Did Dinosaurs Make Good Fathers?

Doting Dinosaur Dads?

Today, Sunday 19th June, is Father’s Day in the United Kingdom, a day to celebrate dads and fatherhood.  This led team members at Everything Dinosaur to discuss whether there was any evidence to suggest that male dinosaurs made good parents.  We suspect fishing trips and long walks down by the river were not part of being a father for the Dinosauria (although one could excuse us the thought that some baryonchids, as fish-eaters, might have indulged in this), but is there any evidence in the fossil record to support the hypothesis that males helped raise their young?  Has palaeontology shed some light on whether or not male dinosaurs assisted in raising a family?  Surprisingly, a number of research papers have been published that explore the evidence to see if male dinosaurs were doting dads.

Did Dinosaurs Make Good Dads?

Dinosaur Nest Found in Patagonia

Did dinosaur males play an active role in looking after the nest?

Picture Credit: Gabriel Lio

Modern Birds Can Provide a Clue

By looking at the parental behaviours of modern birds, scientists can perhaps get an insight into the parental behaviours of members of the Dinosauria.  For example, in extant birds (neornithes), the male parent sits on the nest and incubates the eggs in around 90% of species.  Scientists from Montana State University examined the fossilised bones of three different types of Cretaceous Theropod dinosaurs, fossils of which had been found in association with nests of their own kind.  The dinosaurs in question, the troodontid Troodon formosus along with two oviraptorids Oviraptor philoceratops and Citipati osmolskae showed no evidence of medullary bone in the fossils.  In order to produce eggshells, females need a source of phosphorous and calcium.  These minerals are sourced from their own bones.  Specialised tissue is formed inside the bones during female ovulation.  This bone (called medullary bone), provides the minerals for the eggshells.  Once egg laying has finished then this tissue is reabsorbed but it leaves clearly identifiable cavities in the bone for some time.  If these cavities are detected in fossil bone, then this is a strong indication that the bones you are studying are from a girl.

Medullary Bone Identified in a Tyrannosaurus rex

Medullary bone identified in Tyrannosaurus rex femur.

Medullary bone identified in Tyrannosaurus rex femur.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The Montana State University team looked at the Theropod dinosaur bones in a bid to find the tell-tale medullary cavities, they found none and concluded that the fossil bones associated with the dinosaur nests were probably male.  It could be assumed that close association with the nest and eggs indicated some role in the brooding process, parental behaviour from a daddy dinosaur.

Commenting on the conclusions drawn from this 2008 study, one of the researchers Dr. David Varricchio explained:

“Paternal care in both troodontids and oviraptorids indicates that this care system evolved before the emergence of birds and represents birds’ ancestral condition”.

Difficult to Infer Behaviour from the Fossil Record

A number of scientists have challenged the conclusions drawn from this research.  It is difficult to infer behaviour from, what is a highly fragmentary fossil record.  For example, other papers have assessed the size of dinosaur egg clutches and compared them to living birds to see if further clues about parental responsibilities amongst the dinosaurs could be inferred.  How dependent hatchlings were from birth is also a factor to be considered.  A study from the University of Lincoln undertaken in 2013, suggested that most Theropods exhibited precociality (hatchlings are born relatively mature and exhibit a high degree of independence from their parents).

To read more about the University of Lincoln research: Doting dinosaur dads might not be the case

Were the Very First Snakes Marine Animals?

New Research on Ancestral Snake Suggests Marine Origins

Scientists from the University of Alberta (Canada), in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Toronto Mississauga, as well as with researchers from a number of academic institutions in Australia, have published a new paper on the primordial fossil snake Tetrapodophis (Tetrapodophis amplectus).  This twenty centimetre long, Lower Cretaceous snake from Brazil has attracted much controversy, but when described last year, it was thought that this animal was a burrower.  However, in this new study published in the journal “Cretaceous Research”, an aquatic lifestyle is proposed.  This suggests that snakes evolved their limbless, eel-like bodies for swimming not for burrowing.

Tetrapodophis Fossil Material (left) Compared with the Marine Animal Illustration (right)

The fossil and an illustration of Tetrapodophis.

The exquisite fossil (left) and an illustration of Tetrapodophis as an aquatic animal (right).

