Category: Dinosaur Fans

Research to Get Your Teeth Into

Structural Secrets of Theropod Teeth

Theropod dinosaurs, the majority of which were carnivorous, had a distinct advantage over other Mesozoic predators.  Their teeth had a deeply folded, serrated tooth structure that allowed them to rip and tear into the bodies of their victims.  This crucial, layered structure to the teeth has been identified by researchers from the University of Toronto Mississauga, with the assistance of colleagues from Taiwan and published today in the academic journal “Scientific Reports.”

A Specialised Tooth Structure for Feeding on Large Prey

Gorgosaurus feeding - thanks to its specialised teeth.

Gorgosaurus feeding – thanks to its specialised teeth.

Picture credit: Daniele Dufault

The picture above shows a feathered Gorgosaurus, a member of the Tyrannosauridae family, feeding on a young Corythosaurus.  The research team used scanning electron microscopes and a synchrotron located in Taiwan to study a wide variety of Theropod teeth from the collections of Canadian museums, including the Royal Tyrrell, and the Royal Ontario Museum.  Meat-eating dinosaurs in the study, included Gorgosaurus, the Triassic predator Coelophysis, Tyrannosaurus rex, Allosaurus, and the giant African Theropod Carcharodontosaurus.  Other non-Dinosauria creatures involved in the teeth study were Smilodon spp. and the shark C.  megalodon, as well as early Archosaurs, as the scientists tried to identify the evolutionary origins of these rather unique inter-dental folds.  Extant animals were also included in the research.  The only living animals with similar dentition and internal teeth structures are the Monitor Lizards, most notably the formidable Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis).  It is the largest lizard alive today and specialises in hunting large animals, thus reinforcing the theory put forward by the Canadian research team that these inter-dental folds evolved specifically to assist with predation of large herbivores.

Dr. Kirstin Brink, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Biology, one of the authors of the paper commented:

“What is so fascinating to me is that all animal teeth are made from the same building blocks, but the way the blocks fit together to form the structure of the tooth greatly affects how that animal processes food.  The hidden complexity of the tooth structure in Theropods suggests that they were more efficient at handling prey than previously thought, likely contributing to their success.”

Dr. Kristin Brink with one of the Theropod Teeth Examines the Evidence

A special arrangement of layers of dentine at the base of each serration in the tooth.

A special arrangement of layers of dentine at the base of each serration in the tooth.

Picture Credit: University of Toronto Mississauga

The picture above shows Dr. Brink examining the special arrangement of layers of dentine at the base of the each tooth serration (denticle).  She is holding a tooth from the giant Theropod Carcharodontosaurus.

A lot of research has been undertaken into the bite forces of extinct animals, but this is the first time a study of this type has been carried out.  The teeth may have an outer coating of enamel, just like our teeth, but the tough dentine inside has a unique configuration of dental folds and this gives the teeth of Theropod dinosaurs enlarged serrations, ideal for tearing into flesh.

The shape of the teeth (morphology) and their development, both in terms of their evolution and how they develop in an individual. can provide palaeontologists with a lot of information on the evolution of extinct animals and provide insights into feeding behaviour.  Theropod teeth, the only group of the Order Dinosauria, known to have produced meat-eaters, are characterised by the presence of serrations, known as denticles on the cutting edges of their teeth.  These serrations vary between genera, with troodontids for example, having relatively large denticles, whilst spinosaurids have proportionately much smaller ones.

Teeth that are serrated along the cutting edge are referred to as ziphodont teeth.  In a study, Everything Dinosaur reported upon last year, the same University research team, examined the ziphodont teeth of Dimetrodon (D. grandis).  They concluded that the serrations gave this Pelycosaur an evolutionary advantage over other Permian predators.

To read more about this study: Dimetrodon with Teeth Like a Steak Knife

In this new paper, the researchers conclude that the structures previously thought to prevent tooth breakage, instead, first evolved to shape and maintain the characteristic denticles throughout the life of the tooth.  The relatively novel and complex dental folds produced at the base of the teeth characterises the Theropods, with the exception of those genera that evolved a modified diet and a less meat intensive diet.  The scientists conclude that these teeth structures are vital for allowing the predation and consumption of large prey animals.

A Close up of a Gorgosaurus Tooth (Royal Ontario Museum Collection)

A close up of the tooth of Gorgosaurus

A close up of the tooth of Gorgosaurus – G. libratus

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The picture above shows an illustration of the skull of the tyrannosaurid Gorgosaurus (A), drawing by Danielle Dufault.  The complete tooth (ROM 57981) is shown in (B) with extreme close ups of the denticles on the cutting edges of the tooth.  The tooth illustrated is from the upper jaw (maxilla).

Key

  • dej = dentine/enamel junction
  • e = enamel (outer coating of the tooth)
  • if = inter-dental fold
  • is = inter-dental sulcus
  • pd = primary dentine

The Sharp Edges of Predators Teeth Viewed Under Scanning Electron Microscopy

c

Theropod teeth have two sharp edges these are called carinae.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The cutting edges (carinae) of various predators (all are examples of ziphodont teeth).  Pictures are from scanning electron microscopy images.  Note the scale bars and the pictures to the right of the black and white images are thin cross sections showing internal structure.

