All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//January
12 01, 2008

Armoured worm finally Reveals itself to Science

By | January 12th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Complete Fossil Helps Palaeontologists Piece Together Worm Evolution

A tiny fossil of an armoured marine worm may not be everyone’s idea of a museum show stopper but for scientists attempting to understand the evolution of Annelids in the Palaeozoic era the finding of a complete fossilised animal represents an important breakthrough.

Discovered in Morocco by a graduate of the Dutch Ghent University – Peter Van Roy this fossil represents a complete specimen which previously had only been known from fossilised fragments of dermal armour.  The work carried out by Peter, in collaboration with Yale University geologist Derek Briggs and his graduate student, Jakob Vinther will help scientists to better understand annelid evolution.

The Annelids are segmented worms; they are represented by the phylum Annelida and include about 15,000 modern species of worms and leeches.  The name Annelida was first applied to this group of worms by the famous French scientist and pioneer of evolutionary theory, Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck in 1809.  The genus to which this fossil belongs had been described back in the 19th Century but it was only known from small pieces and up until now scientists could only guess at what the animal looked like.

The worm is believed to be a Machaeridian an armoured segmented worm, with rows of scales on the back and sides of the animal.

The Fossil and an Illustration of the Machaeridian Segmented Worm

Picture Credit: Science Daily
Illustration Key:
Length of worm = approximately 25 mm
Trunk = yellow
Limbs = red
Bristles = grey
Attachment for Shell Plates (armour) = green
Digestive Tract = purple
Dorsal Linear Structure = blue

Machaeridians evolved during the Cambrian period and survived for around 180 million years before finally becoming extinct during the Carboniferous.  Scientists cannot be sure about when they first appeared as the fossil record for soft-bodied animals is extremely sparse.  Conditions have to be absolutely right to permit the preservation of soft body parts, the carcase has to be buried quickly in fine sediments and mineralisation must start to allow the outline of the body to be preserved before the soft tissue decays.

11 01, 2008

New Insights into Thecodontosaurus – Bristol’s very own Dinosaur

By | January 11th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Geology, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Study of Microfossils shows Thecodontosaurus to be an Inhabitant of Island Paradise

Research into the microscopic fossils from sediments similar to those where fossils of the early Jurassic Prosauropod Thecodontosaurus have been found reveal that scientists may have got it wrong when it comes to considering this dinosaurs habitat.

Previously, palaeontologists had thought that this small dinosaur had inhabited a dry, desert upland area but a study of palynomorphs (organic-walled microfossils such as plant spores and marine algae), show that lush, tropical islands were its home.

It had been thought the dinosaur lived in the arid uplands of the Late Triassic.   However, a joint paper published by Dr David Whiteside (University of Bristol) and Professor John Marshall (University of Southampton), provides more information on the palaeoenvironment and shows that small islands were this little dinosaurs home.

Thecodontosaurus was approximately 2-3 metres long, although most its length was made up by its tail and neck.  Its fossils have been found in the Bristol area of south-west England and also in Germany.  It resembled Plateosaurus but was much smaller, perhaps as a result of living on islands.  Dwarfism is a common feature of island animals as there are fewer resources for animals to exploit in the limited land area.

 A Plateosaurus

“Flat Lizard” Replica

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Plateosaurus pictured above shows the basic body plan of a Thecodontosaurus, but Plateosaurus was much larger, perhaps exceeding 8 metres in length.

There used to be a scale model of Plateosaurus available, designed by a German team (Bullyland museum line), however this model has now been retired.

To view the existing Museum Line range: Dinosaur Toys for Kids – Dinosaur Models

The first fossils of this dinosaur were discovered in 1834, this was actually before Sir Richard Owen had coined the word “Dinosauria” so for a few years scientists were unsure how to actually classify this animal.  The debate as to its classification continues today, as some scientists argue that the very primitive features exhibited by Thecodontosaurus may indicate that it may actually be a representative of the Sauropodomorph dinosaurs and not a Prosauropod.

A number of specimens of this dinosaur are known, all are important as the global fossil record for vertebrates at the Triassic/Jurassic geological boundary is quite poor.  Unfortunately, the holotype (the specimen upon which the original description of Thecodontosaurus is based), was destroyed in a German bombing raid over England in World War II.

Dr Whiteside and Professor Marshall combined their expertise in late Triassic reptiles and microfossils to provide a much more detailed picture of the habitat of Thecodontosaurus.  Their work is supported by geological studies of the Bristol area which indicates that during this dinosaurs time the area consisted of a shallow, tropical sea with small islands dotted around it.

