All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
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15 01, 2019

The Left Femur of Aepyornis

By | January 15th, 2019|Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A Thigh Bone from an “Elephant Bird”

Whilst on a recent visit to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, a beautiful specimen of a femur from an extinct “elephant bird” was spotted in a display case on the ground floor.    The thigh bone is purported to come from the genus Aepyornis, we suspect that from the robust nature of the bone, this is from A. maximus, or the bone may have to be classified to the genus Vorombe, following a reassessment of the largest specimens.

The Robust Left Femur on Display at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Elephant bird left femur.

Aepyornis (elephant bird) left femur but possibly representing the genus Vorombe.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Native to Madagascar

Following the first taxonomic revision of the Aepyornithidae for more than fifty years, the species formerly known as Aepyornis titan was renamed Vorombe titan and it is the largest member of the bird family known to science.  It has been calculated that V. titan stood around three metres tall and weighed approximately 800 kilograms.

Whether or not the left femur represents A. maximus or V. titan, one thing is for sure, that’s a very strong looking leg bone.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article on the taxonomic revision of the Aepyornithidae: The World’s Largest Bird – Ever!

If you look carefully, where the internal structure of the bone is exposed, the honey-comb texture (pneumacity) can be observed.  This is a feature common to both avian and many non-avian dinosaurs.

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14 01, 2019

Basilosaurus – The Apex Predator

By | January 14th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Research Confirms Basilosaurus Was a Top Predator

Readers with a long memory might remember an episode from the BBC “Walking with Beasts” television series that first aired in 2001.  In this sequel to “Walking with Dinosaurs”, the focus was placed upon the evolution of the mammals after the dinosaur extinction.  “Whale Killer”,  which was episode two in the six-part series, told the story of a pregnant Basilosaurus (archaic whale), desperately searching for food to help the calf growing inside her.  Thanks to raids on Dorudon whales and their young, the Basilosaurus is able to successfully give birth and this episode ends with the mother swimming away with her new-born calf following close behind.

An Illustration of the Fearsome Early Toothed Whale Basilosaurus

PNSO Basilosaurus illustration.

An illustration of Basilosaurus.  The human figure provides scale.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Analysis of Basilosaurus Stomach Contents

A team of researchers writing in the on-line, academic journal PLOS One, have published the results of stomach content analysis of Basilosaurus specimens from the Late Eocene-aged site at Wadi Al-Hitan in Egypt.  It is confirmed that Basilosaurus fed on smaller whales (juvenile Dorudon atrox) as well as large fish (Pycnodus mokattamensis).  The scientists, which included Manja Voss (Museum für Naturkunde Berlin) and Mohammed Sameh M. Antar from the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, Cairo, state that this is the first direct evidence of Basilosaurus (B. isis) diet.

A Size Comparison Between an Adult Basilosaurus isis and an Adult Dorudon atrox

An adult Basilosaurus compared to an adult Dorudon whale.

Comparing an adult, fifteen-metre-long Basilosaurus isis museum mounted skeleton to a fully grown Dorudon atrox.

Picture Credit: PLOS One/University of Michigan

Basilosaurus – Top of a Tethys Ocean Ecological Pyramid

The Late Eocene Epoch was a time of dramatic change and global extinction.  The once mighty Tethys Ocean was very much reduced, but the first, giant, toothed whales had evolved and the research team cite Basilosaurus isis, the Late Miocene Livyatan melvillei, and the extant Orca (Orcinus orca) as three marine apex predators known from relatively short intervals of time during the Cenozoic.  This research confirms the predator-prey relationship between the two most frequently found fossil whales at the Wadi Al-Hitan location.  Bite marks on the preserved skulls of Dorudon whales suggest predation and not scavenging behaviour by Basilosaurus.

A Photomosaic of a Basilosaurus Specimen (WH 10001)

Basilosaurus scattered remains.

Photomosaic of Basilosaurus isis (WH 10001) from the Gehannam Formation of Wadi Al Hitan.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The image above shows a photomosaic of a scattered and disarticulated Basilosaurus isis specimen from the Gehannam Formation of Wadi Al-Hitan.  The disarticulation of the fossil skeleton and the scattering suggests disturbance by scavengers and possibly long exposure on the seafloor prior to burial.

The researcher conclude that Basilosaurus was a top apex predator that hunted and ate its prey alive, rather than scavenging for scraps.  If the Wadi Al-Hitan site, represents a calving area for the Dorudon, then this would have made an ideal hunting spot for a hungry Basilosaurus.  The dramatic scenes in episode two of the “Walking with Beasts” television series, have more published scientific evidence to back up the screenplay.