Key

  • C = unknown Phytosaur
  • D = Coelophysis bauri
  • E = Allosaurus fragilis
  • F = Carcharodontosaurus saharicus
  • G = Gorgosaurus libratus
  • H = Tyrannosaurus rex

This adaptation may have played an important part in the initial radiation and subsequent success of the Theropoda as terrestrial apex predators.  After all, the Theropod body shape and bauplan, especially those teeth, permitted them to dominate terrestrial ecosystems for the best part of 160 million years.

Just 48 Hours Left to Enter Everything Dinosaur’s Guidraco Competition

Win a 1:4 Scale Flying Reptile Model with Everything Dinosaur

WIN! WIN! WIN! with Everything Dinosaur!  Just 48 hours left to enter Everything Dinosaur’s competition to win an amazing 1:4 scale replica of the Pterosaur called Guidraco.

We have got another super, prehistoric animal replica to win in a fantastic, free to enter contest.  CollectA have already brought out some amazing dinosaur models this year and to celebrate this and the fact that Everything Dinosaur will be 10 years old on August 1st we are holding a special competition, a chance to win a wonderful 1:4 scale replica of a Pterosaur.  CollectA have added to their “Supreme” range of big scale models and the new for 2015 Pterosaur replica (Guidraco), with its moveable, articulated jaw is super and it makes a great prize in our special tenth birthday competition.

Contest to Celebrate Everything Dinosaur’s Tenth Birthday 
Win this 1:4 scale model!

Win this 1:4 scale model of a Guidraco Pterosaur!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur 

Our tenth anniversary prize giveaway is this beautiful Guidraco with an lower articulated jaw.  The replica measures more than twenty-five centimetres in height and more than twenty-six centimetres in length.  Its colouration is based on a modern sea bird, a puffin and our replica needs a name.  What name will you come up with?

To enter Everything Dinosaur’s competition, all you have to do is “Like” Everything Dinosaur’s FACEBOOK page, share, then comment on the picture (either here or on Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook page) don’t forget to include a suggestion for a name for this fabulous flying reptile.

Everything Dinosaur on FACEBOOK: “LIKE” Our Facebook Page and Enter Competition

For instance, if you believe our Guidraco Pterosaur should be called “Glenda”, then put your comment on our Facebook page or underneath this article in the comments section of this blog!

We will draw the lucky winner at random and the name caption competition closes on Friday, July 31st at midnight.  Good luck to everyone who enters our contest.

Just visit Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook page, give our page a “like” and then leave a comment on the picture showing the Guidraco Pterosaur replica.  What flying reptile names can you think of?

“Like” Everything Dinosaur’s Page on Facebook

Like our Page (please).

Like our Page (please).

 

A Fantastic CollectA Guidraco Replica to Win Thanks to Everything Dinosaur
Just like our Facebook page to enter.

Just like our Facebook page to enter this competition.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur 

To view Everything Dinosaur’s huge range of CollectA prehistoric animals: CollectA Dinosaurs and Other Replicas

To see the full range of CollectA scale prehistoric animal replicas: CollectA Scale Prehistoric Animals

Terms and Conditions of the Everything Dinosaur Tenth Anniversary Contest

Automated entries are not permitted and will be excluded from the draw.

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Only one entry per person.

The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative will be offered.

The Everything Dinosaur tenth anniversary competition runs until midnight on Friday 31st July 2015 (don’t forget the competition closes at midnight on 31st July).

Winner will be notified by private message on Facebook.

Prize includes postage and packing.

For full terms and conditions contact: Contact Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaur Themed Speed Stacking Game

Dinosaur Themed Speed Stacking Game

With many primary schools undertaking a term topic on dinosaurs and fossils or perhaps incorporating prehistoric animals as a subject area in a special science week, here’s a simple and fun memory game which can help budding palaeontologists memorise facts.

As part of Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools we have devised a speed stacking game, which challenges children to sort out and order a dinosaur themed food web.  In addition, we have added a speed stacking game whereby children are challenged to sort out dinosaurs by size.  No need to worry teachers, and teaching assistants!  In the free, download we also provide a guide to the correct size order of the various dinosaurs we have chosen.  Most of the children will be very familiar with the likes of Triceratops, Brachiosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex.  Perhaps as an extension activity you might challenge the class to do some independent research to find out about the dinosaurs we feature in our speed stacking games.

Dinosaur Themed Speed Stacking Game Labels

A great speed stacking memory game.

A great speed stacking memory game.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows the set of speed stacking labels created by Everything Dinosaur.  There is a five stage, dinosaur themed food web, based on meat-eating dinosaurs, which is ideal for reinforcing learning when it comes to teaching about food chains, herbivores, carnivores and so forth.  In addition Everything Dinosaur team members have added an eight stage, dinosaur sizing, speed stacking game.  Can the children stack the plastic cups in the correct order?

