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23 01, 2018

Moroccan Authorities Investigate Mexican Dinosaur Auction

By | January 23rd, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Culture Ministry Investigates Sale of Atlasaurus Caudal Vertebrae

Moroccan authorities are investigating the sale of a dinosaur’s tail that was sold by the Mexican auction house Morton, to an anonymous buyer for around $97,000 USD ($1.8 million Mexican pesos).  The auction, which took place last Tuesday, was held in Mexico City.  It helped to raise funds for the reconstruction of schools damaged by earthquakes that occurred in Mexico during the autumn.  Any sum over the reserve price was to be donated to the earthquake relief fund.

The Dinosaur Tail (Atlasaurus imelakei) on Display Prior to the Auction

Atlasaurus Caudal Vertebrae (auction exhibit).

The Atlasaurus tail on display in the foyer of the BBVA Bancomer Tower (Mexico City).

Picture Credit: Reuters/Daniel Becerril

Atlasaurus imelakei

The four-metre long specimen, weighs around 180 kilograms and represents a partial tail of a Sauropod dinosaur from Morocco called Atlasaurus (A. imelakei).  Regarded as a member of the Macronarian group of Sauropods, Atlasaurus was distantly related to Brachiosaurus and Giraffatitan.  It lived in North Africa during the Middle Jurassic (Bathonian faunal stage) and it is known from numerous isolated bones and articulated specimens.  Atlasaurus had very long limbs, proportionately longer than most other members of the Sauropoda.   Its neck was relatively short compared to later Macronarians.  Palaeontologists have speculated that the proportionately longer legs evolved to help this herbivorous dinosaur reach food, that other plant-eating dinosaurs could not obtain.  The long legs of Atlasaurus are regarded as an example of an evolutionary adaptation to achieve niche partitioning within North African dinosaurs.

Culture Ministry Becomes Involved

The auction of the fossilised tail bones has come to the attention of the Moroccan Ministry of Culture, which has launched an investigation to find out the origin and provenance of the fossil material.  The fossil was sold as part of a specialist auction, managed by the Morton Auction House.  A percentage of the sale proceeds being reportedly donated to the Bancomer Foundation to help support reconstruction efforts in those parts of Mexico affected by the recent earthquakes.  Media reports suggest that around $21,500 USD ($400,000 Mexican pesos), was to be donated from the sale of the fossil.

The fossil very likely originated from the Azilal region of Morocco.  The specimen has been restored, around 70% of the material is actual fossil bone.  Steps are being taken to determine how the specimen ended up in the auction.  This is not the first time Moroccan authorities have intervened in a case like this.  In April 2017, a Late Cretaceous Plesiosaur fossil exhibit was removed from a Paris auction after an agreement was reached with the Binoche and Giquello auction company.

Specialist Auction Houses Do Sell Lots of Fossils

An auction organised by Morton Auction House.

Moroccan authorities investigate the sale of dinosaur fossils by the Morton Auction House.

Picture Credit: Brinkwire

Tracing the Tale of a Tail

Several sources have stated that the Atlasaurus tail bones were acquired by the Morton Auction House from the Petra Gallery, which specialises in the sale of fossils and minerals.  The acquisition by the Morton Auction House from the Petra Gallery has been confirmed by Morton’s Press and Public Relations representative Kristina Velfu.

Ernesto Durán, the director of the Petra Gallery has stated that the fossil was bought legally in the United States and both a receipt and legal import document are available to prove the purchase as legitimate.

In Mexico, the selling of fossils found within the country is illegal, as they are considered part of the country’s heritage.  However, the law in Mexico does not prohibit the sale of fossils found outside its borders.  The Atlasaurus specimen very probably originated in Morocco, the authorities are interesting in tracing how the fossil came to be in the United States, where it was excavated from and what documentation (if any), exists with regards to its movement out of the country.

We at Everything Dinosaur, will watch how this story unfolds.

20 01, 2018

School Prepares for Dinosaur Workshops

By | January 20th, 2018|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Hanging Heaton Primary Prepares for Dinosaur Term Topic

Pupils and staff at Hanging Heaton CE (VC) Junior and Infant School (near Dewsbury, West Yorkshire), have been busy preparing their classrooms for the start of the special Spring Term topic – dinosaurs.  Children in class 1 and class 2, comprising the Reception and Key Stage 1 cohorts at the school, will be learning all about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals for the rest of this term.  To help kick-start the topic, Everything Dinosaur was invited into the school to provide a provocation in the form of a dinosaur workshop to help enthuse the children.

Class 1 (Reception and Year 1) Have Prepared a Palaeontology Lab Display

The FS2/Year 1 class have a palaeontology lab.

The FS2/Year 1 class have a palaeontology laboratory.

Picture Credit: Hanging Heaton CE (VC) Junior and Infant School/Everything Dinosaur

Tidy and Spacious Classrooms

Our dinosaur expert had the opportunity to see the classrooms prior to starting the morning of dinosaur and fossil themed workshops.  The classrooms were tidy and spacious and the dedicated teachers, with the support of the learning support assistants had prepared a number of display boards to showcase the children’s work as they study dinosaurs.  The children in the mixed class of Reception and Year 1 are going to have a palaeontology laboratory in the corner of their classroom.  Perhaps, some of the extension activities we proposed, such as creating a prehistoric animal might end up being put up on the display board.

Class 2 (A Mixed Year 1 and Year 2 Class) Ready for the Dinosaurs Term Topic

A Key Stage 1 term topic display board - Dinosaurs!

