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A strange “short-necked” Hupehsuchian Bounces Back

Evidence of Recovery after End Permian Extinction Event

A very strange member of a little known group of ancient marine reptiles has been formally described by a joint team of American and Chinese scientists.  The new genus described as “platypus-like” is a Hupehsuchian, part of a group of Early Triassic diapsid reptiles, that may have been ancestral to the much better known Ichthyosaurs.  The fossil has been named Eohupehsuchus brevicollis, the name means “early short-necked crocodile of Hubei Province” and it was excavated from strata laid down around 248 million years ago (Olenikian faunal stage), as the world recovered from the “Great Permian Dying”, a mass extinction event that is believed to have wiped out around 95% of all the species on the planet.

Fossils associated with Hupehsuchia have been found in two counties within Hubei Province (eastern, central China).  The Order Hupehsuchia was named after the alternative name for Hubei Province (hupeh), E. brevicollis is unlike any other known member of the Hupehsuchia as it possessed a short neck, with only six cervical vertebrae.  Other Hupehsuchians had much longer necks, with at least ten neck bones.  The forty centimetre long specimen is believed to represent an adult animal, it is somewhat smaller than the better known Nanchangosaurus (fossils dated from the Middle Triassic) and it lacked teeth.  Analysis of the skull and jaws indicate that this little reptile probably had a beak like a duck (hence the platypus analogy), it paddled its way through the shallow sea using its strong limbs.  The bones are thickened and heavy, indicating some adaptation to a marine environment.  Heavy bones would have helped these animals dive, although it did possess extensive dermal armour, perhaps a remnant of its terrestrial ancestry.  Scientists are unsure as to whether the extensive armoured scales evolved in the Hupehsuchia after they adapted to a marine existence or whether these tough scales evolved in this group’s reptile ancestors, which lived on land.

The Fossilised Remains of E. brevicollis

The holotype material for E. brevicollis.

The holotype material for E. brevicollis.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

One of the lead authors of the scientific paper, published this week in the on line journal PLOS One, Professor Ryosuke Motani (University of California Davis), commented:

“Although it’s a very different animal, it had a skull and beak like a duck without teeth, a very heavily built body with thick bones and paddles to swim through the water.  The details are different, but the general body design looks similar to a platypus.”

With at least four genera identified as Hupehsuchia, researchers are beginning to piece together how marine ecosystems recovered after the Permian mass extinction.  Intriguingly, this specimen indicates that there were most probably large vertebrate predators in the habitat 248 million years ago.  The left forelimb is incomplete, with several bones missing and those present are broken. This has been interpreted as a bite from a larger predator that could only have occurred pre-burial.  This little reptile may have been attacked by a predator and escaped only to perish and to be buried a short while after.

This fossil find adds to the growing body of evidence that suggests a rapid radiation and diversification of vertebrates after the mass extinction event.

The University of California researchers have been prominent in the research into Lower Triassic marine reptiles from China.  Back in November, Everything Dinosaur published an article on a fossil of a basal Ichthyosaur that had been studied by this team.  Unlike, Eohupehsuchus which comes from Hubei Province, the basal Ichthyosaur fossil was found in the neighbouring province of Anhui (to the east of Hubei Province).

To read more about the Anhui basal Ichthyosaur: Tracing the Origins of the Ichthyosaurs

Merry Christmas from Everything Dinosaur

Happy Christmas from Everything Dinosaur

The great day has arrived, team members are swishing their tails and roaring with excitement, but just time to wish all our blog readers, customers, Facebook fans, Twitter followers and everyone else for that matter the compliments of the season.

Merry Christmas from Everything Dinosaur

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We can’t believe it has been a whole year since we were wishing everybody a Happy Christmas 2013!  In the next few days we will start our review of the most popular blog articles of the year, look at the results from our prehistoric animal survey and compile our predictions about what we think is going to happen in palaeontology over the next twelve months.  However, that is all for another day.

Merry Christmas!

Dinosaurs – Going through the Motions

Fossilised Dinosaur Wee and Poo Mapped In Brazil

A lot can be learned from the skulls, teeth and jaws of prehistoric animals.  However, what goes in one end has to come out the other.  Quite exactly how the dinosaurs voided their digestive tracts (went to the toilet), remains a mystery, but a pair of scientists based in Brazil have mapped the fossilised excreta associated with a number of Mesozoic formations in that South American country.  The research has just been published in the “Journal of South American Earth Sciences”.

So let’s get down and dirty with the Dinosauria.  Many people might be aware that fossilised faeces are called coprolites.  The word coprolite comes from ancient Greek, it means “dung stone” from the words kopros for dung and lithos for stone.  We suspect that rather less people are aware that trace fossils believed to represent displaced sediment as a result of a stream of urine coming from a vertebrate are referred to as urolites.  The word urolite is also derived from the Greek.  Uro meaning urine and lithos for stone.