Picture Credit: University of Alberta and illustration credit to Alessandro Palci and Michael Lee (Flinders University & South Australian Museum)

Controversial Fossil Find

The tiny snake fossil is preserved in articulation and it has small, but clearly defined limbs, indicating that Tetrapodophis was descended from lizards but was, most likely, a transitional form towards true snakes.  Dubbed the “Archaeopteryx of snakes”, after the famous Solnhofen fossils, the specimen has attracted a great deal of controversy ever since it was spotted by Dr. David Martill (University of Portsmouth), whilst taking a party of year three students on a tour of the world-renowned Bürgermeister-Müller-Museum (Solnhofen), to view the Upper Jurassic fossils including Archaeopteryx specimens.

To read about the discovery of Tetrapodophis: First Fossil Snake with Four Limbs Described

The Australian/Canadian team included Michael Lee and Alessandro Palci (Flinders University and South Australian Museum) along with Michael Caldwell (University of Alberta) and Robert Reisz (University of Toronto Mississauga), looked again at the body shape and four limbs of the primitive snake fossil, which probably originated from the Crato Formation of north-eastern Brazil.  They agreed with the earlier research, that the limbs were probably too small to be used for locomotion, but they have challenged the idea that Tetrapodophis was a worm-like burrower and that the first true snakes evolved underground.  This new study suggests that Tetrapodophis had the wrong body shape for digging, the tail is too long and the legs too delicate.  The scientists list a series of adaptations that suggest an aquatic animal, adaptations such as wrist and ankle elements made of cartilage rather than bone and poorly developed limb joints, anatomical features that suggest living in water where buoyancy would help to support the animal.  Similar adaptations are found in extant marine animals such as seals, sea snakes and sea turtles as well as within the fossil record of the Mosasauridae (members of the Order Squamata that were aquatic).

In addition, the researchers conclude that the hands and feet were surprisingly flipper-like, with a robust and thickened first digit strengthening the leading edge of the limb, like the leading edge of an aeroplane wing or the flipper of a turtle.

Tetrapodophis Fossil Material with a Focus on the Limbs

Tetrapodophis marine adaptations.

Close up of the limb fossils with the illustration that suggests adaptations for swimming.

Picture Credit: Alessandro Palci and Michael Lee (Flinders University & South Australian Museum with fossil material images supplied by Science Journal and additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows the Flinders University & South Australian Museum illustration of T. amplectus as an aquatic animal.  The fossil bones represent the pes (foot) and the manus (hand), the limbs of the illustration have been enlarged to show that this new scientific paper suggests marine adaptations including limbs that were paddle-like.

Professor Caldwell (University of Alberta) explained:

“The specimen is of a very small animal, slim, slender, certainly not a burrowing animal, that shows clear features shared with non-snake aquatic lizards from the Upper Cretaceous.  Tetrapodophis might well be a member of a group closely related to snakes amongst lizards, but it is not a snake proper.”

Known only from this one specimen, Tetrapodophis remains controversial.  The fossil most probably represents a juvenile, ontogenic changes as the animal grew might cloud any interpretations of the fossil material.  In addition, ownership of the fossil is unclear, it had been loaned from a private collection for display in Germany, but it has been illegal to export such fossils from Brazil for many years, and the specimen may be repatriated to the Brazilian Government.  The current status of the fossil may hamper access, so that further research is restricted.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of the University of Alberta in the compiling of this article, the scientific paper is:

“Aquatic adaptations in the four limbs of the snake-like reptile Tetrapodophis from the Lower Cretaceous of Brazil”

 

New Scout Series Models by Rebor

Rebor “Breeze” and Rebor “Stan”

Newly arrived at the Everything Dinosaur warehouse are “Breeze” and “Stan”, two new dinosaur replicas in the Rebor Scout model series.  In one delivery we have doubled the Scout series range as there are now four baby dinosaur models to collect.

Available from Everything Dinosaur – The Rebor Utahraptor “Breeze”

The Rebor baby Utahraptor "Breeze"

The Rebor “Breeze” dinosaur model in the Scout series.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In the United Kingdom, we have the saying “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.  This phrase was brought to mind when we photographed “Breeze” the baby Utahraptor perched in the hand of one of our team members.  This beautifully painted, museum quality, 1:35 scale replica comes complete with a little rock for this baby dinosaur to sit on.  The Rebor baby Utahraptor might look quite cute but it will grow up to be a six and half metre long super-predator that might have weighed as much as a tonne!

