All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//December
21 12, 2008

Top Selling Dinosaur Models at Christmas – Number 5

By | December 21st, 2008|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Top Selling Dinosaur Models at Christmas – Some surprises in the Mix

The addition of a range of new and exciting prehistoric animal models to the Everything Dinosaur range in the Autumn has proved to be a big success.  At first many of our team members were a little sceptical when we first got involved looking at the prototypes for dinosaurs such as Neovenator and Eustreptospondylus, but it seems that dinosaur fans have a taste for the more exotic and unusual models.

Just for a bit of fun we have monitored sales of dinosaur models over the weeks leading up to the Christmas period and over the next few days we will publish details of the top five best sellers.

5).  Spinosaurus – Models of Spinosaurus, a meat-eating dinosaur from the Cretaceous are always popular and with the introduction of the Schleich Saurus model, Spinosaurus models and toys have been selling well enough to enter our top five.

A Typical Model of Spinosaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Spinosaurus, a dinosaur that has featured several times in our annual survey of the most popular prehistoric animals.  It seems that new model dinosaur sets are not complete unless they include a model of a Spinosaurus.

To view a model of Spinosaurus: Dinosaur Models – Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls

20 12, 2008

Stokesosaurus – Perhaps the most Primitive Tyrannosaurid Found to Date

By | December 20th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Stokesosaurus – Named after an American Palaeontologist (not after Stoke-on-Trent)

The naming and describing of a prehistoric animal, is often the highlight of a scientists career.  However, it can be very difficult to name an animal, especially if the description and scientific analysis is based on only fragmentary remains.  Often with the discovery of more fossils, the description has to be revised, although it is scientific etiquette to retain the original name if possible although junior and senior synonyms frequently come into play.  In taxonomic classification, a synonym is another name given for an organism.  The earliest of several names given to an animal is considered to be the senior synonym, whilst later names given to an animal are considered to be junior synonyms.

For example, Apatosaurus from the Morrison Formation of the Western United States is the senior synonym for the name Brontosaurus.  Although Brontosaurus may be the better known name, it is Apatosaurus that predates the name of Brontosaurus for the same animal so it is Apatosaurus that takes the precedence.

An Illustration of Apatosaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Apatosaurus was a heavily built Diplodocid, of the Late Jurassic, weighing in at an estimated 30 Tonnes and about as long as a regulation tennis court (78 feet).

One of the lesser known meat-eating dinosaurs from the Morrison Formation is Stokesosaurus.  This particular Theropod dinosaur, has been regarded as one of the most primitive members of the Tyrannosaur group, indicating that Tyrannosaurs evolved in the late Jurassic.  This dinosaur is known from only a few fragmentary remains,  a partial hip bone, elements of the jaw and brain-case.  Some of these bones resemble Tyrannosaur hence the connection between this dinosaur and the better known Tyrannosaurs.  Although fossils of a very similar dinosaur have been found in England, this dinosaur was not named after Stoke-on-Trent, the urban area in Staffordshire.  Stokesosaurus was named in honour of Lee Stokes, an American palaeontologist.

The fossils of this particular dinosaur are very poorly preserved and although Tyrannosaur features have been identified within these fossils, verifying that this is one of the earliest members of the Tyrannosaur group is a difficult task due to the lack of fossils for this particular dinosaur.

It is unlikely that we will be announcing any dinosaur toys and games based on this particular dinosaur, especially as the English fossils may represent the same animal although this dinosaur is named Lliosuchus.  The English remains were named before the naming of Stokesosaurus, so Stokesosaurus may be the junior synonym of Lliosuchus.

19 12, 2008

The Sahara Desert – “An Ancient River of Giants”

By | December 19th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Anglo/Irish Team announce New Prehistoric Finds in Sahara Desert

A joint British and Irish scientific team have announced the discovery of a number of new species of prehistoric animals from the Late Cretaceous of south-eastern Morocco.

Part of the beak of a huge Pterosaur, possibly a relative of the giant, flying reptile Quetzalcoatlus, and bones of an enormous Sauropod have been found at the site, close to the border with Algeria.  The deposits have also yielded evidence of giant fish, crocodiles and dinosaur footprints, indicating that this area of parched desert was once a lush, environment supporting a huge array of life.

