All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
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20 09, 2009

A Fossil Gift Box Featuring Real Fossils

By | September 20th, 2009|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

A Fossil Gift Box – just in time for Christmas

Looking for an unusual, interesting and educational gift idea?  Try the fossil gift box containing three real fossils that stretch back as far as the Carboniferous period.  This memorable and educational gift provides a great introduction to the joys and excitement of fossil collecting.  The set features an Ammonite, an straight shelled Orthoceras and a fossilised sharks tooth (tooth dates from the Palaeogene).  All fossils have been sourced from reputable authorities and they are presented in their own little gift box.

The Fossil Gift Box from Everything Dinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

As well as the polished sharks tooth, the set contains a bisected Ammonite fossil sourced from Madagascar that dates from the mid Cretaceous and the polished internal fossil of an Orthoceras, a straight shelled cephalopods related to the Ammonites.  This particular fossil dates from the early Carboniferous and has been sourced from Morocco.

To view the fossil gift set and other dinosaur toys: Dinosaur Crafts for Kids

The fossils are very attractive and finely detailed.  Who knows you may go on to inspire the next generation of palaeontologists.

19 09, 2009

Raptorex A Tiny Dinosaur that was a Blueprint for T. rex?

By | September 19th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Raptorex – A Tiny Dinosaur with a Big Future (Upsets the Tyrannosaur Applecart)

A largely accepted theory concerning the peculiar body shape of Tyrannosaurs with their massive skulls, immense jaws yet puny arms is that something had to give at the front of the animal to counterbalance the weight of that near six foot long skull.  So heavy was the head of a T. rex that gradually the arms got smaller and smaller as natural selection solved the problem of the need to lighten the rest of the front end of the animal to compensate for that increasingly massive, heavy head with its huge jaws.  However, the discovery of a 3 metre long ancient ancestor of T. rex with the same body proportions has upset the scientist’s applecart.  If Tyrannosaurus gradually evolved smaller arms to counterbalance the weight of the increasingly massive skulls, then how come a 1 metre tall, 1/100th scale replica of Tyrannosaurus rex has the same tiny arms and body proportions as its descendant the fearsome T. rex?

The evolution of the Tyrannosaur family is unclear, the fossil record being so poor, but the announcement of the discovery of Raptorex kriegsteini in the magazine “Science” and the papers written about this near complete fossilised skeleton shed new light on the origins of T. rex.

Raptorex has the same big jaws, “D-shaped” teeth, and powerful legs but weighed no more than about 10 stone (65kgs), compared to the 6,500kgs of an adult Tyrannosaurus rex.  This early Cretaceous specimen, believed to have been excavated in northeastern China has been dated to approximately 125 million years ago (Barremian faunal stage).  The fossil indicates that the Tyrannosaur body type and proportions changed little over millions of years except in overall size.

 

An Illustration of a Typical Large Tyrannosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Over the last decade or so, a number of early Tyrannosaur fossils have come to light.  Most palaeontologists now believe that the later, larger Tyrannosaurids migrated from northern Asia to the Americas in the late Cretaceous at some time when land bridges existed between these two landmasses.  Where Tyrannosaurs originate from remains a mystery, with early Tyrannosaur remains being found in places as far apart as China and the Isle of Wight.

Earlier discoveries such as the Isle of Wight Eotyrannus show that primitive Tyrannosaurs were relatively small-bodied, fast running, long-armed dinosaurs.  In fact Eotyrannus has one of the largest hands of any bipedal dinosaur in relation to the size of the rest of its body.  These previous discoveries seemed to indicate that the big Tyrannosaurs were descended from small-bodied, long-armed ancestors.

However, Raptorex kriegsteini looks identical to a big T. rex except that it is the best part of 100 times smaller.  The research team led by the American, Professor Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago have studied the skull of this new meat-eating dinosaur and determined that the shape of the skull with its enlarged olfactory bulbs and big eyes indicate that Raptorex has an acute sense of smell and superb eyesight just like its giant descendant.

