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Prehistoric Times Winter 2017 Reviewed

Prehistoric Times Issue 120 Reviewed

Our dinosaur themed reading material for the New Year gets off to a cracking start with the arrival of the latest instalment of “Prehistoric Times”, the magazine for fans of prehistoric animals and dinosaur model collectors.  Issue 120’s front cover showcases the remarkable artwork of British palaeoartist John Sibbick and the dramatic image is a foretaste of the exciting contents as this latest edition of the quarterly magazine is packed full of fantastic artwork and articles.

The Front Cover of Prehistoric Times (Winter 2017)

Prehistoric Times Issue 117

The front cover of “Prehistoric Times” magazine (Winter 2017).

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks

Long-spined, Short-tailed Wyoming Stegosaur

Renowned palaeontologist Kenneth Carpenter (museum director of the USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum in Utah), has penned a highly informative feature on a new type of Stegosaur from the Morrison Formation (Alcovasaurus longispinus).  The copy includes a skeletal reconstruction of this long-spined, short tailed member of the Thyreophora by Gregory S. Paul, look out for an in-depth article on Gregory S. Paul’s second edition of the excellent “The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs”, a book that Everything Dinosaur team members have been fortunate to review.  “Prehistoric Times” editor, Mike Fredericks provides further insight and Greg has written an article giving readers an inside track on how the second edition came together.

Recommended Reading for Fans of Dinosaurs

"The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs" - 2nd edition.

The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs (second edition).

Picture Credit: Princeton University Press

To read more about “Prehistoric Times” and to subscribe: Prehistoric Times Magazine

To read Everything Dinosaur’s review of “The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs”: A Review of the Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs

Toxodon and Concavenator

Phil Hore provides the information on the two featured prehistoric animals that grace the winter issue (Toxodon and the Theropod Concavenator).  Look out for some splendid reader submitted illustrations, the mother and baby Toxodon sketch by Clinton Harris being our personal favourite, although Ryan McMurry’s aggressive looking Concavenator runs it close.  Check out the illustration of Concavenator on page 16, as well as the Ceratopsian sketches that accompany news about new CollectA models for 2017.  Eagle-eyed readers may well recognise these illustrations from Everything Dinosaur’s own fact sheets.  Tracy Lee Ford focuses very much on the Theropoda with an examination of the jaw mechanics of big meat-eating dinosaurs.  Tracy informs us that this article is his 98th contribution to “Prehistoric Times”, we look forward to celebrating Tracy’s centenary of prehistoric prose – look out for this in issue 122!

2016 Palaeontology in Perspective

American Steve Brusatte, based at the University of Edinburgh, has produced a beautifully composed piece that reviews the big dinosaur palaeontology news stories of 2016.  It’s a fantastic summary and it is great to see the likes of Dracoraptor included, a new Early Jurassic dinosaur discovered by brothers Nick and Rob Hanigan.  Look out for the explanation for the survival of birds put forward by a team of scientists led by Derek Larson (University of Toronto), seed eating may have helped the Aves survive the Cretaceous mass extinction event!

Palaeozoic Fish and Invertebrates – Zdeněk Burian

John Lavas continues the series of articles on Zdeněk Burian, the Czech artist and book illustrator, regarded as one of the pioneers of scientific illustration.  In this edition, the focus is on Palaeozoic fishes and invertebrates and a number of Burian’s wonderful illustrations adorn the pages of “Prehistoric Times”.

Zdeněk Burian’s Illustration of the Cambrian Painted in 1951

Cambrian life.

Life in the Cambrian by Zdeněk Burian.

Picture Credit: Zdeněk Burian.com

“Prehistoric Times” issue 120 also includes articles on the Marx model series, the role of music in prehistoric animal movies (the Sound of Mesozoic), more wonderful examples of John Sibbick’s artwork plus news on the latest models and kits.

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

Trilobite Reproduction Puzzle Solved

Trilobite Eggs Found in Ordovican Fossil

Trilobites are some of the most recognisable fossils to be found in Palaeozoic strata.  However, despite there being tens of thousands of exceptionally preserved specimens, little is known about how Trilobites bred.  Trilobite reproduction has remained a bit of a mystery.  A team of scientists from Western Illinois University in collaboration with colleagues from Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee), writing in the academic journal “Geology” have published a paper on a remarkable fossil find.  They report finding the first evidence of Trilobite eggs preserved within a fossil specimen.

A Trilobite Fossil

A fossil of an Trilobite.

A beautiful Trilobite fossil.

