Category: Dinosaur Fans

The Deccan Traps and the Extraterrestrial Impact Responsible for Dinosaur Demise

Temperature Spikes Point to Two Events Causing End Cretaceous Mass Extinction

A study of the fossilised shells of several species of bivalves that existed towards the end of the Cretaceous suggests two distinct phases of global warming occurred that instigated mass extinctions.  Scientists have debated how much of an impact the eruption of the Deccan Traps in India had on the mass extinction event that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs along with about seventy percent of all terrestrial animals.  Much of the difficulties surrounding this debate concern the separating of the consequences of the extensive volcanism from the devastation caused by the Chicxulub impact event.  Approximately sixty-six million years ago, a massive extraterrestrial body slammed into our planet in the Gulf of Mexico.  This new research suggests that these two cataclysmic events combined to bring about the mass extinction.

The Location of the Deccan Traps (Flood Basalts)

The Deccan Traps location.

The location of the Deccan Traps (flood basalts).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Researchers from the University of Florida, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Michigan examined the fossil record of a series of Upper Cretaceous bivalve shells, representing part of a mollusc biota that lived at depths of around 200 metres in a shallow marine environment that is represented by sequences of Maastrichtian faunal stage strata preserved on the Antarctic Seymour Island.  The Upper Cretaceous/Lower Palaeogene strata is particularly well suited for studying the end Cretaceous extinction event as the rocks here form a continuous sequence covering a time interval dating from around sixty-nine million years ago into the Palaeogene.  The abundant and well-preserved fossils of sea creatures are ideal study material and some understanding of the extinction process and its selectivity can be gained as several genera represented in the fossil record survive across the Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary (K-Pg).

Cretaceous Extinction Event – Extraterrestrial Impact

Extraterrestrial impact event.

A contributory factor in the mass extinction?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Geochemist Andrea Dutton (University of Florida), working with Sierra Petersen and Kyger Lohmann (University of Michigan), used a new analytical technique to establish sea temperatures in the Antarctic towards the end of the Cretaceous and into the Palaeogene.  Their analysis, published in the journal “Nature Communications”, supports the idea of the combined effects of excessive volcanism on the Indian sub-continent and the  Chicxulub impact brought about the mass extinction event.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“It’s a double whammy for the end Cretaceous.  Two distinct ocean temperature spikes as a result of these two events.  Such temperature variations at high latitudes indicate a huge change in global climates, these would have most definitely resulted in extinctions and the stratigraphic record of Seymour Island provides the most conclusive evidence yet.”

Clumping Isotopes of Carbonates

The team used a new analytical technique called carbonate clumped isotope palaeothermometer to study the chemical composition of twenty-nine fossil bivalve shells, from a sampling set of one hundred and sixteen.  A total of five species of bivalve were studied (Lahillia larseni, Cucullaea antarctica, Cucullaea ellioti, Eselaevitrigonia regina and Nordenskjoldia nordenskjoldi).  The analysis shows that ocean temperatures rose approximately 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and links these measurements to two previously documented warming events that occurred near the end of the Cretaceous Period, one related to volcanic eruptions in India (Deccan Traps), the other, related to the Chicxulub impact on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.

The isotopic composition of the fossilised shells provided a map of the ancient temperatures at high latitudes spanning some 3.5 million years, covering the crucial end Cretaceous (Maastrichtian faunal stage and into the Palaeocene (Danian faunal stage).  Whilst a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Andrea Dutton studied the palaeoclimate of Seymour Island.  At the time, existing analytical techniques determined combined signals of salinity and temperature fluctuations over geological time but the salt-water effect could not be isolated providing temperature increases/decreases as a single determinant factor.  Clumped isotope palaeothermometery allows the effect of temperature changes to be isolated.

Assistant Professor Dutton explained:

“Now, years later, everyone is using this new tool called clumped isotope palaeothermometery, which is a bit different than the traditional method.  This technique is only a function of temperature.  Salinity has nothing to do with it.  We’re looking at the clumping of oxygen isotopes rather than the relative amount of oxygen isotopes in the shell, and this is helping us re-interpret the data.”

Two Significant Temperature Spikes Coinciding with Catastrophic Events

Clumped Carbonate Isotope Analysis Reveals Extinctions.

Sea shells provide clues to Cretaceous extinction event.

Picture Credit: Nature Communications

The data show two significant temperature spikes. The first corresponds to the eruption of the Deccan traps flood basalts. The other lines up exactly with the proposed date for the extraterrestrial impact.  Just to make matters worse for life on Earth at the time, the Chicxulub event may have led to a renewed phase of volcanism on the Indian sub-continent.  Both events are directly linked with extinction events recorded in the fossil record of Seymour Island (decrease in faunal biota).

To read a recently published article on a study of the marine fossils of Seymour Island and the consequences with regards to the mass extinction event: Global Catastrophe Caused End Cretaceous Extinction

The Cretaceous/Palaeogene (K-Pg) Boundary

There is a physical boundary preserved in the geological record of our planet known as the Cretaceous/Palaeogene boundary (K-Pg), the “K” represents the Cretaceous, it comes from the German word for chalk “kreide”, “Pg” is the traditional abbreviation for the Palaeogene Period.  It is represented by a thin band of iridium rich rock.  Iridium is a rare Earth element associated with asteroids, meteorites and comets, this suggests an extraterrestrial impact event contributed to the Cretaceous extinction event.

