Category: Dinosaur Fans

How Strong was a Stegosaurus Bite?

Don’t Get Bitten by “Sophie” the Stegosaurus

Last year, Everything Dinosaur predicted that with the acquisition by the Natural History Museum (London), of the superb Stegosaurus stenops specimen nicknamed “Sophie”, there would be a plethora of new research published regarding this Late Jurassic herbivore.  Sure enough there was and we have already produced a number of articles on this blog summarising the work done.  This week, a new paper has been published, it assesses the bite force of Stegosaurus stenops, comparing it to other dinosaurs, which although not closely related, were herbivorous too and had similar shaped skulls.

The study carried out by scientists from Bristol University, Manchester and Birmingham Universities as well as Dr. Paul Barrett from the Natural History Museum reveals that this Stegosaurus species had a strong bite and that it would have been capable of feeding on a very wide range of different plants.

Stegosaurus Famous for Having a Small Head but the Skull and Jaws Made it a Very Efficient Herbivore

A word mat for the Jurassic herbivore Stegosaurus.

A word mat for the Jurassic herbivore Stegosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows one of the word mats Everything Dinosaur created for teachers to help them with dinosaurs as a term topic in schools.  Stegosaurus is featured and the skull is disproportionately small compared to the body.  However, in this study, lead author, Dr Stephan Lautenschlager, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, proposes that the range of bite force that a Stegosaur could generate is at least comparable to today’s efficient mammalian grazers such as bovines (cows).

Stegosaurus stenops compared to Plateosaurus engelhardti and Erlikosaurus andrewsi

The Three Types of Dinosaur Skull Used in the Computer Modelling Study

Dinosaur Skull Types

The three types of dinosaur skull used in the computer modelling study of dinosaur bite force.

Picture Credit: Bristol University

The picture above shows digital images of the three types of plant-eating dinosaur skull used in the study, left E. andrewsi, centre S. stenops and right P. engelhardti.  Although these dinosaurs are all plant-eaters they are not closely related, skull shapes vary, most notably Stegosaurus stenops lacks a antorbital fenestra (a large hole in the skull in front of the eye socket), but the morphology of the skulls is generally the same, i.e. the snouts are long, the skull tending to be quite narrow and in proportion to the body the head of these dinosaurs is quite small.

“Sophie” The Stegosaurus Specimen Used in this Study

Sophie the Stegosaurus

Milan used this picture to illustrate his dinosaur documentary.

Picture Credit:  The Natural History Museum (picture chosen by Milan)

“Sophie” the Stegosaurus

The Stegosaurus currently on display at the Natural History Museum represents one of the most complete fossil specimens of a Stegosaur every found.  Everything Dinosaur received a lovely report on this new dinosaur exhibit from Milan and Alisha and we published an article on the children’s research.

To read Alisha’s and Milan’s excellent article on “Sophie” the Stegosaurus: Information about “Sophie” the Stegosaurus at the London Natural History Museum

All of the dinosaur skulls studied had a scissor-like jaw action that moved up and down.  Processing of any plant material in the mouth was relatively limited, the large digestive systems and the enormous stomach accounted for most of the digestive process.  The team of UK-based scientists explored the bite force and potential skull stresses induced by the process of eating in these three dinosaurs using computer modelling.  The intention was to gain an insight into the potential diets and feeding behaviour of the herbivores.  The study has also provided information on how Stegosaurus stenops may have fitted into its ecological niche.  For example, the Late Jurassic of the western United States was home to a large variety of enormous Sauropods, the scientists were curious to see if a bite force study could provide information on the niche occupied by large Stegosaurs in an environment dominated by a variety long-necked dinosaurs.

Phylogenetic and Stratigraphic Relationships Between the Dinosaur Studied

The bite force of Stegosaurus analysed

Digital images of the skull of Plateosaurus engelhardti, Erlikosaurus andrewsi and Stegosaurus stenops showing their in phylogenetic and stratigraphic context.

Picture Credit: Nature Scientific Reports

The picture above shows the phylogenetic relationship (how closely related) the dinosaurs were as well as a stratigraphic comparison (how old the fossils are in relation to each other).

In Summary

  • Plateosaurus – member of the Prosauropoda, part of the dinosaur lineage related to the Sauropoda.  It was lizard-hipped and lived during the Late Triassic.
  • Erlikosaurus – a member of the Theropoda, specifically a member of the Therizinosauridae family (scythe lizards).  It was lizard-hipped and lived during the Late Cretaceous.
  • Stegosaurus – a member of the Thyreophora, a sub-group of the bird-hipped dinosaurs.  Stegosaurus stenops lived during the Late Jurassic.

The three-dimensional scans of the fossil skulls and the computer models created permitted the team to examine the forces the jaws could create and the subsequent stresses on the skulls that feeding would have induced.  Data from a study of crocodilian teeth was used to help factor in the role of the teeth in the feeding operation.

Dr. Lautenschlager explained:

“Using computer modelling techniques, we were able to reconstruct muscle and bite forces very accurately for the different dinosaurs in our study.  As a result, these methods give us new and detailed insights into dinosaur biology, something that would not have been possible several years ago.”

Professor Paul Barrett, (Natural History Museum) added:

“Far from being feeble, as usually thought, Stegosaurus actually had a bite force within the range of living herbivorous mammals, such as sheep and cows.  Our key finding really surprised us, we expected that many of these dinosaur herbivores would have skulls that worked in broadly similar ways.  Instead we found that even though the skulls were fairly similar to each other in overall shape, the way they worked during biting was substantially different in each case.”

