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18 05, 2018

Preparing for Beasts of the Mesozoic

By | May 18th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Getting Ready for the Arrival of the Beasts of the Mesozoic Range

Everything Dinosaur team members are getting ready to receive the new Beasts of the Mesozoic range of 1:6 scale figures.  The stock is due to arrive in our warehouse next week.  For virtually every named prehistoric animal replica or model that we supply, our team members research and write a fact sheet on that creature.  These fact sheets are then sent out with the models and figures so that purchasers can read about the extinct animal the model represents.

Lots and Lots of Maniraptoran Fact Sheets Have Been Prepared

Fact sheets prepared for the Beasts of the Mesozoic range of models.

A collection of Beasts of the Mesozoic fact sheets created by Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Managing the Maniraptora

A few years ago, we could have referred to the Beasts of the Mesozoic range as representing members of the Dromaeosauridae family of dinosaurs, however, with the reclassification of Balaur bondoc from the Hateg Formation of Romania, as a flightless, ground-dwelling bird, we have had to extend our classification somewhat.  The Maniraptora clade is comprised of all those dinosaurs that includes the birds and the non-avian dinosaurs that were more closely related to them than to the North American ornithomimid Ornithomimus velox.  Amongst the many 1:6 scale models coming in there are plenty of vicious, fearsome carnivores.  Certainly, enough to keep fans of “raptors” happy.

The Skull of Linheraptor exquisitus (Holotype IVPP V 16923)

Linheraptor fossil skull.

Linheraptor skull in right lateral view.

Picture Credit: Zootaxa

The picture (above) shows the fossilised skull of Linheraptor exquisitus (holotype), the white scale bar = 5 centimetres.

The skull is shown in right lateral view, abbreviations: a, angular; aof, antorbital fenestra; f, frontal; hy, hyoid; itf, infratemporal fenestra; j, jugal; l, lacrimal; ld, left dentary; lpa, left prearticular; lsp, left splenial; m, maxilla; mf, maxillary fenestra; n, nasal; nf, narial fenestra; o, orbital; p, parietal; pmf, promaxillary fenestra; pmx, premaxilla; q, quadrate; qf, quadrate foramen; qj,
quadratojugal; rd, right dentary; sa, surangular; sq, squamosal.

The Linheraptor figure is just one of the 1:6 Beasts of the Mesozoic replicas due to arrive next week, already excited about this, but not to worry, we are definitely not in a flap!

17 05, 2018

Largest Pterosaur Mandible Ever Found

By | May 17th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Giant Romanian Pterosaur Hints at Ecological Niches within the Azhdarchidae

Transylvania back in the Late Cretaceous was a very scary place.  This central part of Romania, might be associated with vampires today, thanks mainly to Bram Stoker’s Gothic horror “Dracula”, but towards the end of the Mesozoic, much of Europe was under the sea, rising above the remnants of the once mighty Tethys was an island and real monsters lurked there.

The island is known as Hateg Island and it was a very strange place indeed.  There were dinosaurs, but the apex predator was an animal capable of flight, just like the blood-sucking protagonist from the 1897 novel.  Huge azhdarchid Pterosaurs stalked Hateg Island and an international team of researchers writing in the academic journal “Lethaia”, report finding the largest Pterosaur jawbone known to science.

Huge Azhdarchid Pterosaurs Stalked Hateg Island

A group of azhdarchid Pterosaurs hunting.

Some Pterosaurs were as tall as a giraffe.  These were the real monsters of Transylvania.

Picture Credit: Mark Witton

Niche Partitioning Amongst Giant Flying Reptiles

Pterosaurs in the family Azhdarchidae, represent the largest flying animals to have ever existed, with the longest skulls of any terrestrial tetrapod.  They were globally distributed, with azhdarchid fossils having been reported from every continent except Antarctica.  However, despite their huge size (wingspans in excess of ten metres have been estimated for several species), their fossil record is extremely poor, with most species, even giants such as Quetzalcoatlus, known from a few fragmentary, mere scraps of bone.

The mandible fossil is part of the largest Pterosaur mandible (lower jaw) found to date.  The fossil was collected from Maastrichtian continental deposits near Vălioara in the Hațeg Basin, Romania.  The azhdarchid Pterosaur Hatzegopteryx thambema is known from these Upper Cretaceous sandstone deposits (Red Cliffs), but this new fossil cannot be confidently referred to H. thambema due to the absence of overlapping skeletal elements.  In short, the lower jaw fossil of H. thambema which would correspond to the newly described mandible has not been found.

It has been suggested that this, as yet, unnamed Hateg Pterosaur, may have been a relatively stocky, heavy-set flying reptile, with a short neck and a huge head.  It is reported that comparisons with previously described large‐sized azhdarchid mandibles indicate a certain degree of morphological and probably ecological disparity within the Azhdarchidae.  Different giants may have occupied slightly different niches in the ecosystem, in this way they could avoid direct competition.  The dividing up of resources in this way is referred to as niche partitioning.

A View of the Red Cliffs in Romania (Location of Fossil Find)

The steep cliffs of the dig site (Sebes, Romania).

The Red Cliffs dig site near Sebeș in Romania.  These sandstones represent continental sandstone deposits from the end of the Cretaceous.