The team endured sandstorms and had to travel over hazardous and dangerous country to reach the remote location, but the Anglo/Irish team’s efforts are being rewarded with the sediments providing some fascinating insights into a lost prehistoric world.

At the time these strange creatures roamed the region, the Sahara was covered in lush vegetation, waterways and lakes.   Commenting on the discoveries Dr. David Martill of the University of Portsmouth stated:

“This river system was stuffed full of gigantic fishes, each two to four metres long. Everything there was of a huge size”.

Searching for a superlative to sum up the fossil finds Dr Martill stated:

“You could call it the ancient river of the giants.”

If National Geographic make a documentary on these finds, this would be an apt title for the programme, the rock strata indicates that during the Cretaceous a river as wide as the Danube is today, flowed across the densely vegetated landscape.

A highlight of the research was the discovery of a 40cm-long beak tip, which belonged to a previously unknown Pterosaur – a flying reptile.  Although, it can be difficult to speculate on the size of an animal from only a few fragmentary remains, the scientists have stated that it potentially had a wingspan in excess of 5 metres – this would make it about as long as an average family car.  The scientists believe that this Pterosaur was a member of the Azhdarchidae group of Pterosaurs.  These were advanced flying reptiles, with toothless beaks, long necks and some of these flying reptiles are believed to represent the largest flying animals of all time.

A one-metre-long dinosaur bone, from a giant Sauropod (a long-necked dinosaur) was also uncovered.   Again it is difficult to estimate the size of an animal from only partial remains but this dinosaur was certainly very big, perhaps as much as 30 metres in length.

Dr Martill discussed the Sauropod bone and indicated that it might have belonged to a Macronarian Sauropod (long-necked dinosaur with a box-like skull):

“We think this one might be linked with Brachiosaurus, but it is different.  The bone we found has some unusual features – it’s unusually robust for a humerus.  We’re 95% confident that it is a humerus but if its part of a femur it would mean this creature was unimaginably enormous.”

If the fossil bone turns out to be part of a thigh bone (femur) then this would represent one of the biggest dinosaur bones ever found.

Dr Martill with the Sauropod Fossil Bone

Picture Credit: University of Portsmouth

The partial bone can be seen in the picture, it is only a fragment of total limb bone, probably a humerus (arm bone) but if it is a femur (thigh bone) then the dimensions of the dinosaur would have to be scaled up.  Brachiosaurs had longer fore-limbs than hind-limbs, if this is a bone from the back legs then this dinosaur would have been a true giant.

An Illustration of a Brachiosaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Expedition leader Nizar Ibrahim, from the University College Dublin, said:

“It’s amazing to think that millions of years ago the Sahara was in fact a lush green tropical paradise, home to giant dinosaurs and crocodiles and nothing like the dusty desert we see today.”

What with the recent finds of new Theropod dinosaurs in Argentina it seems that the southern hemisphere (Gondwanaland) is providing lots of new and fascinating dinosaur and prehistoric animal discoveries.

18 12, 2008

Introducing Austroraptor – Fearsome Predator of the Late Cretaceous

By | December 18th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Austroraptor – A new Dromaeosaur put on Display

A new species of Dromaeosaur, a group of meat-eating dinosaurs from the Cretaceous, the name means “running lizards”, an apt title for these swift and dangerous predators, has just gone on display in Argentina.

The southern hemisphere has provided a number of spectacular carnivorous dinosaur specimens and the newly named Austroraptor is right up with the best examples of dinosaur diversity at the end of the Cretaceous.

This particular dinosaur, whose fossils were found at Bajo de Santa Rosa, in Rio Negro province, has been put on display at the Bernardino Rivadavia Natural History museum in Buenos Aries.  Estimated to have exceeded 5 metres in length and weighing in at approximately 750 kilogrammes, Austroraptor (scientific name Austroraptor cabazai), is one of the largest raptor like dinosaurs discovered to date.  Whether or not this dinosaur was a solitary hunter or a pack animal can only be speculated upon at this stage.  Current scientific thinking is leaning towards smaller Dromaeosaurs such as Velociraptor from Asia, being pack hunters, mobbing and bringing down much larger herbivorous dinosaurs.  If Austroraptor was a social, pack hunter, then a group of these large, agile dinosaurs would have been formidable and to be feared by even the largest Titanosaur.

