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23 06, 2018

Stem Mammal Skull Re-shapes Ancient Landmasses

By | June 23rd, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Cifelliodon wahkarmoosuch – Pangaea Split Later Than Thought

A fossilised skull of a stem mammal dating back to the Lower Cretaceous suggests that the super-continent Pangaea split up more recently than previously thought.  The skull, identified as a new species, comes from Utah and it indicates that there were still land links between North America and other landmasses making up Pangaea, as this is the first evidence of a member of the Hahnodontidae to have been described from North American fossil material.

Linking Super-continents Cifelliodon wahkarmoosuch

Cifelliodon wahkarmoosuch life reconstruction.

A life reconstruction of the stem mammal C. wahkarmoosuch.  The fossilised skull of this small stem mammal suggests that Pangaea broke up later than previously thought.

Picture Credit: Jorge A. Gonzalez

Scientists, including researchers from the University of Chicago and the Utah Geological Survey writing in the journal “Nature”, have named the new stem mammal Cifelliodon wahkarmoosuch.

Lead author of the study Zhe-Xi Luo (University of Chicago), explained that palaeontologists had thought that the primitive precursors to today’s mammals – the monotremes, marsupials and placental mammals, were anatomically similar and ecological generalists.  However, recent fossil discoveries suggest that many stem mammals were very specialised.

Zhe-Xi Luo stated:

“Now we know mammal precursors developed capacities to climb trees, to glide, to burrow into the ground for subterranean life, and to swim.  With this new study, we also know that they dispersed across from Asia and Europe, into North America, and farther onto major southern continents.”

Honouring Richard Cifelli

The genus name honours American palaeontologist Richard Cifelli, at Oklahoma University.  Professor Cifelli is regarded as one of America’s leading experts in North American Cretaceous mammals.  The species name “wahkarmoosuch”, means “Yellow Cat” in the local native American language for that part of Utah.  The fossil comes from the Yellow Cat Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation.  Sophisticated high-resolution computerised tomography (CT), was used to create a detailed, three-dimensional model of the skull.

James Kirkland, co-author of the paper and a Utah State palaeontologist commented:

“The skull of Cifelliodon is an extremely rare find in a vast fossil-bearing region of the Western Interior, where the more than 150 species of mammals and reptile-like mammal precursors are represented mostly by isolated teeth and jaws.”

The Fossilised Skull of C. wahkarmoosuch and a Computer -generated Image of the Fossil Material

The skull and scan of C. Dorsal view of the fossil skull (left) and the computer generated image (right) C. wahkarmoosuch.

Dorsal view of the fossil skull (left) and the computer-generated image (right) of  C. wahkarmoosuch.

Picture Credit: Huttenlocker et al

Nocturnal Predator

Cifelliodon wahkarmoosuch was small, weighing around two kilograms, it was probably about the size of a terrier.  This might be tiny compared to some extant North American mammals around today such as the moose, wolf and bison, but back in the Early Cretaceous, some 130 million years ago, it was a relative giant amongst its Cretaceous contemporaries.  Analysis of the teeth and preserved teeth sockets suggest that it had teeth were similar to fruit-eating bats and it could bite, shear and crush.  It may have been omnivorous, eating small animals but also incorporating plants into its diet.

The skull reveals that this newly described species had a relatively small brain and giant olfactory bulbs to process smell.  The small orbits (eye-sockets), suggest that C. wahkarmoosuch probably relied on its sense of smell to find food.  It probably did not have good eyesight or colour vision and Cifelliodon may have been nocturnal.

Super-Continent and Land Bridges

The research team have assigned Cifelliodon to the clade Haramiyida, a group of mammaliaform cynodonts that have a long temporal range in the fossil record.  Most of these animals are known from fragments of jawbone or fossil teeth.  The teeth, which are by far the most common fossil remains of these animals, resemble those of another ancient type of mammal the Multituberculata (Multituberculates).  With the discovery of a North American Haramiyidan, scientists are going to have to re-examine fossil teeth from this area that had previously been assigned to the Multituberculata, these teeth might represent members of the Haramiyida.

The fossil discovery emphasises that Haramiyidans and some other vertebrate groups existed globally during the Jurassic-Cretaceous transition, meaning the corridors for migration via landmasses forming the super-continent Pangaea remained intact into the Early Cretaceous.  There must have been land bridges permitting the migration of these small animals for longer than previously thought.

Most of the Jurassic and Cretaceous fossils of Haramiyidans are from the Triassic and Jurassic of Europe, Greenland and Asia.  Hahnodontidae was previously known only from the Cretaceous of northern Africa.  The Utah fossil discovery provides evidence of migration routes between the continents that are now separated in northern and southern hemispheres.

Commenting on the implications for the break-up of Pangaea, Adam Huttenlocker (University of Southern California), a co-author of the study said:

“But it’s not just this group of Haramiyidans.  The connection we discovered mirrors others recognised as recently as this year based on similar Cretaceous dinosaur fossils found in Africa and Europe.”

The researchers conclude that hahnodontid mammaliaforms had a much wider, possibly Pangaean distribution during the Jurassic–Cretaceous transition.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of a press release from the University of Chicago in the compilation of this article.

The scientific paper: “Late-surviving Stem Mammal Links the Lowermost Cretaceous of North America and Gondwana” by Adam K. Huttenlocker, David M. Grossnickle, James I. Kirkland, Julia A. Schultz and Zhe-Xi Luo published in the journal Nature.