Picture Credit: Mátyás Vremir

A Six to Eight Metre Wingspan

Lead author of the study, published in “Lethaia”  an international journal of palaeontology and stratigraphy, Mátyás Vremir of the Transylvanian Museum Society stated:

“It is not the largest Pterosaur ever found, but it is the largest mandible recovered to date, with a reconstructed length of 110 to 130 centimetres.  This might indicate a very large size Pterosaur, possibly 8 to 9 metres in wingspan.”

A trio of enormous Pterosaurs are associated with the Hateg Formation.  With the discovery of this partial mandible, Transylvania can claim to be a “hot spot” for super-sized flying reptiles.  It had been thought that towards the end or the Cretaceous, the Pterosauria were in decline, however, a paper published in March this year identified a Late Cretaceous ecosystem in Morocco with at least six coeval species of Pterosaur including the presence of two azhdarchid Pterosaurs, one of whom could have been a giant.

To read our article about the Moroccan fossil discovery: Pterosaurs more diverse than previously thought

Fragmentary remains of another azhdarchid Pterosaur from Romania, uncovered in 2009, which have yet to be formally described, confirm that Hateg Island was home to a variety of giant flying reptiles.  The fossils associated with this Pterosaur have been nicknamed “Dracula” by scientists.

A Piece of the Pterosaur Fossil Bones Nicknamed “Dracula” Eroding Out of a Cliff

A fragment of Pterosaur fossil bone (Mátyás Vremir).

A piece of Pterosaur fossil bone eroding out of the cliff.

Picture Credit: Mátyás Vremir

Specimen Number LPB (FGGUB) R.2347

The mandible fossil, part of the back of the lower jaw exhibits anatomical traits that are present in both azhdarchid and tapejarid Pterosaurs.  This suggests that the specimen (LPB (FGGUB) R.2347), comes from an animal that had a more basal position within the Azhdarchidae family.  The researchers conclude that this bone shares a number of features with the smaller azhdarchoid Bakonydraco galaczi ,which is known from much older Cretaceous deposits in Hungary.

Vremir added:

“Except for a few scraps, after more than a century of fossil collecting in Transylvania, nothing was known about Pterosaurs until the last 16 years.  In the past 10 years, the picture changed substantially and over 50 fossil specimens were collected from various sites.”

Azhdarchid Pterosaur Wrist Bone

Azhdarchid Pterosaur wrist bone (Hateg Formation).

Azhdarchid Pterosaur wrist bone.

Picture Credit: Mátyás Vremir

The huge, partial mandible, the only part of the new animal found so far, was originally dug up in the Hateg region of Transylvania in 1978, but at the time it wasn’t recognised as a Pterosaur fossil. Vremir and co-author of the scientific paper, Gareth Dyke, (University of Debrecen, Hungary), were visiting Bucharest’s fossil collection in 2011 and made the connection.

Flightless Giants

Using analogies such as the Elephant Bird of Madagascar and the Dodo from Mauritius, island life can lead to volant creatures evolving in very different directions.   The Dodo and the Elephant bird were descended from birds that could fly, but once established on an island, with few predators, these birds adopted a ground-dwelling existence and over many subsequent generations they lost the ability to take to the air.  Mátyás Vremir and his colleagues speculate that some of the very largest Hateg Pterosaurs may have taken a similar evolutionary route.  Perhaps as young animals they could fly, a very good way to avoid terrestrial predators, but as they grew and became adults reaching a size whereby they were unlikely to be attacked by other animals, they were unable to fly.

Everything Dinosaur team members are aware that are number of papers are currently being prepared that explore this intriguing idea further.

The scientific paper: “Partial Mandible of a Giant Pterosaur from the Uppermost Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) of the Hațeg Basin, Romania” by Mátyás Vremir, Gareth Dyke, Zoltán Csiki‐Sava, Dan Grigorescu and Eric Buffetaut.

16 05, 2018

“Simple but Elegant” Solution to Dinosaur Egg Incubation

By | May 16th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

How to Brood Your Eggs When You Weigh More Than a Tonne

The question of how dinosaurs incubated their eggs without crushing them has been a puzzle ever since the first dinosaur nesting sites were discovered nearly a hundred years ago.  A Canadian-led study has found a link between the radius of the nest of Oviraptorosauria clade members and the body size of the parent.  In research into the nesting habits of Oviraptorosaurs, the scientists discovered that small species laid eggs in clusters, just like many extant birds today.  Much larger species, the giants such as Gigantoraptor, laid eggs in a stacked ring, so that they could keep their eggs close without crushing them with their bodies.

The Larger the Oviraptorosaur the Bigger the Nest Diameter

Small Oviraptorosaurs compared to Large Oviraptorosaurs.

New study suggests a link between the layout of eggs and dinosaur size.

Picture Credit: Masato Hattori

Dedicated Parents

Palaeontologists think that there were many different nesting strategies adopted by the diverse dinosaurs, but this study focused on the incubation of the eggs associated with Oviraptorosaurs, a group of very bird-like Theropods that are known from the Late Cretaceous of North America and Asia.  It is very likely that these dinosaurs were dedicated parents and that they spent many weeks, incubating their eggs by sitting on the nest.  How much parental care dinosaurs showed to their offspring remains an area of considerable controversy, but just like birds today, dinosaurs probably adopted a range of altricial, semi-precocial and precocial strategies* when it came to their young.

