All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
/2009
11 12, 2009

New Theropod Fossil Provides Evidence of Dinosaur Diversification

By | December 11th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Small Meat-Eating Dinosaur Points the way to Dinosaur Diversification

The discovery of a small, meat-eating dinosaur, fossilised in an almost perfect bone preservation state is helping scientists to piece together the evolution of the main types of dinosaur.  This new Triassic dinosaur was discovered during excavations at the famous Ghost Ranch location in New Mexico, (USA).

The rocky ridges at Ghost Ranch, consisting of a sequence of Triassic sandstones, is one of the most famous vertebrate fossil sites in the world.  This location has helped provide scientists with an insight into the dawn of the dinosaurs and the flora and fauna that shared the environment with the first types of dinosaur.  Fossil discoveries in and around the Ghost Ranch site formed the basis of the “Walking with Dinosaurs” episode, “New Blood”, the first episode in the ground-breaking BBC TV series.

The Ghost Ranch site was first excavated by George Whitaker and Edwin H. Colbert from the American Museum of Natural History in 1947, their work helped to unearth more than a thousand specimens of the small, sleek dinosaur predator Coelophysis.  Now it looks like Ghost Ranch has provided evidence of another type of Triassic dinosaur predator.

This new genus of dinosaur, named Tawa hallae, after the Native American Hopi tribe’s name for their sun god – Tawa, is estimated to have measured about 2 metres long.  This bipedal animal shows characteristics of the typical Theropod lineage that was to produce huge carnivores such as Giganotosaurus and T. rex.  A swift and agile hunter, T. hallae had strong legs, relatively short forelimbs but with strong grasping hands and a jaw lined with curved, sharp teeth.

An Artist’s Illustration of Tawa hallae

Picture Credit: J. Gonzalez

The University of Texas based research team responsible for the discovery and analysis of the fossil bones suggest that this dinosaur provides helpful information on the evolution and diversification of the Dinosaur Order.  During this time in the Triassic, approximately 215 million years ago, the super-continent Pangaea was at its largest, representing a single landmass that included Australia, Antarctica, the Americas, India and Africa.  A dinosaur would have been able to walk from the South Pole to the North Pole if it had wanted to.

The research team’s paper, published in the scientific journal “Science” suggests that shortly after the first dinosaurs evolved in South America they split into their three main groups the Saurischian Sauropodomorphs and the Theropods, along with the bird-hipped Ornithischians.

Dr. Sterling Nesbitt, a researcher at the University of Texas in Austin, lead author on the paper, explained that a number of US based scientists were involved in this particular study.  The Tawa hallae bone bed first being excavated in 2004, with more fossil evidence coming to light during a more extensive excavation two years later.  Although a number of Theropod skeletons are known from this location, most notably the Coelophysoidea dinosaur Coelophysis; many of the light, hollow fossil bones are crushed.  However, this new discovery is part of a very well-preserved sequence of strata that has yielded articulated specimens which are up to 95% complete.

Commentating on this new dinosaur, Dr. Nesbitt stated:

When we saw [the specimen] our jaws dropped.  A lot of these Theropods have really hollow bones, so when they get preserved they get really crunched,  but these were in almost perfect condition.”

This new dinosaur genus, is helping to fill a gap in the fossil record.  The skeleton has been dated to around 215 million years ago (mid Norian faunal stage) and puts it only about 15-17 million years later than the very first dinosaurs.  This discovery adds to the evidence that the Dinosauria Order diversified into its three main component groups shortly after the dinosaurs first evolved.

The finding provides strong evidence for an existing hypothesis that dinosaurs originated in what is now South America, and very soon diverged into their main types and then spread throughout the whole of Pangaea.

Dr. David Martill, a palaeontologist from the University of Portsmouth (UK), who was not involved in this study, said this was a “very exciting discovery”.