22 06, 2018

Tongue-tied Dinosaurs

By | June 22nd, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Most Dinosaur Tongues Rooted to the Bottom of their Mouths

New research undertaken by the University of Texas at Austin in conjunction with the Chinese Academy of Sciences suggests a link between the origin of flight within the Archosauria and an increase in tongue diversity and mobility.  It seems that Theropod dinosaurs had tongues very similar to those of extant crocodiles, these tongues are immobile and firmly attached to the floor of the mouth.  In contrast, Ornithischian (bird-hipped) dinosaurs, pterosaurs and birds may have had more mobile tongues, in the case of the volant animals, the tongue could have become adapted to serve as a device to compensate for a loss of dexterity as hands evolved into wings.  For the Ornithischians, their plant-eating needs could have resulted in a more mobile and dextrous tongue to assist with the processing of large quantities of coarse vegetation in the mouth, after all, most derived Ornithischians unlike their Sauropodomorpha and Theropod cousins chewed their food to some extent.

A Tongue-tied Dinosaur – Most Theropods Had Tongues Like Extant Crocodilians

A tongue-tied dinosaur.

Most Theropod dinosaurs such as this Deinonychus had immobile tongues.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Comparing Hyoid Bones

The University of Texas at Austin and Chinese Academy of Sciences researchers compared the hyoid bones of living and extinct Archosaurs.  The hyoid bones support and ground the tongue.  In addition, to challenging how dinosaur tongues are depicted in movies such as “Jurassic Park”, the study proposes a connection between the origins of powered flight and an increase in tongue diversity and mobility.

Lead author of the research. Zhiheng Li, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences commented:

“Tongues are often overlooked but, they offer key insights into the lifestyles of extinct animals.”

Associate professor Zhiheng Li conducted the research whilst working towards his PhD at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences.

The study involved comparing the hyoid bones of extinct dinosaurs and pterosaurs with the hyoid bones of living Archosaurs.  The research team looked at the hyoid bones and associated muscles of alligators and modern birds.  The hyoid bones act as anchors for the tongue in most animals, but in Aves (birds), these bones can extend to the tip.  Comparing anatomical traits across these groups can help scientists understand the similarities and differences in tongue anatomy and how traits evolved through time and across different lineages.

The Research Team Examined Extant and Extinct Archosaurs Plus Other Groups Such as Sphenodonts

Working out the tongue function in extinct Archosaurs.

Muscular, fleshy, bone or cartilage elements of the tongue in extant archosaurs and outgroups.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

Fifteen Modern Specimens Compared to Extinct Archosaurs

High-resolution images of hyoid bones and muscles were made from fifteen modern specimens.  The bird species examined included ducks and ostriches.  The X-Ray Computed Tomography Facility at the Jackson School of Geosciences was used to create the images.  Most of the fossil specimens used in the study came from north-eastern China (Liaoning Province), the exquisite preservation of these fossils gave the researchers the best opportunity to examine in detail images of the delicate tongue bones.  The iconic Late Cretaceous dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex was also included in this research.

The results indicate that the hyoid bones of most members of the Dinosauria, were reminiscent of extant crocodilians, the hyoid bones of dinosaurs were short, simple and connected to a tongue that was relatively immobile.  Co-author of the scientific paper, published in the on-line journal PLOS One, Julia Clarke (Jackson School of Geosciences), explained that the dramatic reconstruction of dinosaurs with their tongues stretching out from between their jaws as seen in many movies, was just wrong and inaccurate.

Julia Clarke stated:

“They have been reconstructed the wrong way for a long time.  In most extinct dinosaurs their tongue bones are very short and in crocodilians with similarly short hyoid bones, the tongue is totally fixed to the floor of the mouth.”

Overturning Common Misconceptions About Dinosaurs

Professor Clarke is accustomed to overturning common misconceptions when it comes to dinosaurs.  In 2016, Julia was one of the co-authors of a study into a Late Cretaceous bird (Vegavis iaai), the research team concluded that dinosaurs probably did not roar but may have made booming noises in a similar way to the vocalisation found in ostriches.

To read about this study: Ancient Bird Voice Box Sheds Light on the Voices of Dinosaurs

In contrast to the short hyoid bones of crocodiles, the scientists found that pterosaurs, bird-like dinosaurs, and living birds have a great diversity in hyoid bone shapes.  They think the range of shapes could be related to flight ability, or in the case of flightless birds such as ostriches and emus, evolved from an ancestor that could fly.  The researchers propose that taking to the skies could have led to new ways of feeding that could be tied to diversity and mobility in tongues.

Examples of Fossilised Hyoid Bones in the Archosauria

Fossil bones in extinct Archosaurs.

Archosauria and fossilised hyoid bones.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The picture above shows a number of fossilised hyoid bones associated with extinct members of the Archosauria.

Key

(A) Alligator prenasalis, pterosaurs (B) Liaoxipterus brachycephalus and (C) Ludodactylus sibbicki, (D) basal Ornithischian Jeholosaurus shangyuanensis, (E) Tyrannosaur Yutyrannus huali (F) Sinosauropteryx prima.

Professor Clarke added:

“Birds, in general, elaborate their tongue structure in remarkable ways, they are shocking.”

