Washington State 37th U.S. State with a Dinosaur?

 Which States in the USA Don’t Have Dinosaur Fossils?

Everything Dinosaur’s recent article on the describing of a dinosaur fossil bone found on Sucia Island (Washington State) set team members thinking.  The fossil, which is believed to represent the partial left femur of a tyrannosaurid was the first dinosaur bone to be scientifically described from Washington State.  A number of media sites and scientific publications that covered this story listed Washington State as the latest and thirty-seventh U.S. State to have had dinosaur fossils discovered within its boundaries.  Of the fifty States that make up the USA, more than two-thirds of them are associated with the Dinosauria, either body or trace fossils or both.

The Partial Left Femur Identified as Tyrannosaur Fossil

Details of the partial left femur.

Details of the partial left femur.

Picture Credit: PLOS One with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article on the fossil discovery: The First Dinosaur Fossil Described from Washington State

So what about the remaining thirteen States in America, those inferred not to have dinosaur fossils?  Is this a case of there being none found as yet or does the fossil discovery in Washington State represent, in all likelihood, the last State in the United States to be added to the “dinosaur club”?

Let’s look at this in a little more detail.

Which States Don’t Contain Dinosaur Fossils?

Identifying the thirteen States* that don’t contain dinosaur fossils is quite a tough ask for a company this side of the Atlantic.  However, team members at Everything Dinosaur have been putting their heads together and have come up with the following list (which may or may not be accurate).

    1. Hawaii – the Hawaiian archipelago was the fiftieth and most recent State to join the USA.  As it is almost entirely made up of volcanic rock (igneous) and since it is a relatively recent geological feature, probably less than six million years old, we can state with confidence that no dinosaur fossil material will be found in the island’s rock formations.  That’s the easiest one out of the way.
    2. Florida – the “Sunshine State” it might attract millions of tourists but there are very probably no dinosaur fossils to be found.  The landmass we know as Florida today did not form in the Mesozoic.
    3. Louisiana – in the north-western portion of the State, there are some small outcrops of marine shales that were deposited in the Late Cretaceous.  As far as we know, no dinosaur fossils have been associated with this strata (located around Bienville Parish).  It is extremely unlikely that dinosaur fossils could be found in Louisiana, but it could happen.
    4. Mississippi** – the Mississippi river and delta deposits are far to recent to provide the opportunity to find dinosaur fossils.  However, in the far north-east of the State there are small exposed areas of Upper Cretaceous aged marine deposits, predominately chalk.  As far as we know no dinosaur fossils have been found and it is extremely unlikely, however, if you were to go and look, try around Ponotoc and Union Counties – we wish you luck.  South-east USA sorted (we think).
    5. West Virginia – moving up the eastern seaboard of the United States, the next candidate is West Virginia.  As far as we know at Everything Dinosaur, there are no sedimentary rocks dating from the Mesozoic to be found in this State, erosion and other forces have removed them, therefore no dinosaur fossils.
    6. Rhode Island – the smallest State in the USA.  Triassic and Jurassic sedimentary deposits are absent (we think), very few Cretaceous outcrops present, so no dinosaur fossils.
    7. New Hampshire – erosion of sedimentary materials and intrusions of igneous and metamorphic rocks leaves virtually no Mesozoic aged sedimentary formations in the State.  We don’t think any dinosaur fossils have been found here.
    8. Vermont – Triassic and Jurassic aged sediments eroded away and very little Cretaceous aged deposits exposed.   All of these Cretaceous deposits not fossiliferous, so no dinosaur fossils as far as we know discovered in Vermont.
    9. Maine – in the far north-east of the United States there is a huge gap in the geological record with most Late Palaeozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic fossils eroded away (blame the glaciers and so forth).  As a result, once again, as far as we know dinosaur fossils recorded from the State of Maine = zero.  So that’s the eastern seaboard and the far north-east taken care off.
    10. Michigan – still in the Eastern Time Zone, but no dinosaur fossils have been found on either peninsula that make up this State.  Lots of invertebrates et al, but no dinosaurs (we think).
    11. Ohio – thanks to glaciation and other forms or erosion, Mesozoic aged sedimentary rocks are virtually absent.  Dinosaurs did probably roam in this part of the world but their fossils have long since be eroded away.
    12. Indiana – just like its eastern neighbour Ohio, blame the glaciers for the loss of the Mesozoic strata.  So no dinosaur fossils in Indiana either, but just like in Ohio, they did probably live in this neck of the woods.
    13. Kentucky – south of Indiana to the “Bluegrass State”.  As far as we can work out from our own notes, there are few Mesozoic rocks exposed (eroded away no doubt).  Some Cretaceous aged outcrops are present and we have some tentative notes of plant fossils from the Cretaceous, but alas, no evidence of the Dinosauria.  Hold on a minute, that should be it, but we still have some more States to go.
    14. Illinois – into the Central Time Zone but just like its eastern neighbour Indiana, erosion has led to the removal of much of the Mesozoic strata.  Some Cretaceous-aged deposits can be found in the south of this State, but as far as we know, although dinosaurs may have lived in this part of the world there is no fossil evidence for them.
    15. Wisconsin – substantial erosion has removed the dinosaur fossil bearing strata, so according to our notes and database, there are no dinosaur fossils associated with the State of Wisconsin.

States in America with Dinosaur Fossils (2015)

Dinosaur Fossils by U.S.State.

Dinosaur Fossils by U.S. State.

Picture Credit: Wikipedia Commons (map) Everything Dinosaur (annotations)

According to our research, the figure of thirteen U.S. States not having dinosaur fossils associated with them is inaccurate. Of course, our own database could be wrong but we make it fifteen States without any evidence of the Dinosauria.  Thanks to mountain building, glaciation, the construction of huge urban developments and the fact that parts of the United States simply did not exist during the time of the dinosaurs, these are the States that lack any dinosaur fossils.

