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3 04, 2017

No Visual Difference Between Boy Dinosaurs and Girl Dinosaurs

By | April 3rd, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

No Sexual Dimorphism in the Dinosauria

A couple of weeks ago, Everything Dinosaur reported on the publishing of a new scientific paper that set out to re-define the Dinosauria.  A new model for plotting the various branches of the dinosaur family tree has been proposed, meat-eating dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor find themselves aligned with the Ornithischians (bird-hipped dinosaurs), whereas iconic dinosaurs such as Diplodocus and the less iconic Herrerasaurus might just be outside of the Dinosauria altogether.

To read more about the reclassification of the dinosaurs: Root and Branch Reform of the Dinosaur Family Tree

That’s science, fundamental principles get challenged and in the light of new evidence, accepted thinking can be overturned.

Also, last month, Dr Jordan Mallon, palaeontologist and post-doctoral fellow of the Canadian Museum of Nature, published in the journal “Paleobiology” a fascinating article which challenges another fundamental precept of dinosaurs.  Dr Mallon argues that there is no proof that male dinosaurs looked different from females.

Many Scientific Papers Had Proposed Evidence for Sexual Dimorphism in Dinosaurs (including Stegosaurs)

The difference between girl and boy stegosaurids.

Females may have had reduced plates that were more spiky, but Dr Mallon suggests otherwise.

Picture Credit: Evan Siatta with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome

Dr Mallon conducted a detailed statistical analysis on nine different dinosaur taxa.  Dinosaurs that have relatively well-documented fossil records, including skull material which is believed to represent animals of different ages (ontogenetic stages), dinosaurs about which sexual dimorphism has been reported, inferred or at least debated in the past.

The dinosaurs studied:

  1. Coelophysis bauri
  2. Coelophysis rhodesiensis
  3. Stegoceras validum
  4. Allosaurus fragilis
  5. Stegosaurus mjosi
  6. Kentrosaurus aethiopicus
  7. Tyrannosaurus rex
  8. Plateosaurus sp.
  9. Protoceratops andrewsi

With crocodilians and many birds displaying sexual dimorphism, take alligators and the often-cited peacocks for example, as these animals are closely related to the Dinosauria, then surely dinosaurs were sexually dimorphic too?  But it could it be a case of the “Emperor’s New Clothes”?  Scientists expected to find evidence in the fossil record demonstrating differences between the boys and the girls and a large body of evidence based on the shape and size of bones has been gathered to reinforce this hypothesis – but just how valid is this idea?

Dr Mallon set about conducting a wide-ranging, in-depth statistical analysis of sexual dimorphism in the Dinosauria, the first such investigation, as far as we, at Everything Dinosaur, are aware.   Previously published papers were re-visited including the intriguingly titled “The King’s New Clothes: A Fresh Look at Tyrannosaurus rex”, written by our chum Pete Larson, twenty years ago.  In addition, amongst the numerous papers referenced in his thought-provoking piece: “Recognising Sexual Dimorphism in the Fossil Record: Lessons from Nonavian Dinosaurs”, Dr Mallon looked at the research undertaken in 2015 by Maiorino, Farke, Kotsakis and Piras* into Protoceratops andrewsi, one of the species subjected to statistical analysis in this new study.

In the Maiorino et al paper, a number of examples of sexually dimorphic traits were listed amongst the Ceratopsia (see table below).

Sexually Dimorphic Traits within Horned Dinosaurs

Sexual dimorphism in horned dinosaurs.

A table outlining proposed sexual dimorphism in horned dinosaurs.

Table Credit: L. Maiorino et al (from a paper also referenced by Dr Mallon).

The team concluded that anatomical traits such as the height and width of the frill and skull size thus may not be sexually dimorphic.  When careful measurements were considered, it seems that the size of the frill and skull size could not determine the boys from the girls, at least not in this Asian Late Cretaceous dinosaur.

Trying to Spot the Girls Amongst the Boys (P. andrewsi)

Assessing sexual dimorphism in Protoceratops.

Using frill and skull measurements to identify sexual dimorphism in Protoceratops.

Picture Credit: L. Maiorino et al

Dr Mallon concurs.  In the 2015 study, scientists measured a number of traits within a sample set of twenty-nine Protoceratops skulls.

They measured:

1 – Width of the frill.
2 – Postorbital width of the skull.
3 – Length of the frill.
4 – Width of the skull across jugals.
5 – Nasal height of the skull.
6 – Height of the frill.
7 – Length of external nares.
8 – Width of external nares.

The 2015 study could not determine two distinct clusters of measurements when the skulls were assessed.  If they had, then these two unambiguous groups would have supported the idea that Protoceratops at least, exhibited sexual dimorphism.

Protoceratops One of Nine Different Dinosaurs Incorporated within the Study

Protoceratops fossil.

Protoceratops fossil skeleton (note the large, flared frill).  Is this a boy or a girl?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Why is Sexual Dimorphism in the Dinosauria Such a Big Deal?

The fossil record can only tell us so much.  For instance, inferring behaviour is extremely difficult.  Most palaeontologists now agree that many dinosaurs lived in herds (should that be flocks)?  If sexual dimorphism can be identified that it will provide critical information about the role of sexual selection in the evolution of different types of dinosaurs, as well as supporting the idea that many dinosaurs indulged in visual displays and intraspecific combat.  Dr Mallon argues that quantifiable data to support this hypothesis is often lacking.  A review of existing literature was undertaken to identify quantitative evidence for differences between the boy dinosaurs and the girls and according to this new research, the good doctor could find no evidence for sexual dimorphism in the nine taxa studied.

This contradicts many existing perceptions, but as with all science it is a question of evaluating the evidence.