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14 01, 2019

Borealopelta Scale Drawing

By | January 14th, 2019|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Borealopelta markmitchelli Fact Sheet Preparations

In a few weeks’ time, the first of the 2019 CollectA prehistoric animal models will be coming into stock at Everything Dinosaur.  One of the first figures expected to arrive is the Age of Dinosaurs Borealopelta figure, a fifteen centimetre long replica of a nodosaurid that roamed north-western Alberta around 112 million years ago.  The fact sheet for this new dinosaur model is being prepared and a scale drawing of Borealopelta (B. markmitchelli) has been produced.

The Scale Drawing of Borealopelta (B. markmitchelli) Prepared for the Everything Dinosaur Fact Sheet

Borealopelta scale drawing.

A scale drawing of the armoured dinosaur Borealopelta from north-eastern Alberta (Canada).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Heavily Armoured with Countershading

The exquisite state of preservation has permitted palaeontologists to gain a great deal of information about the position of the osteoderms and scutes that covered the dinosaur’s body.  When the scientific paper providing the formal description of Borealopelta was published in 2017, the research team described how chemical analysis of organic compounds in the armour and skin permitted the research team to infer the armoured dinosaur’s pigmentation.  It was discovered that Borealopelta possessed countershading, with a reddish-brown top half contrasting with a much paler underside.  In extant animals, countershading helps to provide camouflage against predators, but most large animals today, such as rhinos, elephants and hippos, don’t have countershading.

The CollectA Age of Dinosaurs Borealopelta Dinosaur Model

CollectA Borealopelta dinosaur model.

The Age of Dinosaurs Popular – CollectA Borealopelta.  Note the paler underside of the animal – an example of countershading.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

At more than five metres long and with such strong armour, it seems surprising that this armoured dinosaur would evolve countershading to help it avoid detection.  Such a large and powerfully built dinosaur would have presented a formidable opponent for most Theropod dinosaurs, but apparently it paid Borealopelta to try to maintain a low profile.

It is not known what sort of meat-eating dinosaurs Borealopelta tried to hide from but three-toed prints, some measuring in excess of 90 cm long and ascribed to the ichnogenus Irenesauripis indicate that they may have been some 12-metre-plus carnivores in the ecosystem that were best avoided.

Everything Dinosaur’s original blog post announcing the discovery of the fossilised remains but before a formal scientific description was published can be found here: Extremely Rare Ankylosaur Fossil Turns Up in Alberta’s Oil Sands

To read an article about the dermal armour of Borealopelta markmitchelli: The Remarkable Armour of Borealopelta

What Sort of Giant Theropods?

As to what sort of Theropods could have predated Borealopelta, we can only speculate.  However, it has been postulated that the super-sized carnivores that Borealopelta was trying to avoid were probably carcharodontosaurids or allosaurids.  This armoured dinosaur is estimated to have weighed more than 1.3 Tonnes, it is much larger than animals alive today that have evolved countershading, therefore, the assumption is that there must have been super-sized, hypercarnivores that Borealopelta was trying to avoid.

Summarising the Research into the Armoured Dinosaur Borealopelta

The research into Borealopelta.

Summarising the research into Borealopelta.

Picture Credit: Brown et al, published in Current Biology with additional annotation from Everything Dinosaur

To view the range of  CollectA  prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur: CollectA Prehistoric Animal Models

The scientific paper: “An Exceptionally Preserved Three-Dimensional Armored Dinosaur Reveals Insights into Coloration and Cretaceous Predator-Prey Dynamics” by Caleb M. Brown, Donald M. Henderson, Jakob Vinther, Ian Fletcher, Ainara Sistiaga, Jorsua Herrera and Roger E. Summons published in Current Biology.

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12 01, 2019

Prehistoric Times Winter Edition 2019

By | January 12th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Magazine Reviews, Main Page|0 Comments

Prehistoric Times Issue 128 Is Coming!

The next edition of the quarterly magazine for dinosaur fans and prehistoric animal model collectors “Prehistoric Times”, is due to arrive very soon.  Issue 128 (winter 2019), celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel “The Land that Time Forgot”, hence the intriguing front cover where a tyrannosaurid is in combat with a Woolly Mammoth.  Mammoths and members of the Tyrannosauridae family have featured on the front cover of this popular magazine before, but we can’t remember an edition of “Prehistoric Times”, where these two iconic but temporally distant creatures have appeared on the cover together.

The Front Cover of Prehistoric Times Magazine – Issue 128

Prehistoric Times magazine issue 128.

The front cover of “Prehistoric Times” magazine issue 128 (winter 2019.

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks

“The Land that Time Forgot”

American author Edgar Rice Burroughs, set the story at the height of World War I.  A ship carrying the main protagonist of the book, Bowen Tyler, is sunk by a German U-boat U-33, the submarine also attacks the British vessel that attempts to pick up survivors of the first attack.  A fierce struggle takes place between the British sailors and the German submariners and the U-boat is captured. The survivors board the submarine and attempt to take it to an Allied port, but this proves too dangerous as all Allied shipping treats the U-boat as a potential target.  Meanwhile, a saboteur disrupts the navigation and the vessel ends up in Antarctic waters.  Low on food and fuel, the submariners find a huge island, surrounded by gigantic cliffs and when this landmass is explored, the German and Allied sailors discover it is populated by a pot-pourri of prehistoric animals.

