All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
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22 04, 2018

The Ancient Whales Gallery

By | April 22nd, 2018|Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Ancient Cetaceans – Frankfurt Natural History Museum

There are some very impressive prehistoric whale exhibits in the ancient whales gallery at the Frankfurt Natural History Museum (Frankfurt, Germany).  The Frankfurt Museum, also known as the Senckenberg Museum, houses one of the largest natural history collections in the whole of western Europe.  The extensive galleries highlight biodiversity and tell the story of the evolution of life on Earth.  One of the highlights of the entire collection is the substantial cetacean gallery that includes a number of mounted exhibits of ancient prehistoric whales.

The Ancient Whales Gallery (Senckenberg Museum)

Ancient whale fossils.

The magnificent ancient whales gallery at the Frankfurt Natural History Museum (Germany).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Basilosaurus

A team member from Everything Dinosaur spotted a glass case that contained the fossil skull and jaws of the Late Eocene whale Basilosaurus, fossils of which are known from New Zealand, North Africa, the United States and Europe.  This early toothed whale was an apex predator, reaching lengths in excess of twenty metres and perhaps weighing more than 10,000 kilograms.

The Skull and Jaws of the Fearsome Basilosaurus

Basilosaurus fossil jaws (Frankfurt Natural History Museum)

Basilosaurus fossil jaws.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Basilosaurus was popularised after it appeared in the BBC television series “Walking with Beasts”, a sequel to the famous “Walking with Dinosaurs” television series that was first aired in 1999.   Episode two of “Walking with Beasts” entitled “Whale Killer” told the story of a pregnant Basilosaurus and her search for enough food to sustain herself and her unborn calf as the world entered a period of climate change that would lead to a significant extinction event.

An Illustration of Basilosaurus

PNSO Basilosaurus illustration.

An illustration of Basilosaurus.  A Basilosaurus scale drawing.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

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21 04, 2018

Missing Link in Sea Turtle Evolution Identified

By | April 21st, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Peritresius martini – Missing Link in Sea Turtle Evolution

Tortoises, terrapins and turtles, collectively classified into the Order Testudines (sometimes referred to as the Chelonii), are a very ancient group of reptiles.  They were around before the crocodilians and the dinosaurs.  Surprisingly, not that much is known about the evolutionary origins of extant species, but newly published research by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has identified an important missing link in the lineage leading to modern sea turtles.

A new species of Late Cretaceous sea turtle has been named and described in a paper published in the academic on-line journal “PLOS One”.  The turtle, which had a shell more than a metre in diameter, has been named Peritresius martini.  The turtle’s name honours amateur fossil collector and retired scientist George Martin, who discovered the specimen in Lowndes County, Alabama and donated the fossil to the Alabama Museum of Natural History (Tuscaloosa, Alabama).

The Known Fossil Material Ascribed to Peritresius martini

New species of Late Cretaceous sea turtle described.

The known fossil elements of P. martini with a line drawing showing their position in life.

Picture Credit: University of Alabama at Birmingham

In the picture (above), the known fossil elements are shown including elements from the carapace, the plastron and the pelvic girdle (centre image).  The fossil bones have been superimposed (in green) onto a line drawing showing a life reconstruction of the marine turtle.

Drew Gentry, lead author of the research and a PhD student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham stated:

“This discovery answers several important questions about the distribution and diversity of sea turtles during this period of time.  It provides further evidence that Alabama is one of the best places in the world to study some of the earliest ancestors of modern marine turtles.”

Alabama During the Late Cretaceous

The new species of sea turtle (P. martini), swam in the shallow waters off the coast of Appalachia between 73 and 70 million years ago.  It has been compared to the extant (Chelonia mydas), the green sea turtle, that can be found off the coast of Alabama today.

Alabama in the Late Cretaceous and Fossil Turtle Discoveries

Alabama and turtle fossil finds.

Alabama in the Late Cretaceous.  The picture above shows the biostratigraphy and the palaeobiogeography of the Late Cretaceous fossil turtle discoveries of North America.  Note P. martini is marked by the yellow star.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

Biostratigraphy and paleobiogeography of Late Cretaceous chelonioid species of North America.  Localities and taxon ranges for fossil occurrences key:

1).  Nichollsemys baieri – a sea turtle from the Bearpaw Formation of Canada dating from the Late Campanian.

2).  Porthochelys laticeps – a sea turtle from Kanas that lived during the Coniacian through into the Santonian faunal stages of the Late Cretaceous.

3).  Toxochelys latiremis  – a sea turtle known from western Kansas with a wide temporal distribution ranging from around 88 – 73 million years ago.

4).  Ctenochelys stenoporus – known from central Alabama.

5).  Prionochelys nauta – from the Mooreville Chalk Formation of Alabama.

6).  Toxochelys moorevillensis – from the Late Santonian and the Early Campanian which was named in 1953.