Co-author of the study, Zhiheng Li (Chinese Academy of Sciences), stated that the elaboration of the tongue could be related to the loss of dexterity that accompanied the evolution of flight.  The tongue could have compensated for the transformation of hands into wings.

Li stated:

“If you can’t use a hand to manipulate prey, the tongue may become much more important to manipulate food.  That is one of the hypotheses that we put forward.”

Volant Dinosaurs And Fossil Birds (Hyoid Study in Paravians)

Fossil hyoid bones in flying dinosaurs and extinct birds.

Hyoid remains in Paravians.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

Key

(A) Microraptor zhaoianus, (B) Confuciusornis sp., (C) Enantiornithine sp., (D) Hongshanornis longicresta.  The blue arrow indicates the ossified basihyal in Confuciusornis and Hongshanornis; it was also observed in one specimen of Microraptor.  The green arrow indicates the phylogenetically earliest epibranchial.

An Exception – The Ornithischia

The scientists did identify one exceptional group amongst the Dinosauria, the Ornithischian dinosaurs.  Derived members of this group chewed their plant food and had hyoid bones that were highly complex and more mobile, although they were structurally different from those of volant dinosaurs and pterosaurs.

Triceratops Had a Mobile and Dextrous Tongue

New colour Mojo Fun large Triceratops (2018).

Mojo Fun large Triceratops (new colour 2018). We will be looking carefully at the tongue.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The team propose that more work needs to be done to understand the anatomical changes that occurred with shifts in tongue function.  Professor Clarke commented upon how changes in the tongues of living birds are associated with changes in the position of the opening of the windpipe.  These changes could in turn affect how birds vocalise and breathe.

The scientific paper: “Convergent Evolution of a Mobile Bony Tongue in Flighted Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs” by Zhiheng Li, Zhonghe Zhou and Julia A. Clarke published in PLOS One.

21 06, 2018

Researchers Identify New Species of Ancient Marine Lizard

By | June 21st, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Primitivus manduriensis – New Semi-Aquatic Lizard Honours Red Wine Grape

The discovery of an articulated fossilised skeleton with exceptional soft tissue preservation indicates that the enigmatic Dolichosaurs were around at least fifteen million years later than previously thought.  Researchers, including scientists from the University of Alberta (Canada), have described a new species of Dolichosaur, naming it Primitivus manduriensis.  The fossil specimen was found near Nardò (Lecce, Puglia), a small town located in the Salento Peninsula (southern Italy).   The animal was probably semi-aquatic, hunting for small fish in shallow waters whilst also venturing out onto land from time to time.  The specimen, although crushed flat, is so well-preserved that muscle, skin and scales can be observed under ultra violet light.  Even the small bones of its fish prey have been preserved in the gut.

The reptile, which was approximately one metre in length has been named after the local Manduria variety of red wine grape primitivo.

A Life Reconstruction of Primitivus manduriensis

Primitivus life reconstruction.

A life reconstruction of the newly described marine lizard Primitivus from southern Italy.

Picture Credit: Fabio Manucci

Found in Rocks Dating from the Late Campanian to the Early Maastrichtian

The fossil was discovered in what was once a shallow water environment, perhaps an embayment.  After it died, this member of the Squamata (it was related to lizards, snakes and Mosasaurs), sank to the bottom and was covered in sediment, safe from any currents that would otherwise have scattered its remains and away from scavengers.

Lead author of the paper, published in Royal Society Open Science, University of Alberta student Ilaria Paparella commented:

“The marine lizards are essentially small, long-bodied animals that look like regular lizards with longer necks and tails.  They have paddle-like hands and feet for swimming but could also move on land.”

Dorsal View of the Holotype Primitivus manduriensis Fossil Material

Views of the holotype of P. manduriensis.

Top – the holotype fossil material of P. manduriensis and (bottom) under UV light.

Picture Credit: Royal Society Open Science

The photographs (above), show the holotype of Primitivus manduriensis (MPUR NS 161) in natural (a) and UV light (b) as exposed from the matrix in dorsal view.  The imaging under UV radiations is a composite of two pictures, finalised with Adobe Photoshop CC 17 (2013 release).   Note scale bars equal 5 centimetres.

At around 70 million years old, this specimen is significantly younger than other existing specimens from the Dolichosaur group, extending the temporal range of their existence by about fifteen million years.  The fossil also represents the first evidence of the presence of Dolichosaurs in the southern Italian Carbonate Platform, filling a palaeogeographic gap in the Mediterranean Tethys.

Soft Tissue Preservation

For PhD student Paparella, one of the most fascinating things about the specimen was the ability to study the soft tissues, including scales, muscle and skin.  The Department of Biological Sciences student conducted the research as part of her PhD with University of Alberta palaeontologist Michael Caldwell, helping to write the paper.

Ilaria explained:

“There need to be very special conditions for soft tissue to be preserved on a fossil.  The location where the Primitivus manduriensis was found has a great deal of potential.  We hope to get permits from the Italian authorities to conduct further fieldwork.”

“This was the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to look at the complete picture of a beautifully preserved specimen, right down to the scales.  For living species, scientists use scale patterns and skin for identification.   It was unique to be using these techniques to look at a specimen that died 70 million years ago.

When the area of the gut was studied, the researchers identified several tiny, rod-like fragments of bones visible under ultra violet light.  Although their identity could not be clearly assessed, this evidence suggests that Primitivus was feeding on small vertebrates (e.g. fish).