The remains of what were once prominent limestone plateaux can be identified by geologists, tracing the rock strata around the Vale of Glamorgan.  These higher areas would have been above sea level and form islands.  This collaborative work between the two universities has helped produce a much more complete understanding of the ecosystem that Thecodontosaurus lived in.

Perhaps Thecodontosaurus could have swam between islands in search of food.  Its long tail could act as a rudder and provide propulsion whilst its strong limbs would have made it quite a powerful swimmer.  The neck, although not as long as with other Prosauropod type dinosaurs such as Anchisaurus, could easily have been held out of the water as this animal paddled along.

Thecodontosaurus means “socket-toothed lizard” .  The teeth are unusual for a dinosaur of this type, they were shaped a bit like a modern monitor lizards.  Each tooth was embedded in a separate tooth socket and they were small, serrated and blade-like.  Thecodontosaurus could represent an important evolutionary shift for the dinosaur clade, moving away from a carnivorous life-style and taking to a diet of plants.  Could animals like Thecodontosaurus have heralded a change in dinosaur diets?  Certainly, living on small islands with a limited food supply would have predisposed these animals towards a more varied diet, perhaps adapting to plants as these would have proved to be a more reliable food source.

Whatever the actual relationship between Thecodontosaurus and the other long-necked dinosaurs, their evolutionary journey seems to have been a pretty successful one.  Sauropods survived to the very end of the Mesozoic and along the way they evolved into animals like Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus and Argentinosaurus – the largest land animals ever known.

10 01, 2008

Cave Bears Definitely not Teddy Bears

By | January 10th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

New Research Reinforces Believe that Cave Bears were Omnivores

A new study into the feeding habits of Cave Bears indicates that many of them were not just gentle vegetarians snacking on roots, leaves and berries – meat was very much on the Cave Bear menu.

The Cave Bear (Latin name Ursus spelaeus) was a large relative of the modern Brown Bear that lived in central and southern Europe during the Pleistocene Epoch.   Males could reach lengths in excess of 2.2 metres and when rearing up they could stand over 3 metres tall.  These heavy set bears could reach weights of approximately 1,000 kilogrammes.  The Cave Bear is so called because of the huge amount of bones and other remains that have been found inside cave systems.  These bears seem to have hibernated in groups, using caves as shelter.  Many bears did not survive the winter hence these sites provide scientists with a large number of fossil bears to study.  One cave in Austria, known locally as the “Dragons Cave” has produced the remains of over 30,000 individuals.  Scientists believe that this cave was used for thousands of years by Cave Bears as a hibernation chamber.

Ursus spelaeus – The Cave Bear

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above depicts a model of a Cave Bear, one of a series of hand painted prehistoric animal models in 1:20 scale.

To view the model: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

It had been thought that these bears were omnivores, eating a wide variety of food like their close cousins the modern Brown Bear, now new research to be published in the online Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirms that at least in some bear populations meat was a very important part of their diet.

The study, carried out by an international team of researchers, anthropologists and palaeontologists focused mainly on one group of Cave Bear finds from a site in the Carpathian mountains in Romania.  By examining the type of nitrogen isotopes formed in the bone protein of Cave Bear fossils, scientists are able to determine the diet of these animals.  Carnivores build up levels of the nitrogen isotope N-15 in their bones whilst vegetarians have low levels of this particular isotope.  The greater the proportion of N-15 the greater the importance of meat in the diet.

Earlier studies into groups of bears found elsewhere in Europe had concluded that the modest to low levels of N-15 in bone protein indicated that these animals were mostly vegetarian.  Now the research into this particular population from the Peştera cu Oase site (the name means “cave with bones” ) in Romania points to these bears being more carnivorous than previously thought due to the large amounts of N-15 found in their bone protein.

Cave Bears would have been formidable predators, like modern Grizzly Bears (a sub-species of the Brown Bear), they would have been capable of a turn of speed to help them chase down prey.  Cave Bears would have been serious competition for prey resources amongst the other hunters around at the time – wolves, lions, hyenas and of course humans.

This particular site, discovered in 2002 has yielded some fascinating glimpses into our ancestors relationships with Cave Bears and with Neanderthals.  Some of the Cave Bear bears seem to have been placed on raised rocks, this is not a natural location for a fossil.  It has been speculated that Stone Age man worshipped Cave Bears and the bones may have been placed in an elevated position deliberately by early humans as an act of reverence.  Throughout Europe many shrines and carved relics have been identified.  Perhaps the competition for prey animals coupled with the competition for caves as shelters led our ancestors to have a great respect for these powerful animals.

