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Pictures of fossils, fossil hunting trips, fossil sites and photographs relating to fossil hunting and fossil finds.

17 03, 2018

“Attenborough’s Sea Dragon” on Display

By | March 17th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Ichthyosaur Specimen on Display at Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre

The fossilised remains of a new species of Ichthyosaur are on display at the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre for the rest of this year.  The Centre, based on the famous Jurassic coast of Dorset, will be home to the partial skeleton of a four-metre-long, new species of “fish lizard”, it’s discovery and excavation was documented in a BBC television programme shown back in January.

The New Ichthyosaur Display at the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre

Ichthyosaur specimen on display.

The “Sea Dragon” fossil on display.  The head of the specimen has been lost, it probably was eroded out of the cliff face prior to Chris Moore’s discovery.

Picture Credit: Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre

Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, the programme told the story of the fossil’s discovery by experienced local collector Chris Moore.  Chris along with a team of climbing experts and geologists spent weeks excavating the rock containing the creature by hand from a Dorset cliff.  The headless skeleton, that even retained evidence of Ichthyosaur skin, was transported by boat back to Lyme Regis so that the matrix covering the bones could slowly be removed and full details of the 200-million-year-old specimen revealed.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article about the BBC documentary: Attenborough and the Sea Dragon

Experts from Southampton and Bristol Universities studied and analysed the skeleton as well as the exceptionally well-preserved skin still on the bones.  They identified it as a new species of Ichthyosaur, probably an animal of the open ocean that for some reason had come closer to the shore, where, in the coastal waters, it was attacked and killed by a much larger animal.  The palaeontologists, preparators and researchers had a murder scene on their hands.  In the television programme, a CGI version of the unfortunate marine reptile was created and its final moments re-enacted, an attack by a super predator, one of the most dangerous animals on the planet during the Early Jurassic – a ferocious Temnodontosaurus.

Everything Dinosaur’s Illustration of Temnodontosaurus

Scale drawing of Temnodontosaurus.

Temnodontosaurus scale drawing (T. platyodon) shown giving birth.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Attacked by a Much Larger Ichthyosaur

As the fossilised skeleton was slowly but surely revealed, damaged vertebrae and broken ribs provided evidence of an attack by a much bigger marine reptile.  The assailant was probably a Temnodontosaurus, one of the largest of the Ichthyosauria, capable of growing to around ten metres in length with a body mass estimated at approximately two tonnes.  The attacker did not get its prize, the researchers speculated that the initial bite on the unfortunate victim, punctured the animal’s body cavity releasing air from the lungs and the Ichthyosaur’s body descended into the deep.  The body of the Ichthyosaur descended rapidly and it was soon out of the diving range of the attacker, coming to rest on the seabed.  The corpse was rapidly covered by fine sediment and fossilisation eventually took place, two hundred million years later, fossil hunter Chris Moore spotted part of the skeleton eroding out of a cliff and the process of excavating the specimen was begun.

Chris Moore (Foreground) with Sir David Attenborough and Sally Thompson (Producer/Director of the Television Documentary)

Chris Moore on the Dorset Coast

Chris Moore (foreground) with television programme director/producer Sally Thompson and Sir David Attenborough (background).

Picture Credit: Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre

Veteran naturalist, life-long fossil collector and highly esteemed broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough explained in the hour-long programme:

“It’s been a fascinating journey of discovery, but for me the real wonder is the bones themselves.  It is a long time spent just revealing the body of this creature, but it’s also revealed this extraordinary story of life and death, predator and prey fighting it out in the seas 200 million years ago, just down there (at the beach).”

Team members from Everything Dinosaur are hoping to visit the exhibit at the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre when they will be working on the Dorset coast in the autumn.

As the BBC television programme drew to a close, Sir David Attenborough remarked:

“For Chris [Chris Moore], this has been a labour of love and its filled in another gap in the palaeontological jigsaw.  A story that all started with an odd-looking boulder on a Dorset beach.  It’s extraordinary to think that some 200 million years ago exactly here, the greatest predator of its time was swimming around in the sea, and that’s what I love about fossils and fossil hunting, it gives you an extraordinarily vivid insight into what the world was like millions of years before human beings even appeared on this planet.”

Attenborough’s Sea Dragon is on display at Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre throughout 2018.

For further information on the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre: Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre

16 03, 2018

“Beast from the East” Does Not Stop Dedicated Fossil Hunters

By | March 16th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Irregular Sea Urchins in Unseasonable Weather

The area of the Dorset coast around Lyme Regis and Charmouth is often said by locals to experience its very own microclimate.  Everything Dinosaur team members have experienced this phenomenon for themselves, it can be raining very heavily inland at Axminster but on the coast, it can be a dry and sunny.  However, when the “Beast from the East” affected most parts of the UK recently, the Lyme Regis area had its fair share of bad weather.

Our fossil hunting chum, Brandon Lennon took a photograph of Lyme Regis high street as the cold snap hit.  Brandon commented that shoppers were taking to skis to ensure that they could traverse the steeply sloping terrain.

The “Beast from the East” Made Its Presence Felt on the Dorset Coast

Snowy conditions in Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis high street covered in snow.

Picture Credit: Brandon Lennon

Fossil Collecting in the Snow

Fossil hunting in the snow is difficult but not impossible.  With the treacherous road conditions, most fossil collectors who would have had to travel into the Lyme Regis area by car, sensibly postponed their journeys.  This meant that local fossil hunters had the beaches to themselves for as long as the inclement weather persisted.  Several calcite ammonites were collected from the East Cliff Beach (heading towards the small village of Charmouth).  Brandon found some beautiful fossil sea urchins (irregular echinoderms) whilst exploring Monmouth Beach, to the west of the Cobb.  It may have been cold and the beaches were almost deserted but some exciting fossil discoveries could still be made.

A Beautiful Cretaceous Echinoderm Fossil Extracted from a Flint Nodule

Echinoderm fossil (Lyme Regis).

A sea urchin fossil extracted from a flint nodule.