Year 1/2 classroom ready for the dinosaurs term topic.

Picture Credit: Hanging Heaton CE (VC) Junior and Infant School/Everything Dinosaur

For further information about Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools and to request a quotation: Contact Everything Dinosaur, Request a Quotation

Questions about Dinosaurs

The children demonstrated some amazing pre-knowledge, confidently talking about the largest dinosaurs and explaining the differences between meat-eaters and plant-eaters.  They also asked lots of questions about different types of prehistoric animals.  One little boy (George), wanted to know what sort of dinosaurs hunted Styracosaurus.  Our dinosaur expert was able to explain that when Styracosaurus (a horned dinosaur), roamed North America in the Late Cretaceous, there were several types of Tyrannosaur and other predators that might have considered this very spiky reptile as dinner.

A Drawing of the Horned Dinosaur Styracosaurus (S.albertensis)

Styracosaurus illustrated.

A drawing of the horned dinosaur Styracosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Additional Resources and Activities

Prior to the two workshops, our dinosaur expert had a short meeting with the teaching lead for the term topic to ensure that learning objectives would be incorporated into the sessions.  In addition, the Everything Dinosaur team member was able to provide a number of additional teaching resources to support the school’s scheme of work, including a dinosaur footprint measuring exercise, a motor skills test linked to writing for the Reception children and a dinosaur themed geography exercise to help the Key Stage 1 children learn about the continents.

We look forward to seeing pictures of the classroom display boards filled up with examples of the children’s dinosaur and fossil themed learning.

17 01, 2018

More PNSO Prehistoric Animals Coming into Stock

By | January 17th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

PNSO Shipment Expected at Everything Dinosaur

Staff at Everything Dinosaur are expecting a shipment of PNSO prehistoric animal models to arrive very soon at the company’s warehouse.  These rare and difficult to obtain replicas and figures will soon be back in stock at Everything Dinosaur.  The shipment will include PNSO Age of Dinosaurs models such as Shantungosaurus, Megalodon and Huanghetitan.   In addition, the company is expecting to receive a number of large PNSO Family Zoo figures including the spectacular African Elephant replica and the White Rhinoceros figure.

Rare PNSO Models Coming Back into Stock at Everything Dinosaur

PNSO Triceratops box art.

PNSO box art- Triceratops.  Coming into stock at Everything Dinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To read a review of the PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops: A Review of the PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops Model

Collectable, Rare Models

Many of the models are huge, such as the enormous Basilosaurus prehistoric whale figure, look out also for dinosaurs such as Mandschurosaurus, Euhelopus and the massive Chungkingosaurus coming back into stock.  For the PNSO Family Zoo range, we are delighted to welcome back the PNSO Family Zoo White Rhinoceros model.

PNSO Family Zoo Chungkingosaurus is Coming Back into Stock at Everything Dinosaur

PNSO Chungkingosaurus dinosaur replica.

PNSO Chungkingosaurus dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows the PNSO Chungkingosaurus replica, which measures fifty-two centimetres long and the head stands nearly twenty centimetres off the ground.

The PNSO Family Zoo White Rhinoceros Figure

PNSO Family Zoo White Rhinoceros.

The PNSO White Rhinoceros model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the current range of PNSO dinosaur and prehistoric animal figures: PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Figures

The PNSO Family Zoo range of models consists of twenty animal models, representing living animals, including creatures as diverse as lions, crocodiles, pigs, goats, horses and cheetahs.  Each model is beautifully, hand-painted and supplied in its own blister pack.

To view the range of PNSO family zoo figures currently in stock at Everything Dinosaur: PNSO Family Zoo Models

The PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Basilosaurus Figure

 

PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Basilosaurus replica.

The PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Basilosaurus model.

Not Just Dinosaurs – Prehistoric Mammals and Sharks Too

Although the range is entitled “PNSO Age of Dinosaurs”, there are also two extinct animals featured which are not dinosaurs, in fact both these animals evolved long after the non-avian dinosaurs became extinct.  Firstly, there is the amazing Basilosaurus replica, a model of a prehistoric whale that is coming into stock.  Joining the PNSO Basilosaurus will be the ultra-rare and very difficult to obtain PNSO Megalodon model, which is now out of production.  The future of the entire PNSO model and replica range is in doubt, whether or not Everything Dinosaur will be able to get any more figures is debatable, so we urge all collectors and model fans to grab these when they arrive.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“The PNSO models  have been very difficult to obtain and we know that the whole future of the product line is in doubt.  The Megalodon model is already out of production but we are bringing the very last of these figures with our next shipment.  Everything Dinosaur remains committed to helping dinosaur fans and collectors with their prehistoric animal and figure collections.”

16 01, 2018

A New Fast Running Ornithopod from Down Under

By | January 16th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Diluvicursor pickeringi – Turkey to Rhea-sized Herbivore from the Early Cretaceous

Analysis of the fossilised remains of a little Ornithopod have led to the establishment of a new species of dinosaur, one that roamed the Australian-Antarctic rift valley approximately 113 million years ago.  Described from an almost complete tail and a partial right hind limb including foot bones, the dinosaur has been named Diluvicursor pickeringi (pronounced di-loovy-cursor pickering-i).  The species name honours David Pickering, (formerly Museums Victoria’s Vertebrate Palaeontology Collections Manager), a scientist who played a key role in the study of Early Cretaceous vertebrate fossils from the Otway and Gippsland Basins of the Australian State of Victoria.  David sadly passed away following complications after a serious car accident whilst the fossil material was being prepared and studied.

