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20 09, 2017

Beelzebufo ampinga- Consumer of Dinosaurs

By | September 20th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Giant Prehistoric Frog Capable of Tackling Small Dinosaurs

Ever since it was formally named and described back in 2008, the beach-ball-sized Late Cretaceous frog Beelzebufo (B. ampinga) has fascinated scientists.  The fossil record of frogs (Order Anura), is very poor, although these small, usually unobtrusive creatures have a long evolutionary history.  Imagine the surprise of palaeontologists when they discovered the fossilised remains of a 68 million-year-old monster frog in Upper Cretaceous deposits in Madagascar.

The Late Cretaceous Giant Frog Beelzebufo Compared to an Extant Bull Frog

Beelzebufo (Late Cretaceous) compared to an extant Bull Frog.

Beelzebufo ampinga illustrated.

Picture Credit: Associated Press

It had been speculated that this huge frog could have eaten small dinosaurs.  Writing in the scientific journal “Scientific Reports”, a team of researchers including scientists from the University of Adelaide have concluded that “the frog from hell” had a strong bite capable of tackling relatively large prey, including, potentially, reptiles, birds and mammals.  Small dinosaurs and juveniles of larger species of dinosaur could have been on Beelzebufo’s menu!

Scaling up the Bite Forces from South American Horned Frogs

The vast majority of the frogs and toads alive today have relatively weak jaws.  Most of these amphibians specialise in attacking prey much smaller than themselves such as insects and slugs.   However, one living group of frogs, the South American horned frogs (genus Ceratophrys), are an exception.  These large-mouthed frogs have voracious appetites and their comically big heads allow them to tackle much more substantial prey items.  By scaling up the bite force readings from these types of frogs, the researchers concluded that a frog the size of Beelzebufo could have had a bite force in excess of 2,200 newtons, that’s about twice as much force as a typical adult human can generate when the force of the bite from their molars is assessed.

Measuring the Bite Force of Ceratophrys

Measuring the bite force in extant horned frogs.

An individual Ceratophrys cranwelli biting a force transducer.

Picture Credit: University of Adelaide

One of the paper’s authors, Dr Marc Jones (University of Adelaide) explained:

“Unlike the vast majority of frogs which have weak jaws and typically consume small prey, horned frogs ambush animals as large as themselves, including other frogs, snakes, and rodents.  Their powerful jaws play a critical role in grabbing and subduing the prey.”

The study found that small horned frogs, with a head width of about 4.5 centimetres, can bite with a force of 30 newtons (N) or about 3 kg of pressure.  When these readings were scaled up to take into account much larger extant species, such as the horned frogs from South America, the researchers concluded that for frogs with a head width of around 10 centimetres a bite force of almost 500 newtons could be generated.

Based on their scaling data, the scientists estimated the bite force of the giant extinct frog Beelzebufo may have been up to 2,200 N, comparable to formidable mammalian predators such as female tigers and wolves.

Dr Jones stated:

“At this bite force, Beelzebufo would have been capable of subduing the small and juvenile dinosaurs that shared its environment.”

Persuading Frogs to Bite onto a Custom-made Force Transducer

Corresponding author for the scientific paper, Professor Kristopher Lappin of the Biological Sciences Department, California State Polytechnic University, (California), outlined how the study was undertaken.  The scientists managed to persuade their amphibian subjects to bite down onto leather straps attached to a custom-made force transducer.  This device provided an accurate measurement of the amount of force being applied by the animal.

Professor Lappin said:

“This is the first time bite force has been measured in a frog and speaking from experience, horned frogs have quite an impressive bite and they tend not to let go.  The bite of a large Beelzebufo would have been remarkable, definitely not something I would want to experience.”

It seems those assumptions made by the original researchers back in 2008 were right, based on this evidence Beelzebufo would have been more than capable of snapping up a small dinosaur for dinner.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s 2008 article about the discovery of Beelzebufo and its implications for the radiation of frogs: Beelzebufo – The Frog from Hell

19 09, 2017

New Papo and Prehistoric Animal Model Retirements

By | September 19th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|1 Comment

Papo New Releases and Retirements (Les Dinosaures)

Just arrived at Everything Dinosaur, a limited edition Papo gift box dinosaur model set.  The Papo special edition gift box features two dinosaurs, a Papo juvenile Spinosaurus and a Papo Ceratosaurus.  The Papo Juvenile Spinosaurus is a new figure, Everything Dinosaur team members saw this model around twelve months ago, it is not known whether this super Spinosaurus will be available as an individual model in 2018.

The Papo Juvenile Spinosaurus and the Papo Ceratosaurus Special Edition Gift Box

Papo juvenile Spinosaurus and the Papo Ceratosaurus special edition gift box.

The Papo juvenile Spinosaurus and the Papo Ceratosaurus gift box.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Papo Juvenile Spinosaurus

The Papo juvenile Spinosaurus measures eighteen centimetres in length and like the similarly sized Ceratosaurus, it has an articulated lower jaw.  The skull and body proportions have been skilfully modelled by the Papo design team and this figure does look like a young animal.  The sail on the back is not quite as pronounced as it is in the Papo adult Spinosaurus replica and the paint scheme on the juvenile Spinosaurus is exquisite.  This pair of models are offered for sale in a special presentation gift box, or as the French would say “offre speciale”.

The Papo Juvenile Spinosaurus Model

Papo Juvenile Spinosaurus.

The Papo juvenile Spinosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Papo special edition gift box can be found here: Papo Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models

Papo Prehistoric Animal Model Retirements

There are going to be several models retired from the Papo “Les Dinosaures” range in 2018.  The Papo Pachyrhinosaurus figure, the Papo Baby Woolly Mammoth model and the baby brown T. rex are out of production and no more of these figures will be made, according to sources close to Everything Dinosaur.