Picture Credit: Brandon Lennon

The weekend promises a “mini Beast from the East” to hit the UK.  More snow could fall in the Lyme Regis area, however, we don’t think it will be enough to dissuade the dedicated fossil hunters of Dorset from visiting the beaches to see what they can find.

Everything Dinosaur recommends that visitors to the Lyme Regis area interested in collecting fossils, go on an organised fossil walk.  This is the safest way to explore the beaches around the town of Lyme Regis, as the sea can cut-off unwary beachcombers and cliff falls are common in the area.

For information about organised fossil walks: Brandon Lennon Fossil Walks

15 03, 2018

Pterosaurs More Diverse at the End of the Cretaceous than Previously Thought

By | March 15th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Getting to Grips with Six New Species of Pterosaurs

The Pterosauria, that Order of winged reptiles that thrived alongside the dinosaurs were thought to have had their heyday in the Early Cretaceous. Only a single family, the Azhdarchidae (several of whom were giants), was known from the very end of the Cretaceous (Maastrichtian faunal stage).  Many palaeontologists had thought that these flying reptiles, the first vertebrates to evolve powered flight, had gone into gradual decline, slowly but surely displaced by those rapidly evolving new masters of the air, the birds.

However, a scientific paper, published this week in the academic journal “PLOS Biology”, challenges this view.  A total of six new species, representing three families of pterosaurs have been discovered in Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) rocks in Morocco.  This new discovery, the most diverse Late Cretaceous pterosaur fossil assemblage found to date, suggests that the Pterosauria may not have gradually faded away, as previously thought.  Their long lineage probably ended abruptly, in essence, the Pterosauria met the same fate at the end of the Cretaceous as their Archosaur cousins the Dinosauria.

A Diverse Assemblage of Pterosaurs – Late Cretaceous Morocco

Pterosaurs of the Late Cretaceous (Morocco).

Six new species of pterosaur have been identified from Morocco.  This suggests that the Pterosauria were far more diverse and speciose at the end of the Cretaceous than previously thought.

Picture Credit: John Conway

A Treasure Trove of Ancient Vertebrate Fossils

Writing in the journal PLOS Biology, the researchers from the University of Bath, Portsmouth University and the University of Texas at Austin, identified a total of seven species of flying reptile from fragmentary and largely isolated fossils found in marine rocks from phosphate mines in northern Morocco (Ouled Abdoun Basin).  Working in conjunction with local fossil hunters, the scientists were able to build up a collection of around two hundred pterosaur bones.

Over the years, commercial mining has revealed large numbers of marine vertebrates dating from the end of the Cretaceous and into the Palaeogene.  Cretaceous fauna associated with these deposits include turtles, plesiosaurs, mosasaurs, sharks and lots of different types of teleost (bony fish).  Occasionally the remains of terrestrial animals are preserved in such deposits, including the bones of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs, representing some of the youngest dinosaur fossils found.

To read our 2017 article about the discovery of an abelisaurid dinosaur: The Last Dinosaur in Africa

The pterosaurs identified by the researchers range in size with the smallest found having a wingspan equivalent to that of an extant Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), to giants with wingspans approaching ten metres, three times bigger than the wingspan of the largest volant birds alive today.  The fossil material has been dated to just over 66 million years ago, making these pterosaurs amongst the very last of their kind on Earth.

The Mandible of the Newly Described Nyctosaurid Alcione elainus

Pterosaur fossil mandible Alcione elainus.

The mandible of the newly described Moroccan pterosaur A. elainus.

Picture Credit: PLOS Biology


dgr = dorsal groove, ocl = occlusal ridge,  sym = symphysis.

Lead author of the study, Dr Nicholas Longrich, (Milner Centre for Evolution and the Department of Biology and Biochemistry, Bath University) stated:

“To be able to grow so large and still be able to fly, pterosaurs evolved incredibly lightweight skeletons, with the bones reduced to thin-walled, hollow tubes like the frame of a carbon-fibre racing bike.  Unfortunately, that means these bones are fragile and so almost none survive as fossils.”

Six New Species of Pterosaur

The researchers were able to identify six new species of pterosaur, representing three different families:

  1. Tethydraco regalis (Pteranodontidae) – the youngest member of the Pteranodontidae family described to date.  Estimated wingspan around 5 metres.
  2. Alcione elainus (Nyctosauridae) – wingspan estimated at about 2 metres.
  3. Simurghia robusta (Nyctosauridae) – a large pterosaur with a wingspan of around 4 metres.
  4. Barbaridactylus grandis (Nyctosauridae) – an even bigger pterosaur with a wingspan estimated to be about 5.2 metres.
  5. Quetzalcoatlus spp. (Azhdarchidae) – described from a single neck bone (cervical vertebra) which resembles the cervical vertebrae of Quetzalcoatlus (Q. northropi).  Size estimates for this flying reptile are very speculative, however, it could have had a wingspan of around 4 metres based on comparisons with better known azhdarchid pterosaurs.
  6. Sidi Chennane specimen (Azhdarchidae) – not scientifically named as yet, known from a single, partial ulna (arm bone), measuring 362 mm long, but when complete it would have been around 600 to 700 mm in length.  This suggests a giant azhdarchid pterosaur with a wingspan of approximately 9 metres.  This specimen has been named after the phosphate mine where it was found, formal scientific description will depend on the discovery of more fossil material.  The researchers conclude that this animal was probably related to the giant azhdarchid Arambourgiania philadelphiae, which is known from the Late Cretaceous of Jordan and the United States.

Late Cretaceous Pterosaur Faunas (Marine and Terrestrial) Compared to Late Cretaceous Birds

Late Cretaceous birds compared to Late Cretaceous Pteosaurs

Size disparity between Late Cretaceous pterosaurs and Late Cretaceous birds.

Picture Credit: PLOS Biology with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The diagram above compares the size disparity between Late Cretaceous pterosaurs with those of contemporaneous birds (coeval Aves – birds that lived at the same time as these flying reptiles).  Pterosaurs shaded blue are associated with marine environments, pterosaurs shaded in brown are associated with terrestrial habitats.  The six new species from the Ouled Abdoun Basin identified in the scientific paper have been given a red star.  The one species from the Ouled Abdoun Basin that had been previously described (2003), has been labelled with a green star (the azhdarchid Phosphatodraco mauritanicus).