An Illustration of a Pair of Diluvicursor pickeringi Feeding Near a Fast-flowing River

Diluvicursor pickeringi illustrated.

A pair of Diluvicursor dinosaurs feeding next to a fast running river in the Antarctica/Australia rift valley 113 million years ago.

Picture Credit: P. Trusler

A Fossil Discovery in 2005

The fossils of this dinosaur described as being about the size of a turkey or a rhea (estimated maximum total body length, including tail at around 2.3 metres), were found on five slabs of rock that form part of a deposit representing a log jam event created in a high-energy (fast-flowing) river.  Writing in the academic journal “Peer J”, the authors of the scientific paper state that this newly described herbivorous dinosaur will help to shed new light on the phylogenetic relationships and the diversity of Ornithopoda of the southern hemisphere.

Dr Matt Herne (University of Queensland) and the corresponding author for the paper explained the significance of the fossils, which were excavated from a sea platform near Cape Otway.

He stated:

“Diluvicursor shows for the first time that there were at least two distinct body-types among closely related Ornithopods , small, two-legged plant-eating dinosaurs in this part of Australia.  One called Leaellynasaura was lightly built with an extraordinarily long tail, while the other, Diluvicursor, was more solidly built, with a far shorter tail.”

The Holotype Fossil Material of Diluvicursor pickeringi

The holotype of Diluvicursor and a schematic drawing

The five blocks (B1 to B5) of the holotype fossil of Diluvicursor (NMV P221080) note scale bar 10 cm. A schematic diagram of the fossil material is shown below (scale bar 10 cm).

Picture Credit: Peer J

A Fast Running Dinosaur

Analysis of the leg bones suggest that Diluvicursor was a fast running dinosaur.  The corpse of this dinosaur, representing a juvenile animal, came to rest mixed up with other debris deposited by a fast-flowing river.  The genus name reflects these two conclusions, Diluvicursor translates as “flood runner”.

The Proposed Body Shape of Diluvicursor with the Known Fossil Bones in Skeletal Position

Diluvicursor illustration showing known bones (scale bar = 10 cm).

Diluvicursor schematic restoration in left lateral view, showing preserved bones (light shading) and incomplete caudal vertebrae (outlined).

Picture Credit: Peer J

Volunteer prospector George Caspar discovered the fossil material in 2005 whilst exploring a coastal shore platform which forms part of the Eumeralla Formation of south-eastern Australia.   It is likely the carcass became trapped and buried along with flood-transported tree stumps, logs and branches in deep scours at the base of what was once a powerful river.

Dr Herne added:

“The Diluvicursor skeleton was discovered in 2005, but it’s taken this long to fully understand the geology of the area where it was found, and also Diluvicursor’s relationships.  Much of the fossil vertebrate material from this site has yet to be described, so we hope to discover further dinosaur species, specimens and other exciting animals there.”

An Injured Foot

A close examination of the right foot of the Diluvicursor specimen suggest that this dinosaur may have injured its foot some time before it perished.  Some of the bones are not aligned correctly and although this could be as a result of taphonomy, preserved roughened bone surfaces, suggest some form of trauma or disease.  The scientists conclude that the affected joint in the foot could have been immobilised.  The researchers are hopeful that further examination including a scan of the foot using synchrotron radiation X-rays will produce more data.

The Pathology on the Right Foot of the Diluvicursor Specimen

Diluvicursor pathology of the right foot.

A close up view of the second toe. Dotted line in B indicates rugose bone on the proximal margin of pedal digit IV-1. Dashed arrows in A–B indicate areas of osteophytosis (bone spurs around the damaged joint).

Picture Credit: Peer J

There are plans to display the post cranial fossil material at Melbourne Museum and the aim is to build up a much more complete picture of the palaeoenvironment of this part of Gondwana during the Albian faunal stage of the Cretaceous.  Other scientists involved in this study include Dr Steven Salisbury, PhD student Jay Nair and Dr Vera Weisbecker (University of Queensland), along with colleagues from Monash University.

The scientific paper: “A New Small-bodied Ornithopod (Dinosauria, Ornithischia) from a Deep, High-energy Early Cretaceous River of the Australian–Antarctic Rift System” by Matthew C. Herne​, Alan M. Tait, Vera Weisbecker, Michael Hall, Jay P. Nair, Michael Cleeland and Steven W. Salisbury published in Peer J.

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

15 01, 2018

Rainbow Feathered Jurassic Dinosaur

By | January 15th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Caihong juji – A Very Flashy Dinosaur

A team of scientists, writing in the journal “Nature Communications”, have described a new species of feathered dinosaur from Jurassic-aged rocks in China.  The dinosaur has been named Caihong juji, which means “rainbow with the big crest” in Mandarin.  This duck-sized dinosaur sported a bony crest on the top of its snout and its neck feathers may have been iridescent, as brightly coloured as feathers seen on humming birds today.

An Illustration of the Newly Described Feathered Dinosaur Caihong juji

Caihong juji illustrated.

An illustration of the Jurassic feathered dinosaur Caihong juji.

Picture Credit: Velizar Simeonovski

Bird-like Dinosaur

Caihong has been assigned a basal position in the Deinonychosauria, a clade of Theropod dinosaurs that includes the dromaeosaurids and the troodontids and it roamed the forests of northern China some 161 million years ago (Oxfordian faunal stage of the Jurassic).  Although it was very bird-like, it was very different from its contemporary Anchiornis (A. huxleyi), as it lacked the bird-like triangular skull, however, it did possess proportionately long forearms.  C. juji had a long, narrow skull, superficially similar to the skulls of the much later Velociraptorinae.