We admit, we could have got this wrong and we would welcome any comments to help provide a more accurate picture.

Additional Notes

Thanks to J. Slattery for helping with this, we have received information about Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossils from Mississippi**.  It seems that in some uncovered outcrops of Upper Cretaceous age which represents shallow marine deposits, fragmentary dinosaur fossils (teeth and bones) have been found as a result of what we tend to call “bloat and float”.  A dinosaur carcase being washed out to sea and then being scavenged before sinking and settlement.

Washington State’s First Dinosaur

Partial Theropod Femur – Right People, in the Right Place at the Right Time

News broke this week of the discovery and subsequent description of a partial left femur from a Theropod dinosaur that had been found on the south-west tip of Sucia Island, which is part of Washington State.  This is the first time that a dinosaur fossil has been recorded from Washington State.  Sucia Island is part of the San Juan archipelago group of islands, it is a conservation area, part of a marine park (Washington State Marine Park).  Sucia Island is very small, it covers approximately 0.88 square miles, making the island about the size of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, the site of the 2012 Olympic Games.

The Shoreline where the Theropod Fossil was Discovered (Sucia Island State Park)

The shoreline where the fossil was found.

The shoreline where the fossil was found.

Picture Credit: Burke Museum

The fossil was collected by a team of palaeontologists from the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture (Seattle) in May 2012.  The partial femur was located in very hard, silty sandstone rocks which represent a shallow marine environment.  The discovery of the fossil had been made earlier by Burke museum field workers who had been excavating Ammonite fossils and other invertebrates from the same bed.  It has taken three years to prepare the fossil for further study by carefully removing the extremely hard matrix and then to identify what type of animal the partial thigh bone might represent.  Based on comparative studies the bone has been ascribed to a Tyrannosaur, but more about that later.

Scientists Proudly Show Off Washington State’s First Dinosaur Fossil

Dr. Christian Sidor (right), Burke Museum curator of vertebrate paleontology, and Brandon Peecook (left), University of Washington graduate student, show the size and placement of the fossil fragment compared to the cast of a Daspletosaurus femur.

Dr. Christian Sidor (right), Burke Museum curator of vertebrate palaeontology, and Brandon Peecook (left), University of Washington graduate student, show the size and placement of the fossil fragment compared to the cast of a Daspletosaurus femur.

Picture Credit: Burke Museum

This really is an example of the right people, in the right place at the right time.  Occasionally vertebrate fossils are found in marine deposits, in the United Kingdom, the Dorset coast provides an example of this.  The “Jurassic Coast” around Charmouth and Lyme Regis in Dorset represent a shallow marine environment but the fossilised bones of a dinosaur (Scelidosaurus) have been found.  It seems likely that the corpses of dinosaurs were washed out to sea and once the body cavity had ruptured the carcase sank to the bottom and became covered in sediment permitting the fossilisation process to begin.

The picture above shows Dr. Sidor holding the partial femur fossil, Brandon is holding a cast of femur from a Tyrannosaur called Daspletosaurus (D. torosus) to allow a visual comparison to be made.  Both scientists are showing the back view of the objects (the posterior view), the photographer is looking at the back of the fossil, this is important to note as an anatomical feature located at the back of the fossil bone is helping palaeontologists to classify the sort of dinosaur the Washington State bone represents.

A Rare Find

To find a dinosaur fossil in an marine environment is very rare and given the strong waves and tides associated with Sucia Island the fossil material could have been quickly washed out to sea and lost forever, so it really is a question of the right people being in the right place at the right time.  The analysis and identification of the femur was undertaken by Dr. Sidor (Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture) and Brandon Peecock (University of Washington), their paper has just been published in the on line journal PLOS One.  It is highly unlikely that other fossils related to this individual will be found at the site.

Why a Tyrannosaur?

To answer this question we first have to take a step back.  How do we know that this is a dinosaur bone in the first place?  The fossils are found in a horizon that makes up a member of the Cedar District Formation, Upper Cretaceous strata that outcrops along the north-western coast of the United States and the extreme southern portion of the Canadian Pacific coast around Vancouver.  The exact age of these rocks is debated, but the rocks were probably laid down in the Campanian faunal stage and are perhaps around 80 million-years-old.  During this time, in the Late Cretaceous, North America was divided into several landmasses by the Western Interior Seaway.  The island of Laramidia lay to the west and this strip of land is represented by strata found in Alaska all the way down to Mexico on the western seaboard of this continent.  Dinosaurs were the dominant terrestrial megafauna and much is known about the dinosaurs that roamed the eastern side of Laramidia.  Less is known about those from the western provinces of this landmass, this is due to the relative paucity of fossil material found to date on America’s Pacific coast.  Hence the significance of the Sucia Island discovery.

Dinosaur and Prehistoric Bird Fossil Locations (Western Laramidia)

The Sucia Island fossil site is 3 (highlighted in red).

The Sucia Island fossil site is 3 (highlighted in red).

Picture Credit: PLOS One

There are three tell-tale signs that indicate that this fossil fragment represents a potential Tyrannosaur, let’s briefly go through these:

  • The Size of the Fossil (UWBM 95770)

Although only a fragment of the top part of the femur (see picture below to gain an understanding of which part of the thigh bone has been preserved), the fossil measures a whopping 42.5 cm long and 22.4 cm wide at its widest part (the top end of the fossil, this represents that portion of the femoral head that articulates with the hip socket.  This fossil is from a very large animal, hence the confident dinosaur diagnosis.  The researchers writing in PLOS One undertook a comparative analysis study, comparing this fragment to the bones of Theropod dinosaurs.  Based on this analysis, the projected actual size of this thigh bone would be about 1.17 metres long (1.167 metres +/- 63 mm with 95% degree of confidence in the result).

