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2 09, 2017

Countdown to the Frankfurter Buchmesse

By | September 2nd, 2017|Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Frankfurt Book Fair Countdown Begins

Next month sees the annual Frankfurter Buchmesse, the biggest trade fair anywhere in the world for the international publishing industry and this year’s event is likely to be bigger and better than ever.  Over 7,150 exhibitors have registered, from 106 countries and this trade fair attracted over 278,000 visitors in 2016.  It was an extremely busy few days, we know, because Everything Dinosaur team members were there.  With so many new Earth science titles being published and with our interest in helping teachers and teaching assistants in the UK, attending this trade fair forms an essential part of our support for our schools’ programme.

The Frankfurter Buchmesse October 2017

Frankfurt Book Fair 2017

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2017

Picture Credit: The Frankfurt Book Fair Press

Frankfurt – A Long Association with Books and Book Fairs

The city of Frankfurt in central Germany has had a long association with books and the publishing world.  After all, this ancient city on the River Main, was the birthplace of the famous German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  Book fairs in this part of Germany have a tradition spanning more than five centuries, the first book fair in the region being held not long after the development of printing using block letters.  The Frankfurter Buchmesse has become a focal point for the marketing of new works and titles.  Over the years, with the development of other media, this internationally renowned event has extended to showcase developments in culture, the arts and broadcast media as well as the publishing world.  Last year, Everything Dinosaur team members were amongst some 2,000 specially selected and accredited bloggers invited to attend.  We have already started packing and relocated our German phrase book so that we can make the most of our visit.

Tens of Thousands of Visitors at the Frankfurter Buchmesse

Frankfurter Buchmesse.

The busy Frankfurt Book Fair.

Picture Credit: The Frankfurt Book Fair Press

The book fair starts on Wednesday 11th October and runs through to Sunday 15th, but please note, the first few days are dedicated to trade visitors only.

Dinosaurs to See

Everything Dinosaur team members will be looking out for new educational publications on the Dinosauria, in addition, they will be keeping an eye out for new teaching publications that can assist with the numerous lesson plans and schemes of work we prepare for teaching teams, whether it is the national curriculum, cornerstones or another type of curriculum the school is following.  We might just get chance to visit one of our favourite landmarks in the city – the life-size model of a Tyrannosaurus rex that stands opposite the entrance to the Naturmuseum Senckenberg in Frankfurt (the natural history museum).

A Very Well-Known Frankfurt Landmark – The T. rex Outside the Natural History Museum

T. rex replica outside the Frankfurt museum.

A well-known Frankfurt landmark. The T. rex outside the Naturmuseum Senckenberg .

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The life-size model of the T. rex depicts this dinosaur on the move, perhaps it is in a hurry to get its pre-show ticket organised…

For further information on the Frankfurter Buchmesse: The Frankfurter Buchmesse

1 09, 2017

Silky Dinosaur Ruffles Feathers

By | September 1st, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Serikornis sungei – Feathered but a Terrestrial Dinosaur

A team of international scientists have ruffled a few feathers amongst their fellow palaeontologists.  A new species of feathered, four-winged dinosaur from north-eastern China has been described.  Despite its heavily feathered forelimbs and legs, this forty-eight-centimetre-long Theropod may have been permanently grounded.  Writing in the journal “The Science of Nature”, the scientists, which include lead author Ulysse Lefèvre (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels), describe a basal paravian (member of the Paraves clade of Theropods), it has been named Serikornis sungei.

Potentially a Very Down to Earth Feathered Dinosaur – Serikornis sungei

Serikornis sungei catches a spider.

Serikornis catches a spider.  An illustration of Serikornis sungei.

Picture Credit: Emily Willoughby

Puzzling Paravians and Their Kin

The single, beautifully-preserved and nearly complete fossil specimen of this dinosaur was discovered in 2014.  It comes from the Tiaojishan Formation (Late Jurassic), of Liaoning Province, China, from the same strata that previously yielded another four-winged Theropod Anchiornis (A. huxleyi), which was named and scientifically described in 2009.    These sediments, which are approximately 160 million-years-old (Oxfordian faunal stage), may also have yielded another four-winged, terrestrial Theropod – Aurornis (A. xui).  However, Aurornis poses a problem for palaeontologist as they try to unravel the evolution of feathered flight.  The holotype fossil material of Aurornis was acquired from a fossil dealer, who claimed the fossil came from the Upper Jurassic deposits of Western Liaoning.  However, Pascal Godefroit, a colleague of Ulysse Lefèvre at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, who was the lead author of the scientific paper that described Aurornis, has expressed doubts on the provenance of the original fossil material.  The holotype could have come from the much younger Yixian Formation of Liaoning Province.  Aurornis could have lived at least thirty million years after Anchiornis and Serikornis.  The lack of appropriate and validated fossil documentation is adding to the difficulties faced by scientists as they try and unravel the evolution of flight.