The Cretaceous/Palaeogene Boundary (K-Pg)

The K-Pg boundary

Marking the end of the Cretaceous.

Picture Credit: Open University/Everything Dinosaur

K-T boundary = Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary also referred to as the K-Pg boundary.

Andrea Dutton added:

“We have evidence on this site on Seymour Island in Antarctica that climate change is linked to both of these extinction events, right before the boundary and right at the boundary.  If you look at what types of species that went extinct during the first extinction pulse, they’re different than the types that went extinct during the second pulse.  That indicates that it may have been a different kill mechanism for those two different extinction pulses.  It’s quite likely both the volcanism and the asteroid were to blame for the ultimate mass extinction.  The Deccan Traps weakened the ecosystems before the asteroid slammed into the Earth.  It’s consistent with an idea called the press-pulse hypothesis: a ‘one-two punch’ that proved devastating for life on Earth.”

The published paper also refers to variability in shell composition that indicate a potential reduction in seasonality after the Deccan eruptions commenced, continuing through to the Chicxulub event.  Species extinction recorded at Seymour Island occurred in two pulses, these coincide with two observed global warming events, directly linking the end Cretaceous extinction at high latitudes to both the Deccan Traps and the extraterrestrial impact.

To read an article the suggests the dinosaurs were in decline some fifty million years before they finally became extinct: The Fifty-Million Year Decline of the Dinosaurs

An Explanation of Polarity Reversals with Earth’s Magnetic Field

Assisting the dating of the geological timescale is the science of magnetostratigraphy.  Periodically, the polarity of Earth’s magnetic field is reversed.  Iron rich minerals within strata align themselves with the prevailing magnetic field during formation.  By combining the polarity of these minerals with radiometric dating methods, geologists have produced a timescale of these magnetic reversals – the polarity chron.

The Polarity Chron Helps Chart Geological Deep Time

Plotting deep time using the Earth's polarity.

Magnetostratigraphy helps to chart deep time.

Picture Credit: Nature Communications with additional notation by Everything Dinosaur

The polarity chron (sometimes simply referred to as the chron), is the time interval between polarity shifts in the Earth’s magnetic field.  The switching of polarity is highly variable, on average they seem to occur every 200,000 years or so, but the last one took place more than three-quarters of a million years ago.  Why they occur has not been fully explained, but it is believed that the molten nickel and iron core at the centre of the Earth occasionally produces vortexes that persist long enough for a polarity reversal to take place as a result of the electromagnetic fields that they generate.  Polarity chrons are numbered in order starting from today and increasing retrospectively as we go further back in time.  Each number has two phases “N” for normal field and “R” to represent the reversal of that field, hence in the diagram above the ringed area labelled 31R through to 29N.

Back to School with Everything Dinosaur

Fantastic Dinosaur Themed Back to School Items from Everything Dinosaur

No sooner do the schools break up then our thoughts are turning to the Autumn Term.  The teaching team at Everything Dinosaur are already booked up quite a lot for both next term and into the Spring but there are still some dates available for our dinosaur workshops in school.  However, just as teachers commence preparations for their scheme of work to be delivered next term, so parents too are planning ahead.  Mums and dads, grandparents and guardians will be turning their thoughts to kitting out their charges ready for when the children go back to school.  For budding young palaeontologists Everything Dinosaur has a huge range of prehistoric animal themed school items, from pencils through to lunchboxes and backpacks, Everything Dinosaur has getting ready for school covered.

Some of the Dinosaur Themed Back to School Items Available from Everything Dinosaur

Back to school items available from Everything Dinosaur

Back to school stationery available from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Whether you are looking for notepads with a dinosaur motif, or pens and pencils so that young dinosaur fans can jot down their discoveries, Everything Dinosaur is the place to go to find back to school prehistoric animal themed school sets and stationery.

Back to School stock in stock at Everything Dinosaur: Back to School

There are school kits, dinosaur stationery sets, soft and cuddly back packs, pencil cases, notebooks, notepads and a whole range of other items, a list as long as a the neck of a Tanystropheus – there is plenty of choice, enough to make even the most reluctant school child roar in approval like an angry Tyrannosaurus rex.

Back to School with Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaur pens available from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Notes for Teachers

As for our popular dinosaur and fossil themed workshops in schools, our team members are booked up well into the Spring term.  However, there are some dates still available and for further information about Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools, simply visit the link below for further information.

Contact Everything Dinosaur to enquire about dinosaur themed workshops in school: Contact Everything Dinosaur, request a quotation

Everything Dinosaur Reviews Prehistoric Times Issue 118

A Review of Prehistoric Times (Summer 2016)

It might seem quite odd to have the front cover of the latest edition of Prehistoric Times magazine depicting a confrontation between two Smilodon and a Woolly Mammoth, especially since it is the summer issue, but as Californian-based editor Mike Fredericks points out, on the west coast of the United States it is currently baking hot.  A snowy, Pleistocene scene might help readers in hotter parts of the world forget the heat, oh, if only we in the United Kingdom had such worries.  Two days with temperatures above thirty degrees Celsius has been our lot so far this summer.  Never mind we can always browse through the latest edition of Prehistoric Times, to take our minds off the incessant rain.