A Reconstruction of the Skeleton of Austroraptor

Dinosaur meat-eater

Picture Credit: Bernardino Rivadavia Museum

Standing by the reconstruction is Argentinian palaeontologist Fernando Novas who led the research into this new species of meat-eating dinosaur.  The long snout and narrow jaws can clearly be seen in the photograph, these are typical features of a Dromaeosaur, contrasting with the bone-crushing power of Tyrannosaurs these jaws are more delicate but with their needle-like teeth they would have been ideal for stripping flesh from bone.

Described from only partial remains, the front elements of the skull and jaws, some vertebrae and bones from the left leg, including the femur, the size estimates have been based on the scaled-up measurements of better known Dromaeosaurs

The Austroraptor was found in rock formations dating to 70 million years ago, making it one of the last dinosaurs to walk in Patagonia before they became extinct at the very end of the Age of Reptiles

The plastic reproduction of the Austroraptor cabazai skeleton will be included in a showcase of Argentinian dinosaurs in a exhibition to visit Europe next year.

For Novas, the work on Austroraptor will help cement his reputation as one of the leading experts on South American meat-eaters.  In 1998, Dr Novas named and described Megaraptor believing this carnivore to be an example of a huge Dromaeosaur.  This diagnosis had been made based on the discovery of an enormous claw, that was believed to be the large pedal ungual, typical of the raptor group.  However, further analysis has revealed this claw to actually be a finger claw rather than a toe claw indicating a similarity to the Baryonychidae type dinosaurs.

17 12, 2008

My Favourite Flying Reptile is Pteranodon

By | December 17th, 2008|Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Pteranodon Models – My Favourite Pterosaur

With something like 130 different species of Pterosaur described, palaeontologists now know that this Order was made up of a very diverse, eclectic group of reptiles.  However, one particular Pterosaur keeps cropping up as Everything Dinosaur team members meet young prehistoric animal fans on our various adventures.  The absolute favourite flying reptile seems to be that Late Cretaceous giant – Pteranodon (P. longiceps).

Last week, one of our team members met a young Pterosaur fan, who talked all about their hollow bones and wings made of skin.  He said his favourite flying reptile was Pteranodon and he had drawn of picture of a huge Pteranodon flying over the sea and with his mum’s help he had pinned it to his bedroom wall.  He even showed us some models of Pteranodon that he had brought with him.

Pteranodon – Very Popular Flying Reptile

Collecta 1:40 scale model of Pteranodon.

Collecta 1:40 scale model of Pteranodon.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Mum gave us her email address, so that we could email over some more pictures of flying reptiles and other drawing materials for her to download.  She also asked us for some advice on choosing models of Pteranodon and here too we were able to help and advise on suitable Pteranodon models.

16 12, 2008

The Emergence of Humans – the Origins of Us

By | December 16th, 2008|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

The Evolution of Humans – Out of Africa

This time of year we are busy organising orders of dinosaur toys and games in time for Christmas.   As a result we are having more frequent collections by the various mail and delivery companies that we use.  We are also visiting various sorting depots and collection points as team members drop off parcels ready for sending onward on their journey to customers.  One of the spin-offs from all this increased interaction with post office staff, the Royal Mail and other agencies is that our team members get asked all sorts of questions about prehistoric animals and related subjects.

One of the areas of greatest interest is the origin of our species.  This was a contentious issue when considered by Darwin in his ground breaking text of that name, although Darwin chose to skate round the subject in his first edition.  He merely noted that “light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history”.

It is difficult to explain how very little scientists know about the origin of human-kind, indeed the fossil record is so poor that very little can actually be established as conclusive, for example, some palaeontologists support the theory that hominids diverged from other higher African apes some 4.5 million years ago, whilst others believe that the split occurred much further back in time, perhaps some 6 million years ago.

