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Dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed articles, features and stories.

10 03, 2017

Late Jurassic Crocodile Eggs and Meat-Eating Dinosaurs

By | March 10th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Crocodylomorph Ootaxa and the Theropod Connection

A number of media outlets have reported upon a paper published in the on line journal PLOS One which describes two new ootaxa (the name given to a species described just from egg fossils), of crocodilians from the Upper Jurassic rocks of western Portugal.  The focus on many of these reports has been on the age of the fossilised crocodile eggs.  Having been laid more than 150 million years ago, they are the oldest crocodilian eggs described to date.  However, the research paper itself, hints at a remarkable potential relationship between these ancient reptiles and their close cousins, Theropod dinosaurs.

A Clutch of Unhatched Late Jurassic Crocodylomorph Eggs (Lourinhã Formation)

Suchoolithus portucalensis fossil eggs.

The unhatched crocodylomorph eggs (Cambelas) ascribed to Suchoolithus portucalensis.

The Famous Lourinhã Formation

The first crocodylomorph eggs were found in 1987 and over the years a number of egg and egg shell fragment discoveries have been made.  The eggs are very similar to the eggs of extant crocodiles but the scientists have been able to identity distinctions between the fossil specimens (not least the size).  This has led to the erection of two new ootaxa.  The eggs of the smaller of the two crocodylomorphs – Suchoolithus portucalensis are shown in the photograph above.  The eggs are quite small and the researchers estimate that the adult female that laid these eggs would have been around seventy centimetres in length.  The second ootaxa to be named – Krokolithes dinophilus, which is known from a number of fossil specimens collected from four locations, is represented by larger but broken eggs and shell fragments.  The research team estimate that the female croc that laid these eggs would have been around the size of a female American Alligator (A. mississippiensis), probably more than two metres long.

Location of the Egg Fossil Finds Referred to in the New Study

Map showing the location of the fossil finds.

A map showing the location of the crocodylomorph egg fossil sites.

Picture Credit: PLOS One with additional annotation from Everything Dinosaur

Key

The picture above shows the five fossil locations that are covered in the scientific paper as well as indicating the position of the Lourinhã Formation in relation to the rest of Portugal.  A total of thirteen fossilised eggs collected at the Cambelas site have been ascribed to the ootaxa Suchoolithus portucalensis (the name translates from Latin as “egg stone crocodile from Portugal”), the fossils represent a clutch of unhatched eggs.  Eggs laid by a much larger crocodylomorph are associated with the other four locations, namely North and South Paimogo, Casal da Rola and Peralta.  These fossils comprise broken eggs and numerous shell fragments, they have been ascribed to the ootaxa Krokolithes dinophilus (which is from the Greek and means “crocodile eggs found in association with dinosaurs”).

Holotype of Krokolithes dinophilus (Specimen Number ML760 from Paimogo N, Praia da Amoreira-Porto Novo Member, Lourinhã Formation)

Krokolithes dinophilus fossil material.

Holotype of the oospecies Krokolithes dinophilus.

Found in Association with Theropod Dinosaur Nests

All the egg fossils (except for the Cambelas site fossils), were found in association with Theropod dinosaur nests and eggs.  So in essence, the palaeontologists, which included João Russo and Octávio Mateus (Museu da Lourinhã, Portugal), have identified four occurrences where the fossils of the large crocodylomorph K. dinophilus are found in the same place as the eggs and nests of large, meat-eating dinosaurs.  This could suggest some sort of biological relationship between the crocodiles and the Theropods.  This is certainly an intriguing thought and there are no parallels that can be drawn between this idea and the behaviour of modern crocodiles.  Extant crocodilians tend to lay eggs in relatively secluded places and a parent (usually the female), will stand guard helping to protect the nest and the subsequent hatchlings from predators.

It can be speculated that these prehistoric crocodiles preferred to nest in close proximity to large meat-eating dinosaurs as perhaps the presence of two different types of large predator helped to protect all the nests from potential danger.  With so many threats to eggs and recently hatched animals around in the Late Jurassic, it could be suggested that there was a degree of mutual benefit between various species – a symbiotic relationship with both the Theropods and the crocodilians gaining an advantage.

Some of the K. dinophilus egg fossils come from sites associated with the nests of Lourinhanosaurus (Lourinhanosaurus antunesi), a formidable Late Jurassic hunter, which may have reached lengths of eight metres or more.  The beautifully preserved Theropod embryos were the inspiration behind the limited edition “Baby Bonnie” 1:1 scale replicas created by Rebor.

The Rebor “Baby Bonnie” Scale Model of a Lourinhanosaurus antunesi Embryo

"Bony Bonnie" from Rebor.

The Rebor Club Selection Lourinhanosaurus replica.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Other Krokolithes dinophilus fossils have been found in proximity to the nests and eggs of the ootaxon Preprismatoolithus coloradensis (which could represent the eggs of a large Allosaurus).  We expect palaeoartists to have a field day illustrating nesting site scenes featuring a mix of large predators together.