The Fossilised Skull of the Newly Described Basal Deinonychosaur Caihong juji

Skull of the newly described Caihong juji (left lateral view).

The skull of the newly described Caihong juji.  White scale bar = 1 cm.

Picture Credit: Hu et al 

A Shaggy Ruff of Rainbow Feathers

Lead author of the study, Professor Dongyu Hu (Shenyang Normal University), in collaboration with scientists from the University of Ghent, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Geosciences (Beijing), subjected the fossil specimen to scanning electron microscope analysis to characterise 2,460 structures associated with the feathers.  Cross-sectional focused ion beam imaging revealed the presence of melanosomes, which are responsible for pigmentation and colouration.  When these fossil structures were compared to extant birds, the scientists were able to determine that Caihong had a shaggy ruff of iridescent, brightly-coloured feathers.

Platelet-like Nanostructures Indicate Iridescent Feathers (Caihong juji)

Nanostructures in Caihong juji compared to melanosomes in living birds.

Comparing melanosomes found in the fossil material to extant Aves.  All scale bars = 1,000 nm.

Picture Credit: Nature Communications/Chao P.C.

The scanning electron microscope images above show platelet-like nanostructures on the fossilised feathers of C. juji (a-d).  These structures are then compared with melanosomes found in living birds, (e) Anna’s humming bird (Calypte anna), (f) a white tailed starfrontlet (Coeligena phalerata), a black-tailed trainbearer (Lesbia victoriae) and a moustached treeswift (Hemiprocne mystacea), picture (h).

Commenting on the significance of the discovery, Professor Julia Clarke (University of Texas at Austin) stated:

“Iridescent colouration is well known to be linked to sexual selection and signalling and we report its earliest evidence in dinosaurs.  The dinosaur may have a cute nickname in English, Rainbow, but it has serious scientific implications.”

A Combination of Ancient and More Modern Features

The fossil material, consisting of a slab and its counter slab was discovered by a farmer in 2014 at Gangou, Qinglong, (northern Hebei Province).  The rocks in this area are associated with the Tiaojishan Formation and exposures are also found in the neighbouring province of Liaoning.  Numerous feathered Theropods have been found in the compressed volcanic ash layers and other sedimentary rocks associated with this region of northern China.  Caihong possessed a bony crest, a feature associated with earlier Theropods from the Triassic and the Early Jurassic, the crest may have played a role in display or perhaps helping to distinguish males from females.  The bony crest could have evolved as a result of sexual selection pressure.  This ancient Theropod feature contrasts with the identification of feathers with iridescence, this is the first time that such a feature has been identified in a non-avian dinosaur.

Caihong juji Fossil Material

Caihong juji holotype.

The crushed and flattened remains of Caihong juji (holotype specimen). The bones are coloured brown, whilst the feather impressions are black.

Picture Credit: Nature Communications

Asymmetrical Feathers

Caihong is also the earliest known dinosaur to have had asymmetrical feathers, similar in shape and structure to those feathers found on the wings of modern birds that help to control flight.  However, unlike extant birds, Caihong’s asymmetrical feathers were on its tail, not its short forelimbs, a discovery that suggests that early birds may have used their tails to help steer or to assist with lift.

Co-author of the research, Xing Xu (Chinese Academy of Sciences) explained:

“The tail feathers are asymmetrical but wing feathers are not, a bizarre feature previously unknown among dinosaurs including birds.  This suggests that controlling [flight] might have first evolved with tail feathers during some kind of aerial locomotion.”

Professor Clarke added:

“This combination of traits is unusual.  It has a rather Velociraptor-looking low and long skull with this fully feathered, shaggy kind of plumage and a big fan tail.  It is really cool… or maybe creepy looking depending on your perspective.”

An examination of the tail feathers associated with the 40 centimetre-long Caihong specimen suggests that the tail feathers would have provided a larger surface area than the famous Archaeopteryx, a Theropod capable of powered flight, that lived a few million years later.  A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur explained, that although Caihong could have been arboreal and it may have hopped from branch to branch, it was probably not volant (capable of powered flight).

Evidence of Mosaic Evolution

The combination of ancient and more modern anatomical traits in this basal Deinonychosaur is an example of mosaic evolution, whereby, several different traits evolve independently.  The team hope to continue their research in a bid to understand how Caihong juji fits into the story of the evolution of flight in the Dinosauria.

The scientific paper: “A Bony-crested Jurassic Dinosaur with Evidence of Iridescent Plumage Highlights Complexity in Early Paravian Evolution” by Dongyu Hu, Julia A. Clarke, Chad M. Eliason, Rui Qiu, Quanguo Li, Matthew D. Shawkey, Cuilin Zhao, Liliana D’Alba, Jinkai Jiang and Xing Xu published in the journal “Nature Communications.”

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from the University of Texas at Austin in the compilation of this article.

14 01, 2018

JurassicCollectables Reviews Rebor “Gunn”

By | January 14th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur videos, Main Page, Product Reviews|0 Comments

A Review of the 1:18 Scale Rebor “Raptor” Called “Gunn” by JurassicCollectables

Those talented people at JurassicCollectables have produced another Rebor “Raptor” review.  Following on from their very informative video review of the female Velociraptor “Rose”, JurassicCollectables has focused their attention on Rose’s partner, the formidable “Gunn”, a 1:18 scale replica representing a male in the Velociraptor pairing.

