All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
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16 03, 2018

“Beast from the East” Does Not Stop Dedicated Fossil Hunters

By | March 16th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Irregular Sea Urchins in Unseasonable Weather

The area of the Dorset coast around Lyme Regis and Charmouth is often said by locals to experience its very own microclimate.  Everything Dinosaur team members have experienced this phenomenon for themselves, it can be raining very heavily inland at Axminster but on the coast, it can be a dry and sunny.  However, when the “Beast from the East” affected most parts of the UK recently, the Lyme Regis area had its fair share of bad weather.

Our fossil hunting chum, Brandon Lennon took a photograph of Lyme Regis high street as the cold snap hit.  Brandon commented that shoppers were taking to skis to ensure that they could traverse the steeply sloping terrain.

The “Beast from the East” Made Its Presence Felt on the Dorset Coast

Snowy conditions in Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis high street covered in snow.

Picture Credit: Brandon Lennon

Fossil Collecting in the Snow

Fossil hunting in the snow is difficult but not impossible.  With the treacherous road conditions, most fossil collectors who would have had to travel into the Lyme Regis area by car, sensibly postponed their journeys.  This meant that local fossil hunters had the beaches to themselves for as long as the inclement weather persisted.  Several calcite ammonites were collected from the East Cliff Beach (heading towards the small village of Charmouth).  Brandon found some beautiful fossil sea urchins (irregular echinoderms) whilst exploring Monmouth Beach, to the west of the Cobb.  It may have been cold and the beaches were almost deserted but some exciting fossil discoveries could still be made.

A Beautiful Cretaceous Echinoderm Fossil Extracted from a Flint Nodule

Echinoderm fossil (Lyme Regis).

A sea urchin fossil extracted from a flint nodule.

Picture Credit: Brandon Lennon

The weekend promises a “mini Beast from the East” to hit the UK.  More snow could fall in the Lyme Regis area, however, we don’t think it will be enough to dissuade the dedicated fossil hunters of Dorset from visiting the beaches to see what they can find.

Everything Dinosaur recommends that visitors to the Lyme Regis area interested in collecting fossils, go on an organised fossil walk.  This is the safest way to explore the beaches around the town of Lyme Regis, as the sea can cut-off unwary beachcombers and cliff falls are common in the area.

For information about organised fossil walks: Brandon Lennon Fossil Walks

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14 03, 2018

Are Palaeontologists Naming Too Many New Species?

By | March 14th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Cautionary Tale When It Comes to Naming New Species from Fragmentary Fossils

In the 19th Century when scientists were beginning to understand that there were many different types of dinosaur, lots of new species were erected, often from the most fragmentary of fossils.  As the western United States and Canada were explored, large quantities of dinosaur fossil material came to light.  This led to palaeontologists naming many new species.  Famous dinosaurs such as the hadrosaurid Trachodon (T. mirabilis), which graced an amazing number of dinosaur books in the 1960’s and 1970’s, named in 1856 by the American palaeontologist Joseph Leidy, is a typical example.  Leidy described Trachodon from just a few teeth found in Montana (Judith River Formation).  Today, palaeontologists regard the genus Trachodon as nomen dubium (its validity is doubted).   Those teeth used to describe this iconic duck-billed dinosaur probably represent several different plant-eating dinosaurs both Hadrosaurs and even horned dinosaurs (Ceratopsians).

As Seen in Numerous Dinosaur Books in the Late 20th Century – Trachodon

Postcard with Trachodon illustration.

An illustration of Trachodon.  A genus of dinosaur regarded as nomen dubium (validity is questioned).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Recognising new Fossil Species

It is not just the Dinosauria that has suffered from overzealous species naming, however, a comprehensive review of variations in Ichthyosaur bones will help scientists to recognise new fossil species.  Dean Lomax (Manchester University) and Professor Judy Massare (SUNY College at Brockport, New York, USA), have examined hundreds of Ichthyosaurus specimens and they urge caution when it comes to erecting new species based on the evidence of a few fragmentary elements or isolated fossil remains.