To access dinosaur themed learning resources and for more information about Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools: Everything Dinosaur for Schools

Resources Required

  • Plastic cups
  • Sheet of labels (Everything Dinosaur supplies various sets of labels on the company’s “dinosaurs for schools” website).
  • Sticky tape to stick the labels to the bottom of the plastic cups.
  • A stop watch or an Ipad, Smart phone or such like to time how long each child takes to stack the cups correctly.

Record How Long it Takes for Each Child To Stack the Cups Correctly

Time how long it takes to stack the cups correctly.

Time how long it takes to stack the cups correctly.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The class can be split into teams to encourage small group work.  The children can take turns to stack the cups and measure the time taken.

Extension Ideas

  1. Challenge the class to carry out some independent research on the dinosaurs featured in the game
  2. Record the times taken by the children, can they work out the best way to display this data – tables, bar chart, graph etc?
  3. Can the children design their own speed stacking game with a dinosaur theme?

This is a simple and very easy activity for the classroom.  It helps develop hand/eye co-ordination and motor skills, as well as being an excellent way for children to memorise information.

For further information on dinosaur themed teaching resources and Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools and to access the free, downloadable teaching resources including the speed stacking game: Dinosaurs for Schools Website

For dinosaur themed teaching resources including models, sets of plastic dinosaurs as well as real fossils and fossil replicas ideal for craft activities: Everything Dinosaur

Take Care When Fossil Hunting on the “Jurassic Coast”

Warning Issued to Holiday Makers

Dorset is one of the prettiest and most majestic of all the English counties.  This summer, there are going to huge numbers of holidaymakers heading down to England’s “Jurassic Coast” and we expect there are going to be great many visitors to picturesque Lyme Regis.  However, as the school holidays have started, we at Everything Dinosaur, think it appropriate to issue a warning about straying too close to the cliffs that occur along the Dorset and Devon coast.

Beautiful Charmouth and Lyme Regis – Very Popular Holiday Destinations

Photograph taken in 2009.

Photograph taken in 2009.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Many locals tell us that this part of the world has its own “mini climate”, it most certainly has lots of sunshine and there is always plenty to do and see in this, in our opinion, one of the most attractive parts of southern England, but we would advise visitors to the beach, especially would-be fossil hunters in the Lyme Regis and Charmouth areas to steer well clear of the cliffs. Rock falls and mudslides are very common and sadly serious accidents and even fatalities can occur.

On July 25th 2012, Everything Dinosaur reported on a fatal incident that occurred at Hive Beach, near Bridport just a few miles east of Charmouth.   Last month, we reported on another landslide fatality, this time from the popular Llanwit Major area of South Wales, another favourite location with fossil hunters.

To read more about this tragic event: Woman Killed by Rock Fall at Popular Fossil Hunting Site in Wales

Whilst areas such as the famous “Ammonite Pavement” that can be seen to the west of the town (Lyme Regis), is located quite far from the cliffs, any rocks and other material that fall are likely to travel quite a distance so it is sensible to heed the advice of locals and ensure that you are a safe distance away from any hazards.  It is also good advice to familiarise yourself with the tide times.  As landslides have altered the shape of the coastline it is all too easy to find yourself getting cut off during an incoming tide.  Everything Dinosaur team members advise always go fossil hunting at a beach location on an outgoing tide.  With so many fossils to be found at Lyme Regis and Charmouth along the foreshore, there is no need to approach the cliffs and a lot of fun can be had searching along the shoreline for fossils in a couple of hours or so as the tide recedes.

Lots of Fossils to Spot Away from the Jurassic Coast Cliffs

A big fossil close to the Ammonite Pavement.

A big fossil close to the Ammonite Pavement.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

 Lyme Regis fossil expert Brandon Lennon commented that there was glorious weather in the Lyme Bay area yesterday, but today, (Sunday), there was quite a gale blowing.  Despite this, large numbers of tourists were on the beach and many of them were too close to the cliffs.

Brandon said:

“People are right up under the cliffs looking for fossils and they should definitely not do this as it is incredibly dangerous.  I think it is going to be very busy in Lyme Regis this summer, even with the occasional little bit of bad weather at times.”

With the popularity of the film “Jurassic World”, the Lyme Regis area can expect record numbers of fossil hunters to visit the area over the summer, but just like Brandon, we advise visitors to the beaches to take care and heed any council notices.

Brandon conducts organised fossil hunting walks and these are a great way to go fossil hunting safely as well as learning about the amazing local geology.  These walks take place on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays and private bookings can also be made, to learn more about organised, conducted fossil hunting tours: Lyme Regis Fossil Walks

 The Amazing Ammonite Pavement (Monmouth Beach)

Falling tides reveal the extensive Ammonite Pavement sometimes referred to as the Ammonite Graveyard.

Falling tides reveal the extensive Ammonite Pavement sometimes referred to as the Ammonite Graveyard.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“Whilst fossil hunting can be a very enjoyable experience for families, we do urge all visitors to take great care when visiting locations such as Charmouth and Lyme Regis.  Landslides are a very common occurrence and going fossil collecting with an expert is a sensible option.”