A Comparison of Skull Sizes T. rex v Raptorex

Raptorex skull compared to T. rex

Picture Credit: Paul Sereno/University of Chicago

Commentating on the new discovery, lead researcher Dr Paul Sereno, from the University of Chicago, stated:

 “It’s as close to the proverbial missing link on a lineage as we might ever get for T. rex.

He went onto add:

“From the teeth to the enlarged jaw muscles, the enlarged head, the small forelimbs, the lanky, running, long hind-limbs with the compressed foot for hunting prey: we see this all, to our great surprise, in an animal that is basically the body weight of a human or 1/90th the size that ultimately this lineage would reach in T. rex at the end of the Cretaceous”.

The researchers believe that this new dinosaur discovery overturns accepted opinion on the evolution of Tyrannosaurs.  Until now it had been thought that their strange body shape evolved as a consequence of their large size.   The fossil record bears out the previous theory that as Tyrannosaurs developed truly giant size over time, they needed to modify their entire skeletons so they could continue to function as a predators as they grew.

Co-author Stephen Brusatte of the American Museum of Natural History (New York) is confident that Raptorex is going to overturn the evolutionary applecart when it comes to understanding the evolution of Tyrannosauroidae.

He stated:

“Here we have an animal that’s 1/90th or 1/100th of the size of T. rex, about my size, but with all the signature features – the big head, the strong muscles, the tiny little arms – that were thought to be necessary adaptations for a large body predator.  So really we can say that these features did not evolve as a consequence of large body size but rather that they evolved as an efficient set of predatory weapons in an animal that was just 1/100th of the size of T. rex and that lived 60 million years before T. rex”.

Dr Paul Sereno and Raptorex

Raptorex Skeleton

Picture Credit: Mike Hettwer

The picture shows Dr. Paul Sereno adding the final pedal ungual to the reconstructed skeleton of R. kriegsteini.  The pedal ungual is the hoof or claw bearing bone at the end of each toe.

The known fossil record indicates that Tyrannosaurs only grew to huge sizes during the last twenty million years or so of the Cretaceous.

Dr Brusatte stated:

“So that means that for most of their evolutionary history, about 80% of the time that they were on Earth, Tyrannosaurs were small animals that lived in the shadow of other types of very large dinosaur predators.  In short, much of what we thought we knew about Tyrannosaur evolution turns out to be either simplistic or out-and-out wrong”.

It is fascinating to speculate how the Tyrannosaurs were able to become the apex predators in so many environments, gradually usurping other large Theropods.  The fossilised bones of Raptorex are believed to be from a young adult, perhaps no more than six or seven years old when it died.  Although the fossils are associated with sandstone sediments laid down in a watercourse (lake bed), perhaps this early Tyrannosaur hunted smaller dinosaurs, lizards and birds in wooded areas whilst trying to avoid the larger Allosaur type predators such as the Sinraptoridae.

The researchers say that fragments of sand and sediment on the skeleton indicate that it came from an area of northeastern China rich in fossils.  It was dug up illicitly and spirited out of the country and ultimately sold.

The Arm Bones of Raptorex compared to T. rex

Raptorex v T. rex arm bone comparisons

Picture Credit: Mike Hettwer

The species name is named after Henry Kriegstein, a private collector, who bought it from a dealer.  He contacted Dr Sereno in 2006 and asked him to analyse the specimen, and agreed to give it back to science.  Mr Henry Kriegstein, has helped write the research paper and has generously agreed to return the fossil to China.