7).  Ctenochelys acris – closely related to C. stenoporus, graduate student Drew Gentry published a study that proved that C. acris was a valid species.  To read more about this research: Graduate Student Unlocks the Secrets of Sea Turtle Evolution

8).  Thinochelys lapisossea – from the Selma Formation of Alabama.

9). Zangerlchelys arkansaw –  a sea turtle from the Marlbrook Marl Formation of Arkansas.

10).  Peritresius martini – the newly described sea turtle from the study.

11).  Peritresius ornatus – a closely related marine turtle species to P. martini that was first named and described in the mid-19th Century.

12).  Euclastes wielandi – a primitive sea turtle dating from the Late Maastrichtian faunal stage of the Cretaceous.

13).  Catapleura repanda – a Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian faunal stage), turtle associated with Greensand marine deposits of New Jersey.

Commenting on the contribution of George Martin, Drew Gentry said:

“Professional palaeontologists often spend a great deal of time in laboratories performing the in-depth research necessary to properly study extinct species.  Almost every palaeontologist would love to spend more time in the field looking for fossils.  But, without people like George Martin, many of the most significant fossil specimens ever found in Alabama would still be buried in the dirt.”

A Fortuitous Fossil Find

This important marine turtle fossil discovery happened by chance as George Martin explained;

“Finding this fossil turtle was largely happenstance as I stopped to look at the rock strata exposed by the stream.  I found a fragment of the turtle shell embedded in the marl and returned to the spot several times over the next year to recover fragments of the turtle as they were uncovered by the stream.”

However, without the skull and limb bones, the appearance and habits of P. martini can only be speculated upon.  The scientists have no information on what it fed upon, how it moved or whether this turtle was a creature of the coastal seas or deeper water.  The discovery of this new species of Peritresius helps to fill a gap in the Stem Cheloniidae, a group of ancient sea turtles that are related to the majority of sea turtles found today.

A Timeline of Turtle Evolution

A timeline of Testudine species from the Late Cretaceous to the present day.

Time-calibrated, strict consensus phylogeny of select fossil and extant Testudine species.  P. martini is highlighted by the purple star.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of a University of Alabama at Birmingham press release in the compilation of this article.

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20 04, 2018

University of California Berkeley Researchers Have a “Whale” of a Time

By | April 20th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Miocene Fossil Treasure Trove at Californian Dam Site

Construction workers building a new dam on the Calaveras reservoir in California have uncovered a treasure trove of more than 1,500 fossils that depict marine life in the Miocene Epoch.  The fossils include numerous whale skulls, around twenty in total, University of California Berkeley scientists supervising the preservation of the 20 to 15 million-year-old specimens are confident that the material found to date represents at least one new species of Baleen whale.

The large Calaveras reservoir lies to the north-east of the city of San Jose in the “Golden State”, the original dam was constructed in 1925, but concerns over the risk of earthquakes has led to the commencement of a second dam several hundred metres downstream.  The first fossils were found in 2013 and brought to the attention of the University.  The fossilised remains include whales, sharks, such as Megalodon teeth, ancient seals, other vertebrates and a wealth of invertebrate fossils including gastropods, bivalves and crustaceans.  In addition, the distinctive fossil teeth of a Desmostylus have been found.  The Desmostylians are an extinct Order of hippo-like, prehistoric mammals that are distantly related to today’s sea cows.

Part of the Skull of an Ancient Baleen Whale from the Calaveras Reservoir Site

Baleen fossil material from California

Fossil skull and jaw material representing a type of baleen whale from the dam site.

Picture Credit: University of California Berkeley/Sara Yogi

A Miocene Coastal Palaeofauna

The discovery of preserved palm fronds and pine cones in the marine sediments suggest that the coastline was close by.  Desmostylus is believed to have favoured freshwater or estuarine environments, the Desmostylus fossil teeth found at the construction site adds further weight to the idea that the strata were laid down in shallow water close to land.

Commenting on the significance of the fossils, Cristina Robins, a senior scientist at the Museum of Palaeontology (University of California, Berkeley) and the person responsible for cataloguing all the fossil finds stated:

“Fossils are found all the time in the Bay Area, but the concentration of unique and varied specimens is what makes this special.”

Numerous Invertebrate Fossils Have Been Found

Shell fossils from California.

Examples of shell fossils from the Calaveras Dam site.

Picture Credit: University of California Berkeley/Sara Yogi

Providing Public Access to an Important Fossil Collection

University of California Berkeley laboratory staff are being assisted by graduate and undergraduate students.  The work of cleaning, identifying and labelling all the fossils is quite laborious, but eventually, the scientists hope to make all the fossil material digitally available via the University’s website.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“It is very likely that a number of new species might be identified from this fossil deposit.  This collection is helping palaeontologists to piece together an ancient environment, a lush tropical coastal ecosystem dominated by large, prehistoric mammals with an exotic marine fauna consisting of several different types of cetacean, some of which may have  the prey of the giant shark Megalodon”.

So Many Fossils Have Been Found that an Entire Research Laboratory has been Taken Over

Fossils from the Calaveras Reservoir.

