All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
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23 12, 2017

Safari Ltd Prehistoric Animals 2018

By | December 23rd, 2017|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

2018 Safari Ltd Prehistoric Animal Models are in Stock at Everything Dinosaur

The new for 2018 prehistoric animal models from Safari Ltd are now in stock at Everything Dinosaur.  What a lovely surprise for Christmas, all the new Safari Ltd Wild Safari Prehistoric World prehistoric animals are available from Everything Dinosaur and we even have the prehistoric horse (Przewalski’s horse), in stock for good measure.

New for 2018 Prehistoric Animal Models (Safari Ltd)

Safari Ltd models 2018.

New prehistoric animal models in stock at Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The list of new prehistoric animal models is most impressive, there is an Amargasaurus, an American Mastodon, Uintatherium, Daeodon, Ankylosaurus, Dimetrodon, Macrauchenia, the North American caenagnathid Anzu wyliei and a Malawisaurus.  In addition, Safari Ltd have introduced Hyaenodon gigas, two horned dinosaurs Regaliceratops and Triceratops.  There is also a Megacerops and we have added the Safari Ltd Winners Circle Przewalski’s horse.

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Models

Since the retirement of the Carnegie Collectibles range in 2015, Safari Ltd have set about replacing the dinosaurs that featured in that scale model series.  Hence the introduction of Amargasaurus and Ankylosaurus.  It is great to see a new representation of the Pelycosaur Dimetrodon introduced as well.  The 2018 dinosaurs also feature some new dinosaurs, modelled by Safari Ltd for the first time.  Malawisaurus, Regaliceratops and the feathered Anzu wyliei also join the range.

The New for 2018 Dinosaur Models from Safari Ltd

Safari Ltd dinosaurs 2018.

The new for 2018 dinosaurs from Safari Ltd.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Fact Sheets

As with all the named dinosaur and prehistoric animal models that we sell, each model is supplied with its own fact sheet.  Our team members have had to research and write three new fact sheets to accommodate these models, namely fact sheets for Anzu wyliei, the American Mastodon and the African Sauropod Malawisaurus.

The Scale Drawing of Anzu wyliei Prepared for the Dinosaur Fact Sheet

Anzu wyliei scale drawing.

A scale drawing of Anzu wyliei.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Only One Theropod

The models are very well made and superbly painted.  Everything Dinosaur congratulates Safari Ltd on the quality of these new introductions.  They also deserve praise for creating such a diverse range of dinosaurs and mammals, plus of course the Dimetrodon, that is more closely related to mammals than it is to the Dinosauria.  It is interesting to note that there is only one Theropod in the fourteen replicas that Everything Dinosaur has brought into the warehouse.  The one Theropod is Anzu wyliei and it is not typical of the Theropoda.  For a start it is edentulous (toothless) and it possessed a beak.   The most striking feature of this dinosaur nicknamed “the chicken from Hell”, as all the A. wyliei fossil material has come from exposures that represent the famous Hell Creek Formation, is the bizarre rounded crest on the top of the head.  The crest superficially resembles the crest on an extant Cassowary (Casuarius genus).

To view the fourteen new for 2018 Safari Ltd prehistoric animals, including the Przewalski’s horse click here: Safari Ltd Wild Safari Prehistoric World

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22 12, 2017

Merry Christmas from Iguanodontids

By | December 22nd, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Iguanodontid Themed Christmas Card Sent to Everything Dinosaur

Our thanks to Everything Dinosaur customer Caroline and her family for sending a wonderful dinosaur themed Christmas card to our offices.  The card features a lovely drawing of a pair of iguanodontid dinosaurs wandering through a forest.  Snow has fallen and these dinosaurs are curious, looking at how the snow is covering the branches of the trees.

Dinosaur Themed Christmas Card Sent into Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaur themed Christmas card.

Iguanodont themed Christmas card.

Picture Credit: Caroline and Family

Woodland Winter Walk

Many types of dinosaur, including Ornithopods like the iguanodontids lived at high latitudes.  Although, in general terms the Cretaceous was warmer than today, dinosaurs living at these high latitudes would have experienced snow.  We will never know how they reacted in behaved in snowy conditions, we have to look at how animal’s today behave in inclement weather.  The animals may have huddled together to keep warm, or wandered into the heart of the forest, as far as their bulky bodies would allow, in order to escape the worst of the weather and the cold wind.

