All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//March
21 03, 2017

Defining Geologic Formations, Members and Horizons

By | March 21st, 2017|Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

What are Geologic Formations, Members and Horizons?

In amongst all the emails we receive on a daily basis, our team members get asked lots of questions about dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.  However, at the start of the week, we received one intriguing email that did not ask about ancient animals, fossils or anything to do with the Dinosauria, the sender simply wanted to know how rock formations are defined.  That’s a good question, so we thought we would publish a brief explanation listing the important things to consider.

What in Geology is a Horizon?

Most, but not all fossils are found in sedimentary rocks and these are usually deposited in layers.  A horizon is a distinctive area within a number of other layers, a thin bed of strata that has characteristic features, such as being associated with a particular set of fossils, or if it is composed of different sized grains of sandstone or perhaps it has a different colour to the preceding and succeeding layers.  Essentially, it highlights a definite change in deposition, it has a different lithology (the physical description of the unit of rock).

Identifying Fossil-Bearing Horizons in the Dinosaur Provincial Park (Alberta, Canada)

Looking for Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossils.

The red arrow in the picture highlights the Mercuriceratops fossil-bearing horizon.

Picture Credit: Professor Phil Currie (University of Alberta)

The picture above shows the location of the fossilised remains of a new species of horned dinosaur.

If the horizon contains distinctive fossils, then these fossils can help to give the relative age of that part of the rock sequence.  The fossils themselves, can help geologists to map a biostratigraphical sequence.  If layers of volcanic ash are associated with a specific rock sequence, then the zircon crystals and other deposits can help to date the rock layers found in association with the ash (radiometric dating).  Individual components of strata are referred to as beds, a bed marks the smallest division of a geological unit.

Defining a Member

In geology, a “Member” is a group of horizons and beds that can be united together as they share common characteristics and features that help to distinguish this group from the surrounding rocks.  The strata have distinct lithographic characteristics.  In the picture below, different coloured layers can be seen in the landscape, (most probably volcanic ash deposits), these represent horizons, but on the top of the cliff is a very different type of rock, a brown coloured unit that likely represents a different member.

Different Distinct Bands of Rock can be Seen with a Harder, Overlying Coarser Sandstone Member On Top

Chanares Formation (Argentina).

Distinctive bands of different types of rock can be made out.

What in Geology is a Formation?

A “Formation” is the basic unit of rock measurement in geology.  It consists of similar rock types that were originally continuous and created by related depositional events and environments.  A geologic formation is characterised by its composition, how it looks and how it is exposed over an area.  In older texts, a formation is defined as being large enough to be highlighted on a map with a scale of one inch to a mile.  Essentially, a formation must be distinct enough so that a geologist can readily discern it from other rock formations.

Hence, we have terms such as the Morrison Formation, a term given to a distinctive depositional sequence of Upper Jurassic sandstones, limestones, silts and mudstone centred in the Western United States but with outcrops within other parts of the America to, or the Wahweap Formation, Upper Cretaceous strata associated with Utah and Arizona.

A Stratigraphic Profile of the Wahweap and the Kaiparowits Formation (Western United States)

A stratigraphic profile of the Wahweap and the Kaiparowits Formation.

A stratigraphic profile of the Wahweap and the Kaiparowits Formation showing approximate location of horned dinosaur fossil material.

Picture Credit: Lund et al (PLOS ONE) with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The Lithostratigraphic Hierarchy

Just like in taxonomy, there is a ranking system for rock units in geology, this is termed the lithostratigraphic hierarchy.  Formations for example, are united in “Groups” and above them comes “Supergroups”, the biggest, commonly recognised rock unit.

The main lithostratigraphic ranks in this hierarchy consist of (in order from largest to smallest)

  • Supergroup
  • Group
  • Formation
  • Member
  • Horizon
  • Bed

Separate units are usually named after a geographical locality, typically the place where the exposures were first described.

20 03, 2017

Taking Uintatherium Out on a Date

By | March 20th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

When Did Uintatherium anceps Live?

Everything Dinosaur is preparing for the imminent arrival of the new for 2017 CollectA “Prehistoric Life” models.  The first batch will be arriving at our warehouse very soon, but we are in the process of finalising the fact sheets prior to arrival of other new editions to the CollectA range, due to come into stock later this year.  One of the new fact sheets has left us scratching our collective heads, it concerns an ancient prehistoric mammal that has a reputation for stumping even the most talented and dedicated of palaeontologists.

