Category: Dinosaur Fans

New from Papo for 2015

Two New Prehistoric Animal Models for Dinosaur Fans from Papo

The wait is over, Everything Dinosaur can now reveal the two new additions to the Papo range of prehistoric animal models for 2015.  Papo will be bringing out a model of a Cretaceous Pterosaur (Tupuxuara) and a replica of a young Apatosaurus and very splendid they both look.

The Pterosaur Replica Tupuxuara

Available in spring 2015.

Available in spring 2015.

Picture Credit: Papo

A member of the Thalassodromidae family of Pterosaurs, these flamboyant crested flying reptiles, with their oversized skulls and toothless beaks would have made a spectacular sight as they soared over the skies of Cretaceous Brazil.  No one is really sure what these creatures ate, some species of Tupuxuara had wingspans in excess of five metres.  It has been suggested that these Pterosaurs were fish-eaters (piscivores), whilst other scientists have proposed that these were the “Toucans of the Pterosauria”, suggesting that they guzzled fruit (frugivores).

The model measures around five centimetres high, is about seven centimetres in length and with its folded wings, this particular Tupuxuara is around seven centimetres wide.

The second model being launched by Papo is a much larger specimen, although not as big as it could have been.  The French figure and model manufacturer will be introducing a young Apatosaurus to its dinosaur model range (Les Dinosaures).

The Young Apatosaurus from Papo

Available in the early spring of 2015

Available in the early spring of 2015

Picture Credit: Papo

We hope this new replica works well with the existing Allosaurus and the Stegosaurus models.  It seems that Morrison Formation dinosaurs are being well represented in the Papo model series at the moment.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of Papo prehistoric animal models: Papo Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals

Team members at Everything Dinosaur will be meeting up with Papo in the New Year, we intend to take some more photographs and when we do, we shall post them up.  Both these replicas are going to be made in the early part of next year.  Everything Dinosaur expects to have stocks by early March, perhaps a little earlier.  We shall keep you posted…

Confused over Centrosaurines (Especially from Montana)

Einiosaurus and Achelousaurus

Everything Dinosaur received an urgent phone call this morning from a mum who had been finally told by her dinosaur mad little boy what Father Christmas should get him.  He requested an Einiosaurus. Sadly, despite the very many colourful models of horned dinosaurs made by the likes of Collecta and stocked by Everything Dinosaur, we did not have a replica of this Late Cretaceous Centrosaurine to hand.  However, thanks to our knowledge of the Ceratopsidae, we were able to recommend a suitable substitute, so step forward an Achelousaurus replica to save the day.

Stepping into the Breach the Centrosaurine Achelousaurus

Horned Dinosaur Model

Horned Dinosaur Model

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Fossils of Achelousaurus and Einiosaurus have both been found in Montana, from the same geological formation in fact (Upper Two Medicine Formation).  We used some notes that we had on the original 1995 research along with a few references from the excellent “New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs” and we were able to produce a special data sheet for the young palaeontologist all about these two Centrosaurine dinosaurs.  The Collecta Achelousaurus dinosaur model makes a very appropriate substitute for an Einiosaurus.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of Collecta prehistoric animal models: Collecta Prehistoric Animal Models

Explaining All About Two Closely Related Dinosaurs

Helping one young dinosaur fan (and his mum)!

Helping one young dinosaur fan (and his mum)!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur (from Gregory S. Paul)

Another little problem solved.

The Earliest Horned Dinosaur in North America?

Aquilops americanus – The Implications

When it comes to the horned dinosaurs of North America, there has been a lot of focus in the last few years on mapping the extraordinary diversity of Ceratopsians that once roamed the landmass known as Laramidia.   There has been much debate over the ethnicity of the Dinosauria, as suggested by the myriad of fossil finds and indeed the debate has been reignited recently with the publication of the research undertaken by the UK’s Dr. Nick Longrich and the “northern Pentaceratops” - Pentaceratops aquilonius.  Let’s face it, ever since the publication of “New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs”, there seems to have been an addition to the Late Cretaceous Ceratopsidae every couple of months or so.  For instance, Mojoceratops, Kosmoceratops, Utahceratops, Nasutoceratops, Xenoceratops and so forth.

To read about the recent research of Dr. Nick Longrich: Finding a New Species of Horned Dinosaur in a Canadian Museum.

However, many scientists have been turning their attention to another part of the horned dinosaur’s family tree.  These researchers have been trying to piece together (literally), the fossil evidence that hints at the presence of basal, more primitive members of this great group of Ornithischians much earlier in the Cretaceous of North America.  The search for the Neoceratopsian dinosaurs, may not garner quite the same publicity as work on their Campanian and Maastrichtian cousins such as Styracosaurus and Triceratops, but this dedicated team are helping scientists to understand how these dinosaurs evolved and migrated out of their Asian ancestral home.

