Brazil’s Biggest Dinosaur To Date

Austroposeidon magnificus and Llewellyn Ivor Price

This week has seen the formal naming and scientific description of Austroposeidon magnificus, the largest dinosaur, indeed the largest terrestrial animal known to science to have ever lived in Brazil.  Writing in the on line academic journal “PLoS One”, the researchers, which include Dr. Alexander Kellner of the Federal University (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and the director of the Earth Sciences Museum, Diogenes de Almeida Campos, also based in Rio de Janeiro, announced the latest edition to the Titanosauria clade.

An Illustration of Austroposeidon magnificus a New Brazilian Dinosaur

An illustration of Austroposeidon magnificus.

Austroposeidon magnificus size estimate.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Fossils Found in 1953

The fossil material which consists of two cervical vertebrae (neck bones), a fairly complete first dorsal vertebra and several other partial dorsal vertebrae with at least one sacral element was found by pioneering Brazilian palaeontologist Llewellyn Ivor Price in 1953.  Sadly, Llewellyn Ivor Price died in 1980, although he made a major contribution to the advancement of geology and palaeontology in Brazil, these particular, giant fossilised bones and their significance was not recognised during his lifetime.  Ironically, the paper on this new herbivorous dinosaur “A New Giant Titanosauria (Dinosauria: Sauropoda) from the Late Cretaceous Bauru Group, Brazil”, was published in the same week of October that Llewellyn Ivor Price passed away.  The paper being published on the 5th October 2016, the palaeontologist passing on the 9th October 1980.

Museum Director Diogenes de Almeida Campos with the Partial Backbone

Elements from the partial vertebral column of Austroposeidon.

The museum director poses with the giant bones of Austroposeidon.

Picture Credit: Silvia Izquierdo/Associated Press

In numerous cases, fossils are stored for many years prior to their formal description.  A lack of funds or indeed trained staff to examine fossils within a collection can mean that it can be decades before fossils are scientifically examined.  In the 1950’s, little was known about the Titanosauria clade compared to what we know today, although Titanosaurus, the dinosaur after which this clade was named, had been described back in the late nineteenth Century (T. indicus 1877) – although most of the material associated with Titanosaurus indicus is regarded as nomen dubium (concerns raised over validity).

The Tenth Brazilian Titanosaur

With the naming of Austroposeidon magnificus, Brazil has a total of ten Titanosaurs (we think), although based on these fossil remains A. magnificus is by far the largest, with the researchers estimating that it would have reached lengths of around twenty-five metres.  The name of this new Late Cretaceous dinosaur reflects its impressive size, the name means “great, elevated, noble southern earthquake lizard”.  The fossils come from Upper Cretaceous strata of the Presidente Prudente Formation (Bauru Group, Paraná Basin), São Paulo State, south-eastern Brazil.  This unit has also produced the fossilised remains of two other Brazilian Titanosaurs, Brasilotitan nemophagus (which was named in 2013) and Gondwanatitan faustoi (named in 1999).  Although Brasilotitan and Gondwanatitan are only known from fragmentary remains they are likely to have been considerably smaller than the newly described Austroposeidon.  Gregory S. Paul has estimated Gondwanatitan to have been around seven metres in length, whereas, Everything Dinosaur team members estimate Brasilotitan to have been slightly bigger perhaps as much as ten metres long.  Prior to the naming of Austroposeidon, the largest Titanosaur known from Brazil (we think), was Maxakalisaurus topai, fossils of which come from another member of the Late Cretaceous Bauru Group.  Once estimated to be around thirteen metres long, in June 2016 a fossilised jaw bone and other cranial elements were ascribed to Maxakalisaurus and the size of this dinosaur was revised upwards to around twenty metres.

The Fossilised Fragmentary Vertebrae on Display

Austroposeidon fossil material.

The fossilised vertebrae of Austroposeidon on display.

Picture Credit: Silvia Izquierdo/Associated Press

The large bone in the centre of the picture is cervical vertebrae 13, the number represents the place in the neck that this bone was located.  This bone shows some of the four autapomorphies (unique traits) that led to the identification of the new dinosaur genus.  Cervical thirteen was one of the bones subjected to CT scans in order to reveal internal structures, the research team identified dense growth rings, a first for the Sauropoda.  Austroposeidon shows that giant Titanosaurs were present in Brazil during the Late Cretaceous, as well as further south in South America (Argentina).

Although the fossil material is very fragmentary, the scientists were able to undertake a phylogenetic analysis, in the Sauropoda the bones that make up the spine are highly diagnostic.  The researchers concluded that Austroposeidon magnificus is nested within the Lognkosauria, a clade of Titanosaurs that includes a number of super-sized genera.  Based on this research, the authors of the paper conclude that this dinosaur was probably related to Puertasaurus, another enormous Titanosaur that lived at approximately the same time as Austroposeidon, but its fossils are found further south.