Proposed Papo Model Retirements in 2018

Papo models due to retire in 2018.

The Papo Pachyrhinosaurus, Baby Woolly Mammoth and the Baby Brown T. rex are due to be retired in 2018.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Papo baby Woolly Mammoth and the baby brown Tyrannosaurus rex figures were introduced into the model range in 2012.  Originally, there were two baby T. rex figures, however, the green variant was retired some years ago.  As for the Papo juvenile Woolly Mammoth, as far as Everything Dinosaur team members are aware, this model will continue to be made next year.  It is the Papo baby Woolly Mammoth that is becoming extinct.

It is also sad to see the retirement of the Papo Pachyrhinosaurus figure.  This horned dinosaur model has proved to be very popular amongst Papo collectors.  The Papo Pachyrhinosaurus was introduced in 2010, within the Papo range there are still two Ceratopsians, naturally there is a Triceratops (adult and young), plus a brightly coloured Styracosaurus.

The Papo Pachyrhinosaurus is Being Retired

Papo Pachyrhinosaurus dinosaur model.

The Papo Pachyrhinosaurus dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

All three of the retired models are still available from Everything Dinosaur, whilst stocks last.  The Papo prehistoric animal range can be viewed here: Papo Prehistoric Animals

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We are delighted to see this special edition box set and the juvenile Spinosaurus is a very welcome addition to the Papo model portfolio.  We don’t know whether this model will be available as an individual piece but we have lobbied the senior management of Papo about this, however, no decision as to its future has been made.  Providing information on model retirements allows collectors and dinosaur fans to snap up any models before they become rare and start to sell on auction sites for silly prices.  There are some exciting new models from Papo coming next year and when we have permission to talk about them and show pictures we will post them up.”

18 09, 2017

Mysterious Dickinsonia Definitely an Animal

By | September 18th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Soft-bodied Dickinsonia – An Animal

The Late Proterozoic saw the evolution of a variety of bizarre, multi-cellular organisms, fossils of which, are extremely rare and what evidence we have, does little to shed light on where on the tree of life these organisms would sit.  Food chains existed but the organisms that made up the biota are so strange and so unlike anything alive today, it’s almost as if palaeontologists looking at Ediacaran fauna are studying life on another planet.  True, Earth back in the Ediacaran geological period (635 to 542 million years ago), was a very different place than it is now.  However, one group of scientists studying one type of Ediacaran organism – Dickinsonia, have confirmed previous studies that place this peculiar disc-shaped organism as definitely belonging to the Kingdom Animalia.  Dickinsonia, looks like nothing alive today, but it has been classified as metazoan, or possibly a placozoan – that puts it in the same Kingdom as you and me.

Dickinsonia – Classified as an Animal

Ediacaran fossils (Dickinsonia)

Dickinsonia confirmed as an animal in new study.

Picture Credit: University of Oregon

What on Earth was Dickinsonia?

Living more than 550 million years ago, Dickinsonia fossils do not resemble any living organism.  It is round or oval in shape, segmented with a distinct “head” and “tail” end, but which was the front and which was the back is debated and whether the terms “head” and “tail” are applicable at all is disputed.  As far as we at Everything Dinosaur are aware, no evidence of a gut or other internal structures have been found.  These fossils, some of which are up to a metre in diameter have been described as early jellyfish, segmented worms, fungi and even an early form of lichen.

Hundreds of examples showing all stages of growth (ontogeny) and in various states of preservation have been found, most famously from the Ediacara Hills in South Australia, from which this geological period is named. In 1946, geologist Reginald Spriggs discovered fossilised imprints in rocks in this area that represent a marine biota, an ancient sea floor.  This was the first known fossil record of multi-cellular life on Earth that predates the Cambrian.  This diverse and exquisitely preserved community of ancient organisms represents a significant snapshot of our planet’s geological heritage, but working out what these fossils represent and where they fit in with the evolution of Cambrian organisms (if they do fit in), is very much open to debate.

In a new study, carried out by scientists at Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford universities in conjunction with the British Geological Survey, strong support is provided for the theory that Dickinsonia was an animal, that it has affinities with the Metazoa, specifically the Eumetazoa plus the Placozoa.  The research is published in the “Proceedings of the Royal Society B”.

Finding a Place in Biology for Dickinsonia

Dickinsonia costata fossil.

The Ediacaran fossil Dickinsonia costata, specimen P40135 from the collections of the South Australia Museum

Picture Credit: Dr Alex Liu (Cambridge University)

The Metazoa are a very basal clade of the Kingdom Animalia.  They are animals that have three types of tissue layer in the embryo and are multi-cellular).  Metazoans are regarded as a sister group to the Porifora (Sponges).  The Placozoa are associated with the metazoans, they are represented by one living genus – Trichoplax and they are flattened, multi-cellular organisms that absorb nutrients through their surface area.

Dr Renee Hoekzema (Oxford University) and one of the authors of the research paper explained:

“Dickinsonia belongs to the Ediacaran biota, a collection of mostly soft-bodied organisms that lived in the global oceans between roughly 580 and 540 million years ago.  They are mysterious because despite there being around two hundred different species, very few of them resemble any living or extinct organism and therefore what they were, and how they relate to modern organisms, has been a long-standing palaeontological mystery.”