That is why the paper published this week in the academic journal PLOS One is so important.  This paper describes the partial skull and lower jaw of a horned dinosaur, the fossils represent the earliest evidence of Neoceratopsian dinosaurs recorded in North America.  Say hello to Aquilops americanus, about the size of a King Charles spaniel that roamed southern Montana somewhere between 109 and 104 million years ago.

 A Tiny Skull that is Making a Big Difference

Skull fossil that can sit in the palm of your hand.

Skull fossil that can sit in the palm of your hand.

Picture Credit: Reuters

Prior to this fossil discovery, the Neoceratopsian dinosaurs of North America were represented by isolated teeth and skull fragments, collected from places as far apart as Utah and Maryland, the Cedar Mountain Formation and the Arundel Formation respectively.  The paucity of the fossil record was severely hampering the work of scientists as they tried to understand the pattern of migrations between Asia and North America.  During the Cretaceous, Asia and North America were joined, they shared a land bridge between them, most likely there were many occasions when fluctuating sea levels and geological activity permitted a land bridge to be formed.  It seems that the horned dinosaurs evolved in Asia but migrated via what is now the Bering Straits over to Canada and the United States.  Aquilops seems closely related to Early Cretaceous horned dinosaurs known from Asia such as Liaoceratops and Auroraceratops, it has been speculated that there were at least intermittent connections between these two continents throughout the Late Early Cretaceous, likely followed by a long period of geographic isolation that permitted a number of new genera to evolve before a final reconnection towards the end of the Mesozoic.

The skull measures just 8.4cm in length, it is likely that Aquilops americanus (the name means “American eagle face”), was an unobtrusive herbivore, selectively grazing young shoots and leaves from the protection of the undergrowth.  It may even have been nocturnal or perhaps it may have lived in a burrow.

Line Drawing of the Skull and a Reconstruction of the Dinosaur

Skull sketches top and middle with an artist's impression underneath.

Skull sketches top and middle with an artist’s impression underneath.

Picture Credit: PLOS One, life restoration by Brian Engh

 The line drawings of the skull have been based on better known Neoceratopsian specimens from Asia.  Note the large orbit (eye-socket), this has led to speculation that this little dinosaur may have lived in low light conditions or might possibly have been nocturnal.

Commenting on the study, one of the authors of the scientific paper Dr. Andrew Farke (Raymond M. Alf Museum of Palaeontology, California) stated:

“This was a small plant-eater and we know from its hooked beak that it was pretty selective, nipping off whatever vegetation was around.”

 An Illustration of Aquilops americanus

Earliest horned dinosaur known from North America.

Earliest horned dinosaur known from North America.

Picture Credit: Brian Engh/Raymond M. Alf Museum of Palaeontology

One of the mysteries with the Ceratopsian dinosaurs is when did the Asian migrations occur, and where there any significant migrations of North American fauna into Asia?  Before this discovery, the oldest known horned dinosaur from North America was Zuniceratops, which roamed New Mexico and Arizona some 90 million years ago.

Dr. Farke added:

“Aquilops lived nearly twenty million years before the next oldest horned dinosaur named [and described] from North America.  Even so, we were surprised that it was more closely related to Asian animals than those from North America.”

The discovery of these fossils, does support the theory that these type of bird-hipped dinosaurs did evolve in Asia and that they spread into North America, most likely via a northern latitude route, however, as the authors of this scientific paper say themselves, more field studies and more fossils will be needed before anyone can state anything else with a degree of certainty.

Walking with Dinosaurs – Birth of a Dinosaur Footprint

Getting Under the Skin of a Dinosaur’s Foot

The footprints of prehistoric animals preserved as fossils can provide scientists with a wealth of information.  However, in a research project involving Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island) and the Royal Veterinary College, steps have been taken (no pun intended), to get a much more complete understanding of how ancient creatures walked.  It’s question of applying a number of highly technical research methods to step into the footsteps of a dinosaur, this research certainly adds a whole new meaning to “Walking with Dinosaurs”.

Providing a Deeper Understanding About Fossil Footprints

Sauropod footprint, the hand provides scale.

Sauropod footprint, the hand provides scale.