The Theory has Drawbacks

The absence of any modern parallels and the incomplete fossil record provides considerable drawbacks when it comes to the plausibility of crocodiles nesting alongside meat-eating dinosaurs.  Some of the fossil eggs shell fragments from the Paimogo locations might have been transported and deposited close to the Theropod nests, therefore their placement in the strata is not necessarily their original nesting context.  We at Everything Dinosaur have proposed that it is possible that crocodiles and Theropod dinosaurs preferred to use the same nesting locations, but they may not have bred at the same time.  After all, using an already dug out nest, one that had been used recently by a large, carnivorous dinosaur might prove advantageous for a wily crocodile.

The scientists conclude that this potential egg-laying symbiosis is a mystery and that going forward, further findings and studies are needed to ascertain if there was indeed some kind of reproductive relationship between crocodylomorphs and Theropods in the Late Jurassic of Portugal.

Views of the Lourinhã Formation

Views of the Lourinha Formation.

(A), location of Paimogo, Northern Lourinhã Formation, Praia da Amoreira-Porto Novo and Praia Azul Members. (B), location of Cambelas, Southern Lourinhã Formation, Assenta Member.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

8 03, 2017

Unravelling a Fishy Tale

By | March 8th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|1 Comment

Reassessment of Ichthyosaur Material Solves Century Old Mystery

Ichthyosaurs were a very successful group of marine reptiles. They originated during the Triassic and thrived in the seas of the Mesozoic and had a global distribution, but towards the end of the Cretaceous, these dolphin-shaped animals, that seemed so perfectly adapted to their environment, became extinct.  They were the first, large extinct reptiles brought to the attention of the scientific world.  It is difficult to avoid mention of the Ichthyosaurs when looking at information that outlines the history of palaeontology, however, despite first having been described nearly 200 years ago, (1821), there is still a lot we don’t know about these iconic “fish lizards”.

The Iconic Ichthyosaurus

An Ichthyosaur illustration.

An Ichthyosaur (courtesy of Robert Richardson).

Picture Credit: Robert Richardson

The Long History of Ichthyosaur Research

It is the long history of scientific study and research into the Ichthyosaurs that has proved to be a bit of a headache for today’s palaeontologists.   Dean Lomax, a palaeontologist and Honorary Scientist at The University of Manchester, working with Professor Judy Massare of Brockport College, New York, have studied thousands of Ichthyosaur specimens and have delved through hundreds of years of records to solve an ancient mystery, a mystery that dates back to the early 1820’2, when the English geologist William Conybeare, described the first species of Ichthyosaurus.

Many Ichthyosaur fossils were found in England during the early 19th century, but it was not until 1821 that the first Ichthyosaur species was described called Ichthyosaurus communis.  This species has become one of the most well-known and iconic of all the British fossil reptiles, after all, an Ichthyosaurus even featured on a set of specially commissioned Royal Mail stamps to celebrate 150 years of British palaeontology!

To read article about the Royal Mail commemorative stamps: Royal Mail Issues New Prehistoric Animal Stamps

In 1822, three other species of Ichthyosaurus were described, based on differences in the shape and structure of their teeth.  Two of the species were later re-identified as other types of Ichthyosaur, whereas one of these species, called Ichthyosaurus intermedius, was still considered closely related to I. communis.

In the years that followed, many eminent scientists, including Sir Richard Owen (the man who coined the word dinosaur), studied “fish lizard” fossils collected from Dorset, Somerset, Yorkshire and other locations in England.  Their studies and observations of Ichthyosaurus communis and I. intermedius resulted in confusion with the species, with many skeletons identified on unreliable grounds.

Commenting on this palaeontological puzzle, Dean Lomax stated:

“The early accounts of Ichthyosaurs were based on very scrappy, often isolated, remains.  This resulted in a very poor understanding of the differences between species and thus how to identify them.  To complicate matters further, the original specimen of Ichthyosaurus communis is lost and was never illustrated.  Similarly, the original specimen of I. intermedius is also lost, but an illustration does exist.  This has caused a big headache for palaeontologists trying to understand the differences between the species.”

Hunting for Clues to Help Solve a “Fish Lizard” Mystery

Dean Lomax and Judy Massare examining Ichthyosaur specimens.

Dean Lomax and Judy Massare examining Ichthyosaur specimens in the marine reptile gallery at the Natural History Museum (London).

Picture Credit: Dean Lomax

In the mid-1970’s, palaeontologist, Dr Chris McGowan was the first to suggest that Ichthyosaurus communis and I. intermedius may represent the same species.  He could not find reliable evidence to separate the two species.  Subsequent studies argued for and against the separation of the species.

In this new research, Dean and Judy have reviewed all of the research for and against the separation of the two species.  This is the most extensive scientific study ever published comparing the two Jurassic-aged marine reptiles.   The pair of scientists have confirmed that the species are the same and that features of Ichthyosaurus intermedius can be found in other Ichthyosaur species, including I. communis.

