All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//September
12 09, 2007

New Schleich Dinosaur Models now in Stock

By | September 12th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

New Parasaurolophus, Tyrannosaurus rex and Stegosaurus models

The new Schleich Saurus models have arrived and are now in stock.  The German manufacturers Schleich have recently started a revamping programme to update a number of their existing models and to introduce several new ones over the next few years.

The three new additions to the Saurus range are Parasaurolophus, a Stegosaurus and a traditionally posed Tyrannosaurus rex.  The kangaroo posture for the T. rex (tail on the ground) was introduced for this model to mark the 100th anniversary of the naming and describing of this huge carnivorous reptile.  The model pays homage to the early interpretations by Brown and the famous illustrators such as Knight and Zallinger who helped popularise dinosaurs with their wonderful artwork which adorned many children’s books.

The Three new Saurus Series Dinosaurs

Picture courtesy of Everything Dinosaur

Each beautifully hand-painted model comes with its own Everything Dinosaur fact sheet and the detailing is up to the high standards expected of Schleich.  The skin textures are based on real fossil evidence and the colouration is based on scientific theory and interpretation.  Hence the blood red plates on the Stegosaur and the spotted coat of the Parasaurolophus (excellent camouflage in woodland habitats).  Parasaurolophus may have inhabited more forested areas than other hadrosaurs such as Corythosaurus.  Palaeontologists studying the Campanian deposits of the Dinosaur Provincial Park formation have noted that a greater proportion of Corythosaurus remains have been discovered compared to animals such as Parasaurolophus.  This could indicate that Corythosaurs inhabited areas close to rivers and lakes (areas where fossilisation is more likely to take place), whereas Parasaurolophus may have preferred drier woodland habitats.  One theory about the unusual shape of the Parasaurolophus head crest is that it may have been used as a type of “plough” pushing branches out of the way, to help the animal move through forests.  It is because of this theory that the spotted coat has been painted, a coat such as this would have provided excellent camouflage in such environments.

To view the Parasaurolophus models and other Schleich dinosaurs: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

11 09, 2007

Miniaturisation in Dinosaurs – a clue to the Origin of Flight

By | September 11th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Tiny Mongolian Dinosaur may shed “Light on the Origin of Flight”

A combined team of palaeontologists and researchers from the North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences have published evidence that contradicts many scientists views on how dinosaurs may have evolved into birds.

A widely accepted doctrine had been that miniaturisation was one of the last stages in the long series of changes required in order for dinosaurs to evolve into flying animals, the first avians – birds.  However, the US team’s analysis of a small Mongolian dinosaur, recovered from Cretaceous deposits, throws an evolutionary spanner into the works.

Dr Julia Clarke, assistant professor of palaeontology at the university, led the analysis of the new dinosaur species called Mahakala omnogovae (derived from the words for Lord Shiva), which had been discovered in the Gobi desert.  This small, basal Dromaeosaur was only 70 cms long and weighed little more than 2-3 kgs.  Although, the fossil is far from complete, the researchers are confident that this specimen represents an adult of the species and not a still growing juvenile, so Mahakala is one of the smallest dinosaurs known.

In order to achieve powered flight, animals have to become lighter so that they are able to take off under their own muscle power.  Modern birds (Neornithes) have a number of anatomical adaptations to help them fly, for example no teeth, a reduction in the number of digits, the development of a pygostyle and so on; all helpful in making their skeletons lighter and thus assisting in powered flight.  It had been thought that miniaturisation would have assisted the evolution of birds, with smaller and smaller dinosaurs able to run faster and leap higher into the air; and over many generations; slowly powered flight evolved from this.

However, with Dromaeosaurs small size was relatively common well before the ability to fly evolved.  There are a number of small light-weight dinosaurs known from the late Cretaceous, dinosaurs such as the 1 metre tall Bambiraptor from the Western United States and Byronosaurus.  These swift and agile hunters show many bird-like adaptations in their skeletons.  Perhaps there was a biological advantage in being small and fast running.  Clearly, such small fleet-footed animals would have not been on the menu of the large Tyrannosaurs, even young Tyrannosauridae would have had little chance of catching them.  There would have been plenty of food around for such animals, many small mammals, lizards, snakes, insects, even larger dinosaur’s eggs.  The feathers on these small dinosaurs would have been essential for insulation, helping these animals to retain body heat.