Picture Credit: AFP Photo/Igor Sasin

Dr. Peter Falkingham, a Research Fellow at the Royal Veterinary College (London) and co-author, Professor Stephen Gatesy (Brown University), attempted to map the displacement and complex re-organisation of sediment that takes place when a footprint is formed.  Put simply, imagine you are walking on the beach, across wet sand.  As you proceed across the sediment you will create footprints, these are visible impressions left in the surface layer, however, as your bodyweight moves across the sand, it will have an impact on the sand particles that surround and are underneath the area that you have just walked over.  In a unique experiment, the scientists have been able to create visual images of the re-organisation of particles involved in footprint formation.  This research can help ichnologists (the term used to describe a specialist in studying trace fossils), interpret dinosaur footprints, thus in turn providing palaeontologists with a better understanding of prehistoric animal locomotion.

A variety of techniques were used to create visual images of three-dimensional footprints.  Firstly, a Guinea Fowl (Galliformes) was persuaded to walk across a bed of poppy seeds.  The poppy seeds and the way that they were moved would mimic the action of the substrate as if it were soft sand.   The virtual footprint was created by combining two X-ray videos with a digital skeletal model of the bird’s legs derived from CT scans and a three-dimensional motion analysis called X-ray Reconstruction and Moving Morphology (XROMM), which had been developed at Brown University.  This technology enabled the research team to reconstruct the motions of the bird’s foot in three dimensions, even when the toes are hidden from sight as they sink into the sediment.

Which Came First the Guinea Fowl or the Virtual Simulation of a Dinosaur Footprint?

Cutting edge research combined with a Guinea Fowl.

Cutting edge research combined with a Guinea Fowl.

Picture Credit: Royal Veterinary College/Brown University

The picture above shows the hind limb bones of the guinea fowl, projected in three dimensions along with the footprints formed.

Commenting on this ground-breaking research (literally), Dr. Falkingham stated:

“By observing how a footprint is formed, from the moment the foot hits the sediment until it leaves, we can directly associate motions with features left behind in the track.  We can then study a fossil track left by a dinosaur and say, OK, these features of the track are similar, but these are different, so what does that mean for the way the animal was walking?”

A powerful computer programme was used to analyse and interpret the data, so that a virtual footprint that had been generated could be observed as an impression at the surface and also below the surface of the substrate.  Being able to directly associate movements of the foot with features of the footprint, both on the surface and deeper into the sediment, opens up the possibility of more accurately reconstructing the way in which long extinct creatures moved.

The Simulated Footprint (Guinea Fowl Footprint)

The footprint mapped at 1cm below the surface layer.

The footprint mapped at 1cm below the surface layer.

Picture Credit: Royal Veterinary College/Brown University

Professor Gatesy added:

“Footprints are not just simple moulds of the bottom of the foot, so it’s important to understand how the dynamic interaction between a living animal and the substrate give rise to a track’s 3-D shape”.

The team’s findings, published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”, could help palaeontologists better understand how dinosaurs walked and perhaps build up a picture of how dinosaur locomotion changed as the Dinosauria evolved. Moving forward, (again no pun intended), the advent of  XROMM technology could help researchers explore how early hominids adapted to a bipedal stance.

His and Her Trilobites

Dorset Fossil Expert Sends Everything Dinosaur Trilobites

For Brandon Lennon, fossil expert and Ammonite polisher supreme, this time of year is very busy as he prepares for the public Lyme Regis fossil walks which start again on Saturday 14th February.  February 2015, may seem a long way off, but for someone who spends his time studying the extensive fossil beds on this part of Dorset coast, it is merely a blink in geological time away.  Over the winter months, Brandon will be examining tide tables, looking at where rock falls and mud slides occur and plotting the best walks for those members of the public lucky enough to join him on his fossil finding adventures.

Brandon Lennon – Looking Forward to More Fossil Collecting in 2015

Exciting Plesiosaur Fossil Discovery

Exciting Plesiosaur Fossil Discovery

The picture above shows Brandon, with some beautifully preserved vertebrae from a Plesiosaurus, a marine reptile, fossils of which can be found eroding out of the cliffs on some parts of the Dorset coast.  Next year, marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of the world’s first extensive geological map.  The map that plotted the geology of England, Wales and parts of Scotland was created by the surveyor William Smith, (1769-1839), nick-named “strata Smith”, as it was Smith who used knowledge about which types of fossils could be found in which types of rock to plot the depositional sequence of strata.

This map, with its catchy title “A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales with part of Scotland*, is regarded by many scientists and cartographers as one of the most important and significant maps ever created, it has even been dubbed “the map that changed the world”.  The geology of the Dorset coast is included, it forms one of fifteen sections that when combined produce the geological map.  Brandon and his father (a retired geologist), would be able to recognise the underlying geology as identified by Smith all those years ago.  Being able to identify the best places to look when it comes to finding fossils is a key skill for a leader of guided fossil walks and Brandon has more than twenty years experience in the role.