The extensive fossil collection from the Calaveras Dam site.

Picture Credit: University of California Berkeley/Sara Yogi

Ironically, the word “Calaveras” is Spanish for skulls, considering the amount of whale skull material found at the site, this is a very appropriate name for the dam and the reservoir.

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19 04, 2018

Carboniferous Shark Brain Case Study

By | April 19th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Brain Case of Carcharopsis wortheni Described

Research led by American Museum of Natural History scientists has provided a fresh perspective on a shark that might have been the “Jaws” of the Carboniferous.  The shark, Carcharopsis wortheni was first scientifically described in the mid-19th Century and was previously known only from its characteristic serrated teeth and fragments of jaw.  A fossilised brain case identified as C. wortheni was excavated in 2007 from Upper Mississippian aged rocks in Arkansas (Fayetteville Shale).  The fossil was found by Royal Mapes, a retired Ohio University professor and a research associate at the Museum.  State-of-the-art imaging techniques were used to provide a unique insight into this important apex predator that lived some 320 million years ago.

The Fossil Cranium (Brain Case) of Carcharopsis wortheni

The fossilised brain case of C. wortheni.

The brain case of Carcharopsis wortheni.

Picture Credit: American Museum of Natural History/Allison Bronson

Insight into Shark Evolution

The shark lived at a critical point in the evolutionary history of our planet, part of a marine fauna that survived the end Devonian mass extinction event which decimated vertebrate species.  This ancient Palaeozoic shark,  was originally described in 1843 based on its distinctive serrated teeth, a feature that is common in extant sharks such as the formidable Great White (Carcharodon carcharias), an apex marine predator with a frightening reputation, thanks in the main to the film “Jaws” directed by Steven Spielberg, which was based on Peter Benchley’s book.  However, serrated teeth are rarely found in Palaeozoic sharks.

A CT Scan Showing the Unique Serrations on a Tooth from Carcharopsis (C. wortheni)

Shark fossil tooth C. wortheni.

Carcharopsis fossil tooth.  Scale bar = 1 mm.

Picture Credit: American Museum of Natural History/Allison Bronson

The picture above shows a computer tomography generated image of a Carcharopsis tooth, measuring around five millimetres in length.  The blue lines are canals identified within the tooth.

Commenting on the fossil, lead author of the study Allison Bronson, a PhD student at the American Museum of Natural History stated:

“They [the teeth] look a little like what you’d see in a Great White, but are 320 million years old and with different enamel.  This is really early to see serrated teeth.”

Royal Mapes donated the brain case specimen to the New York-based natural history museum, along with a remarkable 540,000 other fossils.  Mapes co-authored the Carcharopsis study, which has been published in the journal “Papers in Palaeontology”, American Museum of Natural History curator John Maisey also contributed to the paper.

The scientists used high-resolution computed tomography (CT) imaging to examine the cranium, a tooth, and an isolated portion of a tooth base.  Using the scans, they were able to reconstruct the internal canals of the teeth for the first time and found that these are similar to the canals found in today’s sharks.

The arrangement of the shark’s blood vessels—also revealed through CT scans—suggests that Carcharopsis was probably closely related to the group of ancient cartilaginous fish from which today’s sharks and rays evolved.  However, more complete fossils are needed to firmly position it in the tree of life.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of the American Museum of Natural History in the compilation of this article.

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18 04, 2018

A New Early Cretaceous Amphibian from Japan

By | April 18th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Under the Noses of Dinosaurs, a New Species of Early Cretaceous Amphibian is Described

A small, fragmentary fossil found in an outcrop of the Kuwajima Formation, in western Central Japan has been identified as a new species of albanerpetontid amphibian.  This tiny animal, measuring just six centimetres in length inhabited a wide floodplain, that was crossed by meandering rivers in a humid environment some 130 million years ago.  The fossils represent the oldest example of this type of Tetrapod found in Asia, they predate the only other specimens known from Asia (Uzbekistan), by tens of millions of years.

A Life Reconstruction of the Little Albanerpetontid Amphibian (S. isajii)

Shirerpeton life reconstruction.

An illustration of Shirerpeton – an Early Cretaceous amphibian.

Picture Credit: Takumi Yamamoto

The Ancient Albanerpetontidae Family

Superficially resembling modern-day Salamanders, these ancient amphibians are only distantly related to their modern counterparts.  They evolved in the Middle Jurassic and persisted until very recently, finally becoming extinct during the Pleistocene Epoch.  Several genera are known and they are characterised by their unique skulls and the presence of bony scales on their skin.  The tiny specimen consists of a partial skull, vertebrae and elements from a hind limb, a total of forty-three bones.  The only Asian examples of this clade of amphibian have been found in Uzbekistan.  These fossils date from the very end of the Cretaceous, so the Japanese specimen is some sixty million years older.

High resolution X-ray computed microtomography was used to identify the shape of the bones which remain partially buried in the part-prepared fossil.