The plot may sound familiar, as the story has featured in many publications, since its first inception a hundred years ago.  In the mid 1970’s a film with the same title as the novel came out with American actor Doug McClure playing the lead role of Bowen Tyler.

Trilobites, Triceratops and a famous Canadian Palaeontologist

The forthcoming edition of “Prehistoric Times” will feature a profile of one of the most famous dinosaurs of all, “three-horned face” – Triceratops.  There is the latest instalment in the long running feature on the influential artwork of the Czech artist Zdeněk Burian by John Lavas, this time it is the Mosasauridae that are put into the spotlight.   One of the most successful types of arthropod in evolutionary history, the Trilobita are given top billing.  Team members are looking forward to reading more about this biostratigraphically important Class.

Last but not least, Professor Phil Currie is interviewed.  This internationally renowned palaeontologist needs no introduction.  Professor Currie’s scientific accomplishments have led to a greater understanding of dinosaurs and their historic significance and he was instrumental in helping to set up with the University of Alberta the first free-to-access on-line course on the Dinosauria – Dino 101.

Trilobites, Triceratops and Top Palaeontologist Phil Currie Share Top Billing

In "Prehistoric Times" winter 2019.

Triceratops, palaeontologist Phil Currie and the Trilobita all feature in issue 128 of “Prehistoric Times”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur, University of Alberta and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

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11 01, 2019

On the Trail of the “Hand Beast”

By | January 11th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Geology, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

New “Hand Beast” Chirotherium Exhibition

The county of Cheshire in north-west England has some fascinating geology, but from a palaeontological point of view, fossils are few and far between.  However, there are some notable exceptions, the sandstone quarries that once operated around the picturesque village of Lymm have provided evidence that before the dinosaurs evolved, this part of rural Cheshire was stalked by a powerful, three-metre-long predator – Chirotherium.

A new exhibition at the Lymm Heritage Centre, tells the story of Chirotherium and highlights the scientific importance of the trackways that revealed its existence.  Visitors will be able to get up close to this distant relative of today’s crocodiles, meeting “Kerry”, Lymm Heritage Centre’s resident Archosaur (ruling reptile) as well as embarking on the trail of the “Hand Beast”.

On the Trail of the “Hand Beast” – Chirotherium

Lymm Heritage Centre - Chirotherium leaflet.

On the trail of the “Hand Beast” – Chirotherium (Lymm Heritage Centre).

Picture Credit: Lymm Heritage Centre/Everything Dinosaur

Triassic Lymm – Deserts, Dunes and Salt Lakes

Strange, five-fingered tracks had been discovered in Triassic sandstones in Germany in the early 1830’s.  More tracks were uncovered at Storeton on the Wirral in 1836.  As the demand for building materials grew, a number of sandstone quarries in the Lymm area were opened up and more footprints were found.  These trace fossils are preserved in the Tarporley Siltstones Formation, which was deposited in the early Middle Triassic.  Lymm was located on the super-continent of Pangaea and the rocks deposited in this region portray a dry, arid Triassic landscape, dominated by sand dunes and salt lakes which were close to the sea.  In areas, where freshwater was present, such as river valleys and oases, there was abundant life, but the animals and plants would have been very unfamiliar to us. The land was ruled by reptiles and one of the biggest and most dangerous was Chirotherium.

Tracks Assigned to the Ichnogenus Chirotherium on Display at Oxford University Natural History Museum

A Chirotheriuim trackway.

Chirotherium tracks on display at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.  Note the five-fingered tracks (pentadactyle).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Face to Face with Chirotherium

This new exhibition at the Lymm Heritage Centre brings you face to face with the “Hand Beast” and the hard-working, dedicated team behind this informative, interactive exhibition have created lots of family-orientated activities to support learning.  You can go on your own fossil hunt, make prehistoric footprints and follow Lymm’s bespoke geology trail.

Further information about this new attraction, which officially opens tomorrow (January 12th), can be found here: On the Trail of the “Hand Beast”.

The exhibition is open from from 12 noon until 4pm Thursday to Sunday.

Everything Dinosaur team members have been involved in this project, many of the fossils have been supplied by our team members and visitors will be able to pick up a model of a Prestosuchus, a prehistoric animal that closely resembles the Chirotherium ichnogenus.

The Prestosuchus Model is Available at the Trail of the “Hand Beast” Exhibition at Lymm Heritage Centre

Prestosuchus prehistoric animal model.

