Scientists writing this month in the journal “Cretaceous Research” have formally described a new genus of Late Cretaceous titanosaur from Patagonia. The dinosaur has been named Menucocelsior arriagadai based on a series of tail bones (caudal vertebrae) and fragmentary limb bones including a right humerus and a left fibula, found in sediments associated with the Allen Formation (Maastrichtian stage of the Upper Cretaceous).
A Titanosaur that “Jumped the Gun”
The announcement concerning the naming of a new titanosaur genus was made last year (2021), Menucocelsior was one of several new titanosaur genera named in 2021. However, the formal, scientific paper that erected the genus was published this month in the January edition of “Cretaceous Research”.
Although only known from very incomplete and fragmentary material, the fossilised remains assigned to M. arriagadai do not demonstrate a close taxonomic relationship with any other, previously described titanosaur. The site where the fossils were found Salitral Ojo de Agua in Río Negro Province has also yielded the fossilised bones of at least three other species of titanosaurs and other contemporary fossil sites in the Allen Formation have provided evidence of numerous other titanosaurs along with hadrosaurs.
Researchers have concluded that the environment must have been extremely productive to support such a large number of mega herbivores. It has been proposed that the titanosaurs evolved different feeding strategies to avoid excessive competition for food resources (niche partitioning). Perhaps these animals were selective browsers, specialising in feeding from the branches of trees, whilst the hadrosaurs were bulk-feeders, targeting ground vegetation.
The genus name is derived from the indigenous Mapuche language for a large watering hole, which describes the fossil site. The specific or trivial name honours the Arriagada family, the owners of the land where the fossils were found.
The scientific paper: “The sauropod record of Salitral Ojo del Agua: An Upper Cretaceous (Allen Formation) fossiliferous locality from northern Patagonia, Argentina” by Mauro Aranciaga Rolando, Jordi A. García Marsà, Federico L. Agnolín, Matías J. Motta, Sebastián Rozadilla, and Fernando E. Novas published in Cretaceous Research.
PNSO will be adding a replica of the horned dinosaur Styracosaurus to their mid-size model range. The figure should be in stock at Everything Dinosaur in March (2022). The PNSO Anthony the Styracosaurus model is another member of the Centrosaurinae subfamily of horned dinosaurs to be added to the PNSO portfolio. The Styracosaurus joins Jennie the Centrosaurus, Brian the Pachyrhinosaurus, Perez the Machairoceratops and A-Qi the Sinoceratops.
Named and scientifically described by the famous Canadian palaeontologist Lawrence Lambe in 1913, Styracosaurus with its stunning array of spikes and its single, large nose horn is regarded as one of the most spectacular dinosaurs known to science. Model fans and collectors will be excited to see the figure.
PNSO Anthony the Styracosaurus Dinosaur Model
Whilst PNSO does not normally state a scale for the figures in their mid-size model range, an approximate scale for this dinosaur model can be calculated. The model measures 18 cm long from the end of its tail to the tip of its snout. Size estimates vary for S. albertensis, but fully grown adults are thought to have measured around 5.5 metres in length. Based on these measurements, team members at Everything Dinosaur have postulated that this model’s scale is approximately 1:30.
Posters, Booklet and a QR Code
The PNSO Anthony the Styracosaurus model will be supplied with a full-colour, 64-page booklet as well as posters. A QR code on the product packaging links to a brief video that outlines how the figure was developed. The posters and booklet help to highlight the fabulous artwork of the very talented Chinese palaeoartist Zhao Chuang.
A Spectacular Dinosaur Model
Commenting on the introduction of the spectacular Styracosaurus dinosaur model, a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated that PNSO had rapidly built an excellent reputation for making beautiful horned dinosaur models.
The spokesperson added:
“We welcome the addition of Anthony the Styracosaurus to the PNSO model range. We are confident that this new for 2022 dinosaur figure will prove to be a firm favourite amongst dinosaur fans and model collectors.”
Recently published research has answered an important question regarding the timing of the evolutionary origins of modern types of placental mammals such as the Carnivora, the rodents and the primates. Once the non-avian dinosaurs vanished some 66 million years ago, placental mammals rapidly evolved and diversified to fill many of the niches in ecosystems vacated by the extinct members of the Dinosauria.
The research team who included scientists from Queen Mary University of London, Cambridge University, University College London, the University of Bristol and Imperial College London used a new and fast Bayesian statistical approach to plot the timeline of mammal evolution. The data generated confirms the hypothesis that although the first placental mammals evolved in the Mesozoic, it was only after the KPg extinction event that marked the end of this Era and the beginning of the Cenozoic, some 66 million years ago, that the ancestors of today’s modern placental mammal groups evolved.