Caroline wrote to thank Everything Dinosaur for their help and support throughout 2017 and to wish us all a Happy Christmas and New Year.

There was even a picture of another Ornithopod on the inside of the card, to us this image reminded us of another Cretaceous herbivore a hypsilophodontid.

Our thanks to everyone who has sent in cards, letters and emails.  They are greatly appreciated.

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21 12, 2017

Sneak Peek of Prehistoric Times (Issue 124)

By | December 21st, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Magazine Reviews, Main Page|0 Comments

The Front Cover of the Next Edition of Prehistoric Times Magazine

Editor Mike Fredericks has sent Everything Dinosaur an image of the front cover of the next issue of Prehistoric Times.  Inside, there is a special article on the fauna of the Hateg Island, an isolated landmass in the middle of the shrinking Tethys Ocean that had a unique ecosystem with giant Pterosaurs such as Hatzegopteryx (H. thambema) the likely apex predators.

The Front Cover of Prehistoric Times Magazine

Prehistoric Times issue 124

The front cover of Prehistoric Times (Winter).

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks (Prehistoric Times)

Dinosaurs of Romania

The rocks that formed the Cretaceous island are in Romania (Transylvania) and many of the dinosaurs found in these sediments are not found anywhere else.  It was the famous Hungarian palaeontologist Franz Nopcsa who postulated that the finite resources on an island would lead to a reduction in body size for animals over subsequent generations.  Nopcsa proposed a theory called “insular dwarfism”, that over time, island dwellers, due to limited resources such as food and space would become smaller.  This idea is also known as the “island rule”.

Azhdarchid Pterosaurs were capable of flying great distances and therefore, these giants were not constrained by islands.  Giants like Hatzegopteryx have been depicted stalking horsetail groves snatching up dwarf Titanosaurs such as a juvenile Magyarosaurus and swallowing it whole.

Fighting Over the Carcass of a Struthiosaurus

Prehistoric Times issue 124.

Balaur bondoc on the front cover of Prehistoric Times issue 124.

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks (Prehistoric Times)

The Unique Palaeofauna of Hateg Island

The close-up view of the cover (above) shows a trio of Theropods fighting over the carcass of an armoured dinosaur.  We suspect the victim is the nodosaurid Struthiosaurus, which at two metres long, typifies the concept of “insular dwarfism”.  The animals fighting over the remains of the plant-eater, we think represent Balaur bondoc, a strange animal known from two specimens.  When first described in 2010, it was thought B. bondoc was a dromaeosaurid, albeit one with two sickle-shaped claws on each foot.  However, recent studies have interpreted it as a large, flightless bird, ironically flightless birds are another natural phenomenon associated with islands.

To read more about the discovery of Balaur bondocThe Stocky Dragon from Hateg Island

We look forward to receiving the next issue of Prehistoric Times.

For more information about this excellent magazine and to enquire about subscribing: Prehistoric Times Magazine

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20 12, 2017

Rebor Gunn and Rose Velociraptors Arrive

By | December 20th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Rebor Gunn and Rose are in Stock at Everything Dinosaur

The latest Velociraptor models from Rebor, Gunn and Rose are now in stock at Everything Dinosaur.  These magnificent 1:18 scale figures represent a pair of “raptors”, the lighter coloured one “Rose” being the female, the darker coloured one “Gunn”, representing a male.

The Rebor 1:18 Scale Velociraptor Models Gunn and Rose are in Stock at Everything Dinosaur

Rebor Gunn and Rose.

Rebor Gunn and Rose Velociraptor models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Rebor “Raptors”

Rebor has produced a number of Velociraptor figures in recent times, these new editions, join the likes of “Winston”, “Alex Delarge” and the Velociraptor figure “Pete” that came out earlier in the autumn.  Each model is in 1:18 scale and collectors have the opportunity to create their own pack of dromaeosaurids.

“Rose” the Female Velociraptor

"Rose" a 1:18 scale Velociraptor model.

The female Rebor raptor “Rose”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Rebor Gunn and Rose

Palaeontologists are not sure what breeding strategies dinosaurs had.  It is likely that what are thought to be quite social creatures, pack hunters, like most of the dromaeosaurids, had similar strategies to those found in social, pack hunters today.  For example, in wolves only the dominant pair breed in most packs, the alpha male and the alpha female.  These animals pair for a long time, perhaps Velociraptors behaved in a similar way, after all, they would have faced the same pressures as wolves do today, in terms of competing for resources and ensuring the survival of the next generation.