The Portsmouth University palaeontologist went on to add:

“This… rewrites the evolutionary tree for meat-eating dinosaurs.  This beast shows how important it is to keep going in to the field looking for fossils.  Just one lucky discovery can make such a difference to the way we perceive the evolution of dinosaurs, and any other creature for that matter.”

The Enigmatic and Beautiful Ghost Ranch Formation (New Mexico)

Famous Dinosaur Fossil Location

Picture Credit: Dr. Nesbitt

The discovery of this new, strong-jawed meat-eater may help explain a mystery surrounding the vast numbers of Coelophysis fossils found together.  Coelophysis was a swift-running, bipedal dinosaur with a long tail, long neck and small head.  Scientists have puzzled over why so many of these dinosaurs have been found fossilised together?

An Illustration of the Head of Coelophysis

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Were these animals pack hunters and did they move around in large packs?  Today most vertebrates that move in large numbers are herbivores, scientists have remained curious why so many meat-eaters may have hunted together in the Triassic, perhaps with larger, more powerful carnivores such as Tawa hallae on the prowl it was safer to be part of a large group.  Interestingly, this type of behaviour, not seen in predatory mammals to any great extent, may be part of the explanation why the dinosaurs were able to diversify so rapidly and out compete other terrestrial reptiles that lived at the same time.

10 12, 2009

Pterosaur – The Flying Mystery New Evidence

By | December 10th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Pterosaurs – New Research Provides Support for Orientation of the Pteroid Bone

Pterosaurs or as they are more commonly known, flying reptiles, were not dinosaurs, these remarkable reptiles evolved during the early part of the Mesozoic and they were the first vertebrates to master flight.  Their evolution was all part of the Triassic diversification of the reptiles following the Permian mass extinction event that wiped out approximately 95% of all plant and animal species on the planet.

Although, many types of reptiles had evolved “wing-like” structures that enabled them to glide or parachute; it was the Pterosaurs that evolved active flight, the ability to control with much more certainty the flying motion.  From early, long-tailed Rhamphorhynchoids such as the black bird sized Preondactylus, the Pterosaurs dominated the air until the evolution of the first birds.  The last of the Pterosaurs such as the giant Quetzalcoatlus with its 12 metre wing span were the largest flying animals known in the fossil record.

An Illustration of the Huge Late Cretaceous Pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view a scale model of a Quetzalcoatlus, dinosaurs and other Pterosaur models: Dinosaur Toys and Dinosaur Models

However, with no similar types of animals extant today, scientists have puzzled over a number of mysteries surrounding how these animals, particularly the largest genera, actually flew.  The aerodynamics of the membrane of skin that stretched from the shoulder, to the wing-tip and down to an area near the hind limb were remarkable.  The specialised arms of Pterosaurs with their elongated fourth finger supported this double-sided membrane of skin that formed the wing, but how this wing was controlled to enable flight to take place has puzzled scientists for more than 100 years.

The position of a particular bone, the pteroid and how it could have withstood the stresses of flapping flight, as well as helped to direct the shape of the wing membrane has been a cause of much of the debate amongst scientists.  Unfortunately, despite the relatively extensive fossil record of Jurassic and Cretaceous Pterosaurs, the incomplete skeletons and their crushed state of preservation has led to confusion over the orientation of the pteroid bone and its role in powered flight.  What was needed to help resolve this issue (or at least add to the debate), were a number of well preserved Pterosaur skeletons with wrist bones and limbs that would enable scientists to obtain a 3-dimensional impression of a flying reptile’s wing.  Despite the many superb specimens uncovered from the Santana Formation of Brazil, the fossils found to date were unable to provide conclusive evidence as to the orientation of pteroid bone.

The pteroid bone is a rod-like bone found exclusive in Pterosaurs.  It articulated at the wrist and supported the forewing in front of the inner part of the wing spar.  The function of this bone and its orientation has been a source of contention amongst palaeontologists.  Two contrasting theories have been proposed concerning the orientation of the pteroid bone.  One group of scientists believe that it was orientated medially (towards the body), it pointed towards the body of the animal, leading to a forewing that was relatively narrow.  A second theory suggests that the pteroid bone was directed forwards, away from the body during flight, resulting in a much broader forewing.