For further information on Guided Fossil Walks in the Lyme Regis area: Lyme Regis Fossil Walks

Brandon’s extensive interests are not confined to Jurassic aged sediments.  The other day, he kindly sent Everything Dinosaur a couple of Trilobite specimens to add to our Arthropod fossil collection.  Most vertebrate palaeontologists, when quizzed, will openly admit to having a passion for all things Trilobita.  These entirely marine relatives of crustaceans, insects and spiders, evolved during the Cambrian and survived right up to the End Permian mass extinction event.  Trilobites come in all shapes and sizes and the two specimens sent to us by Brandon are fine examples of the genus Calymene (the genus name means “beautiful crescent” and it is pronounced kal-im-minny).  These particular fossils probably come from Morocco and date from the Late Ordovician, making them approximately 270 million years older than the strata explored by Brandon and the groups he takes out on his fossil walks.

We have nick-named the Trilobites “Mike and Sue”.

Trilobite Fossils Sent to Everything Dinosaur by Brandon Lennon

"Mike and Sue" - the Trilobites.

“Mike and Sue” – the Trilobites.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To read more about Brandon’s fossil hunting adventures including an article on Ammonite polishing: Fossil Experts Demonstrate Their Skills

*In Georgian times, in nascent scientific circles, there was a trend to give extremely long titles to publications.  It seems a case of don’t use one word when five words would do instead.  The full title of the 1815 geological survey map is:

“A  Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales with part of Scotland, exhibiting the collieries and mines, the marshes and fen lands originally overflowed by the sea, and the varieties of soil according to the variations in the substrata, illustrated by the most descriptive names by W. Smith.”

Was there a Dinosaur Called Lufengosaurus?

Lufeng Lizard - “Lufengosaurus huenei”

An interesting question was sent in the other day by a young dinosaur fan.  He wanted to know whether there really was a dinosaur called Lufengosaurus and if it existed, what sort of dinosaur was it?  An intriguing question, so our team members set about providing an answer.

Lufengosaurus lived during the very Early Jurassic in south-western China.  Its fossils are associated with the Lufeng Formation (hence this dinosaur’s name).  It was named and described back in 1941, a time when western science had very limited access to Chinese scholars and their work.  This dinosaur remained very much off the radar for many museums and academics in the West.  A second species was erected a few years later, but it is now thought that the fossilised remains associated with this second species are actually older, larger individuals representing Lufengosaurus huenei so this second species may not be valid.  Lufengosaurus was named by the Chinese scientist Chung Chien Young (Yang Zhongjian).

An Illustration of Lufengosaurus

A scale drawing of Lufengosaurus.

A scale drawing of Lufengosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This dinosaur, one of the largest known from the Early Jurassic was a member of the lizard-hipped group (Saurischia).  More specifically it was a Sauropodomorph and closely related to Massospondylus which also lived in the Early Jurassic (South Africa).  In the mid 1980′s another species of Lufengosaurus was described, this time based on a specimen discovered in Tibet (Lufengosaurus changduensis) although this specimen has not been formally described and no holotype fossil material assigned so the species name currently has a nomen nudum status.

The hind limbs were longer than the front limbs so this dinosaur could have adopted a bipedal stance, although it probably spent most of its time ambling along on all fours. The neck is proportionally longer than in other Sauropodomoprhs and it had distinctive lumps and bumps on its cheek bones.  It was most likely entirely herbivorous, the jaw was lined with tightly packed teeth well suited to coping with a diet of tree leaves and ferns, although it possessed a disproportionately large thumb claw, which some scientists have suggested was used to attack and subdue smaller animals, suggesting that this dinosaur was an omnivore.  Other palaeontologists have disputed this idea, proposing that the claws and that large thumb claw in particular may have been used for defence or to help pull down branches so that it could feed more easily.

Paying Tribute to the New Replicas from Safari Ltd

New for 2015 Safari Ltd Prehistoric Animal Models

Team members at Everything Dinosaur announced sometime ago the new additions to the Carnegie Collection and Wild Safari Dinos model ranges (Safari Ltd).  We are looking forward to stocking these models and can’t decide between us which one we like the best.  As we look forward to 2015, we have taken time out to produce a very quick teaser video which features the five new models from Safari Ltd which will be available from Everything Dinosaur next year.  After all, if a teaser trailer can be made for “Jurassic World”, then why not one for these exciting prehistoric animal replicas.

Everything Dinosaur’s “Teaser Trailer” – New for 2015 Safari Ltd Prehistoric Animals

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view Everything Dinosaur’s current range of dinosaur and prehistoric animal models made by Safari Ltd: Carnegie Collectibles, Wild Safari Dinos. etc.