This new research into the dietary habits of Cave Bears has involved Professor Erik Trinkaus (Professor of Anthropology at Washington University – St Louis).  He has worked on a number of projects involving material from the Peştera cu Oase site, including studies into the human remains found in the cave system.  Some of the remains exhibit both human and Neanderthal characteristics perhaps evidence of cross breeding between the two populations.

9 01, 2008

Looking inside a Dinosaur – Chinese Fossil provides Insight into Insides

By | January 9th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Fossil permits peek inside a Dinosaur

A fossil of a primitive Ceratopsian called Psittacosaurus has provided scientists with a glimpse of what these dinosaurs were like in the flesh.  Research published in the scientific journal of the Royal Society outlines the work carried out to study the fossilised skin of this small Cretaceous dinosaur.

It is rare for soft tissue such as skin to be fossilised but recently the discovery of a mummified Hadrosaur in America has provided scientists with an opportunity to examine the hide of a dinosaur in detail.

To read the article on the dinosaur “mummy”: Mummified Dinosaur unlocks Duck-Billed Dinosaur Secrets

It is not clear whether Psittacosaurus was covered in primitive feathers called proto-feathers, this has yet to be determined and more finds will be required but this latest discovery reveals that this little dinosaur was a “tough cookie” with a thick, scaly skin composed of 25 layers of collagen similar to modern sharks and dolphins.  Palaeontologists believe this tough, outer coating supported the dinosaur’s organs and protected it from predators, although it could also have helped insulate this relatively small dinosaur and keep it warm.

Puncture marks on the fossil, identified as teeth marks indicate that the dinosaur’s carcase was torn open by another dinosaur, the carcase was soon buried by fine sediments and the folded skin was preserved.

Psittacosaurus was a small dinosaur, an early ancestor of the horned dinosaurs such as Triceratops.  The name means “parrot lizard” in deference to the parrot like beak this animal possessed.  This beak, was supported by a single median bone called the rostral bone – it is the one feature that distinguishes Ceratopsians from all other dinosaur families.  The hind-limbs were slightly longer than the forelimbs.  This suggests that Psittacosaurus probably adopted a four-footed stance but could if required, such as when attempting to escape from predators, run on its hind legs.

Something in excess of over 400 specimens of Psittacosaurus are known from the fossil record, representing at least ten species.  Fossils have been found in Mongolia, Russia and China with further reported finds in Thailand.  Although not as well known as other Ceratopsians such as Protoceratops and Triceratops, Psittacosaurus fossils are extremely important to palaeontologists as individuals of varying ages have been found.  This has helped scientists piece together how these animals changed and grew from hatchlings to fully grown adults.  The study of how a creature grows and changes over its lifetime is called ontogeny.

Psittacosaurus (right) and Protoceratops (left)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The models in the picture have been taken from the Feathered Dinosaur Models, available from Everything Dinosaur.  These models were originally designed by scientists from the American museum of Natural History.

To view the Feathered Dinosaurs: Dinosaur Models for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Toys

Commenting on this exciting discovery, Professor Theagarten Lingham-Soliar of the University of KwaZulu-Natal stated: “as noted from the studies on modern-day animals, this fibre structure plays a critical part in the stresses and strains the skin may be subjected to and is ideally suited to providing support and protection”.

Psittacosaurus, may not be the biggest dinosaur, it may not be the most popular amongst young dinosaur fans but it has provided some of the most exceptional fossils from the Mesozoic.  This new research provides further insight into the anatomy of dinosaurs, once again it is the little Psittacosaur, that has got palaeontological circles buzzing.

The discovery last year of a “dinosaur den” containing the fossils of a group of juvenile Psittacosaurs provided palaeontologists with a tantalising glimpse of the social life and behaviour of these little dinosaurs.

Psittacosaur nursery article: Dinosaur Nursery Unearthed in China

8 01, 2008

Famous Prehistoric Cave Paintings Under Threat

By | January 8th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|1 Comment

Prehistoric Cave Art under Threat from Fungal Attack

Fresh attempts are being made by the French Ministry of Culture to protect the fabulous cave paintings at Lascaux as fungal growth again threatens to destroy these 17,000 year old art works.

The caves have been closed from today (8th January) for the next three months to all non-essential visitors as conservationists battle to prevent fungus from destroying the delicate paintings.  The Lascaux site is a multiple chambered cavern, situated in a hill overlooking the village of Montignac, in the Dordogne, south-west France.