First Fossil Snake with Four Limbs Described

How Snakes Lost Their Legs

Serendipity can play a huge role in science, for Dr Dave Martill a chance encounter with a 115 million-year-old fossil whilst taking a group of third year students around a German museum, has led to a breakthrough in our understanding of how snakes evolved.   A beautifully preserved fossil snake with four limbs, the first snake fossil with four legs ever found, making this specimen a transitional form between limbed lizards and the snakes we know today, is helping scientists to piece together the puzzle of how snakes lost their legs.

Over the last fifteen years or so the University of Portsmouth has arranged a tour of German natural history museums for their third year vertebrate palaeontology students.  On a visit to one such museum, the famous Bürgermeister-Müller-Museum in Solnhofen (Southern Germany), to view the spectacular Jurassic limestone fossils including Archaeopteryx, by chance, the Museum was hosting an exhibit of much younger Cretaceous fossils from Brazil.  Dr. Martill, took his students around the exhibit and to his amazement he spotted on display a small, exquisitely preserved fossil of a snake, but this snake had tiny legs.  Enquiries were made and Dr. Martill working with Dr. Helmut Tischlinger (Bürgermeister-Müller-Museum) and Dr Nicholas Longrich (University of Bath), have published today in the academic journal “Science” a description of this unique fossil specimen.

The Four-Legged Snake Fossil

A beautifully preserved early, limbed snake.

A beautifully preserved early, limbed snake.

Picture Credit: Dr. Dave Martill/University of Portsmouth with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

This new snake species has been named Tetrapodophis amplectus (pronounced Tet-tra-poe-doh-fis am-pleck-tus), and it means “four-legged embracing snake”, the embracing element as the limbs were too small to be used in locomotion, they may well have served a function in holding prey or embracing mates.

Both the slab and counter slab are known but their exact provenance remains a mystery.  The fossil specimens were collected many decades ago and held in a private collection.  The fine-grained limestone matrix is dotted with occasional coprolites from an ancient fish called Dastilbe, bedding plains associated with these coprolites come from the Nova Olinda Member of the Crato Formation found in north-eastern Brazil.  The exact age of this Formation is contentious, the lack of marine zonal fossils make dating extremely difficult, but scientists estimate that this important, highly fossiliferous strata dates from between 126 to 113 million years ago (Aptian to Early Albian faunal stages).

The snake measures around twenty centimetres in length and it was very probably a juvenile.  Just how big this snake could grow to remains unknown.  The fossil is preserved in almost complete articulation indicating a low energy fossil preservation environment and a lack of disturbance by scavengers.  This little snake ended up in a hyper saline salt lake and this is what aided its fantastic preservation.

An Illustration of the Early Snake Tetrapodophis (T. amplectus) with Prey

The tiny limbs may have been used to hold prey.

The tiny limbs may have been used to hold prey.

Picture Credit: Julius Csotonyi

Evidence of the snake’s last meal was also preserved, however, it was not a small mammal as depicted in the excellent illustration by renowned palaeoartist Julius Csotonyi.  Dr. Tischlinger, is an expert in the use of UV light to help expose hidden details of fossil specimens, a technique he has used to great effect on the finely-grained, lithographic limestone specimens of Solnhofen.  When viewed under ultraviolet light, the fossil revealed the remains of a small vertebrate, most probably a salamander.

Abdomen Viewed under Ultraviolet Light Reveals Gut Contents

Viewed under UV light the stomach contents are revealed.

Viewed under UV light the stomach contents are revealed.

Picture Credit: Journal Science 

The photograph above shows the position of the gut contents (fluorescing white) – (a) and (b) phosphatised gut contents (also fluorescing white) with tiny fragments of bone (orange).

It is generally accepted that snakes evolved from lizards at some point in the distant past.

Commenting on the significance of this fossil Dr. Martill stated:

“What scientists don’t know yet is when they evolved, why they evolved and what type of lizard they evolved from.  This fossil answers some very important questions, for example it now seems clear to us that snakes evolved from burrowing lizards, not from marine lizards.”

 Dr. Longrich who has extensively studied the evolution of snakes, commented:

“It is a perfect little snake, except it has these little arms and legs, and they have these strange long fingers and toes.  The hands and feet are very specialised for grasping.  So when snakes stopped walking and started slithering, the legs didn’t just become useless little vestiges – they started using them for something else.  We’re not entirely sure what that would be, but they may have been used for grasping prey, or perhaps mates.”

Those Hands and Feet were Not for Walking

At just 4 mm and 7 mm long respectively, the tiny hands and feet were not aiding locomotion, but the well-defined claws suggest that they might have helped Tetrapodophis grasp and hold prey.  They may also have served a role as “claspers” in mating.

A Close Up of the Left Forelimb (Tetrapodophis amplectus)

A close up of the left forelimb.

A close up of the left forelimb.

Picture Credit: Science Journal

The photographs and illustrations above show the T. amplectus holotype (BMMS BK 2-2), specifically a close up view of the left forelimb and hand (manus).  Photograph (a) shows the forelimb, whilst (b) is a close up view of the manus (scale bar 1 mm).  Illustrations (c) and (d)  show the layout of the bones, the dotted line in (d) indicates a missing bone.