The Beautifully-Preserved Fossil Skeleton of Serikornis sungei

Beautifully preserved Serikornis sungei fossil showing feathers.

Serikornis sungei fossil showing the preserved plumage.

Picture Credit: Ulysse Lefèvre/Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

“Silky Dinosaur”

The little dinosaur, nick-named “Silky”, because of the silky texture of its integument (covering of feathers), has a skeleton that suggests a terrestrial existence to the researchers.  They propose that Serikornis was a ground-dwelling dinosaur with no adaptations for flight, despite having feathers on its arms and legs.  Yet, feathery legs have been associated with the evolution of flight in the Dinosauria.  A hypothesis has been proposed that one dinosaur lineage went through a four-winged, gliding phase on the way to powered flight.  An example, of which would be the likes of Microraptor, known from Lower Cretaceous-aged deposits from Liaoning.  If a terrestrial dinosaur, such as Serikornis had long feathers on its legs, this suggests that such structures evolved in ground-dwelling dinosaurs and a flight function came secondary.  Such feathery legs might have evolved initially for a different reason, perhaps as a result of sexual selection or as a result of an evolutionary drive to produce even more elaborate and visually stunning displays.  These feathery legs were then inherited by increasingly aerodynamic and arboreal dinosaurs leading eventually to powered flight amongst the Dinosauria.

Palaeontologist Ulysse Lefèvre Examining the Serikornis Fossil Material

Examining the fossilised remains of Serikornis sungei.

Palaeontologist Ulysse Lefèvre views the fossil of Serikornis.

Picture Credit: Ulysse Lefèvre/Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

Lefèvre and his team named the new species in honour of Sun Ge, the scientist at the Palaeontological Museum of Liaoning who made the fossil available for study, and for the presumed silky texture of its body covering. Serikos means “silk” in ancient Greek.

Contentious Fossil Interpretation

Commenting on one of the reasons for the team’s terrestrial diagnosis for Serikornis, Ulysse Lefèvre stated:

“The feathering of Serikornis shows for the first time a complete absence of barbules—that is, the microstructures that allow feathers to resist air pressure during wing beats.  The plumage is composed of four wings, as with many Theropod dinosaurs from China, but it did not allow “Silky” to take off from the ground or from a tree.”

In the phylogenetic analysis undertaken by the research team, Serikornis is classified as a basal paravian, outside the Eumaniraptora clade, the clade that includes the Deinonychosauria (troodontids and dromaeosaurids), as well as birds.  Whilst these scientists propose a terrestrial habit for Serikornis, some palaeontologists disagree.  For example, Professor Mike Benton (Bristol University), thinks that presence of hind wings would have made life difficult for this little dinosaur.

Professor Benton explained:

“The hind wings would be inconvenient for a ground-runner.  The long feathers on the thigh and calf would be like very elaborate bell-bottomed trousers, rubbing and catching as the animal walked or ran.”

Professor Benton and many other leading academics support the idea that the anatomical arrangement of four wings is a good contender as a transitional stage between gliding and the evolution of powered flight.  The professor added that in his opinion the body plan of Serikornis was:

“a model for the origin of flight, in which little dinosaurs such as Serikornis clambered into trees, perhaps chasing insects and other small tree-dwellers for food.  To escape predators or to get around, they would glide from bough to bough.”

A Close-up of the Feathers on the Hind Legs of Serikornis sungei

The feathers on the hind limbs of Serikornis sungei.

A close-up view of the feathers on the hind legs of Serikornis sungei.

Picture Credit: Ulysse Lefèvre/Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“The discovery of another Late Jurassic four-winged dinosaur helps to increase our knowledge as to the diversity of the feathered Theropods, it is very likely that feathers first evolved for other purposes, for example, as insulation, for display.   Flight was a secondary function.  However, where Serikornis sungei fits into the bigger picture regarding the evolutionary line that led to direct ancestors of today’s birds is open to debate.”

Lefèvre and his co-authors concede it may have been possible for these light, small dinosaurs to parachute from the trees to the ground.  The plumage of Serikornis could have slowed its descent, but “controlled falling” is a still a long way from flight.  Serikornis had enlarged claws that may have allowed it to climb trees, so this feathered dinosaur could have been at home in arboreal habitats.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s 2009 article on Anchiornis huxleyiOlder than Archaeopteryx! New Evidence of the Dinosaur/Aves Family Tree

To read Everything Dinosaur’s 2013 article on the discovery of Aurornis: A New Contender for the Title of “First Bird”?