There are many hundreds of caves in the area, some of which show signs of Neanderthal and Modern Human habitation, a few have cave paintings but of them can match the complex and beautiful art to be found on the walls at Lascaux.

Cave Painting at Lascaux

Picture Credit: French Ministry of Culture

The cave painting depicted comes from one of the main galleries in the cave – the Great Hall of the Bulls.  The painting covers some 20 metres and features aurochs (extinct cattle) as well as stags, and horses.  Typical examples of the wild animals that roamed the area 15,000 years B.C.

Now fungal spores are beginning to invade the paintings, discolouring them and causing damage.  Experts are treating the caverns, this is the second time in seven years such treatments have had to be carried out.

Like many palaeontological and archaeological discoveries this cave system was found by accident.  The site was discovered by four teenage boys in 1940.  A large hole in the ground had been created in the woods above Montignac when a pine tree fell over a few years earlier.  The lads,  Marcel Ravidat, Jacques Marsal, Georges Agnel and Simon Coencas decided to widen the hole and explore the dark cave underneath.  As they made their way along the thin passages to the first cavern their torch light illuminated the strange paintings on the walls.  Works of art that had not been seen by anyone else for thousands of years.  Other interpretations of the story regarding the discovery involve the boys following a dog called Robot down the hole into this glimpse of a  prehistoric world.

If the fungal attacks are not stopped then this site could be placed on the World Heritage’s “In Danger List”.  The site contains more than 2,000 paintings, engravings and other signs of human habitation with the earliest dating back to the upper Palaeolithic.

The cave system was permanently closed to the public in April 1963 when it was discovered that carbon dioxide in the exhaled breath of the visitors was affecting the micro climate of the caves and eroding the paintings and rock faces.  A tourist centre was built nearby – Lascaux II, it contains a life size mock up of the cave so that visitors can still appreciate the work of these people, it attracts over 250,000 visitors per year.

The cave system will remain closed until April 2008 in the hope that these new treatments will have prevented the spread of further fungal outbreaks.  Scientists are debating as to the cause of the mold and fungi, some blame the installation of air conditioning into the cave system whilst others state that deterioration of the paintings is a symptom of global climatic change.

7 01, 2008

Make yourself your very own Dinosaur Money Box

By | January 7th, 2008|Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Press Releases|2 Comments

Dinosaur Money Box Kit – A Great Project for a Wet Weekend

Now is the time for New Year resolutions, hopefully the resolve to keep them will have lasted until at least the time to take down the Christmas decorations.  One of our team members was talking with a parent of a young dinosaur fan and it turns out that one of the resolutions set by the father for the budding palaeontologist was to try to encourage them to save – after all the child had received some money for Christmas.

Saving is certainly a good habit to get into and the younger you start the better it will be, so we thought we would publish today a little article about dinosaur money boxes and a money box building project ideal for a wet January weekend.

Team members at Everything Dinosaur have looked at a number of different types of dinosaur themed money boxes, made from china, plastic and even wood.  Many of them are impractical, for example it would be difficult to mail out a china money box as breakages might occur.  We have even come across some money boxes where the slots are not big enough to take something like a £2 coin and getting the money out from the small bung in the bottom can be a real problem.  No doubt we will continue to look at the options available in 2008.

Meantime, our popular Paper Mâché Dino Making kit represents a credible alternative to purchasing a money box – why not make your own?

You can create your very own paper mâché Stegosaurus, paint it with your own design and put a coin slot in the top and a hole in the bottom and you have your own unique money box.

The Paper Mâché Dino Making Kit

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything you need to make the Stegosaurus money box is contained in the kit, “Chinese paper” for making the skin, balloons for the head and body, glue, paints,  paint brush, adhesive tapes, sponges and of course the all important step-by-step instructions.

To view Dinosaur Crafts for Kids: Dinosaur Crafts for Kids

Scientists do not actually know what colour dinosaurs were since colour does not normally fossilise, so you can paint your dinosaur any colour and pattern you want and your guess will be as good as the most experienced palaeontologist.  We have received pictures from customers who have made these kits and it never ceases to amaze us how many different colours and patterns they come up with.  We have seen photos of pink ones, dinosaurs striped like a zebra, yellow ones with red spots – all the colours of the rainbow.

The kits are suitable for children aged 5 years and above, although we have worked with some very artistic 4 year-olds as well.  This is the sort of ideal “kitchen table top” activity for a wet weekend.  We would advise to put plenty of newspaper down and for parents to get involved to.  After all, parents can supervise and why should the kids have all the fun.  The paper mâché kits can be used to create models, or with the aid of a piece of string or fishing line they can be suspended from the ceiling.  By popping the balloon that makes up the body, cutting a slot in the top and creating a hole in the bottom which can be bunged up, you can make a handy and unique dinosaur money box.

