Collecta Dead Stegosaurus Model – A Video Review

A Video Review of the Collecta Dead Stegosaurus Corpse

The second, deceased dinosaur model to be included in the Collecta prehistoric animal replicas range is a model of a Stegosaurus corpse.  In this brief video (five minutes, thirty-two seconds), Everything Dinosaur looks at this dinosaur model in more detail and comments on the quality of this replica as well as explaining the pattern of the wounds such as the bite marks on the body.

Everything Dinosaur’s Video Review (Collecta Stegosaurus Corpse)

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Most prehistoric animal model collectors have a number of Stegosaurs in their collection, thanks to Collecta, they can now obtain an authentic replica of a dead Stegosaurus, which is ideal for dioramas and for creating prehistoric scenes.  Bring on the Theropods.

To see the range of Collecta prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur: Collecta Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animal Models

Ancient Creepy-Crawlies Resurrected

410 Million Year Old Arachnid Walks Again

A team of international researchers have used fossils of ancient Arthropods from the London Natural History Museum to recreate the movements of some of the world’s first terrestrial predators.  Researchers from the Museum für Naturkunde (Berlin) and Manchester University have used an open source computer programme called Blender to model the walking motion of a 41o million year old ancient Arachnid.  The video shows the most likely gait that this tiny prehistoric predator could achieve as it stalked across the Devonian landscape.  The paper, which details this research has been published in a special edition of the academic publication the “Journal of Palaeontology”.

The scientists took minute slices of the fossils of these early Arachnids and once the limb segments and their joints had been identified they worked out the range of limb motion possible.  From these measurements and using comparisons with extant Arachnids, the researchers modelled the walking action using the Blender software programme.  In this way, a creature dead for over 410 million years could once again walk.

Dr. Russell Garwood, (palaeontologist at Manchester University), stated:

“When it comes to early life on land, land before our ancestors came out of the sea, these early Arachnids were top dog of the food chain.  They are now extinct, but from about 300 to 400 million years ago, they seem to have been more widespread than spiders.  Now we can use the tools of computer graphics to better understand and recreate how they might have moved – all from thin slivers of rock, showing the joints in their legs.”

Supplemental Data Video 2 – Palaeocharinus Locomotion

Video Credit: University of Manchester Press Room

The video shows the ancient Arthropod (Palaeocharinus genus) walking.  Although a formidable looking animal, this early creepy-crawly was less than half a centimetre in length.  The fossils used in this study came from the famous Lower Devonian strata at Rhynie (Aberdeenshire, Scotland).  The Rhynie chert deposit contains evidence of one of the earliest terrestrial ecosystems known to science.  More than twenty primitive plant species have been identified along with Arthropods such as mites and trigonotarbids such as Palaeocharinus that hunted amongst the miniature forest made up of Rhyniophytes (primitive plants).

Co-author of the scientific paper, Jason Dunlop (Museum für Naturkunde), added:

“These fossils,  from a rock called Rhynie chert, are unusually well-preserved.  During my PhD I could build up a pretty good idea of their appearance in life.  This new study has gone further and shows us how they probably walked.  For me, what’s really exciting is that scientists can make these animations now, without needing the technical wizardry and immense costs of a Jurassic Park-style film.”

Although not true spiders, trigonotarbids are related to modern spiders but they lack certain spider features such as silk producing spinnerets.  As a group, they first appear in the fossil record in the Late Silurian.  The oldest trigonotarbid specimen, that we at Everything Dinosaur know about, comes from the Upper Silurian deposits of Ludow , Shropshire (Ludlow epoch around 420 million years ago).  It was Jason Dunlop who was responsible for describing this discovery (1996).

A Highly Magnified Image of a trigonotarbid (Palaeocharinus)

The highly magnified section shows leg segments clearly.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The scale bar in the picture represents 2 mm.

Dr. Dunlop stated:

“When I started working on fossil Arachnids we were happy if we could manage a sketch of what they used to look like, now we can view them running across our computer screens.”