31 08, 2017

Siberian Villager Finds Steppe Mammoth Remains

By | August 31st, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

A Mammoth in the Vegetable Patch

Everything Dinosaur has been informed about an article recently published in the “Siberian Times” reporting that a resident of the small and relatively remote village of Oy, in the Sakha Republic of north-eastern Russia, has found the fossilised remains of a Steppe Mammoth (M. trogontherii).  The local man was hoping to plant cabbage and potatoes in their vegetable patch but instead their digging uncovered the substantial tusks of a long-extinct member of the elephant family.

The newspaper reports that the tusks measure 2.7 metres in length and at their base they are around 50 centimetres in diameter.  Palaeontologists and a regional historian, Prokopiy Nagovitsyn, were called in to assess the villager’s fossil discovery.  Officials are quoted as estimating the tusks at around 400,000-years-old.

A Line Drawing of a Steppe Mammoth (Mammuthus trogontherii)

Steppe Mammoth illustration.

An illustration of a Steppe Mammoth (Mammuthus trogontherii).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Not Revealing the Exact Location of the Fossil Find

The historian (Prokopiy Nagovitsyn), explained that due to “understandable reasons”, the exact location of the fossil find was not being revealed.  If the location was known, this might attract unscrupulous ivory hunters who might attempt to steal the valuable tusks or they might be tempted to start their own excavations.

The vegetable patch discovery is described as “an extraordinary fossil find”.  Numerous Woolly Mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius), specimens are known from the Sakha Republic, the finding of the fossilised remains of a much more ancient Steppe Mammoth is a much rarer event.  Steppe Mammoths predate the Woolly Mammoth by hundreds of thousands of years.  Larger than M. primigenius, probably the largest of the Mammoth family, with adult males estimated to have weighed as much as fifteen tonnes, the Steppe Mammoth roamed Siberia from around 600,00 years ago to as recently as 370,000 years ago.

In 2015, an almost complete fossil skeleton of a Steppe Mammoth was discovered in the same region of Russia.  The Steppe Mammoth is believed to have evolved from the southern, ancestral Mammoth (Mammuthus meridionalis).

30 08, 2017

The Oldest Elasmosaurid in Town

By | August 30th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

A New Basal Elasmosaurid is Described (Lagenanectes richterae)

It has been a busy week for Sven Sachs of the Bielefeld Natural History Museum, Germany.  A few days ago, Everything Dinosaur blogged about the discovery of the largest Ichthyosaurus specimen known (I. somersetensis), Sven was a co-author of the scientific paper published in the “Acta Palaeontologica Polonica”.  Today, we feature another marine reptile discovery, this time it concerns one of the oldest-known members of the Elasmosauridae and Sven is one of the co-authors of this paper too.

An Artist’s Impression of the Newly Described Basal Elasmosaurid Lagenanectes richterae

Newly described basal elasmosaurid Lagenanectes.

A pod of Lagenanectes attack a shoal of squid.

Picture Credit: Joschua Knuppe

Early Cretaceous Elasmosaur

Writing in the “Journal of Vertebrae Paleontology”, the researchers Jahn Hornung and Benjamin Kear as well as Sachs, describe a previously unrecognised new species of Elasmosaur from Lower Cretaceous sediments at Sarstedt near Hannover (northern Germany).  The Elasmosauridae are a diverse family of Plesiosaurs that are characterised by the extraordinarily long necks, with some specimens having more than seventy cervical vertebrae.  They were predominately piscivores, preying on small fish and squid, which they swallowed whole.  Older definitions of the Elasmosauridae included many Jurassic long-necked forms, however, most palaeontologists now restrict elasmosaurids to just the Cretaceous taxa.

The fossilised bones of the marine reptile were unearthed in 1964 as workmen were excavating a clay pit near the town of Sarstedt.  The fossils consist of a partial skull (cranium and mandible), the atlas-axis complex, additional cervical vertebrae, caudal vertebrae, an ilium, and limb elements.  The material was added to the vertebrate fossil collection of the Lower Saxony State Museum (Hannover), where it remained until scientists were recently invited to make a formal examination of the specimen.

A Line Drawing of Lagenanectes richterae Showing the Known Fossil Material

Lagenanectes richterae scale drawing.

A scale drawing of Lagenanectes richterae.

Picture Credit: Joschua Knuppe

Lead author of the study, Sven Sachs stated:

“It was an honour to be asked to research the mysterious Sarstedt Plesiosaur skeleton.  It has been one of the hidden jewels of the museum and even more importantly, it has turned out to be new to science.”

