All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
11 08, 2017

JurassicCollectables Reviews “Spring-heeled Jack”

By | August 11th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Everything Dinosaur videos, Main Page|0 Comments

A Video Review of the Rebor Leaping Velociraptor “Spring-heeled Jack”

JurassicCollectables have been hard at work again and their latest video to be posted is a review of the amazing “Spring-heeled Jack”, the Rebor Velociraptor, 1:18 scale dinosaur model.  Rebor has continued to set the standard when it comes to introducing “retro raptors” and this new Velociraptor joins “Winston, Stan” and “Alex DeLarge” in the Rebor replica range.

JurassicCollectables Reviews “Spring-heeled Jack”

Video Credit: JurassicCollectables

In this brief video review, (it lasts just over six and a half minutes), viewers are given the opportunity to have a really good look at this skilfully modelled Late Cretaceous Theropod.  The narrator discusses various aspects of “Spring-heeled Jack”, named after a strange being from English folklore that was first reported 180 years ago.  For example, the video looks at the base of the model in detail and demonstrates the articulated jaw and the forelimbs that can be set in various positions.

To view the Rebor 1:18 scale replica “Spring-heeled Jack”, the counterpart model “Alex DeLarge” and the entire Rebor prehistoric animal model range: Rebor Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Replicas

“Jurassic Park” Velociraptors

With the ground-breaking dinosaur movie “Jurassic Park”, hitting cinema screens in 1993, Velociraptors were up front and centre when it came to the prehistoric animals featured.  We won’t open up the debate on the size of the “raptors” in the film, suffice to say, thanks to this movie and the work of Stan Winston, the American film and television special make-up and special effects master, a whole new generation of young dinosaur fans was created.  The Velociraptors in the Rebor replica range, pay tribute to the contribution played in the portrayal of dinosaurs by Stan Winston, that’s why a number of the models in this range carry his moniker.  The leaping “Spring-heeled Jack” is reminiscent of the leaping Velociraptors from the Jurassic Park film franchise.

The Rebor Velociraptor “Spring-heeled Jack” Replica

Rebor "Spring-heeled Jack" Velociraptor model.

Rebor 1:18 scale Velociraptor “Spring-heeled Jack”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The genus name means “speedy robber or speedy thief” and the JurassicCollectables video review shows these dynamic models in all their beauty.

Compared with the Rebor Tyrannosaurus rex and the Rebor Carnotaurus Models

Our thanks to those clever people at JurassicCollectables for including in this video review comparisons with the Rebor Tyrannosaurus rex replica (King T. rex) and the recently reviewed Rebor Carnotaurus figure “Crimson King”.  Off-colour Alan even gets in on the action, he is shown riding on the back of the leaping Velociraptor and the figure looks really good next to “Spring-heeled Jack”, very reminiscent of the scene from the first Jurassic Park” movie where big-game hunter, Robert Muldoon meets his demise.

JurassicCollectables have a brilliant YouTube channel crammed full of prehistoric animal model reviews and other very interesting and informative videos, including reviews of the aforementioned Rebor Carnotaurus replica and the Rebor “King T. rex“.

Visit the YouTube channel of Jurassic Collectables: JurassicCollectables on YouTube , please remember to subscribe to the JurassicCollectables channel, after all, some 50,000+ dinosaur and prehistoric animal model fans can’t be wrong!

10 08, 2017

Monster Jurassic Crocodile Honours Motorhead’s Frontman

By | August 10th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Lemmysuchus obtusidens – Named after Lemmy from Motorhead

On December 28th 2015, the English heavy-metal musician, Lemmy, the founder of Motörhead and doyen of the metal-music genre passed away.  Since that day, many scientists who were fans of Lemmy’s music have sought out ways to honour him*.  It seems that tracks such as “Bomber”, “Overkill”, “Louie Louie” and the iconic “Ace of Spades” are very popular with academics and scientists from a number of disciplines and this week, hard-drinking, hard-living Lemmy, was honoured by having a particularly nasty Jurassic teleosaurid crocodile named after him.  Say hello to Lemmysuchus obtusidens, the newest member of the Teleosauridae, the name means “Lemmy’s blunt-toothed crocodile”.

Dorsal View of the Skull of Lemmysuchus obtusidens

Skull fossil and line drawing.

Skull fossil and accompanying line drawing of Lemmysuchus.  Scale bar = 10 cm.

Picture Credit: Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

From a Clay Pit Near Peterborough

The fossil material now assigned to this new genus was excavated in 1909 from a clay pit near the town of Peterborough (Cambridgeshire), several specimens were collected from the Middle Jurassic strata (Callovian faunal stage).  It was incorrectly catalogued and assigned to a different species, several cladistic and anatomical reviews later and the blunt-snouted, blunt-toothed teleosaurids have undergone a significant revision and fossil material formerly assigned to Steneosaurus obtusidens has ended up in need of a new taxa hence the establishment of Lemmysuchus within the academic literature.

One of the authors of the scientific paper, which has just been published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, Michela Johnson (University of Edinburgh), described Lemmysuchus:

With a metre-long skull and a total length of 5.8 metres, it would have been one of the biggest coastal predators of its time.”

A Close View of the Jaw Showing the Robust Teeth

The jaw of Lemmysuchus.

Part of the jaw of Lemmysuchus showing the robust teeth.