The Joy of Studying Coprolites

"Shiny side up" the joys of "dino dung".

“Shiny side up” the joys of “dino dung”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Back in 2004, the two scientists responsible for this latest research paper, Marcelo Adorna Fernandes (University of São Carlos), and Paul Roberto Figueiredo Souto (University of Rio de Janeiro), published a ground-breaking study (no pun intended) into trace fossils believed to be represent the disturbance caused in sand when a stream of urine hits that spot.  These traces of animal behaviour were preserved as fossils and so scientists had the opportunity to study the patterns made from splashes of urine.  The urolite fossils studied in 2004 and also examined in this latest paper, come from Cretaceous sandstone deposits of São Paulo State, in south-eastern Brazil (Botucatu Formation).  They have been found in association with the fossilised footprints of two different types of dinosaurs, a meat-eating Theropod and an Ornithopod.  It is not known which type of dinosaur created the urolites.

Studies of Urolites and Experiments to Recreate Sediment Redistribution

Study into the trace fossils made by the elimination of water from ancient creature's bodies.

Study into the trace fossils made by the elimination of water from ancient creature’s bodies.

The Society of Brazilian Palaeontology (2004)

The above photographs show three trace fossils that are believed to correspond to liquid wastes (A,B and C).  Photograph D shows an excavation created by dropping two litres of water from a height of eighty centimetres as the scientists experimented to try to recreate the impressions.  In all of the photographs the scale bar is in centimetres.

One of the reasons why scientists believe that the dinosaurs came to dominate life in the Mesozoic is that they were very efficient at retaining moisture inside their bodies compared to other types of terrestrial vertebrates .  Most types of birds excrete very little water with their faeces.  In fact, the way in which birds and reptiles deal with processing waste products, particularly those wastes and toxins associated with protein digestion, differs from the way that mammals handle the problem of expelling waste.

Ammonia, a by product of protein digestion, is toxic, it has to be got rid of.  Mammals convert ammonia in the body into a concentrated form (urea), this is expelled as urine, but it means we lose water.  Reptiles and birds tackle the problem of getting rid of ammonia in a slightly different way.  These other types of amniotes convert the ammonia into uric acid, which is much less toxic than urea.  It therefore does not need to be diluted with water to such an extent.  Indeed, uric acid does not need to mix with any water at all, it can be excreted as a semi-solid and thus, a lot of water can be conserved in this way.

The internal plumbing of birds and reptiles also varies.  Crocodiles and some types of Ratite, such as the Ostrich, can expel urine and faeces separately, the urine first followed by the solids (usually).  Most birds and most reptiles tend to expel what liquid they wish to get rid of as well as any solids at the same time.  Kind of a “one flush system” as we call it.  The mystery about dinosaur waste elimination is this – did the Dinosauria expel urine and faeces separately like ostriches and crocodiles or were they to a “one flush system”?

Perhaps different types of dinosaur expelled waste in different ways.  Ostriches for example, can store their urine in a urodeum, an organ similar in function to the mammalian bladder.  The solid waste is stored in another organ called a coprodeum, this is eliminated subsequently to the urine expulsion.  Observations of Ostriches spending a penny as it were, shows that they produce a strong jet of urine that hits the ground with quite a force. They create similar patterns in unconsolidated soil as seen in the trace fossils found in the Botucatu Formation (pictures A, B and C above).

So why bother to map the places in Brazil where coprolites and urolites are found?  These fossils provide important evidence to palaeontologists. They help scientists build up a picture of the diet of vertebrates and evidence of plant remains as well as depositional data can provide information about the palaeoclimates.  For example, the sandstones of the Botucatu Formation where the urolites were found, represent a dune environment interspersed with oasis and wadis.   In this latest research paper, coprolites from Upper Cretaceous as well as potential Jurassic aged deposits have been mapped.  This all helps to extend our knowledge with regards to the Gondwana biota during the Mesozoic.

Putting Brazil’s Coprolites and Urolites on the Map

The location of coprolite and urolite fossil specimens included within the 2014 study.

The location of coprolite and urolite fossil specimens included within the 2014 study.

Picture Credit: Journal of South America Earth Sciences/annotation by Everything Dinosaur

This area of research is often overlooked.  There is a lot we do not know about the Dinosauria.  Take for example the Late Cretaceous Hadrosaurine dinosaur Maiasaura (Maiasaura peeblesorum).  The Two Medicine Formation of Montana provided an extraordinary amount of evidence about this Ornithopod and its nesting behaviour.  The fossil deposit location was referred to as “egg mountain”, as these sediments preserved evidence of huge nesting colonies.  In addition, this location is one of very few in the world where large amounts of coprolite directly associated with a single genus was discovered.  It seemed appropriate as well as polite to nick-name these highly fossiliferous sites “egg mountain”, naming the location “*h!# mountain” would have been scientifically valid, but perhaps not as acceptable in popular literature.