The evolution of flight and the eventual rise of the birds may have been an “evolutionary side-shoot”, an indirect consequence of being small, feathered and nimble.  Many dinosaur families seem to have small members within them whose descendants got bigger not smaller as previously thought.  Small size in members of the Dromaeosaur group occurs well before many other innovations in locomotion and growth strategy that would have helped these animals eventually evolve into true birds.

Dr Julia’s work has been published in this month’s edition of the journal “Science”.

The trouble with small, light weight animals whether they are true birds or the dinosaur ancestors of birds, is that they tend not to be found as fossils.  Their skeletons are light and delicate and not able to withstand the rigours of fossilisation.  Many animals are scavenged and their remains scattered, so there is little chance for scientists to recover an articulated specimen.    Chances are there were probably many thousands of different types of small Theropod around in the latter stages of the Mesozoic.  The bipedal Theropod body plan is a very successful design, after all it had been around for most of the age of reptiles with very few modifications.  These animals would have inhabited areas with plenty of cover such as forests and scrub-land.  Forest environments do not lend themselves to the prevailing conditions that allow rapid burial and fossilisation to occur.  Only in rare circumstances can such animals be preserved; such as the sediments that went on to form the lithographic limestone of Solnhofen that permitted remains of Archaeopteryx to be fossilised or the amazing fossils found in the Sihetun region of the Liaoning Province, China.

At best, we still have a very patchy fossil record of the evolution of birds and it may be many more years before scientists are able to piece together the relationship between true birds and non-avian dinosaurs.

The evolution of birds and the roles that certain groups of dinosaurs had to play in this is likely to remain contentious for sometime to come.  One puzzle is that an animal such as Archaeopteryx can be found in Late Jurassic sediments and yet more primitive avian features are found in specimens from the Liaoning deposits which are approximately 30 million years younger.

A number of manufacturers have introduced feathered dinosaur models.  The American Museum of Natural History have approved a “tube of feathered dinos”, which includes animals such as a feathered Velociraptor, Dilong and Microraptor.

Our favourite feathered friend remains Archaeopteryx, a truly amazing and enigmatic animal with only 7 fossils known to date (one of them consists of a single feather)!

To see a collectible dinosaurs including feathered dinosaurs: Dinosaur Models

10 09, 2007

Remembering Stephen Jay Gould

By | September 10th, 2007|Famous Figures, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Today, September 10th, would have been the sixty-sixth birthday of the American palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould.  Stephen; died of lung cancer on May 20th, 2002 but in his life he did as much as anyone to popularise palaeontology and evolutionary biology.

A prolific writer and gifted teacher, Stephen inspired many students to further develop their careers in science.  He taught at Harvard University and was a key member of the American Museum of Natural History, producing numerous research papers and putting forward some far-reaching theories.  He became widely known from his science articles written for the American Natural History journal.

Stephen Jay Gould – 10.09.41 to 20.05.2002

Picture courtesy of stephenjaygould.org

Such was his popularity and statue that he was called “America’s unofficial evolutionist laureate” and he certainly captured the public’s imagination with books such as “Bully for Brontosaurus”, published in 1991, a wonderful title for a book that explored the reasons for the extinction of the dinosaurs.  He also studied the diversification of the fossil record in the Burgess Shale deposits and wrote many papers on the explosion of life forms that occurred at this time.

Along with fellow scientist, Niles Eldredge, Gould put theory the idea of “Punctuated Equilibria”, building on the theory of Darwinism to propose that evolution did not happen in a smooth process but occurred in rapid bursts followed by periods where organisms changed little.  He was a strong opponent of Creationism and Intelligent Design and argued vociferously against these concepts.  His engaging writing style and sense of fun made him a firm favourite amongst readers of popular science.

He appeared in a number of science documentaries and related programmes.  He even appeared in an episode of the Simpsons, providing the voice for his own caricature.  The makers of this television cartoon series were big fans and after his death a tribute was paid to him by dedicating an episode to his memory.

9 09, 2007

How big was Liopleurodon?

By | September 9th, 2007|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|26 Comments

Debate still continues over the maximum size of this Pliosaur

Ever since Liopleurodon featured in episode 3 of the ground-breaking BBC series “Walking with..” this short-necked Plesiosaur, more commonly referred to as a Pliosaur has been regarded as a truly huge predator.  The programme showed Liopleurodon snatching an unwary Eustreptospondylus from rocks and chomping female Ophthalmosaurs in half before finally coming to a sad end stranded on a Jurassic beach.