Analysing the Mammalian Genomic Dataset
Writing in the academic journal “Nature”, the scientists used a novel Bayesian statistical method to analyse an enormous mammal genomic dataset, in a bid to plot more precisely the timeline of the evolution of modern mammals. They conclude that the ancestors of these modern groups postdate the KPg extinction event.
The Bayesian analysis had to be robust, not only to handle the genetic data from almost 5,000 mammal species and 72 complete genomes but also to accommodate and account for uncertainties within the huge amount of data being processed.
Tackling a Contentious Topic in Evolutionary Biology
Commentating on the significance of this study, one of the co-authors of the paper, Professor Philip Donoghue (Bristol University) stated:
“The timeline of mammal evolution is perhaps one of the most contentious topics in evolutionary biology. Early studiesprovided origination estimates for modern groups deep in the Cretaceous, in the dinosaur era. The past two decades had seen studies moving back and forth between post- and pre-KPg diversification scenarios. Our precise timeline settles the issue.”
The statistical method developed for this study can be used to help resolve other controversial areas of research that require the detailed analysis of huge amounts of data. The scientists are confident that this technique can be applied to even grander projects such as the Earth BioGenome project which aims to plot a reliable evolutionary timescale for the development of life on Earth.
Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release from the University of Bristol in the compilation of this article.
The scientific paper: “A Species-Level Timeline of Mammal Evolution Integrating Phylogenomic Data” by Sandra Álvarez-Carretero, Asif U. Tamuri, Matteo Battini, Fabrícia F. Nascimento, Emily Carlisle, Robert J. Asher, Ziheng Yang, Philip C. J. Donoghue and Mario dos Reis published in the journal Nature.
Our thanks to prehistoric animal model fan and collector William who sent into Everything Dinosaur his detailed review of the Safari Ltd Wild Safari Prehistoric World Mastodon figure. Here is William’s review of this prehistoric elephant model, which was first introduced in 2018.
Mammut americanum – Sculpted by Doug Watson
As with most of his previous model reviews, William starts by commenting on the head. He states that the Mastodon has a lower, flatter skull than mammoths and extant elephants. He comments that the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Mastodon has well defined, dark orange eyes with black pupils and nicely sculpted eye lids. The model is shown with its mouth open, the tongue can be seen but there is no second set of tusks in the lower jaw as found in other types of ancient proboscidean. The ears are small and reflect theories on thermoregulation (heat dispersal and conservation) in these large-bodied mammals.
Details on the trunk are highlighted. The figure has its trunk raised, either to sniff the air or bellow a challenge to a rival. William praises the trunk commenting that in life it would have been used to pluck foliage and branches as well as having a role as a tactile, sensory organ. The reviewer states that living elephants have 40,000 muscles in their trunk and are capable of lifting over 700lbs. He speculates that Mastodons may have had stronger trunks.
William observes that the prominent tusks are of a natural ivory colour and held low. They model has flexible tusks with no sharp tips, so these protrusions do not represent a hazard and are unlikely to cause injury.
Reviewing the Body and the Coat of the Mastodon Figure
William explains that the short, robust and muscular build of Mammut americanum was unlikely to lead to confusion with coeval mammoth species. The American Mastodon was ideally suited to its temperate forest environment. He provides size estimates and concludes that bulls were much larger than cows, as seen in living elephant species.
When discussing the coat, William states that it “is one of the finest sculpted I have ever seen, only surpassed by Eofauna’s Steppe Mammoth figure.”
The Wild Safari Prehistoric World Mastodon is a marvel to touch and to hold thanks to the exquisite details of the model’s coat. He states that it is refreshing to see this as with mammoths’ hair colour would have varied between individuals and William speculates that perhaps, every once in a while, a genetic abnormality would permit an albino variant to be born.
William praises the strong legs and highlights the detailing such as the toenails. He comments that these large animals would have traversed temperate woodlands and conifer forests, eating a wide variety of plant material in order to satisfy their huge appetites. He completes his model review by stating that the model has a rich auburn colour with a dark wash that has been skilfully applied to highlight the skin folds and the muscles under the skin.
American Mastodon Fact File
To conclude his review of the model, William provided some additional information regarding this species, commenting that in 1705 in the New York village of Claverack a Dutch settler whilst out working dug up a large tooth, the first of many found over next two centuries. William briefly outlines the evolutionary history of the prehistoric elephant lineage and explained that it was the French naturalist Georges Cuvier who erected the genus.