Stegosaur Seed Dispersal

Depicted as a browser on horsetails and ferns, the bite force of Stegosaurus stenops would have made it quite capable of tackling a much wider range of vegetation, including tough cycads.  This reinforces the belief that the tough scales associated with the throat of this dinosaur served as protection as it fed on the robust leaves of the cycads, the relatively small head might have evolved to enable this dinosaur to thrust its head deep into the heart of such plants to get at the most nutritious leaves.  In terms of how Stegosaurus fitted into an ecological niche, these armoured dinosaurs may have played an important role in dispersing the seeds of woody, evergreen cycads.

The Impact of a Beak

As well as examining skull shape and structure, the impact of having a keratinous beak was also considered.  Although the overall stress applied on the skull remained relatively unchanged, the presence of a beak seemed to reduce the amount of stress in the dentary, rostral and premaxilla, confirming results from earlier studies.  The beaked Stegosaurus possessed a relatively high bite force with only moderate associated skull stress, indicating that it would have been capable of foraging on a wide variety of different plants.  The scientists conclude that despite superficial similarities in skull and jaw shape, S. stenops had access to a much greater range of potential foods than other species incorporated within this study.

Stegosaurus Had a Powerful Bite

A skull of a Stegosaurus.

A Stegosaurus skull.

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

It seems that Stegosaurus could more than hold its own when compared to the enormous Sauropods, with which it shared its habitat.  This research does raise an intriguing question though, the stegosaurids seem to decline in the Early Cretaceous.  The reduction in stegosaurid fossils as the Cretaceous progressed is put down to, by a number of academics, as a result of a transition in the fauna.  The increasing dominance of angiosperms (flowering plants) playing a role in the demise of the Stegosaurs.  However, other scientists have plotted the decline of the stegosaurids in relation to a decrease in the amount of cycads (Cycadophyta) present.  This bite force study may help to provide palaeontologists with further data on the impact of changing fauna on the range of herbivorous dinosaurs that could adapt to new types of vegetation.

JurassicCollectables Unboxing a Battat Terra T. rex

JurassicCollectables Battat Terra T. rex Unboxing

Our chums at JurassicCollectables have produced another prehistoric animal model video.  For the first time on their YouTube they feature one of the Battat Terra dinosaur models, the Tyrannosaurus rex no less.  This model is one of the largest of the twelve Battat Terra dinosaur replicas currently available and JurassicCollectables present an unboxing video, opening the package that we sent them, we note the very sensible advice about using a craft knife.

JurassicCollectables Unboxing Video of the Battat Terra Tyrannosaurus rex Dinosaur Model

Video Credit: Jurassic Collectables

JurassicCollectables have their own YouTube channel dedicated to all things dinosaur.  The channel features lots of wonderful dinosaur model reviews and we urge readers to visit JurassicCollectables on Youtube and to subscribe to this very informative channel: Check out the JurassicCollectables YouTube Channel

The Battat Terra Dinosaurs

The Battat Terra dinosaurs were introduced last year, they are repaints of the model line created by Battat and the highly respected, American palaeoartist Dan LoRusso that was originally designed for the Boston Museum of Science.  Sadly, with the death of Dan, plans to introduce other replicas that were once part of the range, remain on hold but in our meetings with the Battat family we have expressed our interest in stocking all the replicas that become available.  We feel that this would be a fitting tribute to the inspirational Dan LoRusso.

The Current Battat Terra Dinosaur Range Consists of Twelve Models

The range of 12 Battat Terra Dinosaur Models.

A set of Battat Terra dinosaur models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The current Battat Terra dinosaur range is certainly very colourful.  As well as the Tyrannosaurus rex replica, there are five other Theropod dinosaurs included in this range.  They are the Acrocanthosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Crylophosaurus, Carnotaurus and the scythe lizard Nanshiungosaurus.  Dinosaur model collectors are advised that the Battat Terra Nanshiungosaurus has been retired, stocks are available but this therizinosaurid figure is not going to be manufactured any more.

To view the Battat Terra dinosaur models available from Everything Dinosaur: Battat Terra Dinosaurs

These wonderful models range in size from a compact eleven centimetres long to an impressive twenty-eight centimetres in length. In truth, a number of models are slightly bigger than the measurement figures we have given them on our website, as we have not taken into account the length of any curved tails.

Battat Terra Dinosaur Models

Battat Terra Dinosaurs

The excellent Battat Terra dinosaur models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Machairoceratops Plugs a Four-Million-Year Gap

Machairoceratops cronusi – “Bent Sword Horned Face”

The discovery of skull bones that have proved to represent a new species of Late Cretaceous horned dinosaur has helped palaeontologists to plug a four-million-year gap in the Ceratopsidae fossil record.  Researchers, writing in the on line, open access journal PLOS One, describe Machairoceratops cronusi, believed to be relatively basal member of the Centrosaurine group of horned dinosaurs.  The fossils, from Utah, help to fill an evolutionary gap in the horned dinosaur fauna known from southern Laramidia, with Machairoceratops fitting in between the earlier Centrosaurine Diabloceratops and the later Centrosaurine Nasutoceratops.

An Illustration of the Bizarre Bent-Horned Centrosaurine Machairoceratops cronusi

An illustration of a small herd of  Machairoceratops dinosaurs by Mark Witton.

