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17 09, 2017

Transforming Brains Require a Transforming Skull

By | September 17th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Bigger Brains of Birds Require Skull Modification

Most scientists agree that a group of dinosaurs, members of the Maniraptora clade, evolved into Aves.  We now have two distinct parts to the Order Dinosauria, the extinct non-avian dinosaurs and their closely related, extant kin, the avian dinosaurs (birds).  A lot of research has been undertaken in a bid to try to understand the evolutionary relationships between reptiles and birds.  The lines between these two groups may be quite blurred, but ironically, although it is accepted that brain size and morphology changed as birds evolved and that the shape of the skull changed too, the specific relationship between regions of the brain and the bones making the skull roof has not been formally tested.

Step forward an international team of scientists, including researchers from Yale University and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, they have concluded that the dramatic dinosaur to dino-bird to true bird transition was accompanied by profound changes in the bones that comprise the roof of the skull.  Plotting the changes in skull bones in the fossil record can provide important insights into the way skulls develop over the Tetrapoda as a whole.

As Birds Evolved from Dinosaurs Skull Shape and Brain Size/Morphology Changed Dramatically

Zhenyuanlong illustrated.

Very probably a ground-dwelling predator – the “dino-bird” Zhenyuanlong.

Picture Credit: Zhao Chuang

Tracking the Link Between Brain Development and Skull Roof Bones

The scientific paper, published in “Nature Ecology and Evolution” this week, represents the first time that scientists have mapped the link between skull bones and brain development.

Assistant Professor Bhart-Anjan Singh Bhullar, co-author of the paper commented:

“Across the dinosaur-bird transition, the skull transforms enormously and the brain enlarges.  We were surprised that no one had directly addressed the idea that the underlying parts of the brain — the forebrain and midbrain — are correlated or somehow developmentally related to the overlying frontal and parietal bones.”

Graduate student, Matteo Fabbri, under the tutelage of Assistant Professor Bhart-Anjan Singh Bhullar at Yale University and the lead author of the scientific paper added:

“Our paper is a milestone in the way of approaching the morphological transition from reptile and dinosaur ancestors to extant birds.”

Looking at the Skull Roof of the Asian Troodontid Zanabazar (Z. junior)

Looking at how the skull roof changed as the brain developed.

The skull morphology of the Asian troodontid Zanabazar (Z. junior).

Picture Credit: Yale University

The picture shows a CT image (computerised tomography), of the skull roof of the Asian troodontid Zanabazar junior, a dinosaur that is closely related to extant birds.  The frontal bone is highlighted in pink and the parietal is shown in green).  The location of the brain is shown in the blueish/purple colour.

Although previous studies had demonstrated a general relationship between the skull and brain development, associations between specific regions of the brain and individual bones that make up the skull roof had remained untested.  This led to conflicting theories on some aspects of skull development within the Tetrapoda.

Assistant Professor Bhullar and his co-workers set out to trace the evolution of brain and skull shape not simply in those members of the Dinosauria closest to birds, but in the entire lineage leading from reptiles to birds.  The team discovered that most reptile brains and skulls were very similar to each other.  It was the dinosaurs most closely related to birds, as well as birds themselves, that were divergent, with enlarged brains and skulls ballooning out around them.

The researchers identified a clear link between the frontal bones and the forebrain and the parietal bones and the midbrain.  This link was confirmed when the embryos of lizards, alligators and birds were examined using a new contrast-stained CT scanning methodology.

CT Scans of Various Tetrapod Skulls (Reptiles to Aves Link)

The link between skull development and brain size.

Examining the history of skull and brain development in the evolution of Aves.

Picture Credit: Yale University

The picture above shows three-dimensional, CT scans of four Tetrapods that represent stages on the reptile to bird evolutionary line.  The frontal bone is shown in pink, the parietal is depicted in green and the brain is once again shown as a blueish/purple object.  A chicken skull (top), is compared to its close dinosaurian relative, the troodontid Zanabazar (second from top).  A skull of the primitive, Late Triassic dinosaur* Herrerasaurus is shown below the skull of Zanabazar.  At the bottom, is the skull of Proterosuchus, an Early Triassic Archosauriform that is believed to be an ancestral form that diverged before the crocodile (Crurotarsi – crocodilians et al) and the bird (Ornithodira – dinosaurs, Pterosauria, Aves et al) split.

Bhullar added:

“We suggest that this relationship is found across all vertebrates with bony skulls and indicates a deep developmental relationship between the brain and the skull roof.  What this implies is that the brain produces molecular signals that instruct the skeleton to form around it, although we understand relatively little about the precise nature of that patterning.  Ultimately, one of the important messages here is that evolution is simpler and more elegant than it seems.  Multiple seemingly disparate changes — for instance to the brain and skull — could actually have one underlying cause and represent only a single, manifold transformation.”

*dinosaur Herrerasaurus – the exact phylogenetic relationship between the Herrerasauridae and the Dinosauria remains unclear.  Herrerasaurids comprise of a group of Archosaurs that show a number of dinosaurian and non-dinosaurian traits.  In a recent (2017), revision of the Dinosauria, the Herrerasauridae was classed as a sister clade to the Sauropodomorpha and placed outside of the Ornithoscelida (Theropods and Ornithischians).  Whether Herrerasaurus is a member of the Dinosauria remains open to debate.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of a press release from Yale University in the compilation of this article.