Images of Pterosaur and Pteroid Bone

Pterosaur fossil material

Picture Credit: Saku Takakusaki

The image shows the skeleton of a Pterodactyloid on the left and a close up of the delicate pteroid bone that projects from the wrist and supports the forewing (propatagium) in the image on the right.

In a paper published in the scientific journal “The Proceedings of the Royal Society Biology”, the team of researchers from Bristol University and University College, Dublin (Ireland), used biomechanical analysis and the testing of models in wind tunnels to test the position and orientation of the pteroid bone.  The team discovered that the aerodynamic efficiency of the wing structure was greatly improved if the pteroid bone was positioned in an antero-ventral orientation (forwards and putting downwards).  The lift : drag ratios were dramatically improved when the bone was put in this position when compared to other orientations for this bone.  The team claim that the maximum lift generated is exceptionally high when compared to conventional aerofoils, permitting even the largest Pterosaurs to take off and land without difficulty.

Commenting on the sheer size of some of the largest Pterosaurs, Colin Palmer, from the University of Bristol and lead author on the paper stated.

“Based on existing fossil evidence, Pterosaurs are believed to have had a wing span of up to 12 metres and a weight of between 80 and 250 kilogrammes.”

The absence of any similar sized flying animals today, makes assessments of the flying capabilities of large Pterosaurs very difficult.  The wing membranes of bats are also made of skin, but how they are supported by bones is very different to that which is seen in Pterosaurs.  The bat wing is supported by all the fingers except the first digit, the thumb and often extends beyond the back leg to reach the tail.  Even the largest species of bats alive today do not have wingspans approaching anything near as large as some of the Pterosaurs.

Commentating on the importance of understanding the structure and performance of Pterosaur wings, a spokesperson said:

“It affects the speed at which they could fly, which could tell you about the type of life they led, where they lived, and possibly even what they ate.  They are the biggest animals ever take to the skies.”

Such a light and delicate looking wing being able to provide powered flight to an animal with the dimensions of a small aircraft is a remarkable evolutionary achievement.  The Pterosaurs were around for something like 150 million years and they were the first back-boned animals to achieve powered flight.  Further studies will no doubt be undertaken to explore their flight capabilities, perhaps focusing not just on the aerodynamic structures but analysing the brains and senses of these animals that enabled them to control and manipulate their huge wings.

9 12, 2009

British Scientists Begin to Assemble an Iguanodontid

By | December 9th, 2009|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Iguanodon Put Back Together Piece by Piece

The Isle of Wight off Britain’s south coast is one of the most important locations in the world for Early Cretaceous fossils, particularly Dinosauria.  The Wealden Formation of rocks is exposed in the coastal cliffs on the Isle of Wight and they are famous for the abundance and diversity of vertebrate fossils found.  A team of scientists from the Dinosaur museum on the island have been given the task of assembling the backbone of an Iguanodontid that has been eroding out of a cliff face.

Soon visitors to the museum will be able to observe the scientists as they painstakingly rebuild the back bone of this 9 metre long, Cretaceous herbivore, that roamed the Earth approximately 130 million years ago.  Local fossil hunter Nick Chase, first uncovered part of the skeleton, having noticed some fossil bones weathering out of a cliff face.  Over several years he returned to the site to retrieve more of the skeleton as time and tide exposed the remains of this dinosaur.

The preparation work on these fossils is estimated to take around 12 months to complete, before the exhibit can be put on permanent display.  Like many dinosaur skeletons, this specimen has a nick name, it has been called “Big Iggy”.

Commenting on his discovery, which he has donated to the museum, Nick said:

“Once I realised that there was something significant here,it was a matter of going down to the site basically, every tide at least once a day.”