The beastie is Uintatherium (U. anceps) to be more precise, our team members have been scanning the literature trying to pinpoint the approximate time in geological history that this particular species of “Uintah beast” roamed.

Everything Dinosaur’s Illustration of the CollectA Deluxe Uintatherium Model

Uintatherium anceps drawing.

A scale drawing of the bizarre Uintatherium.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Eocene Giant

Uintatherium is one of the more spectacular of a bizarre Order or extinct mammals called the Dinocerata (terrible horns).  Along with the genus Eobasileus, Uintatherium represents one of the largest of this strange Order of mammals, an Order that palaeontologists can’t quite agree where to place amongst the Mammalia.  They are placentals, but their exact position on the mammal family tree and the taxonomic relationship to the other Orders remains controversial.  Scientists such as Earl Manning and Donald R. Prothero have speculated that the simple cheek teeth of these animals might indicate an affinity with the ungulates (mammals with hooves).  Other academics have suggested that the dentition (teeth), most closely resemble the teeth of the Mongolian rabbit relative Pseudictops.  In this is the case, then the Uintatherium could be an example of a “huge horned bunny”!

Uintatheres and the Bone Wars

The role of these Eocene animals in the “Bone Wars” the disputes between the palaeontologists – Leidy, Marsh and Cope has been well documented, but what is not so clear, is when did Uintatherium, specifically U. anceps live?  We have scanned the literature and we have found dates ranging from 53 million years ago to as recently as 37 million years ago.  We doubt whether a single species could have persisted for this long, even in the most stable of environments, so have you any information of when Uintatherium anceps roamed the Earth?

Fact Sheet Being Prepared for the Arrival of the Deluxe CollectA Uintatherium Model in June

CollectA Deluxe Uintatherium model.

The CollectA Uintatherium model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The view the range of CollectA Deluxe scale prehistoric animal models: CollectA Deluxe Prehistoric Animal Models

With a little luck (and a lot more research), we will be able to complete the Uintatherium data, the next fact sheet will have to prepare is a Brontothere.  This “thunder beast” might have superficially resembled Uintatherium, but it was not that close related.  However, the Brontotherium fact sheet is being put together as Everything Dinosaur will be bringing in a new line shortly, but more about that later…

19 03, 2017

Dinosaurs Learn to Stand on Their Two Feet

By | March 19th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

New Theory as to Why Bipedalism Evolved in the Dinosauria

Iconic dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex, Velociraptor, Coelophysis and Carnotaurus were all bipeds.  That is, they evolved the ability to walk on their hind legs.  Bipedalism is a trait that seems to have evolved early in history of the Dinosauria and it is a characteristic that is widespread amongst both lizard-hipped and bird-hipped forms.  It had been suggested that bipedalism arose in the ancestors of dinosaurs, to allow the forelimbs to be freed from a locomotive role, allowing them to have other uses, primarily to seize and grasp prey.  However, a team of scientists from the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta (Canada), have put forward a new theory to explain why some dinosaurs stood on two feet instead of four.  The ancestors of the dinosaurs had a “need for speed”!

The Basal Dinosauriform Marasuchus (M. lilloensis) is Typical of a Bipedal Ancestor of the Dinosauria

The basal dinosauriform Marasuchus from the Late Triassic of Argentina

The basal dinosauriform archosaur Marasuchus of the Middle Triassic. A potential ancestor of the Dinosauria.

 

Picture Credit: Pterosauriablog (author Taylor Reints)

The picture above shows the crow-sized Marasuchus, fossils of which come from the La Rioja Province (north-eastern Argentina), specifically from the Chañares Formation.  This fast running, bipedal reptile lived some 242 – 235 million years ago and the University of Alberta researchers argue that the presence of big muscles (the caudofemoralis), associated with the back of the legs and tail were central to driving the evolution of bipedalism amongst the archosaurs that were to eventually lead to the evolution of the dinosaurs.

From All Fours to Just Two Legs

Publishing in the academic periodical “The Journal of Theoretical Biology” lead author, Scott Persons and is co-worker Professor Phil Currie, argue that basal dinosauriforms were essentially quadrupeds but they evolved to stand upright, a characteristic that was passed onto their descendants the dinosaurs.

The scientists challenge the idea that bipedalism came about in order to help with the seizing of prey.

Persons stated:

“While that works for some of the very, very early dinosaurs, which were certainly carnivorous, you see a bunch of herbivorous dinosaurs evolve later on and a good many of those groups actually keep their bipedal stance, which is a little strange.”