Update

Debate continues as to whether this is a new genus of primitive Tyrannosaur from approximately 125 million years ago, or indeed a representative of a juvenile Tarbosaurus bataar dating from approximately 70 million years ago.  The problem with this specimen is that there is not a lot of information concerning the location or indeed the geological formation from which the fossil was extracted.  In June 2011, in the peer reviewed publication PLoS One a team of scientists after reviewing the fossil evidence suggested that this was a specimen of a very young Tarbosaurus, perhaps only 36 months old.  If the fossil is proved to be from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation then this specimen would date from 125 million years ago and challenge the accepted view on Tyrannosaur morphology.  However, if after pollen analysis and other such tests to establish biostratigraphical relationships between this fossil matrix and other sediments then this fossil could represent a much more recent Tyrannosaur, such as a juvenile Tarbosaurus.

18 09, 2009

Hats Off to Sir David Attenborough

By | September 18th, 2009|Dinosaur Fans, Famous Figures, Main Page|0 Comments

Hats Off to Sir David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough is a real national treasure.  How we have enjoyed listening to his life stories broadcast on Radio 4.  These radio programmes are a series of short monologues with Sir David Attenborough narrating a number anecdotes from his long career in making natural history programmes.  His enthusiasm and love for the natural world comes across, as does his considerable knowledge about this subject.

He is a keen fossil hunter and has since childhood had a fascination for prehistoric animals such as Ammonites and Trilobites.  I believe he has gathered together over the years, quite a large collection.  Good luck to him we say, and how we enjoyed listening to his latest broadcast when he spoke eloquently about how important trace fossils are.  In his brief monologue on the subject of trackways; he discussed the remarkably well preserved fossils of Solnhofen.  The amazing fossil of a king crab trackway with the trackway preserved in the lithographic limestone and at the end of the trail, the fossilised remains of the arthropod that made them.  Sir David Attenborough also discussed some other trackways from Solnhofen, the mini-motorbike like tracks made by Ammonite shells as they were washed along the bottom of the lagoon by currents.  We have not seen any of these particular trace fossils, but they way in which Sir David described them was quite mesmerising.

To end his segue into the wonders of trace fossils, he discussed the Laetoli footprints.  These hominid footprints (two adults and a juvenile) were discovered in 1978 by Mary Leakey.  These footprints have been dated to around 3.6 million years ago and are believed to have been made by Australopithecus afarensis.  Very few broadcasters can cover such a range and breadth of subject material, especially in a short ten minute programme.  However, Sir David is a very rare and special broadcaster indeed, listening to him talking about fossils, animals and other aspects of nature is a real pleasure.

17 09, 2009

New Spiny Tailed Sauropod from Niger

By | September 17th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

The Discovery of a New Spiky Tailed Primitive Sauropod Announced

The discovery of a new type of long-necked dinosaur armed with spikes on its tail like a Stegosaurus has been announced after research by a joint German and Spanish team.  The fossils of this particular dinosaur were found in Niger (Africa). The dinosaur is to be named Spinophosaurus nigeris (the name means spiny lizard from Niger).  Niger has proved a successful hunting ground for dinosaur discoveries in recent years, famous palaeontologists such as the American Paul Sereno, from the University of Chicago, have led several expeditions to the country and recovered some amazing fossils of new types of dinosaur.

Perhaps the most famous long-necked dinosaur associated with this particular African country is Nigersaurus, nick-named the Mesozoic vacuum cleaner because of the broad shape of this dinosaur’s muzzle.  Spinophosaurus dates from much earlier in the fossil record when compared to Nigersaurus.  It is a much more primitive Sauropod, perhaps it is a type of Cetiosaur rather than the Diplodocid type of Sauropod that Nigersaurus is believed to be.  Fossils of Nigersaurus have been dated to the early Cretaceous, around 110 million years ago, whilst the strata from which the fossils of Spinophosaurus were extracted are much older.  Scientists estimate that this dinosaur dates from the early to mid Jurassic 170 million years ago (Bajocian faunal stage).

An Artist’s Impression of Spinophosaurus

Picture Credit:DPA

During the time of Spinophosaurus, this part of Africa was a vast river delta system in what was the huge, super-continent of Gondwanaland.  Commenting on the discovery of this new dinosaur, and in reference to the primitive skeletal features and strange, spines on the tail, which looked out of place on a Sauropod, Professor Ulrich Joger of the State Natural History Museum in Braunschweig (Brunswick) stated:

“At the time we thought we had found another dinosaur of the Jobaria variety”.