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16 09, 2017

Highly Respected Palaeontologist Dies at Dig Site

By | September 16th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Palaeontologist Mike Getty Dies Unexpectedly

Celebrated fossil hunter and chief fossil preparator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Mike Getty, has died unexpectedly whilst working on a Triceratops excavation north of Denver (Colorado).  A Triceratops fossil, most probably a young adult, was discovered by chance as a construction crew was removing top soil as part of the initial groundworks prior to the building of a new fire and police station.  Mike was part of a field team from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science helping to excavate and jacket the fossil bones.  Much of the material had already been removed, but Mike and some colleagues were still working on the site Monday, when he was suddenly taken ill.

Mike Getty – Famous Palaeontologist Dies Suddenly at Dig Site

Mike Getty

Renowned palaeontologist Mike Getty sadly passed away on Monday.

Picture Credit: Denver Museum of Nature and Science

A Career Dedicated to the Earth Sciences and Education

Raised in western Canada, Mike discovered a fascination for palaeontology and dinosaurs as a child, his enthusiasm was fired as a result of frequent visits to the Badlands of Alberta.  He developed a keen interest in fossils and quickly earned a reputation for being able to detect and identify fossils in the field.  He attended the University of Calgary (Alberta) and went on to lead many field teams in the world-famous Dinosaur Park Formation, uncovering and helping to map several Ceratopsian bonebeds.  Mike joined the Natural History Museum of Utah and took part in numerous excavations and helped prepare for research and public display a large number of fossil vertebrates.  He joined the Denver Museum of Nature and Science four years ago and his sudden death, at fifty years of age, has shocked and greatly saddened all his colleagues and co-workers.

Mike Getty Working at the Thornton Triceratops Excavation

Mike Gerry (chief fossil preparator - Denver Museum of Nature and Science).

Mike Getty working on a Triceratops excavation.

Picture Credit: Denver Museum of Nature and Science

A Dedicated Scientist and Teacher

Described as a dedicated scientist with a quirky, fun-loving personality, Mike’s contribution to palaeontology was recognised in 2010 when the horned dinosaur Utahceratops (U. gettyi) was named in his honour, a reflection on his contribution to the study of dinosaur fossils found in southern Utah.

Utahceratops gettyi – The Species Name Honours Mike Getty

Utahceratops scale drawing.

The species name of U. gettyi honours Mike Getty’s contribution to palaeontology.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The species name honours Mike Getty of the Utah Museum of Natural History who has been prominent in the study of dinosaur fossils found in southern Utah.  One of Mike’s last public engagements was presenting to the media an update on the Thornton Triceratops excavation.  As a skilled preparator, he knew what was required in order to ensure the preservation of delicate fossil material and the dinosaur fossil record of the western United States and Canada would have been much poorer but for the efforts of Mike.

Mike Getty Talking with the Media (Thornton Triceratops)

Mike Getty (Denver Museum of Nature and Science)

Mike Getty meeting the press discussing the Triceratops excavation at Thornton.

Picture Credit: Joe Amon (Denver Post)

Dr Andrew Farke of the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Palaeontology (Claremont, California), who worked with Mike on the Utahceratops study commented:

“He was a character in every sense of the word.  He was quirky, he had a personality and he was one of those people… it’s really hard to imagine that he’s gone now.”

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article on the discovery of Utahceratops: The Curious Ceratopsians Just Got Even More Curious

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur said:

“Our thoughts are with family and friends.  We have had the very great pleasure of being able to write about Mike’s numerous achievements in the field of palaeontology on this blog and he will be sadly missed.  We were due to write about the Thornton Triceratops excavation and the discovery of a broken Tyrannosaur tooth amongst the horned dinosaur’s fossil bones.  It was thanks to Mike’s diligence and skill that small fragmentary fossils such as this Tyrannosaur tooth could be preserved and studied, adding to our knowledge about the dinosaurs that once roamed western North America.”

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15 09, 2017

Deltasuchus – Dinosaur Crunching Crocodile

By | September 15th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Deltasuchus motherali – Unlocking the Fauna of Appalachia

A team of researchers based in the United States have uncovered the remains of an early Late Cretaceous crocodile that is distantly related to modern-day crocodiles.   The discovery comes from the Arlington Archosaur Site, this location is rapidly proving to be one of the best sites for helping palaeontologists to understand the fauna of Appalachia.  During the early Late Cretaceous, much of North America was covered by a shallow sea (Western Interior Sea), the area around Fort Worth and Arlington (Texas), about 95 million years ago, was a peninsula, projecting into this tropical sea.  The peninsula was covered in swamps and marshes and the Arlington Archosaur Site (part of the Woodbine Formation), preserves a record of the animals that inhabited this low-lying area.