The team examined a large number of Dickinsonia fossils, of varying growth stages and applied a quantitative method for plotting the development of the organism, essentially how the animal grew and changed as it got bigger.  An assumption was made as to which fossils represented juveniles and which ones were adults and based on this, the researchers concluded that the growth body plan for Dickinsonia placed it within the Animalia.

This study was undertaken using the principle that growth and development are “conserved” within lineages.  To put it another way, the way a group of organisms grows today would not have changed significantly from the way its ancestors grew hundreds of millions of years ago.

Dickinsonia is composed of multiple “units” that run down the length of its body.  The researchers counted the number of these units in numerous specimens, measured their lengths and plotted these against the relative “age” of the unit, assuming growth from a particular end of the organism.  This data produced a plot with a series of curves, each of which tracked how the organism changed in the size and number of units with age, enabling the researchers to produce a computer model to replicate growth in the organism and test previous hypotheses about where and how growth occurred.

Dr Hoekzema added:

“We were able to confirm that Dickinsonia grows by both adding and inflating discrete units to its body along its central axis.  But we also recognised that there is a switch in the rate of unit addition versus inflation at a certain point in its life cycle.  All previous studies have assumed that it grew from the end where each “unit” is smallest, and was therefore considered to be youngest. We tested this assumption and interpreted our data with growth assumed from both ends, eventually coming to the conclusion that people have been interpreting Dickinsonia as having grown at the wrong end for the past seventy years.”

The First of the Ediacaran Biota to be Described

Dickinsonia was the first organism from the Ediacaran fossil material (Flinders Range), to be described (1947).  Using this computer model, the researchers were able to cross-reference data with studies into how this organism may have moved across the seabed and concluded that it was an early animal, belonging to either the Placozoa or the Eumetazoa.

An Illustration of Life in the Ediacaran Period

Ediacaran marine life.

Life in the Ediacaran.  The brown elongated disc in the centre of the picture is Dickinsonia.

Picture Credit: John Sibbick

Dr Hoekzema went onto state:

“This is one of the first times that a member of the Ediacaran biota has been identified as an animal on the basis of positive evidence.”

The methodology used in this study could be applied to other Ediacaran organisms, so long as there are sufficient fossils to comprise a significant data set.

Co-author Dr Liu stated:

“This finding demonstrates that animals were present among the Ediacaran biota and importantly confirms a number of recent findings that suggest animals had evolved several million years before the “Cambrian Explosion” that has been the focus of attention for studies into animal evolution for so long.  It also allows Dickinsonia to be considered in debates surrounding the evolution and development of key animal traits such as bilateral symmetry, segmentation and the development of body axes, which will ultimately improve our knowledge of how the earliest animals made the transition from simple forms to the diverse range of body plans we see today.”

17 09, 2017

Transforming Brains Require a Transforming Skull

By | September 17th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Bigger Brains of Birds Require Skull Modification

Most scientists agree that a group of dinosaurs, members of the Maniraptora clade, evolved into Aves.  We now have two distinct parts to the Order Dinosauria, the extinct non-avian dinosaurs and their closely related, extant kin, the avian dinosaurs (birds).  A lot of research has been undertaken in a bid to try to understand the evolutionary relationships between reptiles and birds.  The lines between these two groups may be quite blurred, but ironically, although it is accepted that brain size and morphology changed as birds evolved and that the shape of the skull changed too, the specific relationship between regions of the brain and the bones making the skull roof has not been formally tested.

Step forward an international team of scientists, including researchers from Yale University and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, they have concluded that the dramatic dinosaur to dino-bird to true bird transition was accompanied by profound changes in the bones that comprise the roof of the skull.  Plotting the changes in skull bones in the fossil record can provide important insights into the way skulls develop over the Tetrapoda as a whole.

As Birds Evolved from Dinosaurs Skull Shape and Brain Size/Morphology Changed Dramatically

Zhenyuanlong illustrated.

Very probably a ground-dwelling predator – the “dino-bird” Zhenyuanlong.

Picture Credit: Zhao Chuang

Tracking the Link Between Brain Development and Skull Roof Bones

The scientific paper, published in “Nature Ecology and Evolution” this week, represents the first time that scientists have mapped the link between skull bones and brain development.

Assistant Professor Bhart-Anjan Singh Bhullar, co-author of the paper commented:

“Across the dinosaur-bird transition, the skull transforms enormously and the brain enlarges.  We were surprised that no one had directly addressed the idea that the underlying parts of the brain — the forebrain and midbrain — are correlated or somehow developmentally related to the overlying frontal and parietal bones.”

Graduate student, Matteo Fabbri, under the tutelage of Assistant Professor Bhart-Anjan Singh Bhullar at Yale University and the lead author of the scientific paper added:

“Our paper is a milestone in the way of approaching the morphological transition from reptile and dinosaur ancestors to extant birds.”

Looking at the Skull Roof of the Asian Troodontid Zanabazar (Z. junior)

Looking at how the skull roof changed as the brain developed.

The skull morphology of the Asian troodontid Zanabazar (Z. junior).

Picture Credit: Yale University

The picture shows a CT image (computerised tomography), of the skull roof of the Asian troodontid Zanabazar junior, a dinosaur that is closely related to extant birds.  The frontal bone is highlighted in pink and the parietal is shown in green).  The location of the brain is shown in the blueish/purple colour.

Although previous studies had demonstrated a general relationship between the skull and brain development, associations between specific regions of the brain and individual bones that make up the skull roof had remained untested.  This led to conflicting theories on some aspects of skull development within the Tetrapoda.