Llewellyn Ivor Price may have died many years ago, but his fossil finding exploits are still helping to shape our understanding of Brazil’s prehistoric past.

A Dinosaur “Wow Wall”

Displaying Children’s Dinosaur Topic Work

Year 1 children at Lowton St Mary’s CE Primary have commenced their autumn term topic entitled “Why are humans not like dinosaurs?  The children have not learned about prehistoric animals in school before, for the teacher too, this is a new topic, requiring careful planning to help cement the learning targets already achieved in Reception and to prepare the children for more directed learning tasks targeted on developing confidence with literacy and numeracy.  A question at the heart of the topic, provides the teaching team with a focal point on which to centre the scheme of work for the term.  In this instance, the question asking about the differences between people and dinosaurs links into one of the key areas of the English national curriculum for Lower Key Stage 1, that of learning about our bodies.

A Focal Point for a Dinosaur Themed Term Topic – “Why are Humans not like Dinosaurs”?

A "Wow Wall" in Year 1 helping to enthuse the children.

Why are humans not like dinosaurs?

Picture Credit: Lowton St Mary’s CE Primary/Everything Dinosaur

A “Wow Wall”

A number of display areas have been prepared around the well-organised classroom to showcase the children’s work.  This can provide a focal point for the children and allows good examples of writing (fiction and non-fiction), to be prominently displayed.  During a visit to the school, to conduct a dinosaur themed workshop with the class to act as a provocation for the term topic, our fossil expert provided further advice as well as some handy extension resources to support planning of the topic areas.  One suggestion was to introduce the story of Mary Anning (1799-1847).  Mary found a number of important fossils around the cliffs of Lyme Regis and the tongue twister “she sells sea shells” is connected with her.  Mary also provides a fine role model for girls, in what otherwise might be viewed as a boy focused topic.

Mary Anning – A Famous Fossil Hunter from Dorset (southern England)

Mary AnningPoster

Helping to learn all about scientists.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A Dinosaur Museum

Many teachers dedicate an area of the classroom for a dinosaur museum, this allows craft ideas such as fabric and clay models or salt dough fossils to be displayed.  This permits the teaching team to support an area of curriculum learning related to exploring the properties of everyday materials.  During our visit we met one little boy who explained that he had some fossils at home.  With permission, these items could be brought into school and put on display in the museum, this allows the teacher to explore with the children what might be needed to keep the fossils safe, how might the fossils be displayed?  When creating a dinosaur museum in a classroom environment we like to ask the class what sort of rules their museum should have.  Thinking about the rules for good behaviour in the museum links into the PSHE elements (personal, social, health and economic values), that are encouraged by Ofsted.  The children considering appropriate behaviour in their museum can help them to understand and develop knowledge, understanding, attitudes and responsibilities with regards to their own behaviour in the class generally.

Different Materials Used to Make a Prehistoric Animal Themed Display

A dinosaur themed display.

Different materials used to make a prehistoric animal themed display.

Picture Credit: Lowton St Mary’s CE Primary/Everything Dinosaur

The prehistoric animal themed display, the “wow wall” as we like to call it, was comprised of a number of different materials.  This was a clever way of helping the children to explore textures as well as the properties of materials.

Milk Carton Woolly Mammoth

Milk Carton Woolly Mammoth

Here’s a simple craft idea for teachers, home educationalists and museum staff who want to teach about Ice Age prehistoric animals.  A plastic milk carton can be turned into a Woolly Mammoth model.

A Milk Carton Woolly Mammoth Model

Making a Woolly Mammoth out of a plastic milk carton.

Making a Woolly Mammoth out of a milk carton.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This is a simple and fun to make Woolly Mammoth model and would be a great activity for Key Stage 1 or Lower Key Stage 2 children to try.

What You Will Need to Make a Milk Carton Woolly Mammoth

  • Empty plastic milk cartons (washed out to remove any milk residue)
  • Pair of round ended scissors
  • Pencil and black highlighter pen
  • White card or paper
  • Paints

Taking your milk carton, carefully cut it into half, using the handle as a guide.  The handle will form the trunk of your Mammoth so cut the handle first then cut around the rest of the carton about two centimetres lower down the carton.  This will ensure that your Mammoth’s trunk will be raised off the ground.

What You Need to Make a Milk Carton Mammoth

What you need to make a Woolly Mammoth model from a milk carton.

Tools required to make a milk carton Mammoth.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Once the milk carton has been cut, then simply cut two tongue-shaped slots on the widest part of carton, these will make the legs.  Use a pencil to sketch out where the cuts will be made and then go over the pencil line with the black marker pen to give you a distinctive shape to follow as you cut.  Finally, cut a third tongue-shaped slot on the back of the carton, this slot will help to form the back legs.  If you want, you can cut a small “V” shape at the top of this slot, you can then bend this plastic out to make the Woolly Mammoth’s little tail.