Writing in the “Geological Journal”, the pair of scientists report that by focusing on just one part of the anatomy of an Ichthyosaurus an appreciation of the variation within a species can be obtained.  Their paper looked at the hind fin, (back paddle), the purpose being to evaluate different forms amongst the six known species that make up the Ichthyosaurus genus.  In total, ninety-nine specimens were examined, providing useful information on the variations within different species of “fish lizard”.

A Fossil Specimen of Ichthyosaurus somersetensis Named and Formally Described in 2017

Ichthyosaurus somersetensis specimen.

Ichthyosaurus somersetensis fossil specimen.  The black arrow in the photograph shows the location of the hind fin.

Picture Credit: Dean Lomax/Manchester University

Large Sample Size Helps to Provide Robust Results

Early in their research, the scientists found different types of hind fin that initially appeared to represent different species.  As more specimens were studied, they found further examples of variation between the hind fins of individual animals.   The hind fins differed in a number of ways, hind fins had different numbers of bones, their shape differed and the size of the hind fin also varied.  From this work, it was concluded that a single hind fin alone could not be used to distinguish amongst the species of Ichthyosaurus, however, particular variations were more common in certain species than in others.

Palaeontologist Dean Lomax explained:

“As we have such a large, complete sample size, which is relatively unique among such fossil vertebrates, our study can help illustrate the limitations that palaeontologists face when dealing with few or even just one specimen.”

This new study shows that with only a few specimens in the sample, features can be found that differ substantially from one specimen to the next and this can cause confusion if these autapomorphies (distinctive traits) are used to classify organisms.  It can appear that there are several species.  In reality, with a much bigger sample, the gaps in the “unique” variations are filled in, showing that differences are simply the result of individual variations within a population.

Judy Massare added:

“We described a few hind fins, which might have been called a new species if they were found in isolation.  Instead, we had enough specimens to determine that it was just an extreme variation of a common form.”

How Many Types of Ichthyosaurus Existed?

A Jurassic marine scene (Ichthyosaurus).

Ichthyosaurus life restoration.

Picture Credit: James McKay

“Lumpers” and “Splitters”

Palaeontologists can be put into two distinct groups when it comes to naming new species, the “lumpers” and the “splitters”.   “Lumpers” group similar specimens together, whilst in contrast, the “splitters” opt to split specimens into new species.  In this new study, if the team opted to split-up the specimens based on the variation found, it would suggest that there were a large number of species.

Dean Lomax stated:

“If we considered the variation as unique, it would mean we would be naming about 30 new species.  This would be similar to what was done in the 19th Century when any new fossil find, from a new location or horizon, was named as a new species if it differed slightly from previously known specimens.”

Just like the example of Trachodon given above.

As more fossil material is found and better dating techniques are developed, the decision to erect a new species has to be given extremely careful consideration.  This new study into variation within an extinct group of individual specimens can help scientists to make appropriate choices when it comes to classification.

The scientific paper: “Hindfins of Ichthyosaurus: effects of large sample size on ‘distinct’ morphological characters” by Judy A. Massare and Dean R. Lomax published in the Geological Journal.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of Manchester University in the compilation of this article.

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13 03, 2018

Plans Progressing for Palaeoloxodon

By | March 13th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Preparing for a Straight-tusked Elephant

Everything Dinosaur team members have been busy preparing for the introduction of the Straight-tusked elephant figure from Eofauna Scientific Research.  This 1:35 scale replica of Palaeoloxodon antiquus is due to arrive in stock around late May/early June, that may be a few weeks away, but there is still plenty of work to do in the meantime.

The New for 2018 Straight-tusked Elephant from Eofauna Scientific Research

Straight-tusked elephant model.

Eofauna Scientific Research Straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus).

Picture Credit: Eofauna Scientific Research/Everything Dinosaur

To join Everything Dinosaur’s reserve list for this new 1:35 scale figure simply email: Contact Everything Dinosaur to Reserve Your Model

Space has been allocated in our warehouse to receive this wonderful proboscidean and we have ensured that there will be adequate stock of the first figure in the Eofauna range, the Steppe Mammoth model (introduced last year), which is likely to have an upsurge in sales as more collectors discover this wonderful model range.