An illustration of a small herd of Machairoceratops dinosaurs by Mark Witton.

Picture Credit: Mark Witton

A wide variety of North American ceratopsid dinosaurs have been described over the last decade or so.  Last week for example, Everything Dinosaur reported on the discovery of a new species of horned dinosaur from the Judith River Formation of Montana – Spiclypeus shipporum.  To read an article about this dinosaur: New Horned Dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of Montana.

A field team first unearthed fragments that represented elements of the skull in 2006 at the famous Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, in southern Utah.  A further three seasons in the field were required to complete the exploration, sadly no post cranial material could be found.  However, from the configuration of the epiparietals and the horn cores the scientists were soon convinced that they had found a new species.

The Fossils of Machairoceratops cronusi and a Ghost Outline of the Complete Skull

Machairoceratops fossils

A right lateral view of the fossil material associated with Machairoceratops.

Picture Credit: Lund et al (PLOS One)

The picture above shows (A) a right lateral view of the fossil material associated with Machairoceratops cronusi mapped against a ghosted outline of the inferred skull.  To the left of the picture the braincase (BC) is shown.  Diagram B shows the skull in dorsal view, whilst diagram C shows a complete reconstruction of the entire skull, note the curvature of the central parietals (p1 left and p1 right), it is these curved elements that gave this dinosaur its name.

Head Spikes More Than a Metre Long

Each curved head spike (represented by p1 left and p1 right in diagram A above), would have measured around 1.2 metres in length, that’s slightly longer than a driver in a set of golf clubs used by a professional, male golfer.  However, despite this impressive headgear, the researchers estimate that Machairoceratops was not huge by horned dinosaur standards.  Based on skull comparisons with more complete specimens, palaeontologists have suggested that this dinosaur would have been around six metres in length and would have weighed around two tonnes.  Lead author of the scientific paper, graduate student Eric Lund (Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine), suggests that the head crest ornamentation may have had a role in visual signalling, such as selecting mates and establishing a social position within the herd.

Stratigraphic Assessment of the Position of Machairoceratops in Relation to Other Horned Dinosaur Fossils

A stratigraphic profile of the Wahweap and the Kaiparowits Formation.

A stratigraphic profile of the Wahweap and the Kaiparowits Formation.

Picture Credit: Lund et al (PLOS One) with additional notation by Everything Dinosaur

Filling a Four-Million-Year Old Gap in the Centrosaurinae

The discovery of M. cronusi in strata that was laid down some 77 million years ago has helped to plug a four-million-year gap in the Centrosaurine fossil record from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  Fossils of an earlier Centrosaurine called Diabloceratops eatoni have been found in rocks that date to around 80 million years ago.  The fossil material related to Machairoceratops fills the gap between Diabloceratops and the later, almost equally bizarrely horned Centrosaurine Nasutoceratops titusi, whose fossils are associated with the overlying Kaiparowits Formation and date to around 75-76 million years ago.

Commenting on the naming of this new type of Late Cretaceous herbivorous dinosaur, Eric Lund stated:

“The  finding fills in an important gap in the fossil record of southern Laramidia, an area that included Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico during the Late Cretaceous period.  The discovery of Machairoceratops not only increases the known diversity of Ceratopsians from southern Laramidia, it also narrows an evolutionary information gap that spans nearly 4 million years between Diabloceratops eatoni from the lower middle Wahweap Formation and Nasutoceratops titusi.”

Once again, palaeontologists have gained fresh insight to the amazing diversity and variety of horned dinosaurs from North America.  The genus name is from “ceratops”, meaning horned face and the Greek “machairis” for bent sword, in deference to those curved central parietals.  The species name is from the mythical Greek titan (Cronus, also known as Kronos), whose symbol is a scythe or curved sword.

“Spiked Shield” Horned Dinosaur from Montana

Spiclypeus shipporum – Adding to the Judith River Formation Biota

When Dr. Bill Shipp, a retired nuclear physicist, invested in a property in Montana, he little thought that he would be making a significant contribution to palaeontology.  However, thanks to the chance discovery of some disarticulated fossil material found on his land, a new species of horned dinosaur has been named and described.  The fossilised bones of a new type of Chasmosaurine ceratopsid were found in 2005 and purchased by the Canadian Museum of Nature last year.  The material which includes about fifty percent of the skull, rib fragments, dorsal vertebrae and limb bones was studied by an international team of scientists including our chum Pete Larson (Black Hills Institute of Geological Research), David Evans (Royal Ontario Museum) and lead author of the academic paper published in the open access on line journal PLOS One, Jordan Mallon of the Canadian Museum of Nature.

An Illustration of the Newly Described Horned Dinosaur Spiclypeus shipporum

An illustration of the new species of horned dinosaur from Montana - Spiclypeus.

An illustration of the new species of horned dinosaur from Montana – Spiclypeus shipporum.

Picture Credit: Mike Skrepnick

One Very Tough Dinosaur Indeed!

The beautiful illustration of S. shipporum above depicts the dinosaur with its left forelimb raised off the ground.  The left humerus showed extensive pathology – acute arthritis and osteomyelitis (bone infection).  This dinosaur would have been in a great deal of pain and it was likely that the left forelimb could not support the animal’s weight.  Dr. Edward Iuliano, a radiologist at the Kadlec Regional Medical Centre (Richland, Washington), one of the authors of the scientific paper conducted an in-depth analysis of the pathology.  It is likely that the animal lived for a number of years but was effectively crippled.