The Milk Carton Woolly Mammoth Begins to Take Shape

Milk carton Woolly Mammoth takes shape.

Woolly Mammoth takes shape (milk carton).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Once the legs and tail have been cut out, simply paint the carton a sandy, brown colour to mimic the shaggy Mammoth coat.  Add the eyes (draw on the tail, if you have not cut out a “V-shaped” slot at the back and add the five rounded nails on each foot.  You can mark the area of the ears as well.  Remember, Woolly Mammoths had relatively short ears compared to those of modern elephants (an adaptation against the cold).

Build Your Own Herd of Woolly Mammoths

A pair of milk carton Woolly Mammoths.

Build your own herd of milk carton Woolly Mammoths.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Adding the Tusks

To finish off your Woolly Mammoth cut two small holes either side of the trunk and then slot in a piece of white card or paper to make the tusks.  Don’t forget to bend the tusks upwards a fraction and there you have it an easy to make milk carton Woolly Mammoth, a super craft idea to support teaching about Ice Age animals and life in the Stone Age.

Different sized milk cartons can be used to make different sized members of your Mammoth herd.

Everything Dinosaur Unboxing Video

Dino Toy Blog Unboxing Video

Those clever people responsible for the Dino Toy Blog and the Dinosaur Toy Forum have posted up an unboxing video having received some prehistoric animal models from Everything Dinosaur.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur always enjoy seeing videos such as these, it is always a pleasure to receive feedback on our models and our customer service.  We are very fortunate to have some amazing customers who are passionate about prehistoric animals and model collecting.  In this short video, the narrator talks through his latest acquisitions with a focus on marine reptiles.

Dino Toy Blog Unboxing (Everything Dinosaur)

Video Credit: Dino Toy Blog

Top Marks for Sauropelta

Included in the haul, is the fabulous Wild Safari Prehistoric World Sauropelta dinosaur model.  It was voted the top dinosaur toy of 2015 by Dinosaur Toy Forum members, just pipping the 1:4 scale CollectA Supreme Guidraco which also features in this unboxing video.  Look out also for the CollectA Temnodontosaurus platyodon and a recently introduced interpretation of the fearsome Liopleurodon from Bullyland.

The Dino Toy Blog YouTube channel has lots of informative video reviews of dinosaur toys and replicas, plus it showcases the private model collections of many of the dedicated forum members.

Check out the YouTube channel: The YouTube Channel of the Dinosaur Toy Blog and don’t forget to subscribe.

The Bizarre Atopodentatus unicus

This video also gives viewers the opportunity to take a close look at the Paleo-Creatures Atopodentatus figure, a replica of a basal sauropterygian of the early Middle Triassic of south-western China.  Everything Dinosaur sells the Paleo-Creatures range of hand-crafted prehistoric animal models exclusively in the UK.  The narrator points out that recent fossil finds may have changed our understanding with regards to the skull and jaws of this herbivorous sea creature, but the Paleo-Creatures Atopodentatus still remains highly collectible.

The Paleo-Creatures Atopodentatus Marine Reptile Model

The Paleo-Cretatures Atopodentatus figure.

The Paleo-Creatures Atopodentatus marine reptile figure.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the Paleo-Creatures line at Everything Dinosaur: Paleo-Creatures Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models

Praising Everything Dinosaur’s Customer Service

Regular customers of Everything Dinosaur won’t be surprised to hear that the narrator praises Everything Dinosaur’s speedy delivery service.  The parcel arrived the following day.  This rapid delivery is mentioned in the video review, lots of companies may promise speedy service, but at Everything Dinosaur we really try to leave up to our reputation for a fast turnaround and despatch of orders, after all, we know how keen dinosaur fans and model collectors are to receive their items.

Once again, we would like to express our thanks to those talented people behind the Dino Toy Blog and the Dinosaur Toy Forum for creating this video of an unboxing of prehistoric animal models from Everything Dinosaur.

To read our original article published in 2014 announcing the discovery of Atopodentatus: Bizarre New Marine Reptile Described

To read our May 2014 article updating the description of Atopodentatus in the light of further research and a study of less distorted skull fossil material: Atopodentatus Unzipped

Reception Classes Explore Dinosaurs

Manor Primary and Dinosaurs

Friday was yet another busy day for the young learners at Manor Primary School (Coseley, West Midlands).  The three Reception classes had embarked on their first ever term topic and to cap an exciting week, the children were visited by one of the dinosaur experts from Everything Dinosaur.  With three workshops to deliver over the course of the day, the teaching schedule was quite tight, but within minutes of arriving our team member had settled in and prepared the spacious dance hall in readiness for the first of that morning’s dinosaur workshops.  There was plenty of time prior to the arrival of the children to conduct a briefing with one of the Foundation Stage teachers.  This helped establish learning objectives and intended outcomes for each class workshop.  In addition, our dinosaur expert was given the opportunity to view some of the excellent preparation that had been undertaken by the teaching team in this Ofsted rated “outstanding” school.