Lead author of the study, published in the Royal Society journal “Biology Letters”, Darla Zelinitsky, (Assistant Professor of Geoscience at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada), commented:

“In the largest Oviraptorosaur clutches [Macroelongatoolithus], the central opening represents most of the total clutch area, likely allowing giant-sized species to rest their entire weight on this area so as not to crush the eggs.”

Forty Fossil Nests Studied

The research team, which included a former PhD student of Darla’s, Kohei Tanaka (Nagoya University, Japan), studied and measured around forty Oviraptorosauria fossil nests, most of which come from China, but fossils from North America and from elsewhere in Asia, were included in the study.  The smallest nests revealed eggs laid in clusters, but the largest nests, associated with the largest of the Oviraptorosaurs, were up to 3.3 metres wide, took on a ring shape with a large, flat, central area, presumably where the adult animal sat.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Some of the largest nests associated with the Oviraptorosauria are so wide that a smart car could be parked in the space in the middle, the metaphor is quite appropriate given that a number of giant species have been named.  Dinosaurs like the colossal caenagnathids Gigantoraptor or Beibeilong may have been much heavier than a smart car, yet it is thought that these huge animals had to sit on their nests and incubate the eggs.”

The Oogenus Macroelongatoolithus

Just like dinosaur bones, tracks and the fossilised remains of dinosaur eggs can lead to the establishment of a new genus or species.  Footprints and other trace fossils that are given a formal scientific name are characterised by the epithet “ichno”, whereas, egg fossils are characterised by the epithet “oo”, the root of which is “oolithus” from the Latin meaning “stone egg”.  Numerous dinosaur oogenera have been erected, one of the largest eggs Macroelongatoolithus, some of which measure sixty centimetres in length, are associated with the Oviraptorosauria.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s 2017 blog article about the establishment of a new species of giant Oviraptorosaur from embryos associated with Macroelongatoolithus eggs: Dinosaur Embryo Fossil Leads to New Dinosaur Species

The researchers conclude that the smallest Oviraptorosaurs probably sat directly on the eggs, whereas with increasing body size more weight was likely carried by the central opening, reducing or eliminating the load on the eggs and still potentially allowing for some contact during incubation in giant species.  This adaptation, not seen in birds, appears to remove the body size constraints of incubation behaviour in giant Oviraptorosaurs.

The Ring-shaped Layout of Eggs Associated with a Large Oviraptorosaur

Giant Oviraptorosaur nest.

A nest of a giant Oviraptorosaur.

Picture Credit: Kohei Tanaka (Nagoya University)

Numerous species of Oviraptorosaurs have been named, most of these dinosaurs were relatively small around 2-3 metres in length, however, considerably larger taxa have been identified, giants such as Gigantoraptor erlianensis, which may have reached lengths of more than eight metres and weighed around 1.4 Tonnes.

While most nests have been found in Asia, in particular the Gobi Desert, Zelinitsky conducted research on dinosaur nests found in South Korea and Canada.

Dinosaurs of China 2017.

A Gigantoraptor exhibit, one of the largest feathered dinosaurs known to science.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Zelinitsky added:

“It’s a unique structure, no other dinosaurs build their nests in that shape, and no living animals incubate their eggs this way.  I just think it’s really neat that we’re able to say something more about the nesting behaviours and how they changed in these Oviraptorosaur dinosaurs among the various species and species sizes.”

The researchers aren’t sure why these dinosaurs sat on their eggs.  If it was to keep the eggs warm, those dinosaurs that sat in the middle of the ring probably couldn’t transfer heat as effectively as the ones that sat directly on the eggs.  However, these dinosaurs had arms covered with feathers, these “wings” could have helped to shelter the eggs and to protect them as well as providing a warmer surface area to help the eggs maintain an appropriate temperature.

The researchers describe the organisation and egg layout of the nest as a “simple and elegant” solution to the problem of large dinosaurs crushing of their own eggs.

*Altricial and Precocial Nesting Behaviours

Modern birds demonstrate a variety of behavioural responses when it comes to raising their young.  Some bird species like ducks and ostriches have highly precocial young.  The babies are able to vacate the nest and feed themselves within just a few hours of hatching.  Other bird species have a different approach, for example, most of the passerines (song birds), such as wrens, blackbirds and thrushes are helpless when they hatch and rely on their parents to provide food and to keep them warm.  In reality, the Aves (which are very closely related to the extinct Oviraptorosaurs), exhibit a wide range of behaviours.  Altricial and precocial traits tend to be at opposite ends of a spectrum, given the paucity of the fossil record, it is difficult to clarify the development strategy of any extinct species.

The Altricial and Precocial Nesting Behaviour Spectrum

Birds - altricial and precocial behaviours.

Altricial and precocial behaviours in Aves – a spectrum.  It is very likely that a spectrum of nesting behaviours was also exhibited by the Dinosauria.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

15 05, 2018

Papo Therizinosaurus Video Review

By | May 15th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Everything Dinosaur videos, Main Page|1 Comment

A Review of the Papo Therizinosaurus Model by JurassicCollectables

A month before the new “Jurassic World” film “Fallen Kingdom” hits cinema screens, JurassicCollectables have been busy creating their own blockbuster.  Today, we feature their video review of the eagerly awaited Papo, new for 2018 Therizinosaurus dinosaur model.  This new Theropod figure is rapidly becoming a firm favourite amongst dinosaur fans and model collectors.

