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15 04, 2021

Rebor Compsognathus Replicas Further Delayed

By | April 15th, 2021|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

The Rebor Compsognathus longipes stained dissection replicas have been delayed. Neither the limited-edition C. longipes Victorian Goth stained dissection specimen or the other Rebor Oddities Compsognathus longipes preserved dissection specimen are going to be available tomorrow (16th April), as planned. Customers who had placed pre-orders for one or both of these eagerly anticipated figures were expecting to receive news of their availability. Everything Dinosaur had a release date of 16th April scheduled for these replicas. However, the shipment remains stuck in customs and neither ourselves or Rebor are able to obtain any information as to when these items will be released.

The Rebor Oddities Compsognathus longipes Preserved Dissection Specimen (Victorian Goth)
Rebor Oddities Compsognathus longipes Preserved Dissection Specimen (Victorian Goth). This beautiful, limited-edition figure is being held up at customs. Everything Dinosaur team members are doing all they can to resolve this issue (April 2021).

Global Logistics Badly Affected by the Pandemic

We do apologise for this, we are as frustrated as our customers are with regards to this situation. There are severe delays at most ports and global logistics remains under considerable strain due to the pandemic. Whilst we continue to work closely with the port authorities to work towards a resolution, there is, sadly, very little we can do at this moment and this issue is beyond our control. We have therefore decided to push back the release for this figure until May 13th (May 13th, 2021),

Team Members Working Hard to Find a Solution

Once again, we at Everything Dinosaur apologise for the inconvenience and we want to assure you that Rebor and ourselves are doing all we can to get these goods released and delivered to our warehouse.

The other Rebor Compsognathus longipes dissection specimen is also on the same shipment and therefore subject to the same delay. This product also had a release date of 16th April (tomorrow), but due to the on-going issue at the port we have also pushed back the release date for this figure until May 13th (May 13th, 2021).

The Rebor Oddities Compsognathus longipes Preserved Dissection Specimen
The Rebor Oddities Compsognathus longipes preserved dissection specimen. This Rebor figure has been subject to delays but Everything Dinosaur continues to work towards a resolution.

Everything Dinosaur apologises for the inconvenience and we want to assure you that we are doing all we can to get these goods released and delivered to our warehouse.

At Everything Dinosaur, we work seven days a week and we are doing everything we can to try to resolve this problem. However, there is in reality very little we can do. We thank everyone for their patience and understanding at this difficult time.

Still Available for Pre-order

Ironically, both Rebor Oddities Compsognathus longipes figures are still available for pre-order. Whilst Everything Dinosaur will continue to honour all the pre-orders placed by customers for these models and they guarantee that customers will be given the chance to acquire one or both of these figures when they finally arrive in stock, there are a handful of these replicas still available.

To view the Rebor range available from Everything Dinosaur and to pre-order the Rebor Oddities Compsognathus models, visit this section of our website: Rebor Models and Figures.

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14 04, 2021

Limited Edition PNSO Bronze Sinosauropteryx Sculpture

By | April 14th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

PNSO intend to create a limited production of bronze Sinosauropteryx sculptures to commemorate the company having been in existence for ten years. Only fifty of the three hundred beautiful bronze Sinosauropteryx statues have been offered for sale outside China. Everything Dinosaur’s initial allocation was snapped up within hours, but the UK-based company has been offered a handful more of these highly sought after figures.

PNSO Yuyan the Sinosauropteryx reject mediocrity
PNSO Yuyan the Sinosauropteryx – to those who reject mediocrity.

Only 300 Figures Made

The bronze figure is one of a series of designs created by Zhao Chuang and Yang Yang from PNSO. The piece is entitled Gallery Series Yuyan the Sinosauropteryx. It is made from bronze and 1:3 scale. Due to the weight of this item, it is not intended for general sale. However, because of Everything Dinosaur’s long term relationship with PNSO a few more bronze figures have been offered for sale.