Big Muscles in the Tail

The researchers argue, that strong muscles at the base of the tail helped to power the hind legs of these prototype dinosaurs.  This allowed them to run faster and for longer.  Hind legs evolved to become longer, whilst the forelimbs became shorter to reduce body weight and to improve balance and agility.  Some of these proto-dinosaurs gave up quadrupedalism entirely.   However, as all young dinosaur fans will happily tell you, there were lots of four-legged dinosaurs, examples being Triceratops, Stegosaurus and Diplodocus.  These dinosaurs were herbivores, they evolved heavy defensive weapons, horns and armour which meant that a faster, cursorial lifestyle was sacrificed.  As plant-eaters, they evolved ever larger stomachs and digestive tracts to help them process the tough plant material they ate, bigger guts also led to a reversion back to being a quadruped.

Palaeontologist Scott Persons added:

“In the groups where speed was no longer a concern, they often went back to being a quadruped”

A Rearing Diplodocus – A Four-Legged Dinosaur

CollectA Rearing Diplodocus.

A rearing Diplodocus!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

If you take the lizard-hipped, Sauropoda for instance, these herbivores evolved into a myriad of forms, but they all had the same basic body plan and there was a trend towards gigantism within this infraorder.  However, it has been suggested that those strong, muscular tails and powerful back legs enabled these dinosaurs to rear up to feed higher up in the vegetative canopy.  It has been suggested that baby Sauropods may have retained the ability to run on their hind legs, probably to help them escape predators.

To read an article about proposed bipedalism in juvenile Sauropods: Facultative Bipedalism in Young Sauropods

The powerful caudofemoralis muscle provides a greater source of propulsion to the back legs and it is the presence of this tail muscle that may have given the impetus to developing a two-legged stance.

Modern Lizards Provide a Clue

Modern facultatively bipedal lizards offer an analog for the first stages in the evolution of dinosaurian bipedalism.   In biology, the term facultative refers to the ability of many organisms to do things by choice rather than by obligation.  Facultatively bipedal lizards may spend most of the time on all fours, but when the need arises, such as to escape danger, these reptiles can revert to a bipedal stance.  An example of a living facultative biped lizard is the Australian frilled lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii).

The Australian Frilled Lizard – An Example of a Living Reptilian Facultative Biped

Australian Frilled Lizard

The Australian frilled lizard – a facultative biped.

Why Don’t Fast Running Mammals Run on Two Legs?

Biomechanically, running on four legs is more efficient than running on two legs.  However, the University of Alberta researchers concluded that the behaviour of synapsid reptiles, distant ancestors of today’s fast running horses, cats, camels, and grey hounds, during the Permian, may explain the lack of bipeds amongst the Mammalia.

In the Permian geological period, it seems some animals started losing the reptilian trait of a strong leg-powering tail muscle.  Around that time, many creatures were becoming burrowers, (adapting to a fossorial lifestyle), so they needed strong front limbs for digging.  Big back legs and a long, powerful tail would have made it tough to manoeuvre in the confines of a burrow, as well as making it easier for a pursuing predator to snatch them by their tail.  The scientists postulate that living underground may have helped those proto-mammals survive the Permian mass extinction.  Their descendants would have evolved to run fast, but without the tail muscles that would have caused them to stand upright.

Commenting on the biological merits of Tetrapods evolving to favour one set of legs for running Scott Persons stated:

“That’s a really funny and strange adaptation.  Why would you choose to use just one set of limbs to help you run away when you’re most desperate?  And the answer has to do with that great big tail muscle [caudofemoralis].  It effectively sort of overpowers the back legs relative to the front legs.  What the lizards are effectively doing is popping a wheelie as they speed off.”

That cursorial advantage explains the relative abundance of cursorial facultative bipeds and obligate bipeds among fossil diapsids and the relative scarcity of either amongst the Mammalia and their close relatives.  Having lost their caudofemoralis in the Permian, perhaps in the context of adapting to a fossorial lifestyle, the mammalian line has been disinclined towards bipedalism, but, having never lost the caudofemoralis of their ancestors, the basal dinosauriforms and their relatives were more inclined to adopting a bipedal stance.

A Tale in a Tail!  Researchers Explain the Presence of Bipedalism within the Dinosauria

 

Gorgosaurus libratus illustrated.