The Front Cover of Prehistoric Times (issue 118)

Prehistoric Times magazine (issue 118)

The front cover of Prehistoric Times magazine (Summer 2016)

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks

The front cover artwork was created by Franco Tempesta and editor Mike conducts an in-depth interview with the talented Italian palaeoartist.  This very informative and well-written piece is complimented by a number of Franco’s fantastic illustrations, look out in particular for the beautiful Confuciusornis images.  Talking of flying prehistoric creatures, check out the fabulous article on the Pterosaurs of Brazil contributed by Sergio Luis Fica Biston.  This article too, features some brilliant artwork.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Entelodonts

Phil Hore conducts a tour of the “killer pigs”, the Entelodonts, enormous omnivores that roamed much of the northern latitudes until around 19 million years ago.  In addition, Phil discusses the exceptionally rare “dinosaur mummies” and accompanying his article is a photograph of a mummified Hadrosaur from the American Museum of Natural History plus illustrations from the likes of Chris Srnka, Betty Reid Martin and Julius Csotonyi.  Regular contributor Tracy Lee Ford continues the “mummified dinosaur” theme by demonstrating how to draw dinosaur skin, scales and mummies in a comprehensive overview.  Amongst the regular features such as the palaeonews, classifieds, collector’s corner and Mesozoic media, look out for the “speaking dinosaur” section, part 1 of a glossary and pronunciation guide by Carl Masthay and Robert Telleria – what a great idea for an article!

Check out the Amazing CollectA Daeodon Figure Drawing Commissioned by Everything Dinosaur that Features in Prehistoric Times (summer 2016)

One of the "ugly ones".

One of the “ugly ones” – Daeodon by Mike Fredericks.

Subscribe to Prehistoric Times Magazine

For further information on Prehistoric Times magazine and to subscribe: Prehistoric Times Magazine

Information for Prehistoric Animal Model Collectors

Fans of Marx figures and Marx dinosaur play-sets get an update on the changing characteristic of these iconic models from their 1960’s origins up into the 1970’s.  Pat Schaefer takes readers through the finer points of Marx collectables and in between editing the magazine, Mike Fredericks takes time out to let readers know about new model kits and figures that are available, the majority of which are now in stock at Everything Dinosaur Everything Dinosaur.

Mike Howgate provides the second part of his review of the prehistoric plaster models made by Vernon Edwards in the 1920’s.  In this piece, his focus is on the models used to illustrate a series of cigarette cards.  If you want to see a Corythosaurus advertising tobacco then this is the article for you.

All in all, this magazine is a jam-packed edition, there is certainly enough in the summer issue of Prehistoric Times to take your mind off the weather, no matter how hot (or wet) it gets!

Max and His Drawing of the Cambrian

Max and his Anomalocaris Drawing

Our thanks to Max and his mum for sending us a wonderful thank you letter after we furnished him with twenty-two prehistoric animal fact sheets to add to his dinosaur database.  Max very kindly provided us with a drawing of a scene from the Cambrian, a geological period that lasted some fifty-four million years or so (542 to 488 million years ago).  The Cambrian marks the appearance of sophisticated marine ecosystems and a rapid radiation and diversification of marine life-forms.  It is the first geological period of the Phanerozoic Eon, an Eon that continues today (visible life).  We really appreciate Max’s illustration, it’s a super drawing of a Cambrian scene.

The Cambrian Scene Sent to Everything Dinosaur by Young Max

Life in the Cambrian by Max.

A drawing of Cambrian marine life by young Max.

Picture Credit: Max

At Everything Dinosaur we get sent lots of pictures of dinosaurs, some amazing drawings as well as snapshots of fossil finds.  We don’t get too many drawings illustrating life in the shallow seas of the world some 510 million years ago.  A special thank you to Max and his mum for sending this into us.

Featuring  Anomalocaris

The animal featured in the centre of Max’s drawing looks like an Anomalocaris.  Although, it was probably not the fastest swimmer, Anomalocaris was probably the apex predator in the shallow sea fauna represented by the fossils from the Burgess Shale of British Columbia.  At more than a seventy centimetres in length, Anomalocaris was probably the largest member of the Burgess Shale biota.

The Drawing by Max Compared to a Scientific Illustration of Anomalocaris

Anomalocaris comparison.

A comparison between a child’s drawing and a scientific illustration of Anomalocaris.

Picture Credit: Max and Everything Dinosaur

We can certainly see a resemblance between the two drawings.  It had been thought that the anomalocarids had become extinct at the end of the Cambrian, but a study of Ordovician fossils from Morocco provided a surprise for palaeontologists.   It seems these types of marine creatures, which might be the ancestors of today’s velvet worms, lived for at least thirty million years longer, and what is more, some kinds actually grew even bigger than their Cambrian counterparts.

To read more about this: Anomalocarids into the Ordovician

Everything Dinosaur enjoys receiving drawings such as the one Max sent into us, especially ones that illustrate scenes from very dramatic times in the evolution of life on our planet, such as the Cambrian.  Our thanks to Max once again for sending in his picture.

Getting Our Claws into the Megaraptora

The Consequences of the Leggy Murusraptor

With the publication of the scientific paper announcing the discovery of Murusraptor (M. barrosaensis) in the on line access journal PLOS ONE, palaeontologists might be one step nearer to identifying where in the Theropoda the Megaraptora clade fits.  One thing is for certain, the Megraptoridae family and those dinosaurs closely related to them, are not closely related to the dromaeosaurids – the likes of Velociraptor.

An Illustration of the Newly Described Murusraptor barrosaensis

Roaming Patagonia 80 million years ago

A leggy, Late Cretaceous carnivore (Murusraptor).