Dr Mallon states that he can’t be certain that dinosaurs were not sexually dimorphic, it’s just that the available evidence precludes its detection.  A helpful start would be to positively identify females by the presence of unlaid eggs in the body cavity or medullary bone within fossil material and indeed there have been some examples already found.  However, more data is needed before we can positively distinguish the males from the females.

Things would of course be much easier, if nonavian dinosaurs were still around today.  All we would need is some volunteers willing to lift the tail of a Triceratops or probe the private parts of a Pachycephalosaurus, would anyone want to give it a try?

* The Protoceratops paper: L. Maiorino , A. A. Farke , T. Kotsakis , and P. Piras . 2015. “Males resemble Females: Re-evaluating Sexual Dimorphism in Protoceratops andrewsi (Neoceratopsia, Protoceratopsidae)”. PLoS ONE 10:e0126464. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0126464.

An article published in December 2016 that looks at the potential evolutionary advantage of different sized members of the same Coelophysis flock: Sizing Up Early Dinosaurs – Variation an Evolutionary Advantage

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2 04, 2017

Update on Dinosaur Diorama “Jurassic Park 3”

By | April 2nd, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Dinosaur Diorama Planted Up

Robert Townsend’s huge dinosaur diorama is coming along nicely.  With the hard landscaping completed including the creation of a central waterhole, the next stage is to decide where and how to put the variety of plants and rocks to really bring the prehistoric scene to life.  It is important to choose plant models and other landscape features wisely, in addition, careful consideration needs to be given as to where to locate these items amongst the various focal points of the diorama.  For example, plants tend to accumulate around sources of water, so in order to give a model a more natural look, it is important to consider how the vegetation layout close to imitation rivers and ponds should look.

Planting Commences Around the Waterhole

Planting a dinosaur themed diorama.

Tropical plants beside the waterhole.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

Note the surface around the water source has been roughened somewhat.  Despite the action of the water, the constant traffic of large animals coming to drink at the waterhole would lead to a considerable amount of churning up of the mud surrounding the pond.  This churning caused by the movement of dinosaurs is called “dinoturbation”.  Sandstones and mudstones associated with dinosaur trackways often preserve evidence of damage to the ground caused by the passage of large dinosaurs.

Dinosaur Footsteps Sculpted into the Landscape

CollectA Williamsonia and dinosaur tracks.

CollectA Williamsonia plant model draws attention to the dinosaur tracks.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

Away from the water, planting can be sparser, but the innovative modeller will use other techniques and devices to add interest and intrigue to their dioramas.  Five tridactyl dinosaur footprints have been carved into the Polyfilla base.  Not the lack of width of the track, very typical of the “narrow gauge” of most three-toed dinosaurs.  The CollectA Williamsonia model plant has been placed adjacent to the tracks, making a focal point within this section of the landscape.

Trees and Rocks of Different Shapes and Sizes Add Interest

Trees and rocks for the prehistoric scene.

Jungle area with rocks adjacent to the waterhole.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

The CollectA Palm Tree model has been skilfully used to add height to the planting.  Note the sloping gradient, water would tend to accumulate at the lowest points within a locality, this attention to detail helps to emphasise the natural look of the diorama.  The CollectA Monathesia and Cycad cluster has been located to the right of the waterhole and it blends in nicely within the smaller, tufts of vegetation that have been placed along the water’s edge.

Clothes Pegs Have a Variety of Uses

Clothes pegs used in tree model making.

Clothes pegs are handy to keep models in place until the glue dries.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

Planting the far corner can present a challenge to even the most experienced model maker.  Robert wanted to create some height using hand-crafted tree ferns, but tall trunks can present a problem when it comes to securing them in position long enough to permit the adhesive to dry.  Model makers use a variety of tools and in this instance clothes pegs were press-ganged into service to ensure the planting was a success.

Creating a Balanced Planting Effect with Other Landscape Features

Jungle area with rocks.

Nearing completion, the jungle area with more planting and rocks.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

The planting for the “Jurassic Park III” landscape is nearly finished.  Robert commented, stating that this phase of the project was “about eighty-five percent complete”.  As with all stages of the project, it proves very beneficial just to spend some time laying out features such as trees, rocks and railway modellers lichen and moss to create exotic bushes prior to reaching for the glue gun.

Robert is aiming for a relatively neutral planting scheme, one that could represent any one of three geological periods of the Mesozoic.  It seems that this massive project is progressing along nicely and we look forward to seeing the end result.

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1 04, 2017

New Species of Daspletosaurus Announced

By | April 1st, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Tyrannosaurids with Sensitive Snouts (Daspletosaurus horneri)

Scientists based in the United States have announced the discovery of a second species of Daspletosaurus, a member of the Tyrannosaur family and analysis of the skull and jaws indicate that these carnivores, like crocodilians, had sensitive snouts.  The new species has been named Daspletosaurus horneri, “Horner’s frightful lizard”, the trivial name honours palaeontologist Jack Horner.  John “Jack” Horner, was believed to be the inspiration for the character of Alan Grant in Michael Crichton’s novel “Jurassic Park”.  From relatively humble beginnings, Horner established himself as one of the world’s most famous and eminent palaeontologists.  In late 2015, he announced his retirement from the post of Curator of Palaeontology at the Museum of Rockies after thirty-three years in the post.

The Facial Features of Daspletosaurus horneri

The facial features of Daspletosaurus horneri.

Bone texture indicates large zones of large, flat scales and subordinate regions of armour-like skin. Integumentary sense organs occur on the flat scales that cover the densest regions of neurovascular foramina. The region outside of the crocodilian-like skin is reconstructed with small scales after fossilised skin impressions of tyrannosaurids.