The giant pterosaur referred to as the Sidi Chennane specimen is estimated to have approached Quetzalcoatlus in size, but it was much more lightly built and therefore, presumably weighed less.  These proportions indicate a distinct flight mode and ecological niche, suggesting that giant pterosaurs occupied a range of niches in Late Cretaceous habitats.  In addition, the researchers conclude that this flying reptile fossil assemblage demonstrates that the Maastrichtian pterosaurs show increased ecological niche occupation when compared to earlier Late Cretaceous pterosaurs (Santonian to Campanian faunas).  This study also indicates that when it came to developing large body forms, the Pterosauria were able to outcompete coeval birds.

The Fossilised Partial Ulna of the Sidi Chennane Specimen

Fossil ulna of a giant azhdarchid pterosaur.

The ulna of the Sidi Chennane specimen.

Picture Credit: PLOS Biology


ut = ulna tubercle, vp = ventral process

5% Increase in Known Pterosaur Species

Co-author of the study, Dr Brian Andres, from the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin, commented:

“The Moroccan fossils tell the last chapter of the pterosaurs’ story – and they tell us pterosaurs dominated the skies over the land and sea, as they had for the previous 150 million years.”

With around 130 pterosaur species described to date, these fossils from Morocco have led to a 5 percent increase in the known number of flying reptile species.  This diversity of pterosaur species from Upper Maastrichtian deposits in Morocco suggest an abrupt mass extinction of the Pterosauria at the Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary.

The scientific paper: “Late Maastrichtian Pterosaurs from North Africa and Mass Extinction of Pterosauria at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary” by Nicholas R. Longrich, David M. Martill and Brian Andres published in PLOS Biology.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of a press release from the University of Bath in the compilation of this article.

6 03, 2018

Jinyunpelta sinensis – Oldest Swinger in Town

By | March 6th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Basal Ankylosaurine Dinosaur Jinyunpelta is Described

Scientists, including researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have published details of a new genus of club-tailed, armoured dinosaur that roamed China around 100 million years ago.  The dinosaur has been named Jinyunpelta sinensis, it represents the first definitive ankylosaurid dinosaur from southern China.

An Illustration of the Basal Ankylosaurine Jinyunpelta sinensis

Jinyunpelta sinensis illustrated.

An illustration of Jinyunpelta sinensis.

Picture Credit: The Chinese Academy of Sciences

Two Fossil Specimens

This new dinosaur, very distantly related to Late Cretaceous Ankylosaurs like Euoplocephalus and Ankylosaurus (from which the group is named), has been described based on two fossil specimens.  The fossils come from Jinyun County, Zhejiang Province, China and have been excavated from rocks which form part of the Liangtoutang Formation, which covers the important boundary between Lower and Upper Cretaceous sediments (Albian faunal stage to the Cenomanian faunal stage of the Cretaceous).

The fossil material consists of an almost complete skull, parts of the jaw and postcranial remains including a beautifully-preserved tail club.

The Skull and Jaw of Jinyunpelta sinensis

The skull and mandible of Jinyunpelta sinensis.

Skull and jaw of Jinyunpelta (a) dorsal view, (b) ventral view and (c) anterior view, with accompanying line drawings.

Picture Credit: The Chinese Academy of Sciences/Scientific Reports

The generic name derives from “Jinyun” (Mandarin) honouring Jinyun County where the fossils were found and “pelta” (Latin), a small shield, in reference to the osteoderms found on all ankylosaurians.  The root of the specific name “sin” (Greek) refers to China, the country of origin.

Photographs and Line Drawings of the Spectacular Tail Club

The Tail Club of Jinyunpelta sinensis.

The tail club Jinyunpelta sinensis paratype ZMNH M8963 in dorsal (a) and ventral (b) views.

Picture Credit: The Chinese Academy of Sciences/Scientific Reports

The Oldest Swinger in Town

J. sinensis is described as a basal ankylosaurine dinosaur and it represents the oldest and the most basal ankylosaurian known to have a well-developed tail club knob.  It is quite a sizeable bony club too, getting on for nearly half a metre across at its widest part.  The researchers conclude that large and highly modified tail clubs evolved at the base of the ankylosaurine at least about 100 million years ago.

Jinyunpelta possesses unique cranial features which differentiates this Chinese dinosaur from other armoured dinosaurs known from the northern hemisphere, these autapomorphies support the establishment of a new genus.  Several other types of Ornithischian dinosaur have been reported from this part of China, including another armoured dinosaur – a  Nodosaur and basal Ornithopod that was named and described in 2012 (Yueosaurus tiantaiensis)

The discovery of Jinyunpelta expands the known diversity and palaeogeographical distribution of ankylosaurians in Asia.

The scientific paper: “The Most Basal Ankylosaurine Dinosaur from the Albian–Cenomanian of China, with Implications for the Evolution of the Tail Club” by Wenjie Zheng, Xingsheng Jin, Yoichi Azuma, Qiongying Wang, Kazunori Miyata & Xing Xu published in the open access journal “Scientific Reports”.

5 03, 2018

Watching the Birdie – Early Cretaceous

By | March 5th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Early Cretaceous Enantiornithine Shines Light on Early Bird Evolution

A tiny, beautifully preserved fossil of a baby bird is helping scientists to shine a light on the early evolution of some of the first birds.  The fossil represents an enantiornithine bird and researchers, including Dr Fabien Knoll (Manchester University), have used synchrotron radiation to analyse the microscopic structure of the bird’s skeleton in order to assess at what stage of development the poor creature was at when it met its demise.

An Elemental Map of the Fossilised Skeleton was Created using Synchrotron Radiation

The enantiornithine bird fossil (elemental mapping).

Elemental mapping of the tiny bird fossil.  Mapping the slab and the counter slab of the fossil to determine the chemical composition of the skeleton.