The Rebor Baby Utahraptor – “Breeze”

The Rebor baby Utahraptor replica shows typical anatomical traits of a baby.  The relatively large head, the big eye and the long limbs.  The grasping three-fingered hands are well presented and that killing claw, the sickle-like claw on the second toe, is clearly visible.  Baby Utahraptors were probably quite independent from their parents once they had hatched (precocial), they were probably quite mobile and capable of catching their own food, which would have consisted of small lizards, insects and other small animals.

The Rebor Utahraptor “Breeze”

Rebor "Breeze" Utahraptor baby.

REBOR 1:35 baby Utahraptor museum class replica nicknamed “Breeze”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

“Stan” the Velociraptor Dinosaur Model

Joining “Breeze” is another “raptor” replica, this time a model of a Velociraptor.  Rebor have added “Stan” a model of a baby Velociraptor to their Scout series range.

The Rebor “Stan” Velociraptor Dinosaur Model

"Stan" the baby Velociraptor dinosaur model by Rebor.

The Rebor “Stan” baby Velociraptor dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows the baby Velociraptor “Stan” perched in a team member’s hand.  Note the black claws on the toes, in contrast to the greyish white claws of the baby Utahraptor – a nice touch from Rebor.  The baby Velociraptor certainly looks quite cute, with its large head and oversized limbs (indicating a concept called distal growth).  It might look cute, but when fully grown and part of a pack, this dinosaur would have been one best avoided.  The cute head will have a jaw lined with some eighty very sharp teeth and if this dinosaur did hunt in packs it would have been a very formidable hunter.

To view the full range of Rebor replicas available from Everything Dinosaur: Rebor Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animal Models

“Into the Cretaceous” Dinosaur Diorama

North American Cretaceous Dinosaurs

Prehistoric animal diorama creator Robert Townsend has sent into Everything Dinosaur another set of photographs of his prehistoric scenes.  These pictures represent North American dinosaurs from the Early Cretaceous, a representation of the fauna that roamed the northern part of the United States and Canada up to around 100 million years ago or thereabouts, the Late Albian faunal stage of the Cretaceous.

Three Iguanodon Feed Close to the Armoured Dinosaur Sauropelta

Sauropelta and Iguanodon

Three Iguanodon models encounter a Sauropelta.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

During the Early Cretaceous terrestrial faunas began to change.  Over much of the world, the Sauropods began to be replaced by Ornithopods as the most dominant mega herbivores.  New types of Pterosaur evolved and within the carnivores, new kinds of huge meat-eating dinosaur began to evolve, dinosaurs that have been assigned to the Carcharodontosauridae.  Dinosaurs such as the Iguanodons and the Sauropelta in the photograph above, also had to be careful to watch out for “raptors” such as members of the Deinonychosauria clade, fearsome hunters like Deinonychus.

A Deinonychus Attacks an Armoured Dinosaur

A Deinonychus fighting Gastonia.

A Gastonia battles Deinonychus.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

Battles between polacanthids such as Gastonia (G. burgei) and raptors could well have taken place as the fossils of this five metre long, armoured dinosaur have been found in the same quarry as fossils of the ferocious Utahraptor (U. ostrommaysorum), a dromaeosaurid that might have weighed more than a tonne!

Down by the river herbivorous dinosaurs had to run the risk of attack from crocodiles, distantly related to today’s modern crocodilians.

A Giant Crocodile Basks Whilst a Gastonia Warily Approaches

A giant crocodile encounters Gastonia.

A polacanthid (Gastonia) encounters a giant crocodile.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

The Gastonia model used in the diorama is one of the CollectA “Prehistoric Life” models, a diverse range of dinosaur and prehistoric animal replicas that does include a number of armoured dinosaurs including Polacanthus, Kentrosaurus, Minmi, Edmontonia, Wuerhosaurus and Miragaia as well as the more common models such as Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus.

To view the CollectA Prehistoric Life model series: CollectA Prehistoric Life Models

More Dinosaur Models Available

Diorama maker Robert admits that when he started making his prehistoric animal landscapes the range of dinosaur models available was quite limited and the Internet was very much in its infancy.  These days Robert and fellow model makers have a much wider choice of prehistoric animal replicas to choose from.  Some models, first made in the 1990’s have even made a comeback over the last two years or so.   Take for example the Acrocanthosaurus model pictured below.  This is a Battat Terra Acrocanthosaurus model that was first designed for the Boston Museum of Science.  A repainted, new version of this dinosaur was introduced just two years ago.

Acrocanthosaurus Feeds on the Carcase of a Sauropod

An Acrocanthosaurus feeding.