  • Anatomical Features Indicate a Theropod Dinosaur

Although the bone is fragmentary, there is evidence of matrix infill in the medullary cavity (the middle of the bone, where marrow was present).  This indicates that this bone was hollow in the middle, this feature is only seen in Theropod dinosaurs in this geological period. Thus, the hollow middle cavity is diagnostic of this bone having come from a Theropod dinosaur.

  • The Clincher!  The Fourth Trochanter

An anatomical feature on the back of the thigh bone (posterior), called the fourth trochanter suggests a Theropod dinosaur.  The fourth trochanter is a prominent bump or ridge of bone that indicates muscle attachment.  In this specimen, the fourth trochanter is located in the top third portion of the thigh bone, close to the hip socket.  Its shape and position on the bone suggests Theropoda.  All dinosaurs (all archosaurs for that matter), have this characteristic, but in other big, Late Cretaceous dinosaurs such as Ceratopsians and Hadrosaurs, the fourth trochanter is shaped differently and in a different position at the back of the femur.  In hadrosaurids for example, the fourth trochanter is located near the middle of the femur and is triangular in shape.  In horned dinosaurs (Ceratopsians) the fourth trochanter is typically a long, low, straight ridge, which is also positioned towards the middle portion of the thigh bone.

An Illustration of the Fossil Fragment and Comparison with Left Femur of Daspletosaurus

An illustration of the fossil find.

An illustration of the fossil find.

Picture Credit: Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

 If you look carefully at the picture above, the bottom end of the fourth trochanter is wider and roughened (distal end).  The top portion (proximal) appears smooth and thinner.  A similar morphology is found on the fourth trochanter of the Late Cretaceous Tyrannosaur known as Daspletosaurus (D. torosus).   This explains why the research team have tentatively assigned this fossil fragment to the Tyrannosaur family and used Daspletosaurus fossil material as a direct comparison.

An Illustration of Daspletosaurus (D. torosus)

Larger Tyrannosaur present in the ecosystem.

Larger Tyrannosaur present in the ecosystem.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Commenting on the significance of the fossil discovery, Dr. Sidor stated:

“This fossil won’t win a beauty contest.  But fortunately it preserves enough anatomy that we were able to compare it to other dinosaurs and be confident of its identification.”

The partial thigh bone, now tentatively assigned to the same dinosaur clade as Tyrannosaurus rex is on display at Burke Museum.  It is worth noting that based on the thigh bone’s total estimated size, the individual meat-eater the fossil material represents would have been over eight metres in length.  The dinosaur would have been approximately the same size as a Daspletosaurus, a Gorgosaurus or an Albertosaurus (all tyrannosaurids).  Although the tyrannosaurid diagnosis cannot be confirmed with absolute certainty and a definition down to genus level is not possible, the Tyrannosaurs dominate the apex predator positions within the Laramidia fossil sites.  Perhaps as many as nine genera have been identified to date, the Late Cretaceous seems to mark the peak in the Superfamily Tyrannosauroidea diversity.

Team members at Everything Dinosaur have tried to list the nine genera of Tyrannosaurs identified thus far from strata that represent Laramidia.

  1. Albertosaurus
  2. Gorgosaurus
  3. Tyrannosaurus
  4. Daspletosaurus (to read an article about face biting in potential Daspletosaurs): Cannibal Daspletosaurus?
  5. Lythronax (to read an article about this dinosaur discovery): The King of Gore
  6. Nanotyrannus (Nomen dubium) – to read more about this potential new genus of tyrannosaurid and the debate surrounding it: Duelling Dinosaurs
  7. Bistahieversor (for a review on the CollectA Bistahieversor model: CollectA Bistahieversor Reviewed
  8. Teratophoneus (refer to the Lythronax article for more information): “Monstrous Murderer” of a Tyrannosaur
  9. Nanuqsaurus – the polar tyrannosaurid: Nanuqsaurus hoglundi

Palaeontologists have proposed that there was a great deal of dinosaur provinciality within the landmass of Laramidia.  The idea of different parts of the landmass being home to different types of dinosaur has been studied for the last two decades. Unfortunately, due to the tectonic activity on the Pacific coast of western North America, it is difficult to determine where exactly in Laramidia this new tyrannosaur came from.  It has been suggested that since the end of the age of dinosaurs there has been around 1,800 miles of tectonic displacement in roughly a northerly direction.  This Tyrannosaur could have lived as far south as what is now southern California.

Dinosaurs May Have Laid Coloured Eggs

New Research Suggests Colourful Dinosaur Eggs

Birds today lay many different sized eggs, the New Zealand Kiwi (genus Apteryx), for example, lays an egg that is up to 25% of its entire bodyweight.  The Kiwi lays the biggest egg in proportion to its body size of any living bird.  The Bee Hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae), which we at Everything Dinosaur believe to be the smallest species of bird alive today, lays an egg that is not much bigger than a garden pea.  Palaeontologists know that dinosaurs laid different sized eggs too.  The eggs of a giant Titanosaur being many times bigger than the eggs of a small dromaeosaurid.

The Huge Variety of Dinosaur Eggs

Confiscated dinosaur eggs taken from smugglers by Chinese customs.

Confiscated dinosaur eggs taken from smugglers by Chinese customs.

Picture Credit: Chinese News Agency

The picture above shows a selection of the 3,000 dinosaur eggs taken off smugglers by Chinese customs officials.   The picture nicely illustrates the huge variety of dinosaur egg size and shape.

However, birds today lay eggs not only of different sizes but of many different colours as well and until recently there had not been much research undertaken as to the pigmentation of dinosaur eggs.

Scientists had studied melanosomes to uncover information about feather colour in the Dinosauria, but little work had been undertaken to assess the potential colours of dinosaur eggs.  For many years, scientists had assumed that dinosaurs and primitive birds laid plain, white eggs which were most certainly not coloured.  Intriguingly, if you look at pictures of dinosaur nests as illustrated in many dinosaur books, the eggs tend to be coloured pale or almost white

The Convention is to Colour Dinosaur Eggs White or Pale

Why have white coloured dinosaur eggs?