The Rock Containing the Partially Exposed Fossil Bones Along with a Computer Image Tracing the Outline of the Individual Bones

Fossils and computer enhanced image showing holotype of Shirerpeton.

A new Early Cretaceous amphibian from Japan (Shirerpeton).

Picture Credit: The Education Board of the city of Hakusan, (Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan)

Tiny Fossil

The picture (above) shows the holotype fossil of the new albanerpetontid amphibian, which has been named Shirerpeton isajii.  Image (A) shows the fossils in the 2.5 by 1.5 cm square slab of rock, whilst image (B), is a digital photograph with various bones from the skull highlighted.  Abbreviations: Br, braincase elements; Fr, frontal; L.La, left lacrimal; L.Mx, left maxilla; L.N, left nasal; L.Pa, left parietal; LPf, left prefrontal; L.Sm, left septomaxilla; L.Sq, left squamosal; R.La, right lacrimal; R.Pa, right parietal; R.Pf, right prefrontal; R.Sq, right squamosal; ?, unidentified element. Scale bars in both images = 5 mm.

Writing in the open-access academic journal PLOS One, the researchers, Susan Evans, a professor of vertebrate morphology and palaeontology (University College London) and Ryoko Matsumoto, a curator with the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History were able to identify the specimen as a member of the Albanerpetontidae from the shape of the lower jaw.  The distinctive frontal bone of the skull, along with several other identified autapomorphies (unique traits), enabled the scientists to erect a new species.

Shirerpeton isajii

The scientists named the species in honour of Shinji Isaji, the head of the Tetori Group fossil investigation commission, a body under the Hakusan city government in charge of studying the Kuwajima fossil location where the fossil was found.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“There are about twenty of these amphibians known in the fossil record, currently assigned to five genera.  They were globally widespread during the Mesozoic, but this is the first time an albanerpetontid has been recorded from East Asia.  Their fragmentary record makes understanding their evolution and their phylogeny very difficult, scientists are not even sure how closely related these ancient lissamphibians are to extant amphibians.  Small animals like Shirerpeton are just as important as larger animals like dinosaurs when it comes to considering ancient environments and habitats.  In fact, this amphibian is probably more important than larger vertebrates in helping scientists to understand the localised climate in the Barremian of Japan.”

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17 04, 2018

Out with a Bang, In with a Bang – The Story of the Dinosauria

By | April 17th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Mass Extinction Event Paved the Way for the Dinosaurs

It is now widely accepted that dramatic, global climate change played a significant role in the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs some 66 million years ago.  The demise of the Dinosauria is well documented, but just how did this particular branch of the Archosauria rise to prominence and just as importantly, when did they start to dominate life on land?  There remains much to be learned about the origins of the dinosaurs, in addition, after the first dinosaurs evolved, for some 20 million years or so they made up only a tiny portion of terrestrial fauna, other reptiles dominated, then all of a sudden, at least when you consider the scale of geological time, the fossil record shows a change in the dinosaur’s fortunes.  From being bit-part players in the Middle Triassic, by the Late Triassic they had taken centre stage.

Research published in the journal “Nature Communications”, postulates that the first, rapid diversification of the dinosaurs occurred following a dramatic global ecosystem crisis.  This crisis was caused by rapid climate change, the ensuring mass extinction event cleared away a lot of competitors, especially herbivores.  A mass extinction event resulted in the demise of the dinosaurs, but it seems likely (according to this new research), that a mass extinction event led to their ascendancy in the first place.

Terrestrial Life Around 234-232 Million Years Ago

Late Triassic terrestrial fauna.

Life in the Late Triassic, an explosion in dinosaur diversity.

Picture Credit: Davide Bonadonna

The picture (above), shows a scene in the early Late Triassic of southern Pangaea around 232 million years ago.  On the far left a pair of Rhynchosaurs (diapsid, herbivorous reptiles characterised by stocky bodies, a squat gait and powerful beaks for cropping plants), lounge on a fallen tree.  In the centre background a large, carnivorous Rauisuchian is patrolling.  Rauisuchians  were Archosaurs, but on the other branch of the Archosauria – the Crurotarsi which comprise crocodile-like animals, as opposed to the second main branch of the Archosaurs the Avemetatarsalia, which houses the birds and the dinosaurs.  The Rauisuchian walks with an erect posture, (legs directly under the body).  In the foreground, two species of light-weight, bipedal early dinosaurs are depicted.

The Carnian Pluvial Episode (Carnian Pluvial Event)

The study conducted by Massimo Bernardi of the MUSE (Museo delle Scienze of Trento) and Piero Gianolla of the University of Ferrara (Italy) in collaboration with Professor Michael Benton of Bristol University, provides evidence to suggest that the diversification of the Dinosauria followed the Carnian Pluvial Episode, a time when the Earth went from an extremely arid climate to a humid and substantially wetter climate, before reverting back to arid once again.  This dramatic period in Earth’s history occurred between 234 and 232 million years ago (during the Carnian faunal stage of the Late Triassic).  The cause of this violent swing in our planet’s weather patterns is elusive, but most palaeontologists consider the huge volcanic eruptions in western Canada and the outpouring of vast quantities of igneous material, which are represented today by the great Wrangellia basalts as the engine for climate change.  What is termed Large Igneous Province (LIP) volcanism, resulted in huge amounts of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.  This led to rapid, ocean acidification, increased rainfall and dramatic global warming turning a dry world dominated by large deserts in central Pangaea, into much more humid and wetter environments.