Assistant Professor Bhullar and his co-workers set out to trace the evolution of brain and skull shape not simply in those members of the Dinosauria closest to birds, but in the entire lineage leading from reptiles to birds.  The team discovered that most reptile brains and skulls were very similar to each other.  It was the dinosaurs most closely related to birds, as well as birds themselves, that were divergent, with enlarged brains and skulls ballooning out around them.

The researchers identified a clear link between the frontal bones and the forebrain and the parietal bones and the midbrain.  This link was confirmed when the embryos of lizards, alligators and birds were examined using a new contrast-stained CT scanning methodology.

CT Scans of Various Tetrapod Skulls (Reptiles to Aves Link)

The link between skull development and brain size.

Examining the history of skull and brain development in the evolution of Aves.

Picture Credit: Yale University

The picture above shows three-dimensional, CT scans of four Tetrapods that represent stages on the reptile to bird evolutionary line.  The frontal bone is shown in pink, the parietal is depicted in green and the brain is once again shown as a blueish/purple object.  A chicken skull (top), is compared to its close dinosaurian relative, the troodontid Zanabazar (second from top).  A skull of the primitive, Late Triassic dinosaur* Herrerasaurus is shown below the skull of Zanabazar.  At the bottom, is the skull of Proterosuchus, an Early Triassic Archosauriform that is believed to be an ancestral form that diverged before the crocodile (Crurotarsi – crocodilians et al) and the bird (Ornithodira – dinosaurs, Pterosauria, Aves et al) split.

Bhullar added:

“We suggest that this relationship is found across all vertebrates with bony skulls and indicates a deep developmental relationship between the brain and the skull roof.  What this implies is that the brain produces molecular signals that instruct the skeleton to form around it, although we understand relatively little about the precise nature of that patterning.  Ultimately, one of the important messages here is that evolution is simpler and more elegant than it seems.  Multiple seemingly disparate changes — for instance to the brain and skull — could actually have one underlying cause and represent only a single, manifold transformation.”

*dinosaur Herrerasaurus – the exact phylogenetic relationship between the Herrerasauridae and the Dinosauria remains unclear.  Herrerasaurids comprise of a group of Archosaurs that show a number of dinosaurian and non-dinosaurian traits.  In a recent (2017), revision of the Dinosauria, the Herrerasauridae was classed as a sister clade to the Sauropodomorpha and placed outside of the Ornithoscelida (Theropods and Ornithischians).  Whether Herrerasaurus is a member of the Dinosauria remains open to debate.

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

16 09, 2017

Highly Respected Palaeontologist Dies at Dig Site

By | September 16th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Palaeontologist Mike Getty Dies Unexpectedly

Celebrated fossil hunter and chief fossil preparator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Mike Getty, has died unexpectedly whilst working on a Triceratops excavation north of Denver (Colorado).  A Triceratops fossil, most probably a young adult, was discovered by chance as a construction crew was removing top soil as part of the initial groundworks prior to the building of a new fire and police station.  Mike was part of a field team from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science helping to excavate and jacket the fossil bones.  Much of the material had already been removed, but Mike and some colleagues were still working on the site Monday, when he was suddenly taken ill.

Mike Getty – Famous Palaeontologist Dies Suddenly at Dig Site

Mike Getty

Renowned palaeontologist Mike Getty sadly passed away on Monday.

Picture Credit: Denver Museum of Nature and Science

A Career Dedicated to the Earth Sciences and Education

Raised in western Canada, Mike discovered a fascination for palaeontology and dinosaurs as a child, his enthusiasm was fired as a result of frequent visits to the Badlands of Alberta.  He developed a keen interest in fossils and quickly earned a reputation for being able to detect and identify fossils in the field.  He attended the University of Calgary (Alberta) and went on to lead many field teams in the world-famous Dinosaur Park Formation, uncovering and helping to map several Ceratopsian bonebeds.  Mike joined the Natural History Museum of Utah and took part in numerous excavations and helped prepare for research and public display a large number of fossil vertebrates.  He joined the Denver Museum of Nature and Science four years ago and his sudden death, at fifty years of age, has shocked and greatly saddened all his colleagues and co-workers.

Mike Getty Working at the Thornton Triceratops Excavation

Mike Gerry (chief fossil preparator - Denver Museum of Nature and Science).

Mike Getty working on a Triceratops excavation.

Picture Credit: Denver Museum of Nature and Science

A Dedicated Scientist and Teacher

Described as a dedicated scientist with a quirky, fun-loving personality, Mike’s contribution to palaeontology was recognised in 2010 when the horned dinosaur Utahceratops (U. gettyi) was named in his honour, a reflection on his contribution to the study of dinosaur fossils found in southern Utah.

Utahceratops gettyi – The Species Name Honours Mike Getty

Utahceratops scale drawing.

The species name of U. gettyi honours Mike Getty’s contribution to palaeontology.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The species name honours Mike Getty of the Utah Museum of Natural History who has been prominent in the study of dinosaur fossils found in southern Utah.  One of Mike’s last public engagements was presenting to the media an update on the Thornton Triceratops excavation.  As a skilled preparator, he knew what was required in order to ensure the preservation of delicate fossil material and the dinosaur fossil record of the western United States and Canada would have been much poorer but for the efforts of Mike.

Mike Getty Talking with the Media (Thornton Triceratops)

Mike Getty (Denver Museum of Nature and Science)

Mike Getty meeting the press discussing the Triceratops excavation at Thornton.

Picture Credit: Joe Amon (Denver Post)

Dr Andrew Farke of the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Palaeontology (Claremont, California), who worked with Mike on the Utahceratops study commented:

“He was a character in every sense of the word.  He was quirky, he had a personality and he was one of those people… it’s really hard to imagine that he’s gone now.”