PNSO Yuyan the Sinosauropteryx bronze statue (model measurements)
The model measures 170 mm in length and the tail is 174 mm high. The figure weighs just under 1 kilogram once taken out of its robust protective packaging and presentation case.
PNSO Yuyan the Sinosauropteryx reject mediocrity
PNSO Yuyan the Sinosauropteryx – to those who reject mediocrity. Only 300 of these 1:3 scale dinosaur models have been scheduled for production.

Available Pre-order from Everything Dinosaur

Most of the figures have been snapped up by officials within China. Some are heading for museums and art collections. Only a very few have been offered for sale outside China and most of these have been already allocated.

The PNSO limited edition Yuyan the Sinosauropteyrx bronze figure.
The PNSO Yuyan the Sinosauropteryx 1:3 scale bronze sculpture is supplied with its own special packaging, a certificate of authenticity and is just one of only 300 being produced. Each figure has a unique number, just one of a limited production run.

The PNSO Yuyan the Sinosauropteryx 1:3 scale bronze sculpture is available on pre-order from Everything Dinosaur at £299.00 GBP including tax (if applicable) plus secure postage.

The bronze Sinosauropteryx can be pre-ordered from Everything Dinosaur here: Limited Edition PNSO Sinosauropteryx Bronze Sculpture.

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13 04, 2021

Prehistoric Times Magazine Sneak Peek

By | April 13th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Magazine Reviews, Main Page|1 Comment

Here is a sneaky peek at the forthcoming edition of “Prehistoric Times” magazine, the quarterly publication aimed at fans of prehistoric animals, model collecting and artwork depicting dinosaurs and other long extinct creatures. This stunning illustration of interspecific combat within the Dinosauria will adorn the front cover of issue 137 (spring 2021).

Prehistoric Times Front Cover Spring 2021
The front cover image of the forthcoming edition of “Prehistoric Times” magazine (issue number 137 – spring 2021)

“Prehistoric Times” Magazine

Editor Mike Fredericks, who sent Everything Dinosaur the front cover image says that issue 137 is going to be jam-packed with all the articles, artwork and features that makes this publication so popular.

Mike commented:

“We have an interview with Glen McIntosh one of the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World animators who is also a great artist who designed the Indominus rex, plus much more.”

With the latest instalment of the “Jurassic Park/Jurassic World” movie franchise due to hit cinemas shortly, the timing of this interview could not have been better.

Look out for a special feature on the Late Cretaceous North American tyrannosaur Daspletosaurus, an apex predator known from Montana and Alberta.

Drawing of Daspletosaurus.
Daspletosaurus – a large tyrannosaur present in the Late Cretaceous ecosystem of North America. Two species have been assigned to this genus, but possibly two more might be added in the near future as more scientific papers are published.

Subscribe to Prehistoric Times

Team members at Everything Dinosaur recommend that blog readers subscribe to “Prehistoric Times”. Published four times a year, this is a fantastic magazine for followers of palaeoart, collectors of dinosaur models and for the general reader with an interest in prehistoric life.

To subscribe to “Prehistoric Times” magazine: Subscribe to “Prehistoric Times” magazine.

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12 04, 2021

New Jurassic Pterosaur Reveals the Oldest Opposed Thumb

By | April 12th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|1 Comment

An opposable thumb gives us apes a huge advantage, just ask a dog to hold a spoon for you, however, opposable thumbs are not just limited to gorillas, chimps, orangutans and our own genus Homo. Other apes have them too, as do some marsupials and tree frogs. In reality, opposed thumbs are rare in the Kingdom Animalia, but an international team of scientists including researchers from the University of Birmingham, have just described a new species of flying reptile and it’s the earliest example known to science of a vertebrate with an opposed thumb.

Kunpengopterus life reconstruction
Life reconstruction of K. antipollicatus. The opposed pollex could have been used for grasping food items, as well as clinging and hanging to trees. Picture credit: Zhao Chuang.