In this short video (under forty seconds in duration), we show pictures of the five new figures, the Archaeopteryx, the horned dinosaur Nasutoceratops, Sauropelta and the feathered tyrannosaurid Yutyrannus huali.  We also showcase the only scale model to be added next year, the 1:50 scale (approximate) replica of Velociraptor (V. mongoliensis).  No doubt we will comment more on the potential scales (as in scale size, not to be confused with feathers) when we create individual reviews of these prehistoric animals.

To read a little more about these new introductions: Safari Ltd announce new models for 2015

Our dedicated team members will be researching and writing fact sheets to accompany these new animal models.  For every named prehistoric animal replica Everything Dinosaur supplies, a fact sheet all about that creature, is included.  Scale drawings of all these animals have now been completed and the fact sheets themselves will be completed shortly.

Looks like 2015 is going to be an exciting time for dinosaur model and figure collectors.

Chinese “Sea Dragon” Fossil Hints at Triassic Fauna Recovery

Monster Nothosaur from China Suggests Ecosystem Recovery after Mass Extinction Event

A team of Chinese scientists, supported by palaeontologists from Bristol University, Washington D.C. and Australia, writing in the academic journal “Nature: Scientific Reports”, have described the fossilised remains of a giant marine reptile.  This fearsome hunter provides evidence that by around 245 million years ago, much of the world’s marine habitats had recovered sufficiently from the Permian/Triassic mass extinction event to support complex food chains.  The Permian/Triassic extinction event is often referred to as the “Great Dying”, a huge portion of life on Earth died out, scientists debate just how many different types of organisms perished, but it has been suggested that as much as 95% of all life on Earth became extinct.

To read more about how mass extinction events are defined: When is an Extinction Event a Mass Extinction?

The fossil represent a new species of Nothosaur, it is potentially the largest Nothosaur discovered to date.  The discovery is significant as it indicates that on the eastern side of the Paleotethys Sea, marine life had recovered sufficiently to support complex food chains, with carnivorous marine reptiles as the apex predators in the environment.  As similar sized apex predators are known from the western fringes of the Paleotethys Sea and also from the eastern seaboard of the Panthalassa Ocean, this provides evidence to support the theory that by the early part of the Middle Triassic there had been a global recovery (a synchronous global recovery), of marine fauna and flora.

The Nothosaur fossil consisting of an almost complete lower jaw, isolated teeth and post cranial elements was discovered in 2008.  The only known specimen was collected from Bed number 165 of the Dawazi section of strata, a highly fossiliferous zone that represents a shallow marine environment.  The fossils are located in Luoping County, Yunnan Province in the far south-west of China.  This part of the world is famous for its Middle Triassic marine fossils, many thousands of specimens have been collected including a number of Ichthyosaurs as well as other marine reptiles.

The Nothosaur Fossil Material (a) Line Drawing (b)

The specimen has been named Nothosaurus zhangi

The specimen has been named Nothosaurus zhangi

Picture Credit: Nature: Scientific Reports

Nothosaurs were a group of marine reptiles related to the better known Plesiosaurs.  They evolved from terrestrial ancestors and typically were between one and three metres in length.  They had relatively long snouts, quite narrow skulls, and their fingers and toes may have been webbed to help propel them through water.  The were also capable of hauling themselves up onto land and although well adapted to a marine environment, they probably rested and bred on land.  The Nothosaurs evolved very early on in the Triassic Period and as a group they persisted up until the beginning of the Jurassic.

 A Model of a Typical Nothosaur (Safari Prehistoric Sealife Toob)

One of the models in the Safari Prehistoric Sealife Toob.

One of the models in the Safari Prehistoric Sealife Toob.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows a typical Nothosaur bauplan (body plan), it is one of the models from the fantastic “Prehistoric Sealife Toob”, part of the range of prehistoric animal and plant replicas made by Safari Ltd.

To view this range: Safari Ltd Prehistoric Replicas

This new giant species of Nothosaur has been named Nothosaurus zhangi.  The species or trivial name honours the discoverer of the Luoping biota, scientist Qiyue Zhang.  Although far from complete, a comparative analysis using fossil material from the Nothosaur species known as N. giganteus, whose fossils come from Middle and Upper Triassic aged rocks in Germany, suggests that Nothosaurus zhangi was between five and seven metres in length.  Think of this ancient reptile being about the size of a large Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus).

The jaw was lined with a number of sharp, pointed teeth, many of which projected outwards to give the impression of elongated fangs.  These were adaptations to grabbing and subduing struggling prey, such as fish and cephalopods.  Given the size of Nothosaurus zhangi, it very probably hunted other, smaller marine reptiles in the shallow, tropical sea that once covered much of China.