Picture Credit: Dino Pulerà

Daspletosaurus horneri and Daspletosaurus torosus

Fossils from an adult, a subadult and a lower jaw ascribed to a juvenile were found in close proximity in strata that forms the upper portion of the Two Medicine Formation (Montana).  A phylogenetic analysis places this new tyrannosaurid as the sister species to Daspletosaurus torosus, named in 1970, when fossil material formerly associated with the genus Gorgosaurus was reassessed and assigned to a new genus.  D. torosus is known from strata that dates from between 76.7 mya to 75.2 mya.  The fossils ascribed to D. horneri are found in slightly younger rocks, estimated to date from 75.1 mya to 74.4 mya.   Given how closely related these two dinosaurs were, their geographical proximity and temporal succession, the researchers postulate that these two forms of Daspletosaurus represent a single anagenetic lineage.

An Illustration of Daspletosaurus (D. torosus)

Drawing of Daspletosaurus.

Daspletosaurus was approximately three-quarters the size of Tyrannosaurus rex.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

What is a Anagenetic Lineage?

Lead author of the paper, Professor Thomas Carr and his collaborators, argue that Daspletosaurus horneri evolved directly from its older, close relative Daspletosaurus torosus.  This is a form of evolution known as anagenesis – one species gradually evolves over a period of time into a new species.  An anagenetic lineage occurs when one population representing a single species, over thousands and thousands of years, gradually accumulates change.  These changes eventually become sufficiently distinct from the earlier form that descendants can be labelled a brand new species.

The Skull and Jaws of the Daspletosaurus horneri Holotype

Skull and jaws of D. horneri with line drawings.

Views of the skull and jaws of the holotype fossil material (D. horneri).  Line drawings also included.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The picture above shows photographs and line drawings of some of the holotype fossil material (skull and jaws – MOR 590).  Photograph (A) shows MOR 590 in left lateral view, (B) represents the line drawing of this fossil material.  Photograph (C) shows an anterior view of the skull material, (D) is the accompanying line drawing.  Photograph (E) shows the skull in dorsal (top down) view, with (F), the line drawing of the top of the skull.

The texture of the facial bones indicates a scaly skin, no sign of lips but a vast array of sensitive nerve openings (foramina).  The researchers conclude that these foramina would have allowed hundreds of branches of the trigeminal nerve to reach the surface of the snout, turning the dinosaur’s face into a sensitive third “hand”.  The scientists, which include David Varricchio (Montana State University) and Jayc Sedlmayr (School of Medicine, Louisiana State University) compared these structures to the beaks of birds and the snouts of living crocodilians.  Crocodiles and alligators have thousands of integumentary sensory organs around their jaws, the jaws help these reptiles to explore and understand their surroundings.

Commenting on the similarities between living crocodiles and the MOR 590 skull and jaw material, lead author Professor Thomas Carr stated:

“Given that the foramina are identical in Tyrannosaurs, [that] indicates that they had super-sensitive skin as well.”

The trigeminal nerve plays a special sensory role in many mammals, reptiles and birds, carrying sensory signals from whiskers and electrical receptors and enabling snakes such as the pit viper to home in on infrared radiation from warm-blooded prey.  The snouts and jaws of tyrannosaurids could have been very sensitive, it has been speculated that these dinosaurs could have rubbed their faces together during courtship.  Although, this is just speculation, similar behaviour is seen in extant animals today, so amorous tyrannosaurids could have rubbed their snouts together as part of bond forming or pre-mating rituals.

To read an article about potential courtship behaviour in Theropod dinosaurs: Dance of the Dinosaurs

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31 03, 2017

Papo Acrocanthosaurus and Ceratosaurus in Stock

By | March 31st, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Papo Acrocanthosaurus and Papo Ceratosaurus in Stock

The new for 2017 Papo Acrocanthosaurus and Papo Ceratosaurus dinosaur models are now in stock at Everything Dinosaur.  These two beautiful dinosaur models with articulated lower jaws have just arrived at Everything Dinosaur’s warehouse, ahead of their official release date.  This means that we are now stocking five, new 2017 Papo models – all of them dinosaurs.

The Papo Acrocanthosaurus and the Papo Ceratosaurus Dinosaur Models

Papo Ceratosaurus and Acrocanthosaurus models.

The Papo Acrocanthosaurus and the Papo Ceratosaurus dinosaur models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Papo Dinosaurs

The first five Papo models to be released this year into their “Les Dinosaures” range, just happen to all be dinosaurs, the models released so far:

  1. Papo Polacanthus.
  2. Papo repainted Velociraptor (blue) with an articulated lower jaw.
  3. Papo repainted Oviraptor (blue).
  4. Papo Acrocanthosaurus dinosaur model, complete with an articulated lower jaw.
  5. Papo Ceratosaurus – this replica too, also has an articulated lower jaw.

The largest of the Papo models introduced into the dinosaur model range to date is the Papo Acrocanthosaurus.  It measures an impressive twenty-eight centimetres long and that sinewy, serpentine tail is nearly sixteen centimetres in the air.  It is the biggest Papo prehistoric animal model to be introduced this year.

The impressive and toothy-looking Ceratosaurus is very well painted, lots of teeth on show (perhaps the model represents the Ceratosaurus species C. dentisulcatus)?  The Papo Ceratosaurus model measures around twenty centimetres in length and not including that large nasal horn, the model stands a fraction under nine centimetres high.

My Papo Acrocanthosaurus Dinosaur Model

The Papo Acrocanthosaurus dinosaur model.

The Papo Acrocanthosaurus model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the entire range of Papo dinosaur models, including all five new for 2017 replicas, simply click on the following link: Papo Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models

The Papo range have great appeal to model collectors and dinosaur fans.  The French company has built up a strong reputation in the dinosaur model market.

Collect them all!