Why have white coloured dinosaur eggs?

Pale or white coloured eggs would not necessarily help with camouflage, especially when you consider that due to the size of some of those dinosaur mothers, they could not have laid eggs in a secluded, hidden location.  The chances are that many dinosaurs laid eggs in open and exposed places, hence the need to breed in colonies to afford some protection to their offspring.  Two new studies have shed some light on the potential colour of dinosaur eggs, suggesting that they might have been blue-green instead of pale or plain white.

One study conducted by scientists at Bonn University (Germany) discovered that two pigments that provide colour for extant bird eggs also existed in the eggshells of an oviraptorid dinosaur from China called Heyuannia huangi.

H. huangi, was typical of the Oviraptoridae. Fossils of several individuals have been excavated from Upper Cretaceous sediments in Guangdong Province (southern China).  The fleet-footed dinosaur was most probably feathered and measured a little over 1.5 metres long when fully grown (about 40% of its body length was made up of its tail). Thousands of small Theropod eggshell fragments have been found in association with the body fossils and it is thought that the sediments represent a H. huangi nesting site.  The German study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, concludes that the two pigments protoporphyrin and biliverdin, responsible for colouring chicken eggs brown and the eggs of emus and other birds blue, were present in the eggshells of this dinosaur.  The German scientists also related egg colour to the type of nesting habit of the bird concerned.  Birds that lay more open, exposed nests tend to have specific egg colours to help camouflage the eggs.

The team suggest that based on this evidence, dinosaurs such as oviraptorids that laid open nests may have laid eggs that were camouflaged.  Heyuannia huangi for example, could have laid blue/green eggs of a similar colour to that of an emu’s egg.  The researchers also propose that the discovery of eggshell pigments may have implications on how the adult dinosaurs looked after the nests.  Behaviours similar to extant birds could perhaps be inferred.

This research builds upon an earlier study undertaken by a team of animal behaviourists at Hunter College in New York.  Professor Mark Hauber, one of the lead authors of the scientific paper, published recently in the academic journal “Biology Letters”, and his team effectively mapped the presence of two pigments protoporphyrin and biliverdin and used the way they combine with each other and blend with the calcium carbonate of the eggshell to predict egg colour.  The New York based team produced a series of computer models that plotted the ways in which these two pigments combine in various ratios and used these models to work out what colour eggs would occur as a result.

Taken together these two studies suggest that different types of dinosaurs may have laid different coloured eggs just as birds do today.  In addition, it seems that the ability to lay camouflaged eggs goes back a long way into the Mesozoic, with the dinosaurs evolving this ability which was then inherited by the Aves.

Oviraptorids May Have Laid Coloured Eggs

Oviraptors may have laid camouflaged eggs.

Oviraptors may have laid camouflaged eggs.

Picture Credit: University of Bonn/PeerJ

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Given the great many hues and colours seen in modern Aves it makes sense that ground-nesting dinosaurs in open environments would have produced eggs that enabled them to blend in with the background of the nest.  Colours seen in fossils, such as the oviraptorid eggs from China pictured above, however, do not normally reflect the actual “true” colours as they would have been in life.  Colouration of the fossil is strongly influenced by the permineralisation process and so readers should not be deceived into seeing fossils of different colours and assuming that is what they were like when, as in this case, the eggs were laid.”

Could it be time for Papo, to change the colour of the dinosaur egg that their model Oviraptor is grasping in its claws?

The Papo Oviraptor Model (with Egg)

A Papo Oviraptor with a blue egg.

A Papo Oviraptor with a blue egg.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

My First Toy Dinosaurs Model Set

My First Toy Dinosaurs Model Set (6 Rubber Dinosaurs)

Great for imaginative, creative play, a set of six rubber dinosaurs from Everything Dinosaur.  An ideal gift for the young dinosaur fan in your family or as a play set for use in schools.  The set of six dinosaur models includes a Tyrannosaurus rex, a long-necked Brachiosaurus, the plated dinosaur Stegosaurus, along with a bright and colourful duck-billed dinosaur, a Parasaurolophus.  The set also includes a horned dinosaur (Triceratops) and a wonderful armoured dinosaur, an Ankylosaurus.  This set of soft rubber dinosaurs makes an ideal my first dinosaurs model set as these prehistoric animals are suitable for children from three years and upwards.

My First Toy Dinosaurs Model Set (6 Rubber Dinosaurs)

A set of six rubber dinosaurs, great for tactile play.

A set of six rubber dinosaurs, great for tactile play.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The teaching team at Everything Dinosaur have specially chosen this toy dinosaurs set as the models represent typical examples of dinosaurs and show the variety of these ancient reptiles that once roamed our planet.  The models are made from soft rubber and they are great for imaginative, tactile play.

To view the range of educational dinosaur toys available from Everything Dinosaur: Dinosaur Toys including Rubber Dinosaur Toys

This really is a super set of soft and squeezy rubber dinosaurs.  The set makes an ideal, my first dinosaur model set for any young dinosaur fan.  They are a great way for young minds to explore materials and discover the world of dinosaurs.

One of our customers wrote this review:

“Loved the colourful models, six different ones that my little boy just loves.  A great first dinosaur  model set.  Soft and squeezy rubber dinosaurs, very well made.”

Thanks for your review Mrs Jacobs.

Everything Dinosaur supplies a set of useful dinosaur fact sheets about the animals featured in this set.  This is a great dinosaur themed resource for schools.