A View of the Crushed Skull of the Holotype (P. manduriensis)

Close-up view of the skull of P. manduriensis and the same fossil material under UV light.

Views of the skull of the holotype fossil of Primitivus manduriensis.

Picture Credit: Royal Society Open Science

The two photographs (above), show imaging of the skull of Primitivus manduriensis MPUR NS 161 under (a) natural light and (b) UV light.  The skull of the holotype is heavily crushed (a) and part of the elements are only preserved as impressions on the matrix, as observed under UV light (b), where the bone material still preserved is bright white.  Note scale bar equals 1 cm.

The new specimen may represent local persistence of a relict Dolichosaur population until almost the end of the Cretaceous in the Mediterranean Tethys, and demonstrates the incompleteness of our knowledge of Dolichosaur temporal and spatial distributions

The scientific paper: “A New Fossil Marine Lizard With Soft Tissues From the Late Cretaceous of Southern Italy” by Ilaria Paparella, Alessandro Palci, Umberto Nicosia, Michael W. Caldwell and published in Royal Society Open Science.

20 06, 2018

More Schleich Prehistoric Animals in Stock

By | June 20th, 2018|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Three New Schleich Conquering the Earth Prehistoric Animal Models

Three new for 2018, prehistoric animal models have arrived at Everything Dinosaur.  The Schleich Therizinosaurus (juvenile), Schleich Pteranodon and the juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex figures are now in stock.  Everything Dinosaur team members were given a “sneaky peek” of these three “Conquering the Earth” models several months ago and we did post up a number of photographs that we had taken onto our social media pages.  We are very excited to be able to add these three Archosaurs to our Schleich portfolio.

Just Arrived at Everything Dinosaur – New for 2018 Prehistoric Animal Models

New for 2018 Schleich prehistoric animal models.

Three new additions to Everything Dinosaur’s Schleich model range.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Schleich Tyrannosaurus rex Juvenile

Over the years, Schleich have produced several T. rex dinosaur models.  This latest edition to the “Conquering the Earth” range measures a little over twenty-three centimetres in length from the tip of that articulated lower jaw to the end of the tail.  The model is well balanced and shows lots of detail, the painting on the inside of the mouth is particularly well done.  It makes a striking companion piece to the Tyrannosaurus rex model introduced by Schleich in the summer of 2017.

The Schleich Adult and Juvenile T. rex Models

Schleich Tyrannosaurs (2017-2018).

The Schleich juvenile T. rex and the 2017 Schleich T. rex model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the Schleich prehistoric animals in stock at Everything Dinosaur, including the three new figures: Schleich Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animal Models

The Schleich Therizinosaurus Juvenile

Schleich have also introduced a juvenile Therizinosaurus dinosaur replica to go along with their repainted Therizinosaurus figure that came out earlier this year.  This model measures a fraction under sixteen centimetres high and is around twenty centimetres in length.

Schleich Therizinosaurs (Adult and Juvenile)

Schleich Therizinosaurs.

Schleich Therizinosaur dinosaur models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Schleich juvenile Therizinosaurus dinosaur model has a pair of articulated front arms, just like the adult version of this Late Cretaceous Theropod.

Schleich Pteranodon

The last model to be added to Everything Dinosaur’s range is not a dinosaur, but a member of the Pterosauria, arguably one of the most famous of all the flying reptiles – Pteranodon.  Schleich have made Pteranodon models in the past, there was a Pteranodon included in the now retired “Saurus” range of prehistoric animal figures, but this new figure is much more brightly painted.

The New for 2018 Schleich Pteranodon Flying Reptile Model

A Schleich Pteranodon model.

New for 2018, a Schleich Pteranodon model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Pteranodon model is a representation of Pteranodon longiceps, the type species, first named and described in 1876 by the famous American palaeontologist Othniel Charles Marsh.  The wingspan of the model measures approximately twenty-two centimetres.  It is a very colourful flying reptile and we note the texture of the model’s skin, giving the impression of a covering of pycnofibres (hair-like filaments) on the body.  It is likely that these pterosaurs were endothermic (warm-blooded), these fibres would have helped to retain body heat and to insulate the animal.

A spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur commented:

“These three new figures are welcome additions to the Schleich Conquering the Earth model range.  Two of the new models represent juvenile Theropods.  The long crest of the colourful Pteranodon probably played a role in display.”

19 06, 2018

More Evidence That Eumaniraptoran Dinosaurs Lived in Flocks

By | June 19th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Social Dinosaurs from Shandong Province

Everything Dinosaur has picked up stories circulating from several Asian media outlets reporting on the discovery of around 300 dinosaur footprints and tracks in Shandong Province in north-eastern China.  Some of these prints are believed to represent either dromaeosaurid or troodontid (Eumaniraptoran) dinosaurs.  Intriguingly, the researchers have uncovered four sets of distinctive two-toed tracks running in parallel.  This suggests that four Eumaniraptoran dinosaurs may have moved together, providing further evidence of possible pack behaviour in “raptors”.  In total, scientists have identified around 70 two-toed tracks that indicate the presence of Eumaniraptoran dinosaurs at this locality.  Unfortunately, the absence of any body fossils, such as bones and teeth restricts the palaeontologists in terms of identifying precisely what sort of dinosaurs made these tracks.

Scientists Have Identified Four Parallel Dinosaur Trackways

Parallel dinosaur tracks suggests flocking behaviour.