Commissioning a Scale Drawing of Palaeoloxodon antiquus

An illustration of Palaeoloxodon antiquus has already been commissioned and completed.  This drawing, will form the basis for a scale drawing of this extinct elephant that will be used in our exclusive Straight-tusked elephant fact sheet that will be sent out with every model sell.  The fact sheet is currently being researched and prepared.  Once it has been approved, this new fact sheet will be added to our library of several hundred prehistoric animal data sheets that Everything Dinosaur has compiled.

The Illustration of the Straight-tusked Elephant Commissioned by Everything Dinosaur

Straight-tusked elephant illustration.

A drawing of a Straight-tusked elephant.

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks/Everything Dinosaur

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We do appreciate that model collectors often like to learn a little about the prehistoric animal that a model represents, that’s why we go to the trouble of commissioning drawings and creating fact sheets for the majority of the prehistoric animals and dinosaurs that we sell.  In addition, as the Eofauna Scientific Research figure is based on actual fossil specimens, it is fitting for us to provide a fact sheet on this extinct elephant, after all, one of our objectives is to help educate and inform.”

Palaeoloxodon Upsets the Loxodonta

A study of ancient Palaeoloxodon antiquus DNA revealed that this extinct species was closely related to African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis).  This came as a surprise as most palaeontologists had believed that the Palaeoloxodon genus was, from a taxonomic perspective, closer to the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus).  Furthermore, the genetic analysis revealed that extant forest elephants in the Congo Basin were more closely related to Palaeoloxodon antiquus than they were to the African savannah elephant (Loxodonta africana).  This meant that the elephant family tree would have to be drastically revised and the Loxodonta genus itself will have to be reviewed and subjected to some revision.

Members of the Elephantidae family (most of them), might have big, but it turns out that these iconic animals with their ancient lineage can still produce some enormous surprises.

The Eofauna Scientific Research Straight-tusked Elephant with the First Eofauna Model (Mammuthus trogontherii)

The Eofauna Straight-tusked elephant the Steppe Mammoth model.

The Eofauna Scientific Research Straight-tusked elephant (right) and the Steppe Mammoth figure (left).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the current range of Eofauna Scientific Research models available from Everything Dinosaur: Eofauna Scientific Research Scale Replicas

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11 03, 2018

Google Doodle – Dinosaurs for Mother’s Day

By | March 11th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Main Page|0 Comments

Mother’s Day Dinosaurs

The Google doodle for the UK and Ireland today is a pair of dinosaurs (we think).  The doodle has been put up in honour of Mother’s Day and the painting represents one child’s view of a mother dinosaur with its baby.  At least to us, who spend a lot of the time looking at dinosaurs, this is what the drawing resembles.

Google Doodle Dinosaurs

Google Doodle - dinosaurs.

Google Doodle March 11th 2018 for Mother’s Day.

Picture Credit: Google

Do Armoured Dinosaurs Make Good Parents?

Whether or not the non-avian dinosaurs made good parents is a topic often debated amongst palaeontologists.  Like their close relatives, the birds, non-avian dinosaurs probably adopted a range of strategies when it came to looking after their young.  Nesting sites discovered in the United States strongly suggest that Maiasaura, (M. peeblesorum), a Late Cretaceous Hadrosaur, fed their young and looked after them, whilst other types of dinosaur probably adopted different behaviours.

To read our post about “Good Mother Lizard”: Maiasaura and Marsh

An Illustration of a Maiasaura and Young

Maiasaura drawing.

