-packed magazine.

Not too long to wait now, until our copy of “Prehistoric Times” arrives at the office.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s review of “The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs”: A Review of the Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs

6 01, 2017

Tomato and Potato Ancestors Found in Eocene Rocks

By | January 6th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

Fossil Fruit Reveal the Ancient Ancestry of the Nightshade Family of Flowering Plants

Scientists working in a remote part of Chubut Province, Argentina, have found evidence of the ancient berries of a member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae).  Today, some 2,500 species of this diverse plant family are known, many of these plants are economically important (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, tobacco and petunias).  The complex chemical compounds several species produce, have proved to be invaluable to medical research, but until now, molecular data from extant species suggested that these types of flowering plants evolved some ten million years ago.

The Fossil Species Has Been Named Physalis infinemundi

Physalis infinemundi.

The papery husk can be clearly seen on this specimen of Physalis infinemundi.

Picture Credit: Ignacio Escapa / Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio

Writing in the journal “Science”, researchers including Professor Peter Wilf (Pennsylvania State University), have identified the fossilised delicate, lantern-like husks of a type of a type of Physalis, complete with impressions of the plant’s fruit, completely turned to carbon due to the fossilisation process.

The strata in which the two fossil lantern fruit specimens were found has been dated using palaeomagnetism and volcanic ash deposits.  These rock layers were deposited some 52 million-years-ago.  The Physalis genus contains ground cherries and husk tomatoes as well as tomatillos, a staple of Mexican cuisine.  The entire family, like many plant families has a very sparse fossil record, however, all that changed when a team of international scientists explored the Eocene deposits at Laguna del Hunco, (Chubut Province, Patagonia, Argentina), a location where the fossils of a temperate rainforest have been preserved.  More than six thousand fossil specimens have been excavated and the site has been the focus of a Pennsylvania State University, Museo Palentologico Egidio Feruglio, Trelew, Argentina, and Cornell University (New York), project for more than a decade.

The Remote Laguna del Hunco Location

Exploring an Eocene temperate rainforest.

The remote Laguna del Hunco, (Chubut Province), fossil site.

Picture Credit: Peter Wilf/Pennsylvania State University with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The red arrow in the picture points to a group of researchers looking for fossils.

Southern Gondwana

Around 52 million-years-ago, a substantial temperate rainforest covered this part of the remnants of the giant, southern, super-continent Gondwana.  Although, the climate was warmer than today, the ecosystem would have superficially resembled those fragments of forests found in the Lake District, the West Country, parts of Wales and western Scotland, where Atlantic winds bring huge amounts of rain to woodlands.

Commenting on the exceptionally rare fossil discovery, Peter Wilf (Professor of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University) stated:

“These astonishing, extremely rare specimens of Physalis fruits are the only two fossils known of the entire nightshade family that preserve enough information to be assigned to a genus within the family.  We exhaustively analysed every detail of these fossils in comparison with all potential living relatives and there is no question that they represent the world’s first Physalis fossils and the first fossil fruits of the nightshade family.  Physalis sits near the tips of the nightshade family’s evolutionary tree, meaning that the nightshades as a whole, contrary to what was thought, are far older than 52 million years.”

 

Fossil Indicates that the Solanaceae Are a Very Ancient Plant Family

Ancient nighshade fossil.

Physalis infinemundi fossil. In this specimen, the former papery and lobed husk is broken at top to reveal the large, fleshy berry underneath

Picture Credit: Peter Wilf/Pennsylvania State University

Mónica Carvalho, a former student at Pennsylvania State University and a co-author of the scientific paper explained:

These fossils are one of a kind, since the delicate papery covers of lantern fruits are rarely preserved as fossils.  Our fossils show that the evolutionary history of this plant family is much older than previously considered, particularly in South America, and they unveil important implications for understanding the diversification of the family.

All extant members of the Physalis genus are found in the New World and the research team notes that the Physalis fossils show a rare link from ancient Patagonia, to living Physalis plants of the Americas.  However, most other fossil plants such as Eucalyptus, found at Laguna del Hunco have living relatives concentrated in Australasia.  This distribution pattern reflects the geographical connection between South America, Antarctica and Australia.  This new study raises the intriguing possibility that more, potentially older Solanaceae fossils might be discovered at more southerly latitudes.