There are lots and lots of fun things to do and make within our product range, you can find the money box kit (as well as lots of other things to do and make) in our “Young Artists” section of our website.

To visit Everything Dinosaur: Everything Dinosaur

As always we would love to see your pictures of the dinosaurs, we have a big cork notice board in our warehouse and we put them up on it as well as having them around the Everything Dinosaur offices.

6 01, 2008

Countdown to Series Two of Primeval on ITV1

By | January 6th, 2008|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Series Two of Primeval starts on Saturday 12th January

Primeval, the television show at the vanguard at ITV’s attempts to steal away some of the early Saturday family viewing audience from Doctor Who returns this week to start a run of seven further time travelling episodes.

Evolutionary zoologist professor Nick Cutter and his glamorous and attractive assistants are once again thrown up against prehistoric animals that are transported backwards and forwards through time by bizarre phenomenon that open up black hole like links between the present day and certain points in geological time.

Although, by its very nature, far fetched but enjoyable nonetheless, a sort of time travelling,  trouble shooting “A” team, this series produced in collaboration with Impossible Pictures, the special effects company, has proved very popular and the screening rights have been sold to a number of countries since it aired on ITV in February 2007.

Episode 1, scheduled for next Saturday (start time 7pm), involves the team having to clear a shopping centre of a family of “raptors” who have found themselves whisked from the Cretaceous to the modern day.  Presumably they blundered through a time portal whilst hunting, perhaps enticed by the smell of potential prey.  One of the comments made about series one was the lack of actual dinosaurs featured.  Series two seems to have noted this and kicks off the start of the second run with dinosaurs taking centre stage.

At the moment we are not sure what type of dinosaurs these raptors are supposed to represent, some reviews we have read refer to them as Utahraptors, but the adults depicted in the programme are too small for this genus of Dromaeosaur.  Perhaps the are actually Deinonychus, as they appear approximately man-sized.  Interestingly, the animators have been keen to give these sickle-clawed monsters protofeathers, in recognition of scientific theory, but although well drawn and animated in a very realistic fashion, one potential inaccuracy concerns the shape of their pupils within their scary, yellow reptilian eyes.

These Dromaeosaurs are depicted with vertical pupils. These are similar to the pupils seen in modern crocodilians which can close down to a small vertical slit, an adaptation of a nocturnal hunter to be able to cope with the higher levels of light entering the eye during the day.  Vertical pupils such as these are found in a number of animals including constrictors, vipers and geckos.  These animals are all associated with living in low light levels such as rain-forests or having a primarily nocturnal existence.

Dangerous Dromaeosaurs – not your Average Visitor to the Shops

Picture Credit: ITV Drama

The vertical pupils of these Dromaeosaurs have probably been added for dramatic effect to make these animals more frightening and alien looking.  The large orbits in Dromaeosaur skulls indicate that they had good vision and some of the smaller Dromaeosaurs such as Troodon may have been nocturnal hunters but it is likely that the larger Maniraptoriformes were active diurnal hunters.  It is also probable that these animals had colour vision, just like their near relatives the birds.  Interestingly crocodiles are also believed to have good colour vision, although most of the crocodile species are associated with being more active during the hours of darkness, when the ability to see in colour would be of very limited use.

Dromaeosaurs were perhaps one of the most dangerous types of all the Theropods.  Scientists have postulated that these animals were speedy, agile, vicious pack hunters that showed a relatively high degree of intelligence for dinosaurs.

If the raptors in Primeval turn out to be representatives of the Deinonychus genus, then this would be apt, considering it was a detailed study of Deinonychus that aided the development of a hypothesis that dinosaurs were active, warm-blooded (endothermic) animals.  The American Professor John Ostrom of Yale University, who was responsible for naming and describing Deinonychus in 1969,  postulated that some of the smaller, livelier dinosaurs were closer to mammals and birds that modern reptiles in their levels of activity.

There are a number of Deinonychus models and other products available, most depict this dinosaur in a dynamic pose, replicating the type of animal theorised by Ostrom.

Scale models of “Raptors”: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

Deinonychus Model

A fearsome Deinonychus dinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To visit Everything Dinosaur: Everything Dinosaur Home Page

About a dozen near complete specimens of Deinonychus have been discovered, including remains of Deinonychus individuals next to Tenontosaurus (a large, Hypsilophodontid herbivore) a rare example of predator and prey being found together.