Jobaria is another type of long-necked Sauropod, a Titanosaur that was discovered in Tanzania by a much earlier German expedition.   However, it was formerly named and described by Paul Sereno after much more fossil material was discovered in the Sahara desert in the mid 1990s.  Despite dating from the Cretaceous, roughly the same time period as Nigersaurus, Jobaria retained many features of early, primitive members of the Sauropod clade.

It was a detailed study of the leg bones that led the German team to conclude that they had discovered a previously unknown type of dinosaur.  Jobaria is distinguished by having lighter forelimbs compared to its back legs, but this new dinosaur’s leg bones were very different indicating that this was indeed a new species.

The most remarkable feature of this mid-sized Sauropod is the tail with its spikes sticking out at the end.  Such a tail would have made a very formidable weapon, although such defences on Sauropods are known to science, this is still a very remarkable discovery.  The spikes on the tail resemble those on a Stegosaur.  Palaeontologists refer to the spiked tails of Stegosaurs as “Thagomizers”.  This is not a scientific name but the moniker has stuck after a Stegosaurus tail was described using this word in a Gary Larson cartoon “The Far Side”.

To read more about how this type of dinosaur tail got named: Thagomizer – How the Spikes on the Tail of a Steogsaurus got Named

As more and more Sauropod material is recovered and increasing numbers of caudal bones are found, it seems that several of these long-necked giants were armoured and had defensive weapons.  Although, dermal armour and spines along the body is more closely associated with later Titanosaurids such as Agustinia from South America, at least one other primitive Jurassic Sauropod had an armoured tail.  Fossils of Shunosaurus from the famous Dashanpu Quarry sites near Zigong in Sichuan Province, China, show that these 9 metre long giants had a bony club on the end of the tails.

To view a models of Agustinia and Shunosaurus: Dinosaur Models and Dinosaur Toys

Professor Joger and his team are particularly excited about the discovery of this very early type of Sauropod, hoping that further examination of the skeleton will help the team to piece together the Sauropod family tree.

He commented

“The discovery is of particular importance as this dinosaur sits at the top of the Sauropod genealogical tree.  With this find, Africa moves to the centre of dinosaur research.  But Africa is a politically unstable continent, often making digs there particularly difficult.  There was a far reaching river complex in the area, so the animals we found there were surrounded by an overwhelming presence of life”.

The excavation project was undertaken between 2005 and 2008, mostly in the Republic of Niger. Local nomadic people showed the German scientists where the leg bones could be found, lying exposed as they were. The dig site initially revealed two skeletons, to be taken back to Germany for preparation, before the site was shut down.

Unfortunately for the Germans, it was a Spanish led group that first got hold of one of the skeletons of this newly discovered long-necked dinosaur after hearing about the exposed leg bones weathering out on the rock surface.  Since then, researchers from the two countries have been working together on the specimen in Bonn and Brunswick.

However, Professor Joger revealed that his team had discovered a third fossil specimen, not a Sauropod but a meat-eating dinosaur described as a “raptor”.  This specimen was found in same area just a few hundred metres from Spinophosaurus, and it too, is probably a new genus.  If this new carnivorous dinosaur does turn out to be a raptor (Dromaeosaur type dinosaur), then this would be a very significant discovery indeed. To date such dinosaurs are associated with the northern hemisphere and not known from this part of Africa.

Scientists Working on the Restored Skull of Spinophosaurus

Upside down Spinophosaurus skull being examined.

Picture Credit: DPA

As a thank you for helping with the discovery of Spinophosaurus and the subsequent excavation work, the German scientists have worked with a charity to establish a school for the local tribe and provided many thousands of school books.  Indeed, representatives from Niger are going to be present when the restored fossils are put on display in the State Natural History Museum of Braunschweig next month.