For Much of the Triassic the Land was Dominated by Deserts

Triassic landscape.

New study suggests the impact of the Carnian Pluvial Episode (CPE) gave dinosaurs the opportunity to diversify.

Dating Ichnoassemblages from the Dolomites

The researchers examined the ancient Triassic fauna of South America and compared these palaeoenvironments with data from the Italian Dolomites.  Although dinosaur and other reptile fossils from Triassic sediments are relatively widespread, for example Triassic vertebrate fossils are known from North America, South Africa, China, Europe and England, accurately dating these deposits has proved to be extremely difficult.  Hence the significance of the Italian Dolomites.  The stratigraphy of the Southern Alps and of the Dolomites in particular covers virtually the whole of the Middle and Late Triassic.  The sequence of strata, can be dated using a variety of methods, which when cross-referenced provides one of the most detailed geological timescales of the early Mesozoic anywhere on Earth.

Dating the Dolomites – A Bio-Chrono-Stratigraphic Framework

Dating the Dolomites.

Dating the Dolomites, a number of dating methods are available to scientists, permitting them to accurately date the rocks and the fossils they contain.

Picture Credit: Nature Communications/Bernardi, Gianolla, et al

Preserved in the rocks of the Dolomites are a series of tracks and trackways.  These footprints provide palaeontologists with an idea of the animals around at the time the sequence of strata was being laid down.  This research team noticed that prior to the Carnian Pluvial Episode, when this part of the world was arid, the tracks were dominated by Crurotarsi Archosaurs, in the early Carnian 100% of the tracks represent these crocodile-like reptiles.  However, during the Carnian Pluvial Episode (CPE), 50% of the tracks represent dinosaurs, whilst just 20% indicate the presence of Crurotarsi Archosaurs, the rest are associated with Dinosauromorphs, close relatives of the true dinosaurs.  As the world entered the Norian faunal stage of the Late Triassic, some 227 million years ago, nearly all the tracks preserved in this region (90% plus) were made by dinosaurs.

The complicated chart above, plots the occurrence of several precisely dated ichnoassemblages in the Late Triassic of the Southern Alps allowing the research team to date, relatively precisely, the timing of the diversification of the dinosaurs in this part of Pangaea.  On the left of the chart is the timeline in millions of years, the Period/Epoch and the faunal stage and sub-stage are noted.  Helping to relatively date the sequence of rocks are the zonal fossils, in this case ammonites, the rocks of this region can be mapped sequentially using key fossil ammonite species which provide a biostratigraphical reference.

The sequence of geological formations are shown and the various ichnotaxa associated with them are displayed.  The scientists identify the probable track maker and describe them as dinosaurs (sky blue), Dinosauromorphs (light green) or Crurotarsans (orange).  The length of the coloured column shows the time interval over which the tracks have been found.

Note the absence of dinosaur tracks in the Middle Triassic (bottom part of the chart), however, blue columns (dinosaur tracks) dominate the top part of the chart, the Late Triassic.  Pie charts show percentage breakdown of the different tracks, pre, during and post the CPE.  The final column on the far right provides details of the palaeoenvironment and the flipping from arid to humid and then back again.

Geological Formations Abbreviations: ADZ: Zoppè Sandstone; AQT: Acquatona Formation; BHL: Livinallongo/Buchenstein Formation; BIV: Bivera Formation; CTR: Contrin Formation; DCS: Cassian Dolomite; DON: Dont Formation; DPR: Dolomia Principale; FCL: Coll’Alto dark Limestones; GLS: Gracilis Formation; HKS: Heiligkreuz Formation; IMF: Fernazza Formation and volcanites; MBT: Ambata Formation; MNA: Moena Formation; MRB/RIC: Richthofen Conglomerate and Morbiac dark Limestone; NTR: Monte Rite Formation; PPS: Piz da Peres Conglomerate; REC: Recoaro Limestone; SCI: Sciliar Formation; SCS: San Cassiano Formation; SLI: Lower Serla Dolomite; SLS Upper Serla Formation; TVZ: Travenanzes Formation; VTG: Voltago Conglomerate; WEN: Wengen Formation.

The small boxes underneath the chart provide a key to the general characteristics of the rocks associated with each geological formation: (a) cherty limestone; (b) sandstone; (c) sandy limestone; (d) volcanics; (e) oolitic-bioclastic limestone; (f) black platy limestone or dolostone, black shale; (g) dolostone; (h) marlstone, claystone and shale; (i) marly limestone; (j) conglomerate.