The scientists identified four, two-toed parallel dinosaur trackways.

Picture Credit: Lu Yong

Didactyl Tracks – The Second Toe Lifted Off the Ground

Some members of the Eumaniraptoran clade of dinosaurs – the Dromaeosauridae and the Troodontidae for example, had an enlarged second toe claw that was held off the ground.  As these types of dinosaurs moved they would have left very distinctive, two-toed prints and tracks.  The finding of sets of prints indicating that the dinosaur track makers were all moving at the same speed and in the same direction suggests that these dinosaurs were social and moving in packs.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Whilst we cannot be certain what type of dinosaur made the parallel prints, it has been speculated, based on the proportions of the toes, that these tracks could have been made by a member of the deinonychosaurian (a dromaeosaurid).  The tracks were made approximately 125 million years ago and we know from the contemporary Jehol Biota of north-eastern China there were lots of “raptors” roaming about.”

The Raised Second Toe (Killing Claw) Results in a Two-toed Track

Typical two-toed dinosaur track.

The raised second toe results in a two-toed (didactyl) track.

Picture Credit: Matt Celeskey

Didactyl tracks have been referred to as the ichnogenus Dromaeopodus in the past.  Writing in the academic journal “Cretaceous Research”, the scientists have identified two morphotypes, at this fossil site.  The parallel tracks have been tentatively named as an example of the ichnospecies Menglongpus representing a Deinonychosaur.  The researchers have also named the tracks of an avian Theropod as the ichnospecies Tatarornipes.

One of the Two-toed Tracks Assigned to the Ichnospecies Menglongpus

Didactyl dinosaur track.

One of the two-toed tracks from the Shandong Province location – the track has been outlined in chalk.  It has been assigned to the ichnospecies Menglongpus.

Picture Credit: Lu Yong

Discovered in 2015

The fossilised footprints and tracks were discovered three years ago by Tang Yonggang, a visiting professor at Linyi University (Shandong Province).  The strata at the site, in the mountainous county of Tancheng, forms part of the Dasheng Group.  Over the last twelve months or so, a team of scientists led by Xing Lida, from the China University of Geosciences have mapped the hundreds of prints and tracks.

These types of two-toed tracks have been found all over the world, for example, back in 2008, Everything Dinosaur reported on a series of didactyl tracks that had been discovered in South Korea.

To read the article on the South Korean dinosaur tracks: Two-toed dinosaurs stalking South Korea

Lida Xing commented:

“Three hundred footprints is not a shockingly large number, but the diversity in the species found at one site is extremely rare.”

An Assemblage of Fossilised Dinosaur Tracks and Prints (Shandong Province)

Dinosaur tracks and prints fossil site (China).

Numerous tracks and prints have been exposed at the site representing at least seven dinosaur species.

Picture Credit: Lu Yong

The site preserves an Early Cretaceous dinosaur dominated biota consisting of small bipedal dinosaurs, larger Theropods and several different types of herbivore.

To read an article on the discovery of troodontid tracks in Iran: Feathered Dinosaurs from Iran

Fans of a certain movie franchise will be delighted to hear that there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that “raptors” were sociable, pack animals.

“Jurassic World/Jurassic Park” Raptors Behaving Like a Pack

"Jurassic World" raptors.

Not feathered in the movies, but certainly hunting in packs.

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

18 06, 2018

Megalosaurus bucklandii

By | June 18th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Buckland’s Great Lizard

Whilst visiting the Oxford Museum of Natural History, we took the opportunity to take lots of photographs of the dinosaur exhibits.  Naturally, our attention was drawn to that part of the museum that featured Megalosaurus (M. bucklandii).

The Iconic Right Dentary (Lower Jaw) of Megalosaurus bucklandii

The lower jaw of Megalosaurus.

The partial dentary with teeth associated with Megalosaurus bucklandii.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The photograph (above), shows the left side of the right dentary.  Megalosaurus (M. bucklandii) was the first member of the Dinosauria to be officially, scientifically described.  The name was first coined by the English surgeon James Parkinson in 1822 and Buckland published his description in 1824.  The jaw fossil was included in the original description by William Buckland, it has the classification number OUMNH J13505.  The right dentary is the designated lectotype, Buckland did not establish any holotype for M. bucklandii, instead he used several fossils, including the dentary to constitute the type fossil material for this species.  These fossils consisted of rib bones, bones from the hind limbs, vertebrae and elements from the pelvic girdle, together these fossils (the syntypes), describe the taxon.

17 06, 2018

Tiny Frogs Preserved in Cretaceous Amber

By | June 17th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Amber Fossils Provide Evidence of Cretaceous Frogs Inhabiting Wet, Tropical Environments

The remains of four tiny frogs preserved in Cretaceous-aged amber from northern Myanmar have provided palaeontologists with the first definitive evidence showing frogs 99 million years ago were inhabiting wet, tropical environments.

Preserved in Cretaceous Amber – A Window into an Ancient Terrestrial Ecosystem

Prehistoric frog preserved in amber.

A polished amber nodule from Myanmar showing substantial organic remains including the remains of a frog.

Picture Credit: University of Florida

Electrorana limoae

The new species of Cretaceous amphibian has been named Electrorana limoae.  It was small, a juvenile, measuring around twenty millimetres in length, but this frog and other amazing fossil finds from Myanmar amber (burmite), some of which have been documented on this blog, provide scientists with an improved understanding of the micro-flora and micro-fauna of a tropical forest ecosystem that existed some ninety-nine million years ago.