16 09, 2009

United States Government Returns Fossils to China

By | September 16th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

U. S. Government Returns Illegally Imported Fossils to China

Fossils and other ancient artefacts that entered the United States illegally have been returned to China by U.S. customs officials after a number of consignments of contraband were seized in the USA

The fossils are part of what is believed to be a brisk, illegal trade in rare and ancient items from Asia and South America into the lucrative American market.  This particular hoard of contraband included the fossilised bones of a Sabre-Toothed cat, as well as rare dinosaur eggs and fossils of a small Ornithopod dinosaur (Psittacosaurus lujiatunsis), this 2 metre long dinosaur is only known from China and has been dated to approximately 120 million years ago.  The fossils of this particular dinosaur are extremely rare and it was only named and described in 2006.

Officials are aware that there is a large trade in illegally imported fossils and other ancient items from countries such as China into the West, with private collectors prepared to pay very large sums of money for rare pieces, particularly dinosaurs.  These items were seized by US authorities in Chicago (Illinois) and Richmond (Virginia).  A number of dinosaur fossils and other pieces have been smuggled inside passenger luggage and found on inspection of cases and their contents.  Other fossils are discovered when containers and crates are subjected to x-rays and the images produced did not match up with the stated contents on the export or import documentation.

Some of the Seized Fossils on Display

Picture Credit: G. Clary/CNN

The seized Sabre Tooth Cat skull and a skull of a Psittacosaurus can be seen on the left of the picture.

An Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security, John Morton commented:

“The attempt to remove them [the fossils] from China ran up against a network of national and international customs laws that are in place to protect against the theft of cultural property.  We are pleased to return them to their rightful owners, the people of China”.

The confiscated remains including 24 fossilised dinosaur eggs which are believed to date from the Cretaceous were given back to Chinese Embassy officials at a Ceremony held in Washington D.C.

The Chinese Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Xie Feng, thanked the American authorities for their help in getting these rare and precious items back, commentating:

“In recent years, China and the U.S. have developed close co-operation in law enforcement and made steady progress and prominent achievements, particularly in the fields as counter-terrorism, drug enforcement as well as combating other transnational crimes”.

The confiscated fossils and other relics were handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency which investigated the imports and they are now awaiting the arrival of Chinese officials who will escort this cargo back to China.

To read a recent article about Psittacosaurus discoveries: New Species of Psittacosaurus discovered

15 09, 2009

Dinosaur Models Roaring Success

By | September 15th, 2009|Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Dinosaur Models a Roaring Success

Sales of dinosaur models from Everything Dinosaur, keep going up and up, our dedicated team are really making Everything Dinosaur a roaring success.  However, with so many new prehistoric animals currently being prepared as prototypes it looks like we shall all have to undergo extra training so that we can identify them all to make sure they get packed into the parcels ready for despatch.

Dinosaur Models a Roaring Success

T. rex roars!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

With Christmas only just around the corner, it looks our team members are going to have their hands full, but at least the warehouse and the offices are snug and warm, now that the new layout has been sorted.

To visit Everything Dinosaur’s website: Dinosaur Toys and Prehistoric Animal Products

We have moved around a few products and changed some shelving this should make our turn around of parcels even quicker.  Our best time so far (an official record), is thirty-three minutes from receipt of order to it actually being collected and processed, we shall see if we can beat this in the run up to Christmas.

14 09, 2009

Ancient Hominid Remains in Georgia Challenge Theory of Human Evolution

By | September 14th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Ancient Hominid Remains Challenge Theory of Human Evolution

Homo sapiens, our species may have the cities, art and space travel but it could be argued that the most successful type of hominid was H. erectus.  Although their brains were very much smaller than ours, this particular species of human clocked up the greatest amount of time on Earth for a type of human.  H. erectus survived from approximately 1.9 million years ago until about 300,000 years ago.  Some anthropologists have suggested that H. erectus survived until much more recently, somewhere until 53,000 to 27,000 years ago in parts of S.E. Asia.  Now further evidence of the remarkable distribution of H. erectus has been uncovered from a cave in Georgia.