The Trilobita

Trilobites are an extinct, geographically widespread and abundant group of Palaeozoic arthropods that evolved in the Cambrian and survived until the Permian mass extinction event some 252 million years ago.  Trilobites have a distinctive threefold longitudinal division of the body and a tough exoskeleton.  At least ten Orders of Trilobita have been assigned and although most Trilobites were small, the largest specimens grew to up to a metre in length.  All Trilobites lived in marine environments and they evolved to occupy a number of ecological niches from active, predatory nektonic animals to epifaunal forms.  In order to grow, these animals had to moult and shed their exoskeleton.  The cast exoskeleton readily fossilised and as a result, huge numbers of Trilobite fossil material is present.

An analysis of an exceptionally well-preserved specimen of the Late Ordovican Trilobite (Triarthrus eatoni) from the Lorraine Group found in the United States has revealed the presence of nine tiny eggs, clustered together in an area located underneath the head shield (the genal area of the cephalon).  Other specimens also show evidence of eggs within the fossilised form.

Digital Images from the Computerised Tomography Showing the Tiny Eggs

Trilobite eggs.

A digital reconstruction of T. eatoni shows evidence of Trilobite egg formation.

Picture Credit: Geological Society of America

The image above shows close up views of the cephalon and the upper portion of the trunk.  Picture K represents a dorsal view (view from the top), picture L (ventral view), viewed from underneath and picture M is a left ventral view.  The egg cluster, represented by the tiny white dots can be clearly seen.

Spherical and Elliptical Eggs

Like many fossil Trilobite specimens from the Lorraine Group, the complete exoskeleton has been replaced with pyrite.  The eggs are described as being spherical to elliptical in shape, although the fossilisation process could have distorted the material.  Each egg is approximately 200 μm in size, that’s around half the width of a human hair.  The eggs are only visible ventrally with no dorsal brood pouch or recognised sexual dimorphism.

Triathrus eatoni (Ordovician Whetstone Gulf Formation) Reveals Eggs

Fossil eggs in Trilobite fossil discovered.

Pyritised specimens of Triarthrus eatoni showing evidence of fossil eggs.

Picture Credit: Geological Society of America

The picture above show a pyritised specimen of T. eatoni, part of the collection of the Yale Peabody Museum showing nine eggs (picture A is ventral view).  Picture B shows a second specimen with four eggs preserved in the right genal area.  Picture C is a close up of the eggs in specimen B, whilst D is a closer view of the eggs preserved in specimen A.

Highly magnified (scanning electron microscopy), views of an egg cluster (E) with a closer view of a single egg (F).  Picture G shows the egg surface under high magnification.

A close up of a single limb from specimen A is shown in picture H, whilst images I and J show pyritised elements of the body fossil.

Reproduction Strategy Similar to Modern Horseshoe Crabs

The location of the eggs is consistent with where extant female horseshoe crabs release their unfertilised eggs from the ovarian network within their head.  Trilobites probably released their gametes (eggs and sperm) through a genital pore of as-yet unknown location (likely near the posterior boundary of the head).  If the T. eatoni reproductive biology is representative of other trilobites, they spawned with external fertilisation, possibly the ancestral mode of reproduction for early members of the Arthropoda.  As pyritisation preferentially preserves the external rather than internal features of fossils, it is suggested that there is likely a bias in the fossil record toward the preservation of Arthropods that brood eggs externally, animals with an exoskeleton that brood their eggs internally are unlikely to preserve any evidence of their mode of reproduction.

The scientific paper: “Pyritised in situ Trilobite Eggs from the Ordovician of New York (Lorraine Group): Implications for Trilobite Reproductive Biology” published in Geology.

Key Stage 1 Study Dinosaurs

Year 1 and Year 2 Study Dinosaurs

A day of studying dinosaurs and fossils was in store for the children in Key Stage 1 at Rykneld Primary as they braved the snowy conditions to make it into school.  The trip was certainly worth it with one enthusiastic Year 2 pupil declaring that today had been his “best day ever”, as the children learned all about dinosaurs and fossils in a series of workshops with Everything Dinosaur.

The spacious, newly constructed sports hall provided a splendid venue for the four dinosaur themed workshops.  The three classes that make up the Year 1 cohort were combined together so that two lengthy workshops could be conducted in the morning.  Half of Mrs Chell’s class took part in the first workshop, the remainder joined in with the second workshop that commenced later in the morning.