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article on the discovery of Utahceratops: The Curious Ceratopsians Just Got Even More Curious

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur said:

“Our thoughts are with family and friends.  We have had the very great pleasure of being able to write about Mike’s numerous achievements in the field of palaeontology on this blog and he will be sadly missed.  We were due to write about the Thornton Triceratops excavation and the discovery of a broken Tyrannosaur tooth amongst the horned dinosaur’s fossil bones.  It was thanks to Mike’s diligence and skill that small fragmentary fossils such as this Tyrannosaur tooth could be preserved and studied, adding to our knowledge about the dinosaurs that once roamed western North America.”

15 09, 2017

Deltasuchus – Dinosaur Crunching Crocodile

By | September 15th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Deltasuchus motherali – Unlocking the Fauna of Appalachia

A team of researchers based in the United States have uncovered the remains of an early Late Cretaceous crocodile that is distantly related to modern-day crocodiles.   The discovery comes from the Arlington Archosaur Site, this location is rapidly proving to be one of the best sites for helping palaeontologists to understand the fauna of Appalachia.  During the early Late Cretaceous, much of North America was covered by a shallow sea (Western Interior Sea), the area around Fort Worth and Arlington (Texas), about 95 million years ago, was a peninsula, projecting into this tropical sea.  The peninsula was covered in swamps and marshes and the Arlington Archosaur Site (part of the Woodbine Formation), preserves a record of the animals that inhabited this low-lying area.

University of Tennessee faculty member, Stephanie Drumheller-Horton, (Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences), has described this new crocodyliform, named Deltasuchus motherali in a scientific paper published in the “Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology”.  Working in collaboration with Thomas Adams (Witte Museum) and Christopher Noto (University of Wisconsin-Parkside), Stephanie describes this ancient crocodile as a “generalist”, the shape of the skull and the jaw suggests that this crocodile, which may have grown to lengths in excess of six metres, preyed on turtles, fish and may have ambushed small dinosaurs.

Scientists Show the Skull Material of D. motherali

Deltasuchus skull material.

Stephanie Drumheller-Horton, (far left) with Thomas (Witte Museum) and Christopher Noto (University of Wisconsin-Parkside) with the skull elements of Deltasuchus motherali.

Picture Credit: University of Tennessee

The Arlington Archosaur Site

First discovered in 2003, the Arlington Archosaur Site, has provided palaeontologists with an opportunity to examine life in the Late Cretaceous on the south-western coast of Appalachia.  Very few vertebrate fossils are known from those parts of the United States that once made up the landmass called Appalachia.  The scientists are confident that more types of crocodile, turtle, fish and amphibian will be named from fossils excavated from the Arlington area.  Ornithopod fossil teeth have also been found at this dig site, but to date, no significant quantities of dinosaur bones have been excavated.

A Map Showing the Approximate Position of Arlington on Appalachia in the Early Late Cretaceous

Appalachia and the Arlington Archosaur Site.

The approximate location of Arlington in the early Late Cretaceous.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In the picture above, the red cross shows the approximate location of Arlington in the early Late Cretaceous.  The Arlington Archosaur Site is undergoing rapid residential development and the field teams are in a race with construction companies to map and excavate the area as quickly as possible.

The Arlington Archosaur Site

The Arlington Archosaur Site (Texas).

The Arlington Archosaur Site (Arlington, Texas).

Picture Credit: University of Tennessee

Commenting on the significance of the crocodyliform fossil find, Drumheller-Horton stated:

“We simply don’t have that many North American fossils from this part of the Cretaceous, the last period of the age of dinosaurs, and the eastern half of the continent is particularly poorly understood.  Fossils from the Arlington Archosaur Site are helping fill in this gap, and Deltasuchus is only the first of several new species to be reported from the locality.”

The species name of Deltasuchus motherali honours one of the site volunteers, Austin Motheral, who first uncovered the fossils of this particular crocodile with a small tractor when he was just fifteen years old.

Field Team Members and Volunteers Excavating the Fossils

Excavating bones from the Arlington Archosaur site.

Excavating the delicate bones from the Arlington Archosaur Site.

Picture Credit: University of Tennessee

13 09, 2017

The Lewes Dinosaur Project

By | September 13th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Town Aims to Honour Gideon Mantell with a Life-size Dinosaur Monument

An ambitious project to install a life-size iguanodontid in the town of Lewes (East Sussex, England), to commemorate the work of one of the most important contributors to the early study of dinosaurs, is gathering pace.  The dinosaur-themed monument would act as a fitting tribute and memorial to Dr Gideon Mantell who made such a significant contribution to the nascent science of palaeontology in the early part of the 19th Century.  Mantell was born in the town of Lewes (1790), for most of his adult life, he dedicated his spare time to studying the amazing fossilised bones of ancient vertebrates that were being found in the local quarries. Mantell is credited with the discovery of the second dinosaur to be scientifically described (Iguanodon) and many of Mantell’s fossils are now part of the Natural History Museum’s dinosaur fossil collection.  Internationally renowned model maker, Roby Braun has been commissioned to create a 7-metre-long model of an iguanodontid (Mantellisaurus), to honour the work of this dedicated and disciplined scientist whose research was never really given the plaudits that it deserved during his lifetime.

Gideon Mantell (1790-1852)

Gideon Mantell.

Gideon Mantell (1790-1852).

The endeavour, entitled “The Lewes Dinosaur Project” will be officially launched at the Lewes Fossil Festival that starts this weekend (16th/17th September).  Suggestions are being invited as to where best to locate the 3-metre-high dinosaur monument.  Debby Matthews, of the community interest company working on the proposals commented:

“It will be pretty large and will need a stable base where it can be viewed.  There will be a plaque with it describing the links between Gideon Mantell (or his wife), finding the first teeth and bones of an unknown, ancient land animal.”