The JurassicCollectables Video Review of the Papo Therizinosaurus Replica

Video Credit: JurassicCollectables

The Papo Therizinosaurus Model

Therizinosaurus is one of the more bizarre members of the dinosaurian Sub-Order Theropoda.  It is widely believed that Therizinosaurus was herbivorous, those formidable metre-long claws on the hands, were probably used to hook branches to help this large animal feed.  The claws may also have played a role in defence against marauding tyrannosaurids, Papo have sculpted their figure in a pose that makes the animal look like it is rearing up, perhaps to threaten an approaching pack of Tyrannosaurs.  In the JurassicCollectables video review, which lasts just under nine minutes, the narrator comments upon the pose of this new Papo replica.  The model is very stable and “firmly seated”, the figure is resting on its tail, with one foot on the ground and the other slightly raised, so that the toes help provide support.

The New for 2018 Papo Therizinosaurus Dinosaur Model

Papo Therizinosaurus.

Papo Therizinosaurus dinosaur model.  A tall model with a fascinating pose.

Picture Credit: Everything

To view the new for 2018 Papo Therizinosaurus and the other prehistoric animals in the Papo range: Papo Prehistoric Animal Models

Fine Feathers

In this very well put together video, the viewer is given a guided tour of the Papo model and the figure is highly praised for its detailed feathery textures running down the neck and across the back and shoulders.  The abrupt transition from feathers to scales on the flanks is commented upon and the wonderfully well-painted wings are shown.  As a rather pot-bellied dinosaur, (a large gut is synonymous with a plant-eating dinosaur), Therizinosaurus had a relatively narrow set of jaws, the spokesperson for JurassicCollectables demonstrates the articulated lower jaw on the model and comments on the wet gloss look given to the mouth.  The head shows lots of amazing detail including a prominent beak, a characteristic associated with most derived Ornithischian dinosaurs, but also present on this lizard-hipped representative of the Dinosauria.

A Close-up of the Head Showing Lots of Detail and a Prominent Beak

The head of the Papo Therizinosaurus dinosaur model.

The beautiful head of the Papo Therizinosaurus showing lots of detail including a prominent beak.

Picture Credit: JurassicCollectables

“Papo Have Really Got This Nailed”

The narrator is most impressed by this new for 2018 Papo model.  He examines the fine textures and skin tones on the body of the dinosaur very carefully and compliments the French manufacturer.  A number of Papo models are used to compare the size of the Papo Therizinosaurus and off-colour Alan makes a welcome appearance towards the end of this excellent video review.

The JurassicCollectables spokesperson states:

“Papo have really got this nailed.”

Off-colour Alan had better keep well clear of those fearsome-looking claws of this plant-eating dinosaur.

The Detailing on the Fingers and Claws is Highlighted in the Video Review

The fingers and claws of the Papo Therizinosaurus.

The wonderful detail on the fingers and claws of the Papo Therizinosaurus figure.

Picture Credit: JurassicCollectables

The YouTube channel of JurassicCollectables provides a comprehensive resource for prehistoric animal and dinosaur model reviews.  The videos are skilfully produced and provide viewers with the chance to examine prehistoric animal figures in detail.

Visit the YouTube channel of JurassicCollectables here: JurassicCollectables on YouTube , Everything Dinosaur recommends that prehistoric animal model fans subscribe to JurassicCollectables.

14 05, 2018

CollectA Deluxe Pliosaurus Diorama

By | May 14th, 2018|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

CollectA Pliosaurus 1:40 Scale Figure Diorama

The talented model maker and artist Martin Garratt has made a spectacular marine reptile diorama using a CollectA Deluxe 1:40 scale Pliosaurus model.  The skilfully painted figure has been supported on a raised mound of sand and the orientation of the flippers have been changed to provide a very realistic swimming effect.  If you look carefully, you can see lying on the sandy base an ammonite shell, it is these little touches of detail that help Martin’s creations to stand out from those of other model makers.

The Marine Reptile Diorama

A Pliosaurus diorama (CollectA Pliosaurus)

A customised CollectA Pliosaurus scale model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/UMF Models

Pliosaurus – Top Ocean Predators for Much of the Mesozoic

Pliosaurs (short-necked plesiosaurs), were widely distributed.  Fossils of Pliosaurs have been found in Europe and the Americas and some of these marine reptiles were giants, growing to lengths in excess of twelve metres.  These animals evolved in the Early Jurassic and persisted until the Early Cretaceous.  Biomechanical tests on the jaws suggests that some species had the most powerful bite of any known vertebrate.  In Martin’s diorama he has taken great care to paint the jaws and the inside of the mouth and that black band across the eye really gives this model a menacing look.  The back of the throat has been given a wash treatment that adds an extra sheen to the paint, giving a wet look to the animal’s mouth.

Superbly Painted Head and Jaws of the CollectA Pliosaurus Figure

CollectA Deluxe Pliosaurus figure customised.

CollectA Pliosaurus model customised by Martin Garratt.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/UMF Models

Clever Countershading

The subtle blues, mottled greys and that off-white underbelly reflect theories regarding the colouration of these apex predators.  Although the skin colour of these reptiles is unknown, they were very probably surface water predators and as many extant, pelagic predators show this sort of countershading today, Martin has opted for this colour scheme on his Pliosaurus diorama.

The Streamlined Body of the Model

CollectA Deluxe Pliosaurus diorama.