Dr. Mallon explained:

“If you look near the elbow, you can see great openings that developed to drain an infection.  We don’t know how the bone became infected, but we can be sure that it caused the animal great pain for years and probably made its left forelimb useless for walking.”

Some of the Fossil Bones (Limb bones and partial Ilium) from Spiclypeus shipporum

Limb bones and ilium of Spiclypeus shipporum.  The infected end of the humerus can be seen (d).

Limb bones and ilium of Spiclypeus shipporum. The infected end of the humerus can be seen (c and d).

Picture Credit PLOS One

In addition to the severely damaged left forelimb, this dinosaur nicknamed “Judith” after the Judith River Formation, had suffered a head injury.  The left squamosal bone shows two distinct holes.  Although holes in the head shield of Chasmosaurine dinosaurs are quite common, they do not normally occur so close to the margins.  The skull of this dinosaur is unique in having multiple squamosal fenestrae and the ones close to the left side of the head shield are probably more evidence of pathology.  Signs of bone infection (osteomyelitis) support this hypothesis.  Although the scientists cannot be certain how the injury occurred, it has been speculated that the wound could have been the result of intra-specific combat, that is, a fight with another Spiclypeus.

Dr Jordan Mallon with a Cast of the Dinosaur Skull (CMN 57081)

The circled area shows the injury to the skull on the dinosaur Spiclypeus shipporum.

The circled area shows the injury to the skull on the dinosaur Spiclypeus shipporum.

Picture Credit: The Canadian Museum of Nature with additional notation by Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows Dr. Jordan Mallon next to the cast of the skull, we have ringed the damaged element of the squamosal.  In the excellent illustration by Mike Skrepnick, the wound to the skull is depicted but many media outlets have failed to pick up this detail in the drawing.

A Close up of the Mike Skrepnick Illustration Showing the Wound to the Side of the Head

The ringed area in the picture shows the wound on the head of Spiclypeus.

The ringed area in the picture shows the wound on the head of Spiclypeus.

Picture Credit: Mike Skrepnick with additional notation by Everything Dinosaur

Not Much Better for Spiclypeus Post-mortem

Dr. Shipp arranged for the fossil material to be professionally collected, the material was scattered across a bedding plane and two tyrannosaurid teeth found nearby and associated bite marks on the bone indicate that the carcase was scavenged before burial.  The crushed and broken nature of the bones suggest that the bones were trampled upon, most probably by other herbivorous dinosaurs.  The dinosaur may have been nicknamed “Judith” after the Judith River Formation from which the fossils come, but it is not possible to determine whether the specimen represents a male or a female.  A special exhibition is being held at the Canadian Museum of Nature that features the fossilised bones of this new species of horned dinosaur.  The exhibition starts on May 24th.

Landowner Dr. Shipp Next to a Cast of the Fossil Skull

Dr. Bill Shipp with a cast of the skull of Spiclypeus.

Dr. Bill Shipp with a cast of the skull of Spiclypeus.

Picture Credit: Canadian Museum of Nature

The massive skull measures 254 centimetres in length, stands 116 centimetres high and is 122 centimetres wide at its widest point.  Spiclypeus shipporum is estimated to have been around 4.5 to 5 metres long and to have weighed around 2,000 kilogrammes.  A cross-sectional analysis of the bone structure of the femur indicates that this individual was fully grown when it died and was between seven and ten years of age.

Dr. Mallon and his colleagues named the dinosaur Spiclypeus shipporum.  The genus name is a combination of two Latin words meaning “spiked shield”, the trivial name honours Dr. Shipp.  The dinosaur’s name is pronounced (spick-lip-ee-us ship-or-rum).

What distinguishes Spiclypeus shipporum from other members of the Chasmosaurinae such as the later Torosaurus and Triceratops is the orientation of the horns over the eyes.  The brow horns stick out sideways from the skull.  In addition, there is also a unique arrangement to the bony epiparietals (the horns and spikes that surround the head crest), some of the medially located epiparietals curl forward while others project outward.

76 Million-Year-Old Horned Dinosaur

Commenting on the significance of this fossil discovery, Dr Mallon Stated:

“This is a spectacular new addition to the family of horned dinosaurs that roamed western North America between 85 and 66 million years ago.  It provides new evidence of dinosaur diversity during the Late Cretaceous period from an area that is likely to yield even more discoveries.”

As the fossil material were excavated from the Coal Ridge Member of the Upper Cretaceous Judith River Formation, the fossil material is around 76 million years old (Campanian faunal stage).  Phylogenetic assessment suggests that Spiclypeus was closely related to Kosmoceratops and Vagaceratops and its discovery will help scientists to assess the evolution of the head crest and head crest ornamentation within Chasmosaurine dinosaurs.  Spiclypeus is one of only six valid Ceratopsidae genera described from the Judith River Formation, whereas, the contemporaneous Belly River Group (southern Alberta, Canada) has provided evidence of at least fourteen types of horned dinosaurs.  In comparison, the Ceratopsidae fauna from the Judith River Formation is relatively poorly understood, but the discovery of Spiclypeus does support the hypothesis that there was rapid evolution in this part of North America towards the end of the Cretaceous and that many regions supported their own unique dinosaur fauna.  The unique fauna may have come about as species evolved different dietary specialisations, in biology this is known as a form of niche partitioning.