Key

  • hu – humerus
  • man – manus
  • ra – radius
  • ul – ulna

A Close Up of the Hindlimbs (Ventral View – Looking from Underneath)

Probably used to help grasp prey or mates.

Probably used to help grasp prey or mates.

Picture Credit: Science Journal

The pictures and diagrams above show the arrangement of the hindlimbs (ventral view), as seen from underneath the body.  Photograph (a) shows the hindlimbs, (d) an illustration of the hindlimbs, (b) is a close up of sacrum and pelvic area, illustrated by diagram (e).  Photograph (c) shows the delicate hind foot which measures approximately 7 mm long.  Diagram (f) shows a layout of the bones in the foot.

Key

  • fem – femur
  • fib – fibula
  • tib – tibia

The fossil suggests that snakes may have lost their limbs to help them burrow, either through sediment of through leaf litter, speculated a member of the Everything Dinosaur team.  Cladistic analysis places the origin of the snakes close to the Iguana and the Anguimorpha families, (the Anguidae family includes limbless lizards such as slow worms), although the exact phylogenetic relationship remains disputed.  The discovery of this fossil suggests that the snake family, a very widespread and diverse group of reptiles today, probably first evolved on the southern super-continent of Gondwana.

Still Time to Enter Everything Dinosaur’s Win a Guidraco Competition

Win a 1:4 Scale CollectA Guidraco Pterosaur Model with Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur is giving away a brand new, fantastic 1:4 scale replica of the Pterosaur called Guidraco.

There is still time to enter Everything Dinosaur’s fantastic prehistoric Pterosaur competition.  CollectA have already introduced some super dinosaur and prehistoric animal models this year, all new additions to their excellent  range of “Prehistoric Life” replicas that we at Everything Dinosaur stock.  To celebrate these new introductions and the fact that Everything Dinosaur will be ten years old on August 1st we are holding a special competition, your chance to win a wonderful, 1:4 scale replica of a flying reptile.  CollectA have added to their “Supreme” range of large models and the new for 2015 Guidraco Pterosaur with its moveable lower jaw is a fitting prize in our special ten year anniversary contest.

Celebrating Everything Dinosaur’s 10th Birthday 
Win this 1:4 scale model!

Win this 1:4 scale model of a Chinese Pterosaur!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur 

Our tenth anniversary prize giveaway is this super Guidraco flying reptile, complete with an articulated jaw.  The replica measures more than twenty-five centimetres high and it is a generous twenty-six centimetres in length.  This beautiful model requires a name.  What name can you come up with?

To enter Everything Dinosaur’s contest, all you have to do is “Like” Everything Dinosaur on our FACEBOOK page, share, then comment on the picture (either on Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook page or here on this Everything Dinosaur blog post), remember to include a suggested name for our Guidraco Pterosaur.

Everything Dinosaur on FACEBOOK: “LIKE” Our Facebook Page and Enter Competition

We have already received lots of competition entries, for example, Joshua suggested “Toucan”, whilst Lynette proposed “BeakyRex” and Ruth suggested “Lordfliesalot”.  We have been very impressed with the wonderful array of names we have received so far.  If you think our Guidraco should be called “Gertie”, simple comment on our Facebook page or here in the comments section of this webblog posting.

The lucky winner will be drawn at random and the Everything Dinosaur Guidraco name competition ends on Friday, July 31st.  Good luck from all of us to everyone who enters.

Just go to Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook page, give our page a “like” and then leave a comment on the picture showing the Guidraco replica at the top of our timeline.  What Pterosaur names can you come up with?

“Like” Everything Dinosaur’s Page on Facebook

Like our Page (please).

Please “like” our page.

 

Win a Super CollectA Guidraco Pterosaur Model with Everything Dinosaur
Just like our Facebook page to enter.

Just like our Facebook page to enter Everything Dinosaur’s competition!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur 

To view the range of CollectA prehistoric animals: CollectA Dinosaurs and Other Replicas

To see the complete collection of CollectA scale prehistoric animal replicas: CollectA Scale Prehistoric Animals

Terms and Conditions of the Everything Dinosaur Tenth Anniversary Competition

Automated entries are not permitted and will be excluded from the draw.

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Only one entry per person.

The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative will be offered.

The Everything Dinosaur tenth anniversary competition runs until midnight on Friday 31st July 2015.

Winner will be notified by private message on Facebook.

Prize includes postage and packing.

For full terms and conditions contact: Contact Everything Dinosaur

Updating the Winged Dragon – Zhenyuanlong

How do we Know that Zhenyuanlong was Quite Big?

A few days ago, on July 16th, Everything Dinosaur team members published an article that featured the newly described Chinese dromaeosaurid dinosaur known as Zhenyuanlong suni.  We explained why the dinosaur called Velociraptor was used to help give this new dinosaur discovery context and outlined some of the more intriguing aspects of the fossil, that perhaps had been missed by more general media outlets.  However, we did receive an email about our article from a young dinosaur fan so we thought it best if we followed up our original article by providing some additional information about this little feathered carnivore.

To read our article (July 16th) on Z. suniThe Winged Dragon from Liaoning Province

A Newly Described Dromaeosaurid from China

Very probably a ground-dwelling predator.