University of Tennessee faculty member, Stephanie Drumheller-Horton, (Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences), has described this new crocodyliform, named Deltasuchus motherali in a scientific paper published in the “Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology”.  Working in collaboration with Thomas Adams (Witte Museum) and Christopher Noto (University of Wisconsin-Parkside), Stephanie describes this ancient crocodile as a “generalist”, the shape of the skull and the jaw suggests that this crocodile, which may have grown to lengths in excess of six metres, preyed on turtles, fish and may have ambushed small dinosaurs.

Scientists Show the Skull Material of D. motherali

Deltasuchus skull material.

Stephanie Drumheller-Horton, (far left) with Thomas (Witte Museum) and Christopher Noto (University of Wisconsin-Parkside) with the skull elements of Deltasuchus motherali.

Picture Credit: University of Tennessee

The Arlington Archosaur Site

First discovered in 2003, the Arlington Archosaur Site, has provided palaeontologists with an opportunity to examine life in the Late Cretaceous on the south-western coast of Appalachia.  Very few vertebrate fossils are known from those parts of the United States that once made up the landmass called Appalachia.  The scientists are confident that more types of crocodile, turtle, fish and amphibian will be named from fossils excavated from the Arlington area.  Ornithopod fossil teeth have also been found at this dig site, but to date, no significant quantities of dinosaur bones have been excavated.

A Map Showing the Approximate Position of Arlington on Appalachia in the Early Late Cretaceous

Appalachia and the Arlington Archosaur Site.

The approximate location of Arlington in the early Late Cretaceous.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In the picture above, the red cross shows the approximate location of Arlington in the early Late Cretaceous.  The Arlington Archosaur Site is undergoing rapid residential development and the field teams are in a race with construction companies to map and excavate the area as quickly as possible.

The Arlington Archosaur Site

The Arlington Archosaur Site (Texas).

The Arlington Archosaur Site (Arlington, Texas).

Picture Credit: University of Tennessee

Commenting on the significance of the crocodyliform fossil find, Drumheller-Horton stated:

“We simply don’t have that many North American fossils from this part of the Cretaceous, the last period of the age of dinosaurs, and the eastern half of the continent is particularly poorly understood.  Fossils from the Arlington Archosaur Site are helping fill in this gap, and Deltasuchus is only the first of several new species to be reported from the locality.”

The species name of Deltasuchus motherali honours one of the site volunteers, Austin Motheral, who first uncovered the fossils of this particular crocodile with a small tractor when he was just fifteen years old.

Field Team Members and Volunteers Excavating the Fossils

Excavating bones from the Arlington Archosaur site.

Excavating the delicate bones from the Arlington Archosaur Site.

Picture Credit: University of Tennessee

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14 09, 2017

Everything Dinosaur Adds PNSO Family Zoo

By | September 14th, 2017|Animal News Stories, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

PNSO Family Zoo Models Added to Everything Dinosaur’s Range

Everything Dinosaur has added the PNSO Family Zoo range of animal models to its product portfolio.  The Family Zoo range currently consists of twenty animal models, representing extant creatures as diverse as tigers, pandas, hippos, horses and dogs. Each model is hand-painted and presented in its own blister packaging.  PNSO has built up a deserved reputation for the excellence of its prehistoric animal models, the “PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Toys”, now collectors have the chance to add the entire Family Zoo range to their collections.

The PNSO Family Zoo Ten Most Popular Asian Animals

The PNSO Family Zoo ten most popular Asian animals.

PNSO Family Zoo 10 most popular Asian animals.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Family Zoo Ten Most Popular Asian Animals

The ten animals in the Family Zoo Asian models range are: Brown Bear, Horse, Tiger, Goat, Wolf, Dog, Pig, Siamese Crocodile, Cow and a Panda.  This might seem like an eclectic mix of animals, however, the Family Zoo Asian models represent creatures that have had an intimate relationship with our own species.  Many animals have become domesticated whilst others have been revered in different Asian cultures, the choice of animal in this range reflects the impact that these animals have had and celebrates their importance and their significance to our own species.  The Family Zoo Ten Most Popular Asian Animals commemorates these creatures and their fascinating stories which are interwoven with our own history.

The Beautifully Painted PNSO Family Zoo Tiger Model

The PNSO Family Zoo Tiger figure.

PNSO Family Zoo Tiger model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture shows the wonderful PNSO Family Zoo Tiger figure.  Tigers are icons in both the East and the West (the oriental and occidental cultures).

To view the entire PNSO Family Zoo range of models available from Everything Dinosaur: PNSO Family Zoo Animal Models

Family Zoo Ten Most Popular African Animals

The animals that make up the PNSO Family Zoo ten most popular African animals in contrast, represent creatures that although very important to various human cultures, have never been successfully domesticated.  This model range (all mammals), consists of Wildebeest, African Buffalo, African Lion, Spotted Hyena, Cheetah, African Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Hippopotamus and a Black Rhinoceros.

The PNSO Family Zoo Ten Most Popular African Animals

PNSO Family Zoo Ten Most Popular African Animals.

The PNSO Family Zoo 10 most popular African animals.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Each skilfully, hand-painted animal figure represents an iconic wild animal from Africa.  In the PNSO product literature, this range is described as:

“There are many free spirits roaming the vast Savannah of Africa.  We have produced the Family Zoo range to express our love for nature.”