Picture Credit: Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

Durophagous or Macrophagous Diet

In contrast to several other Middle Jurassic teleosaurids, Lemmysuchus had a broad snout and large, robust teeth, this suggests that this substantial crocodylomorph had a different diet to its relatives.  Most teleosaurids were fish-eaters and their jaws, teeth and skulls show adaptations to a piscivorous diet.  The jaws of Lemmysuchus indicate that this reptile might have dined on turtles or other hard-shelled creatures such as ammonites.  It could have made short work of any small marine reptile carcass that it found, it could even have been an active predator of other marine reptiles.

A Nasty Crocodile from the Middle Jurassic of England

A illustration of the Jurassic teleosaurid Lemmysuchus.

Lemmysuchus obtusidens illustration.

Picture Credit: Mark Witton

Paleoartist Dr Mark Witton has recreated the terrifying world of Lemmysuchus obtusidens.  The beautiful reconstruction shows a large Lemmysuchus feeding on a plesiosaur, whilst Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs scavenge the remains of an Ichthyosaur that has been washed ashore.

Subtle Nods to Lemmy and to John Martin

The atmospheric image created by Mark Witton, includes a subtle hint towards one of the pieces of artwork associated with Motörhead.  The pattern on top of the crocodylomorph’s skull is a homage to the “snaggletooth” logo that adorned a number of album covers.  In addition, this stunning artwork, depicting a European shoreline some 164 million years ago, pays tribute to one of the earliest depictions of ancient marine reptiles, an illustration by John Martin for the seminal publication “Great Sea Dragons”, by Thomas Hawkins, which was first printed back in 1840.

John Martin depicted a savage, violent seascape dominated by great serpent-like creatures.  Having noted the serpentine archway in Dr Witton’s illustration, Everything Dinosaur contacted Mark and enquired how this archway came to be included.

Mark explained:

“The archway in the background is a nod to the serpentine creature in the background of John Martin’s classic 1840 illustration “The Sea-Dragons as They Lived”.  Much of the right side of the image is a tribute to this work, as is the fact that virtually all the animals in my painting are savage and predatory.  We know that the Jurassic didn’t have any serpentine creatures like those imagined by Martin, so I had to improvise a little by changing his animal to a rock feature and landmass (the adjacent island is where the second ‘hump’ of his creature would be).  I decided to homage his work because, in a lot of ways, 19th century palaeoart is not dissimilar to iconography associated with the harder side of rock music, to which Lemmysuchus has an obvious connection.  Both are a bit silly in how dark and aggressive they are so, though stemming from very different cultures, they’re actually artistic bedfellows.”

“Great Sea Dragons” Illustration by John Martin circa 1840

"Great Sea Dragons" illustration by John Martin

The 1840 illustration of marine reptiles and pterosaurs by John Martin.

Talented paleoartist Mark has recently published a new work, highlighting his illustrations and providing an insight into the process or imagining and then recreating prehistoric scenes.  The book is entitled “Recreating an Age of Reptiles”, it is highly recommended.

To read a review of “Recreating an Age of Reptiles”“Recreating An Age of Reptiles” by Dr Mark Witton

Dr Witton added:

“It was quite fun bringing three very different influences together for this painting: the science of the animal itself; the aggressive, dark imagery associated with Motörhead and the influence of old school palaeoart.”

Lemmy from Motörhead (Ian Fraser Kilmister)

Motörhead frontman Lemmy

Lemmy (birth name Ian Fraser Kilmister).

Co-author Lorna Steel, (Dept. of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum), proposed that the fearsome crocodylomorph should be named after her late musical hero.

Dr Steel stated:

“Although Lemmy passed away at the end of 2015, we’d like to think that he would have raised a glass to Lemmysuchus, one of the nastiest sea creatures to have ever inhabited the Earth.”

*In early 2016, a petition was organised to get the discoverers of the recently named, super-heavy element 115 Ununpentium, to change its name to Lemmium.  Despite attracting a reported 100,000 signatures the bid to place the heavy metal music pioneer onto the Periodic Table failed.  Still it’s not every day that you get a bone-crushing, Jurassic marine crocodile named after you.

9 08, 2017

Everything Dinosaur Newsletter Rebor and More!

By | August 9th, 2017|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Newsletters, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Newsletter Rebor and More!

Subscribers to the Everything Dinosaur customer newsletter were treated to some privileged information last week when they got notice of the arrival of the new Rebor 1:18 scale Velociraptor replicas “Spring-heeled Jack” and “Alex Delarge”.  Many customers had already taken advantage of the company’s no hassle, no obligation product reservation service and they knew that these dinosaur models had been set aside for them.  Once the newsletter had been received, the orders for these two beautiful Velociraptor replicas started to come in.

The Pair of Rebor Leaping Velociraptors Feature in the Latest Everything Dinosaur Customer Newsletter

Everything Dinosaur customer newsletter.

Rebor Velociraptor models feature in the latest Everything Dinosaur newsletter.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the full range of Rebor replicas available from Everything Dinosaur: Rebor Replicas and Models

Our next newsletter is due out shortly, there is just so much going on at the moment, it really is quite difficult for our team members to keep up with the exciting developments.

If blog readers would like to subscribe, then all you have to do is to drop us an email: Contact Everything Dinosaur

Rebor “Spring-heeled Jack” and the Rebor Velociraptor “Alex Delarge”

Rebor "Spring-heeled Jack" and "Alex Delarge" Velociraptor replicas.