A dinosaur feeding.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

Once again Robert has taken care to try and depict animals that lived in North America during the early part of the Cretaceous period.  The Acrocanthosaurus model can be seen in all its glory posed next to the plaque that accompanies Robert’s dinosaur diorama.

A Window into a Lost World

An Acrocanthosaurus dinosaur model.

An Acrocanthosaurus poses by the diorama plaque.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

A Global Catastrophe Caused End Cretaceous Extinction

Study of Antarctic Fossils Provides Evidence for Rapid Extinction

The demise of the non-avian dinosaurs, their flying reptile cousins, many marine vertebrates and a whole host of other flora and fauna some 66 million years ago has been well documented.  However, debate still rages over the cause or the causes of this mass extinction event at the Cretaceous-Palaeogene (K-Pg) boundary.  Was this extinction sudden and dramatic, caused by a catastrophic event such as an extraterrestrial impact or was it a gradual decline with many genera becoming extinct but over a longer period of time, perhaps as a result of global climate change?

A new study published recently in the journal “Nature Communications” suggests that the extinctions were rapid.  Analysis of sediment from Seymour Island in the Antarctic Peninsula indicates that there was a rapid and severe decline in marine fauna, this study supports the hypothesis that rather than a slow, gradual decline the K-Pg boundary represents a very rapid mass extinction event.

A Dramatic Reduction in the Number and Variety of Fossils

Antarctic fossil study supports theory of rapid end Cretaceous extinction.

The white strip represents the Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary.

Picture Credit: Leeds University

Working on the remote Seymour Island in Antarctica, scientists from Leeds University along with researchers from the British Antarctic Survey, mapped and explored a series of highly fossiliferous marine sediments that date from approximately 69 million years ago through to around 65 million years ago.  James Witts, a PhD student in the School of Earth and Environment (Leeds University), lead author of the scientific paper, was instrumental in identifying the various fauna that the 6,000 fossils represented.  It was then a case of ensuring that the fossils were documented in the correct stratigraphic sequence and from this, the researchers were able to conclude that there was a sudden reduction in the number of species living in Antarctic waters some 66 million years ago.  Around two thirds of the species disappear from the fossil record, at a time that coincides with the dinosaur extinction (K-Pg boundary).

In the picture above the K-Pg boundary is represented by the white paper strip.  There is a band of rocks in which no fossils can be found and in younger sediments deposited later, only a handful of different species are represented

Student James commented:

“Our research essentially shows that one day everything was fine, the Antarctic had a thriving and diverse marine community and the next, it wasn’t.  Clearly, a very sudden and catastrophic event had occurred on Earth.  This is the strongest evidence from fossils that the main driver of this extinction event was the after-effects of a huge asteroid impact, rather than a slower decline caused by natural changes to the climate or by severe volcanism stressing global environments.”

A Rich and Diverse Maastrichtian Marine Ecosystem

This study is the first to conclude that the mass extinction that marked the end of the dinosaurs, pterosaurs and many other forms of life, was a truly global event and that it was just as sudden in high latitudes as it was in lower latitudes.  In short, the polar ecosystems were hammered too.

The fossils from the Late Maastrichtian strata that pre-date the extinction event indicate a rich and highly diverse marine food web populated by a huge array of molluscs such as gastropods, bivalves and cephalopods.  In turn, there were large numbers of different types of fish, the fish shared the shallow sea with a variety of marine reptiles including Mosasaurs.  Numerous soft bodied organisms such as sea slugs, anemones, starfish and jelly fish would also have been present but their remains are not frequently preserved as fossils.  One of the more peculiar molluscs known from the Upper Cretaceous rocks of Seymour Island is the giant ammonite Diplomoceras.  This invertebrate, related to modern day cuttlefish and squid had a shell that uncoiled to a large extent.  It resembled a two-metre long paper clip.  Although Diplomoceras fossils are found in rocks older than 66 million years, just like the rest of the ammonites, its fossils are absent in rocks laid down in the Palaeogene Epoch.

An Illustration of the Bizarre Ammonite Diplomoceras

Diplomoceras (ammonite) illustration.

The bizarre Late Cretaceous ammonite Diplomoceras.

Picture Credit: James McKay

Although the majority of ammonites had coiled shells, a number of families evolved in the Early Cretaceous with shells that were uncoiled to varying degrees.  In 2012, Everything Dinosaur wrote an article detailing research undertaken by scientists from the Natural History Museum of Vienna that provided an explanation for this adaptation.