JurassicCollectables Reviews the Rebor 1:18 Scale Figure “Gunn”

Video Credit: JurassicCollectables

Wonderful Painting and Amazing Detail

The narrator comments that the Rebor Velociraptor models, especially “Gunn” are very reminiscent of the Velociraptors depicted in the Jurassic Park III film, which came out in 2001.  The pose reminded the video presenter of the pouncing Velociraptor scene in which a pack of these dinosaurs try to grab a person who is hanging from a tree branch.  In the video, the beautiful paint scheme is discussed, and the narrator comments on the multiple washes and subtle tones that have been used to colour this replica.  Whilst the Rebor “Gunn” is being reviewed, viewers are given the chance to see “Gunn” and “Rose” together and what an attractive pair they make.

The JurassicCollectables presenter states that these two Velociraptors “compliment each other really well”.  He states that they are “gorgeous looking Raptors”.

Red Feet – Is that Blood?

During this most informative and helpful video review, the narrator demonstrates that the underside of the feet of “Gunn” are coloured a reddish hue.  Rebor certainly make top quality replicas and the attention to detail is amazing.  When the model is turned upside down the underside of the feet with their intriguing colouration and fine texture are revealed.   The commentator implies that the colouration could have come about as the dinosaur has been standing in the blood and gore from a recent pack kill.  At Everything Dinosaur, we are unable to offer an explanation ourselves, but it does give us the opportunity to show the underside of the model revealing the exquisite detail.

The Colouration of the Feet and Beautiful Skin Texture of the Velociraptor Figure “Gunn”

The underside of the Rebor Velociraptor "Gunn".

The underside of the feet and the beautiful skin texture of Rebor “Gunn”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Rebor Replicas and Jurassic Park III

The JurassicCollectables video review lasts a little over twelve minutes and it is great to see both Rebor “Gunn” and “Rose” shown together.  In addition, the video also compares the earlier Rebor “Winston” with their latest figure “Gunn”.  The narrator makes an excellent point about these Rebor figures working well with the classic “Jurassic Park” models.

The Rebor 1:18 Scale Velociraptor Replica “Gunn”

Rebor Velociraptor "Gunn".

The Rebor 1:18 scale Velociraptor model “Gunn”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

JurassicCollectables has a fantastic YouTube channel.  It has lots and lots of brilliant dinosaur themed videos and product reviews and JurassicCollectables has just celebrated reaching the landmark of 60,000 subscribers.  Congratulations JurassicCollectables.  Visit JurassicCollectables on YouTube and subscribe: JurassicCollectables on YouTube

Great for Dinosaur Dioramas

Rebor has produced several Velociraptor models over the last eighteen months or so.  The video review shows both “Gunn” and “Rose” compared to “off colour Alan”, as well as highlighting the hatching Velociraptor blind box series made by Rebor.  The narrator explains that these models with their different, contrasting poses would be great for use in dinosaur dioramas.  Fortunately, the JurassicCollectables YouTube channel includes video reviews of all the Rebor “Raptors”, so viewers can see the full range of these Rebor figures.

Rebor “Gunn” Features in a Video Review by JurassicCollectables

The Rebor Velociraptor figure "Gunn".

The Rebor 1:18 scale Velociraptor model “Gunn”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To see the article we wrote about the JurassicCollectables video review of “Rose”: JurassicCollectables Reviews Rebor “Rose”

To view the range of Rebor replicas including “Gunn” and “Rose” available from Everything Dinosaur: Rebor Prehistoric Animal Figures and Replicas

13 01, 2018

Downsizing DNA Brings Success to Flowering Plants

By | January 13th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Angiosperms Downsized Their Genomes

Recently, Everything Dinosaur published an article on the remarkable discovery of Lepidoptera wing scales in Upper Triassic/Early Jurassic drill cores from Germany.  This fossil evidence suggested that butterflies and moths were around some 200 million years ago.  This raised the question, what did the adult insects feed on?  Butterflies and moths are closely associated with feeding on the nectar produced by flowering plants (Angiosperms), this led to speculation that, as some scientists have already suggested, flowering plants evolved much earlier than previously thought.

A Water Lily in Flower (Angiosperm)

A water lily in flower.

From the time of the dinosaurs – a water lily, an Angiosperm (flowering plant).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Whenever the flowering plants (Angiosperms) evolved, they seem to have out-competed other types of plants such as Gymnosperms, Pteridosperms and the very ancient Lycopodiophyta, for example.  How did they do this?  After all, they are the most diverse of all the land plants with something like 300,000 species.  Scientists from San Francisco State University and Yale, writing in the academic journal PLoS – Biology, propose that a downsizing in the plant’s genome is the key to their success.

Thinking Smaller

Current thinking is that the Angiosperms, radiated and diversified very rapidly, becoming the dominant terrestrial vegetation by the Late Cretaceous.  Flowering plants took over the world, leading to the astonishing variety of plants we find today.  The scientists conclude that at a critical point in the evolution of the Angiosperms, they downsized their genomes.  Flowering plants reduced the amount of DNA held within the nucleus of each cell, this permitted these plants to make smaller cells and to build leaves with more sophisticated and complicated structures, of great assistance when it comes to improving the efficiency of photosynthesis, along with the use of energy and the management of each cell body.  This reduction in the genome, is likely to have given Angiosperms a competitive advantage over other types of plants.