At the time the writers and researchers for the TV series estimated that an adult male Liopleurodon could reach lengths in excess of 25 metres and weigh more than 150 tonnes.  If this were indeed the case then Liopleurodon with its 18 inch long teeth could lay claim to being the biggest carnivorous animal ever.

However, the existing fossil evidence does not back up the BBC’s claims.  There are four species of Liopleurodon known, the first and the holotype for the Liopleurodon genus (L. ferox) was named and described by the French palaeontologist, H. E. Sauvage in 1873.  Sauvage was working with very poor material, basing his scientific description on some smooth-sided teeth found in France.  This is how Liopleurodon got its name (means smooth-sided tooth).  These remains are dated to the Callovian stage of the Jurassic, other Callovian remains ascribed to Liopleurodon have been found in France and England, over the years much more evidence has been unearthed but reconstructions, if correct only put L. ferox at about 10 metres long.

The Oxford museum has a partial mandible believed to be from another Liopleurodon (L. macromerus).  This measures over 2.8 metres in length, but the mandible is not complete.  Estimates of over 3 metres have been given for the full length of the jaws, this could indicate that this individual was considerably bigger than L. feroxLiopleurodon macromerus is also known from Jurassic deposits close to the river Volga in Russia.

This area yields a number of marine reptile fossils each year, to read an article on a recent Pliosaur find:  Russian Scientists unearth Pliosaur remains

Other fragmentary Pliosaur remains indicate that individuals may have grown to lengths in excess of 18 metres, but these cannot be ascribed with certainty to the Liopleurodon taxon.

In 2002, a joint German/Mexican expedition announced the discovery of a huge Pliosaur in Mexico.  The animal was estimated to be at least 15 metres long, and probably a not yet fully mature adult, so this reptile still had some growing to do!  This creature was nicknamed “the monster of Aramberri” after the location of the fossil find.  The remains showed evidence of predation so perhaps an even bigger Pliosaur had killed this relative youngster.  At the time, this fossil (the best preserved bits were some articulated vertebrae), was described in newspapers as being a Liopleurodon, although these remains have not been placed within any Pliosaur genera.  The rostrum with some teeth were also found but since this discovery in 1985 and its pronouncement  in 2002, this element of the specimen has been lost.  Ironically, the research team excavating the fossil reported cutting themselves on the ancient teeth, as they were so sharp.

The sediments from which this fossil was recovered date from the Kimmeridgian stage of the Jurassic, a much later stage than the Callovian.  This has led palaeontologists to speculate that this specimen does not belong to the Liopleurodon group.

Until further fossils are found it looks the speculation on the size of Liopleurodon is set to continue.

The inspiration for the scene in episode 3 of “Walking with..” when the Liopleurodon snatches the Eustreptospondylus from rocks came from another BBC documentary team, who had filmed Killer Whales risking beaching as they pursued young sea lions.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of prehistoric animal models including Liopleurodon models: Dinosaur Models including Liopleurodon models

8 09, 2007

Amazing Fossil Fish found in Canadian Oil Dril Core

By | September 8th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Incredible Fish Fossil found in Oil Drill Core

Sometimes a scientific discovery can be down to pure chance.  Despite huge advances in the technology available to palaeontologists, the finding of a brand new species can have more to do with serendipity than with appropriate planning and correct scientific practice.

The discovery of a new species of late Cretaceous fish is a typical example of how “lady luck” can intervene and help scientists shed more light on life in the Mesozoic.  In 1988, a Canadian oil company called Cequel Energy Inc. was sinking drill cores into a region of west-central Alberta, prospecting for fossil fuels.  A 75mm wide drill was thrust more than 1,300 metres deep into the Albertan sediments.  When the drill core was pulled up and examined it revealed a beautifully preserved 96 million-year old fossil fish, neatly encircled by the cylindrical drill core.  Only the tip of the snout and the last part of the tail had been lost, the rest of the fish fossil neatly fitted into the diameter of core sample.

One very lucky fossil find – a Cretaceous Teleost

Picture courtesy of University of Alberta

Occasionally core samples do reveal fossils, such as the Plateosaur fossil fragments extracted by an oil company offshore Norway in May 2006, but to find a delicate fish fossil such as this is a particularly rare event.

To read about the Plateosaur remains found in the Nowegian drill core:

Norway’s First Dinosaur – Say Hello to Plateosaurus

Fish skeletons are light and fragile, even if they avoid being scavenged and are rapidly buried, wave action and currents can quickly disperse the bones as the flesh rots away.  However, in this instance the skeleton is virtually complete and perfectly preserved providing further evidence on the evolution of teleosts.