“Lagena Swimmer”

This basal elasmosaurid lived around 132 million years ago (Hauterivian faunal stage of the Lower Cretaceous), it has been named Lagenanectes richterae.  The genus name is the Latinised form of the Leine River, which flows through the townscape of Sarstedt.  The species name honours Dr Annette Richter, (Chief Curator of Natural Sciences at the Lower Saxony State Museum), who facilitated documentation of the fossil.  Dr Richter also makes a handy scale reference in the drawing (above), L. richterae is estimated to have been around eight metres in length.  The skull of Lagenanectes will be displayed as a centrepiece in the “Water Worlds” exhibition at the Lower Saxony State Museum.

A Drawing of the Skull of L. richterae

Lagenanectes skull drawing.

The needle-like and forward pointing teeth are ideal for catching slippery prey.

Picture Credit: Jahn Hornung

Co-author of the paper, Dr Jahn Hornung, a palaeontologist based in Hamburg said:

“Its broad chin was expanded into a massive jutting crest, and its lower teeth stuck out sideways.  These probably served to trap small fish and squid that were then swallowed whole.”

Internal channels in the upper jaws might have housed nerves linked to pressure receptors or electroreceptors on the outside of the snout that would have helped Lagenanectes to locate its prey.  Bones at the back of the skull and the atlas show evidence of a chronic bacterial infection (osteomyelitic infection).  This pathology is clearly visible in the fossil bones and this infection could have eventually claimed the animal’s life.

Dr Benjamin Kear (Museum of Evolution, Uppsala University, Sweden), who also contributed to the study, explained the significance of this Plesiosaur specimen:

“The most important aspect of this new plesiosaur is that it is amongst the oldest of its kind.   It is one of the earliest Elasmosaurs, an extremely successful group of globally distributed Plesiosaurs that seem to have had their evolutionary origins in the seas that once inundated Western Europe.”

To read the earlier article chronicling the work of Sven Sachs in relation to the largest specimen of Ichthyosaurus described to date: Palaeontologists and the Pregnant Ichthyosaurus

29 08, 2017

New Species of African Titanosaur Described

By | August 29th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Shingopana songwensis – Hinting at a Diverse African Titanosaur Biota

A team of international scientists including Dr Eric Gorscak, a recent PhD graduate of Ohio University and now a post-doctoral researcher at the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago, USA), have identified a new species of Cretaceous long-necked dinosaur from south-western Tanzania.  This new species of plant-eating giant has been named Shingopana songwensis and its discovery helps to demonstrate how diverse the dinosaur fauna was in southern Africa during the Cretaceous.

Writing in the Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology, the scientists, describe the new Titanosaur, one that shows anatomical affinities to South American Titanosaurs, indicating that Shingopana was more closely related to South American dinosaurs than it was to those species known from Africa.

The first fossils of this new dinosaur were found in 2002 by scientists affiliated with the Rukwa Rift Basin Project, an international effort led by Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine researchers Patrick O’Connor and Nancy Stevens.  Other elements associated with the specimen were found over the next two years.  All the fossils come from Namba Member of the Galula Formation.

An Illustration of Shingopana songwensis

Shingopana illustration.

An illustration of Shingopana songwensis.

Picture Credit: Mark Witton

In the beautiful illustration created by palaeoartist Mark Witton, (above), a herd of Shingopana can be seen in the background, whilst the foreground is dominated by the rotting carcass of S. songwensis.  A crocodylomorph is scavenging and the corpse has attracted the attention of numerous carrion beetles some of which can be clearly seen on an exposed rib bone.

The Enigmatic Galula Formation

The Galula Formation consists of a 600-3000 metre-thick sequence of amalgamated, braided fluvial deposits that were deposited across an extensive braidplain system via multiple parallel channels that had their source in the highlands of Zambia and Malawi.  Dating these mainly sandstone sediments has proved challenging.  Magnetostratigraphic studies place these deposits, split into two main members (the Namba and the geologically older Mtuka members), as being no older than mid-Late Cretaceous (Turonian-Campanian) for the Namba and constraining the Mtuka to the Middle Cretaceous (Aptian – Cenomanian).  Although most of the vertebrate fossils discovered to date are fragmentary in nature, they hint at a rich biota made up of numerous crocodyliforms, turtles, Theropods, Sauropods plus evidence of several types of small mammal.

The fossils represent around 10% of the total skeleton.  They were excavated from a single location and the fossils were disarticulated.  A comparison of the left humerus to that of the contemporaneous but not closely related Malawisaurus suggests that Shingopana might have exceeded 16 metres in length, although other media sources report that this dinosaur was under ten metres in length.  Other fossils include part of the jaw (left angular), part of the hip girdle, cervical and dorsal ribs along with neck bones (cervical vertebrae).

“Wide Neck” from the Songwe Region

The name of this new dinosaur (Shingopana songwensis), is derived from the local Swahili term “shingopana” for “wide neck”.  The neural spine of the cervical ribs show a bulbous expansion, that led the researchers to assign this new genus to the Aeolosaurini, all the dinosaurs assigned to this clade (as far as we at Everything Dinosaur know), come from South America.  The trivial name honours the location of the discovery, the Songwe region of the Great Rift Valley.  Shingopana is the first African Titanosaur that is closely related to Aeolosaurines.