The person in the picture provides a scale so the size of this dinosaur can be estimated.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Fossils of very young Maiasaura indicate that these dinosaurs were not capable of leaving their nest and that they were dependent on the adult animals to feed them.  At the other end of what is a spectrum, precocial animals are born ready to lead much more independent lives.  Precocial young are able to leave the nest shortly after birth/hatching and are capable of feeding themselves.  As for evidence of armoured dinosaurs and their behaviour with regards to bringing up baby, the evidence is less substantial.  However, a number of young individuals of armoured dinosaurs have been found in a single bone bed.  The fossils come from an armoured dinosaur known from northern China (Inner Mongolia), called Pinacosaurus (P. grangeri).  If these young Pinacosaurus died together, it does suggest that these animals lived in social groups.  This may have implications for parenting behaviour.

Late Cretaceous Northern China

China - Late Cretaceous

Late Cretaceous China.  Pinacosaurus can be seen in the foreground.

Picture Credit: Zhao Chuang

Team members at Everything Dinosaur also recall coming across a research paper that reported upon the discovery of an adult armoured dinosaur and a juvenile being found together.  Although, it is difficult to interpret the exact circumstances, the fossils could represent an adult and offspring having perished together.

An Armoured Dinosaur Themed Artwork on Display in School

Stegosaurus artwork in school.

How many hands?

Picture Credit: Bamford Academy Foundation Stage

On this Mothering Sunday, it is fitting to consider whether dinosaurs were altricial or precocial.  It is likely, that just like birds, the Dinosauria exhibited a number of behaviours.

A “Handy” Illustration of a Monster Created by School Children

Hands inspire artwork in school.

A “handy” way to create a prehistoric animal in the classroom.

Picture Credit: Feversham Primary

Happy Mother’s Day.

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9 03, 2018

Working to Honour Mary Anning and Mary Leakey

By | March 9th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Famous Figures, Main Page, Press Releases, Teaching|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Helping to Honour Female Scientists

With International Women’s Day having been very much in the news this week, Everything Dinosaur is taking this opportunity to honour two female pioneers in the Earth sciences, both called Mary.  Today, March 9th, is the anniversary of the death of Mary Anning, the famous amateur fossil collector from Dorset who did much to bring the amazing geology of that part of the coast of southern England to the world’s attention.  It is only in the last few decades that her contribution to the nascent science of palaeontology has begun to be recognised.  As part of our continuing work in schools, we have developed a lesson plan based around researching the life of Mary Anning for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 pupils.

Everything Dinosaur’s Non-chronological Report Focused on Mary Anning

Mary Anning Non-chronological report.

A non-chronological report exercise based on the life and work of Mary Anning.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A Non-chronological Report Focused on Mary Anning

A non-chronological report is a non-fiction report that is not written in time order.  Usually written in the third person, these reports help children to practice structuring texts and working with a variety of writing styles.  They involve a planning phase in which the compiler has to research the subject area and to decide what to include or discard.   It helps children to evaluate sources of information, encourages cross-checking of references and provides the opportunity for the teacher to check learning.  Everything Dinosaur’s lesson plan includes a template for the creation of a non-chronological report focused on the life and work of Mary Anning.

Mary Anning Honoured in a Google Doodle

Google celebrates the life and work of Mary Anning.

Google pays tribute to Mary Anning (1799-1847).

Picture Credit: Google/Everything Dinosaur

Mary Douglas Leakey (1913-1996)

The British palaeoanthropologist Mary Leakey, who along with her husband Louis, did much to improve our understanding of the evolution of humankind has also been the subject of a Google doodle.  Everything Dinosaur is working towards honouring the work of this ground-breaking scientists by having a blue plaque erected at her childhood home in London.  We shall update blog readers with regards to our progress in the near future.

A Google Doodle Honouring the Work of Mary Leakey

Mary Leakey honoured by Google.

Celebrating the role of women in science.

Picture Credit: Google/Everything Dinosaur

To read more about the life and work of the remarkable Mary Leakey: Celebrating the Role of Women in Science – Mary Douglas Leakey

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8 03, 2018

Straight-Tusked Elephant Model

By | March 8th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Eofauna Scientific Research – Straight-tusked Elephant

Eofauna Scientific Research have announced that the next figure to be added to their replica range will be a 1:35 scale replica of a Straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus).  The model is currently in production and it will be available late May, perhaps early June.