The researchers conclude that their results reinforce the emerging pattern wherein numerous fossil plant taxa from southern Argentina and Antarctica are substantially older than their dates of origin derived from molecular research.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the contribution of Pennsylvania State University in the compilation of this article.

5 01, 2017

Rebor Deinonychus Trio “Cerberus Clan” Arrives

By | January 5th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Product Reviews|0 Comments

Rebor Deinonychus Trio in Stock at Everything Dinosaur

Yesterday, this blog site featured an article all about saying farewell to “Dippy” the Diplodocus cast at the Natural History Museum.  Today, we say hello to three, museum quality replicas as the Rebor Deinonychus Trio “Cerberus Clan” has arrived and is in stock at Everything Dinosaur.

In Stock at Everything Dinosaur the Trio of “Raptors” Deinonychus antirrhopus

Cerberus Clan from Rebor

The trio of three “raptors” from Rebor.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The view the Rebor range of replicas, including the “Cerberus Clan” Deinonychus Trio: Rebor Prehistoric Models and Replicas

Three Feathered Dromaeosaurids

The trio of Deinonychus dinosaur models have been named “Shoot”, “Tooth” and “Thrill” and these replicas make up the third component in the 1:35 scale Rebor Acrocanthosaurus/Tenontosaurus diorama.  The idea being that an Acrocanthosaurus is being challenged over a Tenontosaurus corpse by the plucky raptors (no feather pun intended).  The Deinonychus models, can of course be displayed separately, each one comes with its own base, but when put together with the other 1:35 scale replicas a spectacular diorama is created.

All Three Rebor Replicas Combine to Make a Most Impressive Dinosaur Diorama

A trio of Rebor replicas.

The Rebor Acrocanthosaurus, Tenontosaurus and Deinonychus diorama.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

“Shoot”, “Tooth” and “Thrill”

Each of the Deinonychus replicas has an articulated lower jaw.  Once the jaw is opened some nice detail in the mouth is revealed.  The forelimbs are also articulated and we found that with our models, some adjustment of the forelimbs was required in order to get the model to stand upright.  With only two toes on each foot to stand on, we recommend that each Deinonychus is tacked onto its base to help secure the model.  Discreet sticky tabs can be used or even blue tac if model makers want to avoid using glue to attach the models to their bases.

The Three Deinonychus Models – “Shoot”, “Thrill” and “Tooth”

Rebor Cerberus Clan "Raptors".

The Rebor “Cerberus Clan”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Each of the Deinonychus dinosaurs measures around thirteen centimetres in length, the heads are approximately six centimetres high when the model is on its base.  The tails are quite bendy and flexible, but we have not tried to re-position them much, we have been too busy playing with the articulated forelimbs and working out which “raptor” to put where in our own Rebor Acrocanthosaurus/Tenontosaurus/Deinonychus prehistoric scene.

Praise for the Paint Job

Each of the pack members has been painted differently, a nice touch, providing each of the Deinonychus replicas with a very individual look.  The patterning on the feathers is very well done and there is much to admire when it comes to the colouration and the paint job.

In Greek mythology, “Cerberus” was the huge, three-headed dog that guarded the gates of the underworld.  The eleventh labour of Hercules involved the capture of this monstrous beast.  Rebor has continued its mythology motif with the three members of the “Cerberus clan”, joining “Hercules”, the Acrocanthosaurus replica and the “Ceryneian Hind”, a giant deer, represented in this case by the Tenontosaurus corpse in this prehistoric scene.  The addition of the three “raptor” models, to what is, an already very impressive diorama, certainly makes this an attractive centrepiece to any dinosaur fan’s model collection.

4 01, 2017

Goodbye Dippy

By | January 4th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Famous Figures, Main Page|2 Comments

Farewell to “Dippy the Diplodocus”

Today, Wednesday 4th January, is the last day that the Diplodocus replica, affectionately named “Dippy” will be on display at the Natural History Museum, London.  The twenty-one metre plus plaster cast fossil exhibit will be dismantled starting tomorrow, part of preparations to turn this iconic dinosaur skeleton into a touring exhibit for the museum.

The Last Day for “Dippy” on Display at the Hintze Hall (London Natural History Museum)

Diplodocus skeleton on display.

“Dippy” the Diplodocus.