In summary the lithology (characteristics of the rocks), the length of the sequence of deposition, helping to provide absolute dating information along with the abundance of zonal fossils to permit relative dating, allow scientists to accurately map the geological time represented by the strata.  This precise dating has enabled the researchers to tease out the significance of the CPE in reference to the evolution of the dinosaurs.

The Diversification of the Dinosaurs Coincides with the Carnian Pluvial Episode

The diversification of the dinosaurs.

The diversification of the dinosaurs coincides with the Carnian Pluvial Episode (CPE).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Over a period of around 8 million years the palaeofauna of the southern Alps as shown by trace fossils changed dramatically.  Dinosaur trace fossils become much more abundant.  The researchers conclude that the dinosaurs diversified explosively in the mid Carnian, at a time of major climate and floral change and the extinction of key herbivores, which the dinosaurs opportunistically replaced.  The trace fossils found in the Dolomites region therefore play a crucial role in understanding the evolution of the Dinosauria.

Commenting on the significance of the study, one of the authors, Dr Piero Gianolla (University of Ferrara) stated:

“We had detected evidence for the climate change in the Dolomites.  There were four pulses of warming and climate perturbation, all within a million years or so.  This must have led to repeated extinctions.”

The discovery of the existence of a link between the first diversification of the dinosaurs and the CPE is unexpected and revolutionary.  This dramatic event not only paved the way for the dinosaurs to dominate terrestrial ecosystems, but also permitted the diversification of many other types of Tetrapod, including lizards, crocodiles, turtles and mammals, key terrestrial animals in today’s ecosystems.  The scientists conclude that they have developed a new framework for the evolution of the most famous reptiles.

The scientific paper: “Dinosaur diversification linked with the Carnian Pluvial Episode” by Massimo Bernardi, Piero Gianolla, Fabio Massimo Petti, Paolo Mietto and Michael J. Benton published in the journal “Nature Communications”.

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16 04, 2018

Dinosaurs in the Summer Term

By | April 16th, 2018|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Dinosaurs and Fossils in the Summer Term

For many schools in the United Kingdom, this week sees the start of the summer term.  Everything Dinosaur team members have a very busy itinerary with lots of school visits and other activities planned.  With their teaching qualifications and knowledge about dinosaurs, fossils and life in the past, our team members offer a wide variety of teaching activities and fossil workshops.  The summer term is going to be very busy, with lots of school visits booked into our teaching schedule.

Dinosaurs in School

Dinosaur themed class quesions.

Questions about dinosaurs prepared by a class in readiness for a visit from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Mansel Primary School

Answering Questions About Life in the Past

Our dedicated, hard-working and knowledgeable team members provide dinosaur themed teaching activities from Early Years Foundation (EYFS) and Reception through to Key Stage Four and beyond.  Whether it is a term topic, part of a science week or a special event, fossils and dinosaurs in school can help enthuse and motivate the next generation of scientists.  We do our best to answer all the queries and questions from the pupils, sometimes we even have to get involved with a little bit of impromptu fossil identification as the children bring in fossils and other objects that they have found for us to identify.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“This term [summer 2018], is likely to be our busiest we have so many school visits planned.  We are looking forward to meeting all the eager and enthusiastic children as well as the dedicated teachers, learning support providers and teaching assistants who create such amazing lessons and schemes of work for the children.”

A Very Full Display Board in the Middle of a Dinosaur Term Topic

Dinosaur museum in school.

A dinosaur museum in a classroom.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Brookfield Primary School

Dinosaurs as a Term Topic

Dinosaurs and life in the past makes a great term topic.  Topic areas such as “Footsteps in the Past” and “Jurassic Forest” have been created to help schools engage in cross-curricular activities and to deliver imaginative and creative schemes of work for their pupils.  Many children have quite a lot of pre-knowledge when it comes to the Dinosauria.  Starting a term topic can help learners to gain more confidence and simple experiments and activities can enhance the work done by the school to help develop scientific working.

For further information on Everything Dinosaur’s activities in schools and to request a quotation (we are already taking bookings for 2019), simply drop us an email: Contact Everything Dinosaur Request a Quotation

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15 04, 2018

The Lufengosaurus That Got Away

By | April 15th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Pathology Identified in Lufengosaurus Specimen

An analysis of a 200 million-year-old bite-mark has provided scientists with a detailed picture of a dinosaur’s life.  The bite-mark, preserved on the fossilised rib of a Lufengosaurus (L. huenei) may also provide a clue to how this member of the Sauropodomorpha met its end.  The specimen preserves evidence of an attack on a plant-eating dinosaur, probably from a Theropod and although the attack initially was not fatal, the resulting infection that occurred in the bone may have contributed to the unfortunate dinosaur’s death.

A Life Reconstruction of the Lufengosaurus Showing the Bitemark

Lufengosaurus with bite-mark (life reconstruction).