Martin Garratt has made a marine reptile diorama using the CollectA Deluxe Pliosaurus model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/UMF Models

Model Transformation

The diorama has certainly transformed the CollectA Deluxe 1:40 scale Pliosaurus figure.  However, it just goes to show what a good replica the CollectA Pliosaurus is, it provides the basic anatomical details that permits a skilled and experienced model maker to create such a stunning display.

The CollectA Deluxe 1:40 Scale Pliosaurus Marine Reptile Model

CollectA Deluxe 1:40 scale Pliosaurus marine reptile diorama.

The CollectA Deluxe 1:40 scale Pliosaurus diorama.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the CollectA Pliosaurus and the other Deluxe scale figures available from Everything Dinosaur: CollectA Deluxe Prehistoric Life Models

Missing the Lampreys

When CollectA introduced their Deluxe Pliosaurus model in 2015, collectors noted that there were strange red markings on the flank of the figure.  The designer of this model Anthony Beeson, had added lampreys to the replica, as many large marine animals today are plagued by adult lampreys that attach themselves to their bodies, bore into their flesh and feed (micro-predation).  The lampreys effect was a clever touch on the original model, but Martin decided to utilise the lampreys and create a wound on his version.

Martin has Converted the Lampreys into a Bite Mark on the Model

A Pliosaurus diorama (CollectA Pliosaurus)

A customised CollectA Pliosaurus scale model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/UMF Models

If you look carefully at the picture (above), you can see that just above the right shoulder, a bite-mark effect has been created.  This wound could have occurred as the Pliosaur hunted or it could have resulted from intraspecific combat.

Marilyn of UMF models explained how Martin created this effect:

“He took the Lampreys off and used a hot needle to melt the rubber slightly to create a ‘bite mark’ and the red colouring is blood”.

This beautifully painted figure shows what can be achieved using an inexpensive model such as the CollectA Pliosaurus, it really is a spectacular marine reptile diorama.  Well done Martin!

To read an article that features a makeover of the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Kronosaurus figure by Martin Garratt: Kronosaurus Model Makeover

13 05, 2018

Travel Back in Time at the Portsmouth Guildhall

By | May 13th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Showcasing the Palaeoart of Dr Mark Witton

Tomorrow, sees the opening day of a special exhibition at the Portsmouth Guildhall (Hampshire, southern England) highlighting the artwork of world-renowned palaeoartist Dr Mark Witton.  “A Natural History of Deep Time”, takes visitors on a journey through the evolution of life on Earth through the medium of the artwork and illustrations of the Portsmouth University researcher and freelance palaeoartist.

The Late Jurassic Pterosaur Sordes pilosus Searching for a Meal

Sordes pilosus illustrated.

Eyeing up a potential meal?  The Pterosaur Sordes pilosus eyes up a snail.  Artwork by Mark Witton.

Picture Credit: Mark Witton

A Free Art Exhibition

The art exhibition runs from Monday 14th May until Thursday June 28th and visitors to the Portsmouth Guildhall will be able to view bizarre marine communities of the Cambrian, the first land plants and animals plus lots of dinosaurs and flying reptiles, as well as the species that have helped shape the modern world.  The gallery will include some of the most significant, spectacular and unusual species known from the fossil record.  Dr Witton is perhaps most famous for his research on the Pterosauria – the extinct flying reptiles, cousins of the dinosaurs that shared their extinction fate at the end of the Cretaceous.  He specialises in producing scientifically credible restorations of long perished, ancient environments in amazing detail.  His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and publications and Dr Witton is delivering a sold-out lecture next week at the same venue entitled “The Science of Recreating Prehistoric Animals”.

An Example of the Detailed Illustrations of Dr Mark Witton (Purbeck Lagoon 145 mya)

Purbeck (Dorset) 145 million years ago.

Purbeck Lagoon 145 mya as darkness falls Durlstodon (top left) looks on whilst two Durlstotherium scurry through the undergrowth. In the centre a Durlstotherium has been caught by Nuthetes destructor.  A detailed illustration by Dr Mark Witton.

Picture Credit: Mark Witton

A Natural History of Deep Time celebrates billions of years of evolution and this free exhibition of palaeoart is open from May 14th through to June 28th:

Opening times:
Monday to Friday: 9am – 5pm
Saturday: 10am – 2pm
Sunday: Closed

12 05, 2018

Saurornitholestes from Appalachia?

By | May 12th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Saurornitholestes from the South-eastern United States

Whilst in the course of writing the fact sheets for all the new dromaeosaurid models that are due to arrive when the “Beasts of the Mesozoic” stock comes in, team members have come across some fascinating information relating to Saurornitholestes langstoni.  This member of the Dromaeosauridae, which was similar to Velociraptor, was originally described in 1978 from fossil material found in southern Alberta.   Dromaeosaurids such as Saurornitholestes, or at least related species, may have roamed the south-east of the United States as well as the western USA and Canada.

A Single Tooth from Alabama (Saurornitholestine dromaeosaurids)

Dromaeosaurid tooth from Alabama.

The isolated dromaeosaurid teeth with very different sized denticles (anterior and posterior).