The Prestosuchus model takes an interest in the trail of the “Hand Beast” leaflet.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

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10 01, 2019

Unpacking and Displaying the Rebor Hatching Baryonyx “Hurricane”

By | January 10th, 2019|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Unpacking and Displaying the Limited Edition Rebor Club Selection Hatching Baryonyx “Hurricane”

This week has seen the arrival of the eagerly anticipated Rebor Club Selection hatching Baryonyx figure “Hurricane”.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur have been busy contacting all those customers who took advantage of our offer to reserve one of these limited edition dinosaur replicas.  The first of these highly collectable prehistoric animal models have already been despatched, however, we did take time away from our packing duties to post up a quick guide to unpacking and displaying this beautiful dinosaur model.

Hints and Tips when Unpacking and Displaying the Rebor Club Selection Hatching Baryonyx “Hurricane”

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Only 1,000 Figures Made

The total production run is only 1,000 figures.  Each figure has a unique number on the base, so this Rebor hatching Baryonyx is a real piece for collectors.  In our short video, (just over a minute in length), we show how to unpack the model from its protective foam packaging.  We also provide some advice on how to secure the dinosaur egg to the special display stand, after all, with such a limited edition Rebor replica, you don’t want the dinosaur model falling over and potentially getting damaged.

The Limited Edition Rebor Club Selection Hatching Baryonyx Figure

Rebor Hatching Baryonyx "Hurricane".

The limited edition hatching Baryonyx figure “Hurricane” by Rebor.  Everything Dinosaur has produced a short, helpful video to help customers display their figure.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the Rebor Club Selection Baryonyx figure and the rest of the prehistoric animals in the Rebor range: Rebor Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animal Models

Famous Thumb Claws

Baryonyx (B. walkeri), is famous for its super-sized thumb claws. We are advising customers to take great care when first removing the figure from the protective foam packaging.  The claws can be broken off, if care is not taken to remove the figure from the foam.  In addition, Rebor has modelled an elongate-shaped egg for their Theropod dinosaur.  This is entirely in keeping with the shape of Theropod dinosaur eggs.  Lots of different dinosaur eggs have been classified (classified by shape, pore structure and size), there is actually an oogenus (the term used when classifying an organism from eggs), called Elongatoolithus – ee-long-gah-two-lith-us which describes Theropod eggs.  The elongate egg needs to be carefully placed on its display base.  If customers are not careful then the egg could topple over and there is a danger that the figure might be damaged.

Hopefully, a short, instructional video will help.  Everything Dinosaur recommends that customers use double-sided tabs to secure their model when on display.  Alternatively, something like reusable, sticky putty can be utilised just to help the elongate egg sit securely on its display base.

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9 01, 2019

When Did Life on Land First Evolve?

By | January 9th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Geology, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Was There Life on Land During the Ediacaran?

The transition of vertebrates from fully aquatic to partially terrestrial animals has been well documented.  Transitional vertebrates such as the remarkable Tiktaalik roseae* provide evidence of the anatomical adaptations undertaken by back-boned animals as they conquered the land.  However, invertebrates got there first and before them the land was home to other organisms such as multi-cellular, photosynthesisng mats of algae.  When complex organisms, rather than members of the Plantae Kingdom or bacteria established themselves on land is somewhat controversial, but new clues might be emerging from fossils found in some of the oldest known soils on Earth.  Could land-dwelling organisms have been present during the Ediacaran?

An Ediacaran Fossil Affected by Wind-drift Deposition

Evidence of wind-drift deposition in ancient Ediacaran sediments.

A portion of a quilted Ediacaran fossil is partly covered by ancient wind deposition – source Namibia.

Picture Credit: Greg Retallack (Oregon University)

Not Marine Fossils But Fossils from a Fluvial Environment

Multi-cellular, terrestrial animals may have existed during the Ediacaran, that is the conclusion of Greg Retallack, fossil collections director at the University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History, writing in the journal Sedimentary Geology.  The evidence for such a conclusion emerged from fossil assemblages, previously considered to represent ocean organisms, found in thin layers of silt and sand located between thicker sandstone beds from Ediacaran-aged fossil localities of Nilpena, South Australia and in similarly aged rocks from Namibia.

The Ediacaran is the last geological period of the Precambrian (Neoproterozoic Era), it lasted from 635 million years ago to 542 million years ago and this period in Earth’s history was named after the Ediacara Hills, located north of Adelaide (South Australia), in which, geologist Reginald Sprigg discovered a remarkable collection of fossils representing bizarre, soft-bodied organisms.

Commenting on his new research Greg Retallack stated:

“These Ediacaran organisms are one of the enduring mysteris of the fossil record.  Were they worms, sea jellies, sea pens, amoebae, algae?  They are notoriously difficult to classify, but conventional wisdom has long held that they were marine organisms.”

Studying Interflag Sandstone Laminae

An in-depth, microscopic analysis of the sediments and their geochemical properties has led to a reassessment of the environmental conditions that led to their deposition.  The grains that make up the sediments, reveal telltale marks of ancient wind erosion, the sediments suggest wind-drift deposition between flood beds.  This indicates a terrestrial origin for them and not deposition in a marine environment, after all, wind (aeolian forces), hardly affect sand grains on the seabed.