A life reconstruction of L. huenei in its natural environment and demonstrating the bite wound affecting the shoulder of the herbivorous dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Zongda Zhang

Employing an advanced X-ray technique, an international team of scientists from the UK, China, the United States and South Africa, have published evidence for an unsuccessful attack on a Jurassic dinosaur, a member of the Suborder Sauropodomorpha from China known as Lufengosaurus (L. huenei).  Everything Dinosaur was contacted by one of the authors of the scientific paper, published in the academic journal “Nature Scientific Reports”, a PNSO Lufengosaurus replica was purchased so that the model could be used to help explain the pathology and inferred animal behaviour from the scientific research.

The study provides a detailed report of the first recognised case of an abscess in a long-necked dinosaur from the Lower Jurassic of China, (Yunnan Province), which was caused by infection brought on from the bite of a large predatory dinosaur.  The infection may have weakened the animal, ultimately resulting in its death.

Scientist Lida Xing Holding the Damaged Rib Bone

Rib bone of Lufengosaurus showing pathology.

The pathological fossilised rib of Lufengosaurus huenei.

Picture Credit: Lida Xing

Micro-computed X-ray Tomography

The pathology, was discovered in the skeleton of a L. huenei, which is part of the vertebrate fossil collection at the Yuxi Museum (Yunnan Province).  The fossil rib bone was subjected to micro-computed x-ray tomography (micro-CT).   This permits high-resolution slices and three-dimensional images to be built up of internal structures of bone without damaging the fossil material.  It is a non-destructive research technique.  As well as providing detailed evidence of interactions between big, herbivorous dinosaurs and carnivorous Theropods, the successful identification of this abscess using this technique could point to a new understanding of where certain species lived, and the impact of the diseases that they suffered from.

Commenting on the significance of the research, one of the authors of the scientific paper, Dr Patrick Randolph-Quinney (University of Central Lancashire in the UK and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa), stated:

“We were able to use micro-CT to look deep inside the structure of the rib and visualise the precise changes that bacterial infection had caused, as well as to see the region of bone that had been bitten out of the rib.  What micro-CT is allowing us to do is understand processes such as trauma and infection in the fossil record at the cellular level, as well as looking at the whole bone.  This gives us advantages over traditional histology – which slices up bone for magnification under a microscope – in that it doesn’t require us to damage precious fossils and it also allows us to build 3-D reconstructions of the whole region of disease.  In this case, this has allowed us to model and study the whole wound track, not just a single portion of it.”

Images of the Rib Pathology

Lufengosaurus rib pathology caused by a bite.

A 3-D and 3-D slice reconstruction of the Lufengosaurus rib pathology.

Picture Credit: Patrick Randolph-Quinney (University of Central Lancashire)

The picture (above), shows a 3-D and 3-D slice reconstruction of the Lufengosaurus rib pathology.  Micro-computed tomography allowed the scientists to produce surface renderings of the fossil in 3-D (top row) and 2-D X-ray slices through the rib (bottom row).  These images show areas of cellular reorganisation, bone destruction and bone formation indicative of ostemyelitis (bone infection).

Lufengosaurus (L. huenei)

Lufengosaurus grew to about six metres in length.  It is estimated to have weighed around two tonnes.  More than two dozen specimens of this Prosauropod have been discovered to date, adults as well as fossil material from juveniles.  All the fossils ascribed to this genus have been discovered in the Lufeng Formation of south-western China (Yunnan Province).  Yang Zhongjian, known in western literature as Chung Chien Young, formally named and described Lufengosaurus in 1941.  Lufengosaurus was the first dinosaur from China to have been discovered, studied and displayed by Chinese scientists.

The PNSO Lufengosaurus Dinosaur Model Supplied to the Researchers by Everything Dinosaur

PNSO Lufengosaurus replica.

The PNSO Lufengosaurus dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Lead author of the study, Dr Lida Xing (China University of Geosciences) added:

“This case is really exciting as it gives us evidence of interactions between large plant-eating dinosaur species and one of the large aggressive predators preying on them at that time.  Using the latest X-ray imaging we were able to track the changes in the bone caused by an infected bite on the Lufengosaurus, probably from a big carnivorous dinosaur.  We don’t just have evidence of disease but of behaviour between animals – between predator and prey at this deep period in prehistory.”

This study was carried out by researchers at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), China University of Geosciences, the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in the USA, the State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution, Kunming Institute of Zoology, and the Yuxi Museum, Yunnan, China.

The team were able to identify an infection in the bone called osteomyelitis which produces a pus-filled abscess inside the bone.  This is only the second time that a case of osteomyelitis has been recorded in the Sauropodomorpha, the other instance came from a giant Titanosaur from Argentina, the Lufengosaurus example pre-dates the Argentinian example by tens of millions of years.  It is the earliest recorded case of a bony abscess caused by osteomyelitis disease in the fossil  record.

Views of the Damaged Lufengosaurus Rib Bone

A damaged rib of a Lufengosaurus.

The pathological fossil rib (two views).