The remains of five Homo erectus, three females and two males, have been found at a cave at the Dmanisi archaeological dig site, south-west of the Georgian capital Tbilisi.  The fossilised skeletons, including excellent skull material, have been dated to approximately 1.8 million years ago, providing further evidence that H. erectus became widespread quite quickly and moved out of Africa early on in their evolution.

This highly adaptable human species is known from other parts of Caucasus region of Georgia and it is certain that some populations of H. erectus must have migrated out of Africa very soon after the species originated.  This northward migration of this particular branch of the human family tree begs the question – what happened to those widespread H. erectus populations?  Did they just die out, or where they eventually out competed by more modern types of human migrating out of Africa?

One of the Fossil Hominid Skulls from the Dig Site

Picture Credit: Georgian National Museum

The dig site has also revealed stone tools and animal bones showing cut marks, indicating that this species of human prepared meat for food.  It is known that H. erectus used fire but whether or not they were able to make fire is unknown.  Perhaps, they kept embers from natural forest fires and used these to provide a sustainable source of heat.

These partial skeletons, represent some of the earliest hominid remains discovered outside Africa, they add credence to the idea of “multiregional hypothesis”, a concept whereby the development of modern humans took place independently in response to similar environmental stimuli leading to separate human populations across Europe.  This contrasts with the more widely accepted theory of human evolution which suggests that there was a later second phase of migrations with H. sapiens migrating out of Africa around 120,000 years ago – a sort of “Out of Africa part 2”.

The Director of the Georgian National Museum, David Lordkipanidze described these people as being short (approximately 1.5 metres tall with males bigger than females), with small brains but strongly developed legs.  These humans lived at a time when Sabre Toothed Cats and other large predators roamed the land.

Professor Chris Stringer, the research leader in early human origins at the Natural History Museum in London commented:

“The fossils are extremely important in showing us a very primitive stage in the evolution of Homo erectus.  They raise important questions about where that species originated”.

It has been estimated that the brain size of H. erectus was little more than half the size of a modern human’s.  Although, the fossil record shows that the brain size of H. erectus increased over time, by approximately one million years ago the brain had reached a capacity of 1,000 millilitres, rising over the next 500,000 years or so to about 1,300 millilitres.  The brain capacity of a modern human is approximately 1,750 millilitres.

The Dmanisi hominids were social, living in family groups and they possessed advanced tool making and hunting skills.  This would lead scientists to deduce that they were able to communicate effectively with each other and they had advanced cognitive skills.

The origins of our species and the evolutionary relationships between hominids remains a hotly debated area of science.  2009 marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s famous work “On the Origin of Species”, it seems our ancestry will remain a mystery for a while longer.

13 09, 2009

The Write Stuff from Everything Dinosaur

By | September 13th, 2009|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

New Pens and Pop-up Pencils from Everything Dinosaur

Just in time for the Christmas rush, our new pens and matching pop-up pencils have arrived in stock.  The ballpoint pens come in three different dinosaur themed designs and write in blue.  Measuring 15cm long they are ideal for little hands and make great, inexpensive party favours or why not have them simply for school.

Joining the pens as an addition to our “Back to School” and “Get Writing” product ranges are our new pop-up pencils with a built in eraser.  These practical pencils should never need sharpening and also come in three attractive dinosaur themed designs.

The New Pens and Pencils Range from Everything Dinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Ideal for school, for Christmas stocking fillers or for party gifts and favour bags these new pens and pop-up pencils from Everything Dinosaur are definitely the write stuff!

To view the dinosaur pens and dinosaur pencils: Back to School Stationery & Other Supplies

12 09, 2009

Hunting for Megalodon

By | September 12th, 2009|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Hunting for a Megalodon

Earlier on today, we received an email from a person in France.  They had just purchased a static display model of a Megalodon shark on Ebay and they were curious to find out more about this particular model.  Having searched online they found an article written by us sometime ago about our search for a model to represent this huge predator of the Miocene and Pliocene.