It seems that the fossil material ascribed to the species Ichthyosaurus intermedius lack any autapomorphies – distinctive features or derived characteristics and traits that are unique to that taxon.

Thanks to the efforts of these two researchers, a fishy tale that is over a hundred years may have been resolved.

In recent years, the duo have described three new species and have provided a reassessment of historical species.  Their work has provided a far superior understanding of the species than has ever been produced.

The research has been published in Journal of Systematic Palaeontology: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14772019.2017.1291116.

7 03, 2017

A Royal Ceratopsian

By | March 7th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Regaliceratops peterhewsi – Awaiting the new CollectA Model

We are expecting the first batch of new for 2017 CollectA models to arrive shortly.  The CollectA Prehistoric Life Regaliceratops model should be amongst the first of these new models to be delivered into our warehouse and team members at Everything Dinosaur have been busy preparing the fact sheet that will be sent out accompanying sales of this model.

Preparing for the CollectA Fact Sheet

A drawing of the horned dinosaur Regaliceratops.

A scale drawing of the horned dinosaur Regaliceratops.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Hundreds of Prehistoric Animal Fact Sheets

Regaliceratops means “Royal Horned Face”, honouring the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller (Alberta, Canada), as well as paying tribute to that amazing head shield with its rounded epocipitals.  For every fact sheet that we produce, we commission a drawing of the prehistoric animal and the picture above shows our Regaliceratops and a human figure next to it for scale.  Our dinosaur experts estimate that this horned dinosaur would have weighed perhaps as much as two thousand kilogrammes and the head shield would have been some three and a half metres tall in a fully grown adult.  The Regaliceratops fact sheet from Everything Dinosaur is number 814, this gives readers an idea of just how many fact sheets we have written.  Other new fact sheets include one for Basilosaurus, a fact sheet for the marine reptile Excalibosaurus and a fact sheet for the CollectA Gigantspinosaurus replica.  All of these figures will be in stock at Everything Dinosaur very soon.

The CollectA Regaliceratops Dinosaur Model

CollectA Prehistoric Life Regaliceratops model.

The CollectA Regaliceratops horned dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Romantic Regaliceratops

The dinosaur shows characteristics of both the Chasmosaurinae and the Centrosaurinae tribes of the Ceratopsia and hopefully more fossils of this enigmatic horned dinosaur will be found in the future.  In the meantime, we have the arrival of the new for 2017 CollectA Regaliceratops to look forward to.  Academic papers can make quite dry and sober reading.  There is a strict etiquette to be observed when writing them, especially those that are up for peer review.  However, one of the authors of the scientific paper describing R. peterhewsi showed his romantic side, as in the acknowledgements section of the paper, Dr Caleb Brown sneaked in a marriage proposal to his long-time partner Dr Lorna O’Brien.  We are happy to report that Dr O’Brien accepted.

Dr Brown’s Proposal of Marriage in the Scientific Paper

A marriage proposal inserted into the Regaliceratops paper.

By “Royal Command”.

Picture Credit: Current Biology

I guess you could say that this is one marriage proposal that has received royal approval.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of CollectA Prehistoric Life Models: CollectA Prehistoric Life Models

5 03, 2017

A Revamped Blog

By | March 5th, 2017|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|3 Comments

Everything Dinosaur’s Blog Gets A Makeover

The Everything Dinosaur blog has had a makeover.  With over 3,600 articles, the blog, which has been operating since May 2007, is approaching its tenth anniversary and it has recently been given a new look to ensure it stays true to the look of the company’s main website: Everything Dinosaur.

The Revamped Everything Dinosaur Blog Site

Everything Dinosaur blog.

Everything Dinosaur’s revamped blog site.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Helping to Educate and Inform

Everything Dinosaur is made up of a dedicated team who write about anything and everything to do with dinosaurs, fossils and other prehistoric animals.   Our features, articles and news stories are posted up on this, our blog site.  The blog was established nearly ten years ago, with the aim of providing open access to news about palaeontology, new model releases, research into dinosaurs and updates on fossil discoveries.  Our blog articles also provide an insight into Everything Dinosaur’s work with schools, museums and other educational bodies as we strive to help inform and educate with regards to the amazing story of life on our planet.

We aim to provide interesting and informative articles on palaeontology and other Earth sciences as well as to highlight good teaching practices that we find on our visits to schools.  It is great to be able to showcase the work of students, helping them to become enthused about the sciences and helping to feed their curiosity.

The Everything Dinosaur Blog Makes an Excellent Teaching Resource

Fossil handling workshop.

A blog that helps to inform and educate.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We try to produce blog posts that minimises jargon and the use of technical terms.  Our blog is aimed at dinosaur fans, model collectors, teachers and those who share our passion for learning about prehistoric life.

The articles and features that we produce can be used by fellow teachers, teaching assistants and home educationalists.   In order to provide further support, Everything Dinosaur also manages a website dedicated to schools, all helping to support the recently introduced science curriculum at both the primary and secondary levels of education.