Picture Credit: Jan Sovak (University of Alberta)

Before we discuss the phylogeny of Murusraptor and how it relates to other types of meat-eating dinosaur, lets quickly provide an outline of this newly described dinosaur.

Large Claws and Pneumatised Bones

The fossilised remains of a large, meat-eating dinosaur were spotted eroding out of a steep sandstone cliff that makes up a part of the Upper Cretaceous Sierra Barrosa Formation of Neuquén Province, southern Argentina.  The permineralised, white bones were clearly identifiable against the sandy rock matrix, but extracting the specimen proved troublesome for palaeontologists Professor Phil Currie (University of Alberta) and co-author of the scientific paper, Dr. Rodolfo Coria (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Argentina).  The first fossils were discovered during fieldwork sixteen years ago, but it has taken time to extract the disassociated fossil material from the various layers that it was deposited in.  Having to work half-way up a remote canyon impeded the progress of the field team.  The discovery of a single, poorly preserved manual ungual, (claw from the third finger of the hand), would hardly make the layperson scream “Megaraptor”, however, at forty-two millimetres long it is comparable in size to the third-finger claw of Megaraptor (M. namunhuaiquii), fossils of which come from Patagonia too.  The real giveaway that these fossils represented a new member of the Megaraptoridae family were the air-filled (pneumatised) bones.  These light, air-filled bones are very reminiscent of modern bird and typical of the Megaraptora clade.

Biostratigraphic Diagram Showing Approximate Location of Patagonian Members of the Megaraptora Clade

Identifying members of the Megaraptora clade in a rock sequence.

Stratigraphic table and geologic section indicating the provenance of the megaraptorins recorded in the Neuquén group

Picture Credit: PLOS ONE

The diagram above shows some of the layers of rock that comprise the Neuquén Group of Upper Cretaceous strata that make up the Neuquén Basin of southern Argentina.  A  number of different types of meat-eating dinosaurs have been discovered in these rocks including Megaraptor (M. namunhuaiquii), the discovery of which led to the establishment of the Megaraptoridae, a new family of Theropods.  Megaraptor fossils come from the slightly older Portezuelo Formation of the Neuquén Group, the huge claw associated with Megaraptor was thought to have been a sickle-like toe claw, hence the initial description of a dromaeosaurid dinosaur.  However, this claw was later interpreted as actually being from the hand (first digit).  Another member of the Megaraptora clade, the nine metre long Aerosteon (A. riocoloradense ), is known from slightly younger rocks.  However, scientists remain uncertain as to where in the Order Theropoda these lightly built, large handed dinosaurs fit.

Where do the Megaraptoridae Fit In?

With the discovery of Murusraptor, palaeontologists hope to find out more about where within the Theropoda the Megraptoridae fits.  Once the remains of Murusraptor were in the preparation laboratory, the researchers, Currie and Coria, were able to establish some interesting facts about this particular dinosaur.  For example, they were able to conclude that the fossils represented a single animal, that it had come to rest lying on its right side and from the length of the tibia, it was a strong runner.

Two main theories have been put forward with regards to the Megaraptoridae and their phylogeny;

  1. Megaraptoridae family members and their close relatives making up the Megaraptora clade  are the last surviving members of the once ubiquitous Allosauria clade.  If, thanks to the discovery of Murusraptor, this is proved correct, then this would alter all the existing theories about the demise of the Allosauria.
  2. That Megaraptor, Murusraptor et al are members of the Coelurosauria clade and therefore related to modern birds, certainly studies of the breathing systems of similar dinosaurs Australovenator (Australovenator wintonensis) from Australia for example, indicate that these dinosaurs had respiratory systems very similar to extant Aves.  If this theory proves to be correct then the likes of Murusraptor would be related to the tyrannosaurids.

To complicate matters further, some of the anatomical traits found in the Megaraptora are similar to those of spinosaurids.  This hints at a possible link to a much older group of Theropod dinosaurs, the Megalosaurs.

Palaeontologists Phil Currie (red shirt) and  Rodolfo Coria Examine the Fossils 

Palaeontologists examine the matrix surrounding the fossils of a dinosaur.

Currie and Coria examine the fossils of Murusraptor in the canyon wall.

Picture Credit: University of Alberta

“Wall Thief”

As for the name, the genus comes the Latin word “murus” which means wall, a reference to the fossil being located halfway up the wall of a canyon (see photograph above).  The trivial name honours the location of the fossil find – Sierra Barrosa.  Southern Argentina has proved a happy hunting ground for vertebrate palaeontologists, especially those who specialise in studying the Dinosauria.  Rodolfo Coria was one of the scientists who helped describe two of the most iconic dinosaurs of recent times the enormous Argentinosaurus and one of the largest, terrestrial predators ever to walk the Earth – Giganotosaurus.  Last week, Everything Dinosaur reported on the describing of Gualicho shinyae, fossils of which come from the Huincul Formation, which underlies the strata from which Megaraptor and Murusraptor are known.  Researchers are suggesting that this meat-eater was as a member of the neovenatorids, a branch of the Allosaur family tree.

To read more about the tiny-armed Gualicho: Gualicho Sticks Two Fingers Up at T. rex

Dr. Coria hopes that by studying the fossils of Murusraptor the mystery of the Megaraptor phylogeny will be finally resolved.  He explained:

“Our current strategy includes two ways to get into this problem.  One way to get close to the solution of this controversy is to review all different species and build a whole new data set, avoiding biases and preconcepts.”