Prehistoric Parasites from the Silurian

 Rare Discovery Provides Insight into Ancient Parasite

A team of international researchers have got up close to a prehistoric parasite, one that is perfectly preserved along with its 425 million-year-old host.  The ancient parasite, known as a “tongue worm” provides scientists with a glimpse of life and the interactions between species in a warm tropical sea that existed in Britain back in the Middle Silurian.  Fossils of tongue worms are extremely rare, examples have been recovered from Ordovician as well as older Cambrian deposits, the Silurian fossils are exceptionally well preserved, we at Everything Dinosaur believe the fossils to be part of the Wenlock Epoch biota.  The actual location of the fossil find has not been disclosed in order to protect the site from amateur fossil hunters and those keen to exploit the fossil deposits commercially.

The fossils come from a deposit in Herefordshire, close to the border with Wales, scientists from the University of Leicester, who took part in the study stated that the tongue worm represents a new species and they range in size from 1mm to 4mm in length.  Tongue worms have tongue shaped bodies, a distinct head and two pairs of limbs.  At least 140 species are known to exist today, most are respiratory or gut parasites of vertebrates (usually reptiles), these fossils provide scientists with information on how these creatures evolved before they made the move onto land to become parasites of terrestrial vertebrates.

The Computer Model Showing the Ostracod Shell (grey) with the Tongue Worm attached (orange)

Looking at the micro-fauna of the Silurian.

Looking at the micro-fauna of the Silurian.

Picture Credit: Siveter, Briggs, Siveter and Sutton

The picture above shows the pentastomid Invavita piratica and its host, the Ostracod Nymphatelina gravida.

The newly described fossils show the tongue worm species in association with its host, in this case a species of Ostracod (an Arthropod).  It was professor David Siveter, (Department of Geology) at Leicester University, who  made the discovery.  An academic paper describing the new species, named as Invavita piratica, (the name translates as ancient, pirate intruder) has been published in the journal “Current Biology”.  As well as academics from the University of Leicester, the research team included scientists from Imperial College (London), Oxford University and Yale.  Tongue worms belong to the Pentastomida Family, part of the Subphylum Crustacea, although for many years the taxonomic relationship between this group of obligate parasites and other parts of the Arthropoda was disputed.

Professor Siveter, explained that the tongue worms were not “worms” at all, they got their name because one genus resembles the tongue of an animal.  They are an unusual and widespread group of mainly obligate parasites.  An obligate parasite is an organism that cannot complete its life-cycle without finding a suitable host.

The professor stated:

“This discovery affirms that tongue worms were “external” parasites on marine invertebrates animals at least 425 million years ago.  It also suggests that tongue worms likely found their way into land-based environments and associated hosts in parallel with the movement of vertebrates onto the land by some 125 million years later.”

The Computer Model with the Ostracod Shell Removed to Reveal the Internal Parasites

Internal parasites identified by high powered scans and computer modelling.

Internal parasites identified by high powered scans and computer modelling.

Picture Credit: Siveter, Briggs, Siveter and Sutton

The computer image above shows the Ostracod with its shell removed, showing the external pentastomids and a pentastomid near the eggs of the Ostracod (parasites in orange).  The picture shows how this group of parasites got their name.  ”Penta” refers to the number five and these parasites have five anterior appendages.  One is the simple mouth, the others are two pairs of hooks which they use to attach themselves to their host.  The large pentastomid  (top left) is a highly magnified image of a single parasite, not to scale with the rest of the image.

Using sophisticated microscopic scanning techniques and three-dimensional computer modelling, the scientists were able to reconstruct the Ostracod and its parasites.  Some of the tongue worms were found inside the Ostracod’s shell , near its eggs, on which they probably fed.  Other tongue worms are attached to the external surface of the Ostracod’s shell, a unique position for any fossil or living tongue worm.  These tiny fossilised creatures are helping the scientists to understand a little more about inter-relationships between parasites and potential hosts in ancient marine environments.

Back in 2012, Everything Dinosaur reported on the discovery of another ancient Ostracod from the same location.  The fossil had been identified using the same techniques to discover the parasites.  Professor Siveter, named this new genus of Ostracod after his wife.

To read more about this: Ostracod from Herefordshire, reconstructing the Silurian

Everything Dinosaur Publishes Blog Article Number 3,000

Everything Dinosaur Writes 3,000 Blog Articles

It feels like we started this blog sometime back in the Pleistocene Epoch, but that’s not quite the case, the first articles were published in May 2007 and now some eight years later, today, we publish article number 3,000!  Team members at Everything Dinosaur try to put up an article every day, this can be quite a tough ask but given the speed of developments in palaeontology, the wealth of new fossil finds plus of course, our own adventures, there has never been a shortage of things to write about.  A big thank you to the millions of viewers and all those who have re-pinned, shared and tweeted our content, this really means a lot to us.

Celebrating Article Number 3,000 on the Everything Dinosaur Blog

Celebrating our 3,000th blog post.

Celebrating our 3,000th blog post.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The aims of our humble web log have not changed since we started.  We try to write articles using non-technical language that inform readers about the latest dinosaur and prehistoric animal research.  In addition, we act as a source of information for new fossil finds and updates on fossil hunting expeditions.  Our blog has proved to be a useful resource for dinosaur fans and model collectors as we have published quite a lot of information about new products and ranges coming to the market.  From the feedback we receive, we are also aware of the number of teachers, teaching assistants and home educationalists who regular visit our blog site and use the information we provide for lesson plans and other educational activities.  With this blog and our sister site (Dinosaurs for Schools), Everything Dinosaur has built up quite a following from primary and secondary school teachers.

The Everything Dinosaur blog is getting to be quite a sizeable beast, for example, much bigger than a Dreadnoughtus, a huge, long-necked dinosaur from Argentina, that we discussed on this web log back in September 2014.  If you were to print out all our articles out onto A4-sized paper and lay them end to end, then this paper chain would stretch for approximately 750 metres.  Or to put it another way, in terminology that dinosaur fans might appreciate, our printed out blog would stretch the length of twenty-seven Diplodocus dinosaurs.