Ground dwelling animals of a grassland type environment such as our direct ancestors have a very poor chance of fossilisation. The conditions are all wrong to permit fossilisation and preservation.  Usually only teeth (enamel is extremely tough), or knuckle bones and skull fragments are found.  This makes the establishment of evolutionary relationships and even the identification of species extremely difficult.  The fossil record of other apes, such as those that had an arboreal (tree-living existence), is even worse.  Organic material such as the corpse of a dead ape on the floor of a tropical forest, is rapidly broken down and easily scavenged by predators.  Decay is normally rapid and complete leaving very little evidence of our primate ancestors.

Experts even argue about what species should be classified as hominid.  For example, some scientists believe that the higher apes such as chimpanzees and the Bonobo (pygmy chimp) should be classified as hominids, after all we share something like 98% of the same DNA.

However, the earliest fossils of human-like creatures (about 2.5 million years old) have been found in Eastern and Southern Africa there is strong evidence to suggest that Africa was the cradle of human origins and that indeed we, as a result are “out of Africa”.  This information has certainly got the postal workers talking.

Wait until we inform them that according to evolutionary biologists H. sapiens that’s us; are not the pinnacle of evolutionary achievement – we are not the end game of evolution on planet Earth.

This should encourage some lively debate around the mail rooms and sorting office.

15 12, 2008

Volcanoes Killed off the Dinosaurs

By | December 15th, 2008|Geology, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Volcanism the cause of the Cretaceous Mass Extinction?

The debate regarding the principle cause of the Cretaceous mass extinction event some 65 million years ago is about to re-opened with the airing of a television programme claiming that massive volcanic eruptions on the Indian sub-continent were the real cause of the extinctions not the impact of an ex-terrestrial object.

US Geosciences professor Gerta Keller of Princeton University and her research colleagues have submitted a theory stating that the dinosaurs gradually died out as a result of climate change, induced by huge volcanic eruptions.

Professor Keller bases her theory on her National Science Foundation-funded field work in India and Mexico that uncovered geological evidence that the mass extinction and the meteor impact occurred at different times.  The Chicxulub event is believed to have taken place approximately 300,000 years before the extinction.  Keller and her colleagues believe that the impact event could not be the main cause of the mass extinctions, the timing is all wrong.

However, other leading writers and scientists still support the work of Luis and Walter Alvarez, an American father and son team who first published the discovery of a global K-T boundary with high levels of iridium and theorised on a catastrophic meteor or asteroid impact devastating life on Earth.  Exponents of the meteor impact theory have even stated that there may have been two impacts – 300,000 years apart that led to the demise of approximately 70% of all life on the planet.

The Deccan Traps, the “smoking gun” of Keller’s theory did release an enormous amount of green house gas into the atmosphere and eruptions took place for millions of years.  Volcanism on this scale would certainly have affected the climate, whether or not this was the main factor or a contributory one to the demise of the dinosaurs is still hotly debated.

We suspect this will run and run.

To read more about the Deccan Traps: Blame the Deccan Traps

To read more about the ex-terrestrial impact theory: Geologists get to the bottom of the Chicxulub impact crater

14 12, 2008

Light headed Dinosaurs

By | December 14th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|2 Comments

Research Proves that Dinosaurs were Airheads

Dinosaurs for all their spectacular features such as huge teeth, enormous bodies and strange armour have often been regarded by many as being extremely stupid creatures with tiny brains.  Whilst it is true that many types of dinosaur, the Stegosaurs and the Sauropods for example, had very small brains in proportion to their bodies, other dinosaurs, although not likely to ever be regarded as highly intelligent, did possess relatively big brains given their body size – Troodontids are examples of this type of dinosaur.  Troodonts such as Saurornithoides and Troodon are animals of the northern hemisphere and late Cretaceous.  Relatively small animals, most of this type of dinosaur are believed to have been under 2 metres long (most of this being tail), but they did have large eyes (indicated by the big orbits in what skull material has been found), and relatively large brains.  These types of dinosaurs are depicted as warm-blooded, quick, agile, little hunters with excellent co-ordination and keen senses, attributes associated with a large brain capable of processing lots of information. 