All the replicas in the “Asian” and “African” ranges show wonderful anatomical details and the colouration of the models is fantastic.  It is hard to choose a favourite, but the Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), is amongst our favourites, it is great to see a model of this critically endangered large mammal.

The PNSO Family Zoo Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)

PNSO Family Zoo Black Rhinoceros replica.

The PNSO Family Zoo Black Rhinoceros model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The PNSO Family Zoo Black Rhinoceros measures a fraction under eleven centimetres in length and this splendid figure is a marvellous companion to the large PNSO White Rhinoceros replica, one of three large-scale figures of iconic African mammals produced by PNSO.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“These figures are rare and difficult to obtain, so we are delighted to be able to offer the PNSO Family Zoo to collectors and animal model fans.”

The PNSO Family Zoo range available from Everything Dinosaur: PNSO Family Zoo Animal Models

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13 09, 2017

The Lewes Dinosaur Project

By | September 13th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Town Aims to Honour Gideon Mantell with a Life-size Dinosaur Monument

An ambitious project to install a life-size iguanodontid in the town of Lewes (East Sussex, England), to commemorate the work of one of the most important contributors to the early study of dinosaurs, is gathering pace.  The dinosaur-themed monument would act as a fitting tribute and memorial to Dr Gideon Mantell who made such a significant contribution to the nascent science of palaeontology in the early part of the 19th Century.  Mantell was born in the town of Lewes (1790), for most of his adult life, he dedicated his spare time to studying the amazing fossilised bones of ancient vertebrates that were being found in the local quarries. Mantell is credited with the discovery of the second dinosaur to be scientifically described (Iguanodon) and many of Mantell’s fossils are now part of the Natural History Museum’s dinosaur fossil collection.  Internationally renowned model maker, Roby Braun has been commissioned to create a 7-metre-long model of an iguanodontid (Mantellisaurus), to honour the work of this dedicated and disciplined scientist whose research was never really given the plaudits that it deserved during his lifetime.

Gideon Mantell (1790-1852)

Gideon Mantell.

Gideon Mantell (1790-1852).

The endeavour, entitled “The Lewes Dinosaur Project” will be officially launched at the Lewes Fossil Festival that starts this weekend (16th/17th September).  Suggestions are being invited as to where best to locate the 3-metre-high dinosaur monument.  Debby Matthews, of the community interest company working on the proposals commented:

“It will be pretty large and will need a stable base where it can be viewed.  There will be a plaque with it describing the links between Gideon Mantell (or his wife), finding the first teeth and bones of an unknown, ancient land animal.”

Local Newspapers Cover the Story

Gideon Mantell newspaper article.

Gideon Mantell article.

Picture Credit: Sussex Express

Mantellisaurus – Revising the Iguanodonts

The giant, plant-eating dinosaur that Mantell described (Iguanodon), was a member of a highly successful and diverse family of dinosaurs (Iguanodontidae), that had a global distribution and formed one of the dominant terrestrial faunas of the Early Cretaceous (although the group did persist until the very end of the Age of Dinosaurs).  As more fossils of iguanodontids have been described, so the “English Iguanodon”, identified by Mantell has been reassessed, the holotype fossil material for Iguanodon (I. bernissartensis) now comes from Belgium.  However, in 2007 the genus Mantellisaurus (M. atherfieldensis) was erected and includes iguanodontid fossil material from the Wessex and Vectis Formations of southern England and the Isle of Wight.  The genus name honours Dr Gideon Mantell.

Comparisons of Different Iguanodonts

Skeletal comparisons (iguanodontids)

Iguanodontid comparisons. D. bampingi is regarded as Nomen dubium.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur from original skeletal drawings by Gregory S. Paul

Gideon Mantell Honoured in the Hintze Hall of the Natural History Museum (London)

Earlier this year, Everything Dinosaur reported on the refurbishment of the main hall at the London Natural History Museum.  “Dippy” the popular Diplodocus exhibit was replaced with a Blue Whale skeleton.  However, in one of the “Wonder Bays” that surrounds the enormous cetacean, there is a dinosaur.  The spectacular Hintze Hall displays a mounted skeleton of a Mantellisaurus.  The specimen (NHMUK R5764), is one of the most complete dinosaur skeletons ever found in the British Isles and it is fitting that the Natural History Museum should pay tribute to the contribution made by Dr Gideon Mantell in this way.  Now it’s the turn of the town of Lewes to set about honouring one of its most famous former residents.

The Mounted Skeleton of Mantellisaurus on Display at the Natural History Museum

Mantellisaurus on display.

Mantellisaurus on display in the Hintze Hall.

Picture Credit: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

Weekend Fossil Festival

The model on which the dinosaur would be based can be viewed at the two-day Fossil Festival (16th/17th September).  A screening of the ground-breaking Steven Spielberg directed, “Jurassic Park” will take place at 4pm Saturday afternoon as part of the dinosaur themed festival activities.

On Sunday, the Linklater Pavilion in the town will be hosting a range of dinosaur related, family-themed activities as the community aims to raise the profile of the project.

The Fossil Festival Flyer

Mantell Fossil Festival flyer.