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30 03, 2017

“Standing Dinosaur Crouching Bird”

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

Detailed Molecular Analysis of Fossilised Tissue Reveals Gradual Evolution of Avian Stance

It may be seventeen years since the release of the multi-award winning film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, but today, we draw similarities between one of director’s Ang Lee’s most successful movies and a new scientific paper published in the on line journal “Nature Communications” that illuminates how the crouched posture of modern birds evolved from their more straight-limbed dinosaur ancestors.  It’s really a case of “standing dinosaur evolves into crouching bird”.

Just like the film released in 2000AD, the research is the culmination of extensive collaboration between China and the West.  A joint study between scientists from the Royal Veterinary College, led by Professor John Hutchinson and Professor Baoyu Jiang (Nanjing University, China) and associates have analysed the perfectly preserved soft tissues around the ankle joint of a 125 million-year-old, early bird called Confuciusornis and used this data to work out the evolutionary path the birds took towards their more crouched posture.

An Illustration of the Early Cretaceous Bird Confuciusornis (C. sanctus)

Confuciusornis sanctus.

Confuciusornis sanctus a primitive bird but it had a beak.

The Early Cretaceous Bird – Confuciusornis

Known from hundreds of beautifully preserved specimens excavated from Lower Cretaceous strata associated with the Yixian and Jiufotang Formations of Liaoning Province (north-eastern China), Confuciusornis was a pigeon-sized bird that shows a number of anatomical adaptations over more primitive creatures such as Archaeopteryx.  For example, Confuciusornis had a toothless beak, compressed caudal vertebrae (pygostyle) and a deeper chest to support more powerful flight muscles.  The males possessed a pair of extremely long tail feathers (see illustration above), whilst the females tended to be smaller and lacked long tail feathers.

A Pair of Confuciusornis Fossils (Male and Female)

Confuciusornis fossil birds.

A pair of Confuciusornis fossil birds (Liaoning Province).

The researchers examined the lower leg of one specimen which had soft tissues preserved, including the remnants of cartilage and ligaments, around the ankle joint.  These fossils have been preserved in layers of very finely-grained volcanic ash, enabling exquisite details from animals that lived more than 120 million years ago to be studied.

Dr Jiang stated:

“These soft tissues were not just preserved as an ashen replacement of the former tissue, as sometimes happens.  Rather, the cellular and fibrous structure of the tissues was preserved at a microscopic level.”

Multiple spectroscopic imaging methods in conjunction with X-ray synchrotron analysis enabled the team to examine these tissues at the molecular level.  Some of the bird’s original organic chemistry was identified.  In particular, the team found evidence of fragments of the collagen proteins that made up the leg ligaments, which matched the preservation at the microscopic tissue level of detail.  The team’s findings concur with an increasing body of evidence that, under certain special conditions, some biological molecules including even amino acids or partial proteins, can persist over millions of years in the fossil record.

To read an article about the discovery of dinosaur proteins in 175 million-year-old Sauropodomorpha: More Dinosaur Proteins Found – Lufengosaurus

Highly Magnified Image (Micrograph) Showing Organic Structures at the Cellular Level (C. sanctus)

Confuciusornis micrograph.

Confuciusornis micrograph of ankle area showing cells (yellow arrows).

Picture Credit: Nature Communications

The image above shows a cross-sectional slice of the ankle area with a large area of mineralisation (m) visible in the fibrocartilage within the ankle joint.  The yellow arrows equate to cells, scale bar 10 μm (microns).

Scanning Electron Micrograph of the Fossil Tissue

Soft tissue preservation (Confuciusornis fossil).

Soft tissue preservation in a Confuciusornis fossil.

Picture Credit: Royal Veterinary College

The image above shows a cross-sectional slice of tendon or ligament fibres (arrow) from a scanning electron micrograph of the fossil tissue (scale not stated).

Professor Roy Wogelius (University of Manchester), one of the co-authors of the scientific paper, commented:

“The preservation in this fossil was exceptional and allowed us to resolve subtle but important chemical and structural details within this critical early species of bird.”

The researchers then reconsidered this evidence in light of the whole anatomy of the Confuciusornis leg, and that of its cousins from earlier dinosaurs to extinct and even modern birds.  Using this data, the team were able to obtain more information that potentially maps out how the straight-limbed ancestors of birds (Theropod dinosaurs), evolved the crouching gait.

Professor Hutchinson stated:

“Once we were confident that some of the remnants of the soft tissues around the ankle joint still remained around the ankle, we could reconstruct parts of the ankle beyond just the bones.  The new information we gained about the anatomy of the cartilages and tendons show that this early bird had an ankle whose form fits an intermediate function between that of early dinosaurs and modern birds.  Overall this reinforced other lines of evidence that the more crouched, zigzag limb posture of birds evolved gradually from early dinosaurs to birds, with even these early birds having limbs that were built and worked differently from those of living birds, but were approaching the modern condition.”

Three-Dimensional Computer Image of the Fossilised Right Lower Leg (C. sanctus)

3-D image of the right lower leg of a fossil bird.

A three-dimensional, computer generated image of the lower right leg of Confuciusornis.

Picture Credit: Royal Veterinary College

This multi-technique study involving scientists from both Chinese and British academic institutions, has provided a new insight into the evolution of modern birds.  The team have essentially plotted the evolution of the ankles of modern birds from their reptilian ancestors.  By comparing the confuciusornithid material with that of later Enantiornithines and those primitive birds believed to be more closely related to modern Aves (Neornithes), such as the Ornithurae, the researchers have shown that as the number of main toes was reduced, the foot narrowed and became more robust.  The hypotarsus process became more prominent and enlarged and the orientation of the foot altered towards a more crouching gait.  This led on to the development of fibrocartilages, mineralisations and ultimately bony ridges and grooves to enhance the leverage of as well as enclose and guide the foot tendons which are seen in most modern birds today.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release from the Royal Veterinary College in the compilation of this article.