Kunpengopterus antipollicatus

The new Jurassic pterosaur has been named Kunpengopterus antipollicatus, it was discovered in the Tiaojishan Formation of Liaoning, China.

It is a small-bodied darwinopteran pterosaur, with an estimated wingspan of 85 cm. Most importantly, the specimen was preserved with an opposed pollex (“thumb”) on both hands. The species name “antipollicatus” means “opposite thumbed” in ancient Greek, in light of the opposed thumb of the new species. This is the first discovery of a pterosaur with an opposed thumb. It also represents the earliest record of a true opposed thumb in the fossil record.

Kunpengopterus antipollicatus fossil and line drawing
Fossil of Kunpengopterus antipollicatus, discovered in the Tiaojishan Formation of China. It is housed in the Beipiao Pterosaur Museum of China. Image credit: Zhou et al., 2021.

“Monkeydactyl”

Kunpengopterus lived in a forested environment approximately 160 million years ago. It was nicknamed “monkeydactyl” as a true opposed thumb (pollex) is extremely rare amongst extant reptiles, only chameleons possess opposed thumbs. They use their thumbs to help them climb, the researchers writing in the academic publication “Current Biology”, also suggest that Kunpengopterus evolved such dexterity to help it to climb.

In order to test the arboreal interpretation, the team analysed K. antipollicatus and other pterosaurs using a set of anatomical characters related to arboreal adaptation. The results support K. antipollicatus as an arboreal species, but not the other pterosaurs from the same ecosystem. This suggests niche-partitioning among these pterosaurs and provides the first quantitative evidence supporting the theory that at least some darwinopteran pterosaurs were arboreal.

Minimising Competition Amongst Pterosaurs

Lead author Xuanyu Zhou (China University of Geosciences) commented:

“Tiaojishan palaeoforest is home to many organisms, including three genera of darwinopteran pterosaurs. Our results show that K. antipollicatus has occupied a different niche from Darwinopterus and Wukongopterus, which has likely minimised competition among these pterosaurs.”

Photo and digital model of the left hand of K. antipollicatus, showing the opposed thumb.
Photo and digital model of the left hand of K. antipollicatus, showing the opposed thumb. Image credit: Zhou et al., 2021.

Micro-CT Imaging Assists in Discovery

Fion Waisum Ma, co-author of the study and PhD researcher (University of Birmingham) explained:

“The fingers of “Monkeydactyl” are tiny and partly embedded in the slab. Thanks to micro-CT scanning, we could see through the rocks, create digital models and tell how the opposed thumb articulates with the other finger bones. This is an interesting discovery. It provides the earliest evidence of a true opposed thumb, and it is from a pterosaur – which wasn’t known for having an opposed thumb”.

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

The scientific paper: “A new darwinopteran pterosaur reveals arborealism and an opposed thumb” by Xuanyu Zhou, Rodrigo V. Pêgas, Waisum Ma, Xuefang Wei, Caizhi Shen and Shu’an Ji published in Current Biology.

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11 04, 2021

“The Plesiosaur’s Neck”

By | April 11th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Book Reviews, Dinosaur Fans, Early Years Foundation Reception, Key Stage 1/2, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

“The Plesiosaur’s Neck” by Dr Adam S. Smith and Jonathan Emmett with illustrations by Adam Larkum.

Expert on the Plesiosauria, Dr Adam S. Smith (Curator of Natural Sciences at the Nottingham Natural History Museum at Wollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire), has teamed up with award-winning children’s author Jonathan Emmett to create a delightful tale explaining how some prehistoric marine reptiles developed long necks.

"The Plesiosaur's Neck"
“The Plesiosaur’s Neck” by Dr Adam S. Smith and Jonathan Emmett with illustrations by Adam Larkum.

Poppy is an Albertonectes, a plesiosaur named after the Canadian province of Alberta, where fossils of this giant with a seven-metre-long neck have been found, but what was that extremely long neck used for?