Gideon Mantell Fossil Festival flyer.

Picture Credit: Debby Matthews

The website of the Lewes Dinosaur Project: The Lewes Dinosaur Project

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12 09, 2017

Europe’s Newest Brachiosaur

By | September 12th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Soriatitan golmayensis of the Lower Cretaceous of Spain

Say hello to Europe’s newest member of the Brachiosauridae family – Soriatitan golmayensis, a Sauropod estimated to have been longer than a badminton court!  This new species of herbivorous dinosaur has been described in a scientific paper published in the journal “Cretaceous Research”.  The fossil material, consisting of a single tooth, elements from the hips, limb bones including a partial femur and fragmentary tail bones were excavated over several years from the turn of the Century.  The study of the fossil material finally culminating in the establishment of a new species of brachiosaurid.  The genus name means “Soria Titan”, a reference to Soria Province in central Spain where the fossils come from.  The species name honours the Lower Cretaceous Golmayo Formation (upper Hauterivian-lower Barremian), from which the fossil material was extracted.

An Illustration of the Newly Described Early Cretaceous Sauropod Soriatitan golmayensis

Soriatitan golmayensis illustrated.

An illustration of the brachiosaurid Soriatitan golmayensis.

Picture Credit: Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis

Approximately Fourteen Metres Long

With less than 15% of the skeleton to work with, the researchers, which included lead author of the paper, Rafael Royo-Torres (Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis/Museo Aragonés de Paleontología, Spain), were able to identify this dinosaur as a Brachiosaur by comparing the bones to better-known species.  To estimate the size, the scientists scaled up the dinosaur based on the dimensions of the 1.25-metre-long humerus (upper arm bone).  When this bone was compared to the humeri of other brachiosaurids the team concluded that their specimen represented a fourteen-metre-long individual.

The Size of Soriatitan Was Calculated Using the Humerus

Fossil humerus (Soriatitan golmayensis).

The humerus from Soriatitan which was used to estimate the animal’s size.

Picture Credit: Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis

The Brachiosauridae Family

Brachiosaurs probably originated in the late Middle Jurassic and survived the break-up of Pangaea before finally becoming extinct in the Early Cretaceous.  Fossils of these long-necked, heavy-limbed plant-eaters are known from North America, Africa, Europe and southern England.  The Brachiosauridae is one of the three groups that make up the larger clade the Titanosauriformes.  The research team estimate that Soriatitan roamed the Iberian Peninsula some 132 million years ago.  Although, other fragmentary fossils notably those of Pelorosaurus conybeari from the Grinstead Clay Formation (West Sussex, England), have been tentatively assigned to the Brachiosauridae, the discovery of Soriatitan is extremely significant.  Dinosaurs such as the similar sized P. conybeari have been found in slightly older strata (Valangian faunal stage of the Early Cretaceous), Soriatitan provides evidence that brachiosaurids persisted in the Early Cretaceous of Europe for longer than previously thought.

Palaeontologist Rafael Royo-Torres explained:

“Until now it was believed that brachiosaurids had become extinct in Europe around 130 million years ago, the discovery of Soriatitan changes our perception of the European Early Cretaceous biota.”

The Break-up of Pangaea

The single, spoon-shaped tooth is typical of a brachiosaurid.  This tooth and the shape of a number of bones such as the presence of middle caudal neural spines helped the researchers to assign this dinosaur to the Brachiosauridae family.  In addition, the team deduced that Soriatitan may have been closely related to Abydosaurus Cedarosaurus and Venenosaurus, which are all known from Lower Cretaceous-aged strata from Utah (United States).   The presence of Early Cretaceous brachiosaurids in both North America and Europe, give support to the hypothesis of a connection between the tectonic plates of these continents at some point during the Early Cretaceous.  A land connection between Europe and North America must have been present to enable closely related dinosaurs to be found in both Spain and the western United States.

Views of the Single Tooth of Soriatitan golmayensis

Soriatitan fossil tooth.

Views of the single tooth of Soriatitan from the Lower Cretaceous of Spain.

Picture Credit: Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis

The discovery of Soriatitan, may help palaeontologists to better understand the evolution of the Titanosauriformes in Europe.  Rafael Royo-Torres was part of the research team that described the non-brachiosaurid Titanosauriform Tastavinsaurus sanzi recovered from a dig site in Peñarroya de Tastavins (Teruel) at the base of the marine Xert Formation in 2008.  It is one of the most complete and best-preserved Sauropod dinosaur skeletons from the European Early Cretaceous.  Tastavinsaurus roamed Spain some 125 million years ago.  The discovery of Soriatitan may help fill the evolutionary gap between Late Jurassic Brachiosaurs and the European Titanosaurs of the Early Cretaceous.

Rafael Royo-Torres Photographed Next to the Partial Femur (Thigh Bone)

The femur (thigh bone) of Soriatitan golmayensis

Palaeontologist Rafael Royo , lead author of the scientific paper examines a Soriatitan golmayensis femur.