To read more: Unravelling the Mystery of the Unravelling Ammonite

A Rich and Diverse Marine Fauna – Prior to the Extinction Event

Seymour Island Late Cretaceous fossils.

A rich and diverse marine fauna preserved in the strata of Seymour Island.

Picture Credit: Leeds University

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of Leeds University in the compilation of this article.  This blog post has also been constructed with reference to the academic paper: “Macrofossil evidence for a rapid and severe Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) mass extinction in Antarctica”, published in the journal Nature Communications in May 2016.

New Species of British Marine Reptile Surfaces

Wahlisaurus massarae – A New Species of Early Jurassic Ichthyosaur

Manchester based palaeontologist Dean Lomax, has identified a new species of extinct marine reptile from a near complete fossil specimen discovered in an old Nottinghamshire quarry (East Midlands).  The fossil had been found many years ago and acquired by Leicester’s New Walk Museum back in 1951, however, the unusual deposition of the specimen, the carcase seems to have “nosedived” into the seabed prior to permineralisation, had prevented a new species of English marine reptile surfacing until now.

An Illustration of the Newest Member of the Ichthyosauria – Wahlisaurus massarae

New species of Early Jurassic Ichthyosaur announced.

New species of Early Jurassic Ichthyosaur announced.

Picture Credit: James McKay

Rare Early Jurassic Ichthyosaur Fossil Find

Award winning palaeontologist Dean Lomax, an Honorary Scientist at the University of Manchester, took the opportunity to examine the specimen whilst visiting the New Walk Museum, he noticed a number of anomalies such as the morphology (shape) of some of the fossil bones.  The location of the fossil find (Nottinghamshire) and the age of the strata from which the fossils were collected, led him to suspect that this specimen might represent a new species of marine reptile.

Dean commented:

“When I first saw this specimen, I knew it was unusual.  It displays features in the bones – especially in the coracoid (part of the pectoral girdle) – that I had not seen before in Jurassic Ichthyosaurs anywhere in the world.  The specimen had never been published, so this rather unusual individual had been awaiting detailed examination.”

The Nottinghamshire Ichthyosaur fossil consists of skull elements, pectoral bones, limbs, bones from the pelvis, ribs and vertebrae.   It dates from the earliest part of the Jurassic, some 200 million years ago, (the Hettangian faunal stage).  Only a handful of Ichthyosaur species are known from the very Early Jurassic.  Dean’s discovery is significant and it is helping scientists to map the radiation and diversity of the Ichthyosauria during the Early Jurassic.  It is also the first time a species of this geological age has been found outside the counties of Somerset and Dorset.

Adding to Our Knowledge of Early Jurassic Marine Reptiles

Publishing in the “Journal of Systematic Palaeontology”, this new species will contribute to our understanding of Ichthyosaur species diversity, and their geographical distribution after the End Triassic extinction phase.  Recently, Everything Dinosaur published an account of Sclerocormus parviceps, a basal Ichthyosauriform from eastern China whose fossils are some fifty million years older than those of Wahlisaurus.  Sclerocormus indicates that marine fauna recovered relatively quickly after the devastation of the End Permian mass extinction event.

To read more about the bizarre whip-tailed, “Black Sheep of the Ichthyosaur Family”: Sclerocormus parviceps– A Strange Ichthyosauriform from the Olenikian

Ichthyosaur Fossils Can be Found at Various Locations in the British Isles

A vertebrae fossil of Dearcmhara.

Most likely a dorsal vertebra from Dearcmhara (a Scottish Ichthyosaur).

Picture Credit: BBC News

Palaeontologist and curator at the New Walk Museum, Dr. Mark Evans stated:

“Parts of the skeleton had previously been on long-term loan to Ichthyosaur specialist and former museum curator Dr. Robert Appleby, and had only returned to the museum in 2004 after he sadly passed away.  He was clearly intrigued by the specimen, and although he worked on it for many years, he had identified it as a previously known species but never published his findings.”

Dean has named the new species Wahlisaurus massarae in honour of two palaeontologists (Professor Judy Massare and Bill Wahl), who have contributed significantly to the study of Ichthyosaurs, and who first introduced Dean to studying them.  It was Professor Massare who co-authored a scientific paper on a new species of marine reptile from the Lower Jurassic of West Dorset that led to a the naming of an Ichthyosaurus species in honour of the 19th Century fossil hunter Mary Anning.