Shingopana Fossil Bones Being Excavated and Prepared for Field Removal

Shingopana fossils at the dig site.

A limb bone and rib are carefully stabilised in the field prior to removal.

Picture Credit: Nancy Stevens

Commenting on the phylogeny of Shingopana, Dr Gorscak stated:

“There are anatomical features present only in Shingopana and in several South American Titanosaurs, but not in other African Titanosaurs.  Shingopana had siblings in South America, whereas other African Titanosaurs were only distant cousins.”

This discovery supports the hypothesis that the biota of southern and northern Africa were very different during the Cretaceous.  Dinosaurs from the southern part of the continent were probably more closely related to South American dinosaurs than they were to the dinosaurs that lived on the northern part of Africa.  Shingopana co-existed with another Titanosaur, Rukwatitan bisepultus, but just like Malawisaurus, Rukwatitan was not closely related to Shingopana.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article on the discovery and naming of Rukwatitan bisepultusA Rare African Giant – Rukwatitan

Dinosaur CSI

The researchers noted that the bones had been weathered prior to fossilisation.  The fossils show extensive borings, most likely caused by the activities of carrion beetles.  The presence of these trace fossils are particularly notable on the cervical vertebrae, the humerus and the pubis.  Over 150 separate bore holes were identified on 10 different bones from the dig site.  Insect borings such as these give palaeontologists an opportunity to reconstruct the timing of death and the taphonomy (the fossilisation process), of the fossil material.

A Close-up View of Rib Bones with Trace Fossils (Insect Borings)

Damaged rib bones of Shingopana.

Rib bones show damage, the preserved bore holes of carrion beetles.

Picture Credit: Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology

A Changing Cretaceous Landscape

As the super-continent of Gondwana began to break up, so Madagascar and Antarctica split from the landmass that we now know as southern Africa. This was followed by the gradual northward “unzipping” of South America.  Northern Africa maintained a land bridge with South America, but southern Africa slowly became more isolated until the continents completely separated around 105 – 95  million years ago.  Other factors such as terrain and climate may have further isolated southern Africa.  The discovery of Shingopana highlights the different regional faunas between north Africa and southern Africa and suggests that tectonically driven separation of the landmasses may have influenced the development of progressively isolated southern African faunas throughout the Cretaceous.

28 08, 2017

Palaeontologists and the Pregnant Ichthyosaurus

By | August 28th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Largest Ichthyosaurus on Record Springs a Couple of Surprises

A team of scientists from the UK and Germany have discovered the largest Ichthyosaurus known to science, what’s more, the specimen was pregnant at the time of its demise some 200 million years ago.  In addition, the fossilised marine reptile, part of a collection at the Lower Saxony State Museum (Hannover, Germany), turned out to be a chimera.  The specimen did not represent two Ichthyosaurs (mum and the baby), but actually three!  There’s a twist in this tale.

Ichthyosaurus somersetensis Specimen in the Study

Ichthyosaurus specimen turns out to be a chimera with an embryo.

Ichthyosaurus specimen from the study.

Picture Credit: Manchester University

Largest Ichthyosaurus

The new specimen is estimated to be between three and three and a half metres long.  It is an adult female.  The Ichthyosaurus genus consists of a number of species, several of which have been named and described in the last two years, with palaeontologist Dean Lomax of Manchester University, one of the authors of this new study, playing a prominent role in the description of Ichthyosaurus anningae (2015), I. larkini and I. somersetensis (both 2016).  The very first Ichthyosaurus species to be erected was Ichthyosaurus communis, that took place way back in 1822, thanks to the fossil finding exploits of Mary Anning.  Lots of Ichthyosaurus fossils have been collected, mostly from Lower Jurassic rocks of Europe, as a result, this genus is the best known of all the Ichthyosaurs.

An Illustration of a Typical Ichthyosaur

An Ichthyosaur illustration.

An Ichthyosaur (courtesy of Robert Richardson).

Picture Credit: Robert Richardson

Not the Biggest Genus in the Ichthyosauria

Ichthyosaurus is so well known in the scientific community that the Order to which this genus belongs (Order Ichthyosauria), was named after Ichthyosaurus.  Most fossil examples of Ichthyosaurus show specimens of around two metres in length, this specimen was considerably larger, making it the largest Ichthyosaurus on record, although it would have been dwarfed by other members of the Ichthyosauria – giants such as Himalayasaurus and Shonisaurus that grew to lengths in excess of fifteen metres.