Picture Credit: Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis

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11 09, 2017

500 Million-Year-Old Trace Fossils Shed Light on Animal Evolution

By | September 11th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Tracing the Traces of Early Animal Life

Darwin was aware of the problem, Huxley and Owen had considered it too.  The American Charles Walcott, in 1909*, literally stumbled across evidence to support the idea of a bizarre array of early animal forms, but the fossil evidence that helps to pinpoint and then map the evolution of the Kingdom Animalia in deep geological time, is scarce to say the very least.  How and when did the first animals evolve?  What type of creatures were they?  These are the questions that taxed the minds of some of the greatest scientists in history, now, thanks to some new research published today, the way we think about how all animals evolved on Earth might just change.

Scientists have discovered microscopic traces of animal life more than half-a-billion years old.  The international team, including scientists from Manchester University, have identified trace fossils left by some of the first ever organisms capable of active movement.

Plotting the Evidence of Ancient Burrowing Creatures

The first animals (trace fossils).

Evidence of the first animals (burrows and borings).

Picture Credit: Manchester University

The picture above might look like a Jackson Pollock, but the image shows a computer generated, three-dimensional model of the trace fossils found by the scientists.  Trace fossils preserve evidence of the activity of organisms.  They are often the only evidence palaeontologists have for extinct animals whose bodies lacked any hard parts.  No physical remains of the microscopic worms that made these burrows have been found, but the researchers suggest that they were made by a type of nematoid-like worm, an animal with bilateral symmetry, making these organisms more closely related to Chordates (animals with notochords and spinal columns), than creatures like jellyfish and corals.

The fossils were discovered in sediment in the Corumbá region of western Brazil, close to the border with Bolivia.  The burrows are extremely small.  They measure from less than fifty to six hundred micrometres or microns (μm) in diameter.  That means the tiny creatures that made them were similar in size to a human hair, which can range from forty to three hundred microns wide.  One micrometre is just one thousandth of a millimetre.

The Research Team Carefully Mapped the Intricate Burrows in the Ancient Sediment

Ancient roundworm trace fossils.

Trace fossils indicate the first animals capable of independent movement.

Picture Credit: Manchester University

Commenting on the significance of this research, Dr Russell Garwood (University of Manchester School of Earth and Environmental Sciences), stated:

“This is an especially exciting find due to the age of the rocks, these fossils are found in rock layers which actually pre-date the oldest fossils of complex animals – at least that is what all current fossil records would suggest.”

The Ediacaran-Cambrian Transition

The fossils found date back to a geological and evolutionary period known as the Ediacaran–Cambrian transition.  This was when the Ediacaran Period, which spanned 94 million years from the end of the Cryogenian Period, 635 million years ago, moved into the Cambrian Period around 541 million years ago.  To put that into context, dinosaurs lived between 235 and 66 million years ago in the Mesozoic Era and our human species (H.sapiens), may have been present on this planet for around 250,000 years or so.

Dr Garwood explained:

“The evolutionary events during the Ediacaran–Cambrian transition are unparalleled in Earth history.  That’s because current fossil records suggest that many animal groups alive today appeared in a really short time interval.”

The scientists suggest these burrows were created by “nematoid-like organisms”, similar to a modern-day roundworm, that used an undulating locomotion to move through the sediment, leaving these trace fossils behind.  This is important because current DNA studies, known as “molecular clocks”, which are used to estimate how long ago a group animals originated, suggests the first animals appeared before these trace fossils.  The research paper published in the academic journal “Nature Ecology and Evolution”, demonstrates that these trace fossils pre-date similar animals known from the fossil record.

Luke Parry, the lead author of the paper (Bristol University) stated:

“Our new fossils show that complex animals with muscle control were around approximately 550 million years ago, and they may have been overlooked previously because they are so tiny.  The fossils that we describe were made by quite complex animals that we call bilaterians.  These are all animals that are more closely related to humans, rather than to simple creatures like jellyfish.  Most fossils of bilaterian animals are younger, first appearing in the Cambrian period.”

*It was the American Charles Walcott who discovered the Burgess Shale deposits of British Columbia, that first provided palaeontologists with a window into the radiation and diversity of the Animalia during the Middle Cambrian.  The unique taphonomy of these shales permitted the preservation of a multitude of marine invertebrates including thousands of specimens of soft-bodied creatures.

Mapping the Extensive Network of Trails

Ancient trace fossils.

The different colours mark different burrows.

To find such tiny fossils the team used X-ray microtomography, a special technique that uses X-rays to create a virtual, three-dimensional model of something without destroying the original object.

Paper Reference – ‘Ichnological evidence for meiofaunal bilaterians from the terminal Ediacaran and earliest Cambrian of Brazil ‘ is being published in Nature Ecology & Evolution – DOI 10.1038/s41559-017-0301-9

Further Reading:

Cambrian worm discovery: It was a Worm’s World Back in the Cambrian

A potential transitional fossil between worms and Arthropoda: Transitional “Cactus-like” Fossil Between a Worm and an Arthropod

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10 09, 2017

A Review of the PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops Model

By | September 10th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases, Product Reviews|0 Comments

PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops Model Reviewed

Everything Dinosaur has recently added the PNSO range of prehistoric animals and the PNSO “Family Zoo” replicas to its already extensive range of figures.  This series is not that well-known outside of China, but these models are rapidly gaining favour with serious collectors.  Take for example, the PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops figure, one of the large dinosaur models within this particular range.

The PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops Model

The PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops model.

The PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows this excellent horned dinosaur replica.  We have placed the model on its box and put a geology ruler next to it so that readers can easily see the size of this figure.  It measures thirty-seven centimetres from the tip of the brow horn to the end of the tail, making this one of the largest models of “three-horned face” available from a mainstream manufacturer.  The box artwork is superb and the information leaflet found inside the box, folds out to create a poster of the front cover Triceratops artwork.

A View of the Other Side of the PNSO Age of Dinosaur Triceratops Replica

PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops.

The PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Triceratops Model Scale

Although, PNSO does not publish a scale for their models, our dinosaur experts have estimated that this Triceratops (T. horridus) is in approximately in 1:24 scale.  It makes a spectacular display piece and there is a lot of detail to admire on the replica, most notably the intriguing skin texture, the folds of skin that indicate movement and that wonderfully painted skull and neck frill.

A Close View of the Head of the PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops Model

A close view of the head of the PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops model.

The PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the PNSO Age of Dinosaurs model series which is available from Everything Dinosaur: PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Model Collection

The splashes of orange on the head contrast with the greyish body.  Palaeontologists tend to agree that colour was very important to dinosaurs and it makes sense for Triceratops to have a bright head and neck frill, this would have helped make the head and the large frill more eye-catching when it came to visual displays to intimidate rivals and to deter attack from predatory Tyrannosaurs.

The PNSO Triceratops Replica (Anterior View)

A view from the front of the impressive PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops.

The PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The head is slightly lowered on the PNSO replica, it’s as if the animal is displaying or perhaps it is getting ready to lunge with its dangerous brow horns.

Fantastic Box Artwork (PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Triceratops Figure)

Beautiful PNSO Age of Dinosaurs box art.

The PNSO Triceratops box art.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

All in all, this is a highly collectable Triceratops figure and we look forward to seeing how this model series develops.

PNSO have also introduced a range of extant animal models under the umbrella brand of “Family Zoo”.  At the moment, three large models of living animals are included within this series.  There is a Hippopotamus, an African Elephant and a gorgeous White Rhinoceros model.  So, if ancient horned animals are not quite your thing, then why not grab a replica of the highly endangered African White Rhinoceros, a living example of a horned giant, a magnificent creature, that sadly, like the Triceratops some sixty-six million years beforehand, is now facing extinction.

The Beautiful PNSO Family Zoo White Rhinoceros Model

PNSO Family Zoo White Rhinoceros.

The PNSO White Rhinoceros model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the PNSO “Family Zoo” models: PNSO Family Zoo Animal Models

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9 09, 2017

Has Human Evolution Tripped Us Up?

By | September 9th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

5.7 Million-year-old Hominin Footprints on Crete

The chance discovery of hominin fossilised footprints on the Mediterranean island of Crete, has challenged the accepted theory of human evolution.  The footprints, which have been dated to around 5.7 million years ago, were formed when all other hominins known to science were restricted to Africa and they had much more ape-like feet.  If the series of tracks prove to be accurately dated, then this challenges the idea that hominins (those species more closely related to us than they are to a chimpanzee), evolved in Africa.  Has someone just rocked the “cradle of humanity”?

A Photograph of the Tracks (Ancient Hominin Footprints)

Hominin fossil footprints from Crete.

Fossilised hominin footprints from Crete.

Picture Credit: Andrzej Boczarowski

The Out of Africa Theory

With the discovery of the Laetoli footprints in Tanzania in the mid 1970’s (believed to have been made by a small group of Australopithecus afarensis), which were formed some 3.7 million years ago, our species (H. sapiens) and our direct ancestors were thought to have originated in Africa.  These footprints, show very human-like feet with a distinctive shape, a big toe and a human gait.   The gait of these early humans was “heel-strike” (the heel of the foot hits first) followed by “toe-off” (the toes push off at the end of the stride), the same way that modern humans walk.  Early hominins were thought to have remained isolated in Africa before dispersing to Europe and Asia, hundreds of thousands of years after they first evolved.  The discovery of approximately 5.7 million-year-old human-like footprints from Crete, published online this week by an international team of researchers, including scientists from Uppsala University (Sweden), overturns this rather simple picture and suggests a more complicated evolutionary path for our ancestors.

A Close View of One of the Footprints (right foot)

Fossilised hominin footprint from Crete

A fossilised hominin footprint from Trachilos (western Crete). The right footprint is estimated to be 5.7 million-years-old.

Picture Credit: Andrzej Boczarowski

The picture above shows a close-up of one of the footprints, the big toe can be clearly seen.  Our feet have a very distinctive shape.  We have five short toes without claws, the hallux (big toe), is much larger than the other toes and our foot has a long sole.  The feet of the great apes, are very different.  They resemble a human hand with a thumb-like hallux that sticks out to the side.  The Laetoli footprints, ascribed to A. afarensis, are quite similar to those of modern humans except that the heel is narrower and the sole lacks a proper arch.  The 4.4 million-year-old Ardipithecus ramidus from Ethiopia, the oldest hominin known from reasonably complete fossils, has an ape-like foot.   The researchers who described Ardipithecus argued that it is a direct ancestor of later hominins, implying that a human-like foot evolved later.