The development of sophisticated computer programmes is permitting scientists to re-create three-dimensional images of spectacular fossils.  In addition, new generation programming technology is now capable of bringing long extinct creatures back to life, at least in cyberspace.  The predatory Palaeocharinus might be quite frightening, but at half a centimetre long it would probably not even had got a second glance if you spotted on in the garden.  However, other specimens from Upper Devonian strata, as yet not fully described fossils, indicate that there were much larger creatures at home amongst the primitive plants such as the Rhyniophytes and Lycopsids (clubmosses), some fossils indicate Arthropods nearly an inch in length.  These creatures may not be trigonotarbids but perhaps represent an entirely new family of Arthropoda.

Dr. Garwood concluded:

“Using open source software means that this is something anyone could do at home, while allowing us to understand these early land animals better than ever before.”

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of the Faculty of Engineering and Sciences (University of Manchester) in the compilation of this article.

Papo Baby Triceratops Model Video Review

A Video Review of the Papo Baby Triceratops Dinosaur Model

For Papo, the French model and figure manufacturer, the final new prehistoric animal model to be released this year is a replica of a baby Triceratops.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur have made a brief video review of this dinosaur youngster and in this video we look at the fossil evidence from Montana that helped the sculptors at Papo create their baby Triceratops.  In addition, we look at the model and compare it to the adult Triceratops figure that is also a part of the Papo collection.

Papo Baby Triceratops – A Video Review

Video credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the range of prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur: Papo Prehistoric Animal Models

A Neanderthal-like Inner Ear in Ancient Chinese Skull

Let’s Hear it for the Neanderthals

A team of international scientists including palaeoanthropologists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, have been puzzling over the distinctive shape of the structures that make up part of the inner ear preserved in an ancient skull.  The 100,000 year old human skull has a similar inner ear structure to that thought to have only occurred in our near relatives the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis).  CT scans have revealed to the researchers, something of a mystery, none of the other prehistoric human skulls dated to around 100,000 years ago and found in China show this inner ear formation.  This discovery opens up the debate between H. sapiens and Neanderthal interaction and blurs the line between these two hominin species.

The extremely detailed three-dimensional images revealed by the study, has raised important questions regarding the nature of late archaic human variation across Europe and Asia.  It also suggests, that the inner ear shape once ascribed as being diagnostic of Neanderthal skull material may be present in other types of ancient human.  This characteristic may not be a distinctive Neanderthal feature.

Researchers from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (IVPP – Chinese Academy of Sciences), in collaboration with Washington University (St Louis) and Bordeaux University (France), discovered the controversial evidence after a meticulous CT scan of a skull found in the Nihewan Basin of northern China.  The skull, found in the late 1970′s along with other bone fragments and human teeth is known as Xujiayao 15, it was named after the archaeological dig site where it was discovered.  The skull morphology indicates that it comes from an early non-Neanderthal form of late archaic human.  It is probably the skull of a male.

Over the last two decades or so, the evolution of our own species and our relationship with other hominins has become somewhat blurred.  For example, it was thought until very recently that Europe around 250,000 years ago was inhabited by just two species of humans, ourselves and the Neanderthals.  New fossil discoveries and research on museum specimens has revealed that there may have been four different types of human in Eurasia at this time.  As well as H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis, evidence for the presence of Homo erectus and the enigmatic Denisovans has also been found.

To read an article that suggests the Denisovan hominins and the Neanderthals were closely related: Denisovan Cave Material Hints at Mystery Human Species

The inner ear, also known as the labyrinth is located within the skull’s temporal bone.  It contains the cochlea, which converts sound waves into electrical impulses that are transmitted by nerves to the brain.  The inner ear also contains the semicircular canals, these chambers help us to balance and to co-ordinate our actions.  These structures although small, have been found preserved in a number of mammal skulls including prehistoric human fossils.  Research published almost two decades ago, which relied on less powerful CT scans and computer technology, established the presence of a particular pattern of the semicircular canals in the temporal labyrinth as being diagnostic of Neanderthal skull material.  The same pattern of the semicircular canals is found in all known Neanderthal labyrinths.  As a result, the labyrinth has been used extensively as a marker to distinguish Neanderthal skull fossil from other hominins.

The Fossil Location with an Overlay of the Temporal Bone and CT Scan showing the Inner Ear Structure

Temporal bone found at the Xujiayao site and inner ear structure

Picture Credit: Wu Xiujie (Chinese Academy of Sciences)

The academic paper that details the international team’s research has just been published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”.   The shape of the skull and structures such as the arrangements seen in the semicircular canals could be used to help resolve the evolutionary relationships between a number of closely related human species.