Picture Credit: Manchester University

The Enantiornithes – Early Birds

The Enantiornithes were a clade of diverse Cretaceous birds that possessed several characteristics of modern birds (Neornithines) but were also anatomically different in a number of respects.  They retained claws on their wings and most species had teeth, in contrast to all modern Aves which are edentulous.  Despite having an almost global distribution and being regarded as the most specious and successful birds of the Cretaceous, the Enantiornithes are thought to have become extinct at the same time as the last of the non-avian dinosaurs.

A study published in 2016 proposed that the evolution of a toothless beak may have helped some types of birds to survive the end Cretaceous mass extinction event.  To read an article summarising the study’s findings: Seed Eating May Have Helped Some Birds Survive the End Cretaceous Extinction Event

One of the Smallest Mesozoic Avian Fossils Described

The specimen preserved on a slab and counter slab is one of the smallest Mesozoic bird fossils to have been found to date.  The specimen measures less than five centimetres in length and the baby bird would have been able to sit in an egg-cup.  However, it is remarkably well-preserved and the skeleton is virtually complete and what makes this fossil so significant is the fact that the baby bird died shortly after emerging from its egg.

The poor, unfortunate bird might have had an extremely short life, but it has given researchers a rare opportunity to analyse a baby bird’s bone structure and assess its skeletal development.

A Reconstruction of the Cretaceous Bird

A reconstruction of the baby Cretaceous bird.f

A reconstruction of the enantiornithine baby bird with insert showing scale.

Picture Credit: Raul Martin

Assessing Bone Structure and Development

The scientists have been able to study the ossification of the bones, how they were growing and developing.  A better understanding of the skeleton of the very young bird will help researchers to better understand whether this bird species was capable of flight soon after birth and how independent it was.

Lead author of the study, Dr Fabien Knoll (Interdisciplinary Centre for Ancient Life [ICAL] at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Manchester University) and the ARAID Dinopolis in Spain stated:

“The evolutionary diversification of birds has resulted in a wide range of hatchling developmental strategies and important differences in their growth rates.  By analysing bone development, we can look at a whole host of evolutionary traits.”

Lead Author of the Study Dr Fabien Knoll Prepares the Specimen for Analysis

Dr Knoll (Manchester University) studying the enantiornithine bird fossil.

Dr Fabien Knoll studying the slab and counter slab of the bird fossil.

Picture Credit: Manchester University

Altricial, Precocial or Somewhere in Between

As the fossil was so small, being less than the length of the average person’s little finger, the team used synchrotron radiation to analyse the specimen at a “submicron” level.  The skeleton could be assessed in extreme detail and the microstructures of the bones observed.

Dr Knoll explained:

“New technologies are offering palaeontologists unprecedented capacities to investigate provocative fossils.  Here we made the most of state-of-the-art facilities worldwide including three different synchrotrons in France, the UK and the United States.”

New Technology Helps to Map the Elemental Composition of an Ancient Bird Fossil

Phosphorous mapping and a photograph of the fossil.

A phosphorous map of the bird skeleton and photograph of the fossil.  The fossil is around 127 million years old (Early Cretaceous).

Picture Credit: Manchester University

The synchrotron analysis determined that the baby bird’s sternum (breastplate bone) was largely composed of cartilage and had not completely ossified.  The absence of hard bone in the sternum suggests that this bird could not fly.  The patterns of ossification observed in this and the other few, very young enantiornithine birds known to date also suggest that the developmental strategies of this particular group of ancient avians may have been more diverse than previously thought.

The researchers remain cautious and don’t wish to definitively come down on one side of the argument in terms of how dependent/independent this baby bird could have been.  The lack of bone development does not necessarily prove that the hatchling was reliant on its parents for feeding and care (altricial trait).  Modern birds demonstrate a variety of behavioural responses when it comes to bringing up babies.  Some bird species like chickens and ostriches have highly precocial young.  The babies are able to leave the nest and feed themselves within hours of hatching.  In contrast, most of the passerines (song birds) such as robins, blackbirds and thrushes are helpless when they hatch and rely on their parents to feed them and to keep them warm.

Altricial and precocial behaviours tend to be at opposite ends of a spectrum, the breeding strategy employed by this enantiornithine remains obscure.  As extant Aves exhibit a variety of breeding strategies from totally altricial through to super precocial (such as the megapodes, an example being the Australian brush turkey), it is difficult to clarify the development strategy of any extinct species.

Altricial and Precocial Behaviours can be Viewed as Opposite Ends of a Spectrum

Birds - altricial and precocial behaviours.

Altricial and precocial behaviours in Aves – a spectrum.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Co-author of the study, Luis Chiappe (Los Angeles Museum of Natural History) added:

“This new discovery, together with others from around the world, allows us to peek into the world of ancient birds that lived during the age of dinosaurs.  It is amazing to realise how many of the features we see among living birds had already been developed more than 100 million years ago.”

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from Manchester University in the compilation of this article.

21 02, 2018

Plants May Have Originated 100 Million Years Earlier

By | February 21st, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Pushing Back the Origins of Plants by 100 Million Years

An analysis of the genes of living plants has revealed that the very first plants may have evolved 100 million years earlier than the fossil record suggests.  Writing in the academic journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA)”, researchers conclude that the first plants to colonise the Earth evolved around 500 million years ago, whereas, the current known fossil record provides evidence of plant spores from Ordovician-aged rocks and the first Rhyniophytes, Bryophytes and Lycophytes originated in the Silurian approximately 420 to 400 million years ago.

The Research Team Examined the Origins of Early Land Plants

Researching into the origins of early land plants.

Early land plants would have resembled the flora found in this Icelandic lava field.

Picture Credit: Paul Kenrick (Natural History Museum, London)

Lead author of the study, Dr. Philip Donoghue (Department of Earth Sciences, Bristol University) commented:

“Land plants emerged on land half a billion years ago, tens of millions of years older than the fossil record alone suggests.”

The current theory is that true plants, capable of surviving in a terrestrial environment evolved from “pond scum”.  Plants play a hugely important role in shaping the climate of our planet through photosynthesis and respiration.  The greening of the Earth permitted terrestrial environments to be opened up for exploitation by the first land animals.  Plants can help to establish and maintain soils and the roots of plants play a vital role in the physical and chemical weathering of rocks.  The breaking down of rocks is a key process in the carbon cycle that regulates the Earth’s atmosphere and climate.