This fossil specimen was originally discovered on the Somerset coast, sometime in the mid 1990’s.  It remained unstudied until it ended up in the vertebrate fossil collection of the Lower Saxony State Museum.  Co-author of the scientific paper, published in “Acta Palaeontologica Polonica”, Sven Sachs (Bielefeld Natural History Museum, Germany), first examined the fossil in August 2016, whilst on a routine visit to Hannover.  He contacted Dean Lomax and the two scientists set about investigating just what the fossil actually represented.

The pair identified the fossil as an example of Ichthyosaurus somersetensis, a species that Dean and another colleague, Professor Judy Massare (Brockport College, New York), had named a year earlier.

Dean Lomax commented:

“It amazes me that specimens such as this [the biggest] can still be ‘rediscovered’ in museum collections.  You don’t necessarily have to go out in the field to make a new discovery.  This specimen provides new insights into the size range of the species, but also records only the third example of an Ichthyosaurus known with an embryo.  That’s special.”

Ichthyosaurus Embryo

The embryo is incomplete and preserves only a portion of the back bone (vertebrae), a forefin, ribs and a few other bones.  The preserved string of vertebrae is less than 7 centimetres in length.  The bones of the embryo are not fully ossified, indicating that the embryo was still developing, when it and its mother perished.

A Life Reconstruction of the Ichthyosaurus with Location of the Embryo

Life reconstruction of the Ichthyosaurus showing embryo location.

An illustration of the Ichthyosaurus showing the location of the embryo.

Picture Credit: Joschua Knüppe

A Close View of the Embryo Fossil Material in the Body Cavity

Ichthyosaurus embryo fossil material.

The black arrow indicates the position of the embryo fossil material.

Picture Credit: Manchester University

Not the Right Tail

Dean and his co-author Sven, also made another intriguing discovery.  The tail of this newly described specimen did not belong with the rest of the fossil skeleton.  The rear portion of another Ichthyosaur had been added, probably to make the exhibit more visually appealing.  As well as being an expectant mother this Ichthyosaurus turned out to be a chimera.

Sven added:

“It is often important to examine fossils with a very critical eye.  Sometimes, as in this instance, specimens aren’t exactly what they appear to be.  However, it was not ‘put together’ to represent a fake, but simply for a better display specimen.  But, if “fake” portions remain undetected then scientists can fall foul of this, which results in false information presented in the published record.”

To read about the discovery of I. larkini and I. somersetensisTwo New Species of British Ichthyosaurus Swim into View

Sven Sachs went onto state:

“Specimens like this provide palaeontologists with important information about when these animals lived.  Many examples of Ichthyosaurus are from historical collections and most do not have good geographical or geological records, but this specimen has it all.  It may help to date other Ichthyosaur fossils that currently have no information.”

Dean Lomax and Sven Sachs Examining the Specimen

Sven Sachs and Dean Lomax study the specimen.

Dean Lomax and Sven Sachs study the specimen.

Picture Credit: Manchester University

The scientific paper: “Lomax, D. R. and Sachs, S. 2017. On the largest Ichthyosaurus: A new specimen of Ichthyosaurus somersetensis containing an embryo published in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

27 08, 2017

Ceratopsian Cladogram

By | August 27th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Piecing Together the Horned Dinosaur Family Tree

Plans are in place at Everything Dinosaur to create a pdf file that highlights the evolution, radiation and diversity of the Ceratopsia.  The aim is to use the numerous illustrations of horned dinosaurs that the company has built up in its extensive database to produce a simplified horned dinosaur family tree.  Dinosaur fans will be aware that over the last two decades, the number of formally described ceratopsid dinosaurs has increased significantly, mostly due to the number of new Late Cretaceous horned dinosaurs named from fossil discoveries in the United States and Canada.  Model collectors will also know that there have been several new horned dinosaur models introduced over the last few years.  This trend is set to continue.  For every named prehistoric animal model that Everything Dinosaur supplies, we send out an accompanying fact sheet with that figure.  In this way, our own image library for the ceratopsids has dramatically increased.

An Illustration of a Recently Described Horned Dinosaur

Scale drawing of the horned dinosaur Nasutoceratops.

A scale drawing of the Late Campanian horned dinosaur called Nasutoceratops.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows a scale drawing of the Centrosaurine Ceratopsian Nasutoceratops (N. titusi) which was named and described in 2013.

To read an article about the discovery and naming of Nasutoceratops: Large Nose Horn Face

Centrosaurine and Chasmosaurine

Traditionally, whilst the Ceratopsia includes numerous basal horned dinosaurs, the Ceratopsidae family, has been classified into two sub-families based on cranial ornamentation and horn morphology -the Centrosaurinae and the Chasmosaurinae.  The large horned dinosaurs of the Late Cretaceous period, specifically the Ceratopsidae, were all quadrupedal with heavy, armoured heads.  Palaeontologists used a simple method of assigning these types of dinosaurs to a sub-family:

  • Centrosaurines – short neck frill with a large nose horn, bigger than the brow horns.  This very simplistic description does not mean that Centrosaurines had short frills.  Most frills were ornamented and in the case of the Centrosaurine Styracosaurus – spectacular.