To read an article about Ichthyosaurus anningaeNew Ichthyosaurus Species Honours Mary Anning

Commenting on how he was inspired over the choice of name for the Nottinghamshire specimen, Dean said:

“Both Judy and Bill have been tremendous mentors for me.  They have significantly contributed to palaeontology, especially the study of Ichthyosaurs, and I cannot think of a better way to remember them by naming this new Ichthyosaur in their honour.  Their names will be set in stone forever, pun intended!”

The First British Early Jurassic Since Excalibosaurus

W. massarae is the first new genus of Ichthyosaur from the British Early Jurassic to be described since Excalibosaurus (E. costini) in 1986.  Excalibosaurus is known from two specimens found at a beach locality in Somerset, “Excalibur lizard” is named after the animal’s elongated snout (rostrum), that reminded the researchers of the magical sword associated with Arthurian legend.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Hundreds of thousands of people will visit beaches around the United Kingdom over the next few weeks of summer, but very few will be aware of the rich Ichthyosaur fossil heritage that such locations have.  The United Kingdom remains one of the world’s most important sites for Early Jurassic Ichthyosaur discoveries and as the Nottinghamshire specimen proves, you don’t have to visit the seaside to find marine reptile fossils.”

This article has been compiled with reference to: “A new leptonectid Ichthyosaur from the Lower Jurassic (Hettangian) of Nottinghamshire, England, UK, and the taxonomic usefulness of the Ichthyosaurian coracoid”, by Dean Lomax, Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 2016, published by Taylor & Francis Group.

Indian Geologists Discover Dinosaur Footprints

Indian Geologists Discover Dinosaur Footprints

A team of scientists including geologists from the University of Jai Narain Vyas, (formerly known as University of Jodhpur) have discovered a series of three-toed dinosaur footprints in exposed sandstones close to the town of Jaisalmer in the State of  Rajasthan (western India).  The well-preserved fossils represent an unknown type of meat-eating dinosaur, the prints have been assigned to the ichnogenus Eubrontes.

One of the Beautiful Dinosaur Prints from the State of Rajasthan

A three-toed dinosaur footprint from India.

The tridactyl print can be clearly made out, it has been assigned to the ichnogenus Eubrontes.

An ichnogenus, is a genus assigned to an organism that is only known from its trace fossils, in this case from its fossilised footprints.  The Eubrontes ichnogenus specifically refers to Theropod fossilised prints and trackways that are associated with Upper Triassic and Early Jurassic strata.  At the time of writing, Everything Dinosaur team members are not aware of a precise dating for the strata, but extensive surveys mapping the numerous Ammonite genera associated with the marine strata of the Jaisalmer district and specifically the Baisakhi Formation, indicate that the rocks in this part of the world were laid down during the Jurassic.

Eubrontes – A “Taxonomic Wastebasket”

One of the great problems with trace fossils such as a dinosaur footprint, is that it is extremely difficult to assign a species, a genus or even a family to it.  Unless the organism that made the trace is found at the end of the trackway then it is extremely difficult to classify a print such as the ones found in Rajasthan.  Claw marks indicate a meat-eater and the field team members have suggested that the dinosaur that walked across a sandy beach many millions of years ago might have been between five to seven metres in length with a hip height of around two and a half metres or thereabouts, but in the absence of body fossils such as bones and teeth, this is about as good as it is going to get.  Dinosaur footprints assigned to the Eubrontes genus have been found all over the world.  The most famous Eubrontes ichnogenus site is in the western United States, at the St George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm in Utah.  Everything Dinosaur has created a teaching exercise all about how to interpret fossil footprints based on the fossilised trackways found at this location.

To read more about how trace fossils can help to inspire schoolchildren: Humans and Dinosaurs – A “Handy” Way to Tell the Difference

Fossilised Dinosaur Footprints Ascribed to the Eubrontes Genus were Recently Found in France

Dinosaur footprints exposed at low tide (France).

One of the many three-toed prints that can be seen at very low tide.

Picture Credit: GeoWiki

Geologist Virendra Singh Parihar (University of Jai Narain Vyas), hopes that these fossils, along with other fossil material representing crocodiles, gastropods and fish that come from the marine deposits, will help to establish this region of the Thar Desert in western India as an important site for palaeontological research.

A Model of a Typical Jurassic Theropod Dinosaur

Wild Safari Dinos Monolophosaurus  model.

Middle Jurassic Theropod Dinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows a model of the carnivorous dinosaur Monolophosaurus, a member of the Tetanuran Theropod clade, the tracks in India could have been made by a dinosaur that looked something like this.