In the afternoon, it was the turn of the ninety children that make up Year 2.  Once again, in order to provide longer workshops, one class was split with half of them joining the first workshop of the afternoon and the other half taking part in the fourth and final workshop.

Inspired by Seeing and Handling Ammonite Fossils Children Made Clay Ammonites

Key Stage 1 children make clay ammonite fossils.

Year 1 children make clay ammonite fossils.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Ammonite Fossils

Ammonite fossils were used to help the children learn about how fossils form and what they can tell us about life in the past.  After the inspiring fossil workshop, one Year 1 class spent part of the afternoon making their own clay ammonite fossils.  The Everything Dinosaur team member who conducted the dinosaur workshops was most impressed by the various spiral shapes and patterns the children had created.

Cephalopods in the Classroom Fossils in the Field

An Ammonite fossil.

A big fossil close to the Ammonite Pavement.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Some of the ammonites that Everything Dinosaur had brought were very large and heavy.  Lucky pupils got the chance to hold these big fossils to see for themselves just how heavy (and cold) fossils can be.  One of the challenges set was to help the children develop their vocabularies by thinking of words to describe some of the specimens.  We had some amazing adjectives – well done Year 1 and Year 2.

An Impressive “Wow” Wall in a Classroom

A volcano on display in a classroom.

A “Wow” Wall in a classroom with a wonderful volcano exhibit.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Rykneld Primary

The well-appointed and roomy classrooms had lots of prehistoric animal themed displays.  Year 4 had been studying the Stone Age and outside their classroom was a magnificent Woolly Mammoth model, complete with curly tusks.  However, our favourite piece of prehistoric themed art was spotted in one of the Year 1 classrooms.  The picture above shows a splendid three-dimensional volcano model, complete with lava erupting from its top.  Just like Everything Dinosaur’s workshops, such wonderful art is bound to inspire and motivate the Key Stage 2 pupils.

To request information about Everything Dinosaur’s dinosaur and fossil workshops in schools: Contact Everything Dinosaur

Year 5 and Year 6 Explore Deep Time

Stone Age/Iron Age and Before with Upper Key Stage 2

Year 5 and Year 6 pupils at Thorne Greentop School are exploring deep time this term.  The dedicated teaching team have compiled an exciting and challenging scheme of work covering recent human history and introducing evolution, natural selection and profiling Charles Darwin.  A member of the Everything Dinosaur teaching staff was invited into the classroom to provide a tactile provocation to introduce some of the topic areas to the children.  The enthusiastic pupils had already created some fine artwork reflecting early cave paintings.  In addition, suspended from the classroom ceiling, there was a row of Stone Age spears that had been made by Upper Key Stage 2, their flint tips represented by carefully shaped tin foil.

During each workshop, examples of how animals adapt or fail to adapt to environmental changes were provided.  Evidence about life in the past was explored using fossils and the concepts of extinction and de-extinction were examined.

As well as learning about life in the past, the thought provoking scheme of work challenged the children to consider how might our own species evolve over time? What changes in us and our bodies will take place?  How will technology affect the evolution of mankind?

How Will Our Species Evolve?

The ascent of man.

How will our species evolve?

Picture Credit: Thorne Greentop School

Learning About Coelacanths

One of a number of extension activities set by the visitor involved the children researching the story of the Coelacanth.  Coelacanths were thought to have died out with the non-avian dinosaurs some sixty-six million years ago, until one was caught by a fisherman off the eastern coast of South Africa in 1938.

The Story of the Discovery of the Coelacanth Can Help to Support Lesson Plans Focusing on Adaptation and Natural Selection

The Coelacanth.

A “living fossil”

Coelacanth catches are rare, marine scientists have expressed concern about these remarkable fishes, once thought to be very closely related to the first land animals, numbers may be dwindling as commercial activity and pollution destroys their habitat.

To read about a recent Coelacanth catch: Coelacanth Caught off the Island of Zanzibar

Creating a Record of the Children’s Work

The innovative plan for the term is to build up the children’s knowledge using a wide range of teaching methods and learning styles culminating in the publication of a workbook that takes the reader through a chronological history of mankind and our planet.  We have been promised a copy and we are looking forward to receiving it.  Having discussed the types of animals that roamed the landscape some twenty thousand years or so before the school was built, our teaching team member set the children a creative writing challenge.  Could they imagine what it would have been like to take part in a Woolly Mammoth hunt?

Preparing for a Woolly Mammoth Hunt

Preparing for the hunt.

Getting ready for the Mammoth hunt.