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29 03, 2017

Dinosaurs of the Dampier Peninsula (Australia)

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

Tracking Down Australia’s Early Cretaceous Dinosaur Ichnofauna

A number of media outlets have covered details of the new scientific paper published in the “Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology” that maps the extensive dinosaur tracks located on the Dampier Peninsula of Western Australia.  The focus of many of these reports has been on the discovery of giant Sauropod footprints, which at around 1.7 metres long, have been dubbed “the biggest dinosaur footprints in the world”.

Biggest Dinosaur Footprint in the World?

Giant dinosaur tracks of the Dampier Peninsula (Western Australia).

Richard Hunter lies next to the giant dinosaur footprint.

Picture Credit: University of Queensland

Certainly, the picture of the individual print, with one of the field team, lawman Richard Hunter lying alongside, has captured the public’s imagination.  However, some of the key findings of the academic paper have been somewhat overlooked in the mainstream media.  In this article, we will briefly summarise some of the main points.

The Importance of the Broome Sandstones

The sandstone rocks of the Dampier Peninsula contain a vast amount of very well-preserved dinosaur tracks, prints and trackways.  They have been studied periodically since the 1960’s but were and remain, part of the myth culture related to creation for the indigenous people.  The sandstones date from the Lower Cretaceous (Valanginian to Barremian faunal stages), that’s around 140 to 125 mya.  The date of these rocks in Western Australia equates to around about the same time as the Wealden Supergroup was being formed, strata that is exposed in southern England, including the Isle of Wight and has yielded a wealth of dinosaur fossil material.

So, the trackways and prints preserved in Western Australia, permit scientists to compare and contrast the different dinosaur faunas that existed in different parts of the world, this is one of the key points from the mapping of the Australian tracks.  In addition, these rocks are much older than the dinosaur fossil bearing strata in other parts of Australia, notably Queensland, the Winton area for example.   The trace fossils preserved on the peninsula provide the main record of non-avian dinosaurs in the western half of Australia, this ichnofauna provides the only detailed glimpse of Australia’s Dinosaurian fauna during the first half of the Early Cretaceous.

A Dinosaur Thoroughfare – Extensive Dinosaurian Tracks Mapped

A dinosaur thoroughfare.

Extensive dinosaur tracks – Sauropodomorpha (Broome sandstone).

Picture Credit: Queensland University

One of the implications for this study, is that the Sauropod tracks provide scientists with an opportunity to research further how such large browsers and grazers shaped the environment and the ecosystem, just as elephants influence the flora to be found in Africa, where these extant herbivores are located in significant numbers (see photograph above, showing extensive Sauropodomorpha tracks – dinoturbation).

The Number of Tracks and the Different Types of Dinosaur they Represent

The research team, which was led by Dr Steve Salisbury (Queensland University), were invited by the area’s Goolarabooloo Traditional Custodians, to map and document the sacred trackways.  From 2011 to 2016, the field team spent hundreds of hours recording, photographing, casting and mapping the trace fossils, a task made extremely difficult by the extent of the trackways and the fact that most of them were only exposed at low tide.  Drones were used to provide an aerial view of the footprints, perhaps one of the most diverse Dinosaurian ichnofaunas found to date.

To read an article about the mapping work: Mapping the Dinosaur Heritage of Western Australia

Forty-eight discrete Dinosaurian tracksites were identified in this area.  Thousands of tracks were examined and measured in situ and using three-dimensional photogrammetry.  Tracksites were concentrated in three main areas along the coast: Yanijarri in the north, Walmadany in the middle, especially around James Price Point and Kardilakan–Jajal Buru in the south.  The researchers describe the palaeoclimate as a large braided river system within a flood plain that was periodically flooded, located close to the sea.  Most of the dinosaur tracks are found in horizons that represent layers generated between the periodic floods.

Of the thousands of tracks studied, 150 could be assigned to the type of dinosaur likely to have made them.  At least eleven and possibly as many as twenty-one different track types were recorded:

  • Five different Theropod tracks
  • More than six types of Sauropod tracks – including those 1.7 metre long prints left by the giant form.
  • Six types of armoured dinosaur tracks
  • Four types of Ornithopod tracks

Eleven of these track types could formally be assigned or compared to existing or new ichnotaxa, whereas the remaining ten represent morphotypes that, although distinct, are currently too poorly represented to confidently assign to existing or new ichnotaxa.

One of the Newly Described Ichnotaxa – A Giant Eight-Metre-Plus Ornithopod Named Walmadanyichnus hunteri

Walmadanyichnus hunteri

Prints of a giant Early Cretaceous Ornithopod – Walmadanyichnus.

Picture Credit: Queensland University

The Diversity of Theropod Dinosaur Tracks Mapped

Broome Theropoda.

Broome sandstone Theropod track types.

Picture Credit: Queensland University

The researchers from Queensland University in collaboration with their associates at James Cook University, demonstrate that only two of the ichnotaxa described in this new paper, relate to already described dinosaur species.  Tracks assigned to the small Theropod Megalosauropus broomensis and the fleet-footed Ornithopod Wintonopus latomorum have been described before.

The team have identified a total of six new ichnotaxa:

  • One new Theropod ichnotaxon – Yangtzepus clarkei (see illustration above).
  • Two new Ornithopod ichnotaxa – Wintonopus middletonae and the eight-metre-long giant Walmadanyichnus hunteri (see photograph of track in this article).
  • One new Sauropod ichnotaxon – Oobardjidama foulkesi (see illustration below).
  • Two new Thyreophoran ichnotaxa – Garbina roeorum and Luluichnus mueckei (see illustration further down this page).