Tracking Evolution Using a Molecular Clock

The scientists, which included Dr Mark Puttick from the Natural History Museum (London), used a molecular clock which analysed the combined evidence of genetic differences between related living species and the fossils of ancient ancestors.   The concept of a molecular clock works on the assumption that evolutionary changes occur at regular time intervals.  If the rate of genetic change (mutation), in the DNA of an organism can be compared to the genome of a closely related species then their relationship can be tracked back through time, identifying the characteristics of a common ancestor.  Tracking back using this methodology, the team concluded that the first plants evolved much earlier than previously thought.

Co-lead author of the research, Dr Jennifer Morris (Bristol University), explained:

“The global spread of plants and their adaptations to life on land, led to an increase in continental weathering rates that ultimately resulted in a dramatic decrease the levels of the “greenhouse gas” carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and global cooling.  Previous attempts to model these changes in the atmosphere have accepted the plant fossil record at face value, our research shows that these fossil ages underestimate the origins of land plants and so these models need to be revised.”

An Incomplete and Sparse Fossil Record

The fossil record of early plants is particularly poor.  It is far too incomplete to act as a reliable guide to the evolution and origin of land plants.  The molecular clock allowed the team to compare differences in the genetic make-up of extant plant species, these relative genetic differences were then converted into geological ages using the sparse fossil record as a loose framework.  This work suggests that the ancestor of land plants was living in the middle of the Cambrian and it is similar in age as the first known terrestrial animals.

A Cross Section of the Devonian Land Plant Rhynia gwynne-vaughanii from Scotland

An image of the early vascular plant Rhynia gwynne-vaughanii (Devonian).

A cross section of the early vascular plant – Rhynia gwynne-vaughanii.

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum, London

A Taxonomic Conundrum

The research into the origins of land plants has been complicated as the taxonomic relationships between the earliest land plants are not clear and distinct.  Using similarities in the shape and structure of land plants, scientists have mapped a number of conflicting outcomes for a cladistic analysis of early plant relationships between the most primitive groups such as the Bryophytes (liverworts and mosses) and the vascular plants (Tracheophytes) and a primitive sub-group of vascular plants, the Lycophytes.  Using the molecular clock model to map phylogenetic relationships the team identified several evolutionary family trees for the early plants.  The liverworts could be a sister clade to all other land plants, with either mosses, hornworts or a moss-hornwort grouping as the sister group to the Tracheophytes.

Seven Alternative Cladistic Relationships for Early Plants were Considered in the Study

The possible cladistic relationships between early land plants.

The possible cladistic relationships between early land plants.

Picture Credit: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

However, when each of these phylogenetic relationships was tested in turn, against the molecular clock model, the end result still indicated an origin of land plants some 100 million years earlier than previously thought.  The researchers conclude that the first land plants may therefore have originated during the Late Cambrian or at the latest during the Early Ordovician.

The scientific paper: “Timescale of Early Land Plant Evolution” by J. L. Morris, M. N. Puttick, J. Clark, D. Edwards, P. Kenrick, S. Pressel, C. H. Wellman, Z. Yang, H. Schneider and P. C. J. Donoghue, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA).

16 02, 2018

Lizards Up on Two Feet in the Early Cretaceous

By | February 16th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Lizards Sprinted to Safety to Avoid Predation

A team of international scientists writing in the journal “Scientific Reports”, have described the oldest lizard trackways known to science that record bipedal behaviour.  The little lizards lived around 110 million years ago, in what is now South Korea, it has been speculated that just like extant lizards, they took to their hind legs to avoid being eaten.  The mudstone slab preserves a total of twenty-nine prints, representing four trackways made by lizards.  The lizard trackways occur in the same horizon as the pterosaur ichnotaxon, Pteraichnus koreanensis, it has been speculated that these small animals were taking to their hind legs and sprinting away to avoid the attention of marauding flying reptiles.

A Lizard Escapes from a Pterosaur (Early Cretaceous of South Korea)

A lizard takes to its hind legs to avoid the attentions of a Pterosaur.

A lizard sprints away from an attacking Pterosaur (Pteraichnus koreanensis).

Picture Credit: Zhao Chuang

Rare Lizard Trace Fossils from the Hasandong Formation

The researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Seoul National University, the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources along with Anthony Fiorillo of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science (Dallas, Texas) studied the mudstone slab, which measures approximately seventy centimetres by thirty centimetres in size and identified the tiny tracks, as that of a basal member of the Iguania Infraorder of lizards.  The team came to this conclusion as living iguanians, such as those in the Basiliscus genus (basilisk lizards), have strong hind legs and are facultative bipeds, that is, capable of running on their back legs when the need arises.  The fossil record also shows that these types of lizards were present in Asia during the Early Cretaceous.

The Mudstone Slab with Trace Fossils and Accompanying Line Drawing

Fossilised lizard tracks and line drawing.

Photograph of the fossil slab with accompanying line drawing.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The trace fossils were excavated from an old quarry adjacent to Hadong power station in Hadong County, in south-central South Korea.  It is believed that the strata in this area (Hasandong Formation) was laid down around 112 to 110  million years ago (Aptian/Albian faunal stages of the Early Cretaceous).  The well-preserved tracks have allowed the scientists to examine in detail the hand (manus) and foot (pes) anatomy of the ancient lizard.

When Did Lizards Develop Bipedal Capabilities?

Although, bipedal locomotion is known today and the Squamata (lizards and snakes), are the most specious of all the living reptile types, the fossil record for these creatures is particularly sparse.  Palaeontologists, remain uncertain as to when bipedal locomotion in lizards arose, although it has been inferred based on the relative proportions of front and hind limbs as seen in Tijubina pontei, an Early Cretaceous lizard, whose fossils are associated with the Crato Formation of Brazil.  The trackways discovered in South Korea suggest that bipedal locomotion in ancient lizards is deeply rooted in the phylogeny of lizard evolution.