Natural History Museum Diplodocus and Kentrosaurus

Dinosaur Collection Diplodocus and Kentrosaurus

An old friend of Everything Dinosaur is back in stock, the Natural History Museum dinosaur collection set featuring Diplodocus and the armoured dinosaur Kentrosaurus.  It is great to see this dinosaur model set that features two Late Jurassic herbivores back on the shelves of the warehouse.

The Natural History Museum Dinosaur Collection Diplodocus and Kentrosaurus

The Kentrosaurus and Diplodocus dinosaur models.

The Diplodocus and Kentrosaurus dinosaur models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view this model set and the rest of dinosaur replicas in this range available from Everything Dinosaur: Dinosaur Replicas – The Natural History Museum

The Diplodocus model measures around forty centimetres in length whilst the Kentrosaurus, (which was a much smaller dinosaur), measures a fraction under ten centimetres long.

Late Jurassic Dinosaurs

Although these dinosaurs lived at the same time, palaeontologists are quietly confident that they never co-existed.  Fossils of Diplodocus are associated with Upper Jurassic deposits of the western United States, whilst Kentrosaurus fossils have been found in Tanzania.  Diplodocus is one of the most famous of all the long-necked dinosaurs.  It is so well known, in part, because a cast of a Diplodocus was donated to the London Natural History Museum by the Scottish-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  This 87 foot long replica greeted visitors to the museum as it was located in the centre of the Museum’s Hintze Hall, close to the main entrance.  However, in 2015 a decision was made to relocate “Dippy” as the specimen had become affectionately known as and replace it with the skeleton of a Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus).

Kentrosaurus is a member of the Stegosaur family, it was formally named in described 101 years ago by the German palaeontologist Edwin Hennig (in 1915).  These dinosaur models are superficially similar, both have spikes running down the back to the tail.  Many palaeontologists now believe that Diplodocus may have had narrow, pointed spikes lining the hips and located down the long tail.  Although this view is not universally accepted as Everything Dinosaur’s latest illustration of “double beam” shows:

An Illustration of Diplodocus from the Everything Dinosaur Database

A Diplodocus drawing.

A drawing of Diplodocus “double beam”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“It is always a pleasure to see this model set on the shelves in our warehouse and the Natural History Museum dinosaur collection remains a very popular model range amongst collectors and dinosaur fans alike.  Diplodocus and Kentrosaurus may have never encountered each other, but they seem very happy together in this well crafted model set.”

Terrestrial Pterosaurs

Gladocephaloideus – Getting to Grips with Terrestrial Pterosaurs

Terrestrial Pterosaurs might sound like a contradiction in terms, after all, Pterosaurs are also referred to in popular culture as “flying reptiles”.  However, a number of Pterosaur families seem to have been better adapted to life on “Terra firma” than other types.  For example, some have stronger hind limbs, an adaptation indicating a substantial amount of time walking around rather than flying.  Others have more robust extremities, once again, suggesting a more terrestrial existence.  Although scientists still debate how the Pterosauria Order should be structured, many Pterosaur workers have united a number of families under the sub-group termed Lophocratia “crested heads”.  Lophocratia (pronounced low-foe-kray-tia), consists of the more terrestrial adapted members of the Pterosauria and new research published in the on line, academic journal PLOS One is helping to re-define one group of flying reptiles – the Ctenochasmatoidea.

Fossils and a Line Drawing of the Pterosaur Gladocephaloideus

Gladocephaloideus fossil and line drawing.

The fossilised bones and a line drawing of Gladocephaloideus.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The Enigmatic Ctenochasmatoidea

The earliest of the Lophocratia Pterosaurs are the ctenochasmatoids (pronounced sten-oh-kas-ma-toids) a globally distributed and very diverse group of flying reptiles.  The very first Pterosaur to be described, Pterodactylus, whose fossils come from the famous Solnhofen limestone deposits of Germany, has been assigned to this family and fossils of this type of flying reptile have been found in strata that varies tremendously in age.  Ctenochasmatoids have been reported from Upper Jurassic deposits through to Lower Cretaceous deposits, representing a geological time span for the family of some fifty million years or so.