Local Newspapers Cover the Story

Gideon Mantell newspaper article.

Gideon Mantell article.

Picture Credit: Sussex Express

Mantellisaurus – Revising the Iguanodonts

The giant, plant-eating dinosaur that Mantell described (Iguanodon), was a member of a highly successful and diverse family of dinosaurs (Iguanodontidae), that had a global distribution and formed one of the dominant terrestrial faunas of the Early Cretaceous (although the group did persist until the very end of the Age of Dinosaurs).  As more fossils of iguanodontids have been described, so the “English Iguanodon”, identified by Mantell has been reassessed, the holotype fossil material for Iguanodon (I. bernissartensis) now comes from Belgium.  However, in 2007 the genus Mantellisaurus (M. atherfieldensis) was erected and includes iguanodontid fossil material from the Wessex and Vectis Formations of southern England and the Isle of Wight.  The genus name honours Dr Gideon Mantell.

Comparisons of Different Iguanodonts

Skeletal comparisons (iguanodontids)

Iguanodontid comparisons. D. bampingi is regarded as Nomen dubium.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur from original skeletal drawings by Gregory S. Paul

Gideon Mantell Honoured in the Hintze Hall of the Natural History Museum (London)

Earlier this year, Everything Dinosaur reported on the refurbishment of the main hall at the London Natural History Museum.  “Dippy” the popular Diplodocus exhibit was replaced with a Blue Whale skeleton.  However, in one of the “Wonder Bays” that surrounds the enormous cetacean, there is a dinosaur.  The spectacular Hintze Hall displays a mounted skeleton of a Mantellisaurus.  The specimen (NHMUK R5764), is one of the most complete dinosaur skeletons ever found in the British Isles and it is fitting that the Natural History Museum should pay tribute to the contribution made by Dr Gideon Mantell in this way.  Now it’s the turn of the town of Lewes to set about honouring one of its most famous former residents.

The Mounted Skeleton of Mantellisaurus on Display at the Natural History Museum

Mantellisaurus on display.

Mantellisaurus on display in the Hintze Hall.

Picture Credit: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

Weekend Fossil Festival

The model on which the dinosaur would be based can be viewed at the two-day Fossil Festival (16th/17th September).  A screening of the ground-breaking Steven Spielberg directed, “Jurassic Park” will take place at 4pm Saturday afternoon as part of the dinosaur themed festival activities.

On Sunday, the Linklater Pavilion in the town will be hosting a range of dinosaur related, family-themed activities as the community aims to raise the profile of the project.

The Fossil Festival Flyer

Mantell Fossil Festival flyer.

Gideon Mantell Fossil Festival flyer.

Picture Credit: Debby Matthews

The website of the Lewes Dinosaur Project: The Lewes Dinosaur Project

12 09, 2017

Europe’s Newest Brachiosaur

By | September 12th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Soriatitan golmayensis of the Lower Cretaceous of Spain

Say hello to Europe’s newest member of the Brachiosauridae family – Soriatitan golmayensis, a Sauropod estimated to have been longer than a badminton court!  This new species of herbivorous dinosaur has been described in a scientific paper published in the journal “Cretaceous Research”.  The fossil material, consisting of a single tooth, elements from the hips, limb bones including a partial femur and fragmentary tail bones were excavated over several years from the turn of the Century.  The study of the fossil material finally culminating in the establishment of a new species of brachiosaurid.  The genus name means “Soria Titan”, a reference to Soria Province in central Spain where the fossils come from.  The species name honours the Lower Cretaceous Golmayo Formation (upper Hauterivian-lower Barremian), from which the fossil material was extracted.

An Illustration of the Newly Described Early Cretaceous Sauropod Soriatitan golmayensis

Soriatitan golmayensis illustrated.

An illustration of the brachiosaurid Soriatitan golmayensis.

Picture Credit: Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis

Approximately Fourteen Metres Long

With less than 15% of the skeleton to work with, the researchers, which included lead author of the paper, Rafael Royo-Torres (Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis/Museo Aragonés de Paleontología, Spain), were able to identify this dinosaur as a Brachiosaur by comparing the bones to better-known species.  To estimate the size, the scientists scaled up the dinosaur based on the dimensions of the 1.25-metre-long humerus (upper arm bone).  When this bone was compared to the humeri of other brachiosaurids the team concluded that their specimen represented a fourteen-metre-long individual.

The Size of Soriatitan Was Calculated Using the Humerus

Fossil humerus (Soriatitan golmayensis).

The humerus from Soriatitan which was used to estimate the animal’s size.

Picture Credit: Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis

The Brachiosauridae Family

Brachiosaurs probably originated in the late Middle Jurassic and survived the break-up of Pangaea before finally becoming extinct in the Early Cretaceous.  Fossils of these long-necked, heavy-limbed plant-eaters are known from North America, Africa, Europe and southern England.  The Brachiosauridae is one of the three groups that make up the larger clade the Titanosauriformes.  The research team estimate that Soriatitan roamed the Iberian Peninsula some 132 million years ago.  Although, other fragmentary fossils notably those of Pelorosaurus conybeari from the Grinstead Clay Formation (West Sussex, England), have been tentatively assigned to the Brachiosauridae, the discovery of Soriatitan is extremely significant.  Dinosaurs such as the similar sized P. conybeari have been found in slightly older strata (Valangian faunal stage of the Early Cretaceous), Soriatitan provides evidence that brachiosaurids persisted in the Early Cretaceous of Europe for longer than previously thought.