Rebor “Spring-heeled Jack” and “Alex Delarge” Velociraptor models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The stunning Rebor 1:18 scale Velociraptor models are sold as a pair and they are also available separately.  Each model has an articulated lower jaw and the arms can be placed in various positions.  The dinosaurs measure around twenty centimetres in length and when put on the larger of the two metal rods that come with these figures, the model stands some twenty-five centimetres in the air.

Carnotaurus and Cards

The Everything Dinosaur customer newsletter also permits us to update subscribers when new stocks of existing models arrive as well as letting people know about new products.  The early August newsletter confirmed that fresh supplies of the popular Rebor “Crimson King” – Carnotaurus sastrei had arrived.  The company’s initial stock having sold out very quickly, however, with a new batch of abelisaurs safely put into the warehouse, fans of Rebor could acquire this Theropod replica.  In addition, this newsletter allowed us to highlight a new range of dinosaur themed gift and greetings cards that had just arrived in stock.

The Rebor Carnotaurus Replica “Crimson King” and Dinosaur Cards

Everything Dinosaur Newsletter (August 2017).

Everything Dinosaur’s newsletter features a variety of dinosaur themed products.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The dinosaur themed greetings cards feature three very famous dinosaurs, these dinosaurs are Diplodocus, Tyrannosaurus rex and as shown in the snippet from our customer newsletter (above), a very colourful Stegosaurus.  Each card is blank inside so that you can write your own message and there is a surprise inside each card too – a pop-up prehistoric animal, that we are sure will delight the recipient.  Dinosaur themed greetings and gift cards can be found in the huge party section of Everything Dinosaur’s website: Everything Dinosaur Party Items.

Everything Dinosaur plans to publish more newsletters over the next few weeks and months, helping to keep our ever-growing customer base informed about the company and its product range.

8 08, 2017

Customised CollectA Deluxe Dimorphodon

By | August 8th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Customised CollectA Deluxe Dimorphodon

At Everything Dinosaur, it is always a pleasure to hear from our customers.  We get sent lots of photographs of customised models, collectors having taken a model and given it a unique paint job.  Sometimes subtle changes are made to the body plan as well.  Take for example, Elizabeth who is a long-time collector of prehistoric animal replicas.  When CollectA introduced a large replica of the flying reptile Dimorphodon, Elizabeth jumped at the chance of acquiring it and then commissioned talented model maker Martin Garratt to re-paint the Pterosaur, providing her with a marvellous centrepiece for her model collection.

The Repainted CollectA 1:40 Scale Dimorphodon Model

CollectA Deluxe Dimorphodon repainted.

A repainted CollectA deluxe Dimorphodon replica.

Picture Credit: Marilyn (UMF models)

Exquisite Dimorphodon Figure

Dimorphodon is known from the Early Jurassic of England (fossils found at Lyme Regis by Mary Anning) and a second species has been described from Mexico.  It was a member of the Rhamphorhynchoid “Ram-for-rink-oid” Pterosaurs, a sub-order of the Pterosauria characterised by their long tails, with most genera having teeth but lacking a bony crest.  The term Rhamphorhynchoid helps to distinguish early Pterosaurs from later forms (Pterodactyloidea), although the term is beginning to fall out of favour with palaeontologists due to the difficulties of defining newly described Jurassic species using this grouping.

With a wingspan of around 1.4 metres and weighing approximately 1.5 kilogrammes, this Pterosaur was no giant and many early illustrations of this flying reptile placed it in a coastal environment, however, a number of scientists including the eminent Pterosaur expert Dr Mark Witton, have suggested that this strong-legged, big-headed fellow was probably more at home in forests away from sea.

A Closer View of the Wonderful Paintwork by Martin Garratt

CollectA Deluxe Dimorphodon repainted.

A closer view of the beautifully painted snout.

Picture Credit: Marilyn (UMF Models)

The CollectA Deluxe Dimorphodon Replica

CollectA Dimorphodon pterosaur model.

The CollectA Dimorphodon model with a movable lower jaw.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The CollectA Deluxe Dimorphodon Replica

Measuring a fraction under thirty-eight centimetres in length the CollectA Supreme Deluxe Dimorphodon (part of the CollectA Deluxe Prehistoric Life Collection), is a strong candidate for customisation.  The model even has an articulated lower jaw, making access to the inside of the mouth easier for painting.  The sands and browns of the original paint scheme have been replaced by much more dynamic and vibrant palate in Martin’s interpretation.  The “leopard spots” have been replaced by “tiger stripes” and the finished repainted model is superb.

Commenting on her commission, CollectA model fan Elizabeth stated:

“I have always been a great admirer of John Sibbick’s work (and several of his original paintings hang on my walls).  I have a soft spot for John’s painting of Dimorphodon that adorns pages 70-71 of Wellnhofer’s book “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Pterosaurs” (1991) and I asked Martin if he would do something along those lines.”

We at Everything Dinosaur are also great fans of John Sibbick’s amazing artwork.  Team members were asked to write the press releases that accompanied the Royal Mail British prehistoric animal stamps that John was commissioned to paint.  The Dimorphodon illustration has been reproduced on numerous occasions, to illustrate both Dimorphodon macronyx and the sub-order of Pterosaurs as a whole.  For example, the Dimorphodon painting that inspired the colour scheme on the CollectA Dimorphodon can be found on page 172 of “The Concise Dinosaur Encyclopedia” published in 2004 by Kingfisher.

The Illustration by John Sibbick that Inspired the CollectA Dimorphodon Repaint

Dimorphodon illustration (John Sibbick).

Dimorphodon male and female by John Sibbick.