A tale in the tail – the caudofemoralis provides propulsion leading to an evolutionary bias towards a bipedal stance.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

18 03, 2017

T. rex Has the Monopoly on Dinosaur Public Relations

By | March 18th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

T. rex Game Piece Destined for Monopoly

The makers of the family favourite board game “Monopoly” have announced that a Tyrannosaurus rex playing piece will be added to the game later this year.  The game “Monopoly” first went on sale in 1935, by the mid 1930’s, T. rex was already established as a “super star” amongst the Dinosauria.  This iconic dinosaur, famous for its tiny arms and huge jaws was one of the figures selected for new versions of the game, following a public vote.

The New T. rex Monopoly Game Piece

Tyrannosaurus rex added to board game (Monopoly).

T. rex game piece being added to Monopoly board game.

Picture Credit: BBC News

Palaeontologists, now know that Tyrannosaurus rex was not the largest carnivorous dinosaur.  However, it was one of the very last of huge Theropod dinosaurs to evolve and the Tyrannosaurs seem to have been a very long lived group of meat-eating dinosaurs.  The first Tyrannosaurs evolved during the Jurassic and one of the earliest was the tyrannosauroid Guanlong (G. wucaii), known from the Shishugou Formation of China.  Guanlong was formally described in 2006 and it is believed to have lived some 160 million years ago (Oxfordian faunal stage of the Late Jurassic).

Despite the huge increase in different types of dinosaur, T. rex seems to dominate still.  This Late Cretaceous meat-eater has a special place in the public’s affection.  No dinosaur movie seems complete without an appearance of Tyrannosaurus rex, here at Everything Dinosaur, T. rex models out sell all the other dinosaur models by a ratio of 4 :1.  Tyrannosaurus rex certainly seems to have cornered the market when it comes to dinosaur public relations.

Tyrannosaurus rex is as popular as ever, now Monopoly fans can play with a T. rex game piece.  We are not sure how a fully-grown Tyrannosaurus rex would have coped with Bond Street, the Waterworks or even the Old Kent Road, but we are sure this new addition to the family board game will be most welcome.

Theropods in London!  Does T. rex Have a Monopoly?

Theropods in London.

Dinosaurs in London?

Picture Credit: Dinosaurs Unleashed

17 03, 2017

Primitive Neornithischian Dinosaurs and Seed Dispersal

By | March 17th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Plant-Eating Dinosaurs Probably Played an Important Role in Seed Dispersal

Time to catch up on our reading and first on the list of papers is this fascinating insight into the relationship between plant-eating dinosaurs and seed dispersal.  An international team of scientists from Portugal, Spain and Argentina have described a new species of primitive, bird-hipped dinosaur and an assessment of the body cavity led to the discovery of the dinosaur’s last meal.  Permineralised seeds, most of which having been identified as coming from cycads (Cycadales), suggest that herbivorous dinosaurs played an important role in seed dispersal, just as many plant-eating mammals do today.

The New Argentinian Dinosaur Isaberrysaura mollensis is Related to Kulindadromeus from Siberia

A scale model of the feathered dinosaur Kulindadromeus.

A 1:1 scale model of Kulindadromeus, closely related to Isaberrysaura.

Picture Credit: T. Hubin/RBINS

The researchers which include lead author, Leonardo Salgado (CONICET – Universidad Nacional de Río Negro), conducted a phylogenetic analysis and assigned this new dinosaur species to the basal Ornithopoda, suggesting that it is closely related to Kulindadromeus (K. zabaikalicus), fossils of which are known from geologically younger strata found in Siberia.  However, this new dinosaur, named Isaberrysaura was much larger, with an estimated body length of approximately six metres.

The Feeding Habits of Herbivorous Dinosaurs

Despite some two-thirds of all the dinosaurs described to date being plant-eaters, there is little direct evidence of the feeding habits of herbivorous dinosaurs that matches the stomach contents preserved within a carcase.  Most unaltered gut content that has been found is associated with much later dinosaurs -hadrosaurids and ornithopods.  This is the first time that gut contents have been identified in association with the remains of a basal neornithischian.