Sauropod Trackmakers (Broome Sandstone)

Several different types of Sauropod track identified from the Dampier Peninsula.

The Sauropod biota of the Dampier Peninsula (Early Cretaceous, western Australia).

Picture Credit: Queensland University

The Importance of the Armoured Dinosaurs (Thyreophora)

The researchers conclude that the trace fossils preserved on the Dampier Peninsula provide a unique insight into the dinosaur dominated biota of this portion of Gondwanaland in the Early Cretaceous.  Both the Sauropods and Ornithopods seem to be diverse and abundant, with the armoured dinosaurs, the only fully quadrupedal bird-hipped dinosaurs recorded.  Importantly, the scientists report trackways associated with stegosaurids and overall, a higher density of armoured dinosaurs as well as many different types of Theropod (carnivorous dinosaur), including at least two substantial meat-eaters (Broome Theropod morphotypes B and C), which probably were apex predators.  These large carnivores had plenty of prey, the paper, published in the “Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology” also alludes to large bodied Ornithopods as well as, giant Sauropodomorphs.

Illustrating the Dinosaur Biota of the Dampier Peninsula Based on Tracksite Evidence

The dinosaur biota as illustrated by trace fossils (Broome sandstones).

The Broome sandstone dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Queensland University with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

A Giant Stegosaurian

Note the giant stegosaurid dinosaur, depicted in the illustration above.  Some of the stegosaurid prints are around eighty centimetres long and approximately seventy centimetres across.  This armoured dinosaur rivals the Broome sandstone Sauropods in terms of size.  Assigned to the ichnogenus Garbina, the trackways indicate a truly huge armoured dinosaur.  Although Everything Dinosaur team members, having read the scientific paper, cannot find any specific size calculations for this dinosaur, the tracks are considerably bigger than those assigned to the ichnotaxon Garbina roeorum.  This stegosaurid, could be one of the largest armoured dinosaurs yet described, with a body length exceeding eleven metres.

A Biota More Representative of the Late Jurassic than the Early Cretaceous

In many respects, the biota represented by the Broome sandstone tracks suggest a carryover of typical megafauna from the Late Jurassic, a time when the majority of Dinosaurian clades had a more cosmopolitan distribution prior to the break up of the super-continent of Pangaea.  Although the fossil record for the Lower Cretaceous of Gondwana is very poor, a similar mix of taxa occurs in the Barremian–lower Aptian La Amarga Formation (Argentina) and the Berriasian–Hauterivian Kirkwood Formation of South Africa.  The persistence of this fauna across the Jurassic-Cretaceous boundary in South America, Africa, and Australia might be characteristic of Gondwanan Dinosaurian faunas more broadly.

The Dampier Peninsula tracksites suggest that the extinction event that affected dinosaurs in the northern hemisphere across the Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary may not have been as severe further south (Gondwana).  The disappearance of stegosaurids from Australia as indicated by the lack of fossils in younger Cretaceous strata and the apparent decline in Theropoda diversity by the mid-Cretaceous indicates that, similar to what may have happened in South America, Australia passed through a period of faunal turnover from 140 mya to around 125 mya.

The Tracks of a Large Stegosaur (Garbina ichnogenus)

Tracks of a Stegosaur.

Field worker Louise Middleton and a stegosaurid trackway (Garbina).  Note the dog in the picture – Missy.

Picture Credit: Queensland University

The World’s Biggest Dinosaur Footprint

If we briefly side step (no pun intended), the issue as to whether the Sauropodomorpha belong within the Order Dinosauria (see our article posted up on March 23rd, which explains about a potential re-classification of dinosaurs), is one of the Broome sandstone prints the biggest dinosaur footprint yet described?

To read an article from 2016 about a dinosaur Titanosauriform print found in Mongolia: Giant Dinosaur Footprint from the Gobi Desert

For an early article on the  mapping of the Broome sandstone dinosaur tracks: Mapping the Dinosaur Heritage of Western Australia

The Sauropodomorpha Track with a Scale Drawing of the Potential Size of the Dinosaur

Broome sandstone giant Sauropod print.

Richard Hunter provides the scale next to the giant Sauropod print.  Scale depiction of dinosaur provided below.

Picture Credit: Queensland University

The picture above shows the actual image released by Queensland University to illustrate the potential size of the dinosaur which made the series of prints which measure up to 1.7 metres in length.  Assessments of stride length suggest a Sauropod dinosaur with a hip height of around 5.3 to 5.5 metres.  The line drawing provides scale, potentially the long-necked dinosaur that made these tracks could have exceeded twenty-five metres in length.

There is not enough information at the moment to assign an ichnogenus to this Sauropodamorph, it has been named “Broome Sauropod morphotype A”.  Certainly, these 1.7 metre long prints are amongst the biggest yet found.

In October 2009, Everything Dinosaur reported on the discovery of a series of huge Sauropod tracks in eastern France, to read about this: On the Trail of France’s Sauropod Big Foot

The scientific paper: “The Dinosaurian Ichnofauna of the Lower Cretaceous (Valanginian–Barremian) Broome Sandstone of the Walmadany area (James Price Point), Dampier Peninsula, Western Australia”, by Salisbury, S. W., A. Romilio, M. C. Herne, R. T. Tucker, and J. P. Nair.  Published in Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology.