Picture Credit: Greg Harlin

 We look forward to hearing more news from Thorne Greentop school as they explore our Earth’s amazing history.

Hyoliths Find a Home

Ancient, Long Extinct Animal Finds Place on Tree of Life

A bizarre shelled marine creature’s place in the Animal Kingdom has finally been resolved thanks to the efforts of a remarkable student at the University of Toronto.  Undergraduate student Joseph Moysiuk has identified Hyoliths, not as members of the Mollusca, which many palaeontologists had previously believed, but as lophophores and as such, they are closely related to brachiopods.

An Illustration of the Hyolith Haplophrentis

The Hyolith Haplophrentis.

An illustration of the Hyolith Haplophrentis.

Picture Credit: Royal Ontario Museum/Danielle Dufault

In the Hyolith illustration above, a tiny brachiopod can be seen attached to the nearest appendage of Haplophrentis.

The distinctive appearance and structure of the Hyolith skeleton has obstructed previous attempts to classify these animals.  All Hyoliths had an elongated, bilaterally symmetrical cone-shaped shell and a smaller cap-like shell that covered the opening of the conical shell (known as an operculum).  Some species also bore a pair of rigid, curved spines (helens) that protruded from between the conical shell and operculum (the shell cap), structures with no equivalents in any other group of animals.

Extensive Fossil Record

The mineralised external skeletons (argonite) and their sessile/semi-sessile habit (living on the seabed), gives these animals, which range in size from 1 cm to around 5 cm in length, a good fossil preservation potential.  The earliest fossil evidence for this type of creature occurs in rocks dating from around 540 million years ago (Cambrian).  These filter feeders seem to have persisted throughout the Palaeozoic and the Hyolith fossil record is relatively abundant and geographically widespread.  The Hyolitha were very diverse during the Cambrian and the subsequent Ordovician geological period, before their fossil record and their presence as an important member of marine benthos communities (animals and plants living on the sea floor) declines.  Hyoliths are one of many types of marine invertebrate that failed to survive into the Mesozoic.

The Cambrian Hyolith Haplophrentis

Burgess Shale Hyolith fossil.

Soft tissue of a Cambrian Hyolith (Haplophrentis) has been preserved.

Picture Credit:  Royal Ontario Museum

In the picture of a Hyolith fossil above, (genus Haplophrentis – H. carinatus), the conical shape of the shell can be clearly made out and the partially extended lophophore (feeding organ) can be seen.  The lophophore consisting of numerous, blackened, thin, finger-like extensions is highlighted against the operculum.  The curved spines are the helens.

Writing in the academic journal “Nature”, student Joseph Moysiuk and his fellow authors, Durham University’s Martin Smith and Burgess Shale fossil expert Jean-Bernard Caron, studied over 1,500 fossil specimens from the mid-Cambrian strata that represent elements of the Burgess Shale (British Columbia) and the Spence Shale Formations (Idaho and Utah).  The Hyolith material (Haplophrentis) and its exceptional state of preservation permitted the team to assess the soft tissue structures and from this information the team were able to deduce their taxonomic affinities.

Dr Caron explained:

“Burgess Shale fossils are exceptional because they show preservation of soft tissues which are not usually preserved in normal conditions.”

Not Closely Related to Snails, Cephalopods and Other Molluscs

The analysis showed that Hyoliths are not closely related to snails, squid or other members of the Mollusca.  They are instead, more closely related to the Brachiopoda, a group of animals with a rich fossil record but with few extant representatives.  Brachiopods have a soft body enclosed between upper and lower shells (valves), unlike the left and right arrangement of valves in bivalve molluscs.  Brachiopods open their valves at the front when feeding but otherwise keep them closed to protect their feeding apparatus and other body parts.

Student Moysiuk commented:

“Our most important and surprising discovery is the Hyolith feeding structure, which is a row of flexible tentacles extending away from the mouth, contained within the cavity between the lower conical shell and upper cap-like shell.  Only one group of living animals – the brachiopods, has a comparable feeding structure enclosed by a pair of valves.  This finding demonstrates that brachiopods, and not molluscs, are the closest surviving relatives of Hyoliths.”

The undergraduate added:

“It suggests that these Hyoliths fed on organic material suspended in water as living brachiopods do today, sweeping food into their mouths with their tentacles,”

A Diagram Showing the Proposed Anatomy of a Hyolith

Haplophrentis anatomy.

Diagrams showing the anatomy of the Cambrian Hyolith Haplophrentis.