“Gunn” Representing a Male Velociraptor

"Gunn" the Rebor Velociraptor.

The male Rebor Velociraptor “Gunn”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Monogamous Birds

Those living members of the Maniraptora (the clade that contains both dromaeosaurids like Velociraptor and extant birds), adopt a variety of strategies when it comes to bringing up the next generation. Many swans, cranes and geese mate for life.  Whilst the majority of the song birds (passerines), are also monogamous but the length of this monogamy varies.  For example, some song birds stay as a pair of life, for several mating seasons or for just one breeding season.  Many living birds adopt a strategy of social monogamy, when both the male and female play a role in parenting.  Perhaps male Velociraptors also had a maternal side?

Rebor “Gunn” Velociraptors Might Have Been Ferocious But They May Have Had a Softer Side

Rebor Velociraptor "Gunn".

The Rebor 1:18 scale Velociraptor model “Gunn”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

For an article on doting dinosaur dads: Did Dinosaurs Make Good Fathers?

Both Gunn and Rose have articulated lower jaws and articulated forelimbs and the models measure approximately 21.5 centimetres long.  They are a welcome new addition to the Rebor range of prehistoric animal replicas.

At Rest – the Rebor Female Velociraptor “Rose”

Rebor "Rose" Velociraptor Model.

Rebor Velociraptor “Rose”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Two Velociraptor Species

Two Velociraptor species have been named, Velociraptor mongoliensis, fossils of which come Outer Mongolia named in 1924 by Henry Fairfield Osborn and Velociraptor osmolskae from Inner Mongolia, China, which was named in 2008 by Godefroit et al.

To view the Rebor raptors “Gunn and Rose” and the rest of the Rebor model range: Rebor Models and Replicas

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19 12, 2017

Dinosaur Footprint Vandalised

By | December 19th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Australian Dinosaur Footprint Damaged

Vandals have severely damaged a 115-million-year-old dinosaur footprint in an Australian national park.  The park in question is the Bunurong Marine Park in Victoria, the three-toed footprint had been discovered in 2006, but rather than have the rare print removed to a museum, it was decided to leave it in situ allowing all the Park visitors to enjoy it.  Sadly, a person or persons unknown attacked the track with a hammer sometime last week and broke off elements from the toes.

The Dinosaur Footprint that has been Damaged

Vandalised dinosaur footprint.

Theropod footprint vandalised in Australia.

Picture Credit: Parks Victoria

The picture shows (left) the undamaged footprint and (right) a picture showing that the tips of the toes have been smashed, note the boot for scale.  The Flat Rocks locality near Inverloch (Victoria),  is exceptional in being one of only a handful of polar dinosaur sites in the world, it includes the dinosaur footprint.  Palaeontologists from Museum Victoria and Monash University made a silicon rubber mould of the footprint, when the track was discovered, but they decided it should be left in the rock, so visitors to the site could have the thrill of seeing it in its natural state.

Theropod Dinosaur

The tridactyl (three-toed print), probably represents a track left by a Theropod dinosaur.  Parks Victoria are investigating this incident and have appealed for witnesses.

Parks Victoria Ranger Team Leader Brian Martin stated:

“It is sad to think a person or persons who knew the location of the footprint would deliberately damage an important local icon that is recognised as being off international scientific significance.”

Bunurong Environment Centre Education Officer, Mike Cleeland added:

“The thrill of seeing a real dinosaur footprint has been diminished with the callous act of vandalism.  Fortunately, I was able to retrieve some of the broken pieces of the footprint and hopefully the technicians at Museum Victoria may be able to restore the footprint to some degree.”

The location, known as Dinosaur Dreaming is popular with tourists, the Park officials are hopeful that witnesses to the incident will come forward.  Although repairs to the track can be made, the print will never be the same again.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Sadly, such incidents are all too common.  At this stage it is unclear whether this was a clumsy attempt to remove the print or just simply a case of a deliberate act of vandalism on something that was formed in the Lower Cretaceous, a fossil that has survived for 115 million years only to be smashed in seconds.”