Poppy the Plesiosaur

Did Poppy use her enormous neck to help keep herself free of parasites? Or was she the equivalent of an electric eel generating electricity to shock any unsuspecting fish that happened to swim too close? In “The Plesiosaur’s Neck”, budding young palaeontologists get the opportunity to explore these entertaining hypotheses in a plesiosaur-themed prehistoric puzzle.

At more than eleven metres long, Albertonectes was a giant. The huge neck made up almost two-thirds of the animal’s entire body length and this delightful book examines some of the ideas that palaeontologists have proposed to explain this peculiar, plesiosaur body plan.

Checking over an exhibit.
Dr Adam Smith examining a cast of dinosaur vertebrae for an exhibition at Wollaton Hall. The talented Curator of Natural Sciences at the Nottingham Natural History Museum has helped to write a children’s book entitled “The Plesiosaur’s Neck”.

Prehistoric Puns

A mixture of playful, rhyming text and prehistoric puns guides the reader through the story. Members of the Mollusca have a prominent role to play with Alfie the ammonite and Bella the belemnite chiming in with cheeky comments whilst Dr Adam Smith ensures a smorgasbord of facts and information about life in the sea during the time of the dinosaurs. The book will entertain and inform children from 5 years and upwards in equal measure.

Beautifully illustrated by Adam Larkum, a graduate of the Edinburgh College of Art, “The Plesiosaur’s Neck” combines colourful characters with a cornucopia of fun facts. It is an entertaining exploration of a genuine palaeontological puzzle focused on a plesiosaur with an astonishing seventy-six bones in its neck.

Published in May 2021

“The Plesiosaurs Neck” ISBN number 9781912979424 is due to be published on the 6th of May (2021), by Uclan Publishing. Priced at £7.99 it can be purchased here: Purchase “The Plesiosaur’s Neck”.

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10 04, 2021

W-Dragon Giraffatitan is Massive!

By | April 10th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Product Reviews|0 Comments

The W-Dragon Giraffatitan is certainly a very impressive figure. Team members at Everything Dinosaur have received a number of enquiries regarding this replica over the last few days and one of the most common questions we get asked is just how big is the Giraffatitan model?

W-Dragon Giraffatitan Dinosaur Model
The enormous W-Dragon Giraffatitan dinosaur model. The figure stands a fraction under 44 cm tall.

Always Trying to Help our Customers

We try our best to help our customers and we have responded to all the enquiries that needed a reply. We can confirm that this 1:35 scale dinosaur model measures approximately 38 cm in length and that the superbly detailed head is around 43.5 cm in the air.

Comparing the W-Dragon Giraffatitan to the Papo standing T. rex dinosaur model.
Comparing the W-Dragon Giraffatitan to the Papo standing T. rex dinosaur model. Although the Papo T. rex is a substantial figure in its own right it looks small compared to the enormous W-Dragon Giraffatitan replica.

Providing model measurements is sometimes not enough. In order to demonstrate the size of the W-Dragon Giraffatitan we placed it behind a Papo standing T. rex. The Papo T. rex figure is quite a sizeable figure, but it is dwarfed when compared to the enormous Giraffatitan model.

W-Dragon Giraffatitan Compared to a Papo standing T. rex dinosaur model
W-Dragon Giraffatitan compared to a Papo standing T. rex dinosaur model. Given the size difference between the largest tyrannosaurs and the largest brachiosaurs, these two figures work quite well together in terms of scale.

Comparing Dinosaur Models

When the size of the largest tyrannosaurs is related to the biggest members of the Brachiosauridae family, the Papo T. rex and the W-Dragon Giraffatitan compare quite well to each other in terms of scale.

Whilst the likes of Giraffatitan (the Brachiosauridae too), had been extinct for millions of years before the super-sized tyrannosaurs evolved, the two models photographed together does give the viewer an insight into the “scale” of the problem the large theropod dinosaurs that co-existed with brachiosaurs had to face if they wanted to bring down one of these leviathans.