Many of us may be familiar with a measure of intelligence called IQ, this is an abbreviation of the term Intelligence Quotient, a measure of intelligence amongst a single species such as human intelligence for example.  When it comes to comparing  intelligence amongst different types of animal, the process becomes more complicated, especially when the animals are extinct and scientists only have the fossil record to go on as in the case of the dinosaurs.

A second measure is often used, this is EQ (not to be confused with the human concept of emotional intelligence), in this sense the term EQ stand for Encephalisation Quotient, a comparison of brain size to body mass.  The principle is that the greater the proportion of brain mass in comparison to the size of the body the more intelligent the animal in relation to another organism with the same sized brain but a bigger body.  This is only a relative measure and imprecise when used to study extinct animals.  Using these principles, the large herbivorous Sauropods and Stegosaurs score very poorly, indicating low intelligence where as the Dromaeosaurs and animals such as Troodon score relatively highly.

Having a high or low EQ score does not necessarily indicate intelligence.  The humble pigeon, for instance, not regarded as particularly intelligent is capable of navigating huge distances and demonstrating very sophisticated behaviour.  Members of the Corvidae family (crows, rooks, ravens etc.) do not have bigger brains when compared to similar sized wading birds but they are regarded as more intelligent showing learning capability, problem solving and considerable memory.

In a recently published paper in the scientific journal “The Anatomical Record” a team of American researchers have demonstrated that the skulls of several different types of dinosaurs were sophisticated structures and that they possessed very complex olfactory areas and nasal passages as well as a number of air cavities.  Perhaps dinosaurs were light headed or simply airheads?  The research does reveal how well designed and evolved the skulls of such animals were.

Ohio University scientists Lawrence Witmer and Ryan Ridgeley used scanning technology to build up sophisticated 3-dimensional pictures of both meat-eating and plant-eating dinosaur skulls.  Using the images and computer models their work has generated, the researchers were able to show the complex structure of the olfactory areas and nasal passages determining a clearer understanding of the physiology of the animal’s airways.

This work has important implications for how important a sense of smell was for dinosaurs and the structure of airways will influence the vocalisation of these animals.  Skull material is extremely helpful to palaeontologists, it is often used as diagnostic material to help determine the relationships between different genera or to define a new species.

The team examined the skulls of two predators and two plant-eating dinosaurs.  The meat-eaters were the infamous and very well known Tyrannosaurus rex and the less well known advanced Abelisaurid Majungatholus (also called Majungasaurus).  Tyrannosaurus rex is a good candidate for this type of study, a number of skulls of this Late Cretaceous dinosaur are known and work on the extensive olfactory areas in the skull has already been published.  Majungatholus was a less obvious candidate.  However, at least one nearly complete skull of this meat-eater, whose fossils have been found on Madagascar has been discovered and it does represent an entirely different type of carnivorous dinosaur compared to the Tyrannosaurs.  The shape of the skull of Majungatholus is quite different, the head was broad and short with thickened bones around the nasal areas (the naris).  The lower jaw as quite delicate and when compared to the Tyrannosaurs the mouth was narrow.

The scientists also studied the skulls of two plant-eating dinosaurs, both members of the Thyreophoran (armoured dinosaur) group.  The herbivores studied were Panoplosaurus (Late Cretaceous, North American Nodosaurid with at least three fossilised skulls to study) and Euoplocephalus a well-known Ankylosaur.  Analysis of extant species such as crocodiles and ostriches were also undertaken by the research team.

The study of the predatory dinosaurs revealed extensive olfactory areas, an arching airway that went from the nostrils to the throat, and many sinuses,the same cavities or pockets that give us sinus headaches.  Overall, the amount of air space was much greater than the brain cavity.  The air chambers may have acted as resonating chambers to provide each dinosaur with a distinctive call or voice.  The air spaces would have also served to lighten the weight of the skull, with the team estimating that the presence of the air cavities enabled the weight of the head of Tyrannosaurus rex to be reduced by up to 18% without any detrimental effect on the strength of the structure – very important when the forces exerted by biting or holding struggling prey are considered.  The researchers have estimated the box-like and massive head of a Tyrannosaurus would have weighed approximately 500 kgs, without the air cavities the head could have weighed over 100 kilogrammes more.  Such a heavy head would have required enormous neck muscles to support it, perhaps the air cavities and the famously small limbs of T. rex are adaptations to help reduce the weight at the front end of the animal.