The core was taken from an area of Alberta just south of Grande Prairie, the fossil was found in core material from the Dunvegan Formation and as a result of this the fish has been named Tycheroichthys dunveganensis (means lucky fish from the Dunvegan Formation).  This deep-bodied fish belonged to a now extinct group called the Paraclupeidae, which are related to modern herrings.  Fish fossils from this group have been found in Lebanon and Brazil but this is the first time that this family have been reported from North America.

This fish has been referred to as a holotype ( a specimen on which the original description of the species will be based).  During the latter part of the Cretaceous, North America was effectively split in two by the shallow Western Interior Seaway.  This sea stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean covering the majority of Alberta during the late Cretaceous (with a few notable exceptions such as the Dinosaur Provincial Park Formation and the Oldman Formation).

The fish fossil lay amongst the other core samples for many years, under the supervision of the Canadian museum of Nature.  Palaeontologists from the University of Alberta reviewed the core samples and realised the significance of the fish fossil.  Their work on this amazingly lucky find has just been published in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.

Articulated specimens such as this are extremely rare and given the circumstances of its discovery, it really is remarkable how this little fish fossil has survived.  The fossil has now been treated to help its preservation and stored in the secure vaults in the Canadian museum.

7 09, 2007

End of the Dinosaurs set in Motion by Asteroid Collision in Mid Jurassic

By | September 7th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Did Two Asteroids colliding in Outer Space seal the Fate of the Dinosaurs?

In 1980 the physicist Luis Alvarez and his son, geologist Walter Alvarez proposed a theory that an asteroid hitting the Earth might have caused the mass extinction that led to the demise of the dinosaurs.  High levels of the rare Earth element iridium had been found in sediments dating from the late Cretaceous and this led the father and son team to postulate that an asteroid impact could have wiped out much of life on Earth 65 million years ago.  Their theory was given further credence with the discovery, in 1990, of a huge impact crater found off the coast of Mexico.  Could this be the “smoking gun” evidence of an asteroid impact that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs?

The impact crater, now known as the Chicxulub crater (a Mayan word that translates to “tail of the devil”) is estimated to have been 112 miles (180 kilometres) across and was made by an object of around 6 miles in diameter (10 kilometres).  Evidence now suggests that there may have been a series of impacts around 65 million years ago.  Such a catastrophic bombardment would have resulted in global environmental damage, huge fires, acid rain and mega tsunamis.  Not surprisingly then that approximately 70% of life was wiped out.  This theory has been largely accepted by the scientific community, but debate has arisen as to where this asteroid object came from.  Now new research by a joint US and Czech team, published in the journal Nature points to an event between 140 mya and 180 mya that set in motion the asteroid collision that would spell doom for the dinos.

A Global Impact – Doom for the Dinosaurs?

Picture courtesy of astro-virginia.edu

A collision between two large asteroids in an orbit between Mars and the outer planets may have sent huge splinters of rock hurtling towards Earth, including the one that hit 65 mya claims the team from the South-west Research Institute of Colorado.

The three researchers, William Bottke, David Vokrouhlicky and David Nesvorny created a computer simulation that plotted the paths and direction of many large objects in what is known as the “Asteroid Belt” between Mars and Jupiter.  The orbit of one large terrestrial object known as (298) Baptistina intrigued them, as it shared the same orbital path with a lot of smaller asteroids.  Using the computer model to study the trajectories of these objects in the past, the team noted that the Baptistina asteroid and these other rocks were once joined together as a giant asteroid over 100 miles across, cruising the innermost region of the asteroid belt.  Their studies showed that between 140 mya and 180 mya (160 mya is the time period stated with most confidence by the researchers), a time when dinosaurs were dominating the Jurassic period – this huge asteroid was “bumped” into by another monster rock some 37 miles across (60 kilometres).

From this soundless collision was born a huge cluster of rocks, including 300 bodies larger than 6 miles in diameter (10km) and 140,000 bodies larger than 1/2 mile in size.  Over the remainder of the Mesozoic these rock pieces found new orbits under the influence of the Yarkovsky effect (named after the Russian engineer who identified this phenomenon), thermal particles from the Sun give objects momentum.  As the group of rocks spread out, at least some of them were captured by the gravitational pull of the inner planets and they began their journey with many impacting on Mars, Earth and Venus.