Palaeontologist Rafael Royo-Torres explained:

“Until now it was believed that brachiosaurids had become extinct in Europe around 130 million years ago, the discovery of Soriatitan changes our perception of the European Early Cretaceous biota.”

The Break-up of Pangaea

The single, spoon-shaped tooth is typical of a brachiosaurid.  This tooth and the shape of a number of bones such as the presence of middle caudal neural spines helped the researchers to assign this dinosaur to the Brachiosauridae family.  In addition, the team deduced that Soriatitan may have been closely related to Abydosaurus Cedarosaurus and Venenosaurus, which are all known from Lower Cretaceous-aged strata from Utah (United States).   The presence of Early Cretaceous brachiosaurids in both North America and Europe, give support to the hypothesis of a connection between the tectonic plates of these continents at some point during the Early Cretaceous.  A land connection between Europe and North America must have been present to enable closely related dinosaurs to be found in both Spain and the western United States.

Views of the Single Tooth of Soriatitan golmayensis

Soriatitan fossil tooth.

Views of the single tooth of Soriatitan from the Lower Cretaceous of Spain.

Picture Credit: Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis

The discovery of Soriatitan, may help palaeontologists to better understand the evolution of the Titanosauriformes in Europe.  Rafael Royo-Torres was part of the research team that described the non-brachiosaurid Titanosauriform Tastavinsaurus sanzi recovered from a dig site in Peñarroya de Tastavins (Teruel) at the base of the marine Xert Formation in 2008.  It is one of the most complete and best-preserved Sauropod dinosaur skeletons from the European Early Cretaceous.  Tastavinsaurus roamed Spain some 125 million years ago.  The discovery of Soriatitan may help fill the evolutionary gap between Late Jurassic Brachiosaurs and the European Titanosaurs of the Early Cretaceous.

Rafael Royo-Torres Photographed Next to the Partial Femur (Thigh Bone)

The femur (thigh bone) of Soriatitan golmayensis

Palaeontologist Rafael Royo , lead author of the scientific paper examines a Soriatitan golmayensis femur.

Picture Credit: Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis

10 09, 2017

A Review of the PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops Model

By | September 10th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases, Product Reviews|0 Comments

PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops Model Reviewed

Everything Dinosaur has recently added the PNSO range of prehistoric animals and the PNSO “Family Zoo” replicas to its already extensive range of figures.  This series is not that well-known outside of China, but these models are rapidly gaining favour with serious collectors.  Take for example, the PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops figure, one of the large dinosaur models within this particular range.

The PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops Model

The PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops model.

The PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows this excellent horned dinosaur replica.  We have placed the model on its box and put a geology ruler next to it so that readers can easily see the size of this figure.  It measures thirty-seven centimetres from the tip of the brow horn to the end of the tail, making this one of the largest models of “three-horned face” available from a mainstream manufacturer.  The box artwork is superb and the information leaflet found inside the box, folds out to create a poster of the front cover Triceratops artwork.

A View of the Other Side of the PNSO Age of Dinosaur Triceratops Replica

PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops.

The PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Triceratops Model Scale

Although, PNSO does not publish a scale for their models, our dinosaur experts have estimated that this Triceratops (T. horridus) is in approximately in 1:24 scale.  It makes a spectacular display piece and there is a lot of detail to admire on the replica, most notably the intriguing skin texture, the folds of skin that indicate movement and that wonderfully painted skull and neck frill.

A Close View of the Head of the PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops Model

A close view of the head of the PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops model.

The PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the PNSO Age of Dinosaurs model series which is available from Everything Dinosaur: PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Model Collection

The splashes of orange on the head contrast with the greyish body.  Palaeontologists tend to agree that colour was very important to dinosaurs and it makes sense for Triceratops to have a bright head and neck frill, this would have helped make the head and the large frill more eye-catching when it came to visual displays to intimidate rivals and to deter attack from predatory Tyrannosaurs.

The PNSO Triceratops Replica (Anterior View)

A view from the front of the impressive PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops.

The PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The head is slightly lowered on the PNSO replica, it’s as if the animal is displaying or perhaps it is getting ready to lunge with its dangerous brow horns.

Fantastic Box Artwork (PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops Figure)

Beautiful PNSO Age of Dinosaurs box art.

The PNSO Triceratops box art.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

All in all, this is a highly collectable Triceratops figure and we look forward to seeing how this model series develops.

PNSO have also introduced a range of extant animal models under the umbrella brand of “Family Zoo”.  At the moment, three large models of living animals are included within this series.  There is a Hippopotamus, an African Elephant and a gorgeous White Rhinoceros model.  So, if ancient horned animals are not quite your thing, then why not grab a replica of the highly endangered African White Rhinoceros, a living example of a horned giant, a magnificent creature, that sadly, like the Triceratops some sixty-six million years beforehand, is now facing extinction.

The Beautiful PNSO Family Zoo White Rhinoceros Model

PNSO Family Zoo White Rhinoceros.

The PNSO White Rhinoceros model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the PNSO “Family Zoo” models: PNSO Family Zoo Animal Models

6 09, 2017

Evidence for Communal Roosting in Oviraptorids

By | September 6th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Communal Roosting in the Dinosauria

Attendees at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology (SVP) in Calgary (Alberta, Canada), were treated to a presentation outlining the discovery of a trio of young oviraptorid dinosaurs that may have been preserved sleeping as a group.  This might provide the first evidence of communal roosting, a practice seen in many extant animals today, where members of the same species sleep together for mutual protection and to help keep themselves warm.  Communal roosting is seen in many species of birds, notable examples being starlings and rooks.  Communal roosting is also known amongst primates, bats and butterflies.