A W-Dragon Giraffatitan model towers over a Papo standing T. rex figure.
The W-Dragon Giraffatitan towers over the Papo standing T. rex dinosaur model.

Whilst the lighting in the packing room that we used to set up the shots may not be that great, we were able to send out these images to customers who had asked for more information about the size of the W-Dragon Giraffatitan.

We even include a Giraffatitan fact sheet with says of this colossal figure too.

To view the models and figures available in the W-Dragon range: W-Dragon Prehistoric Animal Models and Figures.

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9 04, 2021

A New Species of Ancient Mammal from Southern Chile

By | April 9th, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A new species of Late Cretaceous South American mammal has been named and described. The omnivorous Orretherium tzen is only the second mammal from the Mesozoic known from Chile. The newly described O. tzen joins Magallanodon baikashkenke which was named in 2020. Orretherium has been described from a partial lower jawbone, which had 5 teeth in situ and a single isolated tooth found just a few metres away from the jaw fragment. It is thought to have been about the size of a modern skunk, although it was only distantly related to modern mammals.

Orretherium Life Reconstruction
Orretherium lived some 74-72 million years ago in South America. It shared its habitat with numerous dinosaurs including titanosaurs (seen in the background).

The Mammal Quarry

The fossils were found in exposures of the Dorotea Formation (late Campanian to early Maastrichtian faunal stages of the Late Cretaceous), on a small hill nicknamed “the mammal quarry”, reflecting the significance of the site in terms of Late Cretaceous mammalian fossil finds. Although the isolated tooth that helped describe this species was found close to the jaw fragment, the researchers cannot unambiguously refer this tooth to the same individual animal although it is highly probable taking in account their compatible size, wear and close proximity.

Orretherium fossil study.
Map (inset) showing the fossil find location, a reconstruction of the head of Orretherium along with a photograph of the jawbone and a computer enhanced image of the fossil.

Classified as a member of the Meridiolestida

Orretherium has been classified as a member of the Meridiolestida, an extinct group of mammals known from South America and Antarctica.

Co-author of the research paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, Sergio Soto-Acuña (University of Chile), commented:

“This mammal is a primitive lineage of the group of meridiolestids, very successful at the end of the Age of dinosaurs in South America. The jaw found has five teeth in place that indicate omnivorous habits, it probably fed on plants and insects”.

Looking for Late Cretaceous Mammals
Field work being carried out at “the mammal quarry” as scientists from the University of Chile in collaboration with researchers from Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil), Museo de La Plata (Argentina) and other South American academic institutions collaborated to produce the scientific paper describing Orretherium.

The scientific paper: “New cladotherian mammal from southern Chile and the evolution of mesungulatid meridiolestidans at the dusk of the Mesozoic era” by Agustín G. Martinelli, Sergio Soto-Acuña, Francisco J. Goin, Jonatan Kaluza, J. Enrique Bostelmann, Pedro H. M. Fonseca, Marcelo A. Reguero, Marcelo Leppe and Alexander O. Vargas published in Scientific Reports.

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8 04, 2021

Praising the PNSO Qianzhousaurus

By | April 8th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Customers of Everything Dinosaur who have purchased the recently introduced PNSO A-Shu the Qianzhousaurus dinosaur model have been keen to sing the model’s praises.

PNSO A-Shu the Qianzhousaurus dinosaur (lateral view).
The PNSO A-Shu the Qianzhousaurus in right lateral view.

The A-Shu tyrannosaur replica is one of a series of dinosaur models in PNSO’s mid-size model range that was introduced recently. For example, this range also includes Domingo the Carnotaurus.

PNSO Domingo the Carnotaurus and A-Shu the Qianzhousaurus
The PNSO Domingo the Carnotaurus and A-Shu dinosaur models. Both models have articulated lower jaws. Domingo the PNSO Carnotaurus is on the left, whilst A-Shu the Qianzhousaurus is on the right.