These fossils from what would have been the eastern side of the Paleotethys Sea, when considered with the fossilised remains of other enormous Middle Triassic marine reptiles, suggests that across the world marine environments had recovered sufficiently to support complex food chains by around 245 million years ago.

A Map of the Middle Triassic Showing the Location of Apex Predator Marine Fossil Finds

Marking the location of apex predator fossils.

Marking the location of apex predator fossils.

Picture Credit: Nature: Scientific Reports with additional material from the Palaeobiology database

The map shows a whole world projection of the Middle Triassic. The super continent of Pangea is firmly established and the locations of potential apex predator marine reptile fossils have been marked.

Key

  • Thalattoarchon O – (T. saurophagis) a giant Ichthyosaur estimated to have measured 8-9 metres in length (YELLOW)
  • Cymbospondylus (several species), a basal Ichthyosaur estimated to have reached lengths in excess of 10 metres (BLUE)
  • Nothosaurus giganteus – estimated to be about 5-7 metres long (PURPLE)
  • Nothosaurus zhangi – estimated to be about 5-7 metres long (RED)

Thanks to the astonishing variety of fossils from the Luoping Province, scientists have been able to build up a great deal of knowledge about life in the seas surrounding the ancient land mass on the western fringes of Pangea, that was to eventually become China. The researchers have been able to develop a complex food chain diagram and the newly described Nothosaurus zhangi is placed at the top of the food chain as the largest predator discovered to date.

A Food Chain Constructed Using Luoping Biota Fossil Data

Nothosaurus zhangi at the top of the food chain.

Nothosaurus zhangi at the top of the food chain.

Picture Credit: Nature: Scientific Reports

It may have taken terrestrial life slightly longer to recover from the end Permian extinction event, but based on this evidence, many of the shallow sea environments had recovered fully and new types of fauna had filled ecological niches.

To read an article published in April 2014 about the discovery of a bizarre type of marine reptile (Atopodentatus) from the Luoping Biota: Bizarre Triassic Marine Reptile Described

Putting the “King” into the Tyrant Lizard

The Rebor KING T-REX  - An Appropriate Name

Everything Dinosaur team members are eagerly expecting the arrival of their shipment of Rebor 1:35 scale Tyrannosaurus rex replicas.  The shipment is expected very shortly and in the meantime, staff have been busy making sure that everyone who emailed asking for a model to be reserved has been added to our reservations list.

One of the things we have noticed about Rebor is that they tend to assign a moniker or nick-name to their sculpts.  For example, the rather wonderful model of Yutyrannus huali was nick-named Y-REX.  This term does not have any significance from a palaeontological perspective, after all Yutyrannus, from northern China, lived more than fifty-five million years before the more famous North American tyrannosaurid – Tyrannosaurus rex.  Ironically there is a body of evidence to suggest that Late Cretaceous predators such as the members of the Tyrannosauridae that roamed the landmass of Laramidia on the western side of the that shallow sea that divided the continent (Western Interior Seaway), were actually descended from Tyrannosaurs that migrated from Asia.

Imagine that, the most famous dinosaur from the United States and the pride of so many North American museum collections being descended from Chinese immigrants.

The T. rex is going to be the second replica released in the Rebor model series.  It too, is modelled in 1:35 scale, but since Tyrannosaurus rex was larger than Yutyrannus, the replica is considerably bigger.  This rather stylish photograph sent to us by our chums at Rebor illustrates this point nicely.

Comparing the T-REX with the Y-REX Rebor Replicas

Comparing the two 1:35 scale models together.

Comparing the two 1:35 scale models together.

Picture Credit: Rebor

 The Rebor Tyrannosaurus rex will have the nick-name KING T-REX.  Rebor states that by adopting this tactic, the products can develop personalities and it is the company’s intention to roll out such nick-names across their entire range.  Such titles do have other benefits.  For example, lots of parents and grandparents contact us and they struggle to pronounce many of the names of the prehistoric animals that they are trying to acquire for their children or grandchildren.  An easy to remember (and pronounce) name will certainly prove a boon to those folks who are perhaps not as well acquainted with the tongue twisting names of certain Dinosauria that young dinosaur fans revel in being able to pronounce correctly.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of Rebor replicas:  Rebor Prehistoric Animal Replicas

Providing regal status for the Rebor Tyrannosaurus rex replica is also appropriate as the binomial scientific name of this Theropod translates as “King of the Tyrant Lizards”.  However, this was not the first name used to describe what is now known to be T. rex  fossil material.  The first Tyrannosaurus rex bones put on the record were a pair of damaged cervical vertebrae (neck bones), one of which has been subsequently lost.  Edward Drinker Cope, noting the extensive honey-combed internal structure of these bones assigned the name Manospondylus gigas which means “giant air-filled vertebrae”, not the sort of name to inspire a generation of dinosaur fans.  This iconic “King of the Tyrant Lizards”, perhaps the most famous organism known from the fossil record, was also very nearly called Dynamosaurus (D. imperiosus), this translates to “Imperial Power Lizard”, at least the regal theme would have been retained.