These thin, silty to sandy layers that are “sandwiched” between thicker sandstone beds are referred to as interflag sandstone laminae, they are sometimes called “shims” or “microbial mat sandwiches”.  In the research paper, Greg Retallack found similar structures in modern river deposits as well as more ancient interflag sandstone laminae in Pennsylvanian (Upper Carboniferous), and Eocene fluvial levee facies.

Thin, Silty to Sandy Layers Deposited Between Thicker Layers of Sandstone

Interflag Sandstone Laminae

How interflag sandstone laminae form – wind deposition alternates with flood deposition – a phenomenon observed in modern fluvial environments.

Picture Credit: Greg Retallack (Oregon University)

Professor Retallack confirmed his diagnosis of an aeolian factor in the deposition by stating:

“Such wind-drifted layers are widespread on river levees and sandbars today.  They are present throughout the Flinders Ranges of South Australia and also in Ediacaran rocks of southern Namibia.”

If the sediments are affected by aeolian forces, then it follows that they were deposited in terrestrial environments and therefore the fossil assemblage associated with these deposits are very likely to represent a terrestrial biota.  The organisms that left these fossils would have been multicellular and quite complex, visible to the naked eye.  Such life would have preceded the emergence of the first land plants by many tens of millions of years.

Unearthing Important Clues

The Ediacaran biota remains extremely difficult to classify, only impressions have been preserved so the internal structure of most of these bizarre organisms is entirely unknown.  They could represent a “dead-end” in the evolution of complex life, or some of them might be ancestral to extant groups of animals.  The fauna of the Ediacaran might remain enigmatic, when it comes to learning what the fossils actually represent, but this new study offers some intriguing new evidence about the palaeoenvironment.

The Professor concluded:

“The investigation points to a terrestrial habitat for some of these organisms, and combined with growing evidence from studies of fossil soils and biological soil crust features, it suggests that they may have been land creatures such as lichens.”

*To read an article about Tiktaalik roseaeScientists Get to Grips with Tiktaalik’s Rear End

Life in the Ediacaran (Marine Biota)

Ediacaran marine life.

Life in the Ediacaran.  Up until now, most if not all of the life reconstructions have focused on a marine ecosystem scenario.

Picture Credit: John Sibbick

The scientific paper: “Interflag Sandstone Laminae, A Novel Sedimentary Structure, with Implications for Ediacaran Paleoenvironments” by Gregory J. Retallack published in Sedimentary Geology.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of a press release from the Univesity of Oregon in the compilation of this article.

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8 01, 2019

Computer Modelling Reveals a Marine Reptile Braincase

By | January 8th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

CT Scanner Helps Palaeontologists to Map the Braincase of a Marine Reptile

A farmer’s field in Warwickshire was the site of a remarkable fossil discovery more than sixty years ago.  Thanks to the application of advanced medical science and computer modelling, a team of researchers including scientists from Manchester University, have been able to unlock secrets from inside the skull of a giant, Early Jurassic marine reptile.  The almost 200 million-year-old fossil, was found at Fell Mill Farm (Warwickshire, England), in 1955.  The material included a nearly one-metre-long skull of an ichthyosaur, it had been preserved in three-dimensions permitting scientists a rare glimpse into the internal workings of a prehistoric animal’s skull.

The Beautifully Preserved and Now Fully Restored Skull Specimen

Reconstructed Protoichthyosaurus skull.

The reconstructed, three-dimensional ichthyosaur skull (Protoichthyosaurus).

Picture Credit: Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum

Revealing New Information About the Rarely Preserved Braincase

Most ichthyosaur cranial material is crushed, flattened and distorted during the fossilisation process.  This specimen permitted the research team which included Dean Lomax (Manchester University), skilled fossil preparator Nigel Larkin and Laura Porro (University College London), to study a near complete and undistorted three-dimensional skull providing new insights into ichthyosaur cranial anatomy and the morphology of the braincase.  Despite the fossil specimen’s excellent preservation, it had never been formally studied prior to this research.

Co-author of the paper, Nigel Larkin explained:

“Initially, the aim of the project was to clean and conserve the skull and partially dismantle it to rebuild it more accurately, ready for redisplay at the Thinktank Museum [Birmingham].  But we soon realised that the individual bones of the skull were exceptionally well preserved in three dimensions, better than in any other ichthyosaur skull we’d seen.  Furthermore, that they would respond well to CT scanning, enabling us to capture their shape digitally and to see their internal details.  This presented an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.”

Computed Tomography (CT) Scans

To help unlock the information contained inside the skull, the specimen was subjected to computed tomography (CT) scans using a large medical scanner located at the Royal Veterinary College (London).  The powerful X-rays in conjunction with computer modelling allowed a three-dimensional and highly accurate digital reconstruction of the fossil to be made.  This is the first time a digital reconstruction of a skull and mandible of a large marine reptile has ever been made available for research purposes and to the public.