RLC Class Children Had Thought About Dinosaurs Prior to the Workshop

A simplified KWL chart with Reception children.

Reception children think about dinosaurs. What can they tell the teacher?

Picture Credit: Manor Primary/Everything Dinosaur

First Time Dinosaurs

This was the first term topic for the three Reception classes, the autumn term marking the transition from the Nursery programme onto the more structured learning associated with Foundation Stage 2 on the national curriculum.  It was also the first time that the teachers had covered dinosaurs with their charges, our handy phonetic pronunciation guide was greatly appreciated, we know how challenging some of those dinosaur names can be!  The extra resources that we had provided were well received and there was even an opportunity to inspect the organised and tidy classrooms prior to the start of the school day.

As a teaching school, providing support and training to other schools in the area, Manor Primary sets high standards for both pupils and staff.  Emphasis is placed on developing confident, enthusiastic learners and the stimulating activities that the children had been focused on in the first few days of this term topic provided plenty of evidence of a thoughtful and well-planned scheme of work.  Some of the children had made clay fossils, whilst others had been constructing dinosaur teeth.   One class had been excavating their very own set of dinosaur bones in the classroom sand tray.  Dinosaurs and fossils as a topic certainly gives plenty of scope for exploring the properties of materials as well as for creative, imaginative play.

RAB Class Had Been Making Their Own Dinosaur Land

A Reception class dinosaur themed creative play area.

A creative play area with a dinosaur theme in the Reception class.

Picture Credit: Manor Primary/Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaur Drawing Challenge

Plenty of space had been set aside in each of the three Reception classrooms to allow the children’s work to be displayed.  We challenged the children to have a go at drawing their very own dinosaur, but we also wanted to see plenty of labelling of the dinosaur’s body parts.  Could they label the dinosaur’s head?  Lots of pre-knowledge was demonstrated by the children, they certainly know their dinosaurs, but our workshops also focused on developing vocabulary as well as exploring the differences between people and prehistoric animals.  Plenty of good listening in evidence, which was quite remarkable given the fact that some of these enthusiastic palaeontologists have only just turned four.

RKM Class Take Up Palaeontology in the Sand Tray

Reception class dig for dinosaurs.

Digging for dinosaurs with a Reception class.

Picture Credit: Manor Primary/Everything Dinosaur

The children certainly have access to diverse and varied dinosaur themed activities.  All learning styles seem to be well catered for.  We hope that our novel way of demonstrating the size of a Tyrannosaurus rex, part of the extension resources that were provided, helps the FS2 children to appreciate that some dinosaurs were very big indeed!  Or were they massive, giant, huge, bigger – just some or the words the children came up with when we examined fossils and challenged the children to describe some of them.

Graduate Student Unlocks the Secrets of Sea Turtle Evolution

Ctenochelys acris Comes Out of its Shell

Palaeontologists have long puzzled over the origins of today’s extant species of sea turtle.  Thanks to the efforts of a post-doctoral student at the University of Alabama (Birmingham, Alabama, USA), scientists have been able to confirm the existence of a marine adapted turtle representing the oldest known member of the lineage that gave rise to modern sea turtles.  In a paper published in the academic publication “The Journal of Systematic Palaeontology”, lead author Drew Gentry, has been able to identify several 80-million-year-old fossils as Ctenochelys (tee-no-key-lees) acris, thus helping to piece together the evolutionary history of sea turtles.

Researchers from the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biology worked with two relatively complete turtle skeletons, along with several smaller pieces, that are housed at Birmingham’s McWane Science Centre, the study confirms the existence of Ctenochelys acris, previously known only from a few isolated fragments.

A Scale Drawing of Ctenochelys acris Showing Some of the Fossils Used in the Research

Scale drawing of Ctenochelys.

A silhouette showing the proposed outline of Ctenochelys with a frogman providing scale.

Picture Credit: University of Alabama

The McWane fossils help solve a long-standing debate as to whether this animal was a unique species.  They also provide insights into the evolutionary history of living species of sea turtles, animals such as the Ridley, the Leatherback, the Green and the Loggerhead, all of which are, sadly, classified as vulnerable or endangered or critically endangered according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Alabama During the Late Cretaceous

The area of the south-western United States was covered by a shallow, tropical sea for much of the Late Cretaceous.  The fossils ascribed to C. acris have been excavated from marine strata dated to around 80 million years ago (Campanian faunal stage), a time when sea levels were much higher than today and the Western Interior Seaway covered most of the United States.  During this time sea turtle diversity was very high and lead researcher on the project Drew Gentry explained:

“Climatic warming during the mid-Cretaceous resulted in elevated sea levels and temperatures that, in turn, provided an abundance of new niches for marine turtles to invade.  Represented today by only seven living species, sea turtles were once one of the most diverse lineages of marine reptiles.  Before the cataclysm that claimed the dinosaurs, there may have been dozens of specialised species of sea turtle living in different oceanic habitats around the world.”