The frog fossils provide the earliest irrefutable evidence of these types of amphibian living in wet, tropical forests.  They are the oldest-known examples of frogs preserved in amber.

Co-author of the study, published earlier this week in Nature’s “Scientific Reports”, David Blackburn (Florida Museum of Natural History) stated:

“It’s almost unheard of to get a fossil frog from this time period that is small, has preservation of small bones and is mostly three-dimensional.  This is pretty special, but what’s most exciting about this animal is its context.  These frogs were part of a tropical ecosystem that, in some ways, might not have been that different to what we find today – minus the dinosaurs.”

A Life Reconstruction of Electrorana limoae

A life reconstruction of Electrorana limoae.

Electrorana limoae – a life reconstruction.

Picture Credit: Damir G Martin

Frogs – Probably Very Numerous But a Shockingly Poor Fossil Record

The fossil record for the Class Amphibia is extremely poor, it is believed that frogs may have evolved during the Triassic, although the fossils of an ancient frog/salamander ancestor discovered in Texas in 1995 might indicate that frogs were around many millions of years earlier.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article about the discovery of a potential ancestral link between frogs and salamanders: Amphibian Ancestry a Little Clearer Thanks to New Discovery

Frogs tend to be small, as a result their light, often tiny bones are not likely to preserve well so they are very probably underrepresented in the fossil record.  What fossils we do have of frogs tend to be biased towards more robust species from arid, seasonal environments, although, if we consider today’s frogs, the bulk of frog diversity can be found in tropical rainforests.

Dr Blackburn added:

“Ask any kid what lives in a rainforest and frogs are on the list, but surprisingly, we have almost nothing from the fossil record to say that’s a longstanding association.”

A Computer-generated Model Showing Frog Bones (white) and the Remains of a Beetle (Orange)

Computer generated three-dimensional image of the bones of Electrorana limoae and the yet to be described beetle.

Computer generated three-dimensional image of the bones of Electrorana limoae and the yet to be described beetle in the amber nodule.

Picture Credit: University of Florida

The Burmite Deposits of Myanmar

The amber deposits of northern Myanmar (referred to as burmite), have provided palaeontologists with a unique record of an ancient Cretaceous tropical forest ecosystem. with fossil evidence of mosses, bamboo-like plants, aquatic spiders and velvet worms.  The discovery of Electrorana and the other fossils, the first frogs to have been found in burmite, will add to our understanding of frogs in the Cretaceous.  These fossils demonstrate that frogs have inhabited wet, tropical forests for at least 99 million years.  Frog fossils preserved in amber are exceptionally rare, previous examples have come from the Dominican Republic and Mexico and date back only to about 40 million and 25 million years, respectively.

A View of the Skeletal Remains Preserved in the Burmite

Computer generated images of Electrorana limoae.

Three-dimensional images of the skeletal remains of Electrorana limoae.

Picture Credit: University of Florida

Electrorana is the most well-preserved of the four frog fossils.  Clearly visible in the amber are the frog’s skull, its forelimbs, part of its backbone, a partial hind limb.  The other amber fossils contain two hands and an imprint of a frog that likely decayed inside the resin.

Answering Some Questions but Raising Many More

Many characteristics herpetologists use to discern details of a frog’s life history and determine how it’s related to other frogs, the wrist bones, the pelvis, hip bones, the inner ear, the top of the backbone, are either missing or were not yet fully developed in the juvenile frog.  The researchers, which include lead author Lida Xing (China University of Geosciences), have postulated that Electrorana limoae had similar features to extant Midwife toads and Fire-bellied toads, Eurasian species associated with temperate ecosystems.  Further CT scans and more fossil discoveries could help illuminate ancient evolutionary relationships, possibly clarifying how Electrorana fits into the frog family.

A Computer-generated Image of the Fossils of Electrorana limoae (note the presence of a beetle)

Computer generated image of Electrorana limoe and undescribed beetle.

Computer generated three-dimensional image of the bones of Electrorana limoae and the yet to be described beetle.

Picture Credit: University of Florida

If ecosystems of today are anything to go by, it seems likely that there may be numerous frog fossils awaiting discovery, locked away in burmite.  We do not have a lot of single-species frog communities in tropical forest environments in the modern world, so it does seem likely that more frog fossils will be found in northern Myanmar.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of a press release from the University of Florida in the compilation of this article.

For further news stories about fossil discoveries from Myanmar burmite:

Evidence of insect mimicry preserved in amber: Those Clever Cretaceous Lacewings

A blood-sucking story: A Blood-sucking Story – Dinosaur Parasites

The tale of the spiders with tails: A Tale of the Spiders with Tails

Enantiornithine bird preserved in amber: Watch the Birdie!

16 06, 2018

4D Scanning Technology Helps to Predict Lava Flows

By | June 16th, 2018|Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

New Research Helps to Predict Unpredictable Lava Flows

Scientists, including researchers from Manchester University are using the latest 4D technology to predict the behaviour of lava flows after a volcanic eruption.  The results, published in the journal “Scientific Reports” help explain why some lava flows can cover many miles in just a few hours, whilst others travel much more slowly.  Highlighting the hazards posed by fast-moving flows will help to save lives and could lead to better management strategies.