The Trachilos Tracks

The newly described tracks from Trachilos in western Crete bear a close resemblance to a human footprint.  The big toe has similar morphology and there seems to be a distinct “ball” on the sole, which is absent in primates.  The sole of the foot is proportionately shorter than in the Laetoli prints, but it has the same general form.  The prints do look as if they were made by a hominin.

The Foot of a Great Ape (Note the Position of the Big Toe)

A photograph of the foot of an ape.

The foot of an ape.

Approximately fifty tracks were made when bipeds walked across a sandy area and although many large apes are known from the Late Miocene of Europe, no hominin was thought to have migrated into Europe for millions of years after the tracks were made.

Professor Per Ahlberg (Uppsala University), the lead author of the study commented:

“What makes this controversial is the age and location of the prints.”

At approximately 5.7 million years, they are younger than the oldest known fossil hominin, Sahelanthropus from Chad, and contemporary with Orrorin (O. tugenensis), from Kenya, but more than a million years older than Ardipithecus ramidus with its ape-like feet.

This fossil find throws into question the hypothesis that Ardipithecus is a direct ancestor of later hominins.  In addition, until this year, all fossil hominins older than 1.8 million years (the age of early Homo fossils from Georgia), came from Africa, leading most researchers to conclude that this was where the group evolved.  However, the Trachilos footprints are securely dated using a combination of foraminifera (marine micro-fossils) from over and underlying bedding planes, plus the fact that they lie just below a very distinctive sedimentary rock formed when the Mediterranean Sea temporarily evaporated around 5.6 million years ago.  Coincidentally, earlier this year, another group of researchers, led by Professor Madelaine Böhme of the University of Tübingen, (Germany), writing in the Journal PLOS One, reinterpreted the fragmentary 7.2 million-year-old primate Graecopithecus freybergi from Greece and Bulgaria as a hominin.

Professor Ahlberg added:

“This discovery challenges the established narrative of early human evolution head-on and is likely to generate a lot of debate.  Whether the human origins research community will accept fossil footprints as conclusive evidence of the presence of hominins in the Miocene of Crete remains to be seen.”

The eastern Mediterranean in the Late Miocene consisted of extensive, arid grasslands, the Sahara Desert did not exist and Crete was still part of the Greek mainland.  Early hominins could have ranged along this habitat moving from Africa to south-eastern Europe, with one group leaving their footprints on the shores of the Mediterranean that would one-day form part of the island of Crete.

The scientific paper: Possible Hominin Footprints from the Late Miocene (c. 5.7 Ma) of Crete?   Gierlinski, G. D. et al. 2017. published in the Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of an Uppsala University press release in the compilation of this article.

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8 09, 2017

How to Set Up an Account at Everything Dinosaur

By | September 8th, 2017|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

How to Set Up an Account at Everything Dinosaur

With the launch of Everything Dinosaur’s updated website this year, lots of new customer friendly features have been added.  Creating an account is very easy and intuitive, but we do appreciate the way opening accounts has changed, so here is a helpful guide to setting up an account with Everything Dinosaur.

How to Open an Account with Everything Dinosaur

Step by step guide to opening an account with Everything Dinosaur

How to open an account with Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

You Don’t Need an Account to Make a Purchase (Check-out as a Guest)

The first point to make is that you don’t need to open an account/create your own personal space on our website to make a purchase.  Visitors to our site can check-out as a guest, there is no need to open an account, simply put the items you want into your shopping cart, go to the check-out page and then proceed through the check-out process.  You will get offered the opportunity to open an account, but this is not compulsory, just simply proceed without ticking the “create an account” box.

How to Open an Account

  1. Add the items you would like to purchase to your shopping cart
  2. Proceed to the check-out page
  3. Enter billing address and/or delivery address (if delivery address is different from the billing address)
  4. Just below the billing address, you will see a “check box” entitled Create an Account? – we have circled the check box in red in the picture below.

Tick the “Create an Account” Box Under the Billing Address

Opening an account at Everything Dinosaur.

Tick the box (circled) to start the account set up process at Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

5. Tick the box by clicking on it, you will be asked to create a password, once this is done, just proceed through the check-out process

You Will Be Asked to Create a Password for Your Account

Opening an account with Everything Dinosaur

Tick the box to create an account, then make up a password.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A Simple and Straight Forward Account Opening Process

That’s it, that’s all there is to it.  You can create your own account on our website and it takes just a few seconds.  Our customers and account holders can be assured that at Everything Dinosaur we take their on-line safety extremely seriously and our website has HTTPS status.  This means that all communications between your browser and our website are encrypted.  This is just one of the numerous safety measures that we employ to keep you and your data safe when shopping/visiting Everything Dinosaur’s websites.

If you have a query about account opening, or if you wish to contact a member of our team, just email us: Email Everything Dinosaur

For dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed toys, models, games and clothing visit: Everything Dinosaur’s Website

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