Co-author of the study, Assistant Professor of Biology (San Francisco State University), Kevin Simonin explained:

“Flowering plants are the most important group of plants on Earth, and now we finally know why they’ve been so successful.”

The Rise of Flowers Puzzles Darwin

Prior to the evolution of the Angiosperms, terrestrial vegetation was dominated by ferns, horsetails, clubmosses, cycads and their relatives along with conifers.  Flowering plants took over and make up more than 90 percent of all the land plant species around today.  Even Charles Darwin was perplexed by the success of the Angiosperms and scientists ever since have been offering potential reasons for it, ranging from the influence of pollinators (such as those ancient butterflies and moths referred to earlier), to a reshuffling of genes.  What has been missing is an explanation of just how flowering plants became so successful in the first place.

Flowering Plants in the Cretaceous

Artwork illustrates new book on fossil insects.

A mayfly rests on a primitive flowering plant – a Cretaceous scene.

Picture Credit: Richard Bizley

Working in collaboration with Adam Roddy (Yale University), Assistant Professor Simonin, undertook a review of the current literature and demonstrated that flowering plants went through a dramatic genome downsizing as they evolved.  In comparison, the genomes of other plants, competing with flowers remain relatively unchanged.  Smaller genomes means the option to make smaller cells, with those smaller building blocks, the team showed, flowering plants can construct more complicated networks of veins to keep their cells hydrated and more pores (stomata) in their leaves to draw in the carbon dioxide they need to make food.  More stomata, permitted more efficient gaseous exchange, both oxygen and CO2.

Finer Genomes Make Finer Flowers

The researchers mapped the genome downsizing patterns they had identified and applied a phylogenetic assessment to their data.  They discovered that flowering plants began to downsize their genomes at around the time they were beginning to dominate terrestrial flora.  According to this study, having a greater variety of cellular building blocks apparently gave flowering plants an edge over conifers and other types of plant.  It is not only the flowering plants that have benefited, pollinators have also become more successful and much of the food that we consume and that we feed to domestic animals comes from Angiosperms.

The idea to investigate the size of the genome of flowering plants, came indirectly from one of Assistant Professor Simonin’s students.  During a lecture, the student enquired whether whales had big genomes?  Simonin began to think more about the size of cellular genetic material and its impact on plant physiology.

An Illustration of Prehistoric Flowers – Archaefructus

Archaefructus prehistoric flowers.

Prehistoric Flowers (Archaefructus).

Picture Credit: Associated Press

He explained:

“It sent me down this whole path of genome-size research.  It reinvented the research in my lab in many ways.”

On-going Research

Research is continuing in this field of botany.  San Francisco State University scientists in conjunction with colleagues from other academic bodies are currently exploring some groups of flowering plants that don’t seem to have reduced their genomes.  In certain environments, perhaps where photosynthesis is more difficult, there might not be a competitive advantage to be gained.  There might be no evolutionary pressure for plants to create smaller cells.  This new study, has shed some much needed light on a puzzle that Charles Darwin referred to as “an abominable mystery”

To read about the research into Late Triassic/Early Jurassic Lepidoptera: Ancient Butterflies Flutter By

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of the San Francisco State University in the compilation of this article.

12 01, 2018

The Schleich Tawa Dinosaur Model is in Stock

By | January 12th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Stocks the Schleich Tawa Dinosaur Model

The new for 2018 Schleich Tawa dinosaur model has arrived and is now in stock at Everything Dinosaur.  The Schleich Tawa is one of three Theropod replicas introduced by the German-based figure manufacturer in 2018, but the only one that represents a hypercarnivore.  The other two Theropods are the Schleich Oviraptor and the new colour variant of the Schleich Therizinosaurus.

The Schleich Tawa (Tawa hallae) Model is the Only Hypercarnivore Theropod to be Added to Date (2018)

The Schleich Tawa hallae dinosaur model.

The new for 2018 Schleich Tawa dinosaur model (T. hallae).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Tawa hallae – A Triassic Hypercarnivore

A hypercarnivore is an animal that has a diet of more than 70% meat, the diet of Oviraptor and Therizinosaurus is not that well understood, but Oviraptor may well have been omnivorous and Therizinosaurus could have been a relatively sedentary browser.  However, Tawa, a Theropod that lived more than a hundred million years earlier, was most certainly carnivorous and perhaps a hunter of other dinosaurs such as Coelophysis.  The jaw may be slender, but it is lined with sharp and curved teeth, ideal for slicing through meat.  Tawa had strong grasping hands with each finger ending in a sharp claw, these hands were probably used to grasp and subdue small prey.

The Sharp Teeth and Grasping Hands of Tawa hallae

Schleich Tawa dinosaur model.

A close-view of the Schleich Tawa dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Ghost Ranch Location

This lithe dinosaur is known from the fossilised remains of several individuals recovered from sediments that make up part of the Petrified Forest Member of the famous Chinle Formation exposed at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico.  All the fossils found to date represent immature individuals or juveniles which measure between two to three metres in length.  However, a single femur (thigh bone) found in association with the other remains provides tantalising evidence that these fast-running dinosaurs could grow much larger, perhaps more than four metres in length.  The Ghost Ranch location has provided palaeontologists with a fantastic insight into a Late Triassic palaeoenvironment, a time when the Dinosauria was beginning to dominate terrestrial environments, but they shared this seasonal world with other reptiles and mammal-like reptiles too.