New Technology Helping to Minimise the Threat of Lava Flows following Volcanic Eruptions

Volcanic eruptions in future may not be so deadly.

New technology is helping to predict lava flows.

Picture Credit: Universal Pictures

The research involves studying the processes that take place during crystallisation in basaltic magmas, 4D synchrotron X-ray microtomography technology is being utilised to study lava flow.  It is the first time this kind of 4D scanning technology has been used for investigating crystallisation during volcanic eruptions and for simulating the behaviour of these potentially devastating natural events.

The team, led by Professor Mike Burton, (Chair of Volcanology at Manchester University), monitored crystallisation in magmas, a fundamental process that drives eruptions and controls different kinds of volcanic activity.  Using this new and novel approach the team can, for the first time, watch the crystals grow in three dimensions in real-time, simulating the behaviour of lava flows once a volcano has erupted.  The process is similar to scenes recently witnessed at Kilauea in Hawaii.

The professor explained:

“During volcanic eruptions small crystals grow within magma.  These crystals can greatly change the way magma flows.  Simply put, the more crystals there are the slower the eruption will be which also reduces the speed and distance travelled by lava flows.  The fewer crystals present in the lava means the eruption will speed up, potentially becoming more powerful and devastating.  Our research and this new approach open an entirely new frontier in the study of volcanic processes.”

Studying Samples from Real Volcanic Eruptions

To study the rate of crystal growth, the team set up a sample from a real eruption in a high temperature cell, before performing X-ray CAT scans whilst controlling the temperature of the magma. This allowed the researchers to visualise the formation and growth of crystals, and measure how quickly they grew.

Using this method and technology the researchers can collect hundreds of 3D images during a single experiment. This data is then used in complex, numerical models to fully characterise the behaviour of volcanic eruptions more accurately.

Lead author of the recently published paper, Dr Margherita Polacci (University of Manchester’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences), added:

“Being able to more accurately predict the behaviour of lava flows could also allow us to help relevant safety agencies devise and develop new safety strategies and actions when dealing with eruptions in populated areas.”

Predicting the Flow of Lava Will Help to Save Lives

Dangerous lava flows.

Dangerous lava flows (Kilauea in Hawaii).

Picture Credit: Reuters

Extending this Technology into Other Fields

The researchers are confident that predicting lava flows will not be the only application for this new technology.  The team expect their research to have implications for mineral extraction as well as other geological processes.  For the time being, any advances in the prediction models for the behaviour of lava flows would be welcomed, given the obvious benefits such tools will have to the authorities when it comes to planning evacuations and minimising the risk to life.

The scientific paper: “Crystallisation in Basaltic Magmas Revealed via in situ 4D synchrotron X-ray Microtomography” by M. Polacci, F. Arzilli, G. La Spina, N. Le Gall, B. Cai, D. Di Genova, N. T. Vo, S. Nonni, R. C. Atwood, E. W. Llewellin, P. D. Lee and M. R. Burton published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of a press release from the University of Manchester in the compilation of this article.

15 06, 2018

Mexico’s Oldest Member of the Ankylosauria

By | June 15th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Acantholipan gonzalezi – Coahuila’s Oldest Dinosaur

A new genus of armoured dinosaur has been described.  This dinosaur roamed northern Mexico around 85 million years ago (the Santonian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous).  Described as a nodosaurid, the dinosaur has been named Acantholipan gonzalezi and it is the oldest dinosaur described to date from the Coahuila region of Mexico.  Its discovery is no real surprise, some osteoderms (dermal armour), associated with ankylosaurids have been described from the geologically younger (Campanian), Cerro del Pueblo Formation exposed in the Coahuila region.  In addition, a single tooth identified as nodosaurid, has been discovered in the Mexican state of Baja California.  This fossil tooth was found in Campanian-aged deposits.  Palaeontologists had expected that armoured dinosaur fossils would be found elsewhere in Mexico, extending their known range further south.

The Southernmost Nodosaurid from North America – Acantholipan gonzalezi

A life reconstruction of Acantholipan gonzalezi.

A model of the Mexican nodosaurid Acantholipan gonzalezi.

Picture Credit: Museo del Desierto (Mexico)

Identified from Fragments of Bone

Fragmentary fossils found near to the city of Ocampo in northern Mexico, back in 2011, suggested that nodosaurids roamed this part of North America during the Late Cretaceous, but it was thought that the fossil material was not sufficient to support the establishment of a new species.  The fossils consist of a single dorsal vertebra, a tail bone (caudal vertebra), a partial ulna, a fragment of rib, one large spike (osteodermal spine) along with a portion of an upper arm bone (distal end of a humerus).

The Fragmentary Fossil Material (CPC 272)

Acantholipan fossil material.

Fossil fragments representing a nodosaurid from Coahuila, Mexico (Acantholipan gonzalezi).

Picture Credit: Museo del Desierto (Mexico)

The photograph (above), shows the nodosaurid fossil material from Coahuila.  Although very fragmentary, subsequent comparative analysis with younger North American nodosaurids has permitted the establishment of a new species.

Key

Distal end of right humerus in (a) dorsal, (b) ventral, (c) anterior, and (d) posterior views.
Dorsal vertebra in (e) cranial, (f) caudal, and (g-h) lateral views.
Right ulna in (i) dorsal, (j) ventral, and (k-l) lateral views.
Osteodermal spine (m-p).