He went on to add:

“As the sea washed away the rockfall, more and more bits would be uncovered all the time.  It is not uncommon to find bits and pieces of dinosaur skeletons along this coast but to find a substantial portion of one is much rarer.”

A number of species of Iguanodon have been identified, from the estimated size of this particular specimen it is likely to be an I. bernissartensis one of the largest types of Iguanodon known.

A Scale Drawing of an Iguanodon

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Once the fossils have been prepared this specimen will take its place amongst the many other fascinating dinosaur fossils found on the island and on display at the museum.

To view a model of an Iguanodon: Dinosaur Toys for Girls and Boys – Dinosaur Toys

8 12, 2009

One of our Dinosaurs is Missing “Walking with Dinosaurs” Theft

By | December 8th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Robotic Dinosaur goes Missing from Walking with Dinosaurs Tour

The Mexican leg of the “Walking with Dinosaurs ” world tour has got off to a shaky start after it was discovered that one of the robotic dinosaurs has been stolen from the show.

The remote-controlled, robotic dinosaur worth an estimated $100,000 USD is one of the stars of the Walking with Dinosaur stage show, that takes the audience through the evolution of the dinosaurs from the Triassic up to the mass extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous that saw their final demise.  The Walking with Dinosaurs tour opened in Guadalajara, in central Jalisco state on Friday and staff discovered that one of the smaller robots was missing after the show closed that day.

A spokesperson for the tour stated:

“Only in Mexico!  How it happened, we don’t know.  We don’t even know if whoever stole it knows its value”.

Torosaurus Stuts its Stuff – a Scene from the Show

Picture Credit: China Daily

To read more about the Walking with Dinosaurs tour: Monster Tour Rocks America

This is the first time an robotic dinosaur has been stolen from the show.  The Walking with Dinosaurs tour began in Australia and has visited North America and Europe over the last two years, being seen by an estimated four million people.

The theft of the 1.5 metres tall robot is ironic, as a number of critics of the tour have claimed the organisers have “ripped off” families by charging very high prices for the ninety minute show.  In the United Kingdom, tickets to see the event cost around £20.00, rising to £35.00 for better seats.  For a family to go to the event it would have cost nearly £100.00, not a small sum in these difficult economic times.

The merchandise available at the show was very highly priced.  A model of a dinosaur could be purchased for £15.00, a nice souvenir but we did note that the same model part of a set of six from Everything Dinosaur could be purchased from ourselves for a great deal less.  The mark up on the model from the organisers, we estimated was something like 600 percent.

Still, we hope the organisers are able to get their dinosaur back.  Let’s hope that the robotic dinosaur is returned safe and sound, as it would be sad if the audiences on the central American leg of the tour could not see the whole show.

7 12, 2009

Prehistoric Mammoth Site Opens to Public

By | December 7th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Columbian Mammoth Site Opened to Public

On Saturday, residents of and visitors to Waco in Texas had the chance to get up close and personal to the remains of a number of huge Mammoths as a palaeontological dig site was opened up to the public for the first time.

The Waco Mammoth Site showcases the remains of Columbian Mammoths that died in mudslides and flooding more than 60,000 years ago.  The Columbian Mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) is a species of prehistoric elephant closely related to their more famous cousins the Woolly Mammoth.  These animals thrived in the warmer temperate regions of the United States during the Pleistocene epoch.  Columbian Mammoths were slightly larger than most Woolly Mammoth types (M. primigenius) and they had slightly less body hair, an adaptation to a warmer habitat.

Visitors to the this new site can walk through a climate-controlled pavilion built over the excavations and watch from walkways as guides explain the story of how these Mammoths came to be buried together.  This marks the completion of the first phase of development, a total of $4 million USD was raised by the Waco Mammoth Foundation.  It is hoped that this site will be recognised as a national monument by Congress. and given national park status.