The Eofauna Scientific Research Straight-tusked Elephant

Straight-tusked elephant model.

Eofauna Scientific Research Straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus).

Picture Credit: Eofauna Scientific Research

Palaeoloxodon antiquus – A Prehistoric Giant

These large prehistoric elephants ranged across much of southern Europe and the Middle East during the Pleistocene Epoch.  Their fossils have even been found in southern England and several fossil sites record the interaction of hominins with this large proboscidean.  For example, in 2013, Everything Dinosaur published an article summarising research from Southampton University that suggested that the remains of a Straight-tusked elephant found in Kent, could have been hunted and killed by Homo heidelbergensis.  The flints found at the site, along with cut marks preserved on the bones indicated that the carcass was butchered.  Perhaps H. heidelbergensis was capable of bringing down such a large mammal, evidence from elsewhere in Europe would suggest so.  In late 2017, a team of scientists published a paper describing the fossilised remains of a large bull Palaeoloxodon found in Greece that also exhibited evidence of having been butchered by ancient humans (probably H. heidelbergensis).

The Straight-tusked Elephant – It Might Have Been Hunted by Ancient Humans

Straight-tusked elephant model.

Eofauna Scientific Research Straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus).

Picture Credit: Eofauna Scientific Research

Based on Actual Fossil Specimens

Just like the Eofauna Steppe Mammoth replica that proceeded it, the  Palaeoloxodon antiquus figure from Eofauna Scientific Research is based on actual fossil specimens.  Fossils representing three individual animals formed the basis for the sculpt.  The elephant remains that helped to inspire this amazingly detailed model come from the state of Sachsen-Anhalt in central Germany.  Open cast mining in the area has led to the excavation of around seventy individual Palaeoloxodon antiquus specimens.  These remains were preserved in ancient lake deposits and they have enabled scientists to learn a great deal about these ancient herbivores.  Scientists have been able to determine the physical appearance of Palaeoloxodon, how big it was, how much it weighed and to study growth rates.  Fully grown bulls weighed twice as much as the living bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) and just like extant elephants today, the males were much larger than the females.

 Models Based on Actual Fossil Remains

Eofauna models (Steppe Mammoth and Straight-tusked elephant).

The Eofauna Straight-tusked elephant and the Eofauna Steppe mammoth models.

Picture Credit: Eofauna Scientific Research

Everything Dinosaur – A Sneak Peak

Everything Dinosaur team members got the chance to examine this beautiful model a few weeks ago, when we met up with Eofauna Scientific Research staff.  We even took some exclusive pics of the figure so that when the time came, we could provide more photographs of this new addition to the Eofauna range for our customers.

Available Around Late May/Early June from Everything Dinosaur

Eofauna Scientific Research Straight-tusked elephant.

Straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus) model.  It comes complete with a data card.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A Reserve List for the Eofauna Scientific Research Straight-tusked Elephant Has Been Opened

The Eofauna Scientific Research Straight-tusked elephant is expected to be in stock at Everything Dinosaur in a few weeks (in stock late May or early June).  We shall keep our customers and blog readers updated on production.

In the meantime, we have opened a priority reserve list for the Eofauna Scientific Research Straight-tusked elephant…

To request to be added to our priority reserve list: Email Everything Dinosaur

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7 03, 2018

Dinosaurs A Year 1 Art Project

By | March 7th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Year 1 Art Project Dinosaurs

Whilst searching through our extensive archives, we came across a photograph taken during one of our many visits to schools to conduct dinosaur and fossil themed workshops.  The children in a Year 1 class at Wellgate Primary have used prehistoric animal drawings to help inspire them in their art classes.  Various dinosaur drawings were used to help the children gain an appreciation of perspective and to learn about the influence of shading on the appearance of a drawing.  How very creative!

Dinosaurs Inspire a Year 1 Art Class

Dinosaur drawings inspire Year 1.