Dr. Erik Trinkaus (Washington University), one of the lead authors of the scientific paper, suggests that whilst it may be tempting to speculate on potential cross-breeding between the lineage that would lead to modern humans and Neanderthals, this may be over simplifying what is in effect a very complex relationship between different populations of prehistoric humans.  The finding of a Neanderthal-shaped labyrinth in an otherwise distinctly “non-Neanderthal” sample should not be regarded as evidence of population contact (gene flow) between central and western Eurasian Neanderthals and eastern archaic humans in China.  Dr. Trinkaus and his colleagues state that the broader implications of the Xujiayao skull CT research remain unclear.

Neanderthal-like Ear Structures Found in a Non Neanderthal Skull

Determining the shape of the inner ear structures.

Picture Credit: Wu Xiujie (Chinese Academy of Sciences)

The picture above shows the temporal bone of the Xujiayao specimen (brown) and CT scans (green) with the shape and position of the temporal labyrinth outlined in purple.

Dr. Trinkaus commented:

“The study of human evolution has always been messy, and these findings just make it all the messier.  It shows that human populations in the real world don’t act in nice simple patterns.  This study shows that you can’t rely on one anatomical feature or one piece of DNA as the basis for sweeping assumptions about the migrations of hominid species from one place to another.”

It looks like the human “family tree” has a more twisting branches than previously thought.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the compilation of this article.

World’s Largest-Ever Flying Bird – Pelagornis sandersi

A Seagull on Steroids - Pelagornis sandersi

A team of scientists from the Bruce Museum (Greenwich, Connecticut, USA), have published a paper on a new species of giant bird, believed to be the largest flying bird known to science, eclipsing the giant, prehistoric condor Argentavis magnificens.  With a wingspan estimated to be between 6.1 and 7.4 metres, this is more than twice the size of the wingspan of the largest living flying bird today, the Royal Albatross (Diomedea epomophora) and places P. sandersi alongside the biggest members of the Pterosaur family the Pteranodontia in terms of size.  Its wingspan is only exceeded by a handful of flying reptiles, most of which belong to the Azhdarchidae Pterosaur family.

In simple terms, the wingspan of this newly described Oligocene bird was easily longer than the height of the tallest giraffes living today.

A Line Drawing Showing the Size and Scale of Pelagornis sandersi

Line drawing of World’s Largest-Ever Flying Bird, Pelagornis sandersi, showing comparative wingspan. Shown left, a California Condor, shown right, a Royal Albatross.

Line drawing of World’s Largest-Ever Flying Bird, Pelagornis sandersi, showing comparative wingspan. Shown left, a California Condor, shown right, a Royal Albatross.

Image Credit: Liz Bradford

The line drawing in the picture above also reveals how much of the fossil skeleton has been found (marked in white).

The fossil material was discovered by James Malcolm, a volunteer from Charleston Museum (South Carolina), when a fossiliferous bone bed representing a marine environment was exposed during the building of a new terminal at Charleston International Airport in 1983.  The strata forms a component of the Chandler Bridge Formation dated to the Late Oligocene epoch (Chattian faunal stage).  A number of fossils of other marine birds were identified including fragmentary and badly distorted fossil elements from a smaller pelagornithid, but it is not clear whether these fossils represent a juvenile P. sandersi or a new species.

The pelagornithids were a group of strange, “pseudo-toothed” birds, whose fossils have been found in a number of Cenozoic aged fossil sites which represent marine environments.  It is likely that these creatures evolved in the Late Palaeogene and survived up until the end of the Pliocene epoch, going extinct around three million years ago.  Although, a number of species had large wingspans, these birds were very lightly built with paper thin bones, as a result of which, their fossils are extremely rare.  They were great aeronauts and were geographically very widespread with a number of specimens known from places as far apart as Chile and Australia.

To read an article about the discovery of a giant pelagornithid from South America: Giant Seabird from Chile

Article about the discovery of fossils found in South Australia: Giant Toothed Birds once Soared over Australia

The “teeth” of these birds have no enamel.  They are in effect bony projections from the jawbones, they may not be true teeth but they were sharp and would have proved very effective in grabbing the prey of this large, ocean-going flyer.  It is likely that Pelagornis sandersi caught fish and squid at the sea surface.  Scientists remain uncertain as to whether this creature was capable of diving to catch prey.