A Diagram Showing North America Approximately 75 million years ago

The Western Interior Seaway.

A map showing the Western Interior Seaway of North America circa 75 mya.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Not Sure of the Validity of Ctenochelys acris

Prior to the assessment of the McWane fossil specimens, palaeontologists were unsure as to the validity of Ctenochelys acris.  Not only do the newly discovered fossils prove C. acris existed, they may also be a critical piece in a much larger puzzle of sea turtle evolution.

Drew Gentry added:

“There is strong evidence which indicates freshwater turtles may have evolved to occupy marine environments at several points in the past.  But most of those lineages went extinct, making the exact origins of living or ‘true’ sea turtles somewhat of a mystery.”

The study suggests that the earliest ancestors of today’s sea turtles may have originated from waters covering the south-western United States.  By comparing the skeleton of C. acris with those of both extinct and living species of turtles, Gentry discovered that C. acris possessed traits of both sea turtles and their closest living turtle relatives, snapping turtles.

“This animal was a bottom-dwelling sea turtle that fed primarily on molluscs and small invertebrates.  Unlike the ‘rudder-like’ hind-limbs of today’s sea turtles, C. acris had large, powerful hind-limbs to help push it through the water, a lot like a modern-day snapping turtle.”

Scientists are hopeful that by learning more about the origins of sea turtles, this may lead to better protection for those species still found today.  Studying the diversity and evolutionary history of marine turtles during previous periods of climate change can provide meaningful insights into what effects climate and environmental changes might have on modern marine turtle populations.

The fossils that led to this research were discovered in 1986 and contributed to what was then the Red Mountain Museum.  The McWane Science Centre was founded in 1998 by the merger of the Red Mountain Museum and a nearby children’s museum, Discovery Place.

The palaeontological and archaeological collection at McWane is one of the largest in the south-eastern United States and houses a number of significant finds from across Alabama, including the recently announced Eotrachodon, a type of duck-billed dinosaur.

To read an article about Alabama’s very own duck-billed dinosaur: Duck-billed Dinosaurs – Sweet Home Alabama!

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

Two New Species of British Ichthyosaur Swim into View

Two New Species of Jurassic Ichthyosaur Described After Six Years of Research

Much has been written about the “bone wars”, the rivalry between two distinguished and very eminent pioneering American palaeontologists Charles Othniel Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope as they competed with each other to excavate and describe the fossilised bones of dinosaurs from the western United States.  However, during Georgian and Victorian times in Britain, a race was on between well-to-do landowners to excavate and put on display a myriad of strange antediluvian creatures, the remains of which were being found in quarries and construction sites as the industrial revolution transformed the countryside.

Thanks to some dogged detective work, palaeontologists Dean Lomax (Honorary Scientist at The University of Manchester) and Professor Judy Massare (Brockport College, New York) have identified two new species of Ichthyosaur (fish-lizard), from fossil material excavated more than 150 years ago.  These two, very modern scientists are helping to write a new chapter on the evolution, radiation and diversification of British Ichthyosaurs, a story that links back to the early pioneers of palaeontology.

Palaeontologist Dean Lomax Peruses an Ichthyosaur Specimen

Dean Lomax (palaeontologist) studies Ichthyosaur fossils.

Palaeontologist Dean Lomax with one of the Ichthyosaur specimens from the study, BRSUG 25300, the holotype specimen of Ichthyosaurus larkini.

Picture Credit: University of Manchester

Britain During the Jurassic

For much of the Jurassic, the area now known as the British Isles was covered by a warm, tropical sea.  Scattered across this seascape were a number of small islands, this area superficially resembled the Caribbean of today, but instead of green iguanas, basilisk lizards, wild pigs and capuchin monkeys typical of islands such as Barbados, Puerto Rico and Grenada, the terrestrial landscape back in the Jurassic was dominated by dinosaurs.

For further information on the different types of dinosaur that once thrived on the landmass now known as the British Isles we recommend “Dinosaurs of the British Isles” by Dean Lomax and Nobumichi Tamura, available from Siri Scientific Press: Dinosaurs of the British Isles can be ordered here.  The marine environment was also home to an array of exotic prehistoric animals and amongst the most successful of the Early Jurassic marine reptiles were the Ichthyosaurs, formidable predators that had streamlined bodies similar to those of modern dolphins.

An Illustration of a Typical Ichthyosaurus

"Fish Lizard" Found in Australia

A typical Ichthyosaurus (Fish Lizard).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Tracking Down Ichthyosaurs

Many of the specimens excavated by early palaeontology pioneers on behalf of wealthy landowners and benefactors were poorly documented, several specimens have become lost, whilst a significant proportion have not been studied fully.  Dean and Judy set about tracking down examples of British Ichthyosaurs, no mean feat as over the years, many fossils had been acquired by museums from all over the world  and a considerable amount of Ichthyosaur material that originated from the British Isles is housed in Europe and elsewhere.  After six years of research, examining hundreds of fossils from all over the UK, Europe and North America, the intrepid pair have been able to identify two new species of British marine reptile.