Picture Credit: John Sibbick

The picture above shows the John Sibbick artwork, the Dimorphodon on the right of the image is probably a male, the repainted CollectA model has been inspired by such illustrations and the resulting figure after Martin Garratt’s makeover is a truly unique and stunning model.

The Repainted CollectA Deluxe Dimorphodon

A repainted CollectA Dimorphodon model.

The repainted CollectA Dimorphodon replica.

Picture Credit: Marilyn (UMF Models)

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

” We always enjoy seeing how the models and replicas that we supply are customised by their owners.  We have known Martin and Marilyn at UMF Models for a number of years and we do get asked by our customers to send purchases direct to them for modification and personalisation.  Elizabeth’s Dimorphodon figure is fantastic and it just goes to show what can be achieved when a good, anatomically accurate production figure is repainted by a top-quality model maker and artist.”

See more of UMF Models on their Facebook page: Martin Garratt/UMF Models on Facebook

To view the CollectA Deluxe Dimorphodon and the other figures in the CollectA Deluxe range: CollectA Deluxe Prehistoric Life Model Range

7 08, 2017

The “Jaws” of the Early Triassic

By | August 7th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Birgeria americana – Big Mouthed Fish of the Early Triassic

The end Permian mass extinction event is widely regarded as the most devastating extinction known from the Phanerozoic Eon.  An estimated 57% of all marine families died out, virtually all the corals became extinct and ecosystems were effectively destroyed.  Notable casualties were the Trilobita, sea-scorpions (eurypterids) and many kinds of fish.  Life on land did not fare any better with many groups of amphibians and reptiles perishing.

Recently, some evidence has emerged that ecosystems bounced back remarkably quickly after this catastrophic event.  Further evidence of a speedy recovery comes in the form of a large fossilised skull from a new species of predatory marine fish discovered by palaeontologists from the University of Zurich during field work in Nevada.

Birgeria americana –A Top Marine Predator of the Early Triassic

Birgeria americana illustration.

A reconstruction of Birgeria americana with the fossil skull (bottom right).

Picture Credit: Nadine Bösch

The new species has been named Birgeria americana, a member of the ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii) and fossils of this genus are mostly associated with Middle Triassic, much younger rocks, but the lineage can be traced back into the Late Permian.  Intriguingly, most species are much smaller, less than a metre in length, Birgeria americana in contrast, was a relatively giant, measuring around 1.72 to 1.85 metres long.

The “Jaws” of the Early Triassic

Recovered from rocks that have been dated to less than one million years after the end Permian extinction event, the discovery of such a large, voracious predator came as something of a surprise to the researchers.

Lead author of the study, recently published in the “Journal of Paleontology”, Dr Carlo Romano (Palaeontological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich) stated:

“The surprising find from Elko County in north-eastern Nevada is one of the most completely preserved vertebrate remains from this time period ever discovered in the United States.”

The new species has been described on the basis of a twenty-six-centimetre-long partial skull and jaws.  The jaws contain three parallel rows of robust, sharp teeth, the largest of which were up to two centimetres long.  This formidable dentition was further reinforced by several small teeth inside the mouth.

The Fossil Skull of B. americana

Birgeria americana fossilised skull and jaws.

The fossilised skull of Birgeria americana.

Picture Credit: University of Zurich

Hunting Like a Great White Shark

The research team postulate that this species of super-sized Birgeria hunted in a similar fashion to the extant Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias).  Prey fish were pursued and then bitten, resulting in massive blood loss for the victim.  The unfortunate prey was then swallowed whole.  The partial skull, preserved in a limestone nodule, was excavated from Lower Triassic beds close to Winecup  Ranch in Elko County (Nevada).  The area is famous for its Triassic vertebrate fossils including early Ichthyosaurs.

Prior to this discovery, researchers had assumed that ancient equatorial regions were too hot for vertebrates to survive during the Early Triassic (Nevada was close to the equator during the Early Triassic), the discovery of such a large, obvious predator suggests a rich and diverse food chain existed even at low latitudes.  Finds such as the newly discovered Birgeria species and the fossils of other vertebrates now show that marine hypercarnivores existed shortly after the end Permian mass extinction.  The existence of bony fish close to the equator, where Nevada was located some 250 million years ago, indicates that the temperature of the sea was a maximum of 36°C.  The eggs of today’s bony fish cannot develop normally at constant temperatures above 36°Celsius.

Dr Romano added:

“The vertebrates from Nevada show that previous interpretations of past biotic crises and associated global changes were too simplistic.  Despite the severity of the extinctions of that time and intense climatic changes, the food webs were able to redevelop faster than previously assumed.”

For an article on fossil finds from China, providing further evidence of marine biota recovery following the end Permian mass extinction: Window into an Ancient Marine Ecosystem

The scientific paper: “Marine Early Triassic Actinopterygii from Elko County (Nevada, USA): Implications for the Smithian Equatorial Vertebrate Eclipse” by Carlo Romano, James F. Jenks, Romain Jattiot, Torsten M. Scheyer, Kevin G. Bylund, and Hugo Bucher published in the Journal of Paleontology.

6 08, 2017

The Armour of Borealopelta markmitchelli

By | August 6th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

The Armour of Borealopelta markmitchelli

With the publishing of the formal description of the nodosaurid Borealopelta markmitchelli in the academic journal “Current Biology” this week, Everything Dinosaur has received a number of emails concerning this amazing fossil discovery.  The specimen, was lovingly prepared by museum technician Mark Mitchell who worked on the fossil for five and a half years, a total of something like 7,000 hours, as the dinosaur was exposed from its matrix one grain at a time.