Dr. Daniel Ksepka Examines the Skull of P. sandersi

Dr. Daniel Ksepka studies the skull of Pelagornis sandersi, World’s Largest-Ever Flying Bird.

Dr. Daniel Ksepka studies the skull of Pelagornis sandersi, World’s Largest-Ever Flying Bird.

Picture Credit: Bruce Museum

Dr. Daniel Ksepka is the author of an academic paper which appears this week in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”.  This paper explores the flight capabilities of Pelagornis sandersi.  Although very large, the delicate bones suggest that this bird was very light.  Body weight estimates vary between 21 and 40 kilogrammes and the weight plus wingspan parameters have influenced the calculations of this creature’s ability to glide.  There is no doubt that this bird was an accomplished flyer, capable of travelling long distances, but the glide speed has been difficult to estimate because of the fragmentary fossil evidence.  A range of glide speeds have been stated, by Dr. Ksepka (lead author), from an impressive 10.6 metres per second to more than 17 metres per second.  To place this into context, Usain Bolt’s one hundred metres World Record of 9.58 seconds suggests an average speed over the race of around 10.4 metres per second, P. sandersi could effortlessly glide faster than Usain Bolt can sprint.  When the upper estimates are considered, Pelagornis sandersi could travel at speeds in excess of 38 miles per hour.

An Artist’s Reconstruction of the Giant Seabird Pelagornis sandersi

Giant pseudo-toothed sea bird.

Giant pseudo-toothed sea bird.

Picture Credit: Liz Bradford

Commenting on his study, Dr. Ksepka stated:

“Pelagornithids were like creatures out of a fantasy novel, there is nothing like them living today.”

It is very likely that this family of birds adapted to a long-range, marine soaring strategy just like extant albatrosses, the bigger the pelagornithid the greater distances it was able to travel.  The highly modified wing bones would have given this bird very long, slender wings, ideal for gliding.

Dr. Ksepka added:

“Pelagornis sandersi could have travelled for extreme distances whilst crossing ocean waters in search of prey”.

As well as the exceptionally well-preserved skull, bones from the right hind limb have been found.  These bones indicate that this bird would have been relatively clumsy on land.  It probably could not take off simply by leaping into the air and flapping its great wings, it probably needed to run down hill or jump off a cliff edge in order to take to the air.  Although it is difficult to ascertain the length of the primary feathers, it has been suggested that the primary feathers (the longest feathers found on the wing tips), would perhaps have measured more than a metre in length.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“This is a truly astonishing fossil.  Such delicate and fragile bones are rarely preserved in the fossil record and thanks to the work of Dr. Ksepka and his colleagues we are beginning to get a detailed insight into how these extraordinary birds lived.  The flight capabilities of this marine bird are simply astonishing.  For example, even at the lower end of the estimates for gliding speed, Pelagornis sandersi would have been capable of amazing feats of flight.  It would have been able to cross the entire Gulf of Mexico in less than a day!”

The species name honours retired Charleston Museum Curator Albert Sanders, who originally collected the fossil material.

Collecta Quetzalcoatlus with Prey Model

Quetzalcoatlus with Prey Model Reviewed

Over the last twenty years or so, our knowledge about flying reptiles (the Pterosaurs), has greatly increased, thanks to amazing, new fossil discoveries from countries such as Brazil and China and also as a consequence of sophisticated and innovative research carried out on a number of specimens housed in museum collections and this is a review of the recently introduced Collecta Quetzalcoatlus with prey prehistoric animal model.

Most flying reptile models depict these reptiles with their wings stretched out as if in flight, but this new replica bucks this trend by showing a Quetzalcoatlus on the ground, in a quadrupedal  pose.  Quetzalcoatlus fossils have been found in Texas and it was one of the very last of the Pterosaurs, living at the end of the Age of Dinosaurs.

The Collecta Quetzalcoatlus with Prey Model

A modern interpretation of a flying reptile.