Lots of Coprolite Fossils Associated with Maiasaura (M. peeblesorum)

Model of "Good Mother Lizard"

Model of “Good Mother Lizard”

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The only other locations where urolites associated with the Dinosauria have been described (as far as we know), are France and Germany.

Seasonal Greetings from Everything Dinosaur

Preparing for Christmas 2014

Everything is getting sorted for Christmas, and as part of our preparations we have added a festive signature to Everything Dinosaur’s outgoing emails.  Customers, who place an order with us receive a personal email from a team member just to assure them that the order has been placed, this is all part of our customer service, but this time of year it is extra reassuring to know that a parcel is being prepared and packed ready to go out.  Staff will be working until late afternoon Christmas Eve, but it is worth remembering that most mail collections will end around noon on the 24th and there will not be a full mail delivery or collection service resumed until after the Christmas weekend.

In the meantime, here is our Christmas Outlook signature for Everything Dinosaur’s emails, we thought the Pterosaurs were quite appropriate for us.

Festive Outlook Signature Prepared by Everything Dinosaur

Getting into the Christmas spirit.

Getting into the Christmas spirit.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Can you spot the Everything Dinosaur logo?

Once again a big thank you to everyone who has sent us Christmas cards, we have pinned them all up in the warehouse and very decorative they look to amongst all the dinosaur toys and models.

The Penarth Ichthyosaur

Amateur Fossil Hunter Finds Welsh Ichthyosaur

The foreshore along the beaches in the Penarth area of the Vale of Glamorgan (South Wales), is one of the most popular fossil collecting locations in the whole of the British Isles.  The beaches are very accessible, there is plenty of parking nearby and the sites are loved by family holiday makers.  The strata in the area, is Lower Jurassic (blue lias) and it is highly fossiliferous.  A thirty minute walk along the foreshore can result in the finding of many specimens, mostly brachiopods, gryphaea, and the occasional worn ammonite fragment.  Vertebrate fossils, those of marine reptiles are rare, although the occasional Ichthyosaur vertebrae or paddle bone can be discovered.  Geological hammers are not necessary, the strong tides combined with the the crumbly nature of the cliffs ensures a regular scattering of fossils across the beach.  However, one very lucky amateur palaeontologist has uncovered the fossilised remains of a two metre long Ichthyosaurus, and what’s more, the specimen seems almost complete.

Jonathan Bow, made his discovery whilst walking along the beach back in September, a small inch long piece of rock took his eye after it had been exposed by a tide.   He stated that anyone could have made this find, it all took was careful observation.  Indeed, this is true, when Everything Dinosaur team members are out on fossil hunts it is often the children who are with us with their sharper eyesight, that spot the fossils.

The Fossilised Remains of the Ichthyosaur (after preparation)

Penarth's very own prehistoric monster.

Penarth’s very own prehistoric monster.

Picture Credit: Jonathan Bow

Mr Bow, a keen fossil collector explained that:

“Something this large and complete is a once in a lifetime find.”

The collections manager in the Geology Department at the National Museum Wales described this fossil as “potentially a very important find.” 

Ichthyosaurs were a diverse group of marine reptiles that evolved in the Early Triassic and thrived during the Jurassic Period.  As a group they survived into the Cretaceous but mysteriously, despite being superbly adapted to marine environments, they became extinct around eighty million years ago.

Ichthyosaurs – Marine Reptiles Known as “Fish Lizards”

Dolphin-like prehistoric animals.

Dolphin-like prehistoric animals.

2014 marks the 200th anniversary of the first scientific description of an animal that was later named as an Ichthyosaur.  In June 1814, Sir Everard Home published an account of a discovery made by the Anning family of Lyme Regis (Dorset).  This was the first scientific account ever published on an Ichthyosaur.  Fitting then, that this year, the most complete fossilised remains of a “Fish Lizard” found in South Wales have come to light.

Ichthyosaurus Fossils Come to Light

Ichthyosaur fossils from this part of South Wales are rare.

Ichthyosaur fossils from this part of South Wales are rare.

Picture Credit: Jonathan Bow

The picture shows a smaller Ichthyosaurus fossil specimen as Mr Bow found it (small picture, bottom left) and the larger picture shows the same specimen once it had been exposed and prepared.  Ribs, paddle bones and vertebrae can be clearly distinguished.

Our congratulations to Jonathan, but a word of warning to would be fossil hunters keen to visit this part of the Welsh coast.  The cliffs are dangerous and rock falls common, there are plenty of fossils to find on the beach, please avoid getting too close to the cliffs.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur, acknowledged that the cliffs were best avoided and that there were plenty of fossils to be found on the beach itself, particularly along the foreshore, before adding:

“We suspect that this is an example of the Ichthyosaur species called Ichthyosaurus communis, although we would need to take a closer look before a species identification could be formally made.  We anticipate further marine reptile fossil finds early next Year, but this time from the Jurassic coast of Dorset as the winter storms do their work.”

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.

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