Lets hope that Professor Cutter and his team are able to return these animals back to the Mesozoic, a shopping centre would not be the ideal habitat for these prehistoric animals.

Primeval has attracted quite a fan base and we are sure that series two will build on the success of the first programmes shown last year.  Over the last few months or so we have come across a number of web sites and forums dedicated to the series and the actors and actresses who appear in it.

One such site is administered by Jon Donnis, it is the unofficial Primeval fan site.  This website contains information on the first series, plus updates on series two, a cast of characters, the monsters and lots and lots of information to keep Primeval fans happy.

5 01, 2008

Another Contender for Asia’s Heaviest Dinosaur

By | January 5th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

China’s New Heavyweight Contender

The Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in association with the Henan Provincial Geological museum have announced the finding of the remains of another Titanosaur, that could well turn out to be the biggest dinosaur yet to be found in Asia.

With so many sediments stocked with dinosaur fossils, there seems to be a new dinosaur discovered every few months in China.  Indeed, this discovery is believed to be of a bigger dinosaur than the one announced back in July 2007, which was heralded as the biggest dinosaur found in Asia at the time.

To read the previous article: Asia’s Heaviest Dinosaur Discovered

The fossils were excavated from a site between the townships of Santun and Liudian, in Ruyang county, Henan Province.  This part of China is famous for its Cretaceous dinosaur fossils, in Everything Dinosaur’s Ten New Year Predictions we conjectured that China would produce a number of new dinosaur finds, “Chinese Dinosaur Discoveries continue to make the Headlines”.  Not surprising really when the size of the country is considered and the huge palaeontological resources available.

Everything Dinosaur New Year Predictions: New Year Predictions 2008

The well preserved fossils consist of several ribs and vertebrae including the sacrum.  The sacrum is the part of the vertebral column that sits over the hip area, preliminary study indicates that this large Titanosaur had a very deep body cavity and with an estimated length of nearly 20 metres, it may well be the heaviest dinosaur found in China to date.

Initially, the fossils were speculatively dated to the Cenozoic era, putting this Titanosaur happily roaming around after the dinosaur mass extinction.  Had this been the case the scientific world would really have been shaken up.  The deposit from which the fossil bones were removed had been dated to the Age of Mammals, the excavation hampered in part by locals digging up what they referred to as “dragon bones”.  Now scientists are confident that these fossils represent a genus of long-necked dinosaurs that lived between 100 to 85 million years ago.

Titanosaurs were the last Sauropods (long-necked dinosaurs), to evolve and are mostly known from the southern hemisphere and Gondwanaland.  Many of these animals had bizarre body armour running down their backs and flanks consisting of scutes and plates.  It is not known whether this new Titanosaur was armoured, the fossils although well preserved represent only a small part of the total skeleton and no scutes have been reported.  Armour on Titanosaurs seems a little pointless, many of these animals were so large as adults that they would have been impervious to attack.  It would have to be a pretty desperate Theropod (or possibly group of Theropods) to take on a herd of 20 Tonne leviathans.

There are not too many models of Titanosaurs around, not when compared to the the plethora of models representing Diplodocoidea et al.

Saltasaurus has been modelled, this was a medium sized Cretaceous Titanosaur from south America.

To view Saltasaurus: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

This newly discovered Titanosaur may well have been a member of the Huanghetitanidae (means yellow river titans).  This family, part of the dinosaur family tree classification of the sub-order Sauropoda, are represented by one genus the Huanghetitans.  They were huge herbivores. The Titanosaur fossil remains, found in July 2007 that were previously thought to be the biggest ever Chinese dinosaur until this new find, may represent a close relative, perhaps two species of the same genus.

4 01, 2008

Biting Bugs and Insects a cause of the Dinosaur Decline?

By | January 4th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

New Book claims Biting Insects and Bugs helped in Dinosaur Demise

The trend for putting forward a new spin on the mass extinction theories continues unabated with the publication of a new book entitled “What Bugged the Dinosaurs? Insects, Disease and Death in the Cretaceous”  published by Princeton University Press.

When it comes to mass extinctions the events that took place 65 million years ago leading to the eradication of the dinosaurs, pterosaurs, marine reptiles and about 65% of all life on Earth, certainly attracts the most attention.

Recently, the Chicxulub impact theory first put forward in 1980 by the father and son team of Luis and Walter Alvarez was challenged by new evidence of volcanic activity in India – The Deccan Traps effect.

To read article on Deccan Traps: Blame the Deccan Traps

Now this book postulates that changing ecosystems and the rise of biting disease carrying insects could have played a significant role in bringing down the dinosaurs.