Going Through the CT Scanner

Scanning the skull of a marine reptile.

A large marine reptile skull is placed in a CT scanner.

Picture Credit: Nigel Larkin photograph taken at Royal Veterinary College, London

Further computed tomography analysis (micro-CT scanning) took place at the University of Cambridge.

Study Clears Up Fossil Identification

When originally labelled several decades ago, the ichthyosaur was classified as an example of the species Ichthyosaurus communis.  Indeed, when Everything Dinosaur wrote an article about this remarkably well-preserved skull back in 2016, the specimen was still being described as Ichthyosaurus.  However, lead-author and ichthyosaur expert, Dean Lomax became convinced as the research progressed, that this specimen represented a much rarer species.  He identified it as an example of an ichthyosaur called Protoichthyosaurus prostaxalis, the type species of this genus had originally been named in 1979.

To read the 2016 article that describes the skull and shows the post cranial material associated with this specimen: One of Britain’s Largest Ichthyosaurs Goes on Display.

With a skull almost twice as long as any other specimen of Protoichthyosaurus, this is the largest specimen known to science.

Research Team Members View the Results of the CT Scans

Viewing three-dimensional images of the fossil skull.

Dean Lomax (left), Laura Porro (centre) and Nigel Larkin (right) view 3-D images of the skull.

Picture Credit:  Nigel Larkin, taken at the University of Cambridge

Lead-author Dean Lomax stated:

“The first time I saw this specimen I was puzzled by its excellent preservation.  Ichthyosaurs of this age (Early Jurassic), are usually ‘pancaked’, meaning that they are squished so that the original structure of the skull is either not preserved or is distorted or damaged.  So, to have a skull and portions of the skeleton of an ichthyosaur of this age preserved in three dimensions, and without any surrounding rock obscuring it, is something quite special.”

Protoichthyosaurus prostaxalis

Protoichthyosaurus was first erected by the British palaeontologist Robert Appleby forty years ago.  Prior to his research, the fossil material that Dr Appleby assigned to the new genus had been placed in the Ichthyosaurus genus.  Indeed, subsequent research challenged this assessment and for some time, the validity of the Protoichthyosaurus genus remained in doubt.  In 2017, Dean Lomax along with colleagues Professor Judy Massare (State University of New York) and Rashmi Mistry (Reading University), conducted a re-examination of the fossil material and carried out extensive comparisons between Ichthyosaur and suspected Protoichthyosaurus specimens.  The researchers concluded that Protoichthyosaurus was indeed, a valid genus: Reaffirming Protoichthyosaurus as a Valid Genus.

A Life Reconstruction of the Ichthyosaur Protoichthyosaurus prostaxalis

Protoichthyosaurus life reconstruction.

A life reconstruction of the Ichthyosaur Protoichthyosaurus (P. prostaxalis).

Picture Credit: Bob Nicholls @Paleocreations

Back to the Braincase

The skull is not quite complete, but several bones that make up the braincase, which are very rarely preserved in the Ichthyosauridae, are present.  The micro-CT scanning conducted at Cambridge University provided crucial data to help reconstruct the internal anatomy of the animal’s skull and brain.  The fossil only preserved bones from the left side of the braincase, however, using CT scans these elements were digitally mirrored and 3-D printed at life size to provide a complete braincase.

Commenting on how the use of modern technologies, such as medical scanners, have revolutionised the way in which palaeontologists are able to study and describe fossils, Dr Laura Porro stated:

“CT scanning allows us to look inside fossils – in this case, we could see long canals within the skull bones that originally contained blood vessels and nerves.  Scans also revealed the curation history of the specimen since its discovery in the ‘50s.  There were several areas reconstructed in plaster and clay, and one bone was so expertly modelled that only the scans revealed part of it was a fake.  Finally, there is the potential to digitally reconstruct the skull in 3-D.  This is hard (and risky) to do with the original, fragile and very heavy fossil bones; plus, we can now make the 3-D reconstruction freely available to other scientists and for education.”

An Image of the Three-Dimensional Scan of the Protoichthyosaurus Skull Material

Three-dimensional scan of a Protoichthyosaurus skull.

A three-dimensional image from the scan of the Protoichthyosaurus skull.  Individual elements and bones are highlighted in different colours.

Picture Credit: University of Manchester/Thinktank

Dean Lomax added:

“It’s taken more than half a century for this ichthyosaur to be studied and described, but it has been worth the wait.  Not only has our study revealed exciting information about the internal anatomy of the skull of this animal, but our findings will aid other palaeontologists in exploring its evolutionary relationship with other ichthyosaurs.”