Picture Credit: Press Association/Matt Dunham

The Diplodocus skeleton has graced the Hintze Hall since 1979, but the museum authorities have decided that “Dippy” must make way for another skeleton, a massive female Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus).  The Blue Whale has been housed at the museum since 1891, the whale skeleton, actual bone, has been part of the vertebrate collection for longer than the Diplodocus replica.  The unfortunate whale was injured by a whaler and subsequently beached at the mouth of Wexford Harbour (Ireland), it was acquired by the museum and it has been on display in the Hall of Mammals, but it will soon be taking centre stage and welcoming visitors at the Cromwell Road entrance.

An Artist’s Impression of How the New Blue Whale Exhibit Will Look

Blue Whale Exhibit 2017.

The proposed Blue Whale exhibit for the Hintze Hall.

Picture Credit: Casson Mann

Not the First Whale Exhibit to Grace the Hintze Hall

The Blue Whale, the largest exhibit of its kind (as far as Everything Dinosaur team members are aware), is not the first huge whale to grace the Hintze Hall.  In the late 1890’s a Sperm Whale skeleton (Physeter macrocephalus) was located in a central position in the spacious gallery.

A Generous Gift from Andrew Carnegie

“Dippy’s” story began in 1898, when construction workers building a railway in Wyoming, discovered the spectacular fossilised bones of a Diplodocus.  Scottish-born millionaire and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, got to hear about it and he acquired the 150 million-year-old fossil bones with a view to making the Diplodocus the centrepiece for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).  During fossil preparation and reconstruction of the mounted skeleton, American palaeontologists noted a number of anatomical differences between the Carnegie specimen and the original holotype Diplodocus material that had led to the erection of the genus back in 1878.  This meant that the Wyoming Diplodocus acquired by Mr Carnegie was a new species, the specific epithet Diplodocus carnegii was established, the trivial name honouring the Scottish-born industrialist.

King Edward VII viewed a sketch of the Diplodocus skeleton whilst visiting Andrew Carnegie in Scotland.  The King remarked how he would very much like to see a similar exhibit at the British Museum (the formal name for the Natural History Museum, London).  Carnegie wanted to indulge the King and he commissioned a plaster cast replica, one of ten replicas of the original fossil material that were eventually created.  The Diplodocus replica was sent to London in January 1905 and it was formally unveiled at the museum on May 12th that year.

The Diplodocus Exhibit circa 1905

Diplodocus Exhibit circa 1905.

The Natural History Museum Diplodocus prior to its unveiling 1905.

Picture Credit: Press Association

An Evolving Diplodocus Skeleton

For many decades, the 292 individual bones that make up the Diplodocus skeleton were kept in the same anatomical position.  Although, our understanding of Sauropod anatomy has increased enormously since “Dippy” was first mounted.  Two major revisions have occurred over the last fifty years or so.  Firstly, the head has been raised and the snout of the dinosaur points forward.  In the picture below, the head is dipped and the snout is pointing towards the floor at around a forty-five-degree angle.  Ironically, in the 1905 photograph above, the head is in a position more akin to the modern interpretation of the head posture of a diplodocid.

“Dippy” on Display in a Museum Gallery

The Diplodocus on display.

The Carnegie Diplodocus replica on display.

Picture Credit: Trustees of the Natural History Museum

In 1993, a second major revision took place.  The tail of the dinosaur was raised off the ground and given a more “whip-like” appearance to demonstrate a greater range of movement.  Research, in conjunction with a lack of tail drag marks in Sauropod fossil tracks, had shown that these dinosaurs walked with their tails held out behind them.  The tail raised off the ground helped to counterbalance the head and neck.

“Son of Dippy”

It is a sad day for many fans of dinosaurs, to see the removal of “Dippy” from the Cromwell Road entrance to the museum.  However, once cleaned “Dippy” is embarking on a nationwide tour in early 2018 and plans have been announced to exhibit a bronze replica of the iconic dinosaur in a newly landscaped area outside the museum.  This replica, which will be created using the original display, has already been nick-named “Son of Dippy”.

Future visitors to the London Natural History Museum will be able to get their “Diplodocus fix”, but for the moment, we bid farewell to the Diplodocus replica, an exhibit that has been seen by an estimated 90 million visitors and one that has inspired generations of palaeontologists.

3 01, 2017

Dinosaur Embryo Study Hints at Extinction Theory

By | January 3rd, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|1 Comment

How Long Did Dinosaur Eggs Take to Hatch?