Exploring the Columbian Mammoth Dig Site

Picture Credit: Associated Press

Like many bone beds the fossils were found by accident.  In 1978, two walkers discovered unusual looking rocks whilst walking along the Brazos and Bosque rivers, one was taken to the Baylor University in Waco, where an expert identified this object as fossilised Mammoth remains.  A number of excavations have taken place subsequently and a total of twenty-four Columbian Mammoths have been found, with perhaps more located on the 100 acre site.  Indeed, the remains of another Mammoth was unearthed when construction work was taking place, building the facilities and the visitor centre.  Other fossils have also been found, most notably the remains of a prehistoric camel.

Initial theories proposed that the Mammoths, possibly a herd, all died together in a mudslide after being trapped in a ravine, but as the site has been studied; a new hypothesis emerged.  It looks like there may have been two local extinction events, the first involving a herd of females and their young (nineteen in total), which died in the mudslide.  One adult specimen was found preserved with the fossils of a youngster close by, perhaps it had died trying to protect the young Mammoth by lifting it out of the mud.  A later flooding event caused the death of the other Mammoths found at this location.

The remains of sixteen animals were removed in the early 1990s, these are now in storage.

Explaining why the fossils were removed, Anita Benedict, the collections manager at the Mayborn Museum at nearby Baylor stated:

“We couldn’t protect them, because once they’re exposed, the can deteriorate.  We plan to leave these in the ground, but at some point we may do more excavation”.

The first phase of development has now been completed and this site is open to the public, but it is hoped that further funds will be raised and that more work can be done on this ancient elephant burial ground.

6 12, 2009

What is the most Popular Dinosaur Toy?

By | December 6th, 2009|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

What is the Most Popular Dinosaur Toy?

One of our team members picked up an email sent in from an American customer the other day, it simply asked us what is the most popular dinosaur toy?  A relatively, simple question but one that is not as straight forward to answer.

We do keep tabs on trends with dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, these are often influenced by movies and television programmes.  For example, we have seen a surge in popularity for sloths, mammoths and sabre-toothed cat merchandise following the introduction of Ice Age III – Dawn of the Dinosaurs on DVD.

Everything Dinosaur is unique in that it carries out an annual survey into the most popular prehistoric animals each year.  There are no prizes for guessing that Tyrannosaurus rex still rules the roost and is at number one.  We are currently compiling our new survey looking at the trends over the last year.

To view the most recent survey: Popular prehistoric animal survey

5 12, 2009

Are Aetosaurs Dinosaurs?

By | December 5th, 2009|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Are Aetosaurs Dinosaurs?

Aetosaurs were a group of armour plated reptiles that evolved in the Early Triassic and survived to the end of the Triassic period.  Although many of these mainly herbivorous animals, shared the environment with dinosaurs they were not members of the Dinosauria.  Dinosaurs and Aetosaurs are members of the Archosaur group (means ruling reptiles).  These reptiles evolved in the Permian and diversified in the Triassic into a a variety of forms.  Early on in their history, the Archosaurs split into two distinct clades, both clades have extant representatives.  You can still see examples of Archosaurs today.

The first clade was the Ornithodirans – Pterosaurs, Dinosaurs and Birds

The second clade was the Crocodylotarsians – otherwise known as the crocodile-group.  Representatives of this group were the Aetosaurs, Phytosaurs, Rauischians and the Crocodiles of which the descendants are still around today.  By the beginning of the Jurassic all the Crocodylotarsians, except the crocodiles were extinct.

Unlike the Dinosauria and their ankle bones with an upward projection, allowing the weight to be supported in an upright posture, the Crocodylotarsians had a different ankle joint arrangement.  The structure of the ankle joint gave this type of Archosaur their name as Crocodylotarsians means “crocodile ankle”.  These ankle joints allowed these reptiles to twist their feet to the side whilst walking, a more sprawling or semi-upright stance.