Tawa hallae was named and scientifically described in 2009, to read an article about this dinosaur’s discovery: New Theropod Fossil Provides Evidence of Dinosaur Diversity

The Theropods of Ghost Ranch

Discovered by Edwin Colbert in 1947, the Coelophysis beds have produced more than 1,000 skeletons of Coelophysis, making this little Triassic Theropod one of the best known of all the Dinosauria.  In truth, the first evidence of dinosaur fossils from this location was recorded in 1885, but the native American people would have been aware of the strange bones eroding out of the ground for hundreds of years before western scientists.  The genus name for Tawa comes from the local Hopi people’s language.  It is their word for the Puebloan sun god.  It is fitting that a dinosaur from a part of New Mexico which would have been familiar to native peoples, has been given a name honouring the language and customs of these people.

To view the Schleich Tawa model and all the other figures in the Schleich prehistoric animal model range: Schleich Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals

11 01, 2018

Ancient Butterflies, Flutter By

By | January 11th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Fossilised Wing Scales Provide Evidence of Triassic Moths and Butterflies

Butterflies and moths might be regarded as delicate creatures, what with the diaphanous wings and light-weight bodies, but a new study published in the journal “Science Advances” suggests that the Lepidoptera have been around for many millions of years longer than previously thought.  The new fossil discoveries, made by an international team of scientists led by Timo van Eldijk and Bas van de Schootbrugge (Utrecht University), have also challenged the presumed co-evolution between flowering plants (Angiosperms) and pollinating insects.

Fossil Evidence for Ancient Moths and Butterflies

Fossil scales of moths and butterflies.

Fossil scales of moths and butterflies as found in the drill cores from Schandelah, Lower Saxony (Germany).

Picture Credit: University of Utrecht

A core drilled into sediments in Schandelah, Lower Saxony (northern Germany), revealed microscopic wing scales some 70 million years older than the oldest, confirmed fossils of flowering plants.  The team’s findings suggest that wing and body scales found in rocks some 201 million years old, provide evidence that the Lepidoptera survived the end-Triassic mass extinction event.  Indeed, like the Dinosauria, moths and butterflies may have benefited from the extinction event, being able to exploit environmental niches vacated by extinct species.

Drilling into Ancient Rocks Triassic/Jurassic Strata

Drill cores reveal evidence of prehistoric moths and butterflies.

Drilling to produce the cores (northern Germany).

Picture Credit: University of Utrecht/Dr Bas van de Schootbrugge

Commenting on the significance of the core drill study, Utrecht University student Timo van Eldijk explained:

“The mass extinction event occurred at the end of the Triassic and was associated with massive volcanism as the super continent Pangaea started to break apart.  As a result, biodiversity on land and in the oceans suffered a setback with many key Triassic species going extinct, including many primitive reptiles.  However, one major group of insects, the Lepidoptera, moths and butterflies, appeared unaffected.  Instead, this group diversified during a period of ecological turnover.”

The Moth and Butterfly “Tongue”

Extant butterflies and moths have a well-known association with flowering plants.  As they feed on the nectar with their long proboscis (an elongated, sucking mouthpart), they pick up pollen and therefore play an important role in Angiosperm reproduction.

Dr Bas van de Schootbrugge (Department of Earth Sciences, Utrecht University) stated:

“The fossil remains contain distinctive hollow scales and provide clear evidence for a group of moths with sucking mouthparts, which is related to the vast majority of living moths and butterflies.”

A Scanning Electron Microscope Image of the Wing Scales on an Extant Moth Species

A scanning electron microscope image of Glossata wing scales.

A scanning electron microscope image showing the wing scales on a modern-day Glossata moth.

Picture Credit: University of Utrecht

What Did the Triassic Lepidoptera Feed On?

If there were moths and butterflies about some 201 million years ago, some 70 million years before the first flowering plants, then what were the adult animal’s feeding on?  The researchers conclude that the first Lepidopterans were feeding on non-flowering seed plants (Gymnosperms), one of the most successful plant groups of the early Mesozoic.  The earliest proboscid moths (Glossata), likely used their long, sucking mouthparts to feast on the sugary pollination beads secreted by several groups of Gymnosperms.

There is another tantalising and very controversial aspect that is worth considering.  What if the flowering plants evolved much earlier than previously thought?

In 2013, Everything Dinosaur published an article providing information on some intriguing research that suggested flowering plants originated more than 240 million years ago, in the Early Triassic.  If flowering plants were around over 100 million years earlier than previously thought than a symbiotic relationship between early Lepidoptera and early Angiosperms could have already been in place.

To read the article about evidence for Lower Triassic flowering plant fossils: Saying it with Flowers 100 Million Years Before Anyone Expected

On the basis of the fossilised wing and body scales recovered from Upper Triassic and Lower Jurassic sediments, the scientists have provided the earliest evidence to date for moths and butterflies.  The diversity of the scales found confirm a Late Triassic radiation of lepidopteran forms, including the divergence of the Glossata, a clade that consists of the living butterflies and moths with a sucking proboscis.   The team conclude that the early evolution of the Lepidoptera was probably not severely interrupted by the end-Triassic mass extinction event.

Providing an Insight into Today’s Climate Change

MSc student Timo Van Eldijk stated:

“This evidence has transformed our understanding of the evolutionary history of moths and butterflies as well as their resilience to extinction.  By studying how insects and their evolution was affected by dramatic greenhouse warming at the start of the Jurassic, we hope to provide insight into how insects might respond to the human-induced climate change challenges we face today.”