Picture Credit: David R. Schwimmer

Isolated Dromaeosaurid Dinosaur Teeth

Isolated teeth have been found in North and South Carolina and assigned to the Saurornitholestes genus, or at least described as having come from Saurornitholestine dromaeosaurids.  The picture above shows a tooth assigned to  Saurornitholestes langstoni that was found in Greene County (Alabama), from exposures representing the Upper Cretaceous (Mooreville Formation).  The tooth measures about 4.6 mm long and it shows the distinctive serrations (denticles) associated with the Saurornitholestes genus.  The denticles on the posterior (back) edge of the teeth are much more prominent and larger than those denticles found on the anterior (front) edge of the tooth.  This extreme disparity is regarded as a unique feature of Saurornitholestine dromaeosaurids.

During the Late Cretaceous, North America was split into two landmasses by the Western Interior Seaway.  To the west was Laramidia and to the east, the far larger landmass of Appalachia, although much more is known about the Cretaceous biota of Laramidia.

A far larger tooth, one that measures more than 20 mm in length was found in North Carolina.  This tooth also showed the characteristic disparity in denticle size between the anterior and posterior carinae (the sharp edges of the teeth).  This fossil find suggests that dromaeosaurids of different sizes roamed Appalachia during the Late Cretaceous.

The Beasts of the Mesozoic Saurornitholestes langstoni Figure

Beasts of the Mesozoic Saurornitholestes langstoni.

The Beasts of the Mesozoic Saurornitholestes langstoni “raptor” figure.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

When it comes to the Saurornitholestes genus in particular, these types of characteristic teeth are known from numerous sites across North America and from rock formations that vary in age by millions of years.  Either Saurornitholestes langstoni and Saurornitholestes sullivani, the two species currently assigned to this genus, were geographically and temporally widespread, or there are a lot more dromaeosaurid species, including quite large ones, if the North Carolina tooth is anything to go by, awaiting discovery.

11 05, 2018

A New New Zealand Pigeon from the Miocene

By | May 11th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

The Zealandian Dove Related to the Dodo

Scientists from the Canterbury Museum (New Zealand), in collaboration with colleagues from the University of New South Wales, Flinders University and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, have described a new species of prehistoric pigeon that flapped around South Island during the Miocene Epoch, some 16-19 million years ago.  The new species has been named the Zealandian Dove (Deliaphaps zealandiensis) and it may have been related to the extinct, giant, flightless pigeon of Mauritius – the Dodo.

Part of the Dodo Collection from the Canterbury Museum 

Canterbury Museum Dodo exhibit.

Casts of the Oxford Museum Dodo specimen which is part of the Canterbury Museum collection.

Picture Credit: Canterbury Museum

New Zealand only has two species of native pigeons, the aptly named New Zealand pigeon, otherwise called the Kereru (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) and the closely-related Chatham Island pigeon, or Parea (Hemiphaga chathamensis).

The fossils were found at a dig site near St Bathans (Central Otago, South Island) and although fragmentary in nature, consisting of a few wing bones and part of the pectoral girdle, the researchers are confident that this material represents a new species of prehistoric pigeon and have published their paper in the “Paleontología Y Evolución de las Aves”.

The Zealandian Dove

Deliaphaps zealandiensis has been named after the landmass called Zealandia.  This large area of land is also referred to as the New Zealand continent or Tasmantis.  It consists of a mass of continental crust that sank after breaking away from Australia 60–85 million years ago, having begun to separate from Antarctica and the rest of the Gondwana supercontinent.  Most of Zealandia is submerged, but it rises above water in places, including the populated areas of New Zealand, New Caledonia, Norfolk and the Lord Howe Island group.

The fossil material has been slowly gathered over sixteen years and one of the wing bones is similar to the wing bones of members of a group (the Raphinae), that includes the Tooth-billed pigeon (Didunculus strigirostris) or Manumea which is native to the island of Samoa.  The Raphinae also includes the Crowned pigeons of New Guinea (Goura genus) and the spectacular Nicobar pigeon of south-east Asia (Caloenas nicobarica), believed to be the closest living relative of the enigmatic Dodo.

The Newly Described Zealandian Dove is Probably Closely Related to the Nicobar Pigeon

The Nicobar pigeon.

The Nicobar pigeon, the closest living relative to the Dodo. It may also be related to the newly described Zealandian Dove from the Miocene.

Picture Credit: Canterbury Museum

Co-author of the scientific paper and University of New South Wales scientist, Professor Sue Hand stated:

“Fossils recovered from the St Bathans site now number in the thousands and together document a time of great biodiversity in New Zealand’s history.  For many of New Zealand’s very distinctive bird lineages, such as moa and kiwi, the St Bathans fossils provide their oldest and sometimes first deep time records.  Discovery of the Zealandian Dove and its evident links to the dodo are fascinating additions to the unfolding picture of New Zealand’s prehistoric menagerie.”

Lead author of the research, Dr Vanesa De Pietri (Canterbury Museum), added:

“Based on the St Bathans fossils, we think that the Zealandian Dove is part of this Indo-Pacific group.  It is probably most similar to the Nicobar Pigeon and is therefore a close relative (or at least a cousin) of the famous dodo.  The Zealandian Dove is the first record of this group found in the southern part of the nearly submerged land mass known as Zealandia.”

Second Pigeon from St Bathans (Miocene Deposits)

The Zealandian Dove is only the second pigeon found at the St Bathans fossil site.  The delicate and fragile bones of birds are not strong candidates to endure the fossilisation process.  The first pigeon to be named from fossils discovered at this location was the St Bathans pigeon (Rupephaps taketake), which was described from a single coracoid bone recovered from these ancient lake deposits.  It is believed to be related to the extant, native New Zealand pigeons.