The holotype (TMP 2011.033.0001), is currently on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, part of an exhibition entitled “Grounds for Discovery”.  This exhibition highlights the personal stories and amazing fossils that have been discovered as a result of the Museum’s collaboration with numerous industries such as road construction, house building, mining, and oil and gas extraction.

The emails we received concerned aspects such as the animal’s size (5.5 metres long and weighing around 1.3 tonnes) and from which part of Alberta did the fossil come from (north-eastern Alberta).  However, most of the emails were enquiring about the preservation of the armour.

The diagram below should help.

A Schematic Drawing of the Borealopelta markmitchelli Holotype Specimen

Dermal armour of Borealopelta.

Schematic line drawing of the dermal armour of Borealopelta.

Picture Credit: Current Biology

The picture above shows a schematic drawing of Borealopelta (A), with line drawings (B) and (C) showing the skull in dorsal and lateral views.  The different colours illustrate the preservation of different tissue types and the photographs (D to G) with accompanying line drawings show the range of dermal armour including osteoderms and scutes.  A close-up view of the neck (D), shows alternating cervical osteoderm bands (and preserved keratinous sheaths) and polygonal scales.

Photograph (E) shows a close-up view of the flank illustrating lateral thoracic osteoderms (with keratinous coverings) and polygonal scutes (scales).  A close view of the sacral shield area (F) showing more elements that make up the dermal armour and (G) shows a view of the forearm of Borealopelta (antebrachium) showing the amour (osteoderms and scales).


Scale bar = 1 metre (A) and scale bar = 10 cm (B to G).

Body Armour in Life Position

The wonderful thing about this particular armoured dinosaur is that the osteoderms and scales that make up the body armour have been preserved in the position they were in when this dinosaur roamed Alberta during the Early Cretaceous.  The three-dimensional nature of the fossil has really helped the research team to understand how the mosaic of scutes, scales and osteoderms combined to provide the dermal armour.  The remains of the keratin sheaths and overlying skin was also preserved in some areas, melanosomes identified provide evidence of this dinosaur’s colouration.

To read an article about Borealopelta markmitchelliAmazing Armoured Dinosaur Fossil Reveals Countershading

5 08, 2017

Cambrian Worm with a Big Bite

By | August 5th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|2 Comments

New Species of Fossil Worm – the Jaws of the Cambrian

Despite the Burgess Shale fossil deposits having been studied for more than a hundred years, these ancient shales can still spring a few surprises.  For example, this week saw the publication of a description of a new fossil species of arrow worm, one that at ten centimetres long, is a relative giant compared to other members of its phylum, living or extinct.

A New Species of Fossil Marine Arrow Worm Described from Burgess Shale Deposits

Capinatator praetermissus illustrated.

An illustration of the Cambrian chaetognath Capinatator praetermissus.

Picture Credit: Marianne Collins

Capinatator praetermissus – Big-mouthed Predatory Marine Worm

The mysterious Chaetognatha, the bristle-jawed worms, often referred to as arrow worms, probably originated in the very Early Cambrian, but their soft bodies are rarely preserved in the fossil record.  However, a team of scientists, including Burgess Shale expert Jean-Bernard Caron (Royal Ontario Museum), have identified a new fossil species, based on around fifty specimens preserved in fine sediments in strata that make up part of the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shales (British Columbia).  The feeding apparatus comprises of up to twenty-five spines around each half of the simple mouth, nearly double the maximum number found in extant chaetognaths.  the large body size and formidable-looking mouth parts suggest that these arrow worms were important predators in the Cambrian marine environment.  This is one predator that could claim to be the “Jaws of the Cambrian”!

A Close-up View of the Fossilised Mouth Parts of C. praetermissus

Capinatator fossil.

Capinatator head showing the bristle-like feeding structures.

Picture Credit: JB Caron/Royal Ontario Museum

The picture above shows a fossil specimen from the collection site – the Walcott Quarry, Burgess Shale (Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada).  Capinatator praetermissus translates as “a swimming and grasping animal which remained overlooked for a long time”, in reference to the animal’s suggested ecological niche and the fact that despite decades of research centred around the Walcott Quarry, these fossil worms had been overlooked.

Writing in the academic journal “Current Biology”, the researchers examined numerous specimens that had soft tissue preservation.  It is likely that these animals swam near the seabed and that a population was buried rapidly by a mud flow.  The bristles of these worms have a relatively high fossil preservation potential.  For many years, these tough bristles were reported as conodont elements (conodonts are an extinct Class of small, jawless, marine vertebrates with pairs of robust tooth-bars that may have been used as filter-feeding apparatus), however, this research suggests that these marine worms occupied a different range of ecological niches compared to their living descendants today.  Most living members of the Chaetognatha are very small and make up a major component of marine zooplankton, but this newly named fossil species, Capinatator praetermissus was probably an active, pelagic (living above the sea floor), predator.  It has also been proposed that this animal could have been benthic, living on the sea floor.

An Illustration of the Body Plan of Capinatator praetermissus

The morphology of Capinatator.

Illustration of Capinatator showing body morphology along different angles.

Picture Credit: Marianne Collins

Primitive arrow worms were much larger and had evolved a greater number of spines around their mouths compared to their modern-day counterparts.  Capinatator represents one of the oldest species of arrow worm known from the fossil record.  The discovery of Capinatator suggests that miniaturisation and evolving into free floating zoo plankton may have been secondary, these animals becoming smaller and changing their roles in the marine biota as other predators such as the Arthropods became larger.