An Example of an Extant Member of the Glossata Clade

A living member of the Glossata clade.

An extant Glossata moth with similar wing scales to those found in the Upper Triassic/Lower Jurassic drill cores.

Picture Credit: Hossein Rajaei/Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Stuttgart (Stuttgart, Germany)

The scientific paper: “A Triassic-Jurassic Window into the Evolution of Lepidoptera” by Timo van Eldijk, Torsten Wappler, Paul Strother, Carolien van der Weijst, Hossein Rajaei, Henk Visscher and Bas van de Schootbrugge, published in the journal “Science Advances”.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from the University of Utrecht in the compilation of this article.

10 01, 2018

Fossils of Folkestone, Kent by Philip Hadland

By | January 10th, 2018|Book Reviews, Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Geology, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils, Press Releases|0 Comments

A Review of the Fossils of Folkestone, Kent

Fossil collecting is a popular hobby and there are a number of excellent general guide books available.  However, the newly published “Fossils of Folkestone, Kent” by geologist and museum curator Philip Hadland, takes a slightly different perspective.  Instead of focusing on lots of fossil collecting locations, Philip provides a comprehensive overview of just one area of the Kent coast, the beaches and cliffs surrounding the port of Folkestone.  Here is a book that delivers what its title implies, if you want to explore the Gault Clay, Lower Greensand and Chalks around Folkestone then this is the book for you.

The Fossils of Folkestone, Kent by Philip Hadland – A Comprehensive Guide

Fossil collecting guide to the Folkestone area.

Fossils of Folkestone, Kent by Philip Hadland and published by Siri Scientific Press and priced at £12.99 plus postage.

Picture Credit: Siri Scientific Press

A Comprehensive Overview of the Geology and the Palaeoenvironment of the Folkestone Area

The author clearly has a tremendous affection for this part of the Kent coast.  His enthusiasm is infectious and the reader is soon dipping into the various chapters, dedicated to the rock formations exposed along the cliffs and the fossil delights to be found within them.  Folkestone is probably most famous for its beautiful Gault Clay ammonites, the clay being deposited around 100 million years ago and a wide variety of these cephalopods can be found preserved in the rocks.  The book contains more than 100 full colour plates, so even the beginner fossil hunter can have a go at identifying their fossil discoveries.

Clear Colour Photographs Help with Fossil Identification

Ammonite fossils from Folkestone (Anahoplites praecox).

Anahoplites praecox fossil from Folkestone.

Picture Credit: Siri Scientific Press

Surprises on the Shoreline

The book begins by explaining some of the pleasures of fossil hunting, before briefly outlining a history of fossil collecting in the Folkestone area and introducing some of the colourful characters who were prominent fossil collectors in their day.  The geology of the area is explored using terminology that the general reader can understand and follow, but academics too, will no doubt gain a lot from this publication.  Intriguingly, the Cretaceous-aged sediments were thought to have been deposited in a marine environment, however, the Lower Greensand beds have produced evidence of dinosaur footprints.  The palaeoenvironment seems to have been somewhat more complex than previously thought, the Lower Greensand preserving evidence of inter-tidal mudflats, that were once crossed by dinosaurs.  Isolated dinosaur bones have also been found in the area and the book contains some fantastic photographs of these exceptionally rare fossil discoveries.

Helping to Identify Fossil Finds

Folkestone fossils - ammonites.

Folkestone fossils – ammonites.

Picture Credit: Siri Scientific Press

Prehistoric Mammals

To help with identification, the colour plates and accompanying text are organised by main animal groups.  There are detailed sections on bivalves, brachiopods, corals, crustaceans, gastropods, belemnites and ammonites.  There are plenty of photographs of vertebrate fossils too and not just fish and reptiles associated with the Mesozoic.  Pleistocene-aged deposits are found in this area and these preserve the remains of numerous exotic prehistoric animals that once called this part of Kent home.

Fossil Teeth from a Hippopotamus Which Lived in the Folkestone Area During a Warmer Inter-glacial Period

Folkestone fossils - Teeth from a Hippopotamus.

Pleistocene mammal fossils from Folkestone (Hippopotamus upper canine and molar).

Picture Credit: Siri Scientific Press

The author comments that the presence of hippos, along with other large mammals such as elephants as proved by fossil finds, demonstrates how very different Folkestone was just 120,000 years ago.  It is likely that humans were present in the area, evidence of hominins have been found elsewhere in England and in nearby France, but as yet, no indications of human activity or a human presence in this area have been found.  Perhaps, an enthusiastic fossil hunter armed with this guide, will one day discover the fossils or archaeology that demonstrates that people were living in the area and exploiting the abundant food resources that existed.

A Partial Femur from a Large Hippopotamus Provides Testament to the Exotic Pleistocene Fauna

Folkestone fossils - partial femur from a Hippopotamus.

A partial femur (thigh bone) from a Hippopotamus.

Picture Credit: Siri Scientific Press

With a foreword by renowned palaeontologist Dean Lomax, “Fossils of Folkestone, Kent” is an essential read for anyone with aspirations regarding collecting fossils on this part of the English coast.  The book, with its weather-proof cover, fits snugly into a backpack and the excellent photographs and text make fossil identification in the field really easy.

If your New Year’s resolution is to get out more to enjoy the wonders of the British countryside, to start fossil hunting, or to visit more fossil collecting locations, then the “Fossils of Folkestone, Kent” by Philip Hadland would be a worthy addition to your book collection.

For further information on this book and to order a copy: Siri Scientific Press On-line

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