The other five valid Ceratopsidae species currently recognised from the Judith River Formation are:

  1. Avaceratops (Centrosaurine) – named in 1986.
  2. Albertaceratops (Centrosaurine) – named in 2007.
  3. Judiceratops (Chasmosaurine) – named in 2013.
  4. Medusaceratops (Chasmosaurine) – named in 2010, to read an article about the naming of Medusaceratops: New Horned Dinosaur from Montana
  5. Mercuriceratops (Chasmosaurine) – named in 2014, to read an article on the discovery of Mercuriceratops: Mercuriceratops gemini

JurassicCollectables Reviews the Colour Variant Papo T. rex

A Video Review of the Papo Colour Variant T. rex

With the arrival of the splendid Papo colour variant Tyrannosaurus rex model at Everything Dinosaur we thought it would be a good idea to mark the addition of this super dinosaur replica to our range by sharing the video review made by JurassicCollectables.  The video reviewing the Papo T. rex dinosaur model by JurassicCollectables really does this 2016 figure justice and the clear, close up photography shows off the fantastic colour scheme of this meat-eating dinosaur.

JurassicCollectables Reviews the Papo Tyrannosaurus rex Colour Variant

Video Credit: JurassicCollectables

Detailed Video

In the twelve minute long video, the narrator starts with the head and points out the details including the fine paintwork on the articulated jaw.  The colour scheme is not quite as purple looking as other re-painted T. rex models made by Papo, but JurassicCollectables describe this model as “exquisite” with “really lovely work by Papo”.  The model is even shown in ventral view (looking at the belly), in this view the wonderful detail of the scales on the body can be made out, this is once again an excellent model from the Papo stable.

To view the Papo dinosaur range available at Everything Dinosaur: Papo Dinosaur Models and Prehistoric Animals

The Running T. rex Colour Variant Dinosaur Model by Papo

Papo Running T. rex new colour version

Papo Running T. rex new colour version

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Splendid Theropod and a Welcome Addition to the Papo Model Range

The video shows the musculature of the sculpt and points out similarities as well as differences with other Tyrannosaurus rex models produced by Papo.  The coloured variant is compared with the Running T. rex model and there is even a brief appearance by the exceptionally rare green standing Tyrannosaurus rex figure that was retired by Papo some years ago.  Off-colour Alan was so impressed by the quality of the video that he was “bowled over” and he could not stand up to provide a scale next to this new for 2016 Papo replica.

Those clever people at JurassicCollectables have produced video reviews of every prehistoric animal replica that Papo have manufactured, to see these videos and to subscribe to their very informative YouTube channel: Subscribe to JurassicCollectables on YouTube

There are still a number of new for 2016 models expected at Everything Dinosaur in the coming weeks, the spring has been a busy time for the UK based company with lots of new prehistoric animal replicas from Rebor, CollectA, Safari Ltd as well as the introduction of the Battat Terra line of dinosaur figures.

Concerns for the Coastal Norfolk Fossil Sites

Experts Fear for Fossils and Safety of Fossil Hunters

Scientists at the Norfolk Museums Service along with British palaeontologists and geology societies have expressed concern over the rise in unscrupulous fossil hunting activities being reported from parts of the Norfolk coast.  These famous Pleistocene age deposits have yielded an extensive array of vertebrate fossils including many large mammals such as rhino and elephant.  One of England’s most important fossil finds, the spectacular West Runton elephant (more correctly termed a Steppe Mammoth – Mammuthus trogontherii), was found in the cliffs.  The discovery, the first bones were found in 1990, represents the largest and oldest nearly complete fossil mammoth from the UK.  Bones and teeth can still be found on the foreshore but sadly, there has been a rise in reports of fossil hunters digging into the cliffs in a bid to find more specimens.

A spokesperson for the Norfolk Museums Service advised against such excavation, not only would the digging potentially damage any fossil material but as the cliffs were unstable, working so close to the cliffs was very dangerous.  He expressed grave concern following reports of a rise in the number of fossil hunters “hacking into the cliff tops”

The Foreshore and Cliffs at West Runton (North Norfolk)

A view of the famous West Runton beach, a great place to find fossils.

A view of the famous West Runton beach, a great place to find fossils.

Picture Credit:

The freshwater Pleistocene deposits and associated Cretaceous chalks yield a large number of different types of fossil.  As well as freshwater molluscs and mammal remains from the freshwater beds, the chalk is highly fossiliferous and different types sea urchin and fossil sponges can be found.  The picture above shows a view of West Runton beach and the dangerous cliffs, the pier at Cromer can be seen in the background.

A team member from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“This part of the Norfolk coast is subject to high levels of erosion, we would urge all fossil collectors to stay on the beach and look for fossils at low tide along the foreshore, the rapidly eroding cliffs are delivering lots of fossil material onto the beach area and this is a wonderful location for a family fossil hunt.  However, please don’t dig into the cliffs and we urge all visitors to follow the fossil collecting code.”

For an article on the fossil collecting code and a guide to safe collecting: Everything Dinosaur’s Guide to Fossil Collecting Safely

Register Fossil Finds with the Norfolk Museums Service

A partial Mammoth tooth was found nearby last month and no doubt other finds will be reported over the summer at this popular tourist attraction.  Palaeontologist Dr. Waterhouse of the Norfolk Museums Service and the leader of the Cromer Forest-bed Fossil Project reminded fossil hunters that it was good practice to report finds to the Norfolk Museum Service, the museum at Cromer just a few miles from West Runton, was a good place to take any fossil finds and team members from the Norfolk Museums Service would be happy to assist with identification.  As Mammoth fossils, especially tusks and teeth are very popular with collectors, it is likely that many of the overzealous fossil hunting activities have been driven by the high prices such fossils make on auction sites.