The specialist Everything Dinosaur school site: Dinosaurs for School Site

A spokesperson for the UK-based company stated:

“The blog site gives us the opportunity to present information on the many press releases and papers that we get sent from universities and museums.  Our aim is to produce articles that demystify some of the science behind the study of prehistoric life and to provide informative and helpful articles to our readership.”

We remain passionate and enthusiastic about what we do and hopefully this blog helps to keep our customers informed about our activities, new products and our work.  Naturally, we welcome all comments and feedback and one of the new improvements with this revamped blog is that it is now easier to leave a comment on any one of the 3, 600 articles we have produced so far.  Roll on article 4,000!

4 03, 2017

Woolly Mammoth Genome Meltdown

By | March 4th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Mammoth Mutational Meltdown As Species Headed for Extinction

Woolly Mammoths experienced a mutational meltdown in their genome prior to their extinction according to a study published this week by researchers at the University of California (Berkeley).  The Woolly Mammoth genome has been mapped (2015), scientists have been able to make comparisons between the extinct species (Mammuthus primigenius) and its closest living relative, the Indian Elephant (Elephas maximus).  A great deal of information has been gained from these genetic studies, but the mystery of why this animal which roamed across Europe, Siberia, North America and the land mass which once joined Asia to the Americas (Beringia), died out remains.  In this new research, scientists from the University of California (Berkeley) compared the genetic makeup of one of the last surviving mammoths, with the genome of a mammoth that had lived when these iconic creatures of the Pleistocene were still thriving.

Study into the Last Population of Woolly Mammoths Reveals Genetic Defects

Woolly Mammoths.

DNA clues as to why the last Mammoths became extinct.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To read an article on the mapping of the Woolly Mammoth genome: Woolly Mammoth Genome is Sequenced

Comparing the Genome of a Mammoth from 45,000 Years Ago to One of the Last Mammoths

The comparison gave researchers the rare opportunity to see what happens to the genome as a population dwindles, the conclusions drawn support existing theories of genome deterioration stemming from small population sizes.  The study also provides a stark warning to conservationists and environmentalists.  Preserving a small group of isolated animals is not sufficient to stop negative effects of inbreeding and genomic meltdown.

Corresponding author, Rebekah Rogers, who led the work as a postdoctoral scholar at Berkeley and is now an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina stated:

“There is a long history of theoretical work about how genomes might change in small populations.  Here we got a rare chance to look at snapshots of genomes “before” and “after” a population decline in a single species.  The results we found were consistent with this theory that had been discussed for decades.”

The researchers, which included Professor Monty Slatkin, looked at the genome from a Woolly Mammoth that had lived on Wrangel Island, the last known refuge of the Woolly Mammoth.  The DNA was extracted from a specimen that lived some six hundred years before the elephant species finally died out.  The genetic material from the 4,300-year-old individual was compared to the DNA from a mammoth that had lived in Siberia some 40,000 years earlier when the Woolly Mammoth population was still large and relatively robust.

Reporting in the journal “PLOS Genetics”, the researchers found a lot of mutations in the Wrangel Island specimen’s genome.  The comparative analysis with the mainland mammoth remains showed that the Wrangel Island specimen had accumulated multiple harmful mutations in its genome, which interfered with gene functions.  The animals had lost many olfactory receptors, which detect odours, as well as urinary proteins, which can impact upon social status and mate choice.  The genome also revealed that the Wrangel Island mammoth had specific mutations that likely created an unusual translucent satin coat.

Rebekah Rogers said mathematical models developed by Slatkin of how genomes change as population conditions change were key to analysing and comparing the two genomes.

She stated:

“With only two specimens to look at, these mathematical models were important to show that the differences between the two mammoths are too extreme to be explained by other factors.”

Wrangel Island – The Last Refuge of the Woolly Mammoth

Rising sea levels cut off the land that is now known as Wrangel Island around 10,000 years ago.  A population of Woolly Mammoths were then isolated from the mainland and this population persisted for several thousand years, before the last of the Mammoths became extinct around 2000 B.C.

The Location of Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean

Wrangel Island.

The last refuge of the Woolly Mammoth.

Picture Credit: Google Maps

The isolated and small population of Wrangel Island mammoths probably exhibited an accumulation of detrimental mutations consistent with genomic meltdown in response to low effective population sizes in the dwindling population.  With Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei), Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) and the Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) populations at or below the assumed population of Wrangel Island mammoths (around 300 individuals), this research provides conservationists with sobering evidence which suggests attempting to preserve a small group of individuals may not be enough to stop degradation of the genetic material that the viability of the species depends on.

To read an article that suggests dwindling supplies for freshwater speeded up the demise of isolated Woolly Mammoth populations: Last of the Mammoths Died of Thirst

Genetic Studies are Helping to Solve the Riddle of the Woolly Mammoth Extinction

Mammoth vertebrae.

Genetic studies are now telling us more about Woolly Mammoths than their bones ever could.

3 03, 2017

Ancient Hominin Skulls from the Late Pleistocene of China

By | March 3rd, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Ancient Hominins of China

Two fragmentary skulls found in eastern China (Henan Province), have shed light on the ancient hominins who inhabited that part of the world before the arrival of our own species (H. sapiens).

Palaeoanthropologists know that Europe and western Asia was the domain of the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) before they were displaced by H. sapiens which had migrated out of Africa.  However, frustratingly, remains belonging to the equivalent human populations in eastern and central Asia have rarely been found.  The two skulls, although lacking facial bones, have provided researchers with tantalising evidence with regards to the type of human species that lived in this region around 125,000 to 105,000 years ago.

Views of the Ancient Skull (Xuchang 1)

Ancient hominin fossil skull from China.

Views of the skull called Xuchang 1 dorsal (left), posterior (right).

Picture Credit: Dr Wu Xiujie

The skulls were excavated during a series of field studies undertaken at a site in Lingjing, Xuchang County, between 2007 and 2014.  The fossils were found in association with a wealth of mammal remains including deer, horse, Coelodonta (Woolly Rhino), ancient cattle, gazelles and Megaloceros (giant elk).  The scientists which included researchers from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (Beijing) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have dated the skulls to between 125,000 and 105,000 years ago.  The overlying layers of sediment date from less than 100,000 years ago.

A Mosaic of Ancient and Modern Features

The skulls show a range of morphological features with differences from and similarities to their European and western Asia contemporaries.

Co-author of the study, Professor Erik Trinkaus explained that although the skulls had some features that mirrored what has been found in Neanderthal skulls, some characteristics, like a low, broad braincase, link them to even earlier humans from the same region, who lived in the Middle Pleistocene.

The professor commented:

“There’s a certain amount of regional diversity at this time, but also there are trends in basic biology that are shared by everybody and the supposed Neanderthal characteristics show that all these populations were interconnected.”

Big Brains?

One of the skulls, the specimen referred to as Xuchang 1, is estimated to have had a very large endocranial volume.  This suggests a large brain, a brain size of around 1,800 cubic centimetres, which is at the high end for Neanderthal and early modern humans.  Indeed, within our own species, although there is considerable variation in brain volume, a endocranial volume of 1,800 cm3 would be exceptional.

Scans of Xuchang 1 Suggests a Remarkable Brain Size

Various images of the ancient Chinese skull.

Scans of Xuchang 1 indicates large brain size.

Picture Credit: Dr Wu Xiujie/Science

Corresponding author for the study, published in the journal “Science”, Dr Wu Xiujie of the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and  Palaeoanthropology stated:

“This morphological combination, particularly the presence of a mosaic not known among early Late Pleistocene humans in the western Old World, suggests a complex interaction of directional palaeobiological changes and intra and inter-regional population dynamics.  From their fossil record, eastern Asian late archaic humans have been interpreted to resemble their Neanderthal contemporaries to some degree, with considerations of whether the fragmentary remains of the former exhibit features characteristic of the latter.  Yet it is only with the discovery of two human crania (plus additional elements), that the nature of these eastern Eurasian early Late Pleistocene archaic humans is becoming clear.”

The Xuchang skulls provide palaeoanthropologists with an important window into the biology and population history of early Late Pleistocene eastern Eurasian people.  As such, they are a critical piece in our understanding of the human evolutionary background to the subsequent establishment of modern human biology across the Old World, a process that was already underway in eastern Africa and (apparently), further south in eastern Asia.

Links with the Denisovans?

How these ancient hominins are related to the enigmatic and mysterious Denisovans (if they are closely related, for that matter), remains uncertain.  The absence of any teeth restricts the comparisons between these two skulls and the Denisovan ascribed fossil material, which includes a large tooth.  Researchers hope that perhaps some ancient, uncontaminated DNA can be recovered from the site.  Finding genetic material would permit whether these skulls represent a link to the Denisovans or whether they represent a distinct hominin lineage to be tested.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the compilation of this article.

2 03, 2017

Very Near to “Near Bird”

By | March 2nd, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Closest View Yet of Anchiornis “Near Bird”

More than 225 fossils of the Late Jurassic feathered dinosaur Anchiornis (A. huxleyi) have been found to date and this relative abundance of fossil specimens in conjunction with some very sophisticated laser technology, has enabled scientists to gain the best idea yet as to what dinosaurs actually looked like.  Anchiornis huxleyi fossils come from the Tiaojishan Formation of Liaoning (China) and the dinosaur’s name means “Huxley’s near bird”, honouring the 19th Century English scientist Thomas Henry Huxley, an early supporter of Darwin’s theory of evolution, and one of the first academics to propose a close evolutionary relationship between the birds and the Dinosauria.  How apt that the use of a relatively new technique in palaeontology, that of the production of laser-stimulated fluorescence images, has enabled palaeontologists to get closer to “near bird” than ever before.

An Illustration of the Late Jurassic Dinosaur Anchiornis (A. huxleyi) Based on the New Images

An illustration of Anchiornis huxleyi.

An illustration of Anchiornis huxleyi.

Picture Credit: Julius Csotonyi

Laser-stimulated fluorescence (LSF)

Writing in the journal “Nature Communications”, researchers from the University of Hong Kong in collaboration with scientists from Linyi University (Shandong Province), the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a number of American research institutions, report on the reconstruction of a feathered dinosaur’s body outline based on high-definition images of preserved soft tissues and their integumental covering.

The Body Plan of Anchiornis huxleyi Created from the High-Definition Images

Anchiornis reconstructed body outline.

Reconstructed body outline of the bird-like feathered dinosaur Anchiornis using laser-stimulated fluorescence images.

Picture Credit: Wang X L, Pittman M et al

The coloured areas represent different fossil specimens and the black areas are approximated reconstructions.  For the first time palaeontologists have an accurate body outline of a bird-like dinosaur.  The scale bar in the image is 1 cm and the body length of Anchiornis (head to tail) is approximately 40 cm.

Laser-stimulated fluorescence (LSF), is a revolutionary new technique using high power lasers that makes unseen soft tissues preserved alongside the bones, literally “glow in the dark” by fluorescence, until the application of this new technique, palaeontologists had to infer body plans based on the fossilised bones and evidence of muscle scars using extant animals as comparisons.  One of the corresponding authors of the scientific paper, Dr Michael Pittman (Department of Earth Sciences, the University of Hong Kong), explained how he and his co-workers reconstructed the first highly detailed body outline of a feathered dinosaur based on high-definition images of its preserved soft tissues.

A View of the Wing of Anchiornis Under Laser-stimulated Fluorescence

The wing of Anchiornis seen under laser-stimulated fluorescence.

The wing of the bird-like feathered dinosaur Anchiornis under laser-stimulated fluorescence.

Picture Credit: Wang X L, Pittman M et al

This ground-breaking research has helped palaeontologists to see just how closely, Anchiornis of the Late Jurassic, resembled modern birds.  For example, in the image above, folds of skin in front of the elbow and behind the wrist (referred to as a patagium), can be made out.  The patagium was covered in feathers, just like in modern birds.

The laser-stimulated fluorescence method was developed by collaborator Tom Kaye (Foundation for Scientific Advancement, Arizona, USA).  The technique involves scanning fossils with a violet laser in a dark room. The laser “excites” the few skin atoms left in the matrix making them glow, revealing what the shape of the dinosaur actually looked like.

Dr Michel Pittman with the Laser Scanner

Dr Pittman and the laser scanner.

Dr Pittman holding the laser scanner pictured behind is an illustration of Anchiornis.

Picture Credit: Dr M Pittman

Dr Pittman commented:

“For the last 20 years, we have been amazed by the wondrous feathered dinosaurs of north-eastern China.  However, we never thought they would preserve soft tissues so extensively.”

Over Two Hundred Specimens Examined

Dr Pittman and his colleagues examined over two hundred specimens of the feathered bird-like dinosaur Anchiornis to find the dozen or so that showed special preservation.  The quantitative reconstruction that the team developed shows the contours of the wings, legs and even perfectly preserved foot scales, providing new details that illuminate the origin of birds.  It seems that Anchiornis had “drumsticks” just like a modern bird too.

Dr Pittman at Work Checking a Specimen Using the Laser Technique

Scanning Anchiornis fossils.

Dr Pittman examines fossils using LSF in Shandong TianYu Museum of Natural History.

Picture Credit: Dr M Pittman

When first described in 2009, Anchiornis was heralded as an important transitional fossil between feathered dinosaurs and volant (flying) forms.  Using this new technique (LSF), Dr Pittman and his colleagues found that the shape of wing was in many ways similar to modern birds, but it also had some seemingly primitive characteristics like feathers arranged more evenly across the wing rather than in distinct rows.  This research suggests that Anchiornis could produce a relatively straight arm, a posture broadly found in many living gliding birds (for example, Cormorants, Albatrosses and Pelicans).  The research identifies a previously unknown aspect of arm morphology differentiation at the earliest stages of paravian evolution (at least by the Oxfordian stage of the Late Jurassic), that may even have been widespread.  These new insights provide crucial information for reconstructing how dinosaurs experimented and eventually achieved flight.

Dr Pittman Pictured with Images Created to Illustrate This New Research

Dr Pittman with a body Plan and drawing of Anchiornis.

Dr Pittman holding a drawing and a body plan of Anchiornis.

Picture Credit: Dr M Pittman

To read an article about the discovery of Anchiornis huxleyiOlder than Archaeopteryx

The scientific paper: Wang, X. et al. “Basal Paravian Functional Anatomy Illuminated by High-detail Body Outline” published in Nature Communications (Nat. Commun. 8, 14576 doi: 10.1038/ncomms14576 2017).

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of Hong Kong University in the compilation of this article.

1 03, 2017

Extra Security on the Everything Dinosaur Website – New Passwords

By | March 1st, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Newsletters, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

New Passwords May be Required on the Everything Dinosaur Website

Everything Dinosaur has launched a brand new website and very good it looks to with visitors commenting on how easy it is to navigate, to search for items and the clarity of the images.  However, existing account holders may encounter a problem attempting to log into their accounts.  Not to worry, first we will explain why existing account holders might be experiencing a problem, next we will show you the simple solution.

Everything Dinosaur’s New and Upgraded Website

Everything Dinosaur's website

The new front page of the Everything Dinosaur website.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

HTTPS versus HTTP

The address of the Everything Dinosaur website: Everything Dinosaur’s Website has been slightly changed.  If the old address is stored in your favourites or if you have it pinned to your tool bar, the link will still work and you can find us.  However, rather than the address of our website beginning “http” it now starts with “https”.  You can see this for yourself in your own browser when you visit our website.

HTTPS Address Element is Highlighted

HTTPS a secure website.

New security safeguards added to Everything Dinosaur’s website.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In the picture above the address information of Everything Dinosaur is highlighted.

HTTP and HTTPS – What’s the Difference?

HTTP means “hypertext transfer protocol” the set of rules that computers use for sharing information on the internet.  HTTPS stands for “hypertext transfer protocol secure”.  Our new website is more secure, it is extra protection to help keep our customers and their information safe.  When a computer uses HTTPS to communicate, the data is scrambled to that no one in between two communicating parts of the world-wide web can read this data.

Existing Account Holders May Have to Change Their Password

Extra security is great, it’s all part of Everything Dinosaur’s customer service.  However, existing account holders may have to change their password in order to access their account.  The new HTTPS part of our address is, in essence, asking you to change your password to ensure that your data remains secure.

Changing Your Account Password

Changing your account password on our new website is simple.  Here is what you need to do:

• Visit our new website at: Everything Dinosaur
• On the right of the home page, near the top click on the “My Account” button

The account button on the Everything Dinosaur website.

The “account” button.

• When you click on the “My Account” button, you should land on the following page:

Getting a new password (Everything Dinosaur).

Getting a new password.

  • Click on the “lost your password” link (see above).
Resetting your password (Everything Dinosaur).

How to reset your password.

  • Put in your user name or email address and then you will be taken to the “reset password”, click on the button (highlighted above) and you will be sent an email with a link to set a new password.

Making a Password “Strong”

Here are some tips to make your password strong and secure.

  1. Use a unique password for each of your important accounts.
  2. Use a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols in your password.
  3. Don’t use personal information or common words as a password.

Within the “account settings” of your own account you can reset your password and there is even a helpful “generate password” button which will automatically give you a new, strong password.

Remember: If you change any of the settings on your account, such as your password, remember to scroll to the bottom of the page and click the “save changes” button to save your updates.

28 02, 2017

Crowdfunding Campaign Launched (Dinosaurs of China)

By | February 28th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Crowdfunding Campaign Offers Dinotastic Rewards!

Just over one hundred and twenty days to wait before the opening of the “Dinosaurs of China – ground shakers to feathered flyers” exhibition in Nottinghamshire.  As the countdown continues, a crowdfunding campaign has been launched to give dinosaur fans and prehistoric animal enthusiasts the chance to meet palaeontologists and to get up close and personal to some of the best-preserved dinosaur fossils on the planet, many of which, have not been seen in Europe before.

The campaign is being run by the University of Nottingham’s Lakeside Arts centre as part of the world-exclusive “Dinosaurs of China” exhibition.  Featuring such amazing dinosaurs as the mighty Mamenchisaurus and the bizarre Gigantoraptor (G. erlianensis), standing five metres high and weighing as much as a sixty eight-year-old children, this summer event is not to be missed.

Gigantoraptor One of the Star Attraction at the Forthcoming “Dinosaurs of China” Exhibition

Gigantoraptor displays.

Feathers used for display and courtship.

Picture Credit:  BBC “Dinosaur Planet” television series

Rewards Money Can’t Buy

Supporters of the crowdfunding campaign will have the chance to earn rewards including experiences that money-can’t-buy and to gain privileged access to the exhibition.

For those who can travel to Nottingham, a pledge of £20 GBP to the crowdfunding campaign will be rewarded with entry to an exclusive lunchtime lecture at Nottingham Lakeside Arts, or £70 GBP will secure one of just thirty tickets to an intimate “Meet the Experts” reception, to learn about the exhibits in more depth with the chance to discuss the fossil finds with the team behind their discovery and excavation.

For £50 GBP, you can even be among the first in the world to get access to the exhibition, with a ticket to the VIP opening night on 30th June.

Young Dinosaur Fans Can Get Involved Too

Young explorers aren’t left out either, a pledge of £40 GBP to the crowdfunding campaign will be rewarded with a one-hour story telling workshop for a family of four, or a donation of £50 GBP you can secure a hands-on experience with some of the rare exhibits.  If you have £100 GBP to spare, young explorers can become a palaeontologist for the day, joining “Diana Saurus”, Lakeside’s very own dino-safari character as she explains about the dinosaurs from the Far-East and discovers the story of how these prehistoric animals evolved.

The Dinosaurs of China Exhibition Starts Soon

"Dinosaurs of China"

The “Dinosaurs of China” exhibition logo.

Those further afield can still support the campaign – a pledge of £25 will be rewarded with a limited-edition print; or a Twitter “roar-out” can be gained with a donation of just £5 GBP.

Coming to two locations in Nottingham this summer, Wollaton Hall and Nottingham Lakeside Arts, the Dinosaurs of China exhibition will feature twenty-six of the best-preserved dinosaur fossils in the world, with recently-discovered specimens, some as recently as 2015, which have never before been seen in the UK.  These include Mamenchisaurus, the tallest dinosaur skeleton ever seen in the UK and Yi qi, a weird bat-like flying dinosaur discovered in 2015.

The crowdfunding campaign has been set up to support the creation of a dinosaur legacy at the University of Nottingham’s Lakeside Arts centre, to inspire and teach the next generation.  The target of £3,000 will be used to build an animatronic baby dinosaur, to teach children about how one group of dinosaurs evolved into the birds that we see around us today.

For further information on the crowdfunding campaign and the rewards available visit: Crowdfunding campaign for “Dinosaurs of China” exhibition.

To find out more about the Dinosaurs of China exhibition or book tickets, visit: “Dinosaurs of China”.

27 02, 2017

In Praise of SafariPedia

By | February 27th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

In Praise of SafariPedia

When it comes to accurate, quality models and figures, the enthusiastic team members at Safari Ltd have built up quite a reputation amongst collectors, educationalists, parents, grandparents of course, children.  Within the prehistoric animal model range, the company can boast a number of award winners,  For example, recently, the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Iguanodon model was voted the best prehistoric animal toy figure released in 2016 by readers of the influential “Prehistoric Times” magazine.

Award Winning Iguanodon Dinosaur Model

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Iguanodon model.

Some very striking colours on this new replica.

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd

This accolade follows on from similar recognition being awarded to the company’s excellent Sauropelta.  Back in 2015, in a survey of the best prehistoric animals undertaken by “The Dinosaur Toy Forum”, Safari Ltd models occupied three of the top eight places.  The  model of the armoured dinosaur Sauropelta came out on top.  Once again, dinosaur fans and collectors were recognising the efforts the company puts in when it comes to designing figures.

Voted Best Prehistoric Animal Model of 2015 – Wild Safari Prehistoric World Sauropelta

Available from Everything Dinosaur in early 2015

Available from Everything Dinosaur in early 2015

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd

To read more about the success of the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Iguanodon model: Iguanodon Model Wins Award

For an article that discusses the result of “The Dinosaur Toy Forum”: Best Prehistoric Animal Models of 2015

Toys that Teach

Safari Ltd’s philosophy is to create models that excite, fire the imagination and educate.  After all, you can learn whilst having fun.  At Everything Dinosaur we share this mindset and as we prepare for another busy week of delivering dinosaur and fossil themed workshops in schools, it is worth reflecting on the contribution to children’s education that organisations like Safari Ltd make.  For instance, the company provides an educational resource which allows visitors to learn more about the animals that inspire the Safari Ltd design team.  Entitled “SafariPedia”, the company has developed the concept of providing “toys that teach” and introduced a database that provides interesting facts and information about the animals in their range.

The “SafariPedia”portal is divided into various categories, in essence it reflects the main product lines of the company.  There is a farm section, fantasy, a dogs and cats category, a section on birds, sea life and of course wildlife.  Our attention was drawn to the “dinosaurs” section of the portal.  Like all the various categories that make up the “SafariPedia” database, the prehistoric animals are listed alphabetically and when the name of any ancient creature is clicked, a new page opens up providing lots of information about that particular animal.

Safari Ltd – Committed to Helping to Educate

Safari Ltd logo.

The Safari Ltd company logo.

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd

We are sure that “Bernie”, the company’s alligator mascot would be proud, yes, there is even a section all about unusual alligators in the “SafariPedia” (look up albino alligators in the wildlife category).

To view the SafariPedia dinosaurs section: The SafariPedia data portal – dinosaurs

A Great Educational Resource

The “SafariPedia” concept elevates the company’s product range and demonstrates their commitment to education and to learning via creative play.  It is an excellent resource for schools, home educationalists and for parents, as well as for model collectors keen to find out more about the animals and creatures that their figures represent.  Our congratulations to Safari Ltd, to all their dedicated and hard-working staff who have taken their passion for what they do to the next level.

To view the range of Wild Safari Prehistoric World figures stocked by Everything Dinosaur: Wild Safari Prehistoric World and other Safari Ltd models

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