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Cretaceous “Big Mouths”

Cretaceous Fish with Gigantic Mouths

The oceans of the Cretaceous had some very strange inhabitants, sadly the fossil record only hints at the remarkable diversity of vertebrates, particularly fish.  That’s why when scientists announce the discovery of not one but two new species of Cretaceous plankton-feeding fish, such stories tend to make extensive ripples in palaeontological circles.  An international team of researchers have announced a tripling of the known fish species that make up the genus called Rhinconichthys (pronounced rink-oh-nik-thees).  New fossil discoveries from the United States and Japan extend the known distribution of these Cretaceous fish and it is likely that these types of animals had a global distribution during the Late Cretaceous.

An Illustration of a Pair of Rhinconichthys Fish Feeding

Large filter-feeding fish of the Cretaceous.

Large filter-feeding fish of the Cretaceous.

Picture Credit: Bob Nicholls

One of the lead authors of the study, published in the academic journal “Cretaceous Research” Kenshu Shimada, explained that fossils of these types of fish are exceptionally rare.  Previously, only one species was known Rhinconichthys taylori, and only two specimens had been described, both from England (dating from the Cenomanian faunal stage of the Cretaceous).  However, a new skull from Colorado, along with the re-examination of another skull found in Japan have extended the known palaeogeographical range along with the number of species.

Only the skulls have been found, the cartilaginous skeletons of these fish have a poor fossil preservation potential, a problem that has plagued scientists as they strive to piece together the history of plankton feeding fish.  For example, giants are known from the Jurassic such as Leedsichthys and it is very likely that a myriad of forms existed during the Mesozoic, but little fossil evidence has been found with regards to these creatures (Pachycormiformes).

To read more about research into ancient members of the Pachycormidae: Filling a 100 Million Year Wide Gap

The Colorado fossil was found by Bruce A. Schumacher (United States Forest Service), this species has been named Rhinconichthys purgatoirensis.  It dates from later in the Cretaceous when compared to the English fossils (middle Turonian faunal stage of the Cretaceous).  R. purgatoirensis swam in the Western Interior Seaway around 89 million years ago, whereas Rhinconichthys taylori lived at least five million years earlier.  The Japanese specimen found on the island of Hokkaido, dates from around the same time as the English fossils.  It has been named Rhinconichthys uyenoi.

Kenshu Shimada (Department of Environmental Science and Studies, DePaul University, Chicago) stated:

“I was in a team that named Rhinconichthys in 2010, which was based on a single species from England, but we had no idea back then that the genus was so diverse and so globally distributed.”

Rhinconichthys spp. are estimated to have ranged in size from 2 metres to more than 2.7 metres in length.  They had a highly specialised jaw with a pair of bones (called hyomanidbulae) that formed a huge oar-shaped lever that enabled the jaws to open extremely wide, a little like the opening mechanism for a parachute.  This enabled them to capture even more plankton as they swam.  This type of anatomical feature is also found in many types of filter feeding shark today, an example of convergent evolution.

A Picture of the Colorado Specimen Showing Jaw Bones with Explanatory Diagram

Able to open the jaws really wide.

Able to open the jaws really wide.

Picture Credit: DePaul University

Many More Suspension Feeders Existed

Feeding on plankton, being planktivorous, also known as suspension-feeding is seen in a number of specialised aquatic vertebrates today, including the largest animal known to science the Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) and the largest extant fish the Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus).  Indeed, the genus name Rhinconichthys means “fish like a whale shark”.

Professor Shimada concluded:

“Based on our new study, we now have three different species of Rhinconichthys from three separate regions of the globe, each represented by a single skull.  This tells just how little we still know about the biodiversity of organisms through the Earth’s history.  It’s really mindboggling.”

Inspiring Dinosaur Themed Activities for Reception Classes

Reception Classes Get Creative with Dinosaurs

As Everything Dinosaur team members visit schools up and down the country delivering dinosaur workshops, they get to meet lots of teachers and it is always a pleasure to see the engaging and imaginative ways in which teaching teams are delivering the national curriculum.  Take for example, the two Reception classes at Higher Openshaw Community School (Manchester).  These two classes have been learning all about dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals this term.  A tour of the classrooms provided an insight into the highly creative and imaginative teaching activities that the children had been enjoying.  It seems even the playground had been taken over at one point as teachers, Miss Burke and Mrs Ashworth had made painted outlines of dinosaurs to help the children appreciate the size and scale of some prehistoric monsters.

Reception Children Explore Ideas About Extinction

Reception children explore ideas about dinosaur extinction.

Reception children explore ideas about dinosaur extinction.

Picture Credit: Higher Openshaw Community School/Everything Dinosaur

There were lots of examples of children’s writing on display in the well-organised classrooms.  There was even a special dinosaur exploration area to help the children understand more about life in the past.  As the term topic draws to a close, the Reception classes will be looking at extinction theories and during Everything Dinosaur’s visit, a number of the children were keen to point out that “a rock fell from the sky and killed all the dinosaurs”, well, these budding palaeontologists seem to have grasped the fundamentals of the extraterrestrial impact theory that’s for sure.

However, the teachers are keen to look at other extinction theories, such as the influence on our planet’s climate as a result of the massive amount of Late Cretaceous volcanic activity.  Hence the very colourful volcano display in Miss Burke’s classroom.  Coloured tissue paper makes great lava and the volcano provides a focal point, around which examples of the children’s hand-writing and independent research can be exhibited.

Some of the children have started to use examples of similes in their hand-writing exercises, this demonstrates excellent progress for Foundation Stage 2.  The children have obviously been as speedy as Velociraptors in picking up simile usage.

Dinosaurs as a term topic provides excellent opportunities to move the children gradually away from free flowing play activities to more structured formal learning, in preparation for the move up to Year 1.  The children had certainly been having a lot of fun, the scheme of work for this term topic had been skilfully crafted by the teachers with the able support of the enthusiastic teaching assistants.

Fossil Themed Sand Tray Activities

Both classrooms had sand trays so that a mini-dinosaur excavation activity could be set up for the children.  Ms Saylaby explained that she had placed some real fossils into the sand so that the children could learn about how fossils form, where they are found and how they are excavated.  We supported this element, by letting the children handle real fossils during our workshop, some of which, as the children discovered, felt very cold and were really, really heavy!

Reception Children Learn About Fossils

Real fossils and fossil models to explore in a sand tray activity.

Real fossils and fossil models to explore in a sand tray activity.

Picture Credit: Higher Openshaw Community School/Everything Dinosaur

Some of the fossils in the sand tray in Mrs Ashworth’s class are shown in the photograph above, the fossil expert from Everything Dinosaur explained how the fossils formed and which animals they represent.  There were some particularly nice examples of Gryphaea in the tray.  Gryphaea (graff-fee-ah) formed dense beds, very much like oysters today and they are common as fossils on the North Yorkshire and Cleveland coasts.  Palaeontologists can learn a lot from these fossils, as growth rings are often preserved on the fossilised shells.  They also suggest that these fossils formed in shallow seas, close to an ancient coastline.  The specimens in the tray date from the Jurassic.

The Fossils in the Sand Tray Come from a Jurassic Sea

Dolphin-like prehistoric animals.

Providing information about prehistoric habitats.

The fossil models also seen  in the sand tray come from a set that we at Everything Dinosaur know very well.  This is the Ancient Fossils Set, which we use in our teaching work: Set of Ten Ancient Fossils they are great for creative play.

Our dinosaur workshop and the extension activities provided will help the teaching team to round off the term topic.  Clearly, the children have really enjoyed all the activities and benefited from such an enriching learning environment that the hard-working staff at Higher Openshaw Community School have created.

Australopithecus sediba – Jaw Study Suggests a More Delicate Bite

Australopithecus sediba – Bio-mechanical Study Hints at Diet

South Africa might be regarded by many as the “cradle of humanity”, thanks to the wealth of Australopithecus and early hominin fossils found in that part of the world.  Thanks to a collaborative research effort involving a bio-mechanical study of skull strength and bite forces, it seems that further light is being shed on the diet of one of southern Africa’s most famous early residents Australopithecus sediba.  This new research may help palaeoanthropologists to further refine the evolutionary position A. sediba in relation to the hominins and ultimately this Australopith’s relationship to our own species.

H. sapiens Compared to A. sediba and Pan troglodytes (Chimpanzee)

A. sediba is in the middle, the human to the left of the picture with the chimp skeleton on the right.

A. sediba is in the middle, the human to the left of the picture with the chimp skeleton on the right.

Picture Credit: University of Witwatersrand

Fossils which came to be known as A. sediba were discovered in 2008 at the famous dig site of Malapa in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, located around thirty miles north-west of the city of Johannesburg.  Research published in 2012 suggested that this gracile, possible early human ancestor, had lived on a eclectic woodland diet including hard foods mixed with tree bark, fruit, leaves and other plants.  Other research, reported upon by Everything Dinosaur in 2013, provided further insight into the dietary habits of early hominins.

To see the article on research into early hominin diets: From a Forest Diet to a Savannah Smorgasbord

To read an article explaining how A. sediba came to be named: South African “Cradle Fossil” Named

This new study carried out by an international team of researchers, including Professors Lee Berger and Kristian Carlson from the Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI) at the University of the Witwatersrand, now shows that Australopithecus sediba did not have the jaw and tooth structure necessary to exist on a steady diet of hard foods.  This may have important implications on how this species of Australopith is viewed in terms of its evolutionary link to that line of hominins that eventually led to our own kind.

Bio-mechanical Study Indicates that A. sediba Did Not Have “Nutcracker Jaws”

Bite Force Study on A. sediba cranium.

Bite Force Study on A. sediba cranium.

Picture Credit: Image of MH1 by Brett Eloff provided courtesy of Lee Berger (University of the Witwatersrand).

The picture above show the fossilised skull of A. sediba (specimen number MH1) and a finite element model of the skull depicting strains experienced during a simulated bite on the its back teeth (premolars).  “Warm” colours indicate high mechanical strain, whilst “cool” colours indicate areas of low strain on the skull.

Commenting on the research, published today in the scientific journal “Nature Communications”, Professor David Strait (Washington University, St Louis, USA) stated:

“Most Australopiths had amazing adaptations in their jaws, teeth and faces that allowed them to process foods that were difficult to chew or crack open.  Among other things, they were able to efficiently bite down on foods with very high forces.”

Co-author Dr Justin Ledogar, researcher at the University of New England in Australia added:

“Australopithecus sediba is thought by some researchers to lie near the ancestry of Homo, the group to which our species belongs, yet we find that A. sediba had an important limitation on its ability to bite powerfully; if it had bitten as hard as possible on its molar teeth using the full force of its chewing muscles, it would have dislocated its jaw.”

Not Biting Off More Than It Could Chew

Bio-mechanical modelling based on a computer generated replica of the fossil skull material does not provide conclusive evidence that Australopithecus sediba was on the direct evolutionary line towards Homo, but it does indicate that dietary changes were shaping the evolutionary paths of early human species.  The data acquired from the bio-mechanical analysis does not dispute the possibility that A. sediba occasionally ate hard foods such as nuts and bark.  However, limitations on the amount of bite force that the skull could withstand suggests that hard foods needing to be processed with high bite forces were not an important component of the diet of this species.

About Australopithecus sediba:

Australopithecus sediba, a diminutive pre-human species that lived about two million years ago in southern Africa, has been heralded as a possible ancestor or close relative of Homo, our own family.  Australopiths appear in the fossil record about four million years ago, and although they have some human traits such as the ability to walk upright on two legs, most of them lack other characteristically human features such as a large brain, flat faces with small jaws and teeth, and advanced use of tools.  Humans, members of the genus Homo, are almost certainly descended from an Australopith ancestor, and A. sediba is a candidate to be either that ancestor or something similar to it.

Dr Justin Ledogar explained:

“Humans also have this limitation on biting forcefully and we suspect that early Homo had it as well, yet the other Australopiths that we have examined are not nearly as limited in this regard.  This means that whereas some Australopith populations were evolving adaptations to maximise their ability to bite powerfully, others (including A. sediba) were evolving in the opposite direction.”

Foods that were important to the survival of Australopithecus sediba probably could have been eaten relatively easy without the need for high bite forces.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the support of the University of Witwatersrand in the compilation of this article.

The Wildebeest and Lambeosaurine Connection?

Ancient Beast “Honked Like a Hadrosaur”

Convergent evolution throws up strange bedfellows from time to time.  Scientists studying an ancient bone bed have uncovered extensive fossil material from an ancient wildebeest that shows that this hoofed mammal had a raised nasal dome, reminiscent of a hollow crested duck-billed dinosaur.  Researchers have suggested that the bizarre anatomical structures helped these herd animals communicate more effectively.  It’s a question of what evolution did for the likes of Corythosaurus some 75 million years ago has been repeated in a Pleistocene bovine from around 75,000 years ago.

A Trumpeting Wildebeest – Rusingoryx atopocranion

Honking to communicate in the hot savannah.

Honking to communicate in the hot savannah.

Picture Credit: Todd Marshall

The ancient ungulate (hoofed mammal), was poorly known until a bone bed containing the remains of at least twenty-four individuals was discovered on Kenya’s Rusinga Island.  The fossilised remains, which includes juveniles as well as adult animals, has enabled scientists to piece together a much more comprehensive picture of the anatomy of this grazing mammal, part of a diverse African bovine fauna that flourished on the hot, dry savannah of southern Africa during the Pleistocene Epoch.

Stone tool marks on the bones indicate that these animals were butchered and it has been suggested that Middle Stone Age people had driven the animals into a river and ambushed them, or perhaps, a tribe benefited from a chance discovery of a group of these creatures who had recently drowned in a flood event.

Hollowed-out Headgear

The wildebeest is known as Rusingoryx atopocranion, but until now it had only been known from partial remains, including incomplete skulls.  The Rusinga excavation, supported by the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration has uncovered a total of six skulls, most of them complete.  Thanks to these fossils, scientists have a much better idea of what these animals actually looked like.

Commenting on the new evidence, lead author of the study, Haley O’Brien (Ohio University) stated:

“The first time I saw them my jaw completely dropped”.

Previous studies based on much less complete fossil material had speculated that Rusingoryx possessed a proboscis, but the new skulls discount this idea.  Instead, they reveal that R. atopocranion had a high nasal dome in front of its eyes, a sort of “cow with a Roman nose”.  The raised naris was hollow, encasing a winding, circuitous nasal passage.

The Skull of Rusingoryx (R. atopocranion)

The dome shaped skull (raised nasal bones).

The dome shaped skull (raised nasal bones).

Picture Credit: Haley O’Brien

PhD student Haley explained:

“There aren’t any living animals with a nasal apparatus like this, but there are some fossil ones.  Outside and in, the nose of Rusingoryx resembles the hollow crests of the “duck-billed” dinosaurs, animals like Corythosaurus and Lambeosaurus, which lived about 75 million years earlier.  Both groups essentially push the nasal part of their airway into the crest and they’re using similar suites of bones to form the crest itself.”

The Skull of the Mexican Lambeosaurine Velafrons (Velafrons coahuilensis)

Raised nasals - an example of convergent evolution.

Raised nasals – an example of convergent evolution.

Picture Credit: Paul Fraughton/Salt Lake Tribune

Commenting on the similarities between Rusingoryx and Late Cretaceous duck-billed dinosaurs, palaeontologist David Evans (Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto), stated that he was “blown away” by the skulls of Rusingoryx, he added:

“The resemblance between Rusingoryx and some hollow-crested dinosaurs in the form of the nasal structures is truly striking.”

Convergent Evolution

The dome shaped nasal area of Rusingoryx is an example of convergent evolution, whereby unrelated organisms evolve independently similar features, such as the streamlined bodies and tail flukes of dolphins and ichthyosaurs.  These are adaptations to similar habitats or ecological niches.

However, faced (no pun intended), with this strange-faced wildebeest, the big question is what sort of function did these domed noses have?

A number of ideas have been put forward:

  • The expanded naris played a role in cooling or warming incoming air

The large nose of Rusingoryx may certainly have been able to undertake this function and all mammals have some ability to do this, thanks to scroll-like bones called turbinates that increase the surface area of the nose.  As Rusingoryx lived in a very hot, dry environment this theory is plausible, but the dome’s internal anatomy did not support this conclusion.

  • The raised domes were used in ritual combat

A number of bovines use their skulls as battering rams to settle disputes and as defensive weapons.  However, the skull bones of Rusingoryx are very thin, much thinner than those of extant Artiodactyls (even-toed hoofed mammals) that indulge in such behaviour.

  • The nasal area acted as a resonating chamber for sound

Social, hoofed, herd-dwelling herbivores tend to be quite vocal.  They have ways to modulate their vocal tracts to increase the variety and range of sounds that they can make.  The skull anatomy suggests that the big dome-faced wildebeest used this structure to vocalise.

Student O’Brien explained:

“We calculated a frequency of between 250 and 750 hertz, which is not only pretty low, it also overlaps with the sonic frequencies of a vuvuzela.  Rusingoryx could very likely make a low trumpeting sound but there’s a good chance it could also vocalise in stealth mode.”

Being able to communicate at a low frequency making it difficult for some predators to hear, has a distinct evolutionary advantage, human hunters for example would have had difficulty picking up these sounds.  In addition, a herd of these animals would have been capable of making a lot of noise, much like a stadium full of South African football fans waving their vuvuzelas.

Reception Childen Get Excited About Dinosaurs

Reception Classes Study Dinosaurs

It has been a busy day at Mount Carmel RC Primary (Manchester, England) as the two classes of Reception children have been learning about dinosaurs and fossils with a special workshop conducted by an Everything Dinosaur team member.  The children in Foundation Stage Two, have been studying dinosaurs and life in the past over the course of this half-term and they were keen to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the subject.  With the help of the enthusiastic teaching team, the eager pupils had created lots of artwork and some super examples of hand-writing in their dinosaur workbooks.

The bright and well-organised classrooms were adorned with lots of prehistoric animal themed work that the children had produced.  Our dinosaur expert has heard a rumour that one of the teachers has found some dinosaur eggs, we hope the children have thought about what materials might make a good nest for a dinosaur!

What will happen when the egg hatches?  We will have to wait and see…

A Busy Morning

Splitting the morning into two roughly equal sessions, divided by the mid-morning break, we were able to deliver very tactile learning with lots of fossil handling.  It was a good job that some of the children had managed to have a hearty breakfast, several of the fossils and other artefacts were heavy, but thanks to the helpful teaching assistants, the children were able cope.  Lots of photographs were taken, we especially liked the snarling dinosaur faces on the big class photograph at the end of each workshop – very scary!

The children in the two Reception classes have even been doing some homework, what a bunch of enthusiastic palaeontologists they are.  One of the teachers showed our dinosaur expert a beautiful picture that Edith had brought in to show her friends at school.  It is a wonderful picture of a Tyrannosaurus rex.  Can you remember how many fingers T. rex had altogether?

A Wonderful Dinosaur Picture Sent in by Edith (Reception Class)

Edith painted a lovely dinosaur picture.

Edith painted a lovely dinosaur picture.

Picture Credit: Edith (Mount Carmel RC Primary School)

What a colourful picture Edith!  Lots of reds, blues and yellows and even a splash of white to help the green dinosaur feel at home.  We like the black eyes that you gave your Tyrannosaurus rex.  His eyes match the black stripe running down his back, at least we presume it’s a boy, it could be a girl T. rex.  Can the children remember the special fact our dinosaur expert told them about the Tyrannosaurus rex girls?

Extension Activities

After the visit, it was straight back to the office to email over the promised extension activities and fact sheets to help support the teaching team and their scheme of work.  We did set some of our “pinkie palaeontologist challenges”, including the design of the children’s very own dinosaur and an exercise which involved the careful measuring of dinosaur footprints.  We even sent over a picture of a T. rex and asked if the children could have a go at labelling the various parts of his body, those small arms, the fingers and the skull of course.

Reception Children Challenged to Label a Dinosaur

Can you label a T. rex?

Can you label a T. rex?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We are glad all the children had a great time and thanks again for the super drawing Edith.

Duck-Billed Dinosaurs – Sweet Home Alabama!

Alabama Fossil Sheds Light on the Origins of Duck-Billed Dinosaurs

The Duck-Billed dinosaurs, or to be more precise, the Hadrosauroidea were a super-family of plant-eating, bird-hipped dinosaurs that dominated Late Cretaceous ecosystems throughout most of the northern latitudes.  The fossils of these large dinosaurs, some of which evolved into the biggest facultative bipeds known to science, can be seen in museums throughout the world, but little is known about the evolutionary origins of this very successful part of the Dinosauria.  However, a remarkable fossil find from Alabama (south-eastern United States), is helping to shed new light on the origins of the duck-billed dinosaurs.

The Fossils of Eotrachodon orientalis Laid Out

The skull and jaw bones including the predentary are nearest the camera.

The skull and jaw bones including the predentary are nearest the camera.

Picture Credit: Jun Ebersole, McWane Science Centre

The beautifully preserved fossils were found by amateur fossil hunters exploring a creek in Montgomery County, Alabama, when they come across one of the bones eroding out of the soft marine sediment.  Thanks to the efforts of an international team of researchers, the fossil material has been carefully prepared and it has been confirmed that these bones and the few teeth (see bottom right hand corner of the photograph), represent a new species of primitive duck-billed dinosaur.  The dinosaur has been named Eotrachodon orientalis (dawn rough tooth from the east).  It is the most complete primitive hadrosaurid dinosaur ever to be found in the eastern United States.

An Illustration and Scale Drawing of E. orientalis

The orange shaded area indicate fossils found.

The orange shaded area indicate fossils found.

Picture Credit: Florida State University with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

In Honour of Trachodon

Lead author of the scientific paper, published this week in the “Journal of Vertebrate  Palaeontology”, Albert Prieto-Marquez, stated that the genus name honours Trachodon, a name that would be very well known to fans of dinosaurs.  Trachodon is the genus erected in 1856 by Joseph Leidy as a result of fragmentary bones and teeth having been excavated from the Upper Cretaceous rocks (Judith River Formation) of Montana.  It was one of the very first American dinosaurs described, the first duck-billed dinosaur to be named (although some of the teeth used to describe it were later identified as Ceratopsian), and although the name is now regarded as a nomen dubium (not a valid genus), Trachodon appeared in countless books about dinosaurs for the best part of 120 years.  The popularity of Trachodon was helped by wonderful illustrations produced by palaeoartists such as Zdenek Burian (Trachodon and Tyrannosaurus rex).

Trachodon Became the Archetypal Duck-Billed Dinosaur

An illustration of Trachodon.

An illustration of Trachodon.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Now Trachodon has been honoured with a valid genus (Eotrachodon).  At perhaps, nine metres long, Eotrachodon orientalis was certainly not the biggest, but the fossil find is extremely significant none-the-less.  Firstly dinosaur fossil finds are rare from the south-eastern United States.  To read an article about which U.S. States have dinosaur fossils: 37th U.S. State with A Dinosaur Fossil

Commenting on the significance of the discovery, one of the authors of the scientific paper, Gregory Erickson (Florida State University) explained:

“This is a really important animal in telling us how they came to be and how they spread all over the world.”

Did the Hadrosaurs Originate in Appalachia?

Whilst the specimen was being prepared at the McWane Science Centre (Birmingham, Alabama), the scientists were able to piece together the skull bones and identify a modified nasal area of the skull that had, until now been regarded as a characteristic associated with Saurolophine hadrosaurids (solid-crested and crestless forms).  Dating the fossil to the Late Santonian faunal stage (83 million years ago), it suggests that the duck-billed dinosaurs originated on the continental landmass known as Appalachia.  During the Late Cretaceous, North America was split by into two by a wide sea (the Western Interior Seaway), Laramidia lay to the west, whilst the larger landmass of Appalachia lay to the east.  Phylogenetic analysis indicates that Eotrachodon is a basal member of the hadrosaurids and thus, it can be postulated that this group of dinosaurs evolved on Appalachia.  Land bridges formed as the Western Interior Seaway permitted these dinosaurs to migrate off this continental landmass and to spread to other parts of the Late Cretaceous world.

Reseracher Jun Ebersole, (McWane Science Centre), stated:

“For roughly 100 million years, the dinosaurs were not able to cross this barrier.  The discovery of Eotrachodon suggests that duck-billed dinosaurs originated in Appalachia and dispersed to other parts of the world at some point after the seaway lowered, opening a land corridor to western North America.”

Fossil Find Suggests Hadrosaurids Originated from Appalachia

Sweet Home Alabama.

Sweet Home Alabama!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A View of the Left Lateral Side of the Skull

Scale bar = 5cm

Scale bar = 5cm

Picture Credit: Albert Prieto-Marquez et al

Win! Win! Win! with Everything Dinosaur

Go Pink with Everything Dinosaur!  Win a Super Megaloceras Soft Toy

Still time to enter Everything Dinosaur’s super, soft toy giveaway.  We have one big, pink and very cute soft toy which needs a home.  It is a reindeer and very sweet and cuddly it is too, but our palaeontologists have been pretending that it is a Megaloceros baby  – can you give our soft toy a new home?

Win a Very Pink Soft Toy Member of the Deer Family

Deer little thing!

Win a soft toy with Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Whether it is a Megaloceros or a baby Reindeer, it certainly is very cute and one very lucky person is going to win it, can you give this soft toy a new home.

Competition to Win a Super Soft Toy with Everything Dinosaur

All you have to do is “Like” Everything Dinosaur’s FACEBOOK page, then comment on the pink deer picture including a suggestion for the name for this super and very sparkly soft toy.  It is certainly a “deer little thing”  but he/she needs a name!  We can’t think of one can you?

Our Facebook Page: “LIKE” our Facebook page and enter the competition!

The name caption competition closes on Friday 12th February.  We “deerly” hope you win!

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of super prehistoric animal soft toys: Prehistoric Animal Soft Toys

Terms and Conditions of Soft Toy Name Caption Competition

Automated entries are not permitted and will be excluded from the draw

Only one entry per person

The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative will be offered

The Everything Dinosaur name a soft toy competition runs until Friday 12th February 2016.

Winner will be notified by private message on Facebook.

Prize includes postage and packing

For full terms and conditions contact: Contact Everything Dinosaur

Rebor “Punch and Judy” Dimorphodon Models Reviewed

Rebor “Punch and Judy” Dimorphodon Models Reviewed

The eagerly awaited Rebor Dimorphodon replicas are now in stock at Everything Dinosaur and what a splendid Pterosaur diorama these figures make.  The Rebor “Punch and Judy” Dimorphodon models are in approximate 1:6 scale and represent a male and female of the species (D. macronyx).  The male, nick-named Punch, is depicted as sitting on a log and like “Judy”, the female, it is available separately, but Everything Dinosaur are also offering the two models as a set, as when joined together they really do make a spectacular addition to any model fan’s collection.

Two Dimorphodons (Male and Female) by Rebor

A very well crafted Pterosaur dioramra.

A very well crafted Pterosaur diorama.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The diorama allows Rebor to explore the idea of sexual dimorphism in Pterosaurs.  A number of fossils indicate that it was the males of the Pterosauria that were likely to possess more flamboyant crests and ornamentation than the females.  Although, the dimorphodontids lack cranial crests, Rebor has opted to give their male a more colourful snout and a bright red tail rudder.  These are in stark contrast to the female (Judy), which tends to have a more muted colour scheme overall.

“Punch” the Flamboyant Rebor Dimorphodon Model

The male of the pair (Punch).

The male of the pair (Punch).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Rebor are to be congratulated, they have depicted the deep skull, the dentition and robust limbs of this Early Jurassic Pterosaur very effectively.  Intriguingly, the male is only just a fraction bigger than the female (eighteen centimetres compared to sixteen and a half centimetres).  The fossil record suggests that the males and females of the species (Dimorphodon macronyx), were generally similar in size.  This is in contrast to later Pterosaurs, such as those that make up the genus Pteranodon.  In the pteranodontids, it is the males that are believed to have been much larger than the females.

The male is depicted as sitting on a log.  Clearly, Rebor have taken into consideration some of the more recent research into dimorphodonts.  It was once thought that these flying reptiles were the Mesozoic equivalent of Puffins and that they lived near the coast and dined on fish.  Studies into the teeth, jaw mechanics and the anatomy of these Raven-sized creatures indicate that they were in all likelihood insectivores and not particularly agile fliers.  They have been depicted as animals of the forests, grubbing around in the leaf litter for insects, larvae and other small animals.  The presence of a log for the male Dimorphodon to perch on pays homage to this idea that these flying reptiles were very much at home in woodlands.

“Judy” Soaring over the Skies

Lots of detail to be admired.

Lots of detail to be admired.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Judy – The Flying Dimorphodon Figure

The female is supplied with a stiff metal rod, which measures twenty centimetres in length.  One end of this rod is inserted into a small hole in the chest of the model, the other end can be inserted into a discrete hole in the base.  This permits the collector to depict this Pterosaur in a flight.  The overall height of the model is around twenty-two centimetres, no glue is required, we found that the rod held the female Pterosaur model securely without the need to resort to a permanent fix.  Both models have articulated lower jaws and the paintwork and detailing around the jaws is particularly noteworthy.

Anatomical studies indicate that Dimorphodon was a relatively poor flier.  Wing morphology and loading suggests that this deep-skulled Pterosaur would have had limited aerial manoeuvrability and may have been actually quite reluctant to take to the air.  Leading Pterosaur expert, the very talented Mark P. Witton, has speculated that Dimorphodon was a Mesozoic equivalent of an extent Rail or a Grouse and that flight would have been quite strenuous, perhaps only taking to the air for very short flights – hops between trees for example.  The wingspan of the female (Judy) is twenty-four centimetres and at 1:6 scale this roughly approximates to the known fossil record (wingspan up to 1.5 metres).

The Pair of Rebor Dimorphodons (Punch and Judy)

Although very splendid replicas in their own right, the models really come into their own when united and displayed in a single diorama.  The log which the male sits on can be positioned onto the base that comes with Judy.  In fact, Rebor have engineered their models to ensure that there is a snug fit between this base and the log.  The female can be depicted flying over the male whilst he sits, perched as if in readiness to join her in flight, who knows, a courtship between these two beautiful model Pterosaurs perhaps?

Punch and Judy can be Displayed Together

The "Punch and Judy" show!

The “Punch and Judy” show!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The view the Rebor Dimorphodon models and all the Rebor replicas: Rebor Replicas

Commenting on the addition of these models to the Rebor replica range, a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“The two models work really well together and Rebor have obviously strived hard to provide a very effective Pterosaur diorama.  It is great to see a flying reptile like Dimorphodon added to the Rebor range, Punch and Judy are very exciting additions to the Rebor product portfolio.”

There is certainly much to be admired from the latest Rebor introductions.  The base of Judy even comes with a little lizard figure.  Once the two models are united, this little reptile can be posed peeping out from underneath the log, as if it is hiding from the two dimorphodonts, just in case they decide to make a meal of him.

The Female Dimorphodon Replica (Judy) Comes with a Lizard Figure

Nice detail on Judy's base including a movable lizard figure.

Nice detail on Judy’s base including a moveable lizard figure.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

 Well done Rebor!  Both models are very well made and together they make a fantastic Pterosaur diorama.

Highly recommended.

Fossils Found at Weston Rhyn Primary School

Jupiter and Saturn Classes Study Dinosaurs

It certainly was a “dinotastic” day for children in Jupiter and Saturn classes at Weston Rhyn Primary, as these two classes spent the day learning all about prehistoric animals and fossils.  In a morning of dinosaur themed activities, the Year5/6 class (Jupiter), learned that sometimes animals believed extinct prove to be very much still with us, a little bit of homework for Mrs Jones (teaching assistant), as she was challenged to conduct some research into Coelacanths.  In addition, under the enthusiastic tutelage of the class’s teaching team the children had created a Mesozoic timeline listing all the geological periods that make up the so called “Age of Dinosaurs”.  This gave our dinosaur expert an opportunity to check understanding and also allowed him to furnish the class teacher with some fact sheets to help populate the timeline with various well-known dinosaurs.  The budding young palaeontologists had a go at fossil casting as well as exploring the link between dinosaurs and birds.  Some of the children have chickens at home (one pupil even had quails).  Could they take a photograph of the bird’s feet – ample evidence here of the link between our feathered friends and meat-eating dinosaurs.