Super dinosaur drawings by a Year 1 class.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Wellgate Primary

Black and White Illustrations

The teacher instructed the children to only use pencil to shade in their drawings and not to add anything else to their illustrations.  This display formed part of an extensive collage that highlighted various painting and drawing styles, all focused on the theme of fossils and prehistoric animals.  Our dinosaur and fossil expert who visited the school to conduct a workshop, took the picture to demonstrate the creative approach to the scheme of work adopted by the teaching team with its cross-curricular touch points clearly evident.

It looks like we have some budding future palaeoartists, all the various pieces of art made a fantastic display.

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6 03, 2018

Jinyunpelta sinensis – Oldest Swinger in Town

By | March 6th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Basal Ankylosaurine Dinosaur Jinyunpelta is Described

Scientists, including researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have published details of a new genus of club-tailed, armoured dinosaur that roamed China around 100 million years ago.  The dinosaur has been named Jinyunpelta sinensis, it represents the first definitive ankylosaurid dinosaur from southern China.

An Illustration of the Basal Ankylosaurine Jinyunpelta sinensis

Jinyunpelta sinensis illustrated.

An illustration of Jinyunpelta sinensis.

Picture Credit: The Chinese Academy of Sciences

Two Fossil Specimens

This new dinosaur, very distantly related to Late Cretaceous Ankylosaurs like Euoplocephalus and Ankylosaurus (from which the group is named), has been described based on two fossil specimens.  The fossils come from Jinyun County, Zhejiang Province, China and have been excavated from rocks which form part of the Liangtoutang Formation, which covers the important boundary between Lower and Upper Cretaceous sediments (Albian faunal stage to the Cenomanian faunal stage of the Cretaceous).

The fossil material consists of an almost complete skull, parts of the jaw and postcranial remains including a beautifully-preserved tail club.

The Skull and Jaw of Jinyunpelta sinensis

The skull and mandible of Jinyunpelta sinensis.

Skull and jaw of Jinyunpelta (a) dorsal view, (b) ventral view and (c) anterior view, with accompanying line drawings.

Picture Credit: The Chinese Academy of Sciences/Scientific Reports

The generic name derives from “Jinyun” (Mandarin) honouring Jinyun County where the fossils were found and “pelta” (Latin), a small shield, in reference to the osteoderms found on all ankylosaurians.  The root of the specific name “sin” (Greek) refers to China, the country of origin.

Photographs and Line Drawings of the Spectacular Tail Club

The Tail Club of Jinyunpelta sinensis.

The tail club Jinyunpelta sinensis paratype ZMNH M8963 in dorsal (a) and ventral (b) views.

Picture Credit: The Chinese Academy of Sciences/Scientific Reports

The Oldest Swinger in Town

J. sinensis is described as a basal ankylosaurine dinosaur and it represents the oldest and the most basal ankylosaurian known to have a well-developed tail club knob.  It is quite a sizeable bony club too, getting on for nearly half a metre across at its widest part.  The researchers conclude that large and highly modified tail clubs evolved at the base of the ankylosaurine at least about 100 million years ago.

Jinyunpelta possesses unique cranial features which differentiates this Chinese dinosaur from other armoured dinosaurs known from the northern hemisphere, these autapomorphies support the establishment of a new genus.  Several other types of Ornithischian dinosaur have been reported from this part of China, including another armoured dinosaur – a  Nodosaur and basal Ornithopod that was named and described in 2012 (Yueosaurus tiantaiensis)

The discovery of Jinyunpelta expands the known diversity and palaeogeographical distribution of ankylosaurians in Asia.

The scientific paper: “The Most Basal Ankylosaurine Dinosaur from the Albian–Cenomanian of China, with Implications for the Evolution of the Tail Club” by Wenjie Zheng, Xingsheng Jin, Yoichi Azuma, Qiongying Wang, Kazunori Miyata & Xing Xu published in the open access journal “Scientific Reports”.