To read an article about an alleged attempt to illegally cast a fossil footprint on the Isle of Skye: Dinosaur Footprints Damaged

For a story about the stealing of a dinosaur footprint from Utah: Dinosaur Footprint Stolen

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18 12, 2017

Dinosaur Workshops All Sorted for January

By | December 18th, 2017|Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Lesson Plans for Dinosaur and Fossil Workshops Despatched

All the lesson plans and teaching notes relating to Everything Dinosaur’s dinosaur and fossil workshops in schools have been sent out.  At this time of year, we appreciate how busy teachers and teaching assistants are, so we always make sure that the arrangements are in place for the dinosaur and fossil themed workshops scheduled for the first few weeks of January.  With the teaching assignments concluded for the autumn term, our attention turns to preparing the lesson plans, teaching resources and extension activities in readiness for the first of our dinosaur themed workshops scheduled for the first four weeks of next month.

Lesson Plans Sent Out and Arrangements Finalised

Key Stage 2 example lesson plan.

Example lesson plan (Key Stage 2).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Helping Teachers and Teaching Assistants

Planning the scheme of work for the school year takes up a significant proportion of the teaching team’s time.  The last thing we want them to worry about is any school visits.  Our prompt supply of information helps the teaching team to maximise the learning objectives and ensures what we intend to cover in our dinosaur and fossil workshop meets the needs of the children and dove-tails into the topic and the scheme of work.

Everything Dinosaur’s timely emails gives hard-pressed teachers and teaching assistants one less thing to worry about as they prepare for the start of the spring term.

In our communication with the school we provide advice and suggestions in order to help maximise the teaching objectives and to accommodate individual learning needs.  Furthermore, we suggest that a member of staff has a smart phone, camera, or Ipad on hand to take lots of photographs.  These photographs are very helpful when it comes to recall and recounting activities.  We are also happy to discuss extension ideas and normally assist with the term topic planning by providing useful additional teaching resources for the class to use.

Although much of the spring term is booked up, Everything Dinosaur does still have a few dates available.  To enquire about the possibility of a school visit from one of our dinosaur experts, simply, email the company: Contact Everything Dinosaur

Our Timely Correspondence Allows Plenty of Scope for the School to Prepare

The hall is closed for dinosaurs and fossils.

Dinosaurs and fossils in the school hall – all sorted thanks to meticulous planning.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Extension Activities

In addition to delivering the dinosaur and fossil themed workshop, our team members usually bring some additional teaching resources with them.  These resources have been developed by our own teaching team and are designed to fit in with the curriculum.   For example, for a reception class, the extension resources might include an activity that explores the properties of materials, for older Key Stage 1 children, the extension plans might involve the conducting of simple experiments.  For those children in Key Stage 2 the extension ideas could include an investigation leading to the writing of a non-chronological report.  Naturally, for Key Stage 3 and older students, the extension activities meet their learning needs and often involve independent problem solving and investigation, along with exploring some of the ethical dimensions associated with gene manipulation and the advance of genetics, as related to evolution and adaptation.

Listing Extension Ideas After a Dinosaur Workshop

Extension ideas - dinosaur workshop.

A teacher lists the extension ideas during a dinosaur workshop.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

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17 12, 2017

New Troodontid Dinosaur Described

By | December 17th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|2 Comments

Almas ukhaa – Named after the Legendary Asian Bigfoot

A team of international scientists, including Dr Mark Norell (Curator of Palaeontology at the American Museum of Natural History, New York) and Professor Xing Xu (Chinese Academy of Sciences), have announced the discovery of a new species of Late Cretaceous troodontid from Mongolia.  This small, carnivorous dinosaur (it was probably less than a metre long), has been named Almas ukhaa, after the mythical Bigfoot-type ape that, according to some cryptozoologists, is believed to roam the more remote parts of Central Asia.

An Illustration of the New Troodontid Dinosaur A. ukhaa

Almas ukhaa illustrated.

An illustration of the newly described (2017) troodontid Almas ukhaa.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

From the Famous Djadokhta Formation

The fossil material which consists of an almost complete and articulated skull with an associated lower jaw and a substantial part of the postcranial skeleton, comes from the Ukhaa Tolgod region of the Gobi Desert, an area regarded as one of the richest concentrations of Cretaceous fossil vertebrates known to science.   Since this location was first mapped in 1993, numerous dinosaur skeletons have been found, including a nesting Oviraptor as well as several examples of Late Cretaceous mammals.  The rocks in this area form part of the Djadokhta Formation.