Dinosaurs laid eggs, that’s the consensus view in palaeontology, no evidence has been found to date of viviparity for example, but how long did it take for a dinosaur egg to hatch?  That question has been answered to some extent thanks to some fascinating research conducted by scientists at Florida State University working in collaboration with colleagues at Calgary University (Alberta, Canada) and the American Museum of Natural History (New York).   This study might shed light on why the Dinosauria were unable to recover from the climate catastrophe that marked the Cretaceous/Palaeogene (K-Pg) extinction event.

The Teeth of Protoceratops Embryos were Included in the Study

A baby Protoceratops skeleton.

The fossilised remains of a young Protoceratops.

Picture Credit: Gregory Erickson (Florida State University)

The researchers examined the embryonic teeth of dinosaurs, preserved entombed in fossilised eggs.  In some extant animals, as the embryo grows, so the teeth record daily growth rates.  Lines observed on an embryonic tooth can be used to determine how quickly the embryo was growing and therefore, by implication, how long it took the dinosaur to hatch.

Two Different Dinosaurs Studied

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the researchers calculate that in the two types of dinosaur they studied (Protoceratops and the hadrosaurid Hypacrosaurus), eggs took between three and six months to hatch.

Commenting on the study, lead author Professor Gregory Erickson (Florida State University) stated:

“Some of the greatest riddles about dinosaurs pertain to their embryology, virtually nothing is known.  Did their eggs incubate slowly like their reptilian cousins, crocodilians and lizards?  Or rapidly like living dinosaurs, the birds?”

The Enormous Late Cretaceous Hadrosaur Hypacrosaurus was Included in the Study

Two Duck-billed dinosaurs (Hypacrosaurus).

Hypacrosaurus embryos were studied.

Picture Credit: Ohio State University

Fossils of embryonic dinosaurs are extremely rare.  Few specimens have been found, however, there are exceptions.  For example, a number of Protoceratops nests have been excavated from Upper Cretaceous deposits in Mongolia, whilst extensive bone beds of Hypacrosaurus have been discovered, including several nesting sites in Alberta and northern Montana (United States).  Hypacrosaurus specimens represent a range of ages, from embryos through to fully mature individuals.  As a result, this genus has been extensively studied in a bid to discover the growth rates of dinosaurs.  It has been discovered that these duck-billed dinosaurs grew very rapidly once hatched, reaching maturity after about two to three years.  Hypacrosaurus grew much faster than the predatory tyrannosaurids, with which it co-existed.

To read more about the study of Hypacrosaurus growth rates: Duck-billed Dinosaurs Grew Up Fast to Avoid Getting Eaten

Studying Dinosaur Embryos

Palaeontologists have postulated that dinosaur egg incubation was similar to that of modern birds.  Birds eggs hatch in time intervals ranging from eleven to eighty-five days.  Comparable-sized reptilian eggs such as crocodiles, caiman and lizards typically take twice as long to hatch.  The American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), North America’s largest living reptile, lays an egg around nine centimetres in length that takes between 62 to 68 days to hatch.  Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis) eggs, can take much longer, between seven to eight months to incubate.

As some dinosaur eggs can be very large, the eggs of Hypacrosaurus are estimated to have weighed around four kilogrammes and were about the size of a volleyball, scientists believed that the embryonic dinosaurs would have incubated rapidly, a characteristic inherited by the dinosaur’s near relatives, the birds.

Professor Erickson with Florida State University graduate David Kay and collaborators from the American Museum of Natural History and the University of Calgary, decided to test this hypothesis.

Co-author of the paper, Darla Zelenitsky (Assistant Professor of Geoscience at the University of Calgary) explained:

“Time within the egg is a crucial part of development, but this earliest growth stage is poorly known because dinosaur embryos are rare.  Embryos can potentially tell us how dinosaurs developed and grew very early on in life and if they are more similar to birds or reptiles in these respects.”

Professor Erickson and his team ran the embryonic jaws through a CT scanner to visualise the forming dentitions (teeth).  Then, they extracted several of the teeth to further examine them under sophisticated microscopes.

Researchers found what they were looking for on those microscope slides.  Growth lines on the teeth showed researchers precisely how long the dinosaurs had been growing in the eggs.

Embryonic Remains of a Hypacrosaurus

Hypacrosaurus embryo fossil.

The fossilised remains of a Hypacrosaurus embryo.