Picture Credit: Royal Ontario Museum/Danielle Dufault

The Function of the Helens

Examination of the orientation of the helens in multiple Hyolith specimens from the Burgess Shale suggests that these spines may have been used like stilts to lift the body of the animal above the sediment, elevating the feeding apparatus to enhance feeding.

Dr Caron led recent field exhibitions to the Burgess Shale.  This resulted in the discovery of many specimens that form the basis of this research.  The key specimens came from recently discovered deposits near Stanley Glacier and Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park, about twenty miles south-east of the original Burgess Shale site in Yoho National Park.

Exploring the Burgess Shale

Exploring the Burgess Shales.

Student Joseph Moysiuk (left) in the field with Dr Jean-Bernard Caron.

Picture Credit: Joseph Moysiuk

Palaeontology lecturer Martin Smith expressed his delight at being able to help solve a 175-year-old palaeontological puzzle.  Hyolith fossils have been included in a number of fossil studies previously, but until now, where these creatures featured in the tree of life remained open to speculation.

Dr Smith stated:

“Resolving the debate over the Hyoliths adds to our understanding of the Cambrian Explosion, the period of rapid evolutionary development when most major animal groups emerge in the fossil record.  Our study reiterates the importance of soft tissue preservation from Burgess Shale-type deposits in illuminating the evolutionary history of creatures about which we still know very little.”

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of the University of Toronto in the compilation of this article.

In Praise of “TheDinosaurMan 245″

Praising All Dinosaur Model Reviewers

At Everything Dinosaur, we get lots of emails and letters from fans of dinosaurs and prehistoric animal model collecting.  We do read them all and we respond to all those that require a reply.  Answering questions and commenting on all the amazing things that we get sent from our customers is something that we have always tried to do.  These days, the overwhelming majority of our correspondence is via email, the number of letters that we receive as a proportion of the total is dropping year on year.  However, we do get a great many thank you letters from school children who have taken part in our dinosaur and fossil themed workshops.  We are keen to encourage the children with their hand-writing and a thank you letter makes a great extension exercise for the teachers.

We also receive lots of links to videos that dinosaur model fans have made.  A wide variety of subjects are covered, from comments about model collections, suggestions for new replicas, unboxing videos, lists of favourite dinosaurs even homemade “Jurassic Park” movies.  We do our best to watch as many as we can, although, there never seems to be enough hours in the day, what with all our other commitments.  Around ten days ago, we were emailed by the father of a young dinosaur fan who contacted us to thank Everything Dinosaur for the speedy dispatch of some dinosaur models.  We were also informed, that, like many of our customers, his son posted up prehistoric animal themed videos.  The young man’s video channel contains reviews of his Everything Dinosaur purchases, collection updates, as well as video game footage.  The eager young video maker goes by the moniker “TheDinosaurMan 245″.

Everything Dinosaur Unboxing Video by “TheDinosaurMan 245″

Video Credit: “TheDinosaurMan 245″

In Praise of All the Dinosaur Model Video Makers

We used to make some videos ourselves, these were our way of helping to pass on some of the background on new models as well as providing information about the prehistoric animals the models represented.  With so much going on in the company, we just don’t get the time to make them anymore, but those videos we have made, have had millions of views and we are grateful for every “like” and comment received.

Today, we pay tribute to all those collectors of dinosaurs and prehistoric animal models, who take the time and trouble to share their passion and enthusiasm for this hobby.

Our thanks to “TheDinosaurMan 245″ and to everyone like him, who are fascinated with dinosaurs and enjoying telling the world about their collections.

Palaeontology Predictions for 2017

Palaeontology Predictions for 2017

As 2017 commences, the start of a new year is often a good time to consider what changes, developments and news stories we might expect to blog about in the next twelve months.  For scientists, including those who specialise in the Earth sciences, 2017 will no doubt be filled with exciting discoveries.  The team at Everything Dinosaur has compiled a list of predictions, trying to guess what the next year will bring, it’s just a bit of fun, we shall see how things turn out in another year likely to be remembered for some remarkable fossil discoveries.

Here in no particular order are our predictions for 2017:

A New Epoch – Arise the Anthropocene!

The work of the Anthropocene Work Group (AWG), will once again enter the scientific spotlight as the debate regarding the introduction of new geological epoch to mark the trend in global warming “hots up”.  Our forecast, the 1950’s could be formally recognised as the start of the Anthropocene.