To read the article on Dreadnoughtus: A Little Detail on a Great Big Dreadnoughthus

If we were to try to print out our entire blog, even on our biggest, fastest printer, we estimate that to produce all the articles, it would take over two days.  That’s a lot of time standing around the printer!

Given the amount of correspondence we receive from collectors, schoolchildren and delighted parents, we could quite easily post up pictures, drawings, photographs of fossils and such like several times a day, but for the time being, we shall have to limit ourselves to the single post.  However, please be assured, we respond to all those correspondents who require a reply, just as we read all the blog comments from our readers on this site.

On behalf of everyone at “Everything” we would like to say a really big thank you to all our readers.

Fossil Site Threatened (Hall Dale Quarry)

Former Quarry Could be Transformed into Housing and Commercial Development

The huge Hall Dale Quarry near Matlock, Derbyshire, could be transformed, with the potential loss of an amazing fossil location, if the local authority grants permission for a mixed residential and commercial development on the site.  Hall Dale Quarry is a disused limestone quarry.  We at Everything Dinosaur, don’t know when the quarrying of limestone blocks ceased, what we do know is that the rocks exposed at this location contain a huge diversity of Carboniferous invertebrate fossils.  Fossils are extremely common at the quarry, whilst many amateur collectors split the boulders with heavy-duty chisels to access the fossil material, just a few minutes exploring the scree on the quarry floor will yield plenty of specimens.  Fossils of a variety of Brachiopods, Crinoid stems and large Corals litter the site and with careful searching some nice examples of marine Gastropods (mainly internal moulds), can be discovered too.

The strata represents a shallow, marine environment and the rocks at the quarry are part of the Eyam limestone formation.  They date from the Early Carboniferous (Visean faunal stage of the Middle Mississippian Epoch [345-328 mya]).  The site is hidden from the road and is approached via a small path leading through a wooded area, although it is just a few minutes’ drive from the bustling centre of the Derbyshire market town of Matlock, once at the quarry face, it’s a different world.  On the day Everything Dinosaur visited, the quarry was deserted, we did not see a single person for the best part of three hours.

A View from the Helicopter Pad at Hall Dale Quarry

Hall Dale Quarry (Derbyshire)

Hall Dale Quarry (Derbyshire)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The rock strata forms a series of platforms (three in total), Hall Dale Quarry is a popular location with climbing clubs, the sheer rock faces and huge piles of stone provide plenty of different climbing routes to explore.  We would advise that fossil collectors stay on the ground level, there are plenty of fossils to be found and there is no need to climb the boulders.

Enormous Boulders at Hall Dale Quarry

Huge boulders - can you see our rucksack?

Huge boulders – can you see our rucksack?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

During our research, prior to our fossil hunting trip, we visited the excellent website of UK Fossils: UK Fossils.  As we prepared for our visit, we came across a news article from November 2014 that outlined plans for the development of this rural space, what is termed a brownfield site.  4M Property Partners had submitted plans to convert the quarry into a development consisting of mixed residential and commercial properties.  Plans had been submitted to the council to build some 220 houses, and to convert 400 square metres into a restaurant and a café.  In addition, the planning proposal contained details of some 6400 square metres of office space.  We at Everything Dinosaur are not sure exactly how fossil collecting would be affected by these developments, we are also unsure as to how the planning application has progressed.  However, we would like to express our concern that such an amazing place might be lost forever.

Whilst we can appreciate that Matlock, like many towns in the UK, may have a need for more houses and that such a development might boost the local economy, as we stood in the quarry, totally in awe of the spectacular scenery and surrounded by evidence of a tropical, marine environment that existed some 340 million years ago, it seemed such a shame that this location might soon be unrecognisable.

Many Different Types of Invertebrate Fossil can Be Found in the Scree

Fossils can be found in the scree.

Fossils can be found in the scree.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

There may be an urgent need for more local housing.  The town of Matlock might desperately require additional commercial properties.  We feel that we are unable to comment with regards to these development plans, but we sincerely hope that the developers have at least considered the need to preserve some part of this remarkable location’s fossil heritage.  There are fewer and fewer places in this country, where people can simply stop and stare and admire rock formations and the fossil treasures they contain within.  These special sites demonstrate the rich geology of our landscape and allow visitors to explore life in the past.  We hope that any development is undertaken in sympathy with the astonishing geology of this location.

A Few Minutes Collecting and So Many Fossils

A multitude of fossils can be picked out from the scree.

A multitude of fossils can be picked out from the scree.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Wishing to express our concerns, the team member who visited the site contacted the planning department of Derbyshire Dales District Council.  A very helpful person in the department explained that the planning team could be emailed, allowing concerns about the need to develop the location in sympathy with the geology of the area to be put on record.  Everything Dinosaur subsequently did this and in addition, emailed Natural England to raise awareness of the development of this brownfield site with that organisation.

Raising Awareness About the Potential Loss of the Quarry

If you have collected fossils at Hall Dale Quarry and wish to make a point with reference to the re-development of this site and the potential loss of this fossil collecting location, then we would urge you to do so.

Planning application reference: 14/00541/OUT (please quote this reference when emailing the planning department or Natural England).

Email: planning@derbyshiredales.gov.uk to contact Derbyshire Dales District Council (we would advise that you include a contact telephone number in your email, so that a planning team member can get in touch)

Email: consultations@naturalengland.org.uk (again quoting planning reference: 14/00541/OUT) to get in contact with Natural England

Whilst we do understand the difficult and often challenging job of district councils and we aware of the potential economic benefits to the local community this project may bring.  We at Everything Dinosaur feel that it is important, to at least place on record a desire to consider the development of Hall Dale Quarry which takes into account the remarkable fossil bearing strata to be found at this location.

Please share.

Would a Dinosaur Make a Good Pet?

