All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//July
22 07, 2010

Cool Dinosaurs – Mojoceratops

By | July 22nd, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

New Species of North American Ceratopsian – Mojoceratops

One of the fascinating aspects of vertebrate palaeontology is looking into the origins of the scientific names given to species.  Whilst the Ceratopsians are currently in the spotlight with controversial theories being put forward as to the validity of Torosaurus latus and with the publishing of a comprehensive guide to horned dinosaurs (New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs: The Royal Tyrrell Museum Ceratopsian Symposium), it is worth reflecting on one of the more unusual of their kind – Mojoceratops.

Mojoceratops, a new genus of Chasmosaurine (horned dinosaur with a long-neck shield and with brow horns usually bigger than the nose horn), was named after its flamboyant heart-shaped neck frill.  The name that was blurted out by the discoverer, Nicholas Longrich (postdoctoral associate at Yale University) after a few beers with colleagues has stuck, after all, it is very appropriate as Dr. Nicholas went onto explain.

“It was just a joke, but then everyone stopped and looked at each other and said, wait that actually sounds cool.”

The Skull and Huge Neck Crest of Mojoceratops (M. perifania)

Picture Credit: Dr. Nicholas Longrich

The picture shows a ventral (side) and anterior (front view) of the skull of this newly discovered horned dinosaur.  The fossils were found in the Dinosaur Provincial Park (Alberta, Canada) and have been dated to the Late Cretaceous, approximately 75 million years ago (Campanian faunal stage).  The ornate epoccipitals (bony growths around the edge of the frill) are very prