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Information about “Sophie” the Stegosaurus thanks to Milan and Alisha

Young Dinosaur Fans Showcase their Dinosaur Knowledge and IT Skills

A few days ago we challenged the son of one of our customers to produce an article on the arrival of the new Stegosaurus exhibit at the Natural History Museum (London).  Although, Stegosaurus is one of the most recognisable of all the dinosaurs, with its strange plates on the back and its spiked tail, referred to as a “thagomiser”, very little research on this genus of Late Jurassic dinosaur has been carried out in recent years.  We suggested that young Milan should write a report on this Stegosaurus, his sister Alisha (aged 11), also joined in and produced a wonderful powerpoint slideshow containing lots of dinosaur facts and figures.

“Sophie” the Stegosaurus on Display

Milan used this picture to illustrate his dinosaur documentary.

Milan used this picture to illustrate his dinosaur documentary.

Picture Courtesy of the Natural History Museum and chosen by Milan

 Here is Milan’s documented notes on the subject of Stegosaurs:

Sophie The Stegosaurus – Documentary 2014 – 2015

Sophie the Stegosaurus was found in Wyoming, USA on its own.  The weight of the animal is around 1 ton.  Sophie the Stegosaurus would have eaten things like ferns and horsetails.  The  habitat where the animal may have lived could be rocky plain ground with lakes around it, this way they would have food and water when they most needed it.  They may not have traveled very far from their homes to eat too.  Sophie  may have lived and walked though the forests, or even  green canyon.  The plain surroundings where the  Stegosaurus may also have walked and lived in, would and could have been filled with  rocky mini towers or marshlands  (just like how it was shown on “Planet Dinosaur”).  Stegosaurs may have lived in large number groups like a herd.  This could be because groups made them feel safe.  Also, when they are eating some of them could keep an eye out for predators.  Stegosaurs lived as a herd and they grazed in small numbers too.  Sophie the Stegosaurus had 19 plates that grew on its back and scientists believe that Sophie did have built-in defence, which was all along the back, in the shape of the large plates.  The plates on the back may have been used as balance,  and also they may have another propose which is very clever.  When the animal feels like it is in danger or it needs to show that it’s the boss, the animal can change the colour of the plates by simply flushing its blood into the plates, which then changes colour to scare the predators off, this could be a small predator  or even one as big as an Allosaurus.

The Stegosaurus walked the earth around 150 million years ago – this was the Jurassic age.  Looking at the animal more closely you can see that it has two large sharp spikes on  either side of its tail.  These spikes where used to slam and hurt predators that got to close to them.  Time to time they also used these spikes to hurt each other.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Thank you Milan, for sending us your Stegosaurus information, we enjoyed reading all about Sophie the Stegosaurus.  We really appreciate the information that you sent us on this American dinosaur.”

Alisha Makes a Dinosaur Themed Powerpoint Presentation (The First Slide)

Dinosaur Facts Book by Alisha

Dinosaur Facts Book by Alisha

Powerpoint presentation by Alisha

The powerpoint slide created by Alisha contains twelve, carefully crafted slides, Everything Dinosaur team members enjoyed viewing Alisha’s presentation.

Size Comparisons of Long-Necked Dinosaurs by Alisha

The size of huge Sauropods.

The size of huge Sauropods.

Powerpoint presentation by Alisha

To conclude her excellent powerpoint presentation, Alisha compiled a short quiz (fortunately she did include the answers).

One of the Dinosaur Themed Questions

Dinosaur themed quiz questions.

Dinosaur themed quiz questions.

Powerpoint presentation by Alisha

Proud dad, Neil explained:

“She created the whole presentation, by herself without any adult help or supervision and I was really impressed by what she had created – she taught me how to do a few things too!”

Clearly with Milan’s dinosaur knowledge and Alisha’s presentation skills, if the media team at the Natural History Museum ever need any help they will know who to turn to.

Concluding his article on “Sophie” the Stegosaurus, Milan provided Everything Dinosaur with a list of ten things that we ought to know about these armoured dinosaurs.

Good Facts about Stegosaurus – by Milan

1 . Stegosaurus is the most famous dinosaur from the group known as stegosaurids.  They are plant-eaters of the Jurassic age , some scientists think of the tail and if the Stegosaurus has the defence against predators.

2. There have 19 plates found along the back of Stegosaurus  and 4 spikes on its tail.

3. At 560 centimetres long and 290 centimetres tall, similar in size to a 4×4 vehicle, the skeleton has over 300 bones. It was found virtually complete in the USA 11 years ago, with only the left arm and base of the tail missing.

4. The plates and spiky tail are used to scare other dinosaurs away.

5. The Stegosaurus`s use plates to reflect colour to scare predators and control the tail to help the spiky tail to hit a target.

6. Stegosaurus has 300 bones to show museums like the Natural History Museum.  Visitors will see the Stegosaurus (Sophie) on display at the museum.

7. Some palaeontologists believe that the action of the tail and plates that Sophie had were used in defence, like a prehistoric hammer.

8. Stegosaurus has a beaky mouth, perfect to eat soft plants.

9. Sophie was not fully grown when she died.  There were many types of different sized Stegosaurus around America, “Sophie” was a Late Jurassic herbivore.  There were many armoured herbivores in the Early Cretaceous too.

10. Stegosaurus means “roofed lizard”,  it was a vegetarian (herbivore), other dinosaurs were carnivores.

Milan Included this Picture of the Stegosaurus in his Notes

The preserved skeleton of "Sophie" the Stegosaurus.

The preserved skeleton of “Sophie” the Stegosaurus.

Picture Credit: Milan (Courtesy of the Natural History Museum)

Our thanks to Milan, Alisha and dad Neil for letting us post up the information on dinosaurs that they compiled for us after we gave them one of our “pinkie palaeontologist challenges”.

In conclusion, Milan stated:

“Sophie is the best preserved Stegosaurus ever to be found, it lived and tried to survive in the prehistoric world of the dinosaurs.”

Article written by Milan, with powerpoint presentation by Alisha.

Feedback from Everything Dinosaur Customers

Our Customer Service Gets Praised

Team members at Everything Dinosaur have been very busy preparing, checking, packing and despatching orders for customers and we are all working really hard at the moment.  We still have all our commitments to our social media sites and this blog to keep up too.  In addition, we have been contacting those customers who sent us Christmas cards and drawings of prehistoric animals with a seasonal theme.  These items are helping to brighten up our extremely busy warehouse.

We are just about managing to keep up with all our correspondence, but the priority is, of course, to support our customers and to ensure that orders are sent out as quickly as we can.

So, what to blog about today?  As suggested by “Tyrannosaurus Sue”, why don’t we post up some of the comments we have received in the last 24 hours or so from customers who have emailed us?  After all, we are very proud of our customer service.

Everything Dinosaur – Praised by Customers

Everything Dinosaur Logo

Everything Dinosaur Logo

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

These are all genuine comments emailed to Everything Dinosaur from customers:

“Thank you for being so prompt – there will be one very, very happy 4 year old on Christmas morning!!!”
“Thank you, it [the order] came at lunchtime.”
“Thanks Everything Dinosaur, for your reassuring advice re: delivery and immediate response confirming my order.”
“A huge thank you for your help yesterday! The dinosaurs arrived before 9am this morning! The fact sheets are great too. Will be sure to recommend you to all Leo’s dinosaur mad friends!”
“Thank you for your help. I’m sure these extra resources will come in very handy over the holidays.”
“Many thanks.”
“Thank you for your kind assistance.”
“Parcel just arrived – many thanks.”
“Thanks Everything Dinosaur, that’s really kind of you! Fantastic service!”
We shall continue to work as hard as we can.  Our customers know that we are a reliable supplier of dinosaur toys and models.   Looking on the bright side we can take a holiday on the 25th!

Everything Dinosaur and On Line Shopping

Preparation and Careful Planning – Key to Keeping Customers Happy

With all the adverse publicity that some on line retailers and courier companies have been receiving lately, we thought it appropriate to add our comments to the on-going debate.  One of the biggest concerns on line shoppers have at this time of year is whether or not their parcel is going to arrive in time.  After all, nobody wants to let their loved ones down.  We at Everything Dinosaur, have tried to follow the story as it develops.  The huge spike in on line sales generated by the “Black Friday” concept, which was then immediately followed by “Cyber Monday”, the growth in the amount of parcels that have to be handled by couriers and the postal network and so on.  To be perfectly honest, we have not followed this story as closely as we should have perhaps, our excuse for this is simple.  Our priority at this time of year, is to pack and despatch customer’s orders as quickly as we can.  We have been busy focusing on the needs of our customers, getting emails out to customers to assure them that we have received their order, preparing and checking orders and then despatching parcels.

For us, this is the same priority that we have every day.  The Christmas period is no exception.  We sell dinosaurs and prehistoric animals and a great deal of our business is all about ensuring that birthday gifts arrive when they are supposed to, that mums and dads (and grandparents for that matter), organising a dinosaur themed birthday party or some other prehistoric animal themed event are not put under any unnecessary stress as they prepare for it.  This is what we do and we have organised ourselves to ensure that customers come first and that we have enough resources in place, not just in the weeks before Christmas but throughout the year to ensure that we offer a very proficient service.

Many on line retailers have complained that “unprecedented demand” has led to delays.  Courier companies such as Yodel have had to stop collections as it struggles to reduce the backlog of orders.

In a statement sent to clients of Yodel, the company’s executive chairman, Dick Stead said that “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” had exceeded all analysts’ expectations and in many cases orders for UK retailers were double the previous record level set last year.  That may be all very well, and we sincerely hope that companies like Yodel can resolve their problems, but what we find perplexing, is that it is the retailers themselves who have caused the spike with all the hyperbole surrounding their so called “Black Friday” special offers.

Putting Together Plans to Help our Customers

For us, retail is simple, we offer great value all year round.  We try to price our goods and services as competitively as we can and we began planning for Christmas sales back in the summer.  It just seems common sense to anticipate high demand in the run up to Christmas and to put together a plan to ensure that the increased volume of orders can be handled.

As a team we took some simple, practical steps:

  • All non essential meetings with suppliers, contractors and other support teams were postponed from November onwards.  Things could be handled over the phone or via email, but face to face meetings taking us away from the “coal face” were suspended.
  • We initiated a plan for Saturday collections, so that orders did not pile up over the weekends which could have led to delays on Monday and Tuesday the following week.
  • We all work long hours anyway, but we increased the time available for managing customer emails, handling enquiries, responding to queries so that there was more time available each day to deal with the increased flow.
  • Packing of parcels became a seven-day operation with preparing and checking of parcels taking place each day.  In this way, we could ensure that no backlog was built up and that we could handle increased volumes.
  • Less important areas of the business were temporarily suspended so that more time and resources could be dedicated to managing orders.
  • We had been in touch with Royal Mail and our couriers to ensure that they were aware of our needs in plenty of time and that we had enough materials available such as mail bags, labels, posting ties, parcel trays and so forth to cope with the likely higher volumes.
  • Steps were taken to ensure personnel are available to handle the increased number of phone calls that were likely to occur over the run up to Christmas.

It is hard work, but over the years we have seen our business grow and in order to continue to flourish, we have to make sure that our customers get the support that they deserve.  We ask ourselves a very simple question “If we were the customer, how would we like to be treated?”

Of course, there are things that you can do if you are purchasing on line  to help ensure that your parcels arrive on time.

How to Help an On Line Retailer

  • When placing an order, do check that you have provided the correct delivery address and where appropriate the correct postcode.
  • Provide an email address so that you can be contacted, check that the email address is correct so that speedy communication between you and the retailer can be established.
  • Think about delivery, can the parcel be left with a neighbour or in a safe place if you are out?  Everything Dinosaur provides a message box during the check out process which enables customers to provide additional information.
  • If you have concerns about a delivery or if you simply want advice, telephone the company or send an email.  How efficiently the email or phone call is handled can often provide you with information about the supplier.
  • When purchasing clothing or other items that require size measurements, do check that you are ordering the right size in the first place, if items have to be re-sent this could lead to parcels arriving later than originally planned.
  • Look at and review the last recommended posting dates as published by Royal Mail and other parcel handling companies.  Everything Dinosaur publishes this information on this blog and elsewhere on its social media platforms – to view the Royal Mail information: Last Recommended Posting Dates for Christmas 2014
  • Choose the appropriate postal option, for example, opt for First Class over Second Class post as you get nearer towards Christmas.
  • Last but not least – try to order early for Christmas don’t be like some retailers, get organised early and this will make a big difference, much less worry for one thing.

Of course at Everything Dinosaur, we can only do some much, once a parcel has been despatched we are reliant upon the mail network and couriers to do their bit.  Parcels do get delayed from time to time.  Parcels do go astray, however, our customers can at least be assured that we have done everything we can to pack and despatch their order as quickly as possible.

Whilst writing this post, I was asked to stop for a few minutes so that I could check over some orders with a colleague, happy to do so.  The priority is to pack and despatch.  In addition, I was called to the telephone to help a caller place an order for a Woolly Mammoth soft toy for her daughter – all sorted.  The incoming emails have been checked every few minutes and a “bounce back” from a customer was responded to.  We emailed this morning to confirm safe receipt of a telephone order, but the email did not work.  However, one swift telephone call to the customer later, all is sorted, correct email address provided, delivery address checked and the parcel is already prepared for packing.

On Its Way – Woolly Mammoth Ordered and Ready for Despatch

A Woolly Mammoth on its way to an Everything Dinosaur customer.

A Woolly Mammoth on its way to an Everything Dinosaur customer.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Our team will be in the office right up to Christmas day, it is our intention to keep up with the orders and to ensure that all our customers have a Happy Christmas… at least in terms of their dealings with Everything Dinosaur.

Time to Focus on an Edmonton Bonebed

The Danek Edmontosaurus Bonebed – Learning About Dinosaur Communities

Vertebrate bonebeds are fascinating places to explore and one particular dinosaur dominated fossil site is under scrutiny as the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences produces a special edition all about the Danek Edmontosaurus bonebed.  The exact location of this highly fossiliferous site is kept under wraps, for fear of vandalism and theft but this extensive jumble of prehistoric animal remains is providing palaeontologists with a tremendous insight into dinosaur behaviour, ontogeny and anatomy.  The site, part of the urban area of Edmonton, is called the Danek Edmontosaurus bonebed, as it was discovered by amateur fossil collector Danek Mozdzenski (March 31st 1989) and the vast majority of the fossil material has been attributed to the species Edmontosaurus regalis.  Bonebeds are known from a number of locations within the Province of Alberta, ironically during the early years of dinosaur fossil collecting in this part of Canada, many of them were ignored by palaeontologists as they strove to find, identify and extract much more complete articulated specimens for study and for museum collections.

Initial excavations at the site by the Royal Tyrrell Museum from 1989 to 1991 led to the collection of eighty specimens, including one partially articulated skeleton.  The site was reopened by the University of Alberta Laboratory for Vertebrate Palaeontology back in 2006, so far another eight hundred fossils have been catalogued.

The site, which dates from the end of the Cretaceous is stratigraphically contentious, its age has been debated (Campanian to Maastrichtian faunal stages).  Radiometric dating of microscopic zircons deposited, most likely as a result of volcanic activity and found just below the main bone bearing layer indicate the site may represent a sequence in geological time perhaps as long as 100,000 years.  Large groups of dinosaurs may have migrated along a huge river valley.  From time to time, catastrophic events would overtake the dinosaurs leading to mass mortalities.  Amongst the Edmontosaurus bones, scientists have found evidence of horned dinosaurs, Ornithomimids, evidence of tyrannosaurids (Albertosaurus) as well as smaller predators such as Troodon and Sauronitholestes.

An Illustration of Edmontosaurus regalis

Edmontosaurus a member of the Hadrosaurine group of duck-billed dinosaurs.

Edmontosaurus a member of the Hadrosaurine group of duck-billed dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Danek Edmontosaurus bonebed provides an excellent location for palaeontology students to practice their field craft skills.  Due to the amount of fossil material preserved, the exceptional state of preservation and the volume of associated material the Danek Edmontosaurus bonebed lends itself to a wide range of research projects.

Students and Supervisors Working at the Danek Edmontosaurus Bonebed

The site is ideal for field work.

The site is ideal for field work.

Picture Credit: Victoria Arbour

In addition to the extensive dinosaur remains found, the sediments that make up the bonebed are rich in organic matter.  This organic matter can be studied to help reconstruct the palaeoenvironment of this part of Canada during the Late Cretaceous.  Pieces of amber (fossilised tree resin) found at the site indicate that the river valley area was surrounded by extensive conifer forests – rich feeding grounds for the highly efficient feeders – the Edmontosaurs.

The site will continue to play an important role in helping to teach and train the next generation of palaeontologists and field technicians.

Commenting on the importance of the special edition of the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, dedicated to the Danek Edmontosaurus bonebed, Professor Phil Currie (University of Alberta) exclaimed:

“This collection of papers represents a significant contribution to our understanding of the dinosaurs that lived in prehistoric Edmonton.”

The Earliest Horned Dinosaur in North America?

Aquilops americanus – The Implications

When it comes to the horned dinosaurs of North America, there has been a lot of focus in the last few years on mapping the extraordinary diversity of Ceratopsians that once roamed the landmass known as Laramidia.   There has been much debate over the ethnicity of the Dinosauria, as suggested by the myriad of fossil finds and indeed the debate has been reignited recently with the publication of the research undertaken by the UK’s Dr. Nick Longrich and the “northern Pentaceratops” - Pentaceratops aquilonius.  Let’s face it, ever since the publication of “New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs”, there seems to have been an addition to the Late Cretaceous Ceratopsidae every couple of months or so.  For instance, Mojoceratops, Kosmoceratops, Utahceratops, Nasutoceratops, Xenoceratops and so forth.

To read about the recent research of Dr. Nick Longrich: Finding a New Species of Horned Dinosaur in a Canadian Museum.

However, many scientists have been turning their attention to another part of the horned dinosaur’s family tree.  These researchers have been trying to piece together (literally), the fossil evidence that hints at the presence of basal, more primitive members of this great group of Ornithischians much earlier in the Cretaceous of North America.  The search for the Neoceratopsian dinosaurs, may not garner quite the same publicity as work on their Campanian and Maastrichtian cousins such as Styracosaurus and Triceratops, but this dedicated team are helping scientists to understand how these dinosaurs evolved and migrated out of their Asian ancestral home.

That is why the paper published this week in the academic journal PLOS One is so important.  This paper describes the partial skull and lower jaw of a horned dinosaur, the fossils represent the earliest evidence of Neoceratopsian dinosaurs recorded in North America.  Say hello to Aquilops americanus, about the size of a King Charles spaniel that roamed southern Montana somewhere between 109 and 104 million years ago.

 A Tiny Skull that is Making a Big Difference

Skull fossil that can sit in the palm of your hand.

Skull fossil that can sit in the palm of your hand.

Picture Credit: Reuters

Prior to this fossil discovery, the Neoceratopsian dinosaurs of North America were represented by isolated teeth and skull fragments, collected from places as far apart as Utah and Maryland, the Cedar Mountain Formation and the Arundel Formation respectively.  The paucity of the fossil record was severely hampering the work of scientists as they tried to understand the pattern of migrations between Asia and North America.  During the Cretaceous, Asia and North America were joined, they shared a land bridge between them, most likely there were many occasions when fluctuating sea levels and geological activity permitted a land bridge to be formed.  It seems that the horned dinosaurs evolved in Asia but migrated via what is now the Bering Straits over to Canada and the United States.  Aquilops seems closely related to Early Cretaceous horned dinosaurs known from Asia such as Liaoceratops and Auroraceratops, it has been speculated that there were at least intermittent connections between these two continents throughout the Late Early Cretaceous, likely followed by a long period of geographic isolation that permitted a number of new genera to evolve before a final reconnection towards the end of the Mesozoic.

The skull measures just 8.4cm in length, it is likely that Aquilops americanus (the name means “American eagle face”), was an unobtrusive herbivore, selectively grazing young shoots and leaves from the protection of the undergrowth.  It may even have been nocturnal or perhaps it may have lived in a burrow.

Line Drawing of the Skull and a Reconstruction of the Dinosaur

Skull sketches top and middle with an artist's impression underneath.

Skull sketches top and middle with an artist’s impression underneath.

Picture Credit: PLOS One, life restoration by Brian Engh

 The line drawings of the skull have been based on better known Neoceratopsian specimens from Asia.  Note the large orbit (eye-socket), this has led to speculation that this little dinosaur may have lived in low light conditions or might possibly have been nocturnal.

Commenting on the study, one of the authors of the scientific paper Dr. Andrew Farke (Raymond M. Alf Museum of Palaeontology, California) stated:

“This was a small plant-eater and we know from its hooked beak that it was pretty selective, nipping off whatever vegetation was around.”

 An Illustration of Aquilops americanus

Earliest horned dinosaur known from North America.

Earliest horned dinosaur known from North America.

Picture Credit: Brian Engh/Raymond M. Alf Museum of Palaeontology

One of the mysteries with the Ceratopsian dinosaurs is when did the Asian migrations occur, and where there any significant migrations of North American fauna into Asia?  Before this discovery, the oldest known horned dinosaur from North America was Zuniceratops, which roamed New Mexico and Arizona some 90 million years ago.

Dr. Farke added:

“Aquilops lived nearly twenty million years before the next oldest horned dinosaur named [and described] from North America.  Even so, we were surprised that it was more closely related to Asian animals than those from North America.”

The discovery of these fossils, does support the theory that these type of bird-hipped dinosaurs did evolve in Asia and that they spread into North America, most likely via a northern latitude route, however, as the authors of this scientific paper say themselves, more field studies and more fossils will be needed before anyone can state anything else with a degree of certainty.

Last Recommended Posting Dates (Airmail to Canada and Poland)

Tuesday 9th Last Recommended Posting Dates (Airmail to Canada and Poland

Christmas orders are in full swing at Everything Dinosaur and our team members are busy preparing, packing and despatching customer orders as fast as they can.  Today, Tuesday 9th December, is the last recommended posting date (Royal Mail) for airmail parcels, now called International Standard to be sent to Poland and Canada.  Orders placed after today, for delivery into Poland or Canada may not arrive in time for Christmas.

Last Recommended Posting Dates Christmas 2014 (Royal Mail)

Helpful table about Christmas posting dates.

Helpful table about Christmas posting dates.

Table Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Royal Mail

Parcel services are expected to be stretched as once again, on line retail sales are likely to set new records.  Everything Dinosaur is doing all it can to ensure parcels are packed and sent out as quickly as possible.  Although we would ask all customers to purchase as early as possible to avoid any potential disappointment as a result of a parcel not arriving in time for the big day.

A spokesperson for the company stated:

“We are doing all we can to ensure a rapid despatch of orders for our customers.  We have implemented Saturday morning packing and Saturday collections to speed up deliveries and our team members are working extra long hours to ensure we are on top of orders.”

The many Christmas cards received have been put up in the warehouse to keep everyone happy and cheerful at this very busy time of year.  Not quite got round to putting tinsel on the T. rex yet though.

Walking with Dinosaurs – Birth of a Dinosaur Footprint

Getting Under the Skin of a Dinosaur’s Foot

The footprints of prehistoric animals preserved as fossils can provide scientists with a wealth of information.  However, in a research project involving Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island) and the Royal Veterinary College, steps have been taken (no pun intended), to get a much more complete understanding of how ancient creatures walked.  It’s question of applying a number of highly technical research methods to step into the footsteps of a dinosaur, this research certainly adds a whole new meaning to “Walking with Dinosaurs”.

Providing a Deeper Understanding About Fossil Footprints

Sauropod footprint, the hand provides scale.

Sauropod footprint, the hand provides scale.

Picture Credit: AFP Photo/Igor Sasin

Dr. Peter Falkingham, a Research Fellow at the Royal Veterinary College (London) and co-author, Professor Stephen Gatesy (Brown University), attempted to map the displacement and complex re-organisation of sediment that takes place when a footprint is formed.  Put simply, imagine you are walking on the beach, across wet sand.  As you proceed across the sediment you will create footprints, these are visible impressions left in the surface layer, however, as your bodyweight moves across the sand, it will have an impact on the sand particles that surround and are underneath the area that you have just walked over.  In a unique experiment, the scientists have been able to create visual images of the re-organisation of particles involved in footprint formation.  This research can help ichnologists (the term used to describe a specialist in studying trace fossils), interpret dinosaur footprints, thus in turn providing palaeontologists with a better understanding of prehistoric animal locomotion.

A variety of techniques were used to create visual images of three-dimensional footprints.  Firstly, a Guinea Fowl (Galliformes) was persuaded to walk across a bed of poppy seeds.  The poppy seeds and the way that they were moved would mimic the action of the substrate as if it were soft sand.   The virtual footprint was created by combining two X-ray videos with a digital skeletal model of the bird’s legs derived from CT scans and a three-dimensional motion analysis called X-ray Reconstruction and Moving Morphology (XROMM), which had been developed at Brown University.  This technology enabled the research team to reconstruct the motions of the bird’s foot in three dimensions, even when the toes are hidden from sight as they sink into the sediment.

Which Came First the Guinea Fowl or the Virtual Simulation of a Dinosaur Footprint?

Cutting edge research combined with a Guinea Fowl.

Cutting edge research combined with a Guinea Fowl.

Picture Credit: Royal Veterinary College/Brown University

The picture above shows the hind limb bones of the guinea fowl, projected in three dimensions along with the footprints formed.

Commenting on this ground-breaking research (literally), Dr. Falkingham stated:

“By observing how a footprint is formed, from the moment the foot hits the sediment until it leaves, we can directly associate motions with features left behind in the track.  We can then study a fossil track left by a dinosaur and say, OK, these features of the track are similar, but these are different, so what does that mean for the way the animal was walking?”

A powerful computer programme was used to analyse and interpret the data, so that a virtual footprint that had been generated could be observed as an impression at the surface and also below the surface of the substrate.  Being able to directly associate movements of the foot with features of the footprint, both on the surface and deeper into the sediment, opens up the possibility of more accurately reconstructing the way in which long extinct creatures moved.

The Simulated Footprint (Guinea Fowl Footprint)

The footprint mapped at 1cm below the surface layer.

The footprint mapped at 1cm below the surface layer.