A Drawing of the Spectacular “Short-frilled” Centrosaurine Styracosaurus

Styracosaurus illustrated.

A drawing of the horned dinosaur Styracosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

  • Chasmosaurines – long neck frill with long snouts and the brow horns were usually bigger and more prominent than the nasal horn.

An Illustration of the Recently Described Chasmosaurine Regaliceratops (R. peterhewsi)

Regaliceratops drawing.

A drawing of the horned dinosaur Regaliceratops.

 

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

As with most things related to palaeontology, the rather simplistic classification of Centrosaurines and Chasmosaurines has been undermined as new discoveries have been made.  A case in point, is the recently described Regaliceratops (see picture above).  It is for this reason that Everything Dinosaur team members are wanting to create their own cladogram.  We need some more illustrations to complete our data set, but once these have been commissioned we shall post up our own version of the horned dinosaur family tree.  It might be interesting to populate one cladogram using our own dinosaur illustrations, a second, identical phylogenetic analysis can be produced, but this time using the actual models to illustrate the various taxonomic positions.  It’s still a work in progress at the moment, but hopefully, we shall be able to produce something in the near future.

26 08, 2017

The Diversity of Early Cretaceous Feathered Theropods

By | August 26th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Wonderful Early Cretaceous Theropod Dinosaur Illustration

Sometimes at Everything Dinosaur, we get asked fascinating questions.  For example, we were emailed this week by a fossil collector asking how many different types of feathered dinosaur were there?  That’s a question, the answer to which, as new fossil discoveries are made, keeps changing.  Since the discovery of Sinosauropteryx in 1996 and its subsequent scientific description, numerous feathered dinosaur fossil discoveries have been made.  In all likelihood, within the Theropoda alone, there were probably hundreds of different types of feathered dinosaur.

The diversity of the feathered Theropods is beautifully illustrated by this wonderful image created by Jan Sovak.

An Illustration of the Diversity of Coelurosaurian Theropods (Early Cretaceous China)

Feathered Theropod diversity (Early Cretaceous)

The diversity of feathered Theropods in northern China during the Early Cretaceous.

Picture Credit: Jan Sovak

This image depicts part of the Liaoning biota of the Early Cretaceous.  The picture illustrates a variety of different types of feathered dinosaurs, (all Coelurosaurian dinosaurs).  A pair of Sinosauropteryx (right), chase a small mammal.  Sinosauropteryx is an example of a compsognathid Theropod.  To the left, two Microraptors pursue a dragonfly.  Microraptors come from another branch of the Coelurosauria clade, the dromaeosaurids, sometimes referred to as the “raptors”.  In the background, an ornate couple of dinosaurs are displaying to each other.  They are conducting an intricate courtship display and are oblivious to what is going on around them.  This is a pair of Caudipteryx dinosaurs, complete with beautiful tail plumes.  Caudipteryx is yet another example of a type of feathered Theropod.  Caudipteryx is a member of the oviraptorosaurian group.

Our dedicated team members compiled the information required by our emailer and duly sent it off, along with some links to other articles written by Everything Dinosaur staff that illustrate some of the huge variety of different dinosaurs we listed.

24 08, 2017

Back to School with Everything Dinosaur

By | August 24th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Dinosaurs Go Back to School

The summer holidays are nearly over for the majority of us and many parents, grandparents and guardians will be turning their thoughts to the time when the children have to go back to school.  For young dinosaur fans, Everything Dinosaur stocks a large range of dinosaur themed school items, everything from backpacks and metal lunch boxes to pencils and writing sets – just about all you would need to kit out a budding palaeontologist for the new school term.

Everything Dinosaur Stocks a Large Range of Dinosaur Themed Educational Items Including Stationery

Dinosaur themed school supplies.

Get ready to “roar” back to school.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Get Your Youngsters Roaring with Excitement

From stationery sets that feature dinosaur themed pencil cases, to a Tyrannosaurus rex backpack, Everything Dinosaur has it covered and all our products are backed by our 5-star FEEFO accredited product ratings.  Have your eager dinosaur fans roar with excitement as they stomp to school, we even have matching lunch boxes and drinks bottles – with a prehistoric animal motif of course!

A Matching Dinosaur Themed Lunch Box and Drinks Bottle – Ideal for School

Dinosaur themed lunch bag and matching drinks bottle.