Analysing Anatomical Features – Hiding in Plain Sight

By analysing features in the skull and post-cranial material, the scientists were able to identify a new species of Ichthyosaurus from a specimen at the University of Bristol.  This almost complete skeleton, had been on public display in the School of Earth Sciences for many years and thanks to Dean and Judy, this specimen has been identified as a new species of Early Jurassic Ichthyosaur.  The animal has been named Ichthyosaurus larkini. The species honours British palaeontologist Nigel Larkin.  The name ‘Larkin’ means “fierce”, which is quite fitting for what was a fast moving, nektonic predator!

Commenting on the outcome of this research, Dean Lomax stated:

“It’s quite amazing, hundreds of people must walk past this skeleton every day, yet its secrets have only just been uncovered.  This specimen has received little in the way of scientific study, although this is not uncommon as there is so much material to see and only a finite amount of funding to see and study everything – in fact, much of my research is self-funded”.

A View of the Holotype Specimen of Ichthyosaurus larkini

Ichthyosaurus larkini.

The holotype specimen of I.larkini.

Picture Credit: University of Manchester

The Second Species – Ichthyosaurus somersetensis

The second new species to be described, making a total of six species within the Ichthyosaurus genus, has an equally interesting story.  The key specimen was probably collected from a quarry in Glastonbury, Somerset, sometime in the 1840’s.   It was sent to Delaware in the United States by Edward Wilson of Tenby, South Wales, for his brother, Dr. Thomas Wilson, who donated the specimen to Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences in 1847.  The fossil has remained within the Academy’s vertebrate fossil collection ever since.  It was kept in storage and few people knew that it even existed.

Dean explained:

“In my opinion, this specimen is the best example of Ichthyosaurus collected to date.  It paints such a cool picture too, having been found in a quarry in the Somerset countryside, cleaned, and then sent by boat to Philadelphia, and only now for it to be rediscovered – it’s like a good mystery book, piecing the story together!”

As so many Ichthyosaurus specimens have been found in Somerset, it was decided to honour the south-west of England county by naming the new species Ichthyosaurus somersetensis.

The Holotype Specimen of Ichthyosaurus somersetensis

Ichthyosaurus somersetensis holotype.

ANSP 15766, holotype specimen of Ichthyosaurus somersetensis.

Picture Credit: E. Daeschler Academy of Sciences of Drexel University.

The picture above shows the holotype specimen of Ichthyosaurus somersetensis a practically complete skeleton lying on its right side; from Glastonbury, near Street, Somerset, the white scale bar represents 10 cm.

As part of their extensive search, Dean and Judy were keen to visit collections that were not known for their marine reptile fossils, which meant other scientists may not have visited them previously.  All examples of the new species come from locations that can no longer be accessed, for example, old quarries.

Dean concluded by saying:

“It is our hope that other similar fossils will be rediscovered in uninspected collections and brought to the attention of palaeontologists.  Who knows what else is waiting to be (re)discovered?” 

To read an article about the naming of a new species of marine reptile to honour Mary Anning: New Species of Ichthyosaurus honours Mary Anning

The Paper (published in Palaeontology): Two New Species of Ichthyosaurus from the Lowermost Jurassic (Hettangian) of Somerset, England by Dean R. Lomax and Judy A. Massare.

Rebor Oddities Fossil Studies (Tylosaurus proriger)

Rebor Oddities Fossil Studies (Tylosaurus proriger)

The Rebor oddities fossil studies Tylosaurus proriger replica is now in stock at Everything Dinosaur and what a beautifully crafted display piece it is.  When team members at Everything Dinosaur were first informed about this new strand to the ever-going Rebor range, we have to admit we had reservations.  This was a departure for the company and in our experience creating museum quality displays can be very problematic, however, the display box “ticks all the boxes” for us and the Rebor oddities fossil studies T. proriger makes a novel and fascinating addition to any model collection.

The Rebor Oddities Fossil Studies Tylosaurus proriger

Rebor (Charon) Tylosaurus proriger.

Rebor Tylosaurus proriger in display case.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Fine Details on the Replica

Everything Dinosaur has never conducted a survey to determine the most popular marine reptiles, but the likes of Tylosaurus, one of the biggest members of the Mosasauridae family, would be right up there and it is therefore fitting to see the first of this new line from Rebor depicting a skeleton of “Protuberance Lizard”.  The attention to detail is what makes this replica so striking.   The display case is well crafted and reminiscent of a museum display case, complete with sturdy hinges and overhead lighting (four AAA batteries are required).  The matrix surrounding the replica looks like it has been carefully chipped away to reveal the skeleton fossilised within the rock, individual chisel marks can be made out, that’s a really nice touch.