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28 03, 2017

EYFS Become Palaeontologists for a Morning

By | March 28th, 2017|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Foundation Stage Children Study Dinosaurs

Another busy day for the team members at Everything Dinosaur.  Children in the Foundation Stage classes (Nursery and Reception), at Saint Thomas C of E Primary have been learning all about dinosaurs and fossils.  Everything Dinosaur was invited into the school to work with the two classes over the course of the morning.  This well-appointed school conducts lots of outreach activities with its pupils, the children certainly get the opportunity to experience a wide variety of curriculum related activities.  The hall had been set aside for our visit, after all, some fossils can be quite big, or even “massive” as pointed out by a child in Nursery when we looked at the best way to describe fossils.

Using a Big Space for all the Big Fossils we Brought

The hall is closed for dinosaurs and fossils.

Dinosaurs and fossils in the school hall.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The morning assembly was cancelled, this allowed us to have more time working with the Foundation Stage children.  The Nursery class went first and they, very enthusiastically, mimicked the survival skills of armoured dinosaurs.  The children “froze like statues” when Tyrannosaurus rex came into their forest.  Prior to the workshop, we had checked with the teaching team so that we could deliver sessions that supported the scheme of work and learning objectives.  We were informed that one pupil loved looking at smooth objects, so we ensured that some polished fossils, including sectioned ammonites were incorporated into the tactile workshops.

The Reception Class has a Cave for a Fossil Display

We are palaeontologists!

We are palaeontologists (display area in school).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The light, airy and tidy Reception classroom had lots of space for dinosaur themed displays.  We especially liked the “cave” in the corner that the dedicated teaching team had created for the budding palaeontologists to practice their phonics and to display their fossil finds.

Dinosaur Themed Extension Activities for Foundation Stage

Having been advised that the Reception class were going to be learning about the famous fossil hunter Mary Anning, we made sure to provide some suitable extension resources featuring this pioneering Georgian woman.  We also challenged the class to draw their very own dinosaur, could they label the body parts including the skull?  This simple exercise is a great way to reinforce learning when it comes to parts of the body and the differences between ourselves and other animals.  A “dinosaur hokey cokey” that we had prepared was also handed over, a chance to help the children with their motor skills and to tie in drama and music/movement activities into the dinosaurs and fossils term topic.

After the conclusion of our morning’s work, the Foundation Stage Two teacher emailed to say:

“Thank you ever so much for the workshop with Reception and Nursery.  The children were highly engaged throughout the sessions and did not stop talking about all the things they learnt throughout the day.  The resources and delivery of the session were brilliant and enabled the children to stay focused and handle lots of interesting objects.  Also, the resources provided for the teachers will be a great way to supplement the topic after the workshop so the children can continue their learning.”

To request more information about Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools: Contact Everything Dinosaur

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27 03, 2017

Papo 2017 Models Arrive

By | March 27th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

First of the Papo 2017 Dinosaur Models are in Stock

The first of the new for 2017 Papo dinosaur models are in stock at Everything Dinosaur.  We have just received our first shipment of the new Papo Polacanthus dinosaur model, along with new versions of the Papo Oviraptor and the Papo Velociraptor replica.

In Stock at Everything Dinosaur the First of the New for 2017 Papo Dinosaur Models

Papo Polacanthus, Papo blue Oviraptor and the Papo blue Velociraptor.

Papo dinosaur models for Spring 2017.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Papo Polacanthus, Papo Blue Velociraptor and the Papo Blue Oviraptor

The Papo range continues to go from strength to strength and it is great to see a model of the armoured dinosaur Polacanthus included within the Papo product portfolio.  The polacanthids are an enigmatic group of dinosaurs, with a lot of fossil material associated with discoveries made in the British Isles.  Polacanthus seems to have been quite closely related to Gastonia (G. burgei) from the United States, both these dinosaurs had a plate of armour over their hips (sacral shield).  Such a sacral shield can be clearly made out on the new Papo Polacanthus replica.

To view all the new Papo dinosaur models, including the Papo Polacanthus: Papo Dinosaur Models

The Papo Blue Velociraptor

Dinosaur model collectors can have their very own pack of “raptors”, as this new blue painted version of Velociraptor joins the Papo range.  The model is the same size as the Papo green Velociraptor that joined the range last year and it too has an articulated lower jaw.  This is not a new model, but continues the trend from Papo and other manufacturers to produce re-painted versions of existing models.  The original Velociraptor replica, has been retired, but its re-painted version is still going strong.  This model was joined by the green painted Velociraptor in 2016.  This replica will be retired shortly, the blue Velociraptor (although the models actually look quite purple), will effectively replace it.

Papo Velociraptors Galore but only for a Short While

Papo Velociraptors.

A trio of Papo Velociraptors.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Papo Blue Oviraptor

One of the most colourful dinosaur models to be introduced this year is the re-painted version of the Papo Oviraptor.  It still lacks feathers, but the new interpretation does at least demonstrate that some dinosaurs may have been keen to stand out from the crowd.  That famous skull crest is a bright orange, this contrasts nicely with the metallic blue down the neck and over the back of the head.  There is a blue flash that runs from the shoulder, along the flank, over the hips and ends near the tip of the tail.  As far as we can make out, even the egg that “egg thief” is carrying has been given a makeover.  The eggs in our batch of models seem to be a little darker than those found with the original Papo Oviraptor model.

One thing is for sure, Papo’s own unique designs shine through and we look forward to receiving the next set of new for 2017 models shortly.

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

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26 03, 2017

Increase in Fish Vision Preceded the Evolution of Tetrapods

By | March 26th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Massive Increase in Visual Range Preceded the Origin of Terrestrial Vertebrates

One of the most significant steps (no pun intended), in vertebrate evolution took place some 385 million-years-ago when some types of sarcopterygian fish evolved rudimentary limbs and started to clamber around on land.  These fish were the ancestors of all the Tetrapods (four-legged vertebrates), amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and of course ourselves.  It could be argued that our species, Homo sapiens, is nothing more than a highly modified fish!  How and why the transition from living in a watery world to one of a terrestrial lifestyle took place is hotly debated by palaeontologists.  One team of researchers from the Northwestern University (Illinois), in collaboration with colleagues from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and optical imaging specialists, have come up with a remarkable theory that explains the move from the water to the land.