Customers Review the Qianzhousaurus Figure

Customers who purchased this dinosaur from Everything Dinosaur have been keen to praise this PNSO figure.

Kevin reviewed the model stating that it was a:

“Beautiful model, at this moment the most accurate depiction of Qianzhousaurus.”

Gaelle commented:

“This one was love at first sight and I’m so happy I’ve bought it! The attention in the details, such as the eyes, teeth and claws. The marking was also a great choice imo. Another must have by PNSO”.

PNSO A-Shu the Qianzhousaurus dinosaur model.
A model of the Asian tyrannosaur Qianzhousaurus (PNSO A-Shu the Qianzhousaurus replica).

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“PNSO have introduced several carnivorous dinosaurs into their not to scale, mid-size model range and they have plans to introduce even more in 2021. We are pleased that dinosaur model collectors have been so delighted with their acquisitions.”

PNSO A-Shu the Qianzhousaurus dinosaur figure.
The stunning and beautifully marked A-Shu the Qianzhousaurus dinosaur model. The PNSO Qianzhousaurus figure has proved to be very popular with dinosaur model fans.

Qianzhousaurus (Q. sinensis), may have only be scientifically described in 2014 but this long snouted tyrannosaurid, closely related to Alioramus has certainly made a big impression amongst dinosaur fans and model collectors.

To view the PNSO A-Shu Qianzhousaurus dinosaur model and the rest of the PNSO model range: PNSO Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Figures.

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7 04, 2021

Sinomacrops – A New Anurognathid Pterosaur from China

By | April 7th, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Researchers have published a description of a new species of anurognathid pterosaur from the Tiaojishan Formation in Hebei Province China. The diminutive flying reptile has been named Sinomacrops bondei and is the third anurognathid species to have been described from Jurassic-aged rocks found in China. Although the specimen is badly crushed, it represents the near complete skeleton of a single individual and as such it has helped palaeontologists to better understand the phylogeny of these enigmatic, but poorly known, wide-mouthed pterosaurs.

Sinomacrops bondei life reconstruction.
Sinomacrops bondei life reconstruction. Picture credit: Zhao Chuang.

The Amazing Anurognathidae

Palaeontologists that focus on the Pterosauria have long speculated as to where in the flying reptile family tree the Anurognathidae fit. Very few fossils are known and those that have been made available to study demonstrate a mix of basal as well as more derived traits. All the anurognathids described to date are estimated to have had wingspans less than 90 cm. Their fossils are associated with terrestrial environments and it has been suggested that these little flying reptiles lived in forests and ate insects, perhaps capturing them on the wing.

Sinomacrops bondei

The genus name translates from the Greek for Chinese, large eyes/face. The specimen (number JZMP-2107500095) is the first record of an anurognathid pterosaur skull preserved in a mostly lateral view. The species epithet honours the Danish palaeontologist Niels Bonde in recognition of his many years contributing to vertebrate palaeontology.

Sinomacrops bondei fossil and line drawing
The fossilised remains of Sinomacrops bondei and an accompanying line drawing.

A Crushed Skeleton

Although the skeleton is badly crushed, the fossilised remains which herald from the Daohugou Beds of the Tiaojishan Formation and are therefore between 164 – 158 million years old (Callovian to the Oxfordian stage of the Middle to Late Jurassic), have provided a new insight into the variation of jaw shape in these wide-mouthed pterosaurs. In addition, the Sinomacrops discovery permitted the researchers to undertake a revision of anurognathid phylogeny and the researchers propose that these strange flying reptiles are a sister group of the Darwinoptera and basal members of the Monofenestrata.

The Monofenestrata

The Monofenestrata comprises a wide range of pterosaur families, broadly grouped together as they had long tails, a lengthy fifth toe and the possession of a single large opening on each side of the skull in front of the eyes. Hence the name Monofenestrata (Latin for “one window”), the merging of the nasal and antorbital openings into a single feature.