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5 03, 2018

Watching the Birdie – Early Cretaceous

By | March 5th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Early Cretaceous Enantiornithine Shines Light on Early Bird Evolution

A tiny, beautifully preserved fossil of a baby bird is helping scientists to shine a light on the early evolution of some of the first birds.  The fossil represents an enantiornithine bird and researchers, including Dr Fabien Knoll (Manchester University), have used synchrotron radiation to analyse the microscopic structure of the bird’s skeleton in order to assess at what stage of development the poor creature was at when it met its demise.

An Elemental Map of the Fossilised Skeleton was Created using Synchrotron Radiation

The enantiornithine bird fossil (elemental mapping).

Elemental mapping of the tiny bird fossil.  Mapping the slab and the counter slab of the fossil to determine the chemical composition of the skeleton.

Picture Credit: Manchester University

The Enantiornithes – Early Birds

The Enantiornithes were a clade of diverse Cretaceous birds that possessed several characteristics of modern birds (Neornithines) but were also anatomically different in a number of respects.  They retained claws on their wings and most species had teeth, in contrast to all modern Aves which are edentulous.  Despite having an almost global distribution and being regarded as the most specious and successful birds of the Cretaceous, the Enantiornithes are thought to have become extinct at the same time as the last of the non-avian dinosaurs.

A study published in 2016 proposed that the evolution of a toothless beak may have helped some types of birds to survive the end Cretaceous mass extinction event.  To read an article summarising the study’s findings: Seed Eating May Have Helped Some Birds Survive the End Cretaceous Extinction Event

One of the Smallest Mesozoic Avian Fossils Described

The specimen preserved on a slab and counter slab is one of the smallest Mesozoic bird fossils to have been found to date.  The specimen measures less than five centimetres in length and the baby bird would have been able to sit in an egg-cup.  However, it is remarkably well-preserved and the skeleton is virtually complete and what makes this fossil so significant is the fact that the baby bird died shortly after emerging from its egg.

The poor, unfortunate bird might have had an extremely short life, but it has given researchers a rare opportunity to analyse a baby bird’s bone structure and assess its skeletal development.

A Reconstruction of the Cretaceous Bird

A reconstruction of the baby Cretaceous bird.f

A reconstruction of the enantiornithine baby bird with insert showing scale.

Picture Credit: Raul Martin

Assessing Bone Structure and Development

The scientists have been able to study the ossification of the bones, how they were growing and developing.  A better understanding of the skeleton of the very young bird will help researchers to better understand whether this bird species was capable of flight soon after birth and how independent it was.

Lead author of the study, Dr Fabien Knoll (Interdisciplinary Centre for Ancient Life [ICAL] at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Manchester University) and the ARAID Dinopolis in Spain stated:

“The evolutionary diversification of birds has resulted in a wide range of hatchling developmental strategies and important differences in their growth rates.  By analysing bone development, we can look at a whole host of evolutionary traits.”

Lead Author of the Study Dr Fabien Knoll Prepares the Specimen for Analysis

Dr Knoll (Manchester University) studying the enantiornithine bird fossil.

Dr Fabien Knoll studying the slab and counter slab of the bird fossil.

Picture Credit: Manchester University

Altricial, Precocial or Somewhere in Between

As the fossil was so small, being less than the length of the average person’s little finger, the team used synchrotron radiation to analyse the specimen at a “submicron” level.  The skeleton could be assessed in extreme detail and the microstructures of the bones observed.

Dr Knoll explained:

“New technologies are offering palaeontologists unprecedented capacities to investigate provocative fossils.  Here we made the most of state-of-the-art facilities worldwide including three different synchrotrons in France, the UK and the United States.”

New Technology Helps to Map the Elemental Composition of an Ancient Bird Fossil

Phosphorous mapping and a photograph of the fossil.

A phosphorous map of the bird skeleton and photograph of the fossil.  The fossil is around 127 million years old (Early Cretaceous).

Picture Credit: Manchester University

The synchrotron analysis determined that the baby bird’s sternum (breastplate bone) was largely composed of cartilage and had not completely ossified.  The absence of hard bone in the sternum suggests that this bird could not fly.  The patterns of ossification observed in this and the other few, very young enantiornithine birds known to date also suggest that the developmental strategies of this particular group of ancient avians may have been more diverse than previously thought.