Very probably a ground-dwelling predator.

Picture Credit: Zhao Chuang

Young Alex, wrote into Everything Dinosaur to ask, how do scientists know how big this dinosaur was and how big was it compared to other feathered dinosaurs found in China?  We wrote to Alex explaining in a little more detail about what the scientists who studied the fossil material concluded.

The academic paper describing this new type of “raptor” was published in the journal “Scientific Reports”.  The authors were Professor Junchang Lü (Institute of Geology, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Beijing) and Dr. Stephen Brusatte (School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh).  Around 125 million years ago, the area of north-eastern China, now known as Liaoning Province was covered in a lush, temperate forest.  Large lakes featured in the environment and nearby volcanoes occasionally erupted and buried the area in fine ash, this explains the exceptional state of preservation of much of the Liaoning fossil material.  Living in the forests were a large number of different types of “raptor”, members of the Dromaeosauridae dinosaur family.  So far six genera have been described but it is very likely that more feathered dinosaur discoveries will be made in the future.

The six genera of dromaeosaurids described so far (with date described):

  1. Sinornithosaurus (named in 1999)
  2. Microraptor (named in 2000)
  3. Graciliraptor (named in 2004)
  4. Tianyuraptor (named in 2010
  5. Changyuraptor (named in 2014)
  6. Zhenyuanlong (2015)

So How Does Zhenyuanlong Compare?

The fossilised remains of Zhenyuanlong are nearly complete, but the end of the tail is missing.  The skeleton measures 126.6 cm long, when compared to the large dromaeosaurid Tianyuraptor it has been estimated that with the whole of the tail, this animal would have measured more than five feet (165 cm) in length.  It was probably not quite fully grown when it died so it might have reached a length of around 1.8 metres.

When it comes to comparing the sizes of different types of dinosaur, it is the limb bones that palaeontologists turn to.  The thigh bone (femur) for example, is often used to make comparisons between dinosaurs.  To estimate how big a dinosaur was, the length and the circumference of the femur is often measured.  In simple terms, the bigger and the more robust the femur, the bigger the dinosaur.  As all the Liaoning dromaeosaurid species discovered so far have at least one thigh bone as part of their fossil material, and as the size of the thigh bone strongly correlates to body size, measuring the length and overall size of the thigh bone is a useful way of comparing the sizes of different dinosaurs.

A Table Comparing the Femur Lengths and Overall Size of Liaoning Dromaeosaurids

Size comparisons between Liaoning dromaeosaurids.

Size comparisons between Liaoning dromaeosaurids.

Table Credit: Everything Dinosaur

* Depends on the species and the specimens measured

** Depends on the species as there are three species of Microraptor currently known.

So based on the length of the thigh bone, scientists can see that Zhenyuanlong (Z. suni) is much bigger than most of the other dromaeosaurids known from Liaoning.  It seems to be about the size of Tianyuraptor.

What Does Zhenyuanlong Mean?

Time to answer one other question about this new dinosaur, this time sent in by Sophie.  Sophie asked what does Zhenyuanlong mean?

The Holotype Specimen of Zhenyuanlong suni

 Large-bodied, short-armed Liaoning dromaeosaurid

Large-bodied, short-armed Liaoning dromaeosaurid

Picture Credit: Chinese Academy of Geological Science

Zhenyuanlong suni means “Mr Zhenyuan Sun’s dragon”.  The word “long” means dragon in Chinese (hence other dinosaur names such as Guanlong and Dilong) and the rest of the name honours Mr. Zhenyuan Sun, who was able to acquire the holotype specimen for the scientists to study.

Countdown to the New CollectA Models

New CollectA Models Due in Shortly

The majority of the new for 2015 CollectA prehistoric animals should be in stock at Everything Dinosaur very shortly.  The models, which include the 1:4 scale Guidraco Pterosaur replica and the feathered Tyrannosaurus rex are currently on the water and they should be arriving at Everything Dinosaur’s warehouse by the end of the month.  The CollectA ranges, including the “Supreme” range, to which the Guidraco scale model belongs, have earned themselves a big reputation amongst dinosaur model fans and collectors for their beautiful designs and attention to detail.  The ranges have been extended recently and new additions will include the “war pig” Daeodon as well as the huge Moropus.

The genus Moropus contains a number of species, all members of the “knuckle-walkers” group of prehistoric mammals (Chalicotherioidea).  New dinosaurs from CollectA include an eagerly awaited Acrocanthosaurus model (expect more news from Rebor on this dinosaur shortly) and more stocks of the popular 1:40 scale CollectA Carcharodontosaurus.

Coming Soon to Everything Dinosaur

New models all available from Everything Dinosaur.

New models all available from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

As you can see from the picture above, a marine reptile is also included in these new releases.  The marine reptile is a Temnodontosaurus and it is depicted giving birth, showing that these superbly adapted marine creatures were viviparous (live birth).  Emerging from behind the head of the fearsome Daeodon is the new Smilodon replica, and what a beautiful Sabre-Tooth cat model it is too.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of CollectA models: CollectA models

The not to scale series now contains over a hundred prehistoric animal replicas, all of which are available from Everything Dinosaur, we have seen a number of these replicas already and they really are top quality.  The feathered T. rex and the Acrocanthosaurus (A. atokensis) are both new additions to the scale model range (both these dinosaurs are sculpted in 1:40 scale).