The Braincase

None of the bones associated with the front of the skull or the jaws were found, although some 31 teeth were recovered from the matrix.  The largest teeth are more than twelve centimetres long.  Bones from the back of the skull including those that make up the braincase were found.  This is the only known braincase material from a Megaraptor-like dinosaur.  A study of these braincase bones indicate that this specimen was a sub-adult, size estimates vary but this long-legged predator could have been between 6.5 and 8 metres long when fully grown.

Skeletal Drawing of M. barrosaensis

Murusraptor a South American dinosaur.

A drawing of the skull and body fossils associated with Murusraptor.  Scale bars 10 cm (A) and 1 metre (B).

Picture Credit: PLOS ONE

The picture above shows a close up of the skull bones (posterior part of the skull in right lateral view) and a skeletal drawing of the dinosaur (fossil bones in white).

Professor Currie commented:

“This is a super-cool specimen from a very enigmatic family of big dinosaurs.  Because we have most of the skeleton in a single entity, it really helps consolidate their relationships to other animals.” 

Professor Currie went onto state:

“A lot of people have been waiting for this paper.  When you have most of the skeleton, it takes a long time to do all the work on it.  It turns out this animal is related to Megaraptor, found only thirty kilometres away in a different rock formation.  The upshot was the more we looked, we could test whether Megaraptor was a Dromaeosaur, which it isn’t in the strict sense, and what was thought to be the foot claws—the big can-opener claw of a Dromaeosaur or raptor—were actually from the hands.  We discovered all sorts of things through the course of our research.”

“A New Megaraptoran Dinosaur (Dinosauria, Theropoda, Megaraptoridae) from the Late Cretaceous of Patagonia” was published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.


Everything Dinosaur is switching to PLOS ONE from the previous nomenclature PLoS One.

The Turtle Shell Evolved to Help with Burrowing

Fossorial Origins of the Turtle Shell – Eunotosaurus africanus

Writing in the “Current Biology” a team of international scientists, led by Dr. Tyler Lyson (Denver Museum of Nature and Science), have concluded that the “shell” of turtles, terrapins and tortoises evolved not for protection but as an adaptation for burrowing and living underground.  As the feather did not evolve for flight, so then the carapace (top) and plastron (underneath) of the SuperOrder Chelonia, may not have evolved as shield.  Like flight feathers, the shell of a tortoise and its use in defence was a secondary outcome of an evolutionary process.

Fossils excavated from the famous Permian-aged deposits of the Karoo Basin (South Africa) suggest that the earliest evolutionary beginnings of the turtle’s shell resulted from adaptations to accommodate a burrowing or fossorial (digging) lifestyle.

Karoo Basin Fossils of the Proto-Turtle Eunotosaurus Indicate Fossorial Adaptations

Eunotosaurus adapted to a burrowing lifestyle.

The proto-turtle Eunotosaurus burrows into the banks of a dried up pond to survive in the harsh, arid South African environment about 260 million years ago. In the background, a herd of Bradysaurus, a type of reptile, crowds around some muddy water.

Picture Credit: Audrey Atuchin

A Widening of the Ribs

Dr. Lyson had the opportunity to learn more about Chelonian evolution when he, along with collaborators form the Smithsonian Institute studied the fossilised remains of a highly specialised parareptile, Eunotosaurus africanus, back in 2013.  These fossils, which also came from Late Permian aged deposits in South Africa, indicated that a widening of the ribs was the first stage in the evolution of the shell.

To read more about the origins of the shell in turtles: How the Turtle Got Its Shell

Tyler Lyson explained:  “We knew from both the fossil record and observing how the turtle shell develops in modern turtles that one of the first major changes toward a shell was the broadening of the ribs.”

However, for a quadruped, the widening of the ribs has a very serious effect on mobility.  Breathing is restricted and movement becomes more difficult.  Ribs are primarily used to support the torso during locomotion and they play a vital role in lung function.  Broader ribs, means a stiffer body which will lead to a shortening of stride length and less efficient breathing.  In the harsh and dangerous world of the Permian, these modifications would have seriously disadvantaged any Tetrapod.

Rib bones in vertebrates show hardly any variation, team members at Everything Dinosaur have recently been examining the rib bones of a prehistoric elephant, these ribs are very similar to the ribs of a large dinosaur such as a Stegosaurus.  The Chelonia are an exception, their ribs are highly modified as they form the majority of the shell.

Significant Fossil Discovery

The discovery of several, exceptionally well-preserved specimens of Eunotosaurus africanus allowed the team to examine shell evolution in much more detail than before.  A number of the fossils were found by the study’s co-authors, doctors Roger Smith and Bruce Rubidge (University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg).  However, the most important specimen used in this study was found by a young boy on his father’s farm in the Western Cape.  Eight-year old Kobus Snyman, took the fossil that he found to his local museum, the Fransie Pienaar Museum in Prince Albert (Western Cape).  The articulated fossil measures around fifteen centimetres in length, the body (and those all important ribs) are preserved along with the hands and feet but the skull is missing.

Dr. Lyson praised young Kobus for his observational skills and for taking his find to the local museum, he stated:

“I want to thank Kobus Snyman and shake his hand because without Kobus both finding the specimen and taking it to his local museum, this study would not have been possible.”

The Eunotosaurus Fossil Found by Kobus Snyman

Fossil of Eunotosaurous found by an 8-year-old.

The fossil of Eunotosaurus found by eight-year-old Kobus Snyman.

Picture Credit: Dr. Tyler Lyson

Extant turtles, terrapins and tortoises have shells that serve mainly as protective devices.  These armoured animals are notoriously slow.  However, in this new study, developmental evidence from embryos combined with these newly described Karoo Basin fossils suggest that one of the first steps towards the shelled body-plan was a widening of the ribs.  Eunotosaurus africanus is thought to be a basal member of the Chelonia and the broad ribs of this animal have been proposed as support and stabilising mechanisms to help support a powerful forelimb digging action.  The adaptations for a fossorial lifestyle would have facilitated the movement of stem turtles into aquatic environments early in the group’s evolutionary history.

In the scientific paper, entitled “Fossorial Origin of the Turtle Shell”, the researchers propose that adaptations related to digging provided the initial impetus for shell development and that the fosssorial lifestyle may explain why basal turtles survived the catastrophe that marked the end of the Palaeozoic (End Permian mass extinction event).

To read an article from Everything Dinosaur that suggest that turtles and their kind evolved from diapsid reptiles: Study Suggests Chelonia Evolved from Diapsids

An Illustration of Eunotosaurus africanus 

A drawing of Eunotosaurus.

An illustration of the stem turtle Eunotosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

An article on a Mid Jurassic turtle discovery: The Grandfather of All Tortoises and Turtles

Still Time to Enter “Edge of Extinction” Competition

Win “Edge of Extinction” –  A Dinosaur Adventure Book

There is still time to win the fabulous “Edge of Extinction” penned by the talented American author Laura Martin, thanks to Everything Dinosaur.  However, time is running out as the competition to win a copy of this new dinosaur adventure story ends on July 31st.

Ideal Reading for Young Dinosaur Fans

Edge of Extinction by Laura Martin

An exciting young person’s read. Dinosaurs meets Lara Croft!

Picture Credit: Harper Collins Children’s Books

“It’s Them or Us”

Mankind has made the mistake of cloning dinosaurs.  The fearsome prehistoric animals are bad enough, but their resurrection brought about a global pandemic that wiped out most of the human race.  Can twelve-year old Sky Mundy find her father and solve a mystery.

To celebrate the publishing of Laura’s first novel, Everything Dinosaur is having a special competition on the company’s Facebook page to win a copy of this exciting new dinosaur themed book.

Book Competition – Win with Everything Dinosaur

Simply “Like” Everything Dinosaur’s FACEBOOK page, then give a name for the big, meat-eating dinosaur that features on the front cover of this thrilling paperback!  It’s that easy to enter the competition, but remember the closing date of Sunday July 31st is fast approaching.

Everything Dinosaur on FACEBOOK: “LIKE” our Facebook page and enter the competition!

A random draw will take place to decide the lucky winner and the prehistoric animal name caption competition closes on Sunday 31st July.  “Bon chance” to all our entrants, just come up with a name for the big front cover dinosaur and “like” our Facebook page for an opportunity to win.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s fantastic range of dinosaur themed toys, models and games: Everything Dinosaur

You can find “Edge of Extinction”  by Laura Martin here: Search Here for “Edge of Extinction”

We believe customer service is the key to getting "likes".

“Like” our Facebook page to enter the competition.

A Great Summer Read for Teenagers and for Dinosaur Fans from Nine Years and Upwards

Described as a blend of “Jurassic Park” meets “Indiana Jones”, this debut novel by Laura has received many favourable reviews from young readers.  It makes ideal reading for the holidays.  Time to hit the beach with a dinosaur book to read.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“Competitions like this are a bit of fun, however, this is a great book to enthuse young readers and it is great to see a story all about dinosaurs written specifically for the children’s book market.”

The Long-Necked and Mighty Thalassomedon

Long-necked Thalassomedon

Not long for collectors to wait now, the last batch of CollectA prehistoric animal models are on the water and they should be in stock at Everything Dinosaur in a few days.  Amongst the models due to arrive shortly, is a replica of the giant elasmosaurid Thalassomedon.  At twelve metres long, this huge Plesiosaur was one of the largest of the early elasmosaurids.  Thalassomedon was named in 1943, from fossil material discovered in Colorado (United States), in 1939, the genus name means “Sea Lord” and it is pronounced “fal-lass-so-me-don”, CollectA already have a number of marine reptiles in their portfolio including Liopleurodon, Temnodontosaurus as well as the plesiosaurids Hydrotherosaurus and Attenborosaurus.

Everything Dinosaur’s Scale Drawing of Thalassomedon

A drawing of the Plesiosaur Thalassomedon.

A mighty Thalassomedon sea monster.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Thalassomedon swam in the Western Interior Seaway, an inland sea that divided North America in two, during the Cretaceous.  Fossils of Thalassomedon are associated with the Cenomanian faunal stage, the first stage of the Late Cretaceous.  It is very likely that this giant fed on fish and squid.

Links with Greek Mythology

The choice of Thalassomedon as a model for CollectA’s Deluxe range has been influenced by of all things, Greek mythology.  The writer, historian and soldier Xenophon, led ten thousand mercenaries stranded in Persia back to Greece via the Black Sea.  After a perilous journey through enemy territory, when the troops reached the sea they shouted with joy as reaching the coast meant rescue.