The researchers remain cautious and don’t wish to definitively come down on one side of the argument in terms of how dependent/independent this baby bird could have been.  The lack of bone development does not necessarily prove that the hatchling was reliant on its parents for feeding and care (altricial trait).  Modern birds demonstrate a variety of behavioural responses when it comes to bringing up babies.  Some bird species like chickens and ostriches have highly precocial young.  The babies are able to leave the nest and feed themselves within hours of hatching.  In contrast, most of the passerines (song birds) such as robins, blackbirds and thrushes are helpless when they hatch and rely on their parents to feed them and to keep them warm.

Altricial and precocial behaviours tend to be at opposite ends of a spectrum, the breeding strategy employed by this enantiornithine remains obscure.  As extant Aves exhibit a variety of breeding strategies from totally altricial through to super precocial (such as the megapodes, an example being the Australian brush turkey), it is difficult to clarify the development strategy of any extinct species.

Altricial and Precocial Behaviours can be Viewed as Opposite Ends of a Spectrum

Birds - altricial and precocial behaviours.

Altricial and precocial behaviours in Aves – a spectrum.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Co-author of the study, Luis Chiappe (Los Angeles Museum of Natural History) added:

“This new discovery, together with others from around the world, allows us to peek into the world of ancient birds that lived during the age of dinosaurs.  It is amazing to realise how many of the features we see among living birds had already been developed more than 100 million years ago.”

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from Manchester University in the compilation of this article.

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4 03, 2018

Celebrating 4,000 Blog Posts

By | March 4th, 2018|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Reaches Landmark of 4,000 Blog Posts

Team members at Everything Dinosaur are celebrating the landmark of having achieved 4,000 blog posts.  Since our first article was posted up in May 2007, a lot has happened in the world of palaeontology and the Earth sciences in general.  We have done our best to update readers on these exciting developments, covering news stories, fossil discoveries, new dinosaurs, updates on extinction theories, breakthroughs in the use of research technologies and so much more.  For model collectors and dinosaur fans, we have seen entire ranges come and go and just like the study of the Dinosauria, which is often thought of being in a golden age of discovery, so collectors of models seem to be in a golden age when it comes to prehistoric animal replicas and figures.

Everything Dinosaur Celebrates Posting Up 4,000 Blog Articles

4,000 articles on the Everything Dinosaur blog.

Everything Dinosaur celebrates posting up 4,000 blog articles.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Our First Thank You

A very big thank you to all the researchers, press officers, undergraduates, university professors, field team members, media companies, professional palaeontologists, dedicated fossil collectors, teachers, manufacturers, scientists and prehistoric animal fans who have shared stories with us so that we can post them up on this weblog.  We really do appreciate all the help and assistance that we have had along the way.

Our Iguanodon Gives Everyone a Big Thumbs Up!


Iguanodon thumbs up!

Praise from a dinosaur!  A big thank you to all our contributors and to our readers.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Our Second Thank You

Also, a very big thank you to all our readers, feedback providers, reviewers, commentators, email senders, letter writers, picture takers and so forth that have helped keep our blog so fresh, vibrant and diverse.  We will continue to strive to bring you updates on research, information on new discoveries and photographs of fossils and other amazing wonders.  Next week’s blog postings are already in place, we can’t give too much away at this time as a number of them have embargoes, but what we can say is that the next few posts will reflect the aims and objectives of our weblog, to educate, inform and indulge fans of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.

One article scheduled for release next week has been written with the co-operation of the University of Manchester, it covers research into an aspect of Cretaceous Theropod behaviour.  Another article prepared and ready for adding in the next few days has been compiled in collaboration with Eofauna Scientific Research, we will be announcing the next prehistoric animal figure in this exciting, new model range.  We will also be posting up some exclusive photographs of the new Eofauna Scientific Research model.

Wonder what exciting scientific developments, discoveries and new products we will be covering in the next 1,000 posts?

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