An important contributor to the extinction of the dinosaurs, could have been the rise and evolution of insects, especially the slow-but-overwhelming threat posed by new disease carriers. And the evidence for this emerging threat and the diversification of insects and arthropods has been captured in fossilised tree sap – amber.

Co-author of this new book George Poiner Jr. (courtesy professor of zoology at Oregon State University), stated:

“There are serious problems with the sudden impact theories of dinosaur extinction, not the least of which is that dinosaurs declined and disappeared over a period of hundreds of thousands, or even millions of years.  That time frame is just not consistent with the effects of an asteroid impact. But competition with insects, emerging new diseases and the spread of flowering plants over very long periods of time is perfectly compatible with everything we know about dinosaur extinction.”

George and his co-author, his wife, Roberta have spent many years studying the micro-fossils and preserved insect and arthropod remains from the late Cretaceous.  They theorise that although there were dramatic geological and climatic changes at the famous “K-T Boundary”, these events on their own do not explain what may have been a slow and gradual demise of the dinosauria.

However, perhaps with animal populations under severe stress from such events, they may have been weakened to such an extent that diseases and parasites spread by biting/ sucking insects and arthropods could have finally seen them off.

“We don’t suggest that the appearance of biting insects and the spread of disease are the only things that relate to dinosaur extinction,” George Poinar said. “Other geologic and catastrophic events certainly played a role. But by themselves, such events do not explain a process that in reality took a very, very long time, perhaps millions of years. Insects and diseases do provide that explanation.”

George and his wife, Roberta have published previous works detailing their studies into the ecosystems and fauna revealed by fossil amber.

“During the Late Cretaceous Period, the associations between insects, microbes and disease transmission were just emerging,” he commented. “We found in the gut of one biting insect, preserved in amber from that era, the pathogen that causes leishmania — a serious disease still today, one that can infect both reptiles and humans. In another biting insect, we discovered organisms that cause malaria, a type that infects birds and lizards today.”

Fossil Tick Found in Amber from Burma

Picture Credit: Oregon State University

“In dinosaur feces, we found nematodes, trematodes and even protozoa that could have caused dysentery and other abdominal disturbances. The infective stages of these intestinal parasites are carried by filth-visiting insects.”

In the lush, tropical Late Cretaceous insects, lice and other parasites would have thrived and perhaps these animals caused disease epidemics that helped weaken the populations of mega fauna.

The Poinars cite the case of bird malaria which when introduced into Hawaii killed off many of the native honey creepers on the islands.  Although from our perspective this is a case of isolated animal communities being exposed to new pathogens, new diseases that they had not been exposed to before, with the consequence of them not being able to build up any immunity within the species.  Dinosaurs co-existed for millions of years with parasites and biting insects – the fossil record of Mesozoic animals bares testament to this.

The authors suggest that in addition to the parasitic effects on the dinosaurs, the ecosystem was being radically altered due to the rapid expansion of the angiosperms (flowering plants); in part due to the pollination activities of insects.  The flowering plants do seem to have been an evolutionary success story by the end of the Mesozoic with cycads, gingkoes and other gymnosperms being upstaged by their more colourful plant competitors.  But again this process would have been quite gradual, giving herbivores the opportunity to adapt to and exploit these new food sources.  For example, some scientists have speculated that the Pachycephalosaurs may even have specialised as nibblers and browsers of flowering plants and bushes just like many African gazelles do today.

“Insects have exerted a tremendous impact on the entire ecology of the Earth, certainly shaping the evolution and causing the extinction of terrestrial organisms,” the Poinars wrote in their book. “The largest of the land animals, the dinosaurs, would have been locked in a life-or-death struggle with them for survival.”  Although a rather dramatic statement, perhaps more akin to helping to sell their book, a weakened population could have further declined due to the activities of parasites and other pathogens brought on by the increase in insects and arthropods.  But again, all organisms compete with each other and it is hard to believe that all the large terrestrial fauna, including the Pterosaurs could have succumbed to pests and diseases.

“We can’t say for certain that insects are the smoking gun, but we believe they were an extremely significant force in the decline of the dinosaurs,” Poinar said. “Our research with amber shows that there were evolving, disease-carrying vectors in the Cretaceous, and that at least some of the pathogens they carried infected reptiles. This clearly fills in some gaps regarding dinosaur extinctions.”