A Close Up of the Matrix Shows the Detail within the Substrate

The skull of Tylosaurus proriger (Rebor Charon).

A close up showing the details on the surrounding matrix.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Individual bones have been skilfully modelled and when lit, this replica really stands out, it just shouts quality and we praise Rebor for adding lovely finishing touches such as the brass effect nameplate.  Not only is the scientific name correct but we really appreciate the choice of an italic font, under ICZN rules and basic scientific protocol, the formal, scientific name should always be written in italics, something that a number of other model manufacturers fail to do.

The Nameplate on the Tylosaurus Skeleton Replica

Rebor Tylosaurus proriger nameplate.

The Rebor “Charon” Tylosaurus nameplate.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Why Charon?

We were emailed by a curious customer who wanted to know why the Rebor oddities fossil studies Tylosaurus proriger replica had been called “Charon”.  Those of you familiar with the Rebor model range will know that most of the replicas introduced so far have been given a nick-name related to Greek mythology.  The first in the Rebor oddities line is no exception.  In Greek mythology, Charon (otherwise referred to as Kharon), was the ferryman of Hades who transported the souls of the dead across the rivers Styx and Acheron that divided the world of the living from the underworld – the world of the deceased.   As Tylosaurus was a marine reptile and as it is the first skeleton replica to have been introduced by Rebor it seems apt that Charon was the name chosen for it.    Look out for another skeleton replica from Rebor coming out soon.  A 1:1 scale Rebor Club Selection Lourinhanosaurus antunesi embryo skeleton is due to be launched in the next few weeks.

To view the range or Rebor replicas, including the Rebor oddities fossil studies Tylosaurus proriger replica in stock at Everything Dinosaur: Rebor Replicas.

New Safari Ltd Prehistoric Animal Models 2017

Thirteen Prehistoric Animal Models from Safari Ltd for 2017

Over the last fourteen days or so, lots of forums, blogs and other platforms have been busy discussing the new for 2017 prehistoric animal models to be released by Safari Ltd.  At Everything Dinosaur, we are well aware of what has been going on and we have tended to step aside from all the hyperbole for the moment and concentrate on other projects.  However, with the management of Safari Ltd drip feeding various snippets of information, we do appreciate how frustrating this can be for collectors, so in this blog post we will discuss what we know about the new models, their sizes and when they are likely to be in stock at Everything Dinosaur.

A Revised Version of Diplodocus from Safari Ltd for 2017

A Diplodocus dinosaur model.

Safari Ltd will introduce a counter shaded Diplodocus model in 2017.

Wild Safari Prehistoric World

The only Sauropod included in the new for 2017 replicas is a rather splendid model of Diplodocus, complete with whip-like tail, counter shading and dermal spikes.  This impressive model measures 45 cm from nose to that curled up tail and the head is a fraction under 11. 5 cm high.  It replaces the now long retired, Carnegie Collectibles Diplodocus replica, which was the longest dinosaur model that Safari Ltd had ever produced.  This model measured just under sixty centimetres in length (what a whopper), some of these replicas are still available from Everything Dinosaur, but stocks are running low and once they are gone, they’re gone!

To view the remaining Carnegie Collectibles range available from Everything Dinosaur: Carnegie Collectible Dinosaurs

On the subject of counter shading, the dinosaur at the centre of the counter shading debate in the Dinosauria, Psittacosaurus, is also one of the new for 2017 models.  The introduction of a Psittacosaurus reflects a trend from Safari Ltd to replace those prehistoric animals once represented by Carnegie scale replicas hence the introduction of a new Tylosaurus, Microraptor, Giganotosaurus, Kronosaurus, Quetzalcoatlus, Parasaurolophus and so forth (don’t worry a full list will be published in this article, promise).  Ironically, the spotted look of the Safari Ltd model seems a world away from the latest Psittacosaurus interpretation.  Never mind, perhaps the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Psittacosaurus represents another species, after all, there are plenty of Psittacosaurus species to pick from, this genus being regarded as the most speciose of all the dinosaur genera.

Spot the Psittacosaurus (New for 2017)

Psittacosaurus dinosaur model.

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Psittacosaurus dinosaur model.

To read an article which reveals the latest research into the colouration of Psittacosaurus: Calculating the Colour of Psittacosaurus.  It is good to see a model of Psittacosaurus back in the Safari Ltd fold (excluding the Psittacosaurus replica available in the feathered dinosaur toob), the original Carnegie Collectibles 1:10 scale model was retired more than twelve years ago.

Joining the Psittacosaurus, is the second representative of the Marginocephalia, a model of the horned dinosaur Einiosaurus.  There has been a trend amongst model manufacturers to extend the range of horned dinosaurs offered, Safari Ltd have been no exception and for the last few years at least one horned dinosaur has been added to their range.  It is very pleasing to see a replica of the Centrosaurine Einiosaurus added.  Ironically, this dinosaur was formally named and described some twenty years ago, prior to the big boom in North American Ceratopsian discoveries.