Hand and Foot Tracks (Manus and Pes)

Hand and foot prints Sauripes hadongensis.

Manus and pes tracks of Sauripes hadongensis, (a) Enlarged photograph and drawing of a manus imprint (B1). (b) A pes imprint (A6).

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

Sauripes hadongensis

The foot prints (pes) are plantigrade, indicating that this lizard walked on its toes and heels, just like us and all lizards today, as opposed to the digitigrade locomotion of the Dinosauria.  Although the individual prints are very small, around two centimetres in length, the five toes (pentadactyl), are clearly defined.  The lizard tracks appear in the same horizon as the pterosaur ichnotaxon Pteraichnus koreanensis and it has been speculated that the lizards could have been escaping from a flying reptile.  Behaving as a facultative biped, would also have elevated the head and this would have permitted the lizards to keep a better look out for aerial predators.

The scientists have estimated the ancient lizard’s body length by comparing the trackways to the extant lizard Tropidurus torquatus, a living member of the Infraorder Iguania.  The ichnotaxon has been named Sauripes hadongensis which translates as “lizard foot from Hadong County”.

An Illustration of the Bipedal Locomotion of the Ancient Lizard

An illustration of the running lizard (bipedal running).

An illustration showing the bipedal interpretation of the lizard trackway (SVL – snout to vent length and PL – pes length).

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The Palaeoenvironment of Lower Cretaceous South Korea

The mudstone strata has produced tridactyl (three-toed) dinosaur tracks as well as trace fossils representing the tracks of small pterosaurs.  Fossilised plants are also associated with these layers of rock.  It is suggested that the mudstone represents deposits from a swampy area or possibly the margins of a lake.   The Hasandong Formation has yielded numerous body fossils including several different types of vertebrate (turtles, pterosaurs, crocodilians and dinosaurs).  These fossilised bones are isolated, broken and highly fragmentary, indicating that they may have been exposed on the surface for some considerable time prior to subsequent burial.  They also may have been transported for some distance before deposition.  This taphonomy suggests that large rivers crossed this location, the mudstone slab may have been sited in an area away from a main river channel, that was subjected to periodic flooding by water with low energy, otherwise the delicate prints may not have been preserved.

Photographs of Individual Hind Foot Prints (Pes) with Digits Highlighted

Pes tracks of Sauripes hadongensis.

Photographs of the foot prints of Sauripes hadongensis with the digits highlighted.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

To read Everything Dinosaur’s 2014 article about the discovery of a tiny Theropod dinosaur from South Korea: Tiny Terror from South Korea

The scientific paper: “Lizards Ran Bipedally 110 Million Years Ago” by Hang-Jae Lee, Yuong-Nam Lee, Anthony R. Fiorillo and Junchang Lü published in Scientific Reports

12 02, 2018

Stepping into the Lower Cretaceous of Maryland

By | February 12th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Diverse Footprint Assemblage Reveals Early Cretaceous Biota

Back in 2012, Everything Dinosaur reported upon the discovery of a partial nodosaurid footprint found at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland (USA).  Subsequent excavations have revealed a diverse trace fossil assemblage, preserving footprints of dinosaurs, mammals and flying reptiles (Pterosauria) located in a single slab of sandstone.  This remarkable fossil records a snapshot in deep geological time and shows how different types of animals interacted in a wetland environment.

A View of the Cast of the Actual Fossil that Records the Entire Track Bearing Surface

Goddard Space Centre (NASA) trackways.

The cast of the track bearing surface reveals over 70 trace fossils.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

Co-corresponding author of the scientific paper, published in the journal “Scientific Reports”, Ray Stanford (NASA, Goddard Space Flight Centre), the scientist who first discovered trace fossil evidence at the Goddard site, commented:

“It’s a time machine.  We can look across a few days of activity of these animals and we can picture it.  We see the interaction of how they pass in relation to each other.  This enables us to look deeply into ancient times on Earth.  It’s just tremendously exciting.”

Natural Impressions

The single slab of iron-rich sandstone measures over two metres in length and the cast of the fossil (see above), represents at least eight different track types denoting dinosaurs, crocodilians, pterosaurs and mammals.  All the tracks are preserved as natural impressions (concave epireliefs) and at least twenty-six mammalian tracks have been identified.  Analysis of the fossil material suggests that all the impressions were made within a relatively short time of each other, the fossil (GSFC-VP1) can be interpreted as snapshot recording the activities of a diverse biota around a wetland area during the Early Cretaceous (Albian/Aptian faunal stages).

A Schematic Showing the Extant of the Trace and Body Fossils Preserved

Trackways represent a diverse biota.

Goddard Space Flight Centre (NASA) tracks – schematic drawing.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports with additional annotations by Everything Dinosaur

Tracking the Dinosaurs

The track that first highlighted the potential of the site “the discovery track”, which is coloured light brown in the drawing above, and situated in the north-eastern corner of the sandstone slab, has been identified as a nodosaurid print.  This single print measures around 29 centimetres in diameter.  The posterior (heel) region is obscured by a smaller track of uncertain providence.  The small track could represent a print made by a juvenile Nodosaur.  If this is the case, then this section of the fossil could show the tracks made by an adult and juvenile armoured dinosaur as they walked together (see silhouettes adjacent to the track illustration).

A single, black object with a raised ridge is also preserved.  This has been interpreted as an individual scute from a nodosaurid.  Measuring five centimetres across, the fossil is surrounded by a polygonal pattern consistent with the surrounding integument associated with nodosaurid skin impressions.  The unique taphonomy of the Patuxent Formation that is exposed at the Goddard Space Flight Centre and other locations in Maryland has already provided palaeontologists with the beautifully-preserved impression of the rear half of an articulated baby nodosaurid.  This dinosaur was named Propanoplosaurus marylandicus by Stanford et al in 2011.

The Object Identified as a Nodosaurid Scute (Dermal Armour)

Potential Nodosaurid Scute

(A) photograph of nodosaurid scute and associated polygonal pattern of surrounding integument, (B) simplified outline of polygonal pattern.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The large nodosaurid print along with the track made by the left front foot of a Sauropod (see single print outlined in light purple and the silhouette on the schematic), confirms the presence of large dinosaurs in the area.