A 3-D Computer Model of Tyrannosaurus rex

Picture Credit: Lawrence Witmer (Ohio University)

The picture shows a computer model of Tyrannosaurus rex with the various internal air cavities and air passages highlighted in different colours.  Work from other scientists has indicated that approximately 50% of the T. rex brain (a brain that weighed as much as a bag of sugar), was dedicated to the olfactory function.  It seems that the sense of smell was extremely important to this particular dinosaur.

The 3-dimensional study of the Thyreophorans (armoured dinosaur) contrasts with the work carried out on the meat-eating dinosaurs.  Unlike the large, straight, uncomplicated nasal passages of the Theropods, the research team found airways that were long, twisted and convoluted.

The winding air passages were positioned alongside large blood vessels, the study showed, suggesting heat transfer.  So when the armoured dinosaurs inhaled, the blood would have warmed that inspired air before it reached the lungs.  Alternatively, these structures could have helped these large animals retain heat, perhaps absorbing heat back into the animal as they exhaled.

In addition, some of the heat from the blood vessels may have been transferred into the winding nasal passages, cooling the blood before it reached the brain.

The twisty nasal passages also probably acted as resonating chambers, affecting how these armoured dinosaurs vocalised.

The airways may have been slightly different in each animal, Witmer commented, giving the animals subtle differences in their voices.

13 12, 2008

Archaeopteryx Goes for an X-ray

By | December 13th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

American Scientists Seek understanding of Archaeopteryx Anatomy using X-rays

A rare and very precious fossil of an Archaeopteryx is undergoing intensive X-ray scans in the United States in an attempt to discover more about the anatomy of this remarkable missing-link between dinosaurs and birds.

Scientists and researchers from the world famous Stanford University in California are subjecting one of the very few partially articulated fossils of Archaeopteryx to powerful X-rays in an attempt to define internal organs, identify blood vessels and other key aspects of anatomy that may help to unlock the dinosaur/bird evolutionary link.

The delicate fossil, one of only a handful of Archaeopteryx fossils ever found; is approximately 150 million years old and, like all the other fossil evidence of this strange toothed bird it comes from the limestone deposits at Solnhofen in Germany.

The Solnhofen deposits consist of extremely finely grained limestone, so fine in fact they were used in the lithographic printing process.  These layers of rock outcrop in an east to west direction north of Munich.  The various quarries in this area have produced a huge diversity of fossils dating from the Late Jurassic, some 360 different species of animal and plants have been found preserved in the rocks.  It seems that 150 million years ago, this part of southern Germany was on the coast and the habitat consisted of a series of shallow lagoons.  The very finely grained white mud at the bottom of these lagoons could not support life, perhaps due to the anaerobic conditions, dead animals and plants falling into the still waters, drifted to the bottom and were covered in soft mud.  The absence of microbial activity and other organisms to break up the carcases provided ideal conditions for preservation to take place.  The lithographic limestone is so finely grained that exquisite details of even the most delicate structures such as feathers can be preserved.  The fossil record from this particular part of Germany has permitted scientists to build up a picture of the fauna and flora of the area during this time in the Jurassic.  Jellyfish , king crabs, dragonflies, lizards, crocodiles and fish have been preserved as fossils in the limestone.  In the air, a number of different types of Pterosaur would have been seen, flying over the tropical lagoon, and the crow-sized, primitive bird called Archaeopteryx was also present.

At a specialist laboratory, a large particle accelerator is being used by the Stanford team to bombard the fossil with X-rays that will interact with different elements preserved within the sediment.  This will allow the scientists to determine more of the internal structure of this little dino-bird.  Although no harm is done to the fossil, the bombardment of light particles should permit the team to identify elements such as calcium (indicating bone) and iron, a key component in haemoglobin which would indicate the location of blood vessels.