Dinosaur lunch bag and matching drinks bottle.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This is a super dinosaur lunch bag and matching drinks bottle. The blue and orange lunch bag features lots of prehistoric animals on it and the sturdy 350 ml drinks bottle with its anti-spill twist cap, features an identical motif. The lunch bag even has a robust, padded handle for easier carrying.  If you are looking for an insulated lunch box made from hard-wearing PVC, then look no further, as Everything Dinosaur has these types of lunch boxes in stock as well.  These high-quality products are easy to keep clean and can handle the dinosaur-sized knocks associated with being a school lunch box.

The Tough, PVC Dinosaur Themed Lunch Box

A dinosaur themed lunch box.

Lunch is sorted – dinosaur style.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Shopping for Dinosaurs

With everyone leading such busy lives these days, at least the grown-ups looking to kit out their young charges can be reassured that Everything Dinosaur has the supply of dinosaur themed school items and stationery sorted, its top marks to Everything Dinosaur when it comes to back to school.

To view the range of dinosaur themed items including notepads, school sets, pencils and pencil cases that that Everything Dinosaur stocks: Everything Dinosaur Back to School

23 08, 2017

New Long-Necked and Horned Stem Archosaur from India

By | August 23rd, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

The Weird and Wonderful Shringasaurus indicus

The Triassic had some very weird and wonderful animals.  Fantastic phytosaurs, the first pterosaurs, evolving and radiating members of the Dinosauria and joining this menagerie is the newly described Shringasaurus indicus, a large, herbivorous, horned plant-eater that superficially resembled a horned dinosaur.

An Illustration of the Newly Described Basal Archosaur S. indicus

The Triassic stem Archosaur Shringasaurus indicus.

An illustration of the newly described Triassic stem Archosaur Shringasaurus indicus.

Picture Credit: Conicet

A Pair of Large Supraorbital Horns

The most surprising feature of this reptile is the pair of large, forward pointing horns located on the top of the animal’s skull.  These horns resemble those of some Cretaceous Ceratopsian dinosaurs, famous beasties from the fossil record such as Triceratops, Torosaurus and Chasmosaurus.  The fossilised remains of Shringasaurus indicus were recovered from a red mudstone in the upper part of the Denwa Formation (north, central India).  At least seven individuals of different growth stages were excavated from an area of approximately twenty-five square metres.  Most of the specimens were disarticulated, with the exception of one partially articulated skeleton.  Back in the early Middle Triassic, when Shringasaurus roamed, India was located in the southern hemisphere, part of a super-continent called Pangaea.

The Horns of Shringasaurus are Similar to Those of a Horned Dinosaur

Shringasaurus skull material compared to a horned dinosaur.

Cranial anatomy of Shringasaurus indicus compared to a Ceratopsian.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The picture above shows a line drawing (lateral view) of the skull of an adult S. indicus (a) compared to a lateral view of the skull of the Canadian, Chasmosaurine dinosaur Arrhinoceratops brachyops, (b) which was distantly related to Triceratops.  The line drawing (c) shows the skull of S. indicus in dorsal view, (looking down onto the skull).  Photographs d-g show dorsal views of several individuals at different growth stages.  To produce a complete dorsal view of the skull, missing fossils have been reconstructed by digitally mirroring their preserved counterpart.  As these reptiles grew, so the horns became larger and more prominent.  Photographs h-j show lateral views of the bony horns.  Specimens d to f and h-j possess horns and the two smallest specimens, representing the youngest individual (g and k) lack horns.

Scale bar = 4 cm for (a) and (c to k), the scale bar for the Ceratopsian skull is 20 cm (b)

Key

en = external naris

ho = horn

or = orbit

stf = supratemporal fenestra

The researchers conclude that these horns were probably used in intraspecific combats, perhaps over mates, or to decide the hierarchy of the herd.  This new study supports the idea of sexual selection pressure leading to the evolution of bizarre ornamentation within the Archosauria.

Commenting on the significance of this discovery, one of the authors of the scientific paper, Martín D. Ezcurra (CONICET–Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales, Buenos Aires, Argentina), stated:

“An animal like Shringasaurus is remarkable for its horns, a completely unexpected feature in this group of reptiles.  It shows that sexual selection led to the development of strange anatomical structures in the early evolutionary history of the Arcosauromorphs, a group that includes dinosaurs, crocodiles and birds.”

The Fossil Material Associated with Shringasaurus

Shringasaurus indicus fossil material.

Shringasaurus indicus fossils.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The genus name is a combination of Greek and ancient Sanskrit, it means “horned reptile”.  This unusual reptile with its pair of horns has provided an insight to the diverse range of reptiles that occupied this part of Pangaea during the Anisian faunal stage of the Middle Triassic some 245 to 243 million years ago.

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