The Start of a New Geological Epoch Gains Further Acceptance

Plastic pollution, the impact of mankind on the environment

Non-biodegradable plastics and other debris on a beach – the impact of our species on the planet.

More Mini Dinos – The “Microsaurs” are Coming!

The very biggest dinosaurs (see next prediction), might get all the media attention, but team members at Everything Dinosaur foresee that more fossil evidence will emerge indicating a hither to virtually unknown type of dinosaur – very small Theropods, not much bigger than a mouse.  Tantalising evidence has emerged in recent years of tiny, bipedal dinosaurs that occupied an invertebrate hunting niche amongst the leaf litter of Mesozoic forests.  Small woodland animals generally have a very low fossil preservation potential and the delicate bones of such small creatures would be, in all likelihood, too fragile to survive fossilisation in all but the most perfect of geological circumstances.  However, improved CT scanning technology and a greater focus on the hunt for micro-fauna might just mean that 2017 becomes the year of the “Microsaur”!

More Fossil Evidence Suggesting Tiny Dinosaurs Predicted

The tiny dinosaur Minisauripus.

Minisauripus, potentially the smallest dinosaur known to science.

Picture Credit: Zhang Zongda/China Daily

“Enormosaurus” to Get a Formal Scientific Name

From the sublime to the ridiculous.  Early last year, the American Museum of Natural History erected a life-size cast of the largest dinosaur yet discovered, a huge 37-metre long giant from South America.  The dinosaur, a Titanosaur, is so large that it is just a bit too big for its new home the Wallach Orientation Centre on the museum’s fourth floor.  It’s head and neck extend out towards the visitor lifts.  Despite having been on public display for nearly a year, the fossilised remains of this Cretaceous monster have yet to be formally described.  We predict that “Enormosaurus” will get a binomial scientific name in 2017.

A Field Team Member Poses Next to the Giant Femur of “Enormosaurus”

Giant femur of a Titanosaur.

The thigh bone of one of the giant Titanosaurs.

Picture Credit: Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio (MEF)

In January 2016, Sir David Attenborough narrated a remarkable documentary all about this huge plant-eater.

To read our article about Sir David Attenborough and the huge Titanosaur: Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur

Chinese Feathered Dinosaurs Get Us Brits into a Flap

With the arrival of the eagerly anticipated “Dinosaurs of China – Ground Shakers to Feathered Flyers” exhibition in the summer of 2017, Chinese dinosaurs are going to be very much in our thoughts but expect new research into feathered Theropods from China to hit the headlines this year as well.  The exhibition, which starts in July is a three-way partnership between the University of Nottingham, Nottingham City Council and the Chinese Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology.  Expect the likes of Gigantoraptor and Mamenchisaurus to cause a bit of a stir in the East Midlands.

Chinese Feathered Dinosaurs Are Coming to the UK

Gigantoraptor displays.

Feathers used for display and courtship.

Picture Credit: BBC Planet Dinosaur television series.

New Website from Everything Dinosaur

Plans are well advanced for a new website from Everything Dinosaur and we predict that it will go live in the early spring of this year.  It has lots more interactivity and it is mobile device friendly.  It should be live in time to welcome the myriad of new prehistoric animal models Everything Dinosaur intends to introduce over the next twelve months.

A Bigger, Better Everything Dinosaur Website for 2017

Everything Dinosaur's new website.

The new website from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Fossil Sites and Vandalism

Sadly, we also expect this year to feature several news stories and reports of deliberate damage to fossil sites and fossils from thoughtless collectors.  Stories of the deliberate damage and vandalism are becoming more commonplace and with the strong “black market” for dinosaur fossils driving demand, we are bracing ourselves for having to write a number of articles this year that involve damage to valuable scientific specimens and important fossil-rich locations.

Expecting to Report on More Cases of Damage and Vandalism

Smashed up fossils.

“Fossil Vandalism”

Picture Credit: Scottish National Heritage

Dinosaur Eggs Make the News

Last but not least, our final prediction for 2017 is that somewhere around the world, perhaps in Canada, Portugal or in India, a series of dinosaur eggs and fossil nests will be discovered.  A number of nest sites are known but dinosaur eggs and the potential embryos that they might contain remain exceptionally rare.  Let’s hope that we can blog about some “egg-citing” news in 2017.

Relatively Little is Known About Dinosaur Nesting Behaviour and Dinosaur Embryology

"Bony Bonnie" from Rebor.