To view the scale model series made by CollectA: Prehistoric Animal Models – Scale Models (CollectA)

 Earlier this year, the first of the 2015 prehistoric animals from CollectA were released.  These replicas included a 1:40 scale Pliosaurus, two horned dinosaurs (Medusaceratops and Nasutoceratops), plus the Chinese tyrannosaurid Xiongguanlong and the enormous Titanosaur known as Daxiatitan.

Some of the New for 2015 Prehistoric Animal Models (CollectA)

A wide variety of prehistoric animal models.

A wide variety of prehistoric animal models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The inclusion of one of our field rulers in the photograph above gives readers and idea of the size of these hand-painted replicas.  The picture shows just some of the new CollectA models, from left to right (as you view the photograph),  we have the green and black, long-necked Daxiatitan, the Ichthyosaur Temodontosaurus, Medusaceratops then at the back the 1:40 scale Pliosaurus model complete with Lampreys attached to its body.  The Xiongguanlong can be seen on its base in the centre of the photograph, close to the sandy coloured Moropus and the grey Nasutoceratops.  The Daeodon, prehistoric mammal figure is in the bottom right corner of the photograph.  It certainly is a very eclectic bunch of prehistoric animals.

Schleich World of History Giganotosaurus (orange) Review

A Review of the Schleich World of History Giganotosaurus (Orange)

Schleich have added another meat-eating dinosaur model to their World of History collection.  It is a Giganotosaurus (the name means Giant Southern Lizard), the most colourful of all the Giganotosaurus replicas that this German manufacturer have made.  This Schleich dinosaur model is referred to as Giganotosaurus (orange), helping to distinguish it from earlier versions of this dinosaur made by Schleich.  The name is very appropriate as it has a most striking orange colouration running down the side of the neck, the flanks and along the base of the broad, powerful tail.

The New for 2015 Schleich Giganotosaurus (orange)

Giant Southern Lizard.

Giant Southern Lizard.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows just how colourful this Schleich dinosaur model actually is.  The bright orange paintwork sets off the dark blue of the spine and the green band that runs from the top of the snout down to the end of the tail.  There is also a row of bony scales that resemble small horns running down the body.  All the models are hand-painted and when pictured using a flash, the colours really do stand out.  There might be a little variation in each model, after all, they are hand-painted but the underlying sculpt provides an excellent base with much to be admired.  Of particular note are the carefully depicted large scales on the broad feet and the detailing of the skull.  This model, like the majority of Schleich meat-eating dinosaur models has an articulated jaw.

The Schleich Giganotosaurus (orange) has an Articulated Jaw

With an articulated jaw.

With an articulated jaw.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The pose is most unusual.  The tail is bent round and provides support for the model, this permits the left hind foot to be slightly raised off the ground giving this Schleich dinosaur replica quite a unique look.  Credit to the design team at Schleich for coming up with this.

The Schleich Giganotosaurus (orange) is Beautifully Balanced

With articulated jaw and beautifully balanced.

With articulated jaw and beautifully balanced.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

One small drawback of the pose is that when you measure the model it is around twenty-four centimetres in length, but once that curved tail is taken into account its true length is nearly thirty-two centimetres, making this Schleich dinosaur model quite a sizeable beast.  Fitting really when you consider that Giganotosaurus was one of the largest and heaviest terrestrial carnivores known to science.

The head height is around seventeen centimetres allowing this dinosaur to be a match for the two Tyrannosaur models introduced by Schleich into their World of History range.  The Schleich Giganotosaurus reflects a trend from the company to introduce more colourful and bright prehistoric animal figures.  Although there is much to be admired with this latest addition, it is aimed broadly at young dinosaur fans.  Certainly, the model will stand up well to robust, creative play.

 To view the complete range of large Schleich dinosaur and prehistoric animal models: Schleich World of History Prehistoric Animal Models

With Schleich having produced three large Giganotosaurus models within the last five years, there is an interesting debate taking place as to which is people’s favourite.

Schleich Giganotosaurus – Which One is Your Favourite?

Which one is your favourite?

Which one is your favourite?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The New Winged Dragon from Liaoning Province

Zhenyuanlong – A Big Bird, well, Almost

This week we have seen the latest feathered and fluffy dinosaur revealed from the Lower Cretaceous deposits of Liaoning Province, north-eastern China.  Scientists from the University of Edinburgh including the very talented Dr. Steve Brusatte, in collaboration with colleagues from the Institute of Geology (Chinese Academy of Geological Science, Beijing), have published a paper in the journal “Scientific Reports”, that describes Zhenyuanlong suni, the latest in an ever growing flock of feathered dinosaurs from Liaoning.

An Illustration of Zhenyuanlong suni

Very probably a ground-dwelling predator.

Very probably a ground-dwelling predator.