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Einiosaurus

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Einiosaurus.

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Einiosaurus replica.

The Full List of Wild Safari Prehistoric World New for 2017 Models

  • Coelophysis (18.25 cm by 6.5 cm high)
  • Deinocheirus (see picture below) measuring 20 cm long and around 7.5 cm high
  • Diplodocus (45 cm long with a head height of around 11.5 cm)
  • Einiosaurus (16.25 cm long by around 6.5 cm head height)
  • Feathered Tyrannosaurus rex (just over 30 cm long with a head height of around 13.5 cm)
  • Feathered Velociraptor (21.5 cm long and with a head height of a little over 7 cm)
  • Giganotosaurus (37 cm long and just over 10 cm tall)
  • Kronosaurus (34.25 cm long by 19.25 cm wide)
  • Microraptor (18 cm long with a wingspan of over 13 cm)
  • Parasaurolophus (19.75 cm by 5.74 cm)
  • Psittacosaurus (13 cm long by 4.5 cm high)
  • Quetzalcoatlus (Pterosaur) with a wingspan of around 22 cm
  • Tylosaurus (just under 24 cm long)

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Deinocheirus Replica

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Deinocheirus.

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Deinocheirus replica.

The shaggy coated Deinocheirus replica concludes our current look at the latest editions to the Wild Safari Prehistoric World portfolio.  We expect all these models to be in stock at Everything Dinosaur by January 2017 (possibly a little sooner).

Dinosaurs Copied Triassic Reptiles

Triassic Reptile Shows Example of Convergent Evolution with Dinosaurs

A team of scientists including researchers from Virginia Tech College of Science and the University of Chicago have identified a new species of Triassic Archosaur (potentially), one that shared some remarkable anatomical characteristics with its much later and very distant relatives, the bone-headed dinosaurs.  The little reptile, fossils of which were excavated from Upper Triassic chalk deposits in Howard County (Texas, USA), has been named Triopticus primus, it’s skull shows a similar shape and morphology to the much later, Late Cretaceous pachycephalosaurid dinosaurs, animals that lived more than 100 million years later.

A Graphical Representation Showing Convergence Between Triassic Archosaurs and Later Archosaurs (Dinosauria)

Convergent evolution in Archosaurs.

Triassic Archosaurs showed striking similarities to later Archosaurs.

Picture Credit: Current Biology

Similarities in body plan evolution are relatively common place in the history of animal life on our planet.  For example, the wings of Pterosaurs, bats and birds are superficially similar as they are all adapted to providing powered flight.  Icththyosaurs and dolphins have very similar shaped, streamlined bodies, adaptations to a nektonic marine existence.  Surprisingly, the researchers identified numerous additional taxa in the fossil deposits of Howard County (Otis Chalk assemblage from the Dockum Group of Texas), that demonstrate the early acquisition of morphological novelties that were later to appear in other members of the Archosauria, most notably the Dinosauria.

Dominating Terrestrial Environments

Developing similar body plans in Triassic Archosaurs, comparable to those seen in later members of this extensive reptilian group, for example, the Dinosauria is not all that of a turn up for the books, when you consider it.  Towards the end of the Triassic the Archosauriformes had established themselves as the dominant terrestrial vertebrates, a position that one specialised group of Archosaurs, the Dinosauria, were to take up and not relinquish for another 150 million years or so.  A number of authors have challenged some of the conclusions from the paper entitled “A Dome-Headed Stem Archosaur Exemplifies Convergence among Dinosaurs and Their Distant Relatives”, nesting Triopticus primus within the basal Archosauriformes as in the paper, is not without its controversy.  The skull is very different from other Archosaurs.  It is only until the likes of the pachycephalosaurid Stegoceras appears in the Late Cretaceous, that Archosaurs with such expanded craniums that lack an upper temporal fenestra, that a skull shape like Triopticus is seen again.

Corresponding Author of the Scientific Paper Michelle Stocker and a Cast of the Triopticus Skull

The skull of Triopticus primus.

The skull of the bizarre Late Triassic reptile Triopticus.

Picture Credit: Virginia Tech College of Science

Although the exact taxonomic affinity of Triopticus is controversial, the Otis Chalk deposits may reveal more examples of convergent evolution.  If Triopticus is classified as a member of the Archosaur group, then its fossils may demonstrate that some types of dinosaur evolved body plans very similar to their Triassic-aged relatives.  If this is the case, then early evolution of body plans may have constrained later Archosaurs in the type of body plans that they could evolve.

Whatever the relationship to Archosaurs, Triopticus primus evolved a very thickened skull, quite what for remains a mystery.

It Looks Like Pachycephalosaurs were not the First “Bone Heads”

CollectA Pachycephalosaurus model.

A lithe Pachycephalosaurus dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

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