To read more about the naming of this dinosaur: Tyrannosaurus rex – What’s in a Name?

Within natural history museum collections, the Tyrannosaur material can attain a special status.  These are the fossils that are requested to be photographed or used in video footage to support a news article.  Having Tyrannosaur material is often looked at as being a badge of honour for the museum, whilst in all honesty, other less high profile fossil material within the collection may have far greater significance in terms of importance to research.  As arguably, the most iconic of all the dinosaurs, after all T. rex has come out as number one in every single survey conducted by Everything Dinosaur with regards to prehistoric animal popularity, certain more complete specimens have acquired a degree of nobility in the minds of museum directors and administrators.

The 1:35 Scale Replica of the Rebor Tyrannosaurus rex

Beautiful 1:35 scale dinosaur model.

Beautiful 1:35 scale dinosaur model.

These “aristocratic” dinosaur fossils have become even more special and important in the minds of the general public as it is these fossil specimens that are the the subject of documentaries and television programmes.

As for the question of a “King T. rex“, as in the biggest specimen found to date, or even a new species to distinguish between the different T. rex morphologies known.  That is quite hard to answer.  ”Sue” at the Field Museum in Chicago is regarded as the largest, she (believed to represent a female), is also one of the best preserved and the most complete.  But is this the largest Tyrannosaurus rex that ever lived?  Probably not, Tyrannosaurs seem to have grown differently to mammals, for as long as they lived they got a little bigger year on year.  It is likely that somewhere in the Badlands of Montana or South Dakota there is a fossil of an even bigger T. rex waiting to be discovered.

That’s the joy of palaeontology, you just never know.

So we look forward to welcoming the Rebor KING T-REX to our inventory, a very noble replica of a Tyrannosaurus rex.

To contact Everything Dinosaur so that you can reserve a Rebor T. rex replica: Email Everything Dinosaur

British Palaeontologist Discovers New Species of Dinosaur in a Canadian Museum

Those Complicated North American Chasmosaurs

It has happened before and we are certain that it will happen again.  A scientist examining the fossilised remains of dinosaurs within the collection of a museum, finds that on analysis, specimens ascribed to known genera, turn out to be new species. Dr. Nick Longrich from the Biology and Biochemistry department of the University of Bath was studying Ceratopsian (horned dinosaur) specimens at the Canadian Museum of Nature (Ottawa, Canada) and thanks to his research, two horned dinosaur fossils, known from the Dinosaur Provincial Park Formation of Alberta and previously believed to represent Anchiceratops and Chasmosaurus may actually represent animals new to science.

Writing in the scientific journal “Cretaceous Research”, Dr. Longrich proposes that the fossils he studied, although from Canada, resemble dinosaurs known from much further south, from New Mexico and Utah to be precise.

How could this be?  Let’s start with by looking at the landmass we now know as North America and what it looked like some seventy-five million years ago in the Late Cretaceous.  In the Late Cretaceous, rising sea levels and tectonic forces led to the formation of an immense shallow sea that covered much of the continent.  This sea, which effectively linked the Arctic Ocean with the Gulf of Mexico, is known as the Western Interior Seaway.  The extent of the seaway changed over millions of years, shaping the landmasses and also influencing the flora and fauna that lived on them.  Towards the very end of the Cretaceous further plate movements and a phase of resulting mountain building led to the shrinking of the sea, the seaway retreated shrinking to represent a marine environment less than 10% of its maximum area by the beginning of the Cenozoic.

North America in the Late Cretaceous

North America 75 million years ago and 65 million years ago

North America 75 million years ago and 65 million years ago

Picture Credit: Dr. Ron Blakey of Colorado Plateau Geosystems, Inc

 The picture above shows how the shape of the continent is believed to have changed over the last ten million years or so of the Cretaceous Period, now back to Dr. Longrich.  The landmass that existed on the western side of this seaway is known as Laramidia.  Dinosaurs dominated this part of the world, just as they did in all the other terrestrial environments during the Cretaceous, but the fossil record preserved indicates that there was a tremendous variety of dinosaurs in this part of the world.  What is more, there seems to have been distinct faunal provinces, the southern portion of this landmass had different dinosaurs to those found on the northern parts of Laramidia.  The fossil record seems to show ethnicity in the fauna that evolved, how and why this occurred (even if it actually occurred at all), has been hotly debated by palaeontologists.  Some scientists have suggested that there must have been physical barriers between populations that over tens of thousands of years permitted new, distinct species to evolve.