Note: Scale bar = 5 centimetres

A Skeletal Illustration of A. gonzalezi – Known Fossil Material Outlined in Red

Acantholipan gonzalezi skeletal drawing.

The known bones of A. gonzalezi are shown in red.

Picture Credit: Museo del Desierto (Mexico)

Armoured Dinosaur Bones Found in Marine Shales

The fossil material was discovered in marine shales associated with the Pen Formation.  The research team studying this material have concluded that the carcass of the dinosaur, a juvenile approximately 3.5 metres long, had been swept out to sea, before sinking to the seafloor and becoming buried by sediment.  If this dinosaur had reached maturity, the scientists estimate that it could have reached a length of about six metres and weighed several thousand kilograms.  With the naming of Acantholipan gonzalezi, this dinosaur becomes the oldest member of the Dinosauria described from the Coahuila region, and the first member of the Ankylosauria clade to have been named from Mexican fossils.

Commenting on the new species of armoured dinosaur, José Rubén Guzmán Gutiérrez of the Museo del Desierto and one of the co-authors of the scientific paper describing the dinosaur in the Swiss Journal of Palaeontology, stated:

“Here in Mexico, we have a significant palaeontological wealth, specifically in the state of Coahuila.  We have this palaeontological richness and it is worthwhile for the population to get involved in getting to know this heritage that belongs to all Mexicans.”

The name of this new species of armoured dinosaur honours its Mexican roots.  The genus name comes from the Greek “akanthos”, which means spine, combined with the name of the native Indians which inhabited this part of northern Mexico.  The species name honours Arturo González-González, the director of the Museo del Desierto.

To read an article from 2017 reporting on the discovery of a new species of horned dinosaur from the Coahuila region of Mexico: Yehuecauhceratops – A New Horned Dinosaur from Northern Mexico

14 06, 2018

Everything Dinosaur to Conduct Dinosaur and Fossil Workshops at The Beacon Museum

By | June 14th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils, Press Releases|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur at the Beacon Museum

As part of The Beacon Museum’s summer exhibition “Brick Dinos”, team members from Everything Dinosaur will be conducting a weekend of dinosaur and fossil themed workshops.  Join Mike and Sue from Everything Dinosaur from Friday afternoon 27th July and throughout that weekend and help them hunt for fossils including dinosaur bones!  Team members from Everything Dinosaur will be conducting a series of workshops at the Beacon Museum, giving participants the chance to be a palaeontologist and cast museum quality fossil replicas.  Turn dinosaur detective and get up close to some amazing fossils and learn how to find evidence of ancient life. Best of all, what you find on the fossil dig, you can keep!

Join Everything Dinosaur Team Members over the Weekend of July 27th to July 29th

Everything Dinosaur at the Beacon Museum

Everything Dinosaur will be conducting a series of family friendly dinosaur and fossil themed workshops from July 27th – July 29th.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaur Detectives and Perceptive Palaeontologists

The “Brick Dinos” event allows visitors to travel back in time and to interact with a series of prehistoric animal exhibits that have been created by the famous plastic bricks (Lego®).  Everything Dinosaur will be conducting a series of 2-hour-long, family friendly, dinosaur and fossil themed workshops, utilising the ground floor of the Beacon Portal.  Numbers are limited so booking is essential.

Dinosaur and Dino Pro combination tickets available please ring 01946 592302 for details, or alternatively, you can contact the Beacon Museum for tickets and further information: Contact The Beacon Museum at Whitehaven

Mike from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We are going to be bringing lots of different fossils which have been collected from various dig sites, sharks teeth, corals, ammonites, crocodile armour and of course, real dinosaur bone.  Visitors to the Beacon will have the opportunity to hunt for fossils and you can take home what you find, starting your own fossil collection.”

Everything Dinosaur at the Beacon Museum Friday July 27th to Sunday July 29th

Everything Dinosaur and fossil workshops.

Everything Dinosaur at the Beacon Museum 27th July to 29th July.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Proposed Itinerary*

Everything Dinosaur team members are going to be very busy over that weekend.   The team intend to conduct a 2-hour dinosaur and fossil workshop on Friday afternoon (starting 2pm) and to delivery two further workshops on Saturday and Sunday morning.  On Saturday and Sunday afternoon, Everything Dinosaur will be laying out their fossil trays and inviting visitors to join them on a fossil hunt, looking for fossils which will include teeth from prehistoric sharks, belemnite guards and dinosaur bones.

Friday 27th July
• 2pm to 4pm – Dinosaurs and Fossils Workshop

Saturday 28th July
• 9.30am to 11.30am – Dinosaurs and Fossils Workshop

• 1pm – Fossil Trays and Finding Fossils

• 2pm – Fossil Trays and Finding Fossils

• 3pm – Fossil Trays and Finding Fossils

• 4pm – Fossil Trays and Finding Fossils

Sunday 29th July
• 9.30am to 11.30am – Dinosaurs and Fossils Workshop

• 1pm – Fossil Trays and Finding Fossils

• 2pm – Fossil Trays and Finding Fossils

• 3pm – Fossil Trays and Finding Fossils

• 4pm – Fossil Trays and Finding Fossils

Proposed itinerary* potentially subject to change contact The Beacon Museum for further information.

Finding Fossils Including Shark Teeth

fossilised shark teeth.

A successful fossil hunt.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Further information and tickets: Contact The Beacon Museum at Whitehaven

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