The Rebor Club Selection Lourinhanosaurus replica.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

An Ammonite Aquarium

An Ammonite Aquarium Model Display

At Everything Dinosaur, we get sent lots of pictures from customers of their prehistoric animal model collections.  We are always most impressed with the collections and also impressed with the remarkable and innovative ways that fans of prehistoric animals display their models.  For instance, model collector Paleo Paul recently emailed over to us some photographs of a couple of ammonites that he had set up to look as if these cephalopods had been photographed underwater.

The Wild Safari Prehistoric Life Ammonite on Display

Ammonite replica in an aquarium.

The Wild Safari Prehistoric Life Ammonite replica.

Picture Credit: Paleo Paul

The photograph above shows the Wild Safari Prehistoric Life ammonite replica (a model that was introduced into the range in 2014), the shot has been carefully set up to make it look like the ammonite was photographed swimming just a few centimetres from the sea bed.  The use of a flash, mirrors the powerful glare of underwater search lights used by divers and the bright light helps to provide depth and shade to the image, enhancing the perspective.  It is a very clever way of showcasing a prehistoric animal replica, the ammonite model standing out and clearly defined against the sand representing the seabed and the light- coloured rock placed immediately behind the model.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s review of the Wild Safari Prehistoric Life ammonite replica: Ammonite Model Reviewed

Two Ammonite Replicas on Display

Two Ammonite models on display.

Ammonite models on display.

Picture Credit: Paleo Paul

In a second photograph, the Bullyland large ammonite model has been placed in the foreground and the two figures look really good together.  The Wild Safari Prehistoric Life replica might represent one species, whilst the Bullyland ammonite figure could represent a second species.  The hypernome on the underside of the Bullyland ammonite is clearly visible and the angle that the model has been placed at gives the impression that the mollusc is about to shoot backwards and speed out of the shot.   Once again, it is a cleverly composed photograph with the distinctive spiral shells of the models, framed in the picture.

Ammonite Models and Replicas

The Wild Safari Prehistoric Life ammonite is around thirteen centimetres long and the shell some six centimetres across, whereas, the rare, Bullyland ammonite is a little larger, measuring nineteen centimetres in length with a shell diameter of more than nine centimetres.  The size of these models makes placing them alongside other marine animal replicas quite tricky when creating dioramas.  Even if these models were to represent a very big ammonite genus, perhaps the Late Jurassic Titanites, whose fossil shells can be more than a metre across, they would still look very much out of proportion when displayed next to 1:40 scale marine reptile replicas.

We commend Paleo Paul for finding such a creative way of overcoming this problem, creating an ammonite aquarium.

Preparing for Prehistoric Times (Winter 2017)

Prehistoric Times – Sneak Preview (Winter 2017)

Banish those January blues with a sneak preview of the next issue of the magazine for dinosaur fans and collectors of prehistoric animal merchandise – “Prehistoric Times”.  The next issue of this quarterly magazine is currently at the printers and once off the presses it will be rushed out to subscribers at tip-top speed.  Once again, it is a spectacular front cover as a Pterosaur aims to avoid getting caught up in a tornado whilst of group of alarmed Ceratopsians look on from below.

Due Out Very Soon Prehistoric Times Issue 120

Prehistoric Times Issue 117

The front cover of “Prehistoric Times” magazine (Winter 2017).

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks

Gregory S. Paul’s “Field Guide to Dinosaurs”

One of the highlights of issue 120 will be a feature on Gregory S. Paul’s “The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs”.  As this blog article is being written, the second edition of this book sits proudly on the desk.  It is being used as a reference to check some information on the Late Triassic Theropod Coelophysis bauri in preparation for a revised and updated fact sheet we are writing.  The forthcoming magazine will focus on this book and provide a comprehensive review of this excellent hardback which has been compiled by one of the most respected dinosaur experts and illustrators.  On the subject of illustrators, the magazine will continue its trend of commemorating some of the best palaeoartists from times gone by with an article about Zdeněk Burian, the Czech artist and book illustrator, regarded as one of the pioneers of scientific illustration.

To read more about Prehistoric Times and to subscribe: Prehistoric Times Magazine

Toxodon and Concavenator

The two featured prehistoric animals in issue 120 are the large herbivorous mammal Toxodon and the Early Cretaceous Theropod Concavenator.  We are looking forward to seeing all the reader supplied artwork along with all the regular items such as Tracy Lee Ford’s immensely informative “How to Draw Dinosaurs” and Phil Hore’s prehistoric creature profiles.   The winter 2017 edition will also include a review of the top news stories on fossils and dinosaur discoveries over the last twelve months – this really is a jam-packed magazine.