Sinomacrops skull and line drawing.
The crushed skull of Sinomacrops bondei and accompanying line drawing.

The scientific paper: “Sinomacrops bondei, a new anurognathid pterosaur from the Jurassic of China and comments on the group” by Xuefang Wei, Rodrigo Vargas Pêgas, Caizhi Shen, Yanfang Guo, Waisum Ma, Deyu Sun, Xuanyu Zhou​ published in PeerJ.

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6 04, 2021

Trilobites had Gills on their Legs

By | April 6th, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Newly published research has provided palaeontologists with remarkable new evidence shedding light on the evolution of gill structures in the Arthropoda. Writing in the academic journal “Science Advances”, researchers from the University of California Riverside in conjunction with colleagues from the Indian Statistical Institute (Kolkata) and the American Museum of Natural History (New York), have demonstrated that some species of trilobite had gills on their upper limbs.

Trilobite Gill Fossil
One of the exceptionally rare trilobite specimens preserved in iron pyrite (fool’s gold) that led to the gill discovery. Picture Credit: Jin-bo Hou/University of California Riverside. The fossil is a specimen of Triarthrus eatoni from the famous Beecher’s trilobite bed from Oneida County, New York.

Exquisitely Preserved Fossils

Many thousands of species of trilobite have been named and described. However, very few fossils of these enigmatic, extinct members of the Arthropoda preserve soft parts of the animal’s bodies.

Trilobite fossils - the Selenopeltis slab.
Trilobites galore – the Selenopeltis slab from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. The hard, exoskeletons of trilobites are extremely common fossils.

Fossils Preserved as Fool’s Gold Reveal New Information

The segmented limbs of trilobites were biramous, that is the limb was spilt into two branches. The function of the upper element of this limb has long been debated. It had been thought by some scientists that is served a respiratory function, but the evidence to support this hypothesis was lacking.

Remarkably detailed fossil specimens preserved in iron pyrite were subjected to scans using computerised tomography (CT scans). The computer generated images revealed dumbbell-shaped filaments in the upper limb branch that are morphologically comparable with gill structures in crustaceans.

A detailed view of a trilobite leg
A detailed view of a biramous (branched) trilobite leg showing the structures which have been interpreted as gill structures. Scale bar = 500 μm. Picture credit: Jin-bo Hou/University of California Riverside.

The Beecher’s Trilobite Bed

The beautifully preserved specimens with their soft parts replaced by pyrite come from the famous Beecher’s trilobite bed which is a Late Ordovician Lagerstätte with over 85% of the fossils found at the site representing the trilobite Triarthrus eatoni.

Lead author of the paper PhD student Jin-bo Hou (University of California Riverside) commented:

“Up until now, scientists have compared the upper branch of the trilobite leg to the non-respiratory upper branch in crustaceans, but our paper shows, for the first time, that the upper branch functioned as a gill”.

The research team mapped how blood would have filtered through chambers in these delicate structures, absorbing oxygen as it progressed through the tiny structures which measure around 30 microns across, that’s three times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

These structures appear much the same as gills in modern marine arthropods like lobsters and crabs, but crucial anatomical differences were identified, helping scientists to better understand the phylogeny of the Trilobita within the arthropod phylum. Comparing the specimens in pyrite to another trilobite species (Olenoides serratus), gave the team additional information about how the filaments were arranged relative to one another and to the legs.

The researchers concluded that the upper limb’s partial articulation to the body via an extended membrane is morphologically comparable to the junction of the respiratory book gills of extant horseshoe crabs (Limulus). Furthermore, this morphology differentiates it from the typically robust junctions associated with crustaceans and the extinct sea scorpions.

The scientific paper: “The trilobite upper limb branch is a well-developed gill” by Jin-bo Hou, Nigel C. Hughes and Melanie J. Hopkins published in Science Advances.

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