A modern interpretation of a flying reptile.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Fossils of this Pterosaur have been found in sediments that were laid down inland.  Palaeontologists have long debated how such a huge animal, with a wingspan in excess of ten metres, and standing taller than a giraffe, might have lived.  Perhaps, Pterosaurs like Quetzalcoatlus filled the ecological niche of scavengers, like vultures do today.  An alternative view is that these large animals were active hunters, stalking the open plains and snatching up prey, just like Marabou storks do today in sub-Saharan Africa.

Did Large Azhdarchid Pterosaurs Stalk Prey on the Ground?

Some Pterosaurs were as tall as a giraffe.

Some Pterosaurs were as tall as a giraffe.

Picture Credit: M. Witton

The model depicts Quetzalcoatlus having just grabbed a baby Titanosaur, the Titanosaur species is an Alamosaurus, a long-necked dinosaur whose fossils have been found in the southern United States in rocks that date to approximately the same time as the strata in which Quetzalcoatlus fossils were found.  The Quetzalcoatlus with Titanosaur model, portrays this large Pterosaur as an active hunter, although it is very likely that in common with most other carnivores, these reptiles would have fed on the carcases of dead dinosaurs too.  The Titanosaur has been glued into the long beak,  however, we are aware of a number of model collectors who have carefully filed down the pegs that help secure the baby dinosaur in place, thus removing the Titanosaur from out of the Quetzalcoatlus’s mouth.  The baby dinosaur can be removed but we would urge caution for anyone attempting to do this.

The Quetzalcoatlus with Prey (Close up)

Feeding on young Titanosaurs.

Feeding on young Titanosaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The model has been carefully painted, the body is brown in colour with a pale yellow underside.  The enormous beak has been painted mostly black, but it does reveal lots of detail, some flashes of colour for example, and the sculptors have been keen to depict the nostrils, these can be located roughly half-way along the beak’s length.  The folded wings are painted a battleship grey.

The body of this flying reptile has been textured to give the impression that it was covered in a shaggy, rough-looking coat.  A number of Pterosaur fossils have now been excavated that reveal that these reptiles had bodies that were covered in hair-like structures.

The model measures around 12 centimetres tall, based on an adult azhdarchid Pterosaur like Quetzalcoatlus standing close to 6 metres high, we estimate that this replica is in approximately  1:48 scale.  The head looks massive in comparison to the body-size and the tiny feet, however, these proportions are correct.  Pterosaurs like Quetzalcoatlus had the longest skulls of any terrestrial Tetrapod.  This model is part of the huge Collecta prehistoric animal model series, this is a not-to-scale range of figures.

Collecta also make a number of scale model prehistoric animals, these are often referred to as “Deluxe”.  There is even a Pterosaur represented in this model series (Pteranodon).

To view the Collecta range of scale models: Collecta Deluxe Models

Reflecting a Modern Interpretation of the Pterosauria

A long, shaggy, insulating coat.

A long, shaggy, insulating coat.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This is a beautifully crafted, hand-painted replica of a Quetzalcoatlus with prey.  It is an exciting addition to the Collecta range of prehistoric animals and we at Everything Dinosaur send out a Quetzalcoatlus fact sheet with each model that we sell.

To view the Collecta range of not to scale prehistoric animals: Collecta Prehistoric Animals

What Kind of Prehistoric Animal was Urvogel?

Explaining about Archaeopteryx

Earlier this week, Everything Dinosaur was emailed by a young dinosaur fan who asked about a prehistoric animal named Urvogel.  She had come across it whilst learning about the famous fossil site of Solnhofen in southern Germany.  The word “Urvogel” is German and it means “first bird”, it refers to Archaeopteryx (A. lithographica), the fossils of which are synonymous with the finely grained limestone beds of the Solnhofen quarries.

The Ancient “Dino-Bird” Archaeopteryx

the first bird - "Urvogel".

the first bird – “Urvogel”.

Picture Credit: Carl Buell

Palaeontologists now know that this creature, fossils of which show a transitional form between Theropod dinosaurs and birds, was probably not the first bird to evolve.  However, when a spectacular fossil discovery was announced in 1861, Archaeopteryx became the first feathered fossil of its kind to be formerly studied and its fossils caused a sensation, as only two years before Charles Darwin had published “The Origin of Species” that outlined the case for evolution and natural selection.