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7 01, 2019

Smallest Dinosaur Tracks Known to Science

By | January 7th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A New Tiny Dromaeosaurid Ichnogenus Dromaeosauriformipes

Catching up with our reading of scientific papers over the weekend and our attention was caught by the description of tiny, two-toed prints from South Korea that reaffirm the growing conviction amongst scientists that some types of non-avian dinosaur were very small, not much bigger than sparrows.  Writing in the academic journal “Scientific Reports”, researchers from South Korea, in collaboration with colleagues from Australia, China, Spain and the USA, describe eighteen diminutive, didactyl tracks that are attributed to either juveniles or tiny adult dinosaurs that may have had a hip height of around five centimetres.

The tracks have been ascribed to a new ichnogenus – Dromaeosauriformipes (D. rarus), the name translates as similar in form to Dromaeosauripus*, small and rare.

A Life Reconstruction of the Recently Described Dromaeosauriformipes rarus

Dromaeosauriformipes illustrated.

A life reconstruction of the diminutive, dromaeosaurid ichnogenus Dromaeosauriformipes.

Picture Credit: Anthony Romilio (Queensland University)

Dromaeosauripus* is an earlier described ichnogenus representing a larger set of tracks, three ichnospecies have been assigned to this ichnogenus to date.

Dromaeosauriformipes rarus – A Microsaur

The tracks were originally found by Professor Kyung Soo Kim (Chinju National University of Education, South Korea), one of the authors of the paper.  The tracks come from a series of remarkable multiple track-bearing horizons from the JinJu Formation of the south-eastern part of the Korean peninsula.  The deposits represent lakeshore sediments (Lower Cretaceous) and date from approximately 115 million years ago (Aptian faunal stage).  The trackways criss-cross an area that was once soft mud and the eighteen tracks are interpreted as representing an estimated 6 to 10 individual trackways possibly made by a similar number of different individuals.  It is suggested that the prints could resemble a Microraptor-like dromaeosaurid (Microraptorine).  Some scientists have suggested that Microraptor was piscivorous (fish-eating).  The tracks found in association with a lakeshore, could represent a Microraptor-like dinosaur searching for food, but equally the tracks could represent other types of activity.

Microraptorine Activity in Lakeshore Setting (D. rarus)

Mapping tiny tracks assigned to a dromaeosaurid dinosaur.

Diminutive dromaeosaurid tracks from South Korea (Dromaeosauriformipes rarus).

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports  – original photo (A) by Professor Kim

The picture shows (A), the seven print trackway of the diminutive dromaeosaurian Dromaeosauriformipes rarus.  A line drawing of the trackway is shown (B) and (C) shows a line drawing of the track-bearing surface showing two tiny tracks but trackway 2 has a much bigger stride length indicating greater velocity than recorded in trackway 1.  Pictured below are seven photographs recording the individual prints.

One of the authors of the scientific paper, Dr Anthony Romilio from the University of Queensland stated:

“They are the world’s smallest dinosaur tracks.  These new tracks are just one centimetre in length, which means the dinosaur that made them was an animal you could have easily held in your hand.”

Hatched from Tiny Eggs

To estimate the size of the dinosaur that made the tracks, the team measured the footprint length and multiplied the value by 4.5 to get an approximate hip height.  The maker(s) of these tiny tracks would have had a hip height of around five centimetres.  The two-toed prints are definitively dromaeosaurid, as the second toe, the killing claw, is held off the ground as the dinosaur moves about, hence just two toe impressions are left behind in each print.  In the paper, the scientists comment upon the fact that these tiny dinosaurs must have hatched from very small eggs.

Back in 2016, Everything Dinosaur featured the discovery of tiny three-toed Theropod prints that had been discovered in Lower Cretaceous sediments from south-western China.  As a result, a new “tiny-saurus” ichnogenus was erected – Minisauripus.  The South Korean prints assigned to Dromaeosauriformipes rarus are even smaller.

To read about the earlier discovery of tiny dinosaur footprints from south-western China: Minisauripus – the Smallest Dinosaur Known?

Professor Kyung Soo Kim commented that the lake deposits at this location created ideal conditions that allowed for the preservation of tiny footprints, rarely found anywhere else in the world.

Professor Kim added:

“In addition to tiny dinosaur tracks, we have footprints made by birds, pterosaurs, lizards, turtles, mammals, and even frogs.”

Comparing the Tracks of Dromaeosauriformipes rarus with Dromaeosauripus jinjuensis

Comparing the didactyl tracks of different sized dromaeosaurid ichnogenera.

Dromaeosauriformipes rarus tracks compared in size and scale to Dromaeosauripus jinjuensis.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The image above compares illustrations of the tracks of  Dromaeosauriformipes rarus to the size of the trackways assigned to Dromaeosauripus jinjuensis.  Note the raised second toe which produces the characteristic two-toed print.  D rarus tracks suggest a much smaller dromaeosaur produced the tracks.  The image in the upper left is a colour photogrammetric image of Trackway 1 which helps to define track depth and characteristics.  This is compared to the photogrammetric colour image showing the type trackway of D. jinjuensis (right).