Year 2 at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School Consider a Pet Dinosaur

Children in Year 2 at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School (Matlock, Derbyshire), have been tackling the tricky question of would dinosaurs make good pets?  This poser is one of the questions being explored as part of a series of themes for the summer term.  So far the children have learned about dinosaur eggs and taken part in some outdoor measuring activities under the guidance of their enthusiastic teacher Miss Sutcliffe.  It’s a good job the school has a large playground, especially when it comes to working out how tall a Brachiosaurus was.

Brachiosaurus was one of the largest of the dinosaurs, a huge plant-eater, fossils of which have been found in Upper Jurassic rocks.  The children estimated that a twelve metre tall Brachiosaurus would be the same height as nineteen Year 2 children.  This is a super exercise and certainly helps children gain an appreciation of the size and scale of some of the biggest dinosaurs.

One of the Biggest Dinosaurs of the Late Jurassic

A typical Brachiosaur.

A typical Brachiosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Trouble is, Brachiosaurus (the name means “Arm Lizard” as the forelimbs were larger than the back legs), was not the tallest of the Dinosauria.  As more fossils have been found so different contenders for the “tallest dinosaur “accolade are proposed.  One contender, known from four neck bones and a handful of other fossil specimens found in rocks dating from the Early Cretaceous of the United States, is Sauroposeidon (the name means “Earthquake Lizard”).  Sauroposeidon is pronounced sore-oh-poh-sigh-don.  One of the neck bones measures 1.4 metres long, that is taller than most of the Year 2 children at the school.

Size estimates for Sauroposeidon do vary.  With so few fossils to study, it is difficult to work out just how tall, or indeed just how long or how heavy this dinosaur was.  Palaeontologists are not even sure if Sauroposeidon had the same basic body shape of Brachiosaurus.  However, if it did, then it could have been around 18-20 metres tall.

Sauroposeidon Compared to Brachiosaurus

Scaling up Sauroposeidon and comparing it to Brachiosaurus and an extant African elephant.

Scaling up Sauroposeidon and comparing it to Brachiosaurus and an extant African elephant.

If nineteen Year 2 children are as tall as a twelve metre high Brachiosaurus, then can the class work out how many of them would be needed to be the same height as a twenty metre tall Sauroposeidon?

Miss Sutcliffe and her teaching assistant have certainly developed a challenging and engaging scheme of work for the class.  The dinosaur workshop we conducted certainly helped as we were able to answer the children’s questions and some of those questions were quite challenging.  For example, we were asked how did dinosaurs chew bones?  Fortunately, some of the fossils we had with us were useful in demonstrating how some types of dinosaur ate.

The spacious and well-organised classroom had lots of dinosaur themed displays.  We were informed that after our visit the children would be designing a habitat for their dinosaurs.  This links nicely into the English national curriculum as this enables the children to learn about living creatures and what they need to survive.  Perhaps the children can compare the world of the dinosaurs with habitats seen today and the types of animals that exist in those habitats.   It was pleasing to note that Year 2 had a good grasp of the terminology related to ecosystems and food chains.  For example, the children were able to explain all about omnivores.  Our cast of the lower jaw of a Pachycephalosaur (Dracorex hogwartsia), proved useful when it came to explaining about animals that ate both meat and plants.  Dracorex might make a good pet dinosaur, it would have helped keep the school’s vegetable garden pest free, but a downside might be that it would be tempted to eat all the flowers!

A Colourful Dinosaur Themed Display in the Classroom

St Joseph's Catholic Primary School (Year 2) dinosaur display.

St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School (Year 2) dinosaur display.

Picture Credit: Year 2/Everything Dinosaur

We set the class a number of challenges as part of the extension ideas and activities we discussed with Miss Sutcliffe and we look forward to hearing how the children get on as they explore all things dinosaur for their summer term topic.

The Growth Spurts of Indominus rex

The Prehistoric Animals of “Jurassic World” – The Rapid Growth of Indominus rex

There are only another twenty-three days to wait before the movie “Jurassic World” opens at cinemas.  To say that this film has been eagerly awaited is a bit of an understatement, we expect things to reach fever pitch over the next three weeks or so.  In this febrile atmosphere, team members wanted to comment on an aspect of the movie, the fourth in the “Jurassic Park” franchise, that has not been discussed to any great degree.  Now we know this is pure science fiction, the extraction of ancient DNA from amber (or copal, the pre-cursor to amber for that matter), is extremely controversial but if we take all this with a pinch of salt, what gets us is the phenomenal growth rate of the genetically engineered dinosaurs.

Take for example, the new hybrid dinosaur developed by those scientists formerly of InGen and now working for the Masrani Corporation (the fictional conglomerate which owns and runs “Jurassic World”).

Fearsome “super-beast” Indominus rex

The hybrid dinosaur.

The hybrid dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

The growth rate for this hybrid dinosaur, which seems to be made up of a variety of Theropod dinosaurs as well as genetic material from a number of extant creatures, is phenomenal.  In trailers released to promote “Jurassic World”, Dr. Wu the leading geneticist behind the development of this new type of prehistoric animal, states that this dinosaur was designed to be “bigger than a T. rex.“.  In the film, it is believed to be around twelve metres long, a fraction smaller than an adult female Tyrannosaurus rex.

If the project to develop a genetically modified dinosaur was only given the go ahead sometime in 2012, this new species exhibits an accelerated growth rate.  It seems to have grown much more rapidly than any other large Theropod.  It was Masrani’s Chief Executive Officer, Simon Masrani, who announced that the company had been able to successfully engineer a new species, but that was only last year, so within twelve months the subject of this project has developed into a very big animal indeed!

At Everything Dinosaur, we have attempted to map the growth rate of Indominus rex against that of Tyrannosaurus rex.  This work is highly speculative, but we have tried to postulate the growth rates based on the timeline stated by Masrani Corporation and plotted this against the postulated growth rate for a large tyrannosaurid based on the current research.  At least in terms of growth rate, this is a no contest, I. rex wins hands down (or should that be claws down)?