The specimen, representing a single individual, consists of an almost complete skull, vertebrae, part of the left shoulder blade (scapula), along with ribs and elements from the pelvic girdle.  It was excavated from the Los Molles Formation (Neuquén Basin, Argentina), from sediments that suggest a coastal-delta environment, the presence of the zone ammonite Sonninia altecostata in the same fossil bed, indicate that Isaberrysaura lived some 170 million years ago (Early Bajocian faunal stage of the Middle Jurassic).  These are the first dinosaur remains found in this geological unit and the one of the oldest dinosaurs known from the Neuquén Basin.  In addition, this is the first neornithischian dinosaur known from the Jurassic of South America.  The skull and the teeth show some affinity with basal stegosaurids which suggests that both the Thyreophora and neornithischian dinosaurs shared a lot of similar features (potential evidence of convergent evolution amongst plant-eating dinosaurs).

Isaberrysaura mollensis – Views of the Skull and Teeth

Isaberrysaura mollensis - views of the skull and teeth.

The skull in (a) dorsal and left lateral view (c) with corresponding line drawings (b and d).  Premaxillary tooth (e) and maxillary teeth (e and f).

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

 Why Isaberrysaura?

This month, we have once again been celebrating International Women’s Day (March 8th), it is pleasing to note that the female form of “saurus” has been chosen when it came to naming this new dinosaur, as the genus has been erected to honour Isabel Valdivia Berry, who reported the finding of the holotype material.  In the body cavity, the researchers were able to identify a mass of permineralised seeds.  These were identified as belonging mostly to the Cycadales group of plants.  These tough seeds would have passed through the dinosaur’s gut and would have been deposited in the dung.  This fossil discovery suggests a possible and unexpected role of bird-hipped dinosaurs, that of Jurassic seed-dispersal agents.

An Analysis of the Gut Contents of Isaberrysaura 

The gut contents of Isaberrysaura mollensis.

Permineralised seeds identified in the gut cavity of Isaberrysaura mollensis.

The photograph above shows images of the body cavity showing evidence of the seed fossils.

Some of the fossils show that their fleshy seed-coats are still intact (sc = sarcotesta), this indicates that these seeds were swallowed whole with little or no chewing action in the mouth.

The scientific paper: “A New Primitive Neornithischian Dinosaur from the Jurassic of Patagonia with Gut Contents”, published in the journal “Scientific Reports”

16 03, 2017

Plesiosaurus Plush

By | March 16th, 2017|Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Plesiosaurus Soft Toys

Everything Dinosaur has added two Plesiosaurus soft toys to the company’s extensive range of prehistoric animal plush.  The soft and cuddly marine reptiles join the likes of Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus rex in a move that we think famous fossil finders like Mary Anning and William Conybeare would have approved of.

The Large Plesiosaurus Soft Toy

Plesiosaurus soft toy.

The large Plesiosaurus marine reptile soft toy.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Plesiosaur Family (Plesiosauridae)

As every budding, young palaeontologist will tell you, Plesiosaurs were not dinosaurs but marine reptiles.  Plesiosaurus is the only genus in the family Plesiosauridae.  During the 19th and 20th Centuries, a large number of long-necked marine reptile fossils were assigned to the Plesiosaur family.  However, recent studies have led to a revision and several specimens that were once described as Plesiosaurus have been assigned to their own, separate genus.  It was the pioneering English geologist William Conybeare who first coined the term Plesiosaurus.  He used this term back in 1821 and went onto describe the almost complete Plesiosaurus skeleton yet discovered. This specimen had been found eroding out of the cliffs at Lyme Regis by Mary Anning.  The term Plesiosaur pre-dates the term dinosaur as well as the first scientific description of a dinosaur (Megalosaurus in 1824).

Everything Dinosaur has its own Plesiosaurus family, as joining the large, Plesiosaurus is a very cute and adorable baby Plesiosaurus.

The Baby Plesiosaurus Soft Toy

The baby Plesiosaurus soft toy marine reptile.

The baby Plesiosaurus soft toy.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Plesiosaurus means “Near Lizard”

Plesiosaurus received its moniker as the academic establishment at the time concluded that it was more “lizard-like” than the recently discovered “fish lizard” Ichthyosaurus, a genus, which itself has seen a lot of revision.

The large Plesiosaurus soft toy measures fifty-three centimetres long from the tip of its nose down to the end of that stubby marine reptile tail.  The smaller baby Plesiosaurus measures thirty-five centimetres in length.  Everything Dinosaur is delighted to welcome these two new additions to its huge range of prehistoric animal soft toys.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s extensive range of soft toys including the Plesiosaurus plush: Everything Dinosaur Soft Toys including Plesiosaurus Plush

15 03, 2017

Not All Mesozoic Crocodiles Were Giants

By | March 15th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Knoetschkesuchus – Living on an Island

Last month, scientists published in the on line academic journal “PLOS ONE” a paper that provided details of the discovery of a new species of Late Jurassic terrestrial crocodile, but this animal was no ground-shaking giant, like most of its kind (atoposaurids), it probably had a maximum length of under a metre and it would have weighed a couple of kilogrammes or so.