The Solnhofen limestone deposits are finely grained and they outcrop in an east to west belt north of Munich and south of Nuremberg.  Hundreds of fossils of invertebrates have been found and the vertebrate fauna preserved includes over fifty types of fossil fish, around thirty reptiles (Pterosaurs, marine reptiles, dinosaurs and crocodiles).  The Solnhofen deposits are regarded as a Lagerstätte.  This is a German phrase from the words Lager (which means storage) and Stätte (which means place).  It refers to a deposit of sedimentary strata that contains a lot of fossil material that is exceptionally well preserved.

During the Late Jurassic, shallow tropical lagoons and small islands stretched all the way from Portugal in the south through France and into southern Germany.  Coral reefs formed in the tropical seas and these reefs split the coastline up forming a series of isolated lagoons.  These lagoons were cut off from the sea and also from terrestrial run off.  The salinity levels rose in the lagoons and the water may have become oxygen deficient.  This made the mud on the bottom of these lagoons almost devoid of life so any animal or plant remains that drifted into the lagoon was not consumed by scavengers.  The almost stagnant waters had little current so the remains of corpses were not broken up.  Organisms buried by the soft, carbonate muds and formed as fossils in the finely grained sediment therefore have exceptional details preserved and many of these body fossils are almost complete.

Wild Safari Dinosaurs Ammonite Model Reviewed

A Review of the Wild Safari Dinosaurs Ammonite Model

The design team at Safari Ltd have produced a number of prehistoric animal replicas over the years, broadening the scope of their Wild Safari Dinosaurs range to include other extinct creatures and not just dinosaurs.  In 2014, a model of an Ammonite was introduced to the delight of teachers, fossil hunters and model collectors alike.

The Ammonite Model (Wild Safari Dinosaurs)

Large eyes, deeply ribbed shell perhaps a model of a Pavlovia spp?

Large eyes, deeply ribbed shell perhaps a model of a Pavlovia spp?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Ammonites are an extinct group of Cephalopods, that belong to the extremely diverse Mollusc phylum.  Ammonite fossils, because of their abundance and variety, are very important to geologists and palaeontologists.  Along with two other types of Mollusc, the Bivalves and the Gastropods, (for example snails), Ammonite fossils help scientists to date geological strata relative to other rock formations.

Closely related to living Cephalopods such as squid, the nautilus and cuttlefish, Ammonites lived in chambered shells.  In most species the shells were coiled round and the animal lived in the last section of the outer whorl of the coil, in what is referred to as the body chamber.  The shells made of aragonite, a form of calcium carbonate, are extremely numerous in the fossil record, although the soft parts, the Ammonite’s actual  body tissues are virtually unknown.

It is believed that Ammonites had eight, grasping arms and  two much larger tentacles.  These two tentacles had many suckers on the end which helped these animals grab prey.  It is likely that because of the variety and diversity of Ammonite species, that these creatures occupied a number of niches in marine food webs.  For example, large actively swimming species could have hunted fish, crustaceans or jellyfish, others may have been scavengers, many smaller species probably fed on plankton.

The Ammonite Model from Safari Ltd

A great Ammonite model for use in schools, museums and for model collectors.

A great Ammonite model for use in schools, museums and for model collectors.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Safari Ltd replica is beautifully painted, the coiled shell being a metallic bronze colour, the body chamber battleship grey with the animal itself painted in subtle oranges and pinks.  Note the large eye, like modern Cephalopods such as squid and cuttlefish , Ammonites very probably had excellent eyesight.  They were probably visual hunters, their large eyes giving them excellent peripheral vision to help them avoid predators.

When viewed from the front, a good view of the muscular arms can be obtained.  The two specialised tentacles are painted a lighter colour and can be seen projecting downwards.  The ends, of these two tentacles have been provided with a number of round suckers by the design team at Safari Ltd, these represent the soft, fleshy pad called the dactylus, the apparatus with which the Ammonite could grasp and secure prey.

A View from the Front (Anterior View) of the Ammonite Model

Eight arms and two grasping tentacles.

Eight arms and two grasping tentacles.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Projecting out from underneath is the hypernome, a narrow, muscular tube that squirted water, providing the Ammonite with a form of jet propulsion.