A team of Chinese scientists in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Bratislava (Slovak Republic), have published a paper on a recently discovered Gladocephaloideus jingangshanensis juvenile specimen that is helping to cement the Gladocephaloideus genus firmly within the Ctenochasmatidae.  The fossil comes from the famous Lower Cretaceous strata of the Jiufotang Formation in Liaoning Province (north-eastern China).  Although a total of nine ctenochasmatoids have been reported from this part of the world, making the Jehol Biota one of the most Pterosaur rich ancient biotas currently known, most of the fossil specimens consists of either partial skulls or post-cranial material.  This, the second fossil example of Gladocephaloideus jingangshanensis to be found, is nearly complete and as such it has allowed scientists to place the Gladocephaloideus genera firmly into the ctenochasmatoids as well as providing important clues as to how the family tree of these Pterosaurs (the phylogeny) should be constructed.

A Juvenile Pterodactylus Fossil (Ctenochasmatoid Pterosaur)

A Pterodactylus specimen from Solnhofen (Germany)

A Pterodactylus sp. fossil.

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum (London)

The researchers conclude that Gladocephaloideus is very probably a sister taxon to Pterofiltrus a Chinese Pterosaur described in 2011.

As to the ecological niche occupied by this varied group, it has been suggested that these Pterosaurs with their strange dentition may have filled the role of wading birds as found in modern ecosystems.

Dinosaurs with Newport Infant School

Year 2 Study Dinosaurs

Thursday was “Dinosaur Day” for the Year 2 children at Newport Infant School (Shropshire) and in preparation for their Summer Term topic the three classes (Deer, Squirrel and Hedgehog) had been challenged to produce a dinosaur themed piece of work over the half-term holiday.  A tweet had been sent out by the school reminding the children to bring in their prehistoric creations and space was set aside in the well-appointed classrooms so that the various models, prehistoric scenes, drawings and posters could be displayed.

Year 2 Children Made Mini “Jurassic Worlds” for the Summer Term Dinosaur Topic

A dinosaur model made by Year 2 children.

A mini dinosaur world made by Year 2 children.

Picture Credit: Newport Infant School Hedgehog Class

There were lots of colourful dinosaur displays and Everything Dinosaur felt quite at home when they visited the school to work with the three classes over the course of the day to provide an appropriate “wow” activity to help to enthuse pupils and teachers alike over the new term topic.  Several children had created special science posters.  These demonstrated that a number of the children had a lot of pre-knowledge when it comes to dinosaurs, their enthusiasm for the subject was very clear and our time working with each class in the spacious hall whizzed by.

Some Fine Examples of Science Posters Featuring Prehistoric Animals from Year 2

Year 2 children and their dinosaur posters.

Children made dinosaur models and posters over the half-term holiday.

Picture Credit: Newport Infant School Hedgehog Class

 The posters were beautifully illustrated with dinosaurs such as Triceratops, Spinosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex proving to be amongst the most popular.  The additional resources our fossil expert brought with him will help the children to recall and remember prehistoric animal facts, the posters are a wonderful example of non-fiction writing in a Key Stage 1 class.  During our workshops, we challenged the children to write a story about Triceratops coming to lunch, the pupils were amazed when it was revealed how much one of the these huge horned dinosaurs could eat in a day!  This extension activity is aimed at helping the pupils gain greater confidence with their story writing.

Flying Reptiles in Hedgehog Class

Year 2 make prehistoric animal models.

Year 2 make prehistoric animal models including a wonderful Pterosaur.

Picture Credit: Newport Infants School Hedgehog Class

The picture above shows a model of a T. rex in the background with a flying reptile (Pterosaur) replica in the foreground.  It looks like the Year 2 children had a very busy half-term holiday preparing their exhibits for the dinosaur term topic.   Flying reptiles (Pterosaurs), are not dinosaurs, although, like dinosaurs they are reptiles and palaeontologists are quite confident that these two types of animal were closely related.  Both dinosaurs and flying reptiles laid eggs, and some children had even created prehistoric animal eggs to go with their displays.  We were most impressed with a model of green dinosaur with a long tail that was accompanied by a large paper mache egg that was full of facts about dinosaurs.

A Dinosaur Model with an Egg Full of Dinosaur Facts

Hedgehog class design dinosaurs.

A dinosaur model with an egg full of dinosaur facts.

Picture Credit: Newport Infants School Hedgehog Class

Top marks to all the children in Squirrel, Deer and Hedgehog class for making such fantastic prehistoric animal displays.  There were so many amazing things to see, the Everything Dinosaur team member did not have time to photograph them all, but in between the workshops and over the lunch time he did have the opportunity to see the classrooms and to marvel at all the super drawings, posters and models.

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