The Skull and Jaws of the Newly Described Late Cretaceous Troodontid Almas ukhaa

Almas ukhaa fossil skull and jaws.

Almas ukhaa cranial material (right lateral view).

Picture Credit: The American Museum of Natural History

Compared to other troodontids from Asia and North America, A. ukhaa had a relatively short snout.  The orbit is quite large, and these fossils could represent a juvenile, but if this turns out to be the remains of an adult animal, then this large eye-socket could indicate an adaptation to hunting in low light, perhaps Almas ukhaa was an elusive animal rarely seen in daylight, similar to the legendary Alma after which, this dinosaur is named.

Ukhaa Tolgod Sandstone Deposits

The sandstone deposits of Ukhaa Tolgod date from approximately 80 million years ago, (Campanian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous).  The highly fossiliferous site was discovered by a joint American/Mongolian expedition in 1993.  Almas ukhaa (pronounced Al-mass ook-uh) is unlikely to be the last dinosaur found in this area.  The fossils show a number of autapomorphies (unique characteristics), that distinguish this southern Mongolian troodontid from other Asian members of the Troodontidae.  For example, the ischium (part of the hip girdle), has a distinct spike-like process and unlike other troodontids, the front part of the lower jaw lacks a lateral groove.

The scientific paper: “Osteology of a New Late Cretaceous Troodontid Specimen from Ukhaa Tolgod, Ömnögovi Aimag, Mongolia.”

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16 12, 2017

New Time for BBC T. rex Documentary

By | December 16th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, TV Reviews|0 Comments

BBC – The Real T. rex with Chris Packham (New Time)

A television documentary focusing on how our perceptions regarding the most famous dinosaur of all has changed has been rescheduled and will now be broadcast on Tuesday, January 2nd.

“The Real T. rex” presented by naturalist Chris Packham was due to be shown in late December, but this programme will now be shown on BBC 2 at 9pm on January 2nd.

Television Documentary on Tyrannosaurus rex

Naturalist Chris Packham and a Tyrannosaurus rex.

Chris Packham next to “Tristan” at the Museum für Naturkunde (Berlin).

Picture Credit: BBC/Talesmith/Cineflix/Gordon Welters

Travelling the World to Learn More About Tyrannosaurus rex

In the programme information sent to Everything Dinosaur by BBC Media, an outline of the format of the one-hour-long programme is provided.  Chris embarks on a global journey to learn more about how scientists are reinterpreting Tyrannosaurus rex, a dinosaur which very probably, did not look like or sound like the animal portrayed in so many science fiction movies, including the new Jurassic World film (Fallen Kingdom), due to reach cinema screens in the summer of 2018.

Ground-breaking research into the composition of dinosaur skin, teeth and musculature, combined with reconstructions of the brain of this super-sized Theropod, are helping to redefine this iconic dinosaur.

Reptile or Bird?

Meeting numerous international dinosaur experts, the presenter aims to answer questions such as was T. rex a hunter or a scavenger?  What colour was this dinosaur and just how much of this dinosaur’s body was covered in feathers?  Was T. rex more bird-like than previously thought?

To read an article on the scientific study of skin impressions from a Tyrannosaurus rexT. rex Sheds its Feathers

Dinosaur model fans will already know that Everything Dinosaur exclusively revealed in a recent blog post that CollectA will be making a new deluxe. 1:40 scale feathered T. rex model, but this figure will have reduced plumage.

The New for 2018 CollectA Deluxe Roaring Tyrannosaurus rex Model

CollectA Deluxe 1:40 scale roaring T. rex.

CollectA roaring feathered T. rex dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Collectors should be able to pick up this figure around the middle of next year, shortly before the premier of “Fallen Kingdom”.

Trailblazing Technology

Documentary viewers have been promised the most accurate CGI representation of a Tyrannosaurus rex ever created.  Chris travels to meet Dr Greg Erikson, whose research with alligators is revealing the true power of this carnivore’s incredible bite.  In Dino State Park (Texas), he walks in the footsteps of real and still visible dinosaur footprints and with the help of biomechanics expert Professor John Hutchinson and a virtual treadmill, they determine how the predator moved.  Chris Packham is given unique access to “Tristan” a star exhibit at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin.