Lead author of the research paper, Daniela Schwarz (Leibniz Institute for Evolutionary and Biodiversity Research, Germany), in collaboration with colleagues, re-examined fossils including skull material (an adult and a juvenile specimen), that had previously been assigned to the atoposaurid Theriosuchus – a genus of crocodile-like reptile that is known from a large number of fossils dating from the Late Jurassic and into the Early Cretaceous from places as far apart as Thailand and southern England.  However, when the beautifully preserved fossils were studied using CT scans and three-dimensional images of the fossil material created, a number of autapomorphies were identified to allow the erection of a new genus.

A View of the Larger Specimen of Knoetschkesuchus langenbergensis

Knoetschkesuchus langenbergensis fossil material (larger specimen).

Knoetschkesuchus langenbergensis fossil material.

Picture Credit: PLOS ONE

The little crocodile has been named Knoetschkesuchus langenbergensis, the fossils come from the famous Langenberg Quarry, located near the town of Goslar, Lower Saxony, northern Germany.  The limestones and marls that form the quarry site, were laid down in shallow inlets associated with an island archipelago.  The Knoetschkesuchus material comes from Bed 83, the same location as the fossils of the dwarf Sauropod Europasaurus (E. holgeri).

Lots of Terrestrial Crocodiles in the Mesozoic

Knoetschkesuchus langenbergensis fossil material has been dated to the Upper Kimmeridgian stage of the Jurassic, approximately 154 million years ago, like most members of the Atoposauridae it had large eyes and it may have been a fast runner.  The researchers conclude that the Langenberg Quarry fossils represent a new species because of unique features of the skull, such as openings in the jaw bone and in front of the eye, as well as the shape and placement of the animal’s tiny teeth.  The teeth are heterodont in nature (different shapes), at the tip of the snout they are pointy and needle-like, very typical of a small crocodilian, but towards the back of the jaws they are broader and more rounded, particularly in the lower jaw.  It has been suggested that these teeth were adapted for crushing hard-shelled prey, such as snails, which are known from abundant gastropod fossils associated with Bed 83.

Line Drawings Showing Various Views of Both the Adult and Juvenile Skull Specimens

Knoetschkesuchus skull illustrations

Knoetschkesuchus skull drawings.

Picture Credit: PLOS ONE with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

Note

Elements of the adult skull fossil have been drawn based on scaled-up material from the juvenile specimen.

Dr Schwarz commented:

“The study describes a new diminutive crocodile Knoetschkesuchus langenbergensis that lived around 154 Million years ago in north-western Germany.  Knoetschkesuchus belongs to the evolutionary lineage that leads to modern crocodiles and preserves for the first time in this group two skulls in 3-D, allowing us detailed anatomical studies via micro-CT images.  Our research is part of the Europasaurus-Project which studies the remains of a unique Jurassic island ecosystem in northern Germany.”

A Unique Island Ecosystem

The Langenberg Quarry preserves the remains of a unique Late Jurassic European ecosystem.  The islands were relatively small and this led to a divergence between residents of these islands and their ancestors which lived on the larger landmasses to the east.  For example, in response to limited food resources and space, the Sauropod Europasaurus became a dwarf form.  The atoposaurid crocodiles probably filled a number of ecological niches within the food chain, including that of arboreal predators.  These distant ancestors of today’s crocodiles were in turn preyed upon by a variety of Theropod dinosaurs, the majority of which are only known from fragmentary teeth.  What is quite remarkable, is the diversity of the Theropod teeth found in Upper Jurassic deposits of northern Germany.  Studies have suggested that representatives of the Tyrannosauroidea, as well as Allosauroidea, Megalosauroidea and probably Ceratosauria roamed this part of the world some 155 to 150 million years ago.

The genus name (Knoetschkesuchus) is a combination of the family name of Nils Knötschke, and suchus (from the Greek meaning crocodile).  The genus name honours of Nils Knötschke (Dinosaurier-Freilichtmuseum Münchehagen), who collected, prepared, and curated several important fossil specimens from the Langenberg Quarry.

