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13 07, 2017

A Whale of a Time at the Natural History Museum

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

Turning our Attention to Mantellisaurus

All change at the Natural History Museum in London with the refurbished main gallery (the Hintze Hall), opening to the public tomorrow.  Suspended over the hall, and replacing the Diplodocus cast (Dippy), will be “Hope” a 25.2-metre-long skeleton of a female Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) symbolising the Museum’s focus on conservation and the natural world.

Ready to Greet Millions of Visitors – The Blue Whale Skeleton (Hintze Hall)

Blue Whale skeleton.

The female Blue Whale skeleton at the London Natural History Museum.

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

A Conservation Success – So Far

The whale skeleton, some 4.5 tonnes and all 221 bones of it, had previously been on display in the mammals gallery of the museum but it had been partially hidden from public view.  Newly restored and augmented, thanks to some subtle 3-D printing to supplement the bones in the right flipper, this spectacular exhibit is depicted plunging towards the main gallery entrance as if the leviathan is attempting to scoop up visitors.  The Blue Whale helps to highlight a conservation success story.  Fifty years ago, the Blue Whale population had plummeted to just a few hundred and this, the largest animal known to have existed, was on the verge of extinction.  International conservation efforts to help preserve and support populations of baleen whales have paid off, at least in the case of Balaenoptera musculus with an estimated 20,000 individuals swimming the oceans of the world today.  Still this represents less than one tenth of the estimated Blue Whale population at the beginning of the 19th Century.

A Spectacular Pose for “Hope” the Blue Whale Skeleton

The Blue Whale exhibit.

The Blue Whale exhibit (Hintze Hall).

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

A Nod to Whale Evolution

Visitors to the gallery, may miss a tiny pair of bones located under the massive spinal column of the beast.  If you look up around the mid-point of the spine you might just be able to make out two tiny triangular bones, supported by wires underneath a vertebra.  These are the remains of the hip bones and hind limbs.  These bones are not visible in the living animal, they serve no real purpose anymore, except to prove that whales are descended from four-legged, terrestrial animals.  In fact, whales (Cetacea), belong in the Order Artiodactyla, the even-toed hoofed mammals and molecular studies suggest their nearest land-living relatives today are the Hippopotamuses (hippos and whales are grouped into the Whippomorpha).

Proof that Whales are Descended from Terrestrial Mammals

Hind limbs of the blue whale.

Evidence of the hind limbs of the Blue Whale.

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

Lorraine Cornish, the Museum’s Head of Conservation, exclaimed:

“Hope is the only blue whale skeleton in the world to be hung in the diving lunge feeding position.  Suspending such a large, complex and historical specimen from a Victorian ceiling was always going to be challenging, but we were determined to show her in as lifelike position as possible and we are thrilled that the result is truly spectacular.”

Wonder Bays – Look out for Mantellisaurus

“Dippy” may have gone but the Hintze Hall will be home to one dinosaur at least.  In one of the side bays a mounted skeleton of the iguanodontid Mantellisaurus (M.atherfieldensis) has been put on display.

A Nod to Gideon Mantell – Mantellisaurus

Mantellisaurus on display.

Mantellisaurus on display in the Hintze Hall.

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

The mounted Mantellisaurus specimen represents one of the most complete dinosaur specimens excavated from the UK.  At Everything Dinosaur, we think the specimen is NHMUK R5764, if it is, this is the holotype and it was discovered in 1914, by a local fossil collector called Reginald Hooley whilst he was exploring several, large shale blocks near Atherfield Point (Isle of Wight).  During his lifetime, Sir Richard Owen, the anatomist who helped found what is now called the Natural History Museum, did a great deal to denigrate the work of his contemporary Gideon Mantell.  Dinosaur fans as well as distinguished palaeontologists we think, will approve of the Museum’s recognition of Mantell’s contribution to the nascent study of dinosaurs.  Owen’s statue might look down on the exhibits, but the mounted skeleton, once assigned to the Iguanodon genus, now stands proud on the eastern side of the Hintze Hall and it bears the name of one of the other great contributors to early palaeontology.

We look forward to visiting the Museum in the near future.  We will marvel at the spectacular Blue Whale nodding its head in our direction as we walk in, but in turn we will stand before the Mantellisaurus and nod our heads in recognition of the work of Gideon Mantell who did much to shine a light, where before there was only darkness.

12 07, 2017

Feathered Dinosaurs from Iran

By | July 12th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Tracksites Suggested Jurassic Troodontids in Iran

Iranian scientists in collaboration with researchers from China and the United States, have published details of a remarkable set of fossilised dinosaur footprints that provide tantalising evidence of the presence of fast-running, potentially feathered dinosaurs from the Middle Jurassic of Iran.  The tell-tale, two-toed tracks are consistent with the sort of tracks associated with dinosaurs that are assigned to the Eumaniraptora clade (also referred to as the Paraves).  Dinosaurs such as dromaeosaurids and troodontids are characterised by having an enlarged, sickle-shaped claw on the second toe of each foot.  In a number of species, this claw is raised, so any footprints preserved, show just two toes in contact with ground (didactyl tracks), such tracks have been never been reported before from Iran and pre-Cretaceous tracks of this nature are exceptionally rare.

Evidence of Two-Toed Tracks from Iran

Two-toed dinosaur tracks reported from Iran.

Dinosaur tracks from Iran.

Picture Credit: Historical Biology

The picture above shows two of the tracks with accompanying line drawings and a digital analysis of track reference BA-T12 that shows the topographical outline of the track when transposed as a hyporelief print.  A illustration of a typical Eumaniraptoran dinosaur running on just two toes of each foot is shown above the prints.  Note the presence of feathers on the forearm in the illustration.

Didactyl Prints from the Middle Jurassic

Reporting in the academic journal “Historical Biology”, the researchers, which include Lida Xing (China University of Geosciences) and corresponding author Nasrollah Abbassi (University of Zanjan, Iran), along with Martin Lockley (University of Colorado), report the discovery of a small number of footprints preserved in sandstone from the Dansirit Formation in the Alborz Mountains (northern Iran).  The sediments laid down in this area, close to the city of Baladeh, have been dated to the Middle Jurassic based on the extensive plant fossils that have been found in this locality.

As a number of fossils have been found elsewhere in the world, notably China, that reveal these types of dinosaurs to be feathered, it can be inferred that these Iranian dinosaurs too, might have had feathers.  The scientists speculate that these tracks could have been made by a troodontid-like dinosaur.

Two-toed dinosaur trackways have been discovered at several sites, but as far as we at Everything Dinosaur are aware, nearly all of them are reported from much younger, Cretaceous-aged strata.  For example, Dr Martin Lockley, a specialist in ichnofossils (footprints and tracks), has reported didactyl prints from the western United States.

To read more about this discovery: Raptor Tracks from Colorado

For an article published in 2007 about tracksites that suggest pack behaviour in “raptors”: Chinese Dinosaur Tracks Indicate Pack Behaviour in Theropod Dinosaurs

Commenting on the importance of these fossils, Associate Professor Nasrollah Abbasi stated that this discovery was significant for two main reasons, first, it proves that Iran was home to feathered dinosaurs in the past, and second, it sheds some light on the behaviour of these two-toed dinosaurs.

An Illustration of a Typical “Raptor” Dinosaur

A typical dromaeosaurid dinosaur.

A typical dromaeosaur dinosaur.

Picture Credit: John Sibbick

Aalenian-Bajocian of the Middle Jurassic

The research team report that the tracks superficially resemble footprints attributed to small deinonychosaurian dinosaurs known mainly from the Cretaceous of Asia.  They comment that the relative lengths of digits III and IV are atypical of deinonychosaurids, especially dromaeosaurids, but they could potentially have come from a troodontid-like dinosaur.  The research team conclude that the possibility of small, cursorial Middle Jurassic  deinonychosaurids cannot be ruled out.  However, the researchers are very aware of the problems associated with confirming the presence of these types of dinosaurs from the Aalenian-Bajocian faunal stages of the Middle Jurassic.  If these tracks were made by these types of dinosaurs, this would demonstrate that dromaeosaurids or troodontid-type Theropods lived some 175 million years ago.

Reports of two-toed (didactyl) prints that date from before the Cretaceous remain exceptionally rare and such trace fossils predate all known deinonychosaurian body fossil occurrences.

A Model of a Member of the Dromaeosauridae (Microraptor)

Microraptor dinosaur model.

A member of the Dromaeosauridae sub-family the Microraptorinae.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

11 07, 2017

Explosive Radiation of Bird Species After Dinosaur Demise

By | July 11th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Birds Evolved Very Rapidly after Cretaceous Mass Extinction

The discovery of the fragmentary remains of a tiny bird is helping scientists to piece together the evolution of modern types of bird.  It seems that the Aves (birds), were very quick off the mark after the demise of the dinosaurs and the flying reptiles at the end of the Cretaceous*, within a few million years of the extinction event, the ancestors of most types of today’s birds had evolved.  Palaeontologists had been aware of the rapid evolution and radiation of the Mammalia after the end Cretaceous extinction event, but the birds too underwent a speedy period of evolution to exploit the environmental niches vacated by extinct organisms.  Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – USA (PNAS), researchers describe the discovery of a new species of fossil bird from New Mexico.  As the oldest known tree-dwelling bird species amongst modern bird groups, the fossils of this nuthatch-sized creature support the theory that birds underwent an explosive period of evolution in the aftermath of the dinosaur extinction.

An Illustration of the Newly Described Early Paleogene Bird – Tsidiiyazhi abini

Tsidiiyazhi abini life reconstruction.

Life reconstruction of the Tsidiiyazhi abini.

Picture Credit: Sean Murtha

The Significance of Tsidiiyazhi abini

Scientists from the Bruce Museum (Connecticut), the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (Albuquerque, New Mexico) have published a paper detailing the discovery of the fragmentary remains of a bird from the from the Nacimiento Formation of New Mexico.  The fossils date from 62.221 to 62.517 million years ago (Late Danian faunal stage of the Palaeocene Epoch), less than four million years after the extra-terrestrial impact event in the Yucatan Peninsula that marked the extinction of around seventy percent of all terrestrial life forms.  The bird has been named Tsidiiyazhi abini, the name being derived from the local Navajo (Diné Bizaad) and it translates as “little morning bird”.  At Everything Dinosaur, we have checked with the Bruce Museum to ensure we can relate the correct pronunciation, our apologies to any native Navajo speakers, but we think the name is pronounced – “City-ya-zee ah-bin-ih, with a focus on a “dee” sound in “City” rather than an emphasis on the “Tee” syllable.

Tiny Fragmentary Fossils Tell the Story of Bird Evolution

Tsidiiyazhi abini fossils.

Fragmentary fossils including limb bones.

Picture Credit: PNAS

Supporting Evidence from “Molecular Clocks”

Palaeontologists are aware of the growing evidence from molecular studies into evolutionary relationships that suggests the birds diverged and evolved rapidly after the K-Pg extinction.  Unfortunately, the fossil record of birds is exceptionally poor.  Very few fossils of birds are known from the Early Palaeocene.  These animals tend to be small, their bones are delicate and the arboreal environment all tend to greatly reduce any fossilisation potential.  The New Mexico fossil find is highly significant as T. abini has been assigned to the Sandcoleidae family, an extinct basal family of stem mousebirds (Coliiformes).   The discovery of Tsidiiyazhi pushes the minimum divergence ages of as many as nine additional major neoavian lineages into the earliest Palaeocene, suggesting a very rapid evolution of Aves after the Cretaceous mass extinction.

Thanks to developments in genetics, scientists can study the evolutionary relationships of living organisms by comparing details of their genetics.  A time when two, now distinct and separate but related organisms shared a common ancestor can be calculated using the idea that the molecules which form genes accumulate mutational changes in a clock-like, constant rate over geological time.  Researchers can use the changes in genetics of an organism to plot the approximate time when these species diverged from a common ancestor.  The “molecular clock” data points to a period of rapid evolution for the Aves just a few million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs, fossil finds, such as the fragmentary fossils of Tsidiiyazhi abini provide further evidence to support this idea.  In essence, the ancestors of all the major groups of modern birds we see today, had already evolved just a few million years after the last dinosaur (non-avian dinosaur) died.

Fossil Hunting – It’s a Family Affair

The tiny fossil bones were found by eleven-year-old twins Taylor and Ryan Williamson, the sons of Dr Tom Williamson, a palaeontologist specialising in the study of Palaeocene vertebrates based at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, who co-authored the scientific paper.  Mousebirds are only found in sub-Saharan Africa today, however, these fossils help to confirm that these gregarious, fruit and seed eaters were much more geographically widespread in the past.  Analysis of the delicate foot bones show that Tsidiiyazhi abini had evolved specialisations of the foot that let it reverse its fourth toe to better grasp and hold onto branches.

Twins Ryan and Taylor Williamson Found the Fossil Remains

Tsidiiyazhi abini fossil site.

Twins Ryan and Taylor Williamson found the bones of the Palaeocene bird Tsidiiyazhi abini.

Picture Credit: Dr Tom Williamson (New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

The ability to reverse the fourth toe is referred to as semizygodactyly, this is an adaptation for life in the trees and the fossils of Tsidiiyazhi provides evidence that many groups of birds arose just a few million years after the K-Pg extinction event and had already begun to evolve specialisations of the foot bones to allow them to exploit different ecological niches.

The scientific paper: “Early Paleocene Landbird Supports Rapid Phylogenetic and Morphological Diversification of Crown Birds after the K–Pg Mass Extinction” by Daniel T. Ksepka, Thomas A. Stidham, and Thomas E. Williamson published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

*Note

It is a common misconception that only the Dinosauria, marine reptiles and the Pterosauria were casualties of the mass extinction event that marked the end of the Cretaceous.  Several other types of terrestrial vertebrate also suffered extinctions including the Aves and Mammalia.  Many kinds of primitive bird along with different genera of mammals died out either at or shortly after the K-Pg boundary.  Marine ecosystems were also badly affected and in addition, several families of plants did not survive this extinction.

10 07, 2017

Swiss Fossil Discovery Solves Triassic Reptile Mystery

By | July 10th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

The Marine Reptile That Wasn’t –  Eusaurosphargis dalsassoi

A team of scientists from Zurich University and the University of Oxford have resolved a scaly, fourteen-year mystery concerning a small reptile that lived some 241 million years ago in the Middle Triassic.  The little diapsid named Eusaurosphargis dalsassoi has had quite a chequered history, but thanks to a remarkable fossil find, palaeontologists have a much better idea of what this reptile looked and equally importantly where it lived.  This animal was very much at home on land and not a marine reptile as previously thought.

An Illustration of Eusaurosphargis dalsassoi

Eusaurosphargis dalsassoi.

Eusaurosphargis dalsassoi illustrated.

Picture Credit: Beat Scheffold, Palaeontological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich

Fossil Discovery in 2003

Named from a single, disarticulated specimen found in marine strata on the Swiss-Italian border some fourteen years ago Eusaurosphargis was thought at first to be some form of fish, after all, the fossil was found in rocks formed from sediment laid down in a shallow lagoon.  Once the skeleton had been prepared, the fossil material was identified as a diapsid reptile and the taphonomy suggested that this was a reptile that lived in the sea.  Taphonomy is the study of the fossilisation process.  It concerns everything that happens to an organism from death until the time when, if serendipity permits, its fossil is discovered.  A new fossil find, this time from the Grisons Mountains (Graubünden canton of Switzerland), a much more complete and articulated specimen, has revealed the true nature of Eusaurosphargis, it was definitely a land-lubber and as such has a superficial similarity to the extant girdled lizards (Cordylidae) of southern Africa.

A Beautifully Well-Preserved Fossil Proves Eusaurosphargis was Terrestrial

Eusaurosphargis fossil.

The articulated fossil skeleton of Eusaurophargis.

Picture Credit: Torsten Scheyer, Palaeontological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich

No Sign of Marine Adaptations

The Swiss specimen measures around twenty centimetres in length and as such, it represents a juvenile.  However, the skeleton shows a flange of osteoderms on the side of the body along with a number of bony scales on its back.  The sprawling limbs show no signs of adaptation for a swimming lifestyle and the tail is very short, so short, that in water it would not have provided much propulsion.  This fossil, excavated from the Prosanto Formation near Ducanfurgga at an altitude of 2,740 metres, strongly supports the idea that this was a terrestrial animal.

Writing in the academic journal “Scientific Reports”, the Anglo-Swiss team of researchers led by Torsten Scheyer, a palaeontologist at the University of Zurich, and James Neenan from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History have concluded that the carcass was washed off a nearby island into the sea basin and became embedded in the finely layered marine sediments after death.

Convergent Evolution

Commenting on the superficial resemblance between the Triassic Eusaurosphargis and modern-day members of the Cordylidae family, Dr Scheyer explained:

“This is a case of convergent development as the extinct species is not closely related to today’s African lizards.”

The Site of the Fossil Discovery – in the Middle of a Mountain Range

Triassic reptile fossil site.

The location of the Eusaurosphargis fossil discovery.

Picture Credit:  Christian Obrist

The Irony of the Phylogeny of Eusaurosphargis dalsassoi

Based on this new, and much better-preserved fossil material, the research team were able to conduct a more detailed phylogenetic study of E. dalsassoi to establish where, in the extremely diverse Diapsida this little reptile should be nested.  The phylogenetic analysis indicates that its closest relatives were marine reptiles, animals such as Ichthyosaurs.  Eusaurosphargis may even be the sister taxon to Helveticosaurus, a Mid Triassic marine reptile, fossils of which, also come from Switzerland.

8 07, 2017

A Time for Digging Up Dinosaurs

By | July 8th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Field Teams Prepare to Explore Northern Latitudes

High summer in the northern hemisphere, most teaching programmes may have come to an end but for many palaeontologists, this is their busiest time of year.  The months of July and August represent the best times to explore some of the more remote and difficult to access vertebrate fossil sites.  Take for example, Dr Anthony Fiorillo from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science (Dallas, Texas).  He and his colleagues are busy organising field work in the Aniakchak National Monument (Alaska), area in a bid to learn more about polar dinosaurs.  The summer months represent the only time that scientists have to work at such remote and inaccessible sites, as the weather for once, is on their side.  Palaeontologists will be taking advantage of the near 24-hours of daylight in northern latitudes to further explore the unique prehistoric environments that for most of the year are simply inaccessible.

Dr Tony Fiorillo at Work in the Field

Dr Fiorillo (Perot Museum of Nature and Science)

Dr Anthony Fiorillo in the field ready to dig up dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Perot Museum of Nature and Science

Dinosaurs of Northern Latitudes

The Late Cretaceous exposures in Alaska provide a record of life at very high latitudes as the age of dinosaurs was drawing to a close.  Just like the herds of migratory herbivorous dinosaurs, which would have fed around the clock, the scientists will be taking advantage of the very long days to get as much work done as possible.  The field team hope to revisit a number of locations in the Aniakchak National Monument in a bid to collect more data on the hundreds of dinosaur tracksites that have been discovered.  These tracks and individual dinosaur footprints provide a unique insight into the ancient palaeofauna, an opportunity to further explore the lives of polar dinosaurs.  In 2014, Everything Dinosaur wrote an article summarising some of the work undertaken by Dr Fiorillo and his colleagues as they interpreted a substantial number of duck-billed dinosaur tracks.  These trace fossils helped the researchers to better understand how these giant, herbivorous dinosaurs moved around in herds: Duck-Billed Dinosaurs Moved Around in Herds just like Elephants. Over the years, researchers from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science have made a very important contribution to research into dinosaur populations that lived (and seemed to thrive) at high northern latitudes.

Commenting on the significance of their work, Dr Fiorillo stated:

“At the start of every one of these expeditions, the adrenaline is pumping.  We are so excited to get back out there.  I fully expect that we will find dozens of footprints and we will learn a little bit more about the environment in which these dinosaurs lived.”

Nanuqsaurus hoglundi and Pachyrhinosaurus perotorum

Staff at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, along with their collaborators from other institutions have been instrumental in helping to improve our understanding of the polar dinosaurs and the palaeoenvironment.  For example, a third species of Pachyrhinosaurus (P. perotorum) has been erected thanks to Alaskan fossil discoveries.

A Skeleton of the Horned Dinosaur Pachyrhinosaurus

Pachyrhinosaurus dinosaur exhibit.

A large horned dinosaur with a huge skull (Pachyrhinosaurus).

With all that plant food and the long summer days, Alaska might have been a paradise, albeit a chilly one for plant-eating dinosaurs.  However, they did have to contend with some particularly nasty predators, over-sized dromaeosaurids for example and perhaps, even more surprisingly a “polar” Tyrannosaur.  In 2006, a research team led by Dr Anthony Fiorillo and his colleague Dr Ronald Tykoski, also from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science discovered the fossils of a carnivorous dinosaur that was later named Nanuqsaurus hoglundi.

To read more about this fossil discovery: An Update on “Polar Bear Lizard”

We wish all field teams every success and we hope that they have a safe, rewarding and very satisfactory field season.

To read more about the discovery of Pachyrhinosaurus perotorum an article first published in 2011: A New Species of Pachyrhinosaurus is Announced

7 07, 2017

JurassicCollectables Reviews the Papo Cryolophosaurus

By | July 7th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur videos, Main Page, Product Reviews|0 Comments

Papo Cryolophosaurus Video Review (JurassicCollectables)

Dinosaur model reviews are coming in thick and fast from JurassicCollectables.  Today, we share their latest video review, a look out the new for 2017, Papo Cryolophosaurus dinosaur model.  The Papo Cryolophosaurus is the last of the Papo dinosaur figures to be introduced this year, but it has been well worth the wait as the paint scheme and detailing on this figure is exquisite.

The New for 2017 Papo Cryolophosaurus – Video Review by JurassicCollectables

Video Credit: JurassicCollectables

Frozen Crested Lizard

Found on the slopes of Mount Kirkpatrick at an altitude of around 4,000 metres Cryolophosaurus (C. elloitti), an Early Jurassic dinosaur is one of the most unusual of all the Theropoda.  The first fossils of this dinosaur were discovered during an expedition at the end of 1990/early 1991, during the Antarctic summer.  The genus name was inspired by that remarkable bony crest and the fossil site location – the genus name translates as “frozen crested lizard”.

In this short video (duration 4:49), the narrator talks about the beautiful bony ridges on the skull that gave this dinosaur its name.  The commentary includes details of the washes used to create such a glossy looking dinosaur.  Although, during the time of Cryolophosaurus Antarctica was a considerable distance away from the South Pole, the climate would still have been harsh, but not as extreme as today.

The Cryolophosaurus material comes from the Hanson Formation, several other vertebrates are known from the Lower Jurassic strata. Cryolophosaurus shared its chilly forested world with Pterosaurs, Prosauropods and Sauropods, Cynodonts (mammal-like reptiles) and several other types of Theropod.  Intriguingly, these rocks have yet to be fully mapped and explored and a number of fossil finds (including dinosaur remains) have yet to be formally described.

Detailed Video Description

In the JurassicCollectables video review, the narrator provides a detailed description of this skilfully made dinosaur model.  Particular attention is given to the skull sculpt including the detail on the inside of the mouth and the folds of skin on the neck, before the video shows the scales and other osteoderms that have been carefully crafted into the figure.

The JurassicCollectables YouTube channel has lots of Papo model videos, plus reviews of many other new for 2017, prehistoric animal figures.  It is a “go to” site for many dinosaur fans and model collectors.  To visit the JurassicCollectables YouTube channel and to subscribe: JurassicCollectables on YouTube

The video review of the Papo Cryolophosaurus may have only been posted up for a few hours but it has already attracted over 3,600 views.

The Papo Cryolophosaurus Dinosaur Model

Papo Cryolophosaurus dinosaur model.

The Papo Cryolophosaurus dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Just like the narrator, we have a couple of these Papo replicas on one of our shelves in the office.  It is the favourite new for 2017 Papo model of “Tyrannosaurus Sue”!  We are looking forward to the rest of the new for 2017 Papo replicas, the Cave Bear, Dimorphodon and the roaring Smilodon figures will be in stock soon.

To view the range of Papo prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur: Papo Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models

The Papo Cryolophosaurus Dinosaur Model

Papo Cryolophosaurus.

The Papo Cryolophosaurus dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

6 07, 2017

Tyrannosaurs Roamed Late Cretaceous Japan

By | July 6th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Large Theropod Tooth Indicates Tyrannosaurs Roamed Japan

Researchers have identified a single, shed Theropod tooth that indicates that large Tyrannosaurs roamed the land that we now know as Japan some 80 million years ago.  The single tooth is very characteristic of a member of the Tyrannosauridae family, however, it is not possible to identify a specific genus based on such fragmentary evidence.  This has not stopped the speculation, with some sources suggesting that the tooth might have come from a dinosaur which was very similar to Gorgosaurus, which is one of the better known Late Cretaceous Tyrannosaurs, although, as far as we at Everything Dinosaur think, Gorgosaurus lived several million years later and is only known from North America.

The Single Broken Theropod Tooth – Potential Japanese Tyrannosaur

Lateral view of the Japanese Tyrannosaur tooth.

The Tyrannosaur tooth (Japan).

Picture Credit: Goshoura Cretaceous Museum

Fossil Find on Amakusa Island

In October 2014, a research team from the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum in collaboration with colleagues from the Goshoura Cretaceous Museum was exploring a series of Upper Cretaceous exposures in the Amakusa archipelago (Kumamoto Prefecture), a tooth from a Theropod was found.  In a press release, a spokesperson from the Goshoura Cretaceous Museum, which is run by the Amakusa city government, explained that the single tooth is believed to have come from either the upper left jaw or the lower right jaw of a carnivorous dinosaur.  The tooth morphology is typical of a Tyrannosaur, it has serrations running down the sides of the tooth, very similar to those of dinosaurs in the Tyrannosauridae family.  It is slightly recurved and has a characteristic robust appearance and a classic oval or “D” shape when seen in cross-section.

A View of the Underside of the Tooth – A Typical Tyrannosaur Tooth Shape

The Japanese tyrannosaurid tooth (ventral vew)

Ventral view of the tyrannosaurid tooth (view from underneath).

Picture Credit: Goshoura Cretaceous Museum

A Shed Tooth

Only the crown has been found.  No roots have been found in association with the tooth, so it is very likely a shed tooth.  Dinosaurs replaced teeth throughout their lives.  Palaeontologists have calculated that a tooth in the jaws of Tyrannosaurus rex probably lasted less than two years.  The dental enamel on the tooth is quite well preserved and the fossil measures 4.2 cm long, 2.5 cm wide (at the bottom) and it is 1.6 cm thick.  Based on the size of the tooth, scientists have estimated that the Tyrannosaur that lost this tooth could have measured over seven metres in length.  The original length of the tooth (crown plus root) is estimated at around 5.6 cm long.

The tooth would have been quite sizeable, but this is not the largest Theropod tooth ever found in Japan.  In 2008, Everything Dinosaur reported the discovery of a much older dinosaur tooth that measured more than eight centimetres in length.

To read about this fossil discovery: Largest Meat-Eating Dinosaur Tooth Found in Japan

The serrations (denticles) are quite prominent and measure about 0.3 mm in size.  In the press statement, it was stated that the tooth was found in exposures related to the Ikusagaura stratum of the Himenoura Group (Upper Cretaceous – Campanian faunal stage).

An Illustration of a Typical Gorgosaurus (G. libratus Member of the Tyrannosauridae)

Gorgosaurus libratus illustrated.

The tooth probably came from a dinosaur similar to a North American Gorgosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Commenting on the fossil find, a team member from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“Dinosaur fossils from Japan are exceptionally rare and most material is extremely fragmentary.  The finding of this single tooth does indicate that during the latter stages of the Late Cretaceous, this part of the world was home to large Tyrannosaurs similar to those found in similar aged rocks in North America and elsewhere in Asia.”

Earlier this year, (April 2017), Everything Dinosaur reported on the discovery of the most complete dinosaur skeleton ever found in Japan.  The fossilised remains of a Hadrosaur were discovered on the Japanese island of Hokkaido.  The fossils were found in marine strata, it is likely that the corpse of this herbivorous dinosaur was washed out to sea – an example of a “bloat and float” form of taphonomy.

To read an article about this discovery: Japan’s Most Complete Dinosaur Discovery

A Mounted Skeleton of a Gorgosaurus (Late Cretaceous Tyrannosaur)

A Gorgosaurus on display.

Gorgosaurus fossil display.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Manchester University

5 07, 2017

Madagascar’s Mighty-Mouthed Croc

By | July 5th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Razanandrongobe sakalavae – Terror of the Middle Jurassic

A team of French and Italian palaeontologists have pieced together a more than decade-long puzzle and as a result, have come face to face with one of the most nightmarish prehistoric animals imaginable.  New research on fossils found in north-western Madagascar has led scientists to describe a giant, terrestrial crocodile with immensely strong teeth and bone-crushing jaws.  The new species, the largest and oldest Notosuchian described to date, may well have filled the apex predatory niche in this part of the southern, super-continent Gondwana.  The super-sized croc, named Razanandrongobe sakalavae (pronounced Ray-zan-an-dro-go-bay sack-ah-lar-vey), had teeth reminiscent of the robust teeth of a Late Cretaceous Tyrannosaur.  Indeed, an examination of the denticles (serrations) on the teeth preserved in the left dentary fragment and partial right premaxilla are strikingly similar to the serrations on a T. rex tooth.

A Reconstruction of the Deep Skull of Razanandrongobe sakalavae

The fearsom Razanandrongobe.

Razanandrongobe skull.

Picture Credit: Fabio Manucci

Archosauria incertae sedis

In 2006, three palaeontologists (Simone Maganuco, Cristiano Dal Sasso and Giovanni Pasini), published a scientific paper that described a large predatory Archosaur from the Mahajanga Basin of Madagascar.  The animal was named based on a fragmentary right maxilla and seven isolated teeth.  It is not unusual to have a new genus established based on such incomplete remains, however, what kind of reptile these fossils represented was very much open to debate.  Could it have been a crocodylomorph or perhaps a carnivorous dinosaur?  A new taxon was erected Razanandrongobe sakalavae, in the 2006 paper.  It was suggested that the fossils might represent the largest predatory animal known from the Bathonian faunal stage of Jurassic Madagascar and that it could have been durophagous – feeding on hard materials like the bones of other vertebrates.  Such was the paucity of the fossil material, that although the species name entered scientific literature, it was referred to as “Archosauria incertae sedis”, which means it was a member of the Archosauria, but where it belonged in this large and extremely diverse clade was anyone’s guess.

More Fossils – More Skull Material

Writing in the academic journal “PeerJ” the same researchers, in collaboration with Guillaume Fleury (Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Toulouse, France), have described more cranial material including an almost complete right premaxilla, a portion of left lower jaw bone (dentary), plus a partial maxilla complete with unerupted teeth and a single, very large broken tooth.  In addition, a further five skull bones, that were, most likely collected from the same location are also assigned to R. sakalavae.  These fossils have ruled out Theropoda, Razanandrongobe was definitely from the Crurotarsi archosauriforms and as such, it has affinities with today’s crocodilians.  However, phylogenetic analysis assigns Razanandrongobe to the Notosuchia and as such, it was very distantly related to Kaprosuchus from the Late Cretaceous of Niger, a terrestrial predator that readers of this blog and collectors of Papo and Safari Ltd prehistoric animal models might be familiar with.  As several Sauropods are known from the same stratigraphy, this “super-croc” has been depicted scavenging on the carcass of long-necked dinosaur.

Razanandrongobe sakalavae Feeding on a Sauropod Carcass (Archaeodontosaurus)

Razanandrongobe feeding on a dinosaur.

Razanandrongobe feeding on a Sauropod carcass.

Picture Credit: Fabio Manucci

The illustration above depicts the deep-snouted terrestrial Razanandrongobe scavenging on the carcass of a Sauropod.  We speculate that the artist has depicted an Archaeodontosaurus as the victim.  Archaeodontosaurus is known from fossils that came from the same region of Madagascar.  Ironically, we think at Everything Dinosaur, this Middle Jurassic Sauropod was named on the basis of isolated teeth and a fragment of jawbone, just like R. sakalavae.  Although distantly related to living crocodiles, Razanandrongobe moved very differently.  Its legs were longer and it walked with a much more erect stance.  It may even have been capable of bipedalism, although analysis of the postcranial skeleton would be the only way to confirm this.

As to the size of this 165 million-year-old crocodile, that is very difficult to say.   However, this animal nick-named “Razana”, has been estimated at around seven metres in length.  This measurement has been calculated by comparing the Razanandrongobe fossil material with better-known and more complete baurusuchids, another type of Notosuchian from South America.

Estimating the Size of Razanandrongobe sakalavae

Estimating the size of Razanandrongobe sakalavae scale drawing.

Estimating the size of Razanandrongobe sakalavae.

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum (Milan)

Razanandrongobe may have been about as big as a modern Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), but on those powerful erect limbs it would have stood much higher, perhaps around 1.6 metres high at the hips.  Its weight has been estimated at 800 to 1,000 kilogrammes.

“Giant Lizard Ancestor from the Sakalava Region”

Razanandrongobe sakalavae translates from the local dialect and Latin and means “giant lizard ancestor from the Sakalava region”, Sakalava relating to the ethnic group that inhabits the Mahajanga region, where the fossil material was found.  It is thanks to the additional fossil fragments, the majority of which indicating that they represent the same individual whose fossils were described back in 2006, that the research team have been able to “flesh out the bones” and provide a more detailed picture of this monster.  In essence, the paper clarifies features on the holotype material that confirms that the fossils do not represent any type of dinosaur, it establishes Razanandrongobe as a member of the Notosuchia and as such it is by far the oldest Notosuchian so far described.  It is the first Jurassic Notosuchian and its fossils are some 42 million years older than other members of this crocodilian Sub-order.

The Mounted Fossils (with some casts) Reconstructing the Front of the Jaws of R. sakalavae 

R. sakalavae  skull reconstruction.

Razanandrongobe sakalavae  skull reconstruction.

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum (Milan)

The picture above shows the reconstructed anterior portion of the skull and jaws of Razanandrongobe with the fossil material and casts shown in life position.

Cristiano Dal Sasso (Natural History Museum of Milan) commented:

“Like these and other gigantic crocs from the Cretaceous “Razana” could outcompete even Theropod dinosaurs, at the top of the food chain.”

Very little is known about the origins and the early evolution of the Notosuchia, this Madagascan fossil material represents the first Jurassic fossils related to this Sub-order.  Razanandrongobe has extended the evolutionary history of the Notosuchia by more than forty million years and as such, it has established a ghost lineage that, hopefully further fossil finds will help to fill in.

Speaking about the implications for the evolution of these types of terrestrial crocodiles, co-author of the PeerJ paper, Simone Maganuco (Natural History Museum of Milan), stated:

“These fossils represent a further signal that the Notosuchia originated in southern Gondwana.”

Predator or Scavenger?

Although nothing can be discounted, it is likely that, just like the majority of scavengers today, Razanandrongobe was an active hunter.  It probably hunted dinosaurs and other large vertebrates.  However, it was also very probably an opportunist, if it found a carcass it would have fed upon it.  After all, dead animals don’t fight back and a corpse represents a free lunch, so long as you can defend it from other hungry carnivores.  The powerful jaws and strong teeth lead to the idea that this crocodile was durophagous.  It was able to consume parts of the carcass that other predators including most Theropod dinosaurs, could not.  This ability to exploit such a food source could have been key to this type of predator’s evolutionary success.

The Papo Kaprosuchus Model – A Distant Relative of Razanandrongobe

Papo Kaprosuchus model.

A spectacular Papo Kaprosuchus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

4 07, 2017

JurassicCollectables Reviews the Rebor Carnotaurus

By | July 4th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur videos, Main Page|0 Comments

A Video Review of the Rebor Carnotaurus “Crimson King”

The latest JurassicCollectables video to be posted is a review of the spectacular “Crimson King”, the Rebor Carnotaurus (C. sastrei), 1:35 scale dinosaur model.  Rebor has continued to set the standard when it comes to 1:35 scale Theropods and this new Carnotaurus joins Acrocanthosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Yutyrannus, Utahraptor, T. rex, Velociraptor and Deinonychus in the Rebor replica range.

JurassicCollectables Reviews the “Crimson King”

Video Credit: JurassicCollectables

In this short review, (the video lasts a fraction over six minutes), viewers are given the opportunity to have a really good look at this skilfully modelled South American dinosaur.  The narrator discusses various aspects of this dinosaur model.  For example, he points out the care and attention to detail revealed by the sculpted roof of the mouth and that amazing coloured tongue.  The articulated jaw and front limbs are demonstrated and the lava field base is also shown and commented upon.

To view the Rebor Carnotaurus replica “Crimson King” and the entire Rebor prehistoric animal model range: Rebor Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Replicas

Carnotaurus – “Meat-eating Bull”

When the fossilised remains of a single, individual specimen was discovered in the mid 1980’s, palaeontologists were very puzzled.  This Theropod from Argentina, was unlike any other dinosaur that scientists had described at the time.  It ended up being assigned to its own family, the Abelisauridae, along with Abelisaurus (A. comahuensis).  The skin impressions, found in association with the Carnotaurus specimen, provided the researchers with some of the best-preserved dinosaur skin samples that had been discovered.  The blunt snout and the thin lower jaw suggested that this dinosaur had a unique hunting strategy.  The skull seemed too lightly built to cope with struggling prey, however, at an estimated eight metres in length, Carnotaurus was very probably an apex predator, although it can’t be ruled out that this dinosaur was a specialised scavenger, relying on the kills of other dinosaurs.  In the JurassicCollectables video, the Rebor Tenontosaurus corpse (Ceryneian Hind) is used to provide scale for the figure.

The Rebor Carnotaurus “Crimson King” Figure

Rebor Carnotaurus dinosaur model the "Crimson King".

Rebor Carnotaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The genus name was erected as this dinosaur has two prominent horns above its eyes.  These horns stuck out sideways and reminded the scientists of the horns of a cow.  It is not known what these horns were for, it has been speculated that they could have shown maturity, or perhaps they played a role in visual displays.  Another theory put forward is that these horns protected the eyes during intraspecific combat.

The Rebor 1:35 Scale Carnotaurus Dinosaur Model (C. sastrei)

Rebor Carnotaurus dinosaur model.

Rebor “Crimson King” Carnotaurus dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Papo Brown Tyrannosaurus rex

The very informative JurassicCollectables video review also features the Papo Brown Tyrannosaurus rex model (standing T. rex figure), this replica is also used to provide scale and the Rebor Carnotaurus works very well alongside this Papo model.  Look out for “off colour Alan”, who makes his regular appearance.  A JurassicCollectables dinosaur model review would not be complete without an appearance of this figure!

JurassicCollectables have a wonderful YouTube channel stuffed full of prehistoric animal model reviews and other very informative videos, including reviews of the Rebor Acrocanthosaurus replica and the Rebor Cerberus Clan (Deinonychus dinosaurs).

Visit the YouTube channel of Jurassic Collectables here: JurassicCollectables on YouTube , don’t forget to subscribe to the JurassicCollectables channel, after all, some 55,000 dinosaur and prehistoric animal model fans already have!

3 07, 2017

Titanosaur “Judy” from the Outback!

By | July 3rd, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans|0 Comments

Research Team Excavate Aussie Titanosaur

The fossilised remains of what might turn out to be one of the most complete dinosaur specimens ever found in Australia are currently being excavated near the town of Winton (Queensland, Australia).  Although much of the field work has yet to be completed, palaeontologists are confident that around twenty-five percent of the animal’s entire skeleton may be present.  If this is the case, then these fossils, representing a single, individual Titanosaur, may help scientists to better understand the megafauna of Gondwana during the early Late Cretaceous.

A Scale Drawing Showing “Cooper” Australia’s Largest Titanosaur Fossil Discovery to Date

A scale drawing of an Australian Titanosaur.

Scale drawing of “Cooper”.

Picture Credit: Dr Scott Hocknell

Winton – The Unofficial Dinosaur Capital of Australia

The discovery was made back in 2015, when a local rancher, Bob Elliott noticed fragments of dinosaur bone on the surface of one of his livestock paddocks.  Over the last few field seasons, volunteers, guided by the dig team’s leader Dr Stephen Poropat of Swinburne University (Melbourne), have slowly and steadily been uncovering the treasure trove of dinosaur fossil material.  Winton, named after, Winton, a suburb of Bournemouth (Dorset, southern England), is regarded as the unofficial dinosaur capital of Australia as numerous dinosaur fossils have been found.  To date, the team has found four peg-like teeth, at least ten cervical vertebrae, dorsal vertebrae, pelvic material and elements from the shoulder and limbs.

Commenting upon the importance of this dig site in the context of Australian dinosaurs, Dr Poropat stated:

“This just might be the most complete Sauropod ever found in Australia.  We have probably more than twenty-five percent of the skeleton, which is phenomenal.”

Palaeontologists and Volunteers Working at the Dig Site

Excavating an Australian Titanosaur.

A group of field workers at the “Judy” dig site.

Picture Credit: Swinburne University of Technology

Nick-named “Judy”

The fossil material has been nick-named “Judy”, in honour of Judy Elliott, one of the co-founders of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum in Winton.  Although a number of Titanosaurs (a type of Sauropod), have already been described from fossils found in this region, Dr Poropat believes that this particular specimen will give scientists a better understanding of Australia’s Late Cretaceous long-necked dinosaurs.

The postdoctoral fellow added:

“We will be able to understand many aspects of this Sauropod’s anatomy, simply because we have so much of its skeleton.  By studying its teeth and neck in particular, we might be able to shed light on how it fed.”

Potential Cololites

The area where the chest and hips are located at the quarry has yet to be fully excavated.  The remains of this dinosaur’s last meal might be preserved inside the body cavity (cololites).  This would provide direct evidence as to the types of plant material this giant herbivore consumed.  If the researchers are able to locate cololites, this would be the first time gut contents in an Australian Titanosaur would have been discovered.

An Aerial View of the Dinosaur Dig Site with Accompanying Schematic Drawing

The dig site with a schematic drawing showing the layout of the fossil bones.

Photograph of the dig site with schematic drawing.

Picture Credit: Swinburne University of Technology

Dr Poropat explained that these fossils may lead to more questions:

“We still have a lot to learn about many aspects of Sauropod behaviour, physiology and in the case of Australia’s Sauropods in particular their skeletal anatomy.”

This herbivorous dinosaur was not fully grown when it perished (as indicated by the unfused shoulder girdles), but at around twelve metres in length it was a sizeable animal none-the-less.  The team hope to return to the dig site next month to continue the excavation.  As for when “Judy” roamed, the rocks in this arid part of Australia are estimated to be around ninety-five million years old (Cenomanian faunal stage of the early Late Cretaceous).

To read an article on the naming of an Australian Titanosaur: Savannasaurus elliottorum

For an article discussing more dinosaur finds from Queensland: Time for Some More Aussie Dinosaurs

More Australian dinosaurs discovered (2009 article): A Trio of Australian Dinosaurs

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