Picture Credit: Zhao Chuang

We do understand why many of the media reports have focused on this Early Cretaceous dinosaur’s more famous relative – Velociraptor.  Dr Steve Brusatte of Edinburgh University’s School of GeoSciences refers to Velociraptor in interviews, although, Velociraptor and Zhenyuanlong (pronounced jen-won-long), are separated by some forty-five million years.  As Zhenyuanlong suni has been classified as member of the Dromaeosauridae family, it is indeed distantly related to the more famous Late Cretaceous “raptor”.  By discussing Velociraptor, it helps members of the public to put this new dinosaur into context.  Zhenyuanlong is most certainly not Velociraptor’s direct ancestor, but if these dinosaurs were feathered, then the point that Velociraptor, shown as a scaly-skinned reptile in dinosaur movies, is in all likelihood not being accurately depicted, is well made.  Although no evidence of feathers or any other integumental covering for that matter has been found in association with Velociraptor fossil material.  This has probably got more to do with the fossilisation process and the coarse sandstone matrix than any lack of feathers on Velociraptor’s part.

Velociraptor – Most Probably Feathered

Very probably feathered (V. mongliensis and V. osmolskae)

Very probably feathered (V. mongoliensis and V. osmolskae)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows the new for 2015, Velociraptor dinosaur model by Safari Ltd.  The model depicts Velociraptor as a dinosaur that was covered in a coat of feathers.  To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of Safari Ltd prehistoric animal models, including feathered dinosaur models: Safari Ltd Prehistoric Animal Models

The Liaoning Dromaeosaurids – Now There are Six Genera

A total of six genera of dromaeosaurids are now known to have lived in the forests that once covered north-eastern China.  Several of these genera have more than one species associated with them and there are going to be more feathered dinosaurs described from the Yixian and Jiufotang Formations.  Everything Dinosaur team members will do their best to keep up to date with new discoveries and to write about them on this blog.

The six genera described to date:

  1. Sinornithosaurus (named in 1999)
  2. Microraptor (named in 2000)
  3. Graciliraptor (named in 2004)
  4. Tianyuraptor (named in 2010
  5. Changyuraptor (named in 2014)
  6. Zhenyuanlong (newly described)

Please don’t imagine all six of these dinosaurs roaming the forests that would have covered Liaoning Province about 125 million years ago, at the same time.  As the fossils come from different layers of strata, they are not all contemporaneous, in fact accurately dating Liaoning fossil material is known to be extremely tricky.  However, it is likely that many different types of feathered dinosaur co-existed and indeed many of them were specially adapted to a particular ecological niche.

The Holotype Fossil Material – Zhenyuanlong suni

 Large-bodied, short-armed Liaoning dromaeosaurid

Large-bodied, short-armed Liaoning dromaeosaurid

Picture Credit: Chinese Academy of Geological Science

The type specimen (pictured above), measures 126.6 cm in length, however, much of the tail is missing and this dinosaur was probably over 160 cm long.  This makes it one of the larger dromaeosaurids from Liaoning, the skull, although badly crushed reveals that this little dinosaur was carnivorous and a closer examination of the fossil revealed that it was covered in feathers, (pennaceous feathers = feathers with a central vane).  Pennaceous feathers are found in most modern birds, however, given the large body size and disproportionately small forelimbs when compared to other Liaoning domaeosaurids, it is unlikely that Zhenyuanlong was capable of powered flight.

Feathered Zhenyuanlong – Just Like a Big Bird

Our "feathered friend".

Our “feathered friend”.

Picture Credit: Chinese Academy of Geological Science

The picture above shows, the complete holotype (A) with a close up of the posterior portion of the tail showing feather impressions (B), the skull and part of the forelimb (C), the right manus (hand) with extensive feathers (D) and (E) a close up of the ulna and radius (forearm) showing evidence of pennaceous feathers on this region of the body too.  Unlike other Liaoning dromaeosaurids, Graciliraptor and Microraptor for example, there is no evidence for feathers on the hind limbs.

Zhenyuanlong and Tianyuraptor

The describing of Zhenyuanlong does not just add to the diversity of dromaeosaurids known from China, it confirms the fact that short-armed dromaeosaurids were also covered in feathers too, just like their longer-limbed cousins.  There have been two basic Dromaeosauridae body plans (bauplans) described from the Jehol Biota.  Most of the Dromaeosauridae family members known from this part of the world had small bodies, with proportionately long forelimbs and accompanying broad wings covered in pennaceous feathers.  Then there is the other body plan, a much larger dinosaur with a heavier body and short arms. Tianyuraptor (T. ostromi) was the only example known, until the discovery of Zhenyuanlong, but unlike Z. suni, the Tianyuraptor fossil specimen does not show any preserved evidence of feathers.

A Phylogenetic Analysis of Zhenyuanlong suni Amongst the Dromaeosauridae

The Liaoning dromaeosaurids nested within the Dromaeosauridae.

The Liaoning dromaeosaurids nested within the Dromaeosauridae.

Picture Credit: Chinese Academy of Geological Science with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The “big bird” that is Zhenyuanlong although distantly related to Velociraptor (the Velociraptorinae sub-family), does suggest that more famous dinosaurs like Velociraptor were indeed probably feathered.

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