14 03, 2017

Pushing Back the Origins of Complex Life

By | March 14th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Scientists Uncover Evidence of the Earliest Plants

One of the most significant steps in the history of life on Earth may have occurred earlier than previously thought, according to a new study published by Scandinavian scientists in the on line academic journal “PLOS Biology”.  The evolution of simple, non-nucleated cells (prokaryotes) to large, more complex and specialist cells (eukaryotes) may have taken place some 400 million years earlier.  The team might have uncovered evidence of the oldest plants known to science.

Red Algae – Look Out for the Stacked Plates

The researchers which include Therese Sallstedt (Swedish Museum of Natural History), examined exquisitely preserved, three-dimensional fossils, found in very ancient sedimentary rocks from central India (Vindhyan basin).  These rocks are known for their abundance of micro-fossils, and the researchers analysed the minute fossil remains that represent a biota that once existed in a shallow sea.  The team identified structures within the micro-fossils that correspond to chloroplasts, which are found within plant cells today.  The strata has been dated to approximately 1.6 billion years ago, the photosynthetic biomats amidst extensive cyanobacterial micro-fossils, had filaments and other features such as plate-like discs that represent stacked cells that are very reminiscent of red algae (Rhodophyta).  Prior to this discovery, experts believed that the earliest eukaryotes evolved some 1.2 billion years ago, as demonstrated by the oldest known multicellular organism Bangiomorpha pubescens, found in Canadian rocks around 1.2 billion years old.  Bangiomorpha is related to today’s red algae, it seems, from this new evidence, that the multicellular Rhodophyta, complete with their complex cells containing a nucleus, have been on Earth for far longer than previously thought.

Two Forms of Red Algae

The fossils appear to show two distinct types of red algae: Rafatazmia chitrakootensis, characterised as filamentous in shape and containing large plate-like, stacked discs that the researchers think may be parts of algal chloroplasts and Ramathallus lobatus, which would have been more rounded in shape and fatter.

Digital Images of Rafatazmia chitrakootensis

Evidence of the oldest plants uncovered.

Rafatazmia chitrakootensis digital images of the ancient eukaryote (chloroplast structures highlighted green).

Picture Credit: PLOS Biology

The picture above shows (A–L) Holotype, NRM X4258.  (A) Surface rendering.  (B) Volume rendering with rhomboidal disks coloured for visibility.  (C) Virtual slice. (D) Surface.  (E) Volume. (F–L) Transverse slices (positions indicated in B).  (M–O) NRM X5620, surface, volume, slice.  (P–R) NRM X5574, surface, volume, slice.  Scale bars 50 μm.

Most scientists already believed that red algae (Rhodophyta) to be some of the earliest eukaryotic organisms to evolve.  Pushing the date back by some 400 million years or so, has implications for our understanding of evolution as a whole and may help clear questions about the rates at which mutations occur in the genome over time.

The scientific paper: “Three-dimensional Preservation of Cellular and Subcellular Structures Suggests 1.6 billion-year-old Crown-group Red Algae”, published in “PLOS Biology.”

13 03, 2017

A Purple Woolly Mammoth Inspires Dexter and His Classmates

By | March 13th, 2017|Adobe CS5, Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Whirley Primary School Reception Children Study Dinosaurs

Children in the Reception class at Whirley Primary School have been studying dinosaurs and learning about fossils this half term.  Under the expert guidance of their teachers, the children have been looking at different types of dinosaur and working out which ones ate meat and which ones ate plants.  Tyrannosaurus rex is certainly a big favourite amongst the enthusiastic, young palaeontologists and the pupils enjoyed learning lots of new facts about T. rex during a dinosaur themed workshop.  For many schools, this week is “Science Week” and it was great to see the Foundation Stage children joining in and using their big brains (which are twenty times the size of an armoured dinosaur’s brain), to remember where they had been sitting.

Working in the hall, our dinosaur expert was surrounded by wonderful art displays created by the schoolchildren, including some wonderful illustrations of erupting volcanoes by Mr Jackson’s Year 3 class.  Our dinosaur expert felt very much at home surrounded by such colourful drawings.

Year 3 Have Been Study Rocks Including How Igneous Rock is Formed

Volcano drawings by Year 3.

Drawings of volcanoes.

Picture Credit: Whirley Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

A Purple Woolly Mammoth

Some of the Reception children found a purple Woolly Mammoth model in their classroom.  The teacher explained that dinosaurs lived a long time ago, millions of years before Woolly Mammoths and people.  Young Dexter was so intrigued to hear about Woolly Mammoths that he was inspired to draw a Woolly Mammoth for himself.