Picture Credit: Darla Zelenitsky (University of Calgary)

Professor Erickson added:

“These are the lines that are laid down when any animal‘s teeth develops.  They’re kind of like tree rings, but they’re put down daily.  We could literally count them to see how long each dinosaur had been developing.”

The team’s research indicates that the sheep-sized Protoceratops took three months to hatch, whilst the much larger Hypacrosaurus took six months to incubate.

Fellow author of the study, palaeontologists Mark Norell (American Museum of Natural History), said:

“Dinosaur embryos are some of the best fossils in the world.  Here, we used spectacular fossil specimens collected by American Museum expeditions to the Gobi Desert, coupled them with new technology and new ideas, leading us to discover something truly novel about dinosaurs.”

The Implications for a Species with a Relatively Long Incubation Period

This study suggests that, in the two species examined, the incubation period of the dinosaurs has more in common with primitive reptiles than with their close relatives the birds.  Dinosaur eggs would have been vulnerable to attack from predators, or at risk from flooding, trampling and other dangers for far longer than previously thought.  The long incubation period could have contributed to the extinction of the Dinosauria at the end of the Cretaceous.  Most palaeontologists now believe that the majority of the Dinosauria were endothermic (warm-blooded).  If this is the case, then they would have required considerable resources to grow quickly once hatched to reach breeding age.  Using this data, it can be postulated that decimated populations after a global catastrophe such as an extra-terrestrial impact event or excessive volcanic activity may not have been able to recover.  Essentially, the dinosaurs may have been out-competed to some extent by the rapidly breeding small mammals or the birds with their speedier egg incubation rates.

Professor Erickson concluded:

“We suspect our findings have implications for understanding why dinosaurs went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period, whereas amphibians, birds, mammals and other reptiles made it through and prospered.”

To read an article that suggests a seed-eating habit helped the birds survive the K-Pg extinction event: Seed-eating May Have Helped the Aves Survive the End-Cretaceous Extinction Event

The Effect on Dinosaur Migration Theories

If dinosaur eggs took a long time to hatch, then the idea of dinosaurs undertaking extensive migrations in order to reach seasonal breeding grounds can be doubted.  Many scientists believe that North American dinosaurs migrated northwards to the Arctic circle during the summer having nested in the more temperate lower latitudes.  Longer incubation periods make these sorts of long migrations more unlikely.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation and Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of Florida State University in the compilation of this article.

2 01, 2017

An Illustration of Coelophysis

By | January 2nd, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

A Drawing of Coelophysis

Time to reflect on the number of dinosaur and prehistoric animal fact sheets Everything Dinosaur has produced.  For virtually every named prehistoric animal we sell, our dedicated team members research and write a fact sheet on that animal.  From Acrocanthosaurus atokensis through to Yutyrannus huali and probably notes on Zuniceratops, Zalmoxes and Zephyrosaurus too!

It is not just new fact sheets that we have to sort out, we also have to re-write and update existing data when new dinosaur discoveries are made.  Take for example, the new Coelophysis fact sheet that we have been preparing.  We did have a fact sheet for this dinosaur on our files already, but with the introduction of the new for 2017 Wild Safari Prehistoric Life Coelophysis dinosaur model and with new research into the growth rate of this Triassic Theropod, we thought it was time to update it.

A New Illustration of Coelophysis has Been Commissioned by Everything Dinosaur

Coelophysis illustrated.

A scale drawing of the Triassic dinosaur Coelophysis.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Coelophysis bauri “Hollow Form”

Named over a hundred and twenty-five years ago, Coelophysis (C. bauri) has become one of the most studied Theropod dinosaurs of all.  The genus name means “hollow form”, a reference to this dinosaur’s almost hollow limb bones.  Light bones would have made this dinosaur surprisingly light and assisted with the animal’s agility and speed.  Assets when hunting but also useful when you need to avoid much larger terrestrial predators such as rauisuchids.

To read the recently published article about a study into the growth rates (ontogeny) of this Triassic dinosaur: Sizing Up Early Dinosaurs

Everything Dinosaur has recently taken into stock all thirteen of the newly introduced Wild Safari Prehistoric Life models.  The additions to our warehouse include the wonderful Coelophysis replica.

To see the new for 2017 Wild Safari Prehistoric Life Coelophysis dinosaur model: Prehistoric Animal Models by Safari Ltd

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