Picture Credit: Lida Xing

Hao Ran from the Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, commented:

“This is a great example of how the clinical sciences and the science of palaeontology are working together with fossils from the Chinese fossil record.  Together with international collaborators we are able to advance our understanding of diseases in both the past and the present.  We don’t know which predator caused the bite, but we do have a smoking gun of the attack with the bite wound it left.”

The scientific paper: “Possible Bite-induced Abscess and Osteomyelitis in Lufengosaurus (Dinosauria: Sauropodomorph) from the Lower Jurassic of the Yimen Basin, China” by Lida Xing, Bruce M. Rothschild, Patrick S. Randolph-Quinney, Yi Wang, Alexander H. Parkinson and Hao Ran published in Nature Scientific Reports.

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14 04, 2018

Colourful Mini Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals

By | April 14th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Teaching|0 Comments

Mini Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals

Everything Dinosaur has updated the box of mini dinosaur and prehistoric animal models to include a replica of the flying reptile Pteranodon.  This popular set of prehistoric animal figures is sold either as a box of 96 models, or the little dinosaur and prehistoric animal models can be purchased individually.  The pterosaur Pteranodon joins the likes of Stegosaurus, Apatosaurus and a horned dinosaur in the prehistoric animal box, a collection of prehistoric animals from the Age of Dinosaurs.

Colourful Mini Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models

Prehistoric animal and dinosaur figures.

Dinosaur and prehistoric animal models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Great for Party Gift Bags

With at least ten different models per box, these little prehistoric animal figures are ideal for party gift bags and for use in dinosaur themed party games.  They make really useful cake decorations, for all those busy grown-ups baking dinosaur themed birthday and celebration cakes for their budding young palaeontologists.  Plastic and robust, the mini dinosaur and prehistoric animal models make very colourful cake toppers.

A Box of Assorted Prehistoric Animals and Dinosaurs

Box of dinosaur and prehistoric animal models.

Dinosaur and prehistoric animal models – ideal for parties or for use in schools to help young children gain more confidence with numbers and to aid the development of motor skills.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Helping Children with their Counting and Sorting

Our mini dinosaur and prehistoric animal models have proved very effective teaching aids in school.  The mini dinosaur models are used to help children get to grips with numbers and these bright and colourful figures help inspire and motivate many young children as they make super counters and props for use in counting exercises.  The variety of the figures in a box of 96 provides plenty of opportunities for sorting these little models into different groups.  For example, we have used them to help sort out all the red coloured models into one group, all the yellow coloured models into another.  In addition, we have seen children differentiate and sort the models according to how many legs the animal walks on (two legs or four).

As an extension for more capable learners linked to the Key Stage 1 curriculum is to challenge pupils to sort the figures into meat-eaters and plant-eaters, linking the counting game to an element of the national curriculum that explores simple food chains and food webs.

Tactile Models – Great for Kinaesthetic Learning

Dinosaur and prehistoric animal models.

Mini dinosaur and prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur.

A Wide Variety of Prehistoric Animals

Lots of different types of dinosaur models are included, plant-eaters, meat-eaters, Jurassic dinosaurs, Cretaceous dinosaurs, pterosaurs and such like.  Great for counting and sorting games. a box of 96 mini dinosaurs and prehistoric animal figures.  Each model measures around 4 to 5 centimetres in length, just the right size for young children in Reception or Year 1 to handle.

To view the mini dinosaur and prehistoric animal models and to see the extensive range of inexpensive dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed gifts and educational materials supplied by Everything Dinosaur, simply click this link: Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Gifts and Teaching Resources

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13 04, 2018

Fossils to Explore with Year 2

By | April 13th, 2018|Educational Activities, Photos/Pictures of Fossils, Teaching|0 Comments

Ready to Explore Fossils with Year 2

Whilst on one of our many visits to schools to deliver a workshop to Key Stage 2, we discussed with the teaching team how to add more tactile elements to the school’s scheme of work.  We suggested a number of dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed exercises including dedicating a table to create a work station so that fossils could be examined by the children.  With some magnifying glasses borrowed from the science cupboard and some scraps of paper on stand-by so that the budding palaeontologists could take notes, it only needed a handful of fossils to complete the fossil study area.

A Fossil Work Station in the Classroom

Learning about fossils.

Ready to study fossils.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The fossils consisted of fragments of large ammonites, a complete Promiceras (P. planicosta), some Promicroceras ammonites, along with Arnioceras and Asteroceras pieces, all of which come from Dorset (Jurassic Coast).  To this mix of cephalopods, we added crinoids, fossilised seed cones, examples of fossil coral and some pieces representing various trilobites including a large and rather beautiful Calymene trilobite that dates from the Silurian.

Being able to handle fossils provides kinaesthetic learners with lots of stimulation, could the children find similar fossils in the text books that they found in library?  Could the work out what sort of creature/plant the fossil might represent.  Can they describe the fossil?  Can they produce an accurate drawing of the object?  We even suggested a measuring exercise to help the children gain confidence using rulers.

Happy fossil hunting!

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