To read our original Megalodon article: Megalodon Makes its Debut

It is always a pleasure to hear stories from model collectors that have succeeded in finding a model that they have been looking for.  Our emailer kindly sent us the link so that we too could view their purchase.  The model in question is one that we have not come across ourselves and it is certainly a representation of a large lamnid shark.  The model shark is mounted on a base, the body supported by an inconspicuous rod.  The model and base plate show lots of fine detail.  We were a little surprised to read that the base of the model also featured an upturned boat that was supposed to be on the seabed as the shark swam by.  This is a little perturbing as Carcharodon megalodon is believed to have become extinct many hundreds of thousands of years before boat building took place.  However, perhaps the model maker exercised a little bit of licence when creating the model,  Indeed, there are a number of cryptozoologists that believe that this gigantic shark is very much still with us, although most scientists are happy to state that any sightings made are probably just large Great Whites (Carcharodon carcharias).  The model originates in the USA and a television series on Cryptozoology called “Monster Quest” did feature Megalodon.  We think this particular model is related in some way to the TV series.

You never know, and a 15-18 metre Megalodon may one day get caught, after all look at the Coelocanth as an example.

The problem is that scientists (and model makers for that matter), are not really certain what Megalodon or many fossil sharks actually looked like.  The problem is that the shark skeleton is largely comprised of cartilage and this only fossilises in very exceptional circumstances.  Although teeth of the Megalodon are known from a number of sites around the world, the appearance of this animal as seen in scientific journals, books, films and on TV is based on assumptions.

The current debate is whether Carcharodon megalodon as a neoselachian (modern shark) is more closely related to the Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) or a Great White (Carcharodon carcharias).

When it came to finding our own model of a Megalodon shark we used our knowledge of the current fossil record (none of us are specialists when it comes to studying Elasmobranchii – sharks and rays), but we calculated a set of dimensions for this particular animal and then we started our search.

One of our team members was given the task of tracking down a reasonably priced, accurate model that would act as a substitute for the Megalodon. One of the areas of greatest difficulty was determining the size and shape of the caudal or tail fin. This fin has a tremendous amount of variation amongst shark genera. It provides thrust and directional power for the animal and the shape and size of the tail fins can often provide researchers with clues as to the lifestyle, habits and hunting strategy of sharks. After much research the Great White model from the Schleich marine range was chosen. Ironically, the Great White model from Schleich has a caudal fin that is similar in dorsal and ventral appearance to the caudal fin of Tiger Sharks and since the relationship between these neoselachians remains unclear this is one of the reasons why we chose this particular replica.  This has recently been replaced by the Wild Safari Dinos Megalodon (Safari Ltd) in Everything Dinosaur’s prehistoric animal model range.

Our Carcharodon megalodon Model (Great White)

Giant Shark Model

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We also liked the colouration of this particular Schleich replica, we had been working on a new description of the Pliosaur – Liopleurodon and devised a suitable suggested colour scheme related to proposed ambush technique of this predatory shark.

To view our Megalodon model and dinosaur toys: Dinosaurs for Girls and Boys – Dinosaur Models

It is always exciting to hear about a successful model hunt for a collector.   The model purchased by our emailer is an excellent example of shark model making and it looks really good.

11 09, 2009

Arboreal Velociraptors – Sickle Claws Used as Crampons

By | September 11th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|1 Comment

New Study Indicates that Velociraptor Climbed Trees

With the discovery of many more small Dromaeosaurs in recent years, scientists have begun to explore the environmental niche and place in the eco-system of these agile carnivores.  In a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Manchester, animals such as Velociraptor are depicted as tree climbers.  The team suggest that the so-called “sickle-shaped killing claws” on the second pes of the hind feet were not primary weapons but were used to help these animals cling onto struggling victims.