Insects have been connected to the demise of the dinosaurs on numerous occasions.  In our extensive library we have book entitled “Before the Ark” published by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1975.  The authors were Dr Alan Charig, curator of Fossil Amphibians, Reptiles and Birds at the London Natural History museum and Brenda Horsfield – a television producer.  The book accompanied a television documentary series on palaeontology.  In Chapter 13, entitled “Fall of the Dinosaurs” the then, current theories about dinosaur extinction were discussed.

One idea put forward was that the emergence and rapid expansion of the order Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies), put paid to the dinosaurs.  The larval stages, the caterpillars with their voracious appetites consumed a lot of the vegetation leading to the sudden collapse of food webs and the extinction of the mega fauna at the top of these food webs.  A caterpillar caused defoliated eco-system is a bit hard to digest, (no pun intended), after all why did the marine reptiles and ammonites also disappear.  The birds would certainly have spotted a new food source and helped reduce caterpillar numbers, unless of course the larvae had already developed complicated bird scaring defences like the modern hawk moths or become unpalatable such as the Cinnabar moths of the UK and Europe.

Birds had diversified and filled many ecological niches, surely they would have been quick to exploit this new food source and anyway the Dr Charig and Ms Horsfield go on to cast considerable doubt as to the validity of this theory, for example mass defoliation on such a scale would have left some sort of evidence within the fossil record.  Palynomorphs – organic walled micro fossils such as plant spores and pollen do indicate a dramatic change in vegetation at the K-T Boundary, the “fern spike”, but this adds credence to the impact of a huge environmental disaster such as asteroid impact or massive volcanic activity.  The ferns are often the first plant group to recover, hence the large increase in fern spores making up the micro fossil record from around 65 million years ago.

To read more about the fern spike: Humble Ferns – Evidence to Support the Impact Theory

Certainly, this new book will interest many, the theories put forward will fuel further debate and provide much food for thought.  Indeed, as the human race experiences its own climate change and environmental problems, perhaps the rising seas, flooding low-lying land will give rise to new epidemics of diseases such as malaria as mosquitoes swarm and thrive in the newly created marshlands.

It might not just be dinosaurs that end up being “bugged” out of existence.

The team at Everything Dinosaur are grateful for the information supplied by Oregon State University (Jan 4 2008) in the writing of this article.

To visit Everything Dinosaur website: Everything Dinosaur Homepage

3 01, 2008

Packing Parcels containing Posters

By | January 3rd, 2008|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|2 Comments

Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Posters – How to pack them?

Since the inception of Everything Dinosaur, the team has strived to find educational and informative products related to dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.  In the beginning , when our product range was considerably smaller than it is today posters were an important product category.   Posters provide young people the opportunity to learn about prehistoric animals, can help theme a bedroom into a young child’s very own Jurassic Park and can provide a useful teaching and reference source for schools and home educators.

The number and types of posters we now stock has increased considerably, but one issue with posters always remains – how to ensure that they arrive in tip-top condition when they have been mailed out.  Making sure that posters arrive safely and undamaged is a problem for all mail order companies that sell items such as this.  We would not want to disappoint any of our customers, so right from the day the company first started trading we have taken great care to make sure that posters get VIP treatment.

To view Everything Dinosaur Poster and Books section: Dinosaur Books for Kids

Posters purchased from Everything Dinosaur are most usually packed separately from other purchases.  Often this means that we send out two parcels per order rather than one, even though we only charge customers one posting and packing/administration fee.  As a company made up of parents and teachers as well as knowledgeable dinosaur people, we would rather subsidise the delivery than risk a poster getting damaged and spoiled if it were packed in some other way.

Posters are packed into special Royal Mail parcel poster tubes, these robust tubes prevent damage and permit the poster to arrive in tip-top condition.

Within the UK, Royal Mail changed the way in which post and parcels were handled in April 2006.  Parcels were now categorised according to both size and weight dimensions.  These changes have not affected the way in which we pack posters, however, customers are not expecting two deliveries from us and to prevent them thinking that a poster has been left off their order, team members contact customers to let them know that their order has been split and two parcels have been despatched.

Our good reputation for packing orders has helped us develop a number of new posters for dinosaur enthusiasts.  For example, the My First Dinosaur Poster concept has proved very popular since its introduction about three months ago.  This is an especially robust, double laminated poster featuring colour illustrations of dinosaurs.  The poster has been specially designed to appeal to young children from 3 years and up.

The My First Dinosaur Poster From Everything Dinosaur

Illustration: Everything Dinosaur

Seventeen different dinosaurs are featured, some of the more well-known ones with a good mix of the more unusual dinosaurs.  The name of each animal is provided, printed clearly in black ink against a white background to help young children recognise letters and help them to form words.

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