Although, it is easy to misinterpret fossils of this nature, oviraptorids, members of the Maniraptora clade of dinosaurs which are closely related to Aves (birds), are believed to have been social animals and a spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur stated that behaviour of this nature is within the “realms of expectation for these dinosaurs”.

The Fossilised Remains of Three Oviraptorid Dinosaurs – Is this Evidence of Communal Roosting?

Block containing three oviraptorid fossils.

The three oviraptorid fossil skeletons within the single block.

Picture Credit: Gregory F. Funston

The picture above shows the plaster-jacketed block containing the three individuals and a line drawing showing the location of each skeleton and the layout of the bones.  Greg Funston (University of Alberta), who led the fossil study explained that the three sleeping dinosaurs were probably relatives, perhaps from the same brood.  The fossil material first came to the attention of academics when Mongolian customs officials seized the specimen at an airport in 2006.  The stone block was being illegally smuggled out of the country, sadly, there is a thriving black market in illicit fossils from Mongolia and China, despite the very best attempts of the authorities to stop this trade.

Identifying the source of such illegally acquired fossils is always tricky, but a geochemical analysis of the surrounding matrix by scientists from the University of Bologna (Italy), led by Federico Fanti, suggested that the fossil came from the Bugiin Tsav area of the Gobi Desert (Upper Cretaceous sediments associated with the Nemegt Formation – Maastrichtian faunal stage).  Dr Fanti has also presented his findings at the SVP.

Sleeping Oviraptorids

Oviraptorids were extremely bird-like, feathered dinosaurs, with short skulls, beaks and deep lower jaws which were largely edentulous (lacking teeth).  Several genera have been named and these dinosaurs lived in the northern hemisphere during the Late Cretaceous.  Most of these dinosaurs were relatively small, around two-three metres in length (Gigantoraptor being an exception) and they were particularly abundant in Asia.  Fossils of their nests have been found, along with adults incubating eggs.  Most palaeontologists believe that these dinosaurs were social animals with similar behaviours to those seen in extant birds.  The diet of oviraptorids is uncertain, these bipeds could have been mainly herbivorous, but omnivory and durophagy (eating hard-shelled items like nuts, seeds and molluscs) is not ruled out.

An Oviraptor Exhibit at a Museum (Frankfurt Natural History Museum)

An Oivraptor fossil with nest.

An Oviraptor dinosaur sitting on her nest.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The three individuals are from the same species, which is new to science, these oviraptorids have yet to be formally named.  Like several other oviraptorids, a prominent, domed skull crest has been identified.  These types of dinosaurs seem to have been highly successful, the vertebrate biota of some Upper Cretaceous deposits of China are dominated by oviraptorids, for a case in point: Not Another Ganzhou Oviraptorid

Juveniles Huddling Together

Two of the dinosaurs have been preserved crouched down on their stomachs, these two specimens, which are more complete than the third, have their necks curled back towards their bodies, whilst their arms cradle their heads, this is very reminiscent of a sleeping posture adopted by many types of living bird.  The fossilised remains of allegedly sleeping dinosaurs have been found before, perhaps most notably Mei long from the Liaoning Formation of north-eastern China.  M. long was named in 2004 after a spectacular fossil showing a head tucked under an arm and a tail curled round the body was discovered.  This little troodontid was either resting or sleeping when it was smothered by a layer of volcanic ash.

An Illustration of the “Sleeping Dragon” Mei long

Mei long illustration.

Mei long – sleeping dragon.

This is the first fossil evidence to support the idea that some kinds of dinosaurs roosted together (communal roosting).  Bone histology indicates that these animals were juveniles and roughly the same age when they died, it has been speculated that this fossil represents a “teenage gang” of sub-adult dinosaurs that died in their sleep.  If the layout of the fossils reflects their true posture and the bone position has not been affected by the fossilisation process, then the position of the three dinosaurs implies they were touching each other.  The researchers think the youngsters were probably huddling for warmth.  That suggests that the animals had tried to maintain a constant body temperature, or perhaps they were frightened and huddling together for protection and comfort.  David Varricchio (Associate Professor at Montana State University), has commented that he wondered whether these dinosaurs were resting or taking shelter from harsh weather rather than sleeping.  Funston argues that modern animals that roost together don’t usually make direct contact except for warmth.  Animals that died in events such as floods are preserved in very different positions from that of the oviraptorid trio, making it unlikely that the young dinosaurs were awake when they met their demise.

An Illustration of Roosting Oviraptorids

Communal roosting in oviraptorids.

Roosting oviraptorids.

Picture Credit: Mike Skrepnick

Difficult to Interpret

The three dinosaurs do seem to have perished together, their body positions indicate that the carcasses were unlikely to have been transported far before accumulating and forming this assemblage, but interpreting the fossil is difficult.  Other researchers have expressed reservations about the communal resting hypothesis.  For example, biologist John Grady (Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania), has stated that the dinosaurs may have huddled together to hide or merely because the location was “a great place to sleep.” 

However, this fossil material is interpreted, it adds to the growing body of evidence that many types of dinosaurs, including Maniraptorans were highly social creatures and capable of exhibiting quite complex behaviours.

For a 2013 article that looks at evidence for oviraptorid courtship displays: Dinosaurs Shaking Tail Feathers and Strutting

Canadian dinosaur helps to prove dinosaurs were show-offs: Fossil Discovery Reinforces Idea of Dinosaurs Displaying

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