William explained that these elephants ranged from Alaska/Canada in the north down to central Mexico, but there is no fossil evidence of these animals ever having reached South America. Most scientists believe that the last of the Mastodons perished along with much of the American megafauna around 10,000 years ago, although these huge herbivores may has survived until as recently as 4,000 years ago, in isolated pockets.
He states that the Wild Safari Prehistoric World American Mastodon is a great addition to his model collection and he adds that he received the figure with a fast despatch and delivery from Everything Dinosaur. It arrived in 100% perfect condition. William also praised the customer service of Everything Dinosaur.
Following a public vote, Koolasuchus a giant temnospondyl from the Early Cretaceous has been declared the State fossil of Victoria. The huge amphibian, perhaps the very last of its kind, thrived in the cool conditions of southern Australia. During the Early Cretaceous, Australia was located at a much higher latitude than it is today, it was within the Antarctic Circle. The cool climate prevented crocodilians from inhabiting the region and their absence permitted one of the last of the temnospondyls to occupy the crocodilian niche in the ancient ecosystem.
Acknowledging the result of the public vote which took place last August (August 2021), Lynley Crosswell, CEO and Director, Museums Victoria commented:
“Victorian state emblems recognise and celebrate the natural history of our region. Museums Victoria is renowned for our palaeontology collection with exceptional fossils from internationally significant fossil sites across Victoria. We are the custodian of these fossils, we display them, research them and keep them safe for future generations to learn from. Koolasuchus cleelandi is of global significance and it provides clues to the evolution of life on Earth and the past environments of Victoria.”
Koolasuchus was named and described in 1997, from fragmentary fossil material including elements from the huge lower jaw that had been found south of Melbourne. The species name honours Australian geologist Mike Cleeland for his work for helping to plot and map the geology of Australia.
This huge amphibian, that probably favoured fast flowing streams and rivers, came to greater prominence when it featured in episode five of the ground-breaking BBC documentary series “Walking with Dinosaurs”. The episode, entitled “Spirits of the Silent Forest” looked at the remarkable biota associated with southern Australia in the Early Cretaceous.
Earlier this month (January 2nd, 2022), Everything Dinosaur published the fantastic news that Dorset Council had approved the erection of a bronze statue honouring Mary Anning at Lyme Regis on the famous “Jurassic Coast”. Team members at Everything Dinosaur have supported the charity “Mary Anning Rocks” that was set up to raise funds and to campaign for a permanent memorial to Mary Anning to be established.
As a small token of the charity’s gratitude, we received a little note and a gift.
Honouring a Pioneering Palaeontologist
Our chum, Brandon Lennon who leads fossil walks at Lyme Regis and like Mary Anning before him, sells fossils that he finds on the beaches around Lyme Regis, sent us the gift which includes a personal thank you from the patrons of the charity and an informative booklet on Mary Anning’s life and work written by Nigel J. Clarke.
Brandon Lennon, a patron of the charity himself wrote:
“Thanks so much for all your help, in the early days”
Everything Dinosaur was one of the first organisations from outside Lyme Regis to back the campaign and to help raise awareness. Since the charity’s inception, Everything Dinosaur has helped to promote and support the fundraising.
A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:
“It is wonderful to have seen the plans for a statue come to fruition. The unveiling will probably take place in the late spring, we would love to be at the event but due to COVID-19 restrictions, we are unable to make plans to visit Lyme Regis at this time. We congratulate the organisers and fundraisers for all their hard work in ensuring a permanent memorial to Mary Anning. Her statue will remind all the visitors to the area of her contribution to the nascent science of palaeontology and will help to inspire the next generation of scientists”.
Earlier this week, team members at Everything Dinosaur were notified of a discussion taking place on the Dinosaur Toy Forum about how Beasts of the Mesozoic models might reach customers in the European Union now that the UK had left the EU.
Concerns had been raised by dinosaur fans and Beasts of the Mesozoic model collectors about whether items secured in the Kickstarter programme, such as new tyrannosaur figures could be despatched into the EU.
Everything Dinosaur has been responsible for fulfilment operations on behalf of Creative Beast Studio, ensuring despatch of Kickstarter figures to the UK and the rest of Europe.
In response to these concerns, Everything Dinosaur posted up onto the forum the following information:
The UK officially left the European Union on 31st January 2020 (at 11pm CET), there then followed a transition period where nothing changed, giving all parties the time to adjust to the new trading arrangements, this ended on 31st December 2020. Since that date, Everything Dinosaur has offered a fully tracked and delivery duty paid (DDP) service for all our customers in the EU. Everything Dinosaur pays the duty for the customer. We have also become members of the Import One Stop Shop (IOSS) scheme, which whilst not part of Brexit, is a European initiative to harmonise the payment of VAT across Europe. We are registered in Ireland for this purpose and by doing so we ensure that the VAT applied on all purchases is the correct amount for each European country and that VAT received is then submitted to that person’s national tax authority. All our customers can be assured that Everything Dinosaur has done all it can and continues to ensure compliance with international taxation laws.