Plenty of Evidence of a Rich and Varied Teaching Programme in Key Stage 2

Excavating their own fossils.

Excavating their own fossils.

Picture Credit: Weston Rhyn Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

The fossil handling activities proved very popular and the Year 5/6 children were given the opportunity to work scientifically, investigating a strange fossil found at the bottom of a coal mine in Illinois (United States of America).

Saturn Class Get Busy with Dinosaur Research

In the afternoon, it was the turn of Saturn class and the children grappled enthusiastically with the problem of what to call a new dinosaur species.   We used a real life example to demonstrate some of the pitfalls when it comes to naming a new dinosaur, especially one with “big thighs”.  Not wishing to see Mrs Owen (teaching assistant), left out, our dinosaur expert asked her to find out about Sir Richard Owen, the English anatomist and scientist who was given the task of coming up with a name to describe what we now know as the Dinosauria.  Perhaps, Mrs Owen might even be distantly related to Sir Richard, we sent over some links and further information about the founder of the Natural History Museum (London) and asked the children could they design their very own blue plaque like the one erected at Sir Richard’s old school in Lancaster?

All in all, it was a very busy day for our team member.  There were lots of questions from the children, he did his best to answer them all.  Even the tricky ones about how Velociraptor is wrongly portrayed in movies.  Once back in the office, there was just time to email over the promised extension plans and further teaching resources to help the school’s term topic before moving onto the next dinosaur teaching assignment.  The resources and additional information should help enrich the children’s learning experience and who knows, Weston Rhyn Primary might just produce some famous scientists in the future, perhaps some who will go on to be as famous as Sir Richard Owen!

Cambridge Plesiosaur Donated to Oxford Could Be New Species

Potential New Plesiosaur Species

A nearly complete plesiosaur skeleton that came to rest in marine sediments now located in northern Cambridgeshire might just prove to be a new species.  The fossilised remains were excavated out of a layer of rock discovered in a fenland quarry in November 2014, by archaeologists from the Oxford Clay Working Group.  A nearly complete plesiosaur skeleton that came to rest in marine sediments now located in northern Cambridgeshire might just prove to be a new species.  Over the next four days the team were able to excavate and remove nearly 600 bone fragments that represent a considerable portion of the entire skeleton.  Only some limb elements are missing.  The fossil, nick-named Eve, represents an individual around five and a half metres in length, early indications are that the bones show similarities with another plesiosaur known from the Peterborough area, called Picrocleidus.  However, Picrocleidus is believed to have been much smaller, at less than half the length of this new discovery, and its fossils are associated with much younger Jurassic strata (Callovian faunal stage), whilst “Eve” was found in rocks dating from about 165 million years ago (Bathonian faunal stage of the Jurassic).

The Huge Humerus (Upper Arm Bone) of the Plesiosaur

Sea monster from a Cambridge fen.

Sea monster from a Cambridge fen.

Picture Credit: Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Dr. Carl Harrington, a member of the Oxford Clay Working Group, was the first person to find bones of this new sea monster.  Describing the find as “fantastic”, Dr. Harrington recalled the moment he first uncovered the delicate skull bones:

It was one of those absolute “wow” moments.  I was the first human to come face-to-face with this reptile.”

The quarry is owned by building supplies company Forterra and this part of Cambridgeshire has become very well known for its Jurassic vertebrate fossil finds.  For example, the first fossils of the giant prehistoric fish Leedsichthys  (L. problematicus) were also found in the Peterborough area.  Forterra have donated the specimen to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, where the fossilised remains are currently being prepared and studied in more detail with a view to determining whether or not this is a new species of marine reptile.

An Artist’s Interpretation of the New Marine Reptile (Plesiosaur)

Scale bar = 1 metre.

Scale bar = 1 metre.

Picture Credit: Nobomichi Tamura with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

Plesiosaurs had two pairs of  oar-like paddles which they used to propel themselves through the water, recent studies suggest that, just like extant penguins, these marine reptiles, some of whom could reach lengths in excess of fifteen metres, actually “flew” through the water.

To read more about this research into plesiosaur propulsion: Computer simulations and marine reptile underwater flight

Nice to see that Cambridge is prepared to donate a pair of oars to Oxford, their bitter rowing rivals.

The Field Team Exclaimed that they had Never Seen so Many Vertebrate Fossils in Such a Small Area

A very fossiliferous area indeed!

A very fossiliferous area indeed!

Picture Credit: Oxford Museum of Natural History

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