The paper adds weight to the theory that the claws and hind leg muscles were not strong enough to disembowel prey.

Velociraptor is classified as a member of the Dromaeosaurids (the name means swift lizards).  Fossils of this dinosaur have been found in Mongolia, China and Russia.  It is thought that this animal was feathered, this would have helped insulate this active warm-blooded animal.  The curved “killing claw” was up to 9cm long and the hands had three fingers each with an eagle like talon.  The Manchester based team, claim that the hand claws were designed to help this little dinosaur climb trees.  The long, stiff tail that made up over half the length of Velociraptor was thought to help it keep balanced as it turned sharply.  However, a stiff tail could have easily helped this turkey-sized dinosaur maintain its balance on a tree branch, much in the same way as a tightrope walker’s pole does.

A Scale Illustration of a Feathered Velociraptor

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The report, published in the New Scientist provides evidence that the toe claws of Velociraptor were not sharp enough or strong enough to rip through the hide of typical prey animals.  The scientists led by Dr. Phil Manning of Manchester University used a biomechanical model of a Dromaeosaur to calculate the sort of forces the claw could generate.  The team concluded that the sharp-tipped toe claw could puncture skin and help the dinosaur to cling onto prey but it was not sharp enough along the curvature to enable the hide to be ripped open.  Studies of the jaws and dentary of Velociraptor indicate that the mouth could have been opened very wide and we have always thought it was the teeth that did the majority of the damage, perhaps by clamping down on the windpipe and causing death through suffocation or from blood loss as Velociraptors attacked this vulnerable part of many Hypsilophodonts and Iguanodontids.

Now, an analysis of the biomechanics of the hand claw suggests it could have supported the dinosaur’s weight when it was climbing.  Dr. Manning proposes that Velociraptor used its ability to climb to perch in trees and pounce onto prey animals from above.  The toe claws could act like crampons helping these dinosaurs grab onto their prey whilst the 80 or so sharp teeth in the strong jaws went about their business of subduing the poor, unsuspecting victim.

Dr. Manning points out that Microraptor, a tiny dinosaur in the same sickled-clawed Dromaeosaur family as Velociraptor but which lived some 50 million years before, had four feathered limbs to help it glide down from trees.

He commented:

“The leg and tail musculature show that these animals are adapted for climbing rather than running”.

The ability to climb trees may have also provided a useful escape mechanism as these smaller predators tried to avoid larger Theropods.

This new paper does provide an interesting insight into the anatomical structure of the hands and feet of Dromaeosaurs, after all if the majority of these dinosaurs were feathered they would not be the only feathered creatures to take to the trees, just look at the birds for example.

In commenting on the paper, Peter Makovicky, a palaeontologist at the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago), stated that smaller ancestral Dromaeosaurs such as Microraptor may have been climbers, but their descendants adapted the claw for other purposes, such as latching onto prey, much as members of the Felidae (cats) with their sharp, curved claws do today.

He stated:

“You see the same claw shape in the Dromaeosaurs Utahraptor and Achillobator, both of which could grow to 6 metres long and weigh several hundred kilogrammes.  You’d be hard put to find a tree they could climb”.

If you look at modern birds, as a clade they fill a number of niches in the ecosystem.  There are large cursorial forms such as the Rhea, Ostrich and Secretary bird as well as many other types of bird that spend much of their lives in an arboreal habitat.

It is certainly clear from the fossil record that there were many types of small Theropod dinosaur and it is likely that this particular group of dinosaurs filled a number of places in the Dinosauria eco-system.  Certainly, if there were arboreal Dromaeosaurs, forests would have been very dangerous places for small herbivorous dinosaurs.  The implications of this study on the theory of the evolution of the birds from small, bipedal Theropods could also be revisited in the light of the new evidence presented in this paper.

To view a replica of the sickle-shaped claw of a Velociraptor: Dinosaur Crafts for Kids

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