One such lump ended up colliding with Earth and causing the Cretaceous/Tertiary mass extinction.  The joint US and Czech team identify other celestial craters that may have been caused by debris from the Baptistina collision, a number of craters on Venus may have been as a result of this event and the huge moon crater Tycho estimated to be 108 million years old may also have been caused by an asteroid sent on its course by the initial impact 250 million miles away and approximately 60 million years earlier.

6 09, 2007

What a Whopper! Local Fisherman Lands Monster Bone

By | September 6th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Local Angler finds more than Fish in the River – Mastodon bone found

On our school visits, team members at Everything Dinosaur point out to children that many important fossils are not found by professional palaeontologists but are found by ordinary folk who stumble across them, in many cases literally!

Take the story of 37 year-old David Boyers of Highland Heights in Kentucky, USA, who on a river trip with his girlfriend and young son stumbled across a fossilised Mastodon ulna (fore-leg bone).

They had decided to take a canoe trip on their local river, the South Fork of the Licking river, which is a tributary of the larger Ohio river.  Pulling into a quiet cove they started  to do some fishing, David was wading in the shallows trying his luck when he spotted an unusual looking log on the river bed.  Picking up the soggy, lichen covered  item; he jokingly yelled to his partner “Look at the size of this dinosaur bone”.

On closer examination it did look like a huge bone, so he resisted the temptation to discard it; placed it into the bottom of the canoe and later returned home with it in the back of his truck.

Over the next few days David examined the “bone” and slowly he became convinced that he had discovered something extraordinary.  The broken end of the item seemed to have the texture of bone marrow so David became more and more convinced that he had found some sort of fossil.

A quick examination by the local experts at the nearby Behringer-Crawford museum confirmed that David had indeed found something very special, but for a formal identification he was referred to the palaeontologists at the Cincinnati museum.

Still fearing that he might have wasted everybody’s time, David held his breath as Dr Glenn Storrs, the assistant Vice President at the Cincinnati museum; the resident natural history specialist carefully examined his find.

The “log” was not a dinosaur bone, but the partial right ulna (a bone found in the fore-leg; equivalent to one of the bones found between our elbow and wrist); of a giant prehistoric elephant.

The elephant, a Mastodon roamed this area of the United States approximately 20,000 years ago, in what was a warmer inter-glacial period as the Pleistocene epoch drew to a close.

Dr Storrs has commented on the remarkable state of preservation, speculating that the lack of abrasion indicates that it only recently had been deposited in the river.  Perhaps it had fallen out of an eroding river bank as the winter thaw set in and been washed down stream with the rising waters.  David has decided to donate the bone to the Cincinnati museum adding it to their extensive collection of Ice Age mammals.

The bone is in such an excellent state of preservation, that it may be used in future DNA analysis in a bid to try and determine how closely related extinct animals such as the Mastodon were to living pachyderms.

Dr Storrs and his team at the museum receive dozens of reports of strange finds each year, most turn out to be unusual rock formations, or inorganic mineral deposits, even the remains of modern animals have been mistaken for fossils.  However, Dr Storrs stated that one or two finds each year prove to be something that is of genuine value to science.

You never know keep looking…

Read other articles on Mastodons at Everything Dinosaur’s blog:

Huge Extinct Elephant Tusks Discovered in Greece

DNA Breakthrough in the Tooth of an Extinct Elephant

5 09, 2007

Evidence of Chemical Warfare from the Mesozoic

By | September 5th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Beetles with Chemical Weapons from the Age of Dinosaurs

Palaeontologists at Oregon State University have discovered a Cretaceous soldier beetle trapped in amber at the very moment it was operating its chemical defences to ward off an attacker.  This is the earliest known fossil of this type of beetle and the first time that this sort of defensive behaviour has been captured in the fossil record.

The soldier beetle, a relatively small insect by modern soldier beetle standards at just over 6mm long was apparently on a tree when it was threatened by a much larger insect, perhaps some sort of cockroach (judging by the long antenna also preserved in the fossil tree resin).  The preserved antenna indicate the attacker’s length at being between 50-75mm but that did not deter the soldier beetle as it operated its chemical defences, oozing a sticky, irritating substance from its abdomen in a bid to protect itself from becoming a meal.  At the very moment the attack was launched, the soldier beetle was encased in tree sap which over millions of years formed amber, thus preserving this moment in time, allowing scientists to study it.  It is not known whether the attacking insect got away from the gooey sap as it crept down the tree trunk, only the antenna were trapped with the soldier beetle.  Perhaps the remains of the attacker have also been preserved in another, now detached piece of amber, or more likely the larger insect was able to pull itself clear before becoming totally immersed in the adhesive sap, loosing its large antenna in the process.