Delivery Duty Paid (DDP)
When addressing the issue of delivery duty paid (DDP), the following information was supplied:
With regards to DDP deliveries, since the UK started its new relationship with the EU Everything Dinosaur has sent out thousands of parcels to customers – every single one DDP and with (as far as we know, as we have never received any comment about a customer of ours having to pay extra for a parcel), not a single problem.
EU 2019/1020 Market Surveillance Regulations
In addition to calming any fears about the sending of parcels into the EU, the statement also addressed new EU legislation concerning market surveillance stating:
We would also add that in July 2021 new EU legislation came into force – this is called EU 2019/1020 market surveillance regulations. It has come about due to the huge number of items being purchased by EU customers which originate from outside the EU. The Beasts of the Mesozoic range would be affected by this legislation – as would Nanmu Studio, ITOY Studio, W-Dragon and such like.
Unless someone in the supply chain takes responsibility for ensuring product safety such as CE accreditation within the EU then the sale of an item would be illegal and subject to being held up at the EU port of entry. We can assure all forum members, that as Everything Dinosaur is a responsible company and well aware of our obligations under international law, we have ensured that all the Beasts of the Mesozoic, Nanmu Studio, ITOY Studio, W-Dragon etc that we sell are registered in the EU and comply fully with EU 2019/1020. Everything Dinosaur has registered in Germany for this purpose (at considerable expense we might add).
It had been noted that comments had been made on the forum about how the Kickstarter tyrannosaur fulfilment process would be undertaken. Whilst stressing that no decisions had been taken to date, Everything Dinosaur supplied the following information:
We were responsible for all European and UK Beasts of the Mesozoic fulfilment operations for Wave 3 ceratopsians, as we had been for earlier fulfilment operations concerning Beasts of the Mesozoic Kickstarters, this operation was undertaken in mid-December when the shipment arrived at our UK warehouse. Despite the huge problems at the time due to COVID-19 restrictions and the enormous strain on the European mail delivery system and our own commitments to sending orders to our customers in time for Christmas, we were able to complete the despatch of Wave 3 fulfilment on schedule.
At this time (mid-January 2022), there has been no formal agreement in place between Everything Dinosaur and David Silva of Creative Beast Studio with regards to the treatment of the tyrannosaur series. Everything Dinosaur can confirm that it intends to stock this most impressive range. At this stage in the Beasts of the Mesozoic production cycle, no decision as to fulfilment for the tyrannosaur range has been made.
Our thanks to Robert, a customer of Everything Dinosaur, who sent into our offices a fossil of a pterosaur tooth from the Kem Kem Formation of Morocco. The large tooth is slightly curved and lacks any serrations (denticles), it is a typical example of a flying reptile tooth from the early Late Cretaceous Kem Kem deposits. Although we are unable to identify the genus, we suspect that the tooth comes from an ornithocheirid pterosaur.
Fossil Pterosaur Tooth
When taking a picture of a fossil, or indeed, taking a photograph of an object that you think might be a fossil but need help with identification, it is a good idea to provide some scale in the picture. A coin could be placed next to the item to provide a scale reference. At Everything Dinosaur, we tend to use one of our brightly coloured geological rulers but as we did not have one of these in the office, an ordinary ruler was pressed into service. Viewers of the photograph can instantly get an idea of the size of the object. In this case, the fossil tooth measures approximately 5 cm in length.
Kem Kem Beds
The Kem Kem Formation, actually consists of two Formations, lower Gara Sbaa Formation and the geologically younger Douira Formation. Technically, the Kem Kem Formation should be referred to as the Kem Kem Group, these strata are exposed across a large part of the Algerian/Moroccan border and are famous for dinosaur remains.
Fossils associated with the Kem Kem Beds are often highly fragmentary and although several pterosaur genera have been described from fossil discoveries associated with these deposits, their remains are relatively rare and often difficult to interpret.
The discovery of the remarkable Rutland ichthyosaur has featured in many news channels and media outlets. It is a stunning fossil specimen, demonstrating that even in a country like Britain, arguably the birthplace of geology and the science of palaeontology, a part of the world that has been extensively mapped, documented and studied, that there are still amazing fossils to be found.