A Model of a Woolly Mammoth (M. primigenius)

A model of a Woolly Mammoth.

A model of a Woolly Mammoth.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Dr. Waterhouse said:

“Norfolk is the best place in the country and probably Europe to find Mammoth remains because they went through about six sets of teeth in their lifetime, so there is a lot more teeth than there were Mammoths.  Something that I think needs highlighting is poor and even dangerous fossil collecting by people hacking into the cliffs at places like West Runton.  Ethical collecting is high on my agenda, and also recording fossil finds as part of the Cromer Forest-bed Fossil Project, so that important scientific information isn’t lost forever.”

At Everything Dinosaur we echo the views of Dr. Waterhouse and we urge fossil hunters to take care and to abide by the fossil collecting code as well as local bye laws and regulations.

Is this Four-Year-Old the “Youngest Dinosaur Educator”?

Australian Four-Year-Old Dinosaur Expert in the Guinness Book of Records?

During Everything Dinosaur’s daily trawl of news channels looking for prehistoric animal related media releases and dinosaur news stories we came across this piece from the Australian media outlet  Sydney based Hill Wang and Qing Zhang have put forward their four-year-old son to the Guinness World Records organisation in a bid to have him recognised as the “Youngest Dinosaur Educator”.

A Clever Little Boy But Is He the “Youngest Dinosaur Educator”?

Makan Wang has memorised details of more than 30 prehistoric animal species.

Makan Wang has memorised details of more than 30 prehistoric animal species.

Picture Credit: Ehsan Knopf/9NEWS

Young Makan Wang has managed to memorise a lot of facts about prehistoric animals, especially dinosaurs.  His parents claim that he has learned about more than thirty different species, hence their bid to have four-year-old Makan officially recognised by the Guinness World Records organisation as the “Youngest Dinosaur Educator”.

Makan’s mother Ms Zhang explained to a reporter at that her son had memorised the information about these long extinct creatures by watching television programmes and as a result, with the aid of illustrated prompt cards, he can now recall a number of names and dinosaur facts on command.

Impressive But Not Exceptional

Given Everything Dinosaur’s extensive outreach work in schools and museums, our team members get to meet thousands of young people every year and although Makan has an impressive amount of knowledge, in the opinion of team members at the Cheshire (UK) based company, his ability to recall dinosaur facts and figures is not out of the ordinary.

Mike Walley, one of the teaching team members commented:

“It is always great to hear that dinosaurs are capturing the imaginations of young children and helping them to develop their vocabulary and their understanding of the world, but we meet dozens and dozens of children every year who demonstrate an astonishing level of knowledge and whilst Makan’s recall of facts and figures is impressive, based on what information we have from the news story, he is not exceptional.”

A Very Big Fan of the Dinosauria

Makan clearly loves learning all about prehistoric animals.

Makan clearly loves learning all about prehistoric animals.

Picture Credit: Ehsan Knopf/9NEWS

Proud Parents

Makan’s parents should be very proud of their clever little boy.  His fascination for dinosaurs is clearly evident but is he the “Youngest Dinosaur Educator”?  This title is an epithet that the parents themselves came up with, but we have met many equally enthusiastic dinosaur buffs who could give Makan a run for his money.

His mum, Qing Zhang explained:

“He’s got an amazing memory.  He can tell what each dinosaur’s traits are, what period they lived in, whether they’re omnivores or herbivores.”

Makan’s dinosaur expertise at such a young age is admirable, especially when you consider that the little boy can’t read, however, in our experience working with Nursery and Reception-aged children, most classes tend to have a classroom dinosaur expert with an equally impressive ability to recall dinosaur facts and figures.

With an application submitted to the Guinness World Records, we wish Mr Wang, Ms Zhang and young Makan all the very best with this endeavour and we wholeheartedly agree with their sentiments when mum comments:

“We wanted recognition that he is young and is doing an amazing job.  Whether he wins it or not, for us, it doesn’t really matter that much.  We want him to continue to learn and this is encouragement for him.  We’re so proud of him and we’re happy to see where he goes from here.”

Do You Know of a Young Dinosaur Expert?

Mums and dads, grandparents and guardians, do you know of a budding palaeontologist that could take on the title of being the “Youngest Dinosaur Educator”?  Our team members are constantly amazed by the level of pre-knowledge that very young children demonstrate when it comes to introducing a dinosaur topic at school, our dinosaur experts have even been corrected on a few occasions when we ourselves have tripped up over our dinosaur facts and figures – we would be delighted to hear from other proud grown-ups who might have their very own resident dinosaur expert in the family.

Now there’s a challenge!

JurassicCollectables CollectA 2016 Unboxing (Part 2)

JurassicCollectables and CollectA 2016 (part 2)

Over the weekend Everything Dinosaur team members were able to catch up with their correspondence and time was found to view some of the prehistoric animal videos that we had been looking forward to seeing.  One such video was this excellent review of the next batch of CollectA prehistoric animals to hit the shelves in our warehouse.  This was a sort of “peep behind the scenes” by JurassicCollectables, the five models featured in this short review are not yet released and they won’t be available for a few weeks yet, so we are grateful to the talented team at JurassicCollectables who took time out to make this ten minute video – just enough to whet the appetites of dinosaur fans and model collectors.