Small Theropod Dinosaurs Systematically Searching for Food

Four parallel trackway patterns made by crow-sized Theropod dinosaurs have been identified.  The outermost tracks of the group have been labelled in the schematic T1 and T4.  This parallel pattern and the short distance between individual footprints suggest that these small meat-eaters were moving slowly and working together to systematically comb the area for food.

Martin Lockley (University of Colorado, Denver) and co-corresponding author with Ray Stanford explained:

“It looks as if they were making a sweep across the area.”

Theropod Trackways T1 and T4 Illustrated

Theropod tracks.

Goddard Space Flight Centre (Theropod tracks).

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The picture above shows drawings of various Theropod tracks,  T1 consists of six footprints, whilst T4 is comprised of five individual prints (diagrams A and B).  The short stride length indicates very short steps, consistent with the idea that these little meat-eating dinosaurs were carefully scrutinising the area, probably hunting for food.  Diagrams C and D represent isolated tracks with toe digits widely separated (divarication) – note the scale bar = 20 cm.

Marvellous Mammalian Tracks

The dinosaur tracks might first catch the eye, but the real stars of this Early Cretaceous “dance floor” are the collection of mammalian prints.  At least twenty-six mammal tracks have been identified.  The largest print, covering around twenty-five square centimetres is the largest mammal footprint ever discovered from the Cretaceous.  This suggests that there were plenty of mammals about and some of them were quite big, about the size of a Highland terrier or a raccoon.

The researchers conclude that most of the mammalian prints represent small squirrel-sized animals and the study has resulted in the erection of a new ichnotaxon Sederipes goddardensis.  The genus name roughly translates from the Latin as “sitting foot” as some of these impressions indicate that the small mammals sat up in a similar way to extant prairie dogs.  The trivial name honours the Goddard Space Flight Centre.

Mammal Tracks as Identified on the GSFC-VP1 Specimen

Examples of mammal tracks.

Early Cretaceous mammal tracks (GSFC-VP1).

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The photograph (above), shows examples of the diverse mammal tracks.  Tracks m1-m4 include the holotype ichnofossils of the new ichnotaxon Sederipes goddardensis.  Note scale bar and (J) which denotes a large, five-toed track with an image of a similar track described in 2007.

The authors believe the wide diversity and number of tracks show many of the animals were in the area actively feeding at the same time.  It has been proposed that the mammals may have been feeding on worms and grubs, the small carnivorous Theropods were after the mammals, and the pterosaur tracks found in situ could suggest that flying reptiles were hunting in the vicinity too, perhaps after both the mammals and their reptile contemporaries.

The scientific paper: “A Diverse Mammal-dominated, Footprint Assemblage from Wetland Deposits in the Lower Cretaceous of Maryland” by Ray Stanford, Martin G. Lockley, Compton Tucker, Stephen Godfrey and Sheila M. Stanford published in Scientific Reports.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s 2012 article about the initial footprint discovery: Space Age Meets Dinosaur Age

Photograph of the Cast and Schematic Drawing

Schematic drawing and fossil cast (GSFC-VP1)

GSFC-VP1 cast and schematic drawing.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

9 02, 2018

Out of Africa – Much Earlier Than Expected

By | February 9th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Human Jawbone Fossil Rewrites our History

The discovery of a fossilised upper jawbone, complete with teeth, has rewritten the history of our own species and supports the theory as proposed by genetic studies that H. sapiens migrated out of Africa much earlier than previously thought.  Most palaeoanthropologists contend that our species Homo sapiens originated in Africa and then at some point in the distant past migrated out of Africa spreading into the Middle East, Asia and Europe before colonising the rest of the world.  Human fossils found outside Africa have been dated to 120,000 to 90,000 years ago (Tarantian faunal stage of the Late Pleistocene), the discovery of a human jawbone fossil at Misliya Cave on the western slopes of Mount Carmel, Israel, demonstrates that modern humans were already present in northern Israel at least 55,000 years earlier.

The Fossil Jawbone that Reinforces the Idea that Modern Humans Migrated Out of Africa Much Earlier

Modern human jawbone fossil.

The left maxilla from a modern human found in northern Israel.

Picture Credit:  Israel Hershkovitz Tel Aviv University

Levallois Technology

The international team of scientists, including  Israel Hershkovitz (Tel Aviv University) and Rolf Quam from the Department of Anthropology at Binghamton University, examined the sediments in the cave associated with the human jawbone fossil find.  There has been a research project associated with the Misliya Cave site for several years.  This new research builds upon previous studies and it supports the idea that the people at this location were making and using a range of sophisticated stone tools reminiscent of the tools associated with the earliest modern humans in Africa (Levallois technology).  The sediments reveal a series of well-defined hearths as well as numerous animal remains and stone tools.  An analysis of the human remains, dating the sediments and the fossil itself, suggests an approximate age range of between 177,000 and 194,000 years old, making this jawbone the oldest member of the Homo sapiens species to have been found outside of Africa.

The research team conclude, that the fossil, known as the “Misliya maxilla” along with the abundant stone tools, indicates that the emergence of this technology is linked to the appearance of our species in this region of the Middle East.

For an article that summarises research from 2016 that questions the relatively late migration of modern humans out of Africa: Out of Africa Earlier than Thought?

Another 2016 article that looks at the evidence in support of a theory that suggests modern humans evolved independently in Asia: Did Humans Evolve Independently in Asia?

5 02, 2018

The Tale of the Spiders with Tails

By | February 5th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Prehistoric Spiders Had Tails

A team of international scientists, including researchers from the University of Manchester, have announced the discovery of a new species of Cretaceous-aged spider.  The arachnid (Class Arachnida), which was preserved in amber from Myanmar (burmite), is helping palaeontologists to better understand the evolution of these very successful and diverse, eight-legged invertebrates.  This new spider species, named Chimerarachne yingi possessed a whip-like tail, a characteristic associated with ancestral forms and the most primitive types of extant spider, but the burmite has preserved a spider with this characteristic, that lived at least 250 million years after the first spiders evolved.