There is even an examination of the social life of T. rex, a section of this documentary in which Chris Packham explores the Badlands of Alberta in the company of renowned palaeontologist Phil Currie (University of Alberta).

Those programme details again:

“The Real T. rex with Chris Packham” – Tuesday 2nd January, BBC 2 from 9pm to 10pm.

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15 12, 2017

Updating Dromaeosaurids

By | December 15th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Updating Dromaeosaurid Illustrations

Time to update and re-evaluate some of the scale drawings and details within Everything Dinosaur’s range of fact sheets.  The UK-based company has produced hundreds of dinosaur and prehistoric animal data sheets and from time to time, the information and illustrations needs to be updated.  Over the next few weeks our team members will be concentrating on changing some of the information associated with our Theropod fact sheets, specifically those associated with Maniraptorans.

Updating Dromaeosaurid Illustrations

A feathered "raptor" drawing.

An illustration of Deinonychus (D. antirrhopus)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows a picture of Deinonychus, as we prepare to update our fact sheet on this large “raptor”.

Maniraptoran Dinosaurs Defined

The Maniraptora is a clade of Theropod dinosaurs consisting of those Coelurosaurian dinosaurs that are closely related to birds (Aves).  It includes the birds and the non-avian dinosaurs that were more closely related to them than to ornithomimids specifically, the type species Ornithomimus velox.  The Theropod dinosaurs that are more closely related to birds are classified into a sub-clade Eumaniraptora.  The Eumaniraptora (it means the “true maniraptorans”), consists of all the types of dinosaur more closely related to birds than to the Oviraptorosaurs.  The term Eumaniraptora is often replaced by the term Paraves, although palaeontologists do differ in their views as to the exact composition of Eumaniraptora and Paraves.  Essentially, a dinosaur such as the sickle-toed-clawed Deinonychus (illustrated above), as a member of the Dromaeosauridae family, along with the troodontids and the true birds (Avialae), are components of this sub-clade.

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14 12, 2017

A Blood-sucking Story – Dinosaur Parasites

By | December 14th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Dinosaur Parasites Preserved in 99-million-year-old Amber

Fossilised ticks discovered trapped and preserved in amber show that these parasites sucked the blood of feathered dinosaurs almost 100 million years ago, according to a new article published in the scientific journal “Nature Communications”.  The amber nodule containing the blood-sucking ticks provides the first direct evidence to support the idea that feathered dinosaurs, just like birds today, had to endure blood-sucking parasites.  As a result of this research, a new species of tick has been named “Dracula’s terrible tick” – Deinocroton draculi.

Modern ticks pass diseases onto their host, this discovery provides evidence that as well as having to deal with parasites, it is likely these ticks and their feeding resulted in the transmission of disease from the invertebrate to their dinosaur host.

The Discovery of Blood-sucking Ticks in Association with Dinosaur Feathers

Fossil evidence of dinosaur parasites.

Evidence of ticks feeding on dinosaur blood preserved in amber.

Picture Credit: Nature Communications

The image above shows the hard tick identified as Cornupalpatum burmanicum entangled in a pennaceous feather.  Photograph (a) shows an image of the amber nodule, scale bar 5 mm, the area in the white box is highlighted in (b) allowing the tick that was entangled in the barbs of the feather to be clearly seen (scale bar 1 mm).

Photograph (c) shows a close-up view of the tick’s capitulum (feeding apparatus), the teeth are highlighted by a black arrow (scale bar 0.1 mm).  Picture (d) shows a view of a barb on the feather, scale bar 0.2 mm, whilst the line drawing (e) shows a dorsal view of the tick and the entangled legs.  Photograph (f) shows a close-up view of the hooklets associated with the barb on the feather, the tick became ensnared in these hooklets and trapped, scale bar 0.2 mm.

Fossils of parasites are extremely rare, especially those found with direct evidence which suggests their host.  However, preserved inside a piece of Burmite (amber from Myanmar), which was formed around 100 million-years-ago, researchers found the perfectly preserved remains of a tick tangled up in a feather along with the remains of other ticks, providing a valuable insight into the lives of feathered dinosaurs.

Jurassic Park Scenario?