Note the Eyes Located on the Top of the Skull in this Early Tetrapod

An Illustration of the Polish Tetrapod.

Meet our next of fin, check out the location of the eyes (top of the head).

Improvement in eyesight was the driver for the momentous leap from water onto land and not limb evolution linked to a better ability to clamber about on terra firma.

Looking at the Position of the Eyes

The scientists which included corresponding authors Malcolm MacIver and Lars Schmitz (Northwestern University), spent a year running simulations comparing many different types of fossil.  The researchers noticed that there was a dramatic increase in fish eye size, the eyes tripled in size and they shifted from the sides of the head to the top of the skull.  These adaptations took place long before the first modified fins looking like limbs evolved.  The team speculate that before permanent life on land came about, certain types of fish became ambush predators, hunting terrestrial invertebrates using similar tactics to modern-day crocodiles.  Eyes near the top of the head would have allowed these creatures to observe the land without giving themselves away.  They could spot potential prey on the land.  Being able to spot potential food provided a distinct advantage and as light travels better in air than it does in water, these fish could see a lot further.  Natural selection led to the evolution of bigger eyes and better eyesight.

The “buena vista” (good view) hypothesis that the study proposes states that being able to see food opportunities far away provided a stimulus to drive the evolution of locomotion to reach the potential prey.  This aided the natural selection for improved, stronger limbs, first for brief forays onto land to ambush prey and later for a life in a terrestrial environment.

The Evolution of Bigger, Better Eyes Capable of Seeing Further Preceded the Conquest of the Land

Video Credit: Northwestern State

Hunting on land was a mental game changer for the early Tetrapods and we applaud the team behind the research who have collaborated with animators to produce a very helpful explanatory video.  The video written and produced by Kristin Pichaske with the collaboration of Malcolm MacIver is provided here and it is great to see research summarised in such a way so as to make it much more accessible.  Our congratulations to everyone involved in the study and also to the team behind this most informative video.

For an article on the evolution of Tetrapod locomotion: Walking Fish Provides Clues to the First Tetrapods

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25 03, 2017

Dinosaur Egg Thief Suspect Arrested in China

By | March 25th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Chinese Authorities Make Arrests in “Crack Down” on Dinosaur Egg Thieves

Official Chinese State media has reported the arrest of a man accused of stealing dozens of fossilised dinosaur eggs.  A number of specimens have been recovered but many more are, as yet, unaccounted for.  China has some of the strictest regulations and laws in the world, when it comes to protecting rare artefacts including fossil remains.  Sadly, despite the very best efforts of the authorities there is a thriving black market in illegally acquired fossils, with huge sums of money being exchanged for dinosaur fossils including teeth, bones and fossilised eggs.

A Photograph of a Dinosaur Egg (Frankfurt Natural History Museum)

A dinosaur egg fossil.

A dinosaur egg (believed to be from a Theropod dinosaur).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The media report states that a Chinese citizen with the surname Wang has been accused of stealing eighty dinosaur eggs from a collector in Zhejiang Province on the night of January 9th 2017.  Three other accomplices are believed to have been involved according to the report from the Xinhua News Agency.  Mr Wang had previously visited the collector twice under the pretext of making a prospective purchase, agency sources have stated.

The four suspects are believed to have divided up the stolen property and Mr Wang took home a total of twenty-seven eggs.  Police raided Mr Wang’s home earlier this month after arresting him, during the search of the property in Huanan County (Heilongjiang Province), the authorities were able to recover the stolen eggs, the remaining fossils, an estimated fifty or so specimens, have yet to be recovered.

Protoceratops Dinosaur – Eggs from These Dinosaurs were the First to be Scientifically Described

The fossils of a Protoceratops.

Protoceratops fossil display in Frankfurt Museum (could be a cast).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Frankfurt Museum

The three accomplices have also been apprehended, Heilongjiang police have confirmed that Mr Wang was in police custody but no further information about the other parties involved was provided.

Over the last five decades or so, as China’s geology has been explored in more detail, a treasure trove of fossil material has been discovered, including numerous dinosaur fossils.  The Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing is believed to hold the world’s largest collection of vertebrate fossils.  Sadly, despite it being illegal to export fossils and other material out of China, thefts still occur and many important fossils have been sent overseas to end up in the hands of private collectors.  Fossil protection legislation in the People’s Republic of China is comprehensive, the illegal excavation and export of vertebrate fossils including eggs was covered in the 1982 Cultural Relics Protection Law.  This law was developed from existing rules and regulations that had been in place prior to the Cultural Revolution.  More recently, legislation in this area was reviewed (2010-2013) and a number of Chinese scientific institutions have published guidelines and procedures to help organisations that are based outside China to stay on the right side of the law.

Dinosaur Eggs and Nests are Highly Sought After by Collectors

An Oivraptor fossil with nest.

An Oviraptor dinosaur sitting on a nest of fossilised eggs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Frankfurt Museum

All too often Everything Dinosaur has had to report on this blog incidences of fossil theft, illegal excavations or deliberate vandalism to an important fossil site.

For an article published in 2015 about a seizure of hundreds of stolen Chinese dinosaur eggs: Chinese Authorities Seize Dinosaur Eggs

To read an article from 2014 about the theft of a dinosaur footprint from Utah (United States): Dinosaur Footprint Stolen

Nicolas Cage agrees to return stolen dinosaur fossil: Hollywood Star Agrees to Return Tarbosaurus Fossil

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