The Oxford Museum Dodo Material

Oxford Museum Dodo.

The Oxford Museum Dodo material.

Picture Credit: Oxford Museum

Commenting on the recent pigeon fossil discoveries, Dr Paul Scofield of Canterbury Museum said:

“We have now also found a leg bone that we can attribute to this species [St Bathans pigeon].  As a result, we can now confirm that the St Bathans pigeon is also closely related to Indonesian and Melanesian mountain pigeons.  It was an early offshoot within that particular group.”

Dr Trevor Worthy of Flinders University (South Australia) added:

“Some 19 to 16 million years ago, the diversity of endemic pigeons in New Zealand included at least two distinct co-existing lineages in the southern part of Zealandia taking advantage of the more diverse fruiting trees then available.  Pigeon fossils are rare in the St Bathans fauna and are outnumbered by about thirty to one by parrots, which perhaps reflects the relative abundance of these tree-dwelling birds in the St Bathans fauna.  Many small parrots form large flocks, whereas pigeons typically live in only small groups, so perhaps these traits typified the early Miocene parrots and pigeons in Zealandia.”

Evidence of Climate Change

The reduction in the number of species found in New Zealand is probably a result of climate change which affected the types of trees on the islands.  Scientists know that between approximately 14.2 and 13.8 million years ago, a period of dramatic global climatic cooling took place.  Prior to the global cooling, New Zealand enjoyed a subtropical climate which led to a very diverse and rich fauna and flora with many kinds of fruit-bearing trees that would have provided food for the pigeons.  The loss of the floral diversity as a result of climate change would have had a big impact on the fruit and seed-eating birds and this could be a reason for the reduction in pigeon species.

10 05, 2018

Rebor Ankylosaurus “War Pig”

By | May 10th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Rebor Ankylosaurus “War Pig”

The Rebor Ankylosaurus model “War Pig” is coming into stock at Everything Dinosaur.  Available in three colour variations – Plain, Woodland and Mountain, this 1:35 scale model of Ankylosaurus magniventris is the latest addition to the Rebor scale model range.  This beautifully designed armoured dinosaur figure is due to arrive in about four weeks, team members at Everything Dinosaur expect to have stocks in their warehouse by early June.

The Rebor 1:35 Scale “War Pig” Ankylosaurus magniventris

The Rebor Ankylosaurus dinosaur model "Mountain" colour variant.

The Rebor Ankylosaurus dinosaur model “Mountain” colour variant.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Ankylosaurus – Mountain, Plain and Woodland

Ankylosaurus magniventris is regarded as the largest of the Ankylosauridae and although it has had a family of armoured dinosaurs named after it, palaeontologists now think that this Late Cretaceous armoured giant was not typical of the Ankylosaur family.  Ankylosaurus is known from only fragmentary remains found in the USA and Canada and its tail club was more rounded in shape when compared to other closely related Ankylosaurs, an anatomical feature picked up on by the designers at Rebor.  The tail bones (caudal vertebrae), are distinct with “u” shaped neural spines, a feature unique to A. magniventris, hence the relatively broad, wide tail on the Rebor figure.

The Rebor Ankylosaurus “War Pig” Plain

Rebor Ankylosaurus dinosaur model.

Rebor Ankylosaurus “War Pig” Plain.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Why Three Different Versions?

Intriguingly, despite Ankylosaurus being very well-known by the public and a veteran of numerous dinosaur films, palaeontologists regard it as ecologically rare in ancient Late Cretaceous palaeoenvironments.  Compared to the coeval nodosaurid Edmontonia, A. magniventris fossils are much less frequently found, this and differences in the shape of the jaw indicate that these two armoured dinosaurs may have inhabited different habitats and specialised in eating different types of vegetation.  Edmontonia fossils are associated with lowland, fluvial deposits, and the paucity of Ankylosaurus fossil material suggests that this dinosaur was a very infrequent visitor to the floodplains, so where did Ankylosaurus live?

The truth is we don’t know, hence the reason for three different colour variants of Ankylosaurus being introduced by Rebor.  Ankylosaurus may have inhabited upland areas, hence the “mountain” version.  It could have been at home in forested areas, hence the stunning “woodland” model, or equally, it could have been an animal of the open plains, hence the amazing “plain”.

Three Beautiful Versions of Ankylosaurus – Where Do You Think It Lived?

Rebor has made three different versions of Ankylosaurus.

The three different Rebor models “mountain”, “plain” and “woodland”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view Everything Dinosaur’s current range of Rebor replicas: Rebor Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animal Models

Articulated Armoured Dinosaurs

The models have articulated lower jaws, the heads can be rotated and the tails have a metal rod inserted in them that allows the awesome tail club to be put into different positions.  As with all the Rebor replicas, these 1:35 scale figures have been beautifully painted and all three are fantastic additions to the Rebor range.  The models measure 29.5 cm in length and when this is scaled up it puts the Ankylosaurus replicas into the ball park size range stated by the recent (2017) scientific paper.

The Rebor “War Pig” Ankylosaurus – “Woodland”

Rebor Ankylosaurus dinosaur model "woodland".