For an article about another Burgess Shale fossil worm discovery: Cambrian Suspension Feeder Provides Clue to Common Ancestor

To read an article about a monster marine worm from the Devonian: Monster Worm of the Devonian

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of the Royal Ontario Museum in the compilation of this article.

The scientific paper: “A Large Cambrian Chaetognath with Supernumeracy Grasping Spines” by Derek E.G. Briggs and Jean-Bernard Caron published in the journal “Current Biology”.

4 08, 2017

Amazing Armoured Dinosaur Fossil Reveals Countershading

By | August 4th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Borealopelta markmitchelli – Big but There was Something Bigger and Very Nasty Out There!

You’re about as heavy as a Ford Focus, your body is covered in bony armour and you have lethal spikes running down your flanks, including a pair of wicked-looking shoulder spines, yet you rely on camouflage to help keep you safe.  That’s the conclusion reached by an international team of scientists as they have studied the best-preserved armoured dinosaur ever found.  Borealopelta might have weighed in excess of 1.3 tonnes and measured more than 5.5 metres long, but it relied on countershading to help hide it from predatory dinosaurs.

This is an amazing piece of research, perhaps, more amazingly, this research implies that for a dinosaur described as a “walking tank”, there was one or maybe several super-sized meat-eating dinosaurs that despite the heavy armour, it was best to hide away from.  Trouble is, palaeontologists can only speculate about what sort of multi-tonne Theropod might have been the stuff of nightmares for Borealopelta, we simply don’t know.

An Illustration of the Armoured Dinosaur Borealopelta (B. markmitchelli)

 Borealopelta markmitchelli illustrated.

An illustration of the nodosaurid Borealopelta markmitchelli.

Picture Credit: Julius Csotonyi

The First Line of Defence Not to be Seen in the First Place

Writing in the academic journal “Current Biology”, the researchers, which included Caleb Brown and Donald Henderson (Royal Tyrrell Museum, Alberta, Canada) along with Jakob Vinther (Bristol University), Ian Fletcher (Newcastle University) and colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, conclude that Borealopelta possessed countershading to help camouflage it and avoid detection from sharp-eyed Theropod dinosaurs.

Using chemical analysis of organic compounds in the horns and skin to infer the dinosaur’s pigmentation pattern, the scientists found that the skin exhibited countershading, a common form of camouflage in which an animal’s underside is lighter than its back.  The top part of the animal was coloured a reddish-brown.  The russet colouration contrasted with the lighter shaded, paler underbelly.

Dr Vinther, an expert on the detection of colour signals within the fossil record commented:

“We found a lot of sulphur bearing organic compounds, which we later could confirm was evidence for reddish brown colouration.”

The Superbly-Preserved Holotype Specimen of Borealopelta markmitchelli

Borealopelta markmitchelli holotype.

Borealopelta markmitchelli fossil (scale bar = 10 cm).

Picture Credit: Royal Tyrrell Museum

A Sleeping Armoured Giant

The researchers used two mass spectroscopic techniques called Time of Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy and Pyrolysis Gas Chromatography Mass Spectroscopy to reveal the armoured dinosaurs’ colouration.  Such procedures were only possible due to the exceptional preservation of the specimen, which is currently on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.  The fossil material was discovered in 2011 at the Suncor Millennium Mine, in north-eastern Alberta, during the removal of overburden.  This was the first dinosaur to be found in these sediments.

To read more about the fossil discovery: Oil Worker Digs Up Dinosaur

The strata represent sediments laid down in an offshore marine environment.  The carcass sank to the bottom of the seabed, its back hitting the seafloor hard enough to deform the underlying sedimentary layers.  The specimen was preserved in exquisite detail and is almost complete.  The articulated skeleton gives the impression that this armoured giant is merely sleeping and likely to be roused at any moment.

Holotype Specimen of B. markmitchelli

Borealopelta specimen.

The sleeping giant Borealopelta from north-eastern Alberta.

Picture Credit: Royal Tyrrell Museum

The Implications of the Countershading

Borealopelta comes from the Wabiskaw Member of the Clearwater Formation, these rocks were laid down in the Early Cretaceous (Albian faunal stage).  Marine reptiles are known from these rocks, but this is the first time that a dinosaur has been found, the body of Borealopelta probably floated out to sea, an example of “bloat and float”.  The discovery of countershading in such a large animal begs the question, what sort of dinosaur was Borealopelta trying to hide from?

Countershading is a common evolutionary strategy seen in many prey animals today.  However, no extant animal exceeding one tonne in weight is counter shaded.  Lots of ungulates possess countershading but they are all far smaller than Borealopelta.  The researchers assessed the body mass of typical mammals that have such camouflage and compared them to the body weights of the carnivorous mammals that predate them.  The scientists concluded that as prey body size increases within typical terrestrial mammalian prey, so the number of species demonstrating countershading decreases.  Once you get to be the size of a rhino or an elephant, countershading in extant, terrestrial ecosystems is not present.  However, in the Early Cretaceous, things were very different.

A Chart Illustrating the Loss of Countershading as Body Mass Increases (Terrestrial Mammals)

A chart illustrating counter-shading compared to body size.

As body size increases so the amount of countershading seen in terrestrial mammals decreases.

Picture Credit: Current Biology

The chart above shows the relative proportion of species that exhibit countershading.  The diagonally hatched area represents the mass above which significant predation of adults does not occur.  Animals illustrated above the chart are representative taxa within each mass bin, the species names in italics at the top indicates the body masses of the largest carnivores (Canivora).

Dr Vinther explains:

“Although countershading is common, our findings come as surprise because Borealopelta’s size far exceeds that of counter shaded animals alive today.  It suggests the dinosaur was under enough pressure from predators to select for concealment.  This means that the Cretaceous period was a really scary time to be around in.  Large Theropod dinosaurs with excellent colour vision would have made life stressful for many a dinosaur, both big and small.”

What was Borealopelta trying to Hide from?

As no other dinosaur remains have been found in the Wabiskaw Member, the large, meat-eating dinosaurs Borealopelta tried to hide from can only be speculated.  Huge Theropod footprints found in rocks of a similar age and nearby formations in northern Alberta and British Columbia can hint at what sort of fearsome creature shared Borealopelta’s world.  For example, substantial, three-toed dinosaur tracks from the Cedar Mountain Formation of eastern Utah have been described and assigned to the ichnogenus Irenesauripis.  Some of these tracks are nearly ninety centimetres in length and the huge claw marks indicate that whatever dinosaur made these tracks, it was a formidable predator.  The authors of this study suggest that the apex predators were probably allosaurid/carcharodontosaurid taxa and suggest something like the twelve-metre-long Acrocanthosaurus, fossils of which are found in similarly-aged formations further south.

An Illustration of an Acrocanthosaurus (A. atokensis)

Papo Acrocanthosaurus.

The Papo Acrocanthosaurus dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Heavily armoured dinosaurs were camouflaged to avoid being spotted by a predator, but what sort of predator is open to question.  Perhaps, in a remote part of British Columbia, the fossil remains of an entirely new type of Theropod dinosaur are awaiting discovery…

“Northern Shield and 7,000 Hours of Painstaking Work

The genus name means “northern shield” a reference to the latitude of the fossil discovery, whereas, the species name honours museum technician Mark Mitchell who spent more than 7,000 hours carefully removing the fossil from the surrounding rock, one grain at a time.  Researchers are now examining the preserved gut contents to find out the nature of its last meal, and working to characterise the body armour in even greater detail.

Comparing Borealopelta to Other Well-Preserved Ankylosaurs

Ankylosaur armour comparisons.

Borealopelta armour compared to other Ankylosaurs.

Picture Credit: Current Biology

The picture above shows a time-calibrated strict consensus tree showing the position of Borealopelta markmitchelli within the Ankylosauria, with representative well-preserved Ankylosaurs provided for comparison.  In this analysis, Borealopelta is regarded as the sister taxon of Pawpawsaurus, also from the Albian faunal stage of the Cretaceous.

Scale bar = 1 metre

(A) Kunbarrasaurus, (QM F18101).

(B) Euoplocephalus, (NHMUK 5161).

(C) Sauropelta, (AMNH 3035 and (3036 composite).

(D) Borealopelta, (TMP 2011.033.0001)

(E) Edmontonia, (AMNH 5665).

The scientific paper: “An Exceptionally Preserved Three-Dimensional Armoured Dinosaur Reveals Insights into Coloration and Cretaceous Predator-Prey Dynamics” by Caleb M. Brown, Donald M. Henderson, Jakob Vinther, Ian Fletcher, Ainara Sistiaga, Jorsua Herrera and Roger E. Summons published in Current Biology.

To read an article on an earlier study regarding the counter-shading of Psittacosaurus: Calculating the Countershading of Psittacosaurus

3 08, 2017

Surveyor Stumbles Across Dinosaur Bone

By | August 3rd, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Plans for a Bike Trail in Colorado Disrupted by Dinosaur Find

Mountain biking trails in the rugged landscape close to the town of Grand Junction (Colorado), are big business, with keen cyclists from all over the United States taking to the trails.  However, plans to extend the range of courses available had to be halted when a surveyor discovered a boulder with a dinosaur fossil bone embedded within it.  Bureau of Land Management (BLM), geologist Chris Pipkin had been undertaking a survey in a bid to identify new potential trackways when he spotted a large bone in a boulder.  The trail, named the Palisade Plunge Bike Trail had its unusual dinosaur visitor thanks to erosion.  It is likely that the boulder tumbled down from the cliffs that overlook this area of the single lane track.

Bureau of Land Management Staff Inspect the Boulder and the Fossil Bone

Dinosaur bone found on bike trail.

The dinosaur bone found on the mountain bike trail is inspected.

Picture Credit BLM

Five Feet from the Bike Trail

The boulder came to rest just five feet (1.5 metres), from the bike trail and although cyclists could get past the obstruction, officials concluded that it would be in the best interests of all parties if the fossilised bone was removed.  The sixty-centimetre-long bone would weather away in just a few years if it were to be left at the site and being so prominent and obvious, it might attract the interest of unscrupulous fossil dealers who might be tempted to steal it.  BLM officials and local palaeontologists suspect that the fossil is a limb bone from a duck-billed dinosaur, although it is impossible to determine a genus from this single specimen.  More fossils may be found further up the trail in the cliffs.  The bone was extracted from the boulder and it has been sent to a local museum for further analysis.

The Fossil Bone is Carefully Prepared for Transport Away from the Mountain Bike Trail

Dinosaur bone being removed.

BLM staff and volunteers carefully wrap the fossil in burlap and plaster.

Picture Credit: BLM

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur, commented that the fossil may have come from exposures related to the Mesa Verde Group.  Dinosaur fossils have been found in these rocks (sandstones and shales, laid down in a coastal, near shore environment) and the fossil, if it is confirmed as hadrosaurid, could represent a Gryposaurus

An Illustration of Gryposaurus (Scale Drawing)

Gryposaurus scale drawing.

A scale drawing of the duck-billed dinosaur Gryposaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The fossil material dates from the Campanian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous and is described as being in “remarkably good shape”.

The Dinosaur Fossil Bone Could be a Limb bone from a Gryposaurus

Dinosaur bone found on mountain bike trail.

Limb bone from a hadrosaurid.

Picture Credit: BLM

It is hoped that once fully prepared and stabilised, the fossil bone could be put on display at a Grand Junction museum.

To read an article about Upper Cretaceous hadrosaurid fossils being found by scientists prospecting for a location suitable for a Mars Rover robotic challenge: Dinosaur Fossils on Mars – Not Quite

2 08, 2017

A Review of “Recreating an Age of Reptiles”

By | August 2nd, 2017|Book Reviews, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

“Recreating an Age of Reptiles” by Mark Witton

Visit a museum to marvel at the fossils of dinosaurs or the majesty of the prehistoric mammals on display and in all likelihood, the scientific exhibits will be accompanied by illustrations that depict how the animal may have looked when it lived and breathed.  The art of bringing to life long extinct creatures requires a very special set of skills, an understanding of comparative anatomy, an ability to interpret fossil evidence combined with the flair to create credible portrayals of the past.  These “palaeoartists”, those who attempt to reconstruct prehistoric life, are a rare breed.  Top-quality palaeoartists are even rarer.  Step forward Dr Mark Witton, a leading exponent of palaeoartistry, a person with the required skill set to comfortably straddle both scientific and artistic worlds.

An insight to how Mark depicts landscapes along with the ancient animals and plants that once existed within them is provided in a fascinating new book – “Recreating an Age of Reptiles”.  The publication focuses on the Mesozoic Era and highlights the way in which this talented illustrator recreates prehistoric fauna and flora.

The Front Cover of “Recreating an Age of Reptiles” by Mark Witton

"Recreating an Age of Reptiles" front cover.

The front cover of “Recreating an Age of Reptiles” by Mark Witton.

Picture Credit: Mark Witton

The Art of Illustrating What No Human Being has ever Seen!

From the lumbering Barilium dawsoni (an iguanodontid), adorning the front cover, to the swimming pair of Plesiosaurs that appear just prior to the comprehensive index, this book is crammed full of wonderful illustrations that cover that immense period of geological time from the Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous.  Over ninety beautiful and extremely detailed paintings are featured and the author provides an insight into each one, explaining how inferred behaviours are portrayed.   From sunbathing troodontids, through to a remodelling of Dimorphodon and accident-prone Theropods, Mark’s unique style helps to bring to life dinosaurs and their contemporaries and depict them as animals interacting with their environments and the other fauna and flora that co-existed with them.  It is truly a rare gift being able to provide a glimpse into long vanished worlds, that no human has ever witnessed.

Big Meat-eating Dinosaurs Did Not Have Everything Their Own Way!

The Theropod Aucasaurus slips and falls.

When Theropods go wrong! Aucasaurus takes a tumble.

Picture Credit: Mark Witton

Published by The Crowood Press “Recreating an Age of Reptiles” is just one of those “must-haves” for anyone with an interest in dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.  For further information and to purchase this book: Recreating the Age of Reptiles by Mark Witton

Palaeontologist and Palaeoartist Combined

Dr Witton might be best known for his work on the Pterosauria and there are a number of flying reptile illustrations in this book, (look out for the iconic azhdarchid/giraffe comparisons), but it is his attention to detail and the way in which Mark utilises his observations of animals alive today that elevate these illustrations above those of fellow artists.  For example, there are many different interpretations of Baryonyx (B. walkeri), but Mark chooses to recreate this gigantic piscivore muscling in on a prime fishing spot at the expense of a group of ancient crocodilians, in a similar way that a large lion might oust a group of Nile crocodiles from the water’s edge.

Baryonyx Makes an Entrance

Baryonyx walkeri strides through a swamp watched by wary Goniopholis.

Baryonyx walkeri by Mark Witton.

Picture Credit: Mark Witton

The book is divided into a series of chapters, with each one focusing on a different aspect of Mark’s work and a different group of prehistoric creatures.  Amongst Everything Dinosaur team members, personal highlights include the chapter on how Mesozoic mammals are depicted and the section that brings to life some of the more bizarre reptiles that lived during the Triassic.

Dr Witton concludes by reflecting on how palaeoart has evolved and changed to accommodate new ideas and scientific thinking and admits that many, if not all of his own sumptuous artworks may have to be altered and redrawn as new scientific evidence is presented.  Palaeoart reflects our changing perceptions of prehistoric life.  The way we depict ancient landscapes changes as science itself changes and new ideas and theories find favour.  Mark is comfortable straddling the scientific and artistic worlds, he is equally at home depicting moments in the lives of long extinct creatures, snapshots into the evolution of life on Earth as palaeoart itself evolves.

Book Details

“Recreating an Age of Reptiles”

ISBN: 978-1-78500-334-9

Pages: 112

Publisher: The Crowood Press

Release date: July 2017 (RRP = £16.99)

To purchase a copy: Recreating the Age of Reptiles by Mark Witton

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