Anthony Beeson, the designer of the prehistoric animal models at CollectA, in an exclusive interview with Everything Dinosaur explained:

“The marine reptile Thalassomedon (sea lord) is another favourite of mine, and not only for the animal itself.  As a somewhat singular and quirky aside, I have to admit that its name is special to me as I have always loved that Greek word Thalassa since, as a child, reading about the March of the Ten Thousand and of Xenophon’s army crying out joyously “Thalassa! Thalassa!”  The sea!  The sea!  Sighting the Black Sea at the end of their perilous march.”

The animal’s remarkable neck comprised about half of its length.   It contained sixty-two vertebrae.  The CollectA model is, we believe, the first replica to show the tail fluke that at least some species of Plesiosaur were endowed with to aid steering.

To view the current range of CollectA Deluxe prehistoric animal scale models available from Everything Dinosaur: CollectA Deluxe Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models

We look forward to receiving stocks of this new marine reptile model, perhaps when it arrives at our warehouse we will cry “Thalassa!  Thalassa!”

Gualicho Sticks Two Fingers Up at T. rex

Gualicho shinyae – A Dinosaur with Arms Reminiscent of Tyrannosaurus rex

With the formal publication of the scientific paper describing a new species of carnivorous dinosaur from Argentina, the Theropoda just became a little bit more curious.  Gualicho shinyae has been erected and it shows both Tetanuran (stiff tailed) and Ceratosaurian anatomical traits.  G. shinyae can also lay claim to being the most basal member of the Tetanurae clade to exhibit the reduction of digit III on the hand.  Reports in the media have compared this new Late Cretaceous South American dinosaur with Tyrannosaurus rex.  These two dinosaurs may have had very reduced arms and only two fingers on each hand, but Gualicho is not closely related to the “King of the Tyrant Lizards”.  In fact it seems that Gualicho shinyae is an example of convergent evolution, that is, not closely related organisms evolve independently similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments or ecological niches.

Just why many large meat-eating dinosaurs had reduced arms and vestigial digits remains a mystery.

An Illustration of a the New Dinosaur from Argentina


Picture Credit: Jorge González and Pablo Lara

In the picture above two predatory dinosaurs (Gualicho shinyae) ambush a flock of hypsilophodonts.

The Mystery Over Short Arms and Reduced Digits in Theropod Dinosaurs

The third digit is reduced to nothing more than a metacarpal splint, very reminiscent of tyrannosaurids and just like all the known Late Cretaceous Tyrannosaurs, the arms are also reduced in proportion to the body size.  Gaulicho is estimated to have been at least six metres long, but the forelimbs are no bigger than those of a child.  The left forelimb was recovered along with a short section of vertebrae from the back, the end portion of the tail, elements of both hind limbs including an articulated foot plus a left scapulocoracoid  A couple of rib bones and some gastralia (belly ribs) were also excavated.  The rest of the skeleton had been lost to erosion, but from these remains the researchers, which included scientists from the Field Museum (Chicago), the Dinosaur Institute of Los Angeles as well as palaeontologists from  Buenos Aires and Rio Negro Province, suggest that this new dinosaur is a neovenatorid with close affinities to the North African dinosaur Deltadromeus.

An Illustration of the Likely Skeleton of G. shinyae

Gualicho dinosaur drawing.

The white shaded bones show the fossils of Gualicho that have been found.

Picture Credit: PLoS One with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

Discovered back in 2007, the specimen, which consists of around 5% of the total skeleton was excavated and prepared by staff of the Museo Patagónico de Ciencias Naturales.  The genus name is derived from “Gualichu”, a spirit revered by Patagonia’s Tehuelche people.  The field team encountered quite a lot of misfortune during the 2007 expedition and during the subsequent preparation work.  Researchers joked about the “curse of Gualichu”.  The species name honours Ms Akiko Shinya, the Chief Fossil Preparator at the Field Museum (Chicago).  It was Ms Akiko who found the first fossil evidence of this new type of dinosaur during the 2007 expedition to the Neuquén Basin of Patagonia (southern Argentina).

Chief Fossil Preparator Ms Akiko Shinya Showing where the Fossils were Found


Picture Credit: PLoS One (Photo by Peter Makovicky)

Corresponding author Peter Makovicky (Field Museum) stated:

“Gualicho is kind of a mosaic dinosaur, it has features that you normally see in different kinds of Theropods.  It’s really unusual, it’s different from the other carnivorous dinosaurs found in the same rock formation, and it doesn’t fit neatly into any category.”

Estimated to have weighed around 450 kilogrammes and to have been about six metres long, Gualicho has been assigned to the Allosauria clade and placed within the Neovenatoridae family, however, its exact taxonomic position remains unclear.  The scientists conclude that it resembles Deltadromeus, a contemporaneous Theropod known from North Africa.

Cenomanian Faunal Stage

The fossils of G. shinyae were excavated from sandstone strata located close to the base of the Huincul Formation.  Everything Dinosaur estimate that this dinosaur roamed what was to become Patagonia some ninety-five million years ago (Cenomanian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous).

The New Dinosaur Discovery Adds to the Faunal Diversity of the Lower Part of the Neuquén Group

Gualicho adds to the faunal diversity of the Upper Cretaceous sediments.

A schematic stratigraphic diagram showing the position of the Gualicho fossil find.