Not too long to wait now, until our copy of “Prehistoric Times” arrives at the office.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s review of “The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs”: A Review of the Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs

Tomato and Potato Ancestors Found in Eocene Rocks

Fossil Fruit Reveal the Ancient Ancestry of the Nightshade Family of Flowering Plants

Scientists working in a remote part of Chubut Province, Argentina, have found evidence of the ancient berries of a member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae).  Today, some 2,500 species of this diverse plant family are known, many of these plants are economically important (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, tobacco and petunias).  The complex chemical compounds several species produce, have proved to be invaluable to medical research, but until now, molecular data from extant species suggested that these types of flowering plants evolved some ten million years ago.

The Fossil Species Has Been Named Physalis infinemundi

Physalis infinemundi.

The papery husk can be clearly seen on this specimen of Physalis infinemundi.

Picture Credit: Ignacio Escapa / Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio

Writing in the journal “Science”, researchers including Professor Peter Wilf (Pennsylvania State University), have identified the fossilised delicate, lantern-like husks of a type of a type of Physalis, complete with impressions of the plant’s fruit, completely turned to carbon due to the fossilisation process.

The strata in which the two fossil lantern fruit specimens were found has been dated using palaeomagnetism and volcanic ash deposits.  These rock layers were deposited some 52 million-years-ago.  The Physalis genus contains ground cherries and husk tomatoes as well as tomatillos, a staple of Mexican cuisine.  The entire family, like many plant families has a very sparse fossil record, however, all that changed when a team of international scientists explored the Eocene deposits at Laguna del Hunco, (Chubut Province, Patagonia, Argentina), a location where the fossils of a temperate rainforest have been preserved.  More than six thousand fossil specimens have been excavated and the site has been the focus of a Pennsylvania State University, Museo Palentologico Egidio Feruglio, Trelew, Argentina, and Cornell University (New York), project for more than a decade.

The Remote Laguna del Hunco Location

Exploring an Eocene temperate rainforest.

The remote Laguna del Hunco, (Chubut Province), fossil site.

Picture Credit: Peter Wilf/Pennsylvania State University with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The red arrow in the picture points to a group of researchers looking for fossils.

Southern Gondwana

Around 52 million-years-ago, a substantial temperate rainforest covered this part of the remnants of the giant, southern, super-continent Gondwana.  Although, the climate was warmer than today, the ecosystem would have superficially resembled those fragments of forests found in the Lake District, the West Country, parts of Wales and western Scotland, where Atlantic winds bring huge amounts of rain to woodlands.

Commenting on the exceptionally rare fossil discovery, Peter Wilf (Professor of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University) stated:

“These astonishing, extremely rare specimens of Physalis fruits are the only two fossils known of the entire nightshade family that preserve enough information to be assigned to a genus within the family.  We exhaustively analysed every detail of these fossils in comparison with all potential living relatives and there is no question that they represent the world’s first Physalis fossils and the first fossil fruits of the nightshade family.  Physalis sits near the tips of the nightshade family’s evolutionary tree, meaning that the nightshades as a whole, contrary to what was thought, are far older than 52 million years.”

 

Fossil Indicates that the Solanaceae Are a Very Ancient Plant Family

Ancient nighshade fossil.

Physalis infinemundi fossil. In this specimen, the former papery and lobed husk is broken at top to reveal the large, fleshy berry underneath

Picture Credit: Peter Wilf/Pennsylvania State University

Mónica Carvalho, a former student at Pennsylvania State University and a co-author of the scientific paper explained:

These fossils are one of a kind, since the delicate papery covers of lantern fruits are rarely preserved as fossils.  Our fossils show that the evolutionary history of this plant family is much older than previously considered, particularly in South America, and they unveil important implications for understanding the diversification of the family.

All extant members of the Physalis genus are found in the New World and the research team notes that the Physalis fossils show a rare link from ancient Patagonia, to living Physalis plants of the Americas.  However, most other fossil plants such as Eucalyptus, found at Laguna del Hunco have living relatives concentrated in Australasia.  This distribution pattern reflects the geographical connection between South America, Antarctica and Australia.  This new study raises the intriguing possibility that more, potentially older Solanaceae fossils might be discovered at more southerly latitudes.

The researchers conclude that their results reinforce the emerging pattern wherein numerous fossil plant taxa from southern Argentina and Antarctica are substantially older than their dates of origin derived from molecular research.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the contribution of Pennsylvania State University in the compilation of this article.

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