Are These Tiny Dinosaurs or Newly-Hatched Dinosaurs from a Much Larger Species?

The tracks support the idea that there may have been lots of very small dinosaurs, but their small bones would not necessarily be preserved in the fossil record so there may be a bias towards larger members of the Dinosauria due to their greater preservation potential.  However, if conditions are right, then diminutive prints and tracks can be preserved, providing tantalising evidence to support the idea of a much more diverse Theropoda then previously thought.  The researchers raise two fascinating questions in their published paper:

  1. What is the size range of “raptor” tracks based on footprints or inferred from skeletal remains?
  2. How might diminutive tracks of juveniles be distinguished from the prints made by tiny adults (Microsaurs)?

Co-author Dr Martin Lockley (University of Colorado Denver’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences), suggests that these tiny trackways could represent the prints of adult dinosaurs.

He commented:

“Rapidly growing dinosaurs don’t remain small or leave little footprints for very long.  But of all of the footprints we’ve found of the Minisauripus, none grew larger than one inch; a preponderance of evidence of a small species and not babies.  There’s a chance that we just found something smaller.”

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6 01, 2019

Hatching Plans for the Rebor Hatchling Baryonyx

By | January 6th, 2019|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Rebor Club Selection Limited Edition Baryonyx “Hurricane”

Team members at Everything Dinosaur are busy making plans for the imminent arrival of the latest figure in the Rebor Club Selection range – a hatching Baryonyx nicknamed “Hurricane”.  Only 1,000 of these highly collectable replicas have been produced and like the hatching Triceratops (Jolly) and the T. rex (Rudy), the Baryonyx replica is likely to sell out quickly.

New for 2019, the Rebor Club Selection Limited Edition Baryonyx Figure

Rebor Club Selection limited edition Hatching Baryonyx.

The Rebor Club Selection limited edition Hatching Baryonyx figure.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Inspired by a Footballer – Harry Kane

Baryonyx is known from Lower Cretaceous strata from Europe, most notably the Upper Weald Clay Formation in Surrey, from which the holotype specimen was excavated in 1983.  This Theropod is associated with southern England and the Isle of Wight, but isolated teeth and other material from Portugal and further afield suggest that Baryonyx (or closely related species/ancestral forms) may have had a wider distribution.  Both the Weald Clay Formation and the Wessex Formation of the Isle of Wight, which has also yielded Baryonyx walkeri fossil material, represent palaeoenvironments that would have been subjected to tropical storms so the moniker “Hurricane” is scientifically appropriate.  However, it was the 2018 renaissance of the English football team captained by Harry Kane that proved the inspiration for the name “Hurricane”.  In 2018, the England football team reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia and in the inaugural UEFA Nations League, England have qualified for the semi-finals.  England’s semi-final against Holland in June 2019, will be played in Portugal, highly appropriate as fossil material ascribed to the Baryonyx genus has also been described from that country.

The Rebor Hatching Baryonyx – “Hurricane” (Harry Kane)

Rebor hatching Baryonyx "Hurricane" dinosaur model.

Rebor “Hurricane” limited edition hatching Baryonyx dinosaur model.  The football reaffirms the connection with the England soccer team.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Baryonyx walkeri

When the field team from the British Museum (London Natural History Museum), had finished excavating the fossil remains from the Smokejacks Brickworks in Ockley (Dorking, Surrey) in 1983, some 70% of the skeleton of an individual meat-eating dinosaur had been recovered.  This makes this fossil material one of the most complete, large Theropod dinosaur remains to have been found in Europe.  The Smokejacks Brickworks material represents a sub-adult animal, so estimating the size of Baryonyx walkeri is difficult.  However, most vertebrate palaeontologists estimate that this Theropod reached an adult size of between 7.5 to 10 metres in length, but like all dinosaurs, this giant hatched from an egg.

The Limited Edition Rebor Hatching Baryonyx Dinosaur Figure “Hurricane”

Rebor Hatching Baryonyx "Hurricane".

The limited edition hatching Baryonyx figure “Hurricane” by Rebor.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The hand-painted, highly detailed figure has  been beautifully sculpted and the dinosaur can be displayed with or without the football accessory.  Note also the care taken to sculpt that enlarged, curved thumb claw, an anatomical feature that first drew the attention of the world’s media to the fossil discovery back in 1983.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We are excited and can’t wait to take delivery of this limited edition dinosaur figure. The stock is due to arrive at our warehouse in the next few days and then we shall be emailing all those collectors who have asked us to reserve a Club Selection replica hatching Baryonyx for them.  We suspect that when “Hurricane” arrives it will create a bit of storm amongst fans of dinosaur models.”

To view the range of Rebor prehistoric animal replicas in stock at Everything Dinosaur: Rebor Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models

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