Picture Credit: PLoS One

The picture above shows a schematic diagram of the lower part of the Neuquén Group of Upper Cretaceous strata exposed in the Neuquén Basin with the approximate level at which the holotype of Gualicho shinyae was collected from the base of the Huincul Formation.  The rocks contain a variety of vertebrate remains including a number of dinosaurs, especially Saurischian (lizard-hipped) forms.  The discovery of G. shinyae adds to the diversity of Theropods known, for example a number of carcharodontosaurids are known from this formation (Mapusaurus and Taurovenator), along with several abelisaurids such as Skorpiovenator and Ilokelesia.  There has even been some fossils found that were described as belonging to a giant raptor (Megaraptoran), this dinosaur was named Aoniraptor (A. libertatem) earlier this year, but similarities between the caudal vertebrae found and those now assigned to Gualicho, indicate that the Aoniraptor material may be synonymous with the holotype material of G. shinyae.

There have also be a large number of Sauropod remains associated with this strata.  For example, a number of rebbachisaurids have been described along with several Titanosaurs, including Argentinosaurus.

A Map Showing the Approximate Location of the G. shinyae Quarry

Showing the location of the G. shinyae fossil discovery.

A map showing the approximate location of the fossil discovery (star).

Picture Credit: PLoS One

The black star in the diagram to the left, indicates the approximate location of the G. shinyae quarry.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“This new dinosaur discovery adds to the Theropod diversity known from the Late Cretaceous terrestrial strata of the Neuquén Basin, northern Patagonia.  It also reinforces the belief of the close affinities between the Huincul Formation and rocks of a similar age laid down in North Africa.  In addition, with the discovery of a short-armed, two-fingered dinosaur that lived some twenty-five million years or so before the end Cretaceous tyrannosaurids, palaeontologists can perhaps learn why reduced forelimb size was so prevalent in large carnivorous dinosaurs.”

The scientific paper from which this article was compiled is: “An Unusual New Theropod with a Didactyl Manus from the Upper Cretaceous of Patagonia, Argentina”.

Giganotosaurus Diorama from Paleo Paul

Carnegie Giganotosaurus Dinosaur Diorama

Dinosaur enthusiast and prehistoric animal model collector Paleo Paul emailed Everything Dinosaur and sent us a couple of pictures of his dinosaur diorama featuring a remodelled Giganotosaurus.  The talented model maker has used a Carnegie Collectibles Giganotosaurus replica and set this, now quite rare dinosaur model, in a prehistoric scene that features cycads and a flowering plant.  Giganotosaurus (G. carolinii) roamed Patagonia (southern Argentina) around ninety seven million years ago and it is regarded as one of the largest Theropod dinosaurs described to date.  It certainly makes a fitting centre piece to Paleo Paul’s prehistoric scene.

The Giganotosaurus Dinosaur Diorama

A cleverly crafted dinosaur diorama.

A Giganotosaurus dinosaur diorama from Paleo Paul.

Picture Credit: Paleo Paul

The Evolution of Flowering Plants

Great care has been taken to build up the vegetation in this diorama.  A range of prehistoric plants are depicted including a substantial angiosperm (flowering plant).  It was during the latter part of the Cretaceous geological period that flowering plants began to replace ferns, cycads, bennettitales and conifers as the dominant terrestrial flora.  Top marks to Paleo Paul for adding a flowering plant to his dinosaur diorama.

Paleo Paul wrote:

“Sharp-eyed collectors will notice a Carnegie Giganotosaurus dinosaur model, I used modellers putty to modify and then repainted.”

At Everything Dinosaur we get lots of pictures sent into us by model collectors and dinosaur fans.  We really enjoy seeing how prehistoric animal models are used to create prehistoric scenes and it never ceases to amaze us how talented and skilful a number of our customers are.

The Carnegie Collectibles Giganotosaurus Dinosaur Model

The Carnegie Collectibles Giganotosaurus dinosaur model, as part of the scale model range of prehistoric animals made by Safari Ltd, was retired a few years ago.  Like the majority of this model range, that was endorsed by palaeontologists from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA), it is becoming increasingly difficult for model collectors and dinosaur fans to acquire.  Fortunately, Everything Dinosaur still has stocks and our strong links with the American manufacturer has assured Everything Dinosaur customers continued access to this range for the foreseeable future.

The Carnegie Collectibles Giganotosaurus Dinosaur Model Features in the Diorama

The Giganotosaurus dinosaur model (Carnegie Dinosaurs).

The Carnegie Collectibles Giganotosaurus dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the range of prehistoric animal models including Carnegie Collectibles available from Everything Dinosaur: Carnegie Collectibles and Wild Safari Dinos Prehistoric Animal Models by Safari Ltd

Modifying a Giganotosaurus Model

Paleo Paul has skilfully repositioned the dinosaur’s tail and given this carnivore a deeper, more robust neck.  These and the other modifications really help to make the diorama stand out.  It’s an excellent prehistoric scene and great care and thought has gone into composition and layout.

A Close Up of the Giganotosaurus Dinosaur

A fearsome Giganotosaurus dinosaur diorama.

Paleo Paul’s Giganotosaurus dinosaur model diorama.

Picture Credit: Paleo Paul

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Our thanks to Paleo Paul for sending in these pictures, we really enjoy looking at all the photographs of prehistoric animal dioramas that we receive.  Giganotosaurus, as an apex predator, is a popular choice amongst model makers and we think that Paleo Paul’s interpretation is very praiseworthy.”

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