The shell has very prominent ribs which are raised in the last whorl of the shell to form two rows of parallel spines.  Such ornamentation would have helped protect the Ammonite from attack, perhaps deterring a marine reptile such as a Mosasaur from taking a bite.  Whilst these spines would have assisted with the animal’s defence, they do not help much with streamlining.  It may be difficult to identify the precise species that the sculptors at Safari Ltd have based their model on, but due to the shape of the shell, those large ribs and projecting points, the model probably represents quite a slow swimming species.

The Wild Safari Dinosaurs Ammonite Model

A super model of an Ammonite.

A super model of an Ammonite.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This Ammonite measures a fraction under eleven centimetres in length and the shell has a diameter of six and a half centimetres.  It is not possible to put a scale on this figure, most Ammonite species were small, with shells only a few centimetres across, although the fossil record has preserved the remains of some giant forms with shells in excess of two metres in diameter.

To view the range of Safari Ltd models: Safari Ltd Prehistoric Animal Models

It is great to see a replica of an Ammonite added to the Wild Safari Dinos model range.  It is ideal for use in schools as an inexpensive teaching aid when exploring fossils and in addition it can be added to the display cases of Ammonite fossil material to give viewers an appreciation of what the animal actually may have looked like.

This is an exciting addition to the Wild Safari Dinosaurs model range made by Safari Ltd and it means that Everything Dinosaur now has an Ammonite replica to supply to model collectors and fans of prehistoric animals.  We even supply a fact sheet all about Ammonites and this will be sent out with model sales.

Collecta Quetzalcoatlus with Prey Video Review

A Video Review of the Quetzalcoatlus with Prey Model (Collecta)

In 2014, those clever people at Collecta introduced another Pterosaur model into their not-to-scale range of prehistoric animals.  Not only did this new figure depict a flying reptile on the ground and not in a flying pose with wings outstretched, it also portrayed Quetzalcoatlus as a hunter of dinosaurs.  The Quetzalcoatlus with prey model shows this large Pterosaur with a baby Alamosaurus in its huge beak.

The Quetzalcoatlus with Prey Model (Collecta)

A Quetzalcoatlus has snatched up a baby dinosaur.

A Quetzalcoatlus has snatched up a baby dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of Collecta figures: Collecta Prehistoric Animal Models

With such an amazing model in the Collecta range, our experts at Everything Dinosaur felt compelled to make a short video review of this replica.

Everything Dinosaur’s Video Review (Quetzalcoatlus with Prey)

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In this five minute video (four minutes fifty-seven seconds), Everything Dinosaur looks at this model in a little more detail.  Why the unfortunate Alamosaurus model was chosen as the prey is explained and team members comment on the colouration, size and scale of this replica.

As for pronunciation, the only species in the Quetzalcoatlus genus named to date is Q. northropi named in 1975.  The genus name comes from the feathered serpent God of  the Aztec people called Quetzalcoatl.  The genus name is pronounced kwet-zal-co-at-lus or kwet-zal-coat-lus, but one thing is for sure, the genus name of this  huge, Late Cretaceous, azhdarchid Pterosaur needs a bit of a run up when it comes to saying it.

Feathers Evolved Before Flight? Archaeopteryx had Feathered Trousers

Archaeopteryx Fossil Suggests Origins of Flight Complex

Adorning the front cover of the latest edition of the academic publication “Nature” is a beautiful colour photograph of the eleventh specimen of Archaeopteryx found.  The fossil might be in the hands of a private collector, but here is an example of wonderful co-operation between an individual and an academic institution.  For permission has been granted for this fossil, discovered in southern Germany in 2011, to be extensively researched and the first studies into this remarkable fossil have just been published.  We have a car manufacturer too, to thank for this research.

The Eleventh Archaeopteryx Specimen

Excellent feather preservation

Excellent feather preservation

Picture Credit: Helmut Tischlinger

The picture above shows the Archaeopteryx fossil that has been the subject of this research.  Although, like the majority of Archaeopteryx specimens the fossil has been crushed, the impressions of feathers on the wings, the tail and most significantly on the hind limbs can be clearly made out.  Everything Dinosaur has added labels to help readers to understand what this fossil shows.

The plumage is extremely well preserved and even under normal light, impressions of feathers can be clearly made out.  This has permitted a research team from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) to study the feathers of this iconic creature and to compare them with feathered dinosaurs and bird fossils from China.