Scientists hope the elements identified will correlate with organs, circulatory systems and other interior parts of the creature, perhaps providing more evidence of the evolutionary link between reptiles such as Theropod dinosaurs and birds.

Ironically, such sophisticated use of light sources is not always required to shed new light (no pun intended) on Archaeopteryx fossils.  The fifth specimen of Archaeopteryx was, for example, classified as a small, lightly built bipedal Theropod (Compsognathus), but when this fossil was lit from the side the presence of feathers could be detected indicating that this fossil had been wrongly identified and that it was indeed another specimen of Archaeopteryx.

An Illustration of Archaeopteryx

“Ancient Wing”

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

“What we are hoping is that we will learn more information than just what you can see with your eyes,” commented Uwe Bergmann, one of the researchers involved with the project.

He went on to state:  “the body decays, but the chemical elements — silicon, calcium, potassium, iron, all the chemicals which make up living animals — some of them will be preserved.”

The Archaeopteryx Specimen being Studied by the U.S. Based Scientists

Picture Credit: Stanford University

In the picture the Archaeopteryx is orientated with the long tail and one limb at the bottom of the picture, the wings are folded back behind the animal and the head and neck have been preserved crushed against the chest.

The application of the powerful X-ray technology is another example in which the science of palaeontology is using new techniques to research the fossil record.  Some of the ten or so specimens (one just a single preserved feather), of this ancient bird have been subjected to other sophisticated tests such as CT scans.  For example, the famous London specimen was studied by the Natural History Museum a couple of years ago and a more complete analysis of the brain-case revealed hitherto unknown information on Archaeopteryx’s sense of balance and flying ability.

The Archaeopteryx fossils are perhaps some of the most important fossils found.  The Berlin and London specimens have played a pivotal role in the acceptance of Darwin’s theory of evolution.  When Charles Darwin first published the Origin of Species in 1859, an argument put forward by his critics was that there was a lack of intermediate animals showing evolution from one species to another in the fossil record.  They argued that if animals and plants had been changing through time, then there would be evidence of this process preserved.  One of the best and most complete fossil skeletons of Archaeopteryx was found just two years after Darwin’s theory had been formally published.  Here was evidence for a “missing link” within the fossil record.  A fossil of an animal with both reptilian and avian features.

“If you want to find a single fossil which is a missing link in the evolution of dinosaurs into birds, this is it,” added University of Manchester palaeontologist Phil Manning.

“It’s a bird with sharp teeth, claws and a long bony tail.  If you were to freeze-frame evolution, you would end up with Archaeopteryx.”

This particular ancient creature holds a very special place in the science of palaeontology, perhaps the work of the team from Stanford University will be able to shed more light (no pun intended again), on this amazing and fantastic bird.

12 12, 2008

Everything Dinosaur Blog Site Approved by Regator

By | December 12th, 2008|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|1 Comment

Everything Dinosaur Blog given Seal of Approval by Regator

Everything Dinosaur’s web log (otherwise known as a blog) has been reviewed by the editorial team at Regator and as a result our little blog has been approved for inclusion in their blog directory.  This U. S. based blog directory, has thousands of blogs, but only those approved by their own editorial team are permitted entry to their listings.

Every site put forward for inclusion is reviewed by a member of the Regator team ( a human being, not a robot, spider or trawler).  Only well written, informative and frequently updated web logs are permitted entry to the register.  The Everything Dinosaur blog has been approved for inclusion in Regator’s paleontology section, (please excuse the American spelling of palaeontology).

Only a select few blogs out of the many millions of web logs are chosen.  Regator provides a directory resource that permits their visitors to view pertinent and relevant material that is related to their interests and from an approved content provider.

The Regator Seal of Approval

By clicking on the certificate icon above, readers can be transported to the Regator site to view our blog and to browse all the others, (placed into handy categories to aid browsing).

We would like to thank the team members at Regator who reviewed our blog and gave us the palaeontological “thumbs up” as it were.

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