New for 2016 CollectA Unboxing by JurassicCollectables (Part 2)

Video Credit: JurassicCollectables

The models featured are (in appearance order) the majestic marine reptile Thalassomedon (pronounced Fal-lass-so-me-don), the “ostrich mimic” Struthiomimus, a tyrannosaurid Lythronax and last but not least the deluxe 1:20 scale Andrewsarchus and the Deinocheirus figure.   The narrator takes the viewer through each replica in turn and takes care to point out the details, such as the splendid feathers on the Theropods and the air brushing on the fearsome Andrewsarchus.  Particular attention is paid to the  Deinocheirus replica, a model of a dinosaur that recently (2014), received a makeover following the publication of a new scientific paper reporting on a study of more complete fossil material, first muted a few months earlier at the annual Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology meeting.

Coming Soon the New Interpretation of Deinocheirus (D. mirificus)

Available from Everything Dinosaur in 2016.

Available from Everything Dinosaur in 2016.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the range of CollectA not to scale models available at Everything Dinosaur: CollectA Prehistoric Life Models

For the CollectA Deluxe and the Supreme range of replicas: CollectA Deluxe Scale Models and Supreme Range

This is the second CollectA unboxing video that JurassicCollectables have shot in the last few months.  In their first CollectA unboxing video, posted up on the Everything Dinosaur blog in the last week of April, the earlier 2016 CollectA releases featured including the splendid Torvosaurus dinosaur model.  To see this video: JurassicCollectables CollectA Unboxing (Part 1)

JurassicCollectables can be found on YouTube and their channel is packed with lots of amazing and extremely informative prehistoric animal videos, check out this most professional YouTube site, we urge you to take a look and we suggest that blog readers may like to subscribe: Check out the JurassicCollectables YouTube Channel

Happy 90th Birthday Sir David Attenborough

Happy 90th Birthday Sir David Attenborough

On this day in 1926, the English naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough was born.  Today, we celebrate Sir David’s (he was knighted in 1985), ninetieth birthday.  His contribution to our understanding of the natural world has been immense.  He can now add the title of nonagenarian to his array of awards and accolades.  On behalf of everyone at Everything Dinosaur we would like to wish Sir David “many happy returns”.

Happy Birthday Sir David Attenborough

Happy 'Birthday Sir David Attenborough.

Happy ‘Birthday Sir David Attenborough.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur with images from the BBC

Today, a lot of media outlets will be paying tribute to the body of work with which Sir David Attenborough has been associated.  He has been a part of so many people’s lives and documented our rapidly changing world.  Through his eyes and his narration we have seen and heard about this remarkable ecosystem that we are very much a part of, but sadly, most of us have lost touch with.

In the office over this weekend we have been sharing our thoughts about some of the amazing programmes, many of which were ground-breaking documentaries that this stalwart of British broadcasting has worked on over a BBC and programme making career that extends to more than six decades.  Some of us remember watching a programme called “Fabulous Animals” which was broadcast in the mid 1970’s and (if we recall correctly), was shown during the summer holidays.  In this series, David (not to be knighted for another ten years or so), explored stories relating to mythical creatures such as mermaids, griffins and the Loch Ness monster.  These programmes have not been seen by any of us for half a lifetime, but we can recall the enthusiastic presenter explaining and enthralling us with tales of these astonishing creatures.

Life on Earth (1979)

The documentary series “Life on Earth” was to follow, a joint venture between the BBC and Warner Bros/Reiner Moritz Productions, a thirteen-part documentary series that charted the story of life and evolution.  This seminal and highly influential television series was to form the basis of a body of work that, in our opinion has not been surpassed.

A Fascination for Fossils

As a young boy growing up in the county of Leicester, Sir David was passionate about fossil collecting, an enthusiasm he still has, although sadly with dodgy knees and a pacemaker, his days of clambering over rocks in search of petrified evidence of ancient life might be behind him.  Nonetheless, as a presenter and narrator he has still played a pivotal role in enthusing the next generation of budding palaeontologists and fossil collectors.

Sir David Discusses Trilobites with Professor Richard Fortey

Sir David Attenborough discussing Trilobites with Professor Richard Fortey.

Sir David Attenborough discussing Trilobites with Professor Richard Fortey.

Picture Credit: BBC

Over the next few days the BBC will be showing a number of programmes and documentaries that celebrate the work of this much admired naturalist and broadcaster and last week it was announced that Sir David’s first foray into television “Zoo Quest” was to be broadcast in colour for the first time.


Sir David has been honoured on numerous occasions and has a number of living and extinct species named after him as well as a polar research vessel.  For example, back in 2008, when Sir David was a sprightly eighty-two year old, Everything Dinosaur reported on the discovery of a placoderm fossil in Australia that showed evidence of viviparity (live birth).  The animal was named Materpiscis attenboroughiA Fishy Tale Indeed and fans of marine reptiles will know that the Pliosaur Attenborosaurus conybeari honours Sir David and the 19th Century English geologist William Conybeare.

The CollectA Attenborosaurus Model

Named in honour of Sir David Atttenborough.

Named in honour of Sir David Attenborough.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To purchase a model of Attenborosaurus (Attenborough’s lizard): CollectA Attenborosaurus model

From all of us at Everything Dinosaur, happy birthday Sir David.

Atopodentatus Unzipped

Atopodentatus unicus Has a Makeover

In April 2014, Everything Dinosaur reported on the discovery of a bizarre Triassic marine reptile from south-western China called Atopodentatus unicus.  The skull and jaws were described as being highly unusual, with nothing like them having been found in the fossil record of marine vertebrates before.  The upper jaw was thought to resemble a slit with small teeth forming a fine sieve or comb-like structure.  This bizarre creature was assumed to be a specialist carnivore and it was held up as an example of how the marine ecosystems had bounced back and produced strange new animals in the shadow of the End Permian extinction event.

It turns out that Atopodentatus may not have been so bizarre after all, however, its existence does help to support the theory that marine food chains did indeed recover remarkably quickly following the mass extinction that marked the end of the Palaeozoic.  In a paper published in “Science Advances”, the skull and jaws of this three-metre-long reptile have been re-examined.  Atopodentatus was certainly a specialist, but most likely a herbivore with a jaw shaped like a hammerhead used to graze on seaweeds and algae.  As such, it is the earliest example of herbivory in marine reptiles, pre-dating the previously earliest known marine animals to have eaten plants by some eight million years.

A New Interpretation of Atopodentatus unicus – A Marine Reptile Herbivore

An illustration of Atopodentatus unicus.

An illustration of Atopodentatus unicus.

Picture Credit: Y. Chen, Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (IVPP).

“Unzipping” a Marine Reptile

More fossils unearthed in China’s Yunnan Province by scientists from the IVPP allowed researchers to see further examples of the preserved skull and jaws, although flattened and crushed like other fossil material, analysis of the jaw and skull morphology using modelling clay led the scientists to conclude that Atopodentatus did not have “zipper jaws”, but rather a hammerhead structure, which is still a remarkable adaptation.

Close up Images of Fully Prepared Atopodentatus Skull Material

A = Dorsal view of Atopodentatus skull, whilst B = Ventral view of Atopodentatus skull.

A = Dorsal view of Atopodentatus skull, whilst B = Ventral view of Atopodentatus skull.

Picture Credit: W. Gao, Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (IVPP)

The photograph shows two views of flattened A. unicus skull material (A) a dorsal view, from the top down and (B) a ventral view, viewed from the bottom.  The scientists, which included Olivier Rieppel (The Field Museum, Chicago) and Nicholas Fraser (National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh) as well as Li Chun (IVPP) and Cheng Long (Wuhan Centre of China Geological Survey), have deduced that this marine reptile rasped off algae and plants from rocks and then sucked in the suspended plant remains filtering out the food from the seawater using its needle-like teeth.

Commenting on the research, Dr. Rieppel stated:

“It’s a very strange animal!  It’s got a hammerhead, which is unique, it’s the first time we’ve seen a reptile like this.  To figure out how the jaw fitted together and how the animal actually fed, we bought children’s clay, kind of like Play-Doh and rebuilt it with toothpicks to represent the teeth.  We looked at how the upper and lower jaw locked together and that’s how we proceeded to describe it.”

Modelling Clay Helped Map the Morphology of this Middle Triassic Marine Herbivore

Assessing the dentition and jaw morphology of Atopodentatus using modelling clay.

Assessing the dentition and jaw morphology of Atopodentatus using modelling clay.

Picture Credit: Dr. Rieppel (Field Museum)

Strange Jaws and Teeth

The hammerhead shaped jaws, also described by Everything Dinosaur team members as an “upside down T shape” had peg-like teeth along their edges.  Further back into the mouth, Atopodentatus had bunches of needle-like teeth.

How Did Atopodentatus Feed on Plant Material?

An illustration Atopodentatus feeding underwater.

An illustration Atopodentatus feeding underwater.

Picture Credit: Y. Chen (IVPP)

The scientists describe the feeding mechanism of Atopodentatus thus:

The spatulate, peg-like teeth lining the hammerhead were probably used to scrape off plant material such as seaweed and algae from submerged rocks.  This would result in large amounts of plant matter being suspended in the water.  This was then sucked into the mouth and filtered by the long, thin and closely packed needle-shaped teeth located more posteriorly in the mouth.  Not only did the jaws of Atopodentatus resemble a vacuum cleaner attachment, it sucked like a vacuum cleaner too.

Dr Rieppel observed:

“The jaw structure is clearly that of an herbivore.  It has similarities to other marine animals that ate plants with a filter-feeding system, but Atopodentatus is older than them by about eight million years.”

A Model of the Redefined Skull of Atopodentatus with Fossil Material for Comparison

A model of Atopodentatus shown against the flattened skull fossil.

A model of Atopodentatus shown against the flattened skull fossil.

Picture Credit: Nicholas Fraser (National Museums Scotland)

A Recovering Ecosystem

The evolution of such a bizarre-looking marine reptile, not long after the End Permian extinction event, helps to support the hypothesis that vertebrates bounced back relatively quickly following the mass extinction of much of the back-boned fauna of the Late Permian.  However, instead of being placed in food webs representing the eastern Tethys Ocean of the Middle Triassic as carnivore (feeding on zooplankton and crustaceans), the position of Atopodentatus will have to be modified to reflect its diet.

To read the original story describing Atopodentatus: Bizarre New Triassic Marine Reptile Described

For an article that looks at the food web of the eastern Tethys Ocean during the Triassic: Chinese Sea Dragon Hints at Triassic Marine Fauna Recovery

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