Palaeontologist Dr Oliver Rauhut of the Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences (LMU) and at the Bavarian State Collection for Palaeontology and Geology (Munich) and a co-author of the study commented:

“For the first time, it has become possible to examine the detailed structure of the feathers on the body, the tail and, above all, on the legs.”

Previous studies of this transitional fossil showed that Archaeopteryx possessed pennaceous feathers, the same sort of feathers associated with extant birds that can fly.  The feathers were asymmetrical and helped maintain an aerodynamic shape in the air of this “dino-bird”.  The presence of such pennaceous feathers on the hind legs had puzzled scientists.  Flight feathers on the hind limbs had led some palaeontologists to consider whether Archaeopteryx used its back legs in flight, it was, in effect, a four-winged glider.  Or did the feathers on the hind limbs serve another purpose, perhaps for display or for insulation, helping to keep this warm-blooded (very likely), little Theropod warm.

Specimen number eleven shows for the first time an imprint of virtually all of the plumage of Archaeopteryx including the tail feathers that measure up to 11.4 centimetres in length and those controversial feathers on the hind limbs that range in length from 4 to 4.5 centimetres.  Analysis of the feathers on the hind legs show that they were symmetrical on either side of the stem (rachis), unlike aerodynamic feathers that have one long side and one narrower side (like an asymmetrical aircraft’s wing).  It seems that the feathers on the hind limbs described as “feathered trousers” did not have a role in flight.

This finding contradicts the theory that the flapping flight of modern Aves was preceded by an intermediary stage involving four-winged gliding.

A Close up of the Feathers on the Hind Leg

Feather impression in the rock clearly visible.

Feather impression in the rock clearly visible.

Picture Credit: Helmut Tischlinger

The tail feathers, which were more than half the length of the caudal vertebrae (tail bones), were asymmetrical indicating that the tail could have been involved in flight, perhaps helping to provide lift and control.  Co-author of the study Dr. Christian Foth (LMU) along with De. Rauhut and photographer Helmut Tischlinger examined a number of feathered bird and dinosaur fossils.  They discovered that these specimens showed a great deal of variation in feathers.  Many of the feathered creatures in the study would have been incapable of flight as their arms were too short, other fossils had feathers in impractical places to permit a flight function.

The research team outline a new hypothesis that after feathers evolved, they became adapted for a range of different purposes, for display, for camouflage, to help keep animals warm and when the Dinosauria et al began to take to a more arboreal or aerial existence they evolved further to become more useful in flight and more aerodynamic in their shape.   This theory suggests that there was not one single origin of bird flight, but that it may have evolved in a number of species over a significant time period – an example of convergent evolution.

 A Model of an Archaeopteryx (Papo Archaeopteryx)

New from Papo for 2014 a model of Archaeopteryx.

New from Papo for 2014 a model of Archaeopteryx.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Papo Archaeopteryx model introduced in 2014, depicts Archaeopteryx with “feathered trousers”.  The feathers although unlikely to have a role in powered flight, may have helped keep the legs warm or offered protection from bites from any of the prey of this carnivorous creature.  Perhaps these feathers acted like air brakes helping to increase wind resistance as the animal came into land, thus slowing Archaeopteryx down and assisting with landing.

The German based researchers conclude that their study of the pennaceous feathers on Archaeopteryx, advanced Maniraptoran dinosaurs and primitive birds indicates that these structures evolved in a functional context and not specifically for flight.  Such feathers were slowly adapted for a role in the flight function, several lineages may have followed similar evolutionary developments leading to the aerodynamic, asymmetrical flight feathers occurring in a number of species.  If this is the case, then the origin of powered flight might be a whole lot more complex than previously thought.

We have the German car manufacturer Volkswagen to thank for this research.   The detailed analysis of the fossil was made possible by financial support from the Volkswagen Foundation.

A spokes person from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“The few fossils we have of Archaeopteryx may even represent sub-species or separate species.  We could imagine a scenario whereby on the relatively isolated islands of the Solnhofen archipelago, different types of feathered, Archaeopteryx evolved.  They may have once shared a common, mainland ancestor, but as populations became separated onto different islands, these weak-flyers evolved specific forms for each island habitat, a sort of Darwin’s finches as found on the Galapagos today but in this case, evolutionary dynamics driven by flight capabilities and not beak shape or size related to food resources.”

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