Although the tick may contain dinosaur blood, the antiseptic and antibacterial properties of the amber (after all, amber is preserved tree resin and this resin is produced by certain types of trees to protect them from infection), all attempts to identify organic remains such as dinosaur DNA from amber have proved unsuccessful.

Lead author of the study,  Enrique Peñalver from the Spanish Geological Survey (IGME), explained the significance of the fossil find:

“Ticks are infamous blood-sucking, parasitic organisms, having a tremendous impact on the health of humans, livestock, pets, and even wildlife, but until now clear evidence of their role in deep time has been lacking.”

Remarkable Amber from Myanmar

Over the last few years, a number of remarkable fossil discoveries have been made as scientists study amber nodules from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).  For example, in December 2016, Everything Dinosaur reported on the discovery of a partial dinosaur tail preserved in amber, whilst in June 2017, this blog site reported upon the discovery of the remains of a baby prehistoric bird that also became entombed in amber.

Dinosaur tail found in Burmite: The Tale of a Dinosaur Tail

Baby Bird (Enantiornithine bird) preserved in amber: Watch the Birdie! Enantiornithine Bird Preserved in Amber

The amber was formed in the early part of the Cenomanian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous.  Northern Burma was covered in a temperate forest during this phase of the Cretaceous, tree resin trapped all kinds of creatures and plant material providing palaeontologists with a fascinating insight into the flora and fauna of a Cretaceous ecosystem.  The researchers identified five different ticks, one is grasping the dinosaur feather and has been identified as an example of Cornupalpatum burmanicum, a tick belonging to the Ixodidae family.  It was a “hard” tick, it had a tough shield (scutum) on its back which protected the Arthropod from predators.  The others including one engorged with blood have been assigned to the new species Deinocroton draculi.

Illustrations of Two of the Ticks (Male and Female D. draculi)

Illustrations of male and female Cretaceous Ticks (D. draculi)

Deinocroton draculi – male (top) with a blood engorged female (bottom).

Picture Credit: Nature Communications

Co-author of the study, Dr Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente (Oxford University Museum of Natural History) commented:

“The fossil record tells us that feathers like the one we have studied were already present on a wide range of Theropod dinosaurs, a group which included ground-running forms without flying ability, as well as bird-like dinosaurs capable of powered flight.  So, although we can’t be sure what kind of dinosaur the tick was feeding on, the Cretaceous age of the Burmese amber confirms
that the feather certainly did not belong to a modern bird, as these appeared much later in Theropod evolution according to current fossil and molecular evidence”.

Engorged with Blood

The tick that has recently fed shows an eight-fold increase in body volume.  This suggests that D. draculi fed quickly.  It will not be possible to analyse the blood as this tick was only partially immersed in the sticky tree resin and during the fossilisation process the body contents were altered by mineral deposition.  Indirect evidence of a probable dinosaur host is provided in the form of hair-like structures (setae) from the larvae of skin beetles (dermestids), found attached to the other two Deinocroton ticks preserved together.  Dermestids feed in nests, on debris such as shed feathers, skin and hair from the nest’s residents.  As no mammal hairs have yet to be found in Burmite (or indeed any Cretaceous amber), the presence of skin beetle setae on the two Deinocroton draculi specimens suggests that the ticks’ host was a feathered dinosaur.

A Three-dimensional Model of the Newly Described Cretaceous Tick (Deinocroton draculi)

Deinocroton draculi image.

A three-dimensional model of the newly described blood-sucking tick Deinocroton draculi.

Picture Credit: Oscar Sanisidro (University of Kansas)

Another author of the scientific paper, Dr David Grimaldi (American Museum of Natural History, New York) explained:

“The simultaneous entrapment of two external parasites – the ticks – is extraordinary, and can be best explained if they had a nest-inhabiting ecology as some modern ticks do, living in the host’s nest or in their own nest nearby.”

The discovery of these ticks provides indirect and direct evidence that ticks have been parasitising and sucking the blood from dinosaurs within the evolutionary lineage leading to extant Aves for almost 100 million-years.

The scientific paper: “Ticks Parasitised Feathered Dinosaurs as Revealed by Cretaceous Amber Assemblages” by Enrique Peñalver, Antonio Arillo, Xavier Delclòs, David Peris, David A. Grimaldi, Scott R. Anderson, Paul C. Nascimbene & Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente published in the journal “Nature Communications”.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of a press release from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in the compilation of this article.

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