Photographs of the Spider Fossil with Accompanying Line Drawings

Chimerarachne yingi fossil and line drawings (dorsal and ventral views).

Chimerarachne yingi dorsal view (a) with accompanying line drawing and (b) ventral view with accompanying line drawing.

Picture Credit: The University of Manchester

Potentially a Transitional Fossil

The characteristics of today’s spiders are very well known.  These creatures have eight legs, several eyes and can spin silk, often to create cobwebs.  A “whip-like tail” is one feature that you would not normally associate with these particular creepy-crawlies.  The researchers, writing in the academic journal “Nature Ecology and Evolution”, conclude that the specimen might represent a transitional fossil, it possesses a tail (flagellum) and as such, the fossil may help scientists to better understand how the Arachnida evolved and diversified.

What is a Transitional Fossil?

Transitional fossils are defined as any fossil that demonstrates traits that are common to both an ancestral group and descendants.  Perhaps the best-known example is Archaeopteryx lithographica from the Late Jurassic of southern Germany.  The “Urvogel” shows both reptilian traits and characteristics of a bird, so it is regarded as a transitional fossil highlighting the evolution of one part of the Theropoda into modern Aves (birds).

A Fossil of the “Urvogel” Archaeopteryx Regarded as a Transitional Form

The Wellnhoferia Archaeopteryx.

The Wellnhoferia Archaeopteryx specimen.

Picture Credit: Pascal Goetgheluck

Chimerarachne yingi

The genus name comes from the Greek chimera – a mythical beast that was made up of parts from numerous animals.  The research team conclude that this new species belongs to an extinct group of spiders which were very closely related to true spiders.  What makes the fossil so unique, and different to spiders of today, is the fact it has a tail.  The discovery sheds important light on where modern spiders may have evolved from.  The Arachnida is an extremely successful class of invertebrates.  Spiders are the most diverse and numerous of all the arachnids, together spiders are grouped into the Order Aranae, some 47,000 living species have been documented.  Their evolutionary origins are obscure, but the first spiders may have evolved in the Late Devonian.  Over hundreds of millions of years, they have evolved several key innovations found only in this group.  These include spinnerets for producing silk for webs (as well as for other purposes like egg-wrapping), modified male mouthparts (pedipalps), unique to each species, which are used to transfer sperm to the female during mating, and venom for paralysing prey.

An Illustration of the Newly Described Cretaceous Arachnid Chimerarachne yingi

Cretaceous spider illustrated (Chimerarachne yingi).

Chimerarachne yingi illustrated (note the whip-like tail, the flagellum).

Picture Credit: The University of Manchester

The researchers, led by Bo Wang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and including Dr Russell Garwood (University of Manchester), state that Chimerarachne yingi closely resembles a member of the most primitive group of modern living spiders – the mesotheles.  These spiders have a segmented abdomen unlike other groups found today, such as the mygalomorphs (Mygalomorphae), which include well-known spider species like tarantulas and funnel-webs.  Mesothelae spiders are restricted to south-east Asia, China and Japan today, but in the past they probably had a world-wide distribution (across the ancient super-continent of Pangaea).

Several Important Spider Characteristics

Chimerarachne yingi has several important spider features such as the spinnerets and a modified male pedipalp, but, outside of the obvious tail, it also demonstrates some anatomical differences. For instance, the male pedipalp organ of Chimerarachne appears quite simple, more like that of a mygalomorph spider than a mesothele spider.

Note the Long “Whip-like Tail” (Flagellum)

Ancient spider illustrated - Chimerarachne yingi.

Chimerarachne yingi illustrated (dorsal view).

Picture Credit: The University of Manchester

Dr Garwood explained:

“Based on what we see in mesotheles, we also would have expected the common ancestor of spiders alive today to have had four pairs of spinnerets, all positioned in the middle of the underside of the abdomen.  Chimerarachne only has two pairs of well-developed spinnerets, towards the back of the animal, and another pair that is apparently in the process of formation.”

Working Out the Evolutionary Tree of the Arachnida

The team studied the fossil using a range of different techniques.  One of Dr Garwood’s roles in the study was to help work out where this fossil sits in the evolutionary tree of the Arachnida.

Dr Garwood added:

“Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the new fossil is the fact that more than 200 million years after spiders originated, close relatives, quite unlike arachnids alive today, were still living alongside true spiders.”

Despite the beautiful state of preservation, the scientists are unable to state what function the tail might have had, or indeed, if this spider had a venomous bite.

Co-author of the study, published today, Dr Jason Dunlop (Museum Für Naturkunde in Berlin) stated:

“We don’t know whether Chimerarachne was venomous.  We do know that the arachnid ancestor probably had a tail and living groups like whip scorpions also have a whip-like tail. Chimerarachne appears to have retained this primitive feature.  Taken together, Chimerarachne has a unique body plan among the arachnids and raises important questions about what an early spider looked like, and how the spinnerets and pedipalp organ may have evolved.”

A Timescale Outlining the Proposed Evolution of the Chimerarachne

A timescale of Chimerarachne evolution.

A timescale showing the proposed evolutionary time scale for the Chimerarachne.

Picture Credit: The University of Manchester

Despite its appearance, the research team have concluded that C. yingi is not a direct ancestor of modern day spiders.  Spider fossils, although very rare, go back a long way into deep geological time.  Instead Chimerarachne belongs to an extinct lineage of spider-like arachnids which shared a common ancestor with the spiders, some of whom survived into the mid-Cretaceous of Southeast Asia.

By the Late Carboniferous Arachnids Represented a Diverse and Important Group of Terrestrial Predators

A carboniferous scene.

By the Carboniferous the insects and the mostly predatory arachnids were already highly diversified.

Picture Credit: Richard Bizley

The scientific paper: “Cretaceous Arachnid Chimerarachne yingi et sp. nov. Illuminates Spider Origins”, by Wang, B., Dunlop, J. A., Selden, P. A., Garwood, R. J., Shear, W. A., Müller, P. & Lei, X published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

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

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