Foundation Stage Children Draw a Woolly Mammoth

A Foundation Stage pupil draws a Mammoth.

A child in Reception class draws a Woolly Mammoth.

Picture Credit: Whirley Primary School/Dexter/Everything Dinosaur

That’s a great drawing, Dexter’s teacher was very proud as he had written the words “Woolly Mammoth” and “tusks” on his illustration.  Well done Dexter!

Reception Children Write on their Prehistoric Animal Drawings

Labelling a Woolly Mammoth.

Helping young children become more confident with their writing.

Picture Credit: Whirley Primary School/Dexter/Everything Dinosaur

We set the children an extension activity.  In return for some dinosaur stickers, could the children have a go at drawing their very own dinosaur?  Could they label its body parts including the skull?  We hope the picture of a purple coloured Woolly Mammoth helps to inspire the children with their prehistoric animal designs.

A Purple Woolly Mammoth Drawing for the Reception Children at Whirley Primary School

A purple Woolly Mammoth.

A purple coloured Woolly Mammoth for Reception class.

Picture Credit: Whirley Primary School/Dexter/Everything Dinosaur

Can the children label the purple Woolly Mammoth’s body parts?  Can they label the skull?

All to soon the morning had come to an end and it was time to pack up so that the lunchtime supervisors could set up the tables ready for the school dinners.  Not to worry, we provided an assortment of teaching materials and other resources to the enthusiastic teaching team to help them carry on with this stimulating and challenging Foundation Stage term topic.

12 03, 2017

What Do You Know About Dinosaurs?

By | March 12th, 2017|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

What Do You Know About Dinosaurs?  K-W-L Technique

Children at Clutton Church of England Primary School in Cheshire have had a busy week.  The pupils in the Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 have been learning all about dinosaurs and life in the past and on Friday, one of our dinosaur experts visited the school to work with the enthusiastic children for a morning.   Before our dinosaur workshop commenced, the Everything Dinosaur team member had the opportunity to examine some of the children’s work including mind maps created by the teacher to help the teaching team develop an appropriate scheme of work for the mixed age group class.

What Do You Know About Dinosaurs?

The KWL technique helps teachers understand subject pre-knowledge.

Using the KWL technique to start a term topic all about dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Clutton C of E Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

What is the K-W-L Technique?

The mind maps formed part of the teacher’s planning for the topic.  She was utilising a technique called the K-W-L.  The K-W-L concept aids teachers and helps them to plan a topic and to check understanding.  It consists of three phases, firstly, the children brainstorm and say what they think they know about dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.  During the brainstorming session, the children will make statements and assertions that provide the teacher with details as to what the children would like to find out about prehistoric animals.  The third phase, which is conducted at the end of the period of teaching, highlights what the children have learned at the end of their studies.  This third phase permits the teaching team to check understanding and gives them the opportunity to reinforce leaning if required.

The Three Phases of the K-W-L Technique

  • What do you know about a subject area?
  • What would you like to learn about a subject?
  • What have we learned about a subject at the end of the topic?

The Second Phase – What Would We Like to Learn About Dinosaurs?

KWL - technique used in schools (dinosaur term topic).

What do you want to know about dinosaurs?

Picture Credit: Clutton C of E Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

Helping to Guide Lesson Planning

When the children in Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 were asked to consider what they already knew about dinosaurs they demonstrated considerable pre-knowledge.  For example, the children knew what the term predator meant and they could explain a little bit about the extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period.

The teaching team were able to gain valuable insights into gaps in the children’s understanding of the wider world when the second mind map was created.  For instance, Olivia wanted to know if dinosaurs killed people, whilst Josh asked how did the dinosaurs eat things?  These two questions could guide the teaching team and provide a stimulus for the scheme of work.  Perhaps, a timeline could be created explaining just how long ago the dinosaurs lived.  The children could look at the teeth of dinosaurs in books and compare these teeth to the teeth of animals alive today and try and work out which dinosaurs were herbivores and which ones were carnivores.

The K-W-L technique provides a useful planning aid for teachers and teaching assistants.

 To see how schematic story maps can help children learn: Schematic Story Maps Help Children to Remember Facts

For information on Everything Dinosaur’s dinosaur workshops in schools: Contact Everything Dinosaur Request Information

Load More Posts