Picture Credit: Royal Veterinary College/Brown University

Professor Gatesy added:

“Footprints are not just simple moulds of the bottom of the foot, so it’s important to understand how the dynamic interaction between a living animal and the substrate give rise to a track’s 3-D shape”.

The team’s findings, published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”, could help palaeontologists better understand how dinosaurs walked and perhaps build up a picture of how dinosaur locomotion changed as the Dinosauria evolved. Moving forward, (again no pun intended), the advent of  XROMM technology could help researchers explore how early hominids adapted to a bipedal stance.

Was there a Dinosaur Called Lufengosaurus?

Lufeng Lizard - “Lufengosaurus huenei”

An interesting question was sent in the other day by a young dinosaur fan.  He wanted to know whether there really was a dinosaur called Lufengosaurus and if it existed, what sort of dinosaur was it?  An intriguing question, so our team members set about providing an answer.

Lufengosaurus lived during the very Early Jurassic in south-western China.  Its fossils are associated with the Lufeng Formation (hence this dinosaur’s name).  It was named and described back in 1941, a time when western science had very limited access to Chinese scholars and their work.  This dinosaur remained very much off the radar for many museums and academics in the West.  A second species was erected a few years later, but it is now thought that the fossilised remains associated with this second species are actually older, larger individuals representing Lufengosaurus huenei so this second species may not be valid.  Lufengosaurus was named by the Chinese scientist Chung Chien Young (Yang Zhongjian).

An Illustration of Lufengosaurus

A scale drawing of Lufengosaurus.

A scale drawing of Lufengosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This dinosaur, one of the largest known from the Early Jurassic was a member of the lizard-hipped group (Saurischia).  More specifically it was a Sauropodomorph and closely related to Massospondylus which also lived in the Early Jurassic (South Africa).  In the mid 1980′s another species of Lufengosaurus was described, this time based on a specimen discovered in Tibet (Lufengosaurus changduensis) although this specimen has not been formally described and no holotype fossil material assigned so the species name currently has a nomen nudum status.

The hind limbs were longer than the front limbs so this dinosaur could have adopted a bipedal stance, although it probably spent most of its time ambling along on all fours. The neck is proportionally longer than in other Sauropodomoprhs and it had distinctive lumps and bumps on its cheek bones.  It was most likely entirely herbivorous, the jaw was lined with tightly packed teeth well suited to coping with a diet of tree leaves and ferns, although it possessed a disproportionately large thumb claw, which some scientists have suggested was used to attack and subdue smaller animals, suggesting that this dinosaur was an omnivore.  Other palaeontologists have disputed this idea, proposing that the claws and that large thumb claw in particular may have been used for defence or to help pull down branches so that it could feed more easily.

Dinosaur Bone Damaged by Vandals is Removed

Vandalised Dinosaur Bone is Removed from the Dinosaur National Monument

The 150 million year old dinosaur bone had slowly weathered out of the rock, its location, on part of the Fossil Discovery Trail at the Dinosaur National Monument (Utah), meant that thousands of visitors to the park could see the beautifully preserved fossil lying in situ.  However, the thoughtless and reckless action of vandals has resulted in the bone having to be removed from the trail for fear that it could crumble away.

Back in September, Everything Dinosaur reported on the incident of vandalism at the famous Dinosaur National Monument, one of the richest sources of Upper Jurassic fossil material anywhere in the world.  A Ranger spotted the damaged fossil bone (humerus of a juvenile Sauropod), whilst taking visitors on the 1.2 mile long Fossil Discovery Trail that runs between the Quarry Visitor Centre and the Exhibition Hall.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s report of the vandalism: Fossil Damaged at Dinosaur National Monument – Utah

A fist-sized chunk had been removed from the bone, a thoughtless act of vandalism, probably inspired by the high prices fetched for the sale of dinosaur fossils at auctions.  Palaeontologists assessed the bone and decided to remove it to prevent further damage and the possibility that the bone could break up over the winter as frost and freezing conditions would lead to cracks in the fossil widening.

Brooks Britt, a palaeontologist from Brigham Young University (department of Geological Sciences), carefully extracted the specimen, using techniques and tools that would not have been unfamiliar to the scientists who first extracted bones from this location over one hundred years ago.

Commenting on his work, Associate Professor Britt stated:

“This bone is easy to get out because it is in relatively soft rock.  The vandals took a chunk out about the size of my fist, that destabilised the fossil.  It propagated fractures, it opens them up and then the weathering process starts attacking the bone, so you can’t leave it out in the open.”