Aetosaurs belonged to the crocodile-type of Archosaur.  Most Aetosaurs had large bony plates covering their bodies.  This formed a heavy, protective body armour.

A Close up of an Aetosaur – Paratypothorax

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Ironically, although Aetosaurs are not closely related to birds, since birds belong in the Ornithodiran clade of Archosaurs, the Aetosaur name means “Eagle Lizards” as when the first skulls of these animals were studied; it was remarked how closely the fossils resembled the skulls of eagles.

4 12, 2009

Now we Know How Santa Feels

By | December 4th, 2009|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Working Hard to Ensure Orders are Packed and Despatched

This time of year, things get a little hectic for the team members at Everything Dinosaur, what with all the Christmas orders coming in.  We really love this time of year, it is great to be involved and helping to make all those young dinosaur fan’s Christmas mornings get off to a fantastic start.  Mums and Dads are pleased to have us on their side too, after all, not everyone knows where to get hold of an Amargasaurus at short notice.

Trouble is, if we are not careful our own Christmas shopping plans tend to get postponed.  At the moment we are open even longer hours than usual and packing and despatching six days a week.  This leaves us little time for Christmas shopping so we have all got used to doing our Christmas shopping in October and November.

One thing we have noticed is that we seem to drink more coffee and tea this time of year, perhaps it is chilly in the warehouse or just all these early morning starts.  Still we keep cheerful and can look forward to the 25th of December, although putting up Christmas decorations in the office is a bit difficult, firstly there is not a lot of room and secondly it is finding the time to put them up during this busy period.

3 12, 2009

Paint your own Dinosaur

By | December 3rd, 2009|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Paint your own Dinosaur – Dinosaur Mould and Paint Set

Inspired by those clever palaeontologists at museums whose job it is to recreate dinosaurs, the Everything Dinosaur mould and paint set makes an ideal Christmas gift.

The kit comes complete with four dinosaur models, Diplodocus, Stegosaurus, a fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex and a Triceratops, with paints and brushes everything you need to create your own dinosaur badges or fridge magnets.  The fun part is that you get to design your very own dinosaur.  Will you paint them with stripes, or spots, or perhaps in camouflage colours?  What colour will the frill of bone on the Triceratops be?  Remember since scientists don’t actually know what colour dinosaurs were, as colour rarely fossilises, your guess is as good as the top scientist in the world – it would be very difficult to prove your spotted, blue Diplodocus wrong.

The Paint and Play Set from Everything Dinosaur

Moulding and Painting Dinosaurs

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view dinosaur craft ideas: Dinosaur Craft ideas for Children

2 12, 2009

Prehistoric Fact Finders

By | December 2nd, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page|3 Comments

Prehistoric Fact Finders – An Entertaining and Informative Christmas Gift

A team member at Everything Dinosaur was asked the other day by the parent of a young dinosaur fan whether they could recommend a Christmas gift idea for their little girl who was obsessed with dinosaurs.  She knew all the names, and how to pronounce them plus lots of facts about dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Brachiosaurus.

The parent wanted to encourage her child, (she has already declared her interest in becoming a palaeontologist), by obtaining a fact based gift for Christmas, but something a little more “hands-on” and interactive than a book.

Books by their very nature are very “hands-on” but we suggested the Prehistoric Fact Finders as a suitable gift idea.

Prehistoric Fact Finders

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This double-sided prehistoric fact finder features forty dinosaurs and prehistoric animals and is packed full of amazing facts and statistics.  Simply turn the wheel and lots of fascinating facts about the animal selected is revealed – where it lived, how it got its name, what it ate, all sorts of stuff.  There are hundreds of facts all contained in the wheel and it can be used as a ready reference.

Should do the trick when it comes to providing a dinosaur fact mad young girl with lots of information about her favourite dinosaurs.

To view Prehistoric Fact Finders and Books about Dinosaurs: Dinosaur Books for Kids

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