This story highlights the many largely unsung individuals that bring to the attention of scientists, strange phenomena that they spot, often in the unlikeliest of places. In this case it was Joe Davis (Conservation Team Leader for Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust at the Rutland reservoir), who along with his colleague Paul Trevor spotted strange circular objects jutting out of the exposed Jurassic clay as they routinely inspected part of a drained lagoon back in February 2021.
These objects turned out to be bones from the spinal column, fortunately, Joe a career conservationist, was familiar with the skeletons of whales and dolphins and he had an inkling that these objects were organic in origin. The local council was called and asked whether they had a “dinosaur department” that could investigate further. Thus, was set in motion a series of events that led to award-winning ichthyosaur specialist Dr Dean Lomax setting up an exploratory dig at the site, the results of which led to a full-scale excavation over the summer.
An Extraordinary Marine Reptile Fossil
The ichthyosaur fossil is the largest and most complete ichthyosaur to have been found in the UK. It measures around 10.5 metres in length. As has been repeatedly stated in the plethora of media releases concerning this Jurassic monster, ichthyosaurs are not dinosaurs. Ichthyosaurs are aquatic reptiles that evolved from terrestrial ancestors. Their evolutionary origins remain obscure, but their fossil record covers most of the Mesozoic and the Rutland ichthyosaur happens to be the most complete skeleton of a large prehistoric reptile ever found in the UK.
This spectacular fossil discovery stands out well compared to the scrappy and fragmentary remains of Britain’s dinosaurs.
A “Rosetta Stone” for the Temnodontosaurus Genus
The fossil specimen has been tentatively assigned to the species Temnodontosaurus trigonodon. If this proves to be the case, the identification will be confirmed when the fossils are fully cleaned and prepared, then this is the first T.trigonodon known from the British Isles.
The species Temnodontosaurus trigonodon was erected in 1843. Its fossils have been found in Germany and France, if the Rutland specimen proves to be this species it will extend the palaeogeographical range of T. trigonodon. In addition, the almost complete, articulated Rutland ichthyosaur will provide an extremely useful comparator when assessing Temnodontosaurus fossils. It will help to identify other large, but much less complete, ichthyosaur specimens housed in museums, acting as a “Rosetta Stone” for the genus.
A Huge Fossil but It’s Also the Little Details
These fossilised remains are not the first ichthyosaur fossils to have been found at Rutland Water, smaller, fragmentary material representing other species were found during construction of the reservoir. Once excavated and wrapped in plaster jackets the Rutland ichthyosaur was taken to a research facility where the job of preparing and restoring it will take place under the watchful supervision of conservator Nigel Larkin.
The bones and teeth may have been removed but the site can still provide a great deal of data. For example, the clay-rich rocks that contained the specimen represent deposits from the Whitby Mudstone Formation and analysis of microfossils preserved in the sediment have enabled researchers at the University of Birmingham to reliably date the Rutland ichthyosaur to 181.5 to 182 million years ago (Toarcian faunal stage of the Jurassic).
The composition of these microfossils indicates that this large predator lived in a tropical, marine environment with a rich and diverse ecosystem. Temnodontosaurus is thought to have lived far out to sea and away from the coast. It is hoped that further analysis of the matrix surrounding the fossil will provide more details of this animal’s palaeoenvironment.
Locked in Time
Palaeontologist Dr Dean Lomax who led the excavation, has recently published a book in collaboration with Bob Nicholls the artist that provided the Temnodontosaurus illustration.
It provides a fascinating analysis of fifty extraordinary fossils and what these discoveries can tell scientists about life in the past.
Team members at Everything Dinosaur have posted up some pictures of the recently introduced Rebor Smilodon populator Stray Cat (plain colour variant). The figure has a declared scale of 1:11 and the Smilodon is the first prehistoric mammal model to be added to the Rebor range. Previously, the only mammal figure in the range was the 1/11th scale figure of a Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei).
Two Interchangeable Smilodon Heads
This beautiful model is supplied with two interchangeable heads so the Smilodon can be displayed with either mouth open or mouth closed. The head fits securely into the neck of the body and it is difficult to discern a join. The clever design team at Rebor came up with this idea as it permits them to avoid having an unsightly joint on the figure associated with an articulated lower jaw.
Several species of “knife-tooth” have been named and described. S. populator is regarded as the largest. Some individuals had massive upper canine teeth around 28 cm in length. This robust and powerful predator roamed the southern portions of the Americas. It would have dwarfed the Sabre-Toothed Cats of the United States and was one of the largest felids to have ever lived, with a shoulder height of approximately 1.2 metres.
The Rebor Smilodon populator Stray Cat model measures around 26.5 cm long with a height of approximately 13.5 cm.
To view this figure and the rest of the Rebor dinosaur and prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur: Rebor Models and Figures.