The amber fossils date from approximately 100 million years ago (Cretaceous period) and have been sourced from Hukawng valley in Myanmar (formerly Burma).  Professor George Poinar Junior, a visiting professor of zoology at Oregon State University and an expert in interpreting insect remains preserved in amber, led the research.  His team’s findings have just been published in the Journal of Chemical Ecology.

The scientists state that this discovery is the earliest fossil record of a chemical defence mechanism, indicating that this type of protective response, now common in insect taxons and amongst other animal species has been around for more than 100 million years.

The Fossilised Soldier Beetle

Picture credit: Oregon State University

Not only was this soldier beetle able to produce a chemical defence but close, microscopic study of the specimen indicates that the substance was only being released from the left rear of the insect.  This may indicate that soldier beetles during the Cretaceous had already developed the ability to control the direction of release, making this an already highly evolved and sophisticated defensive mechanism.

Professor Poinar commented that the chances of this type of behaviour being caught in tree sap and then having appropriate environmental conditions to permit preservation of this event as amber, plus the chances of the amber being found and brought to the attention of scientists to study – were extremely remote.  However, remarkable finds such as this one do turn up and give palaeontologists the opportunity to look through a window and observe events from the age of reptiles.

This fossil has pushed back the known existence of this type of beetle by about 60 million years.  Although this genus of soldier beetle is now extinct, the soldier beetle family is widespread with many thousands of species located in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Soldier beetles can be found in many gardens, in the UK the best time to see them is July and August.  It is believed soldier beetles got their name as their bright shiny carapaces or elytra (wing cases) reminded early naturalists of the brightly coloured soldier’s uniforms that were worn at the time when the science of biology was beginning to develop in the western world.

The common soldier beetle (Rhagonycha fulva), is ubiquitous within the United Kingdom.  It is easily identified thanks to its bright red colouring and the black tips to its rear.  This beetle, like many soldier beetles is an omnivore.  It can be found sitting on top of large flowers such as cow parsley and hogweed preying on small flying insects that visit the flowers and it also feeds on nectar.  They are rarely seen on their own but are often found with mates – hence their nickname “bonking beetles”.

The Common Soldier Beetle (Rhagonycha fulva)

Soldier Beetle

Picture credit: English-Country-Garden.com

Many soldier beetles use chemical defences to protect themselves just like their Mesozoic ancestor.  Their wing cases are quite soft and offer little protection and if you are going to sit out on a big flower head all day in a brightly coloured uniform you are going to need some form of protection to stop you ending up as someone else’s lunch.  It seems this form of sophisticated defence mechanism has been around for a lot longer than scientists thought.  Not surprising really when you consider how long insects have been around, but it is interesting to speculate that this type of beetle with a predilection for sitting on flowers was around at the time when the first flowering plants were becoming established.  Did this family of beetles take advantage of the new angiosperms and as a result were able to thrive and diversify themselves?

4 09, 2007

Russian Scientists unearth Pliosaur Remains

By | September 4th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

New Jurassic Pliosaur Discovered in Russia

Russian palaeontologists working at a site near the Volga river have uncovered the remains of a huge marine reptile.  The animal is believed to represent a new species of Pliosaur (short-necked Plesiosaur), surveys of the matrix within which the remains have been found coupled with early estimates based on the fossil bones indicate that this creature may have exceeded 15 metres (50 feet).

The fossilised remains of the marine lizard are being extracted from Jurassic sediments from a site near to the city of Ulyanovsk, approximately 900 kilometres east of Moscow.

A number of important finds have already been recovered from this region, but this new discovery is perhaps the most impressive to date, with this Pliosaur probably being the top predator roaming the seas in this area at this particular time in the Mesozoic.

An Artist’s Impression of a Pliosaur

Picture courtesy of Russia News

Several different Pliosaurs groups are known.  These include the Rhomaleosaurs, the Pliosaurids and the Polycotylids, however, the evolution of this important group of Mesozoic marine predators is poorly understood.  Scientists debate whether all Pliosaurs are descended from a single ancestor or did different types of Pliosaur evolve from different long-necked Plesiosaur ancestors?

Pliosaur remains have been found all over the world – Australia, South America, Europe and Africa.  Although, by the mid Cretaceous they were less common and by the Late Cretaceous they had largely disappeared being usurped by the Mosasaurs as the top predators in the sea.

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