 Carefully Does It – Removing the Sauropod Humerus (Upper Arm Bone)

Vandalised bone is removed to prevent further damage.

Vandalised bone is removed to prevent further damage.

Picture Credit: Geoff Liesik/KSL TV

Daniel Chure, the Monument’s palaeontologist, described his reaction on hearing the news of the vandalism of one of “frustration and anger”.

He added:

“Hundreds and thousands of visitors have been able to come here and actually look at dinosaur bones as they are naturally exposed by erosion.  Now because of the thoughtless actions of one person, future visitors won’t have the opportunity to see this particular bone in the field.”

Park Rangers are still optimistic about finding the culprit.  They are asking for people who may have witnessed the act of vandalism to come forward.  A reward of $750 USD is being offered for information that could lead to a conviction.

What is the future for the Sauropod arm bone?  The Park Service has plans for it.  They would like the fossil to be fully prepared, stabilised and cleaned up ready for display at the Monument’s Quarry Visitor Centre.

A spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur stated:

“Hopefully this fossilised bone will serve as a reminder to visitors not to damage or to attempt to take fossils away with them.  It might prevent future fossil thefts or acts of vandalism, we sincerely hope so.”

An Illustration Showing Typical Sauropod Bauplans of the Late Jurassic of the Western United States

Long necks for different feeding envelopes.

Long necks for different feeding envelopes.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Carnivorous Plant Remains Found Preserved in Amber

The Mystery of The Very First Carnivorous Plant Fossil Leaves

Some types of organism, despite having been on our planet for tens of millions of years have such a poor preservation potential that they rarely, if at all appear in the fossil record.  One such group are the carnivorous plants, be they Venus Fly Traps, Sundews or Pitcher plants.  The trapping structures are often derived from primary growth, this reduces the preservation potential and these types of plants tend to be found in areas such as peat bogs and tropical forests where rapid breakdown of organic material occurs.  Up to now, carnivorous plant fossils have consisted of micro-fossils such as preserved pollen with the occasional fossil seed.  However, a team of scientists from the Botanical State Collection of Munich as well as Bielefeld and Göttingen Universities have found the first fossils of a proto-carnivorous plant preserved in Baltic amber.  Two leaves, trapped in pine resin over between thirty-five and forty-seven million years ago, have been identified to belonging to the family of flypaper plant traps.  These types of plant produce sticky substances that trap small insects and other Arthropods.

The sticky hairs on the leaves can be clearly made out under a microscope.  The amber was found in a mine near Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave on the Baltic coast.  Amber from this part of the world, referred to as Baltic amber is relatively common and remarkably as amber floats in sea water, from time to time pieces of Baltic amber are washed up on the coast of East Anglia (United Kingdom).

The Fossils of a Carnivore (Roridula spp.)

Leaf remains trapped in amber.

Leaf remains trapped in amber.

Picture Credit: PNAS and University of Göttingen/Alexander Schmidt.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (United States), the research team led by Professor Alexander Schmidt (University oGöttingen), have identified the leaves, with their long-stalked multicellular glands as being reminiscent of extant plant species in the Roridula family.  Plants in the family Roridulaceae are not true carnivorous plants in the strictest botanical sense.  In contrast to the likes of the Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea spp.), Roridula do not trap, kill and digest their animal prey.  These plants are not capable of producing the enzymes required to breakdown the bodies of their victims.  Instead, they rely on a symbiotic relationship between types of carnivorous Heteropteran insects (bugs), that feed on the trapped organisms.  In turn, the nutrient rich excretions from these scavengers are absorbed by the plant through its leaves.

Today, living members of the carnivorous plant Roridula are restricted to southern Africa, however, during the Eocene these plants must have been much more widespread.  For much of the Eocene Epoch, the world was warmer than it is today.  The discovery of these fossils provides a mystery for the research team to solve.  Firstly, it suggests that the flora in the forests that were to produce the tree resin that was to eventually become amber, must have been more diverse than previously thought.  Secondly, it had been thought that the ancestors of the Roridula evolved around 90 million years ago in Africa and these plants evolved in isolation as Africa became separated from other land masses as the southern super-continent of Gondwanaland broke up.

However, as Professor Schmidt points out:

“The new fossils from Baltic amber show that the ancestors of Roridula plants occurred in the northern hemisphere until around 35 million years ago, they were not restricted to South Africa.”

These plants seem to be have been more widespread than previously thought, the fossils also confirm molecular dating that hypothesised that these types of plant had been distinct from other plant families for at least 38 million years.

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

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