To read an article related to this:  A Surge in Mountain Building May Have Led to Dinosaur Diversification

The horned dinosaur specimens studied by Dr. Longrich had previously been classified as Anchiceratops and Chasmosaurus, species known from Canada, the north of Laramidia.  However, after re-analysing these particular fossils, he realised that they more closely resembled dinosaurs from the southern part of the Laramidia landmass.  Two frill fragments from the uppermost Dinosaur Park Formation, found near Manyberries, south-east Alberta, that had thought to represent Anchiceratops have been re-classified as Pentaceratops dinosaur material.  These Canadian frill bones are sufficiently different in their morphology from Pentaceratops sternbergii, which is known from New Mexico, that they have been ascribed to a new Pentaceratops species – P. aquilonius

An Artist’s Impression of Pentaceratops aquilonius

A new species of "northern Pentaceratops".

A new species of “northern Pentaceratops”.

Picture Credit: University of Bath

Pentaceratops aquilonius may have been very closely related to the southern Pentaceratops (P. sternbergii), but it was smaller and it had differently shaped frill bones and a different arrangement of hornlets (epiparietals).  The genus name means “five horned face”, although, just like the much later and more famous Triceratops, this dinosaur only had three horns.  The elongated jugal bones on the side of the skull  had horny outgrowths, when viewed from the front, this dinosaur had the appearance of having five horns.  The species name aquilonius means “northern” – a reference to where this dinosaur roamed.

The second horned dinosaur fossil specimens, studied by Dr. Longrich had been thought to represent Chasmosaurus.  However, the British palaeontologist noted that the partial skull in the Canadian Museum of Nature’s collection closely resembled another type of horned dinosaur called Kosmoceratops.  Fossils of Kosmoceratops have been found in Utah, (Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument), this horned dinosaur was named and described back in 2010.

To read more about Kosmoceratops: Those Curious Ceratopsians

Phylogenetic analysis of the skull’s characteristics places this specimen in a sister taxon to Kosmoceratops richardsoni, the name ascribed to the Utah fossil finds.  More fossils are required from the Dinosaur  Provincial Park Formation before a new species of Kosmoceratops can be erected.

Not So Distinct Northern and Southern Provinces in Laramida

A mixing of faunas, at least amongst elements of the Ceratopsidae.

A mixing of faunas, at least amongst elements of the Ceratopsidae.

Picture Credit: University of Bath

The diagram above maps the two dinosaurs (coloured red)  in situ with other Chasmosaurine dinosaur fossil discoveries.  Dinosaurs would spread from one part of the continent to another and then diverge from their “home” ancestors to evolve into a new species.  Competition between the different species then would have prevented the dinosaurs from moving between the northern and southern provinces, although changes in climate and flora may too have had an affect.  The established populations may have been able to resist migrations as they had specifically evolved to cope with local conditions.

Dr. Longrich stated:

“We thought we had discovered most of the species, but it seems there are many undiscovered dinosaurs left.  There are lots of species out there, we’ve really only just scratched the surface.”

But why were there so many species of mega fauna in this part of the world during the Late Cretaceous.  This pattern is not seen in many ecosystems today.  Dr Longrich has a theory, he thinks:

“In living mammals, there tend to be relatively few large species, and they have large ranges.  With Cretaceous dinosaurs, we see a lot of large species in a single habitat.  They also tend to be very regional, as you move from one habitat to another, you get a completely different set of species.”

These patterns of distribution might help explain why palaeontologists keep finding more types of dinosaur, when they sample different habitats, they find different species.

Dr. Longrich speculates that the biology of these reptiles could be the reason for these patterns:

“In this sense, dinosaur biology seems quite different from mammal biology.  It could be that mammals are more intelligent and so they tend to have more flexible behaviour, they adapt their behaviour to their habitats.  On the other hand, dinosaurs may have had to adapt themselves physically to survive in a different habitat and as a result, they evolved into new species.  Perhaps that’s the reason why there are so many species.

The Ceratopsian fauna of Laramidia has posed a number of important questions for palaeontologists. For example, in Alberta bone beds of Centrosaurine dinosaurs (one group of Ceratopsians) are relatively common, a number of bone bed deposits have been found, whereas fossils of Chasmosaurines (the other group of Ceratopsians) are much rarer altogether and very little bone bed evidence has been discovered.

Why might this be?

We said at the beginning of this article that there had been previous cases of a new species of dinosaur being discovered when museum collections are re-examined, to read about a similar case, but this time involving the Sauropoda, see the link below.

Where’s the best place to find a new species of dinosaur: Look in a Museum for a New Dinosaur

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