Rebor Ankylosaurus “woodland”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Due to be in Stock in Four Weeks

These beautiful figures are due to be in stock in four weeks’ time, they can be reserved by dropping Everything Dinosaur an email: Email Everything Dinosaur to Reserve Your Rebor Ankylosaurus

We are looking forward to welcoming this trio of Thyreophorans into our warehouse.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article on the 2017 paper that described Ankylosaurus as an atypical Ankylosaur: Ankylosaurus Not Your Typical Ankylosaur

9 05, 2018

A Weather Forecast from the Cambrian

By | May 9th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Geology, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Tiny Fossils Provide Clues to Earth’s Climate 500 Million Years Ago

A joint team of scientists from France and the UK, have plotted the temperature of our planet’s oceans over half a billion years ago using a combination of fossil data and computer-based climate models.  Think of it as a sort of weather forecast from the Cambrian.  This newly published research suggests that the first hard-bodied animals diversified in warms seas, heated by a greenhouse world.  The team’s findings help to expand our knowledge of the environment at the time of the Cambrian explosion, a period in Earth’s history that saw a huge increase in the number and type of marine animal forms.

Life in the Late Cambrian Period

Cambrian life.

Life in the Late Cambrian by Zdeněk Burian.

Picture Credit: Zdeněk Burian

Writing in the academic journal “Science Advances”, the scientists, led by researchers from the University of Leicester, used climate models and the chemical analysis of tiny, shelly fossils preserved in limestone from Shropshire (central England), to calculate the sea temperature during a time of rapid diversity of animal life in the Palaeozoic.  From around 540 to 510 million years ago, the fossil record shows a marked change, as during this period of Earth’s history, virtually all of the animal phyla (including the Chordata – our phylum) appeared.  The idea of a “Cambrian explosion” is a little misleading, the appearance of many new forms of complex animal life may have been gradual, but in terms of the fossil record, sites such as the famous Burgess Shale of British Columbia and Yunnan Province (southern China), have revealed extensive and varied marine ecosystems with large numbers of new types of animal being recorded in the strata.

Analysis of Some of the First Shelly Fossils

Scientists had thought that for much of the Cambrian, our planet was warmer that it is today with no polar ice caps present.  A study of tiny 1 mm long fossils of some of the first animals to produce a hard, shelly exoskeleton has confirmed this hypothesis.  Analysis of isotopes from the tiny shells in combination with the climate models show that at high latitudes (around 65 degrees south), sea temperatures were in excess of 20 degrees Celsius.  This might seem very warm, especially when you consider that this is an evaluation of sea temperatures at approximately 65 degrees south, today, travelling to that latitude would put you on the southernmost fringes of the Southern Ocean and close to Antarctica.  However, the data generated is similar to more recent, better understood, greenhouse climates such as that of the Late Cretaceous.

Reflected Light Microscopy – Brachiopod Fossils Used in the Study

Reflected light microscope images of Cambrian brachiopods.

Reflected light microscope images of some of the brachiopod fossils (phosphatic microfossils), used in this study.

Picture Credit: Leicester University

Co-author of the open access paper, PhD student Thomas Hearing (University of Leicester’s School of Geography, Geology and the Environment), explained:

“Because scientists cannot directly measure sea temperatures from half a billion years ago, they have to use proxy data, these are measurable quantities that respond in a predictable way to changing climate variables like temperature.  In this study, we used oxygen isotope ratios, which is a commonly used palaeothermometer.  We then used acid to extract fossils about 1 mm long from blocks of limestone from Shropshire, UK, dated to between 515 – 510 million years old.  Careful examination of these tiny fossils revealed that some of them have exceptionally well-preserved shell chemistry which has not changed since they grew on the Cambrian sea floor.” 

High Resolution Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) Images of Brachiopod Fossils Used in the Study

SEM images of brachiopods.

Electron microscope images of some of the brachiopod fossils used in this study. Electron microscopy allows much higher resolution imaging of small structures than normal light microscopy.

Picture Credit: Leicester University

Dr Tom Harvey (University of Leicester) added:

“Many marine animals incorporate chemical traces of seawater into their shells as they grow.  That chemical signature is often lost over geological time, so it’s remarkable that we can identify it in such ancient fossils.” 

Analyses of the oxygen isotopes of these fossils suggested very warm temperatures for high latitude seas (~65 °S), probably between 20 °C to 25 °C.  To see if these were feasible sea temperatures, the researchers carried out climate model simulations for the Cambrian.  The climate model scenarios suggest that the Earth’s climate was in a “typical” greenhouse state, with temperatures similar to more recent and better understood greenhouse intervals known from the Mesozoic and the Cenozoic eras.  Ultimately, this study will help to expand our knowledge of the ecosystem that existed during the Cambrian.

The Highly Fossiliferous Comley Limestones (Shropshire, UK)

A thin section of highly fossiliferous rock of Cambrian age.

A thin section slice through the trilobite-rich Comley Limestones (Shropshire, UK).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The curves and white wavy lines in the photograph (above), are preserved exoskeletons of numerous trilobites.

Thomas Hearing concluded:

“We hope that this approach can be used by other researchers to build up a clearer picture of ancient climates where conventional climate proxy data are not available.”

The research was carried out as an international collaboration involving scientists from the University of Leicester (UK), British Geological Survey (BGS; UK), and CEREGE (France).

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of Leicester University in the compilation of this article.

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