Comparing the Growth Rates of Indominus rex and Tyrannosaurus rex

I. rex versus T. rex growth rates.

I. rex versus T. rex growth rates.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Quite a bit of research has been conducted on the ontogeny (growth) of dinosaurs, such as Late Cretaceous Theropods, an example being Tyrannosaurus rex.  It has been suggested that T. rex did not reach adult size until it got to its twenties.  It may even have had a growth spurt in its teenage years just like us humans.  Compare this to the genetic dinosaur hybrid Indominus rex, it reaches twelve metres in length in the summer of 2015, that means in three years or so it has had a spectacular growth spurt.

How we love the movies!  Of course, this is a science fiction film, the writers and film makers can do what they want, after all, it’s only CGI.  If they want a phenomenally quick growing dinosaur, then that is their prerogative.  When did science actually get in the way of a good film?

We suspect that I. rex will meet its demise at the end of the picture.  Not that we know anything, but just like the “raptors” in the first “Jurassic Park” film (1993),who were about to attack Dr. Grant and company, when a bigger predator intervened,  we suspect that another dinosaur might be responsible for the extinction of Indominus rex.

We shall have to wait and see…

As for certification, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), has given “Jurassic World” a 13 certificate for it contains “intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.”   We are not sure about the UK certification (British Board of Film Classification), but we would expect this film to have a 12A certificate.

Not a Wishing Well and Not a Dinosaur Either

Beijing Museum of Natural History Exhibit (Lotosaurus Confusion)

Team members have read with interest the various media reports about a Chinese museum exhibit being used as a wishing well.  Such is the hold that the Dinosauria seems to have over us, that any vertebrate fossil in a museum, ends up being described as a dinosaur by the media.  We can understand why this happens, but let’s try to put the record straight.

First the story, the Beijing Museum of Natural History has a huge collection of fossils and an amazing array of exhibits of long extinct animals.  Both vertebrates and invertebrates are exhibited, the vast majority of the displays highlighting the extremely diverse fossil assemblage from this part of Asia.  There are lots of dinosaurs to see.  However, the Museum has encountered a problem, it seems that tourists (and we suspect some superstitious locals too), have a habit of putting coins and notes inside the glass case of one of the many Chinese prehistoric animal mounted fossils on view.  The animal concerned is a Lotosaurus adentus, it might sound like a dinosaur but a member of the Dinosauria this reptile most certainly was not.

Museum Exhibit Treated like a Wishing Well

Lucky Lotosaurus?

Lucky Lotosaurus?

Picture Credit: ECNS

The picture above shows the mounted exhibit of the quadruped L. adentus.  Tourists and other visitors have taken to stuffing notes and coins through gaps in the glass case, the specimen makes a rather unusual “piggy bank”.  According to the media reports this practice has been going on for about a year, we suppose it’s a question of one person doing it and others following the trend.

A security guard at the Museum, one of Beijing’s leading tourist attractions stated:

“Most of it is five or ten Yuan bills [around £0.50 GBP to £1.00 GBP] and coins from kids and grown-ups…they do it for fun.  We usually don’t stop them since it doesn’t damage the booth or the exhibits.”

The Director of the Museum Zhou Ying has been quoted saying that people might be tossing in money as they believe the specimen will bring them wealth, good luck or better health.  This habit of “donating” to the glass case is going to come to an abrupt end as the Museum has taken steps to prevent this from happening.  Construction workers have been hired to seal the glass case and make it “coin and note proof”.

Perhaps it might be sensible to position a donation box close by.  We are not sure of the Museum’s policy on such matters, but if visitors wish to make a donation, perhaps something could be installed to enable them to do so.  Funds raised could support the educational work of the museum, that’s just a suggestion, but you never know.

Lotosaurus Not a Dinosaur

If you look at the display panels behind the Lotosaurus skeleton in the picture above, you can see some pictures of dinosaurs.  Lotosaurus may be displayed alongside the dinosaurs but it was not a member of the Dinosauria.  Let us explain…

Lotosaurus might be being exhibited in the dinosaur gallery as it was around at approximately the time when the very first basal members of the Dinosauria are believed to have evolved.  The fossils of this barrel-chested reptile come from Hunan Province (south-central China) and date from between 245 and 237 million years ago (Anisian faunal stage of the Triassic).  Most palaeontologists now believe that this bizarre creature is a member of the Poposauroidea clade, part of the Archosaur group, but this phylogenetic analysis has been disputed.  Trouble is, Lotosaurus is such a bizarre creature.  It measured in size from 1.5 to 2.5 metres long, the neural spines were many times taller than they were wide and this suggests that this animal had some sort of sail or large hump running down from its neck, down the back to the tail.  The top jaw is curved over and the robust skull suggests a powerful bite, but there are no teeth in the jaws.   What this animal ate has been debated, the fossil material is associated with having been laid down in a swampy environment.  Lotosaurus could have been a herbivore, but it has also been suggested that this slow-moving reptile might have specialised in eating the abundant shellfish, fossils of which are also associated with sediments to be found in the Hunan Province.   The species was formally named and described in 1975.

 The Very Peculiar Lotosaurus adentus – Definitely Not a Dinosaur

Very strange Triassic reptile.

Very strange Triassic reptile.

Picture Credit: Wikipedia

Although, there may be some debate as to the exact phylogenetic position of Lotosaurus, it was not a dinosaur.  The genus name (we think) means “Lotus lizard” and whilst to some observers it might look like a dinosaur and its genus name does end in “saurus” but it was most definitely not a dinosaur.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Whilst we doubt much of the exhibit in question consists of actual fossil material, we can’t condone this behaviour as money being thrown into a display case would have to be retrieved and the opening of the case and working in close proximity to any fossils could lead to their accidental damage.  In addition, if coins are thrown in and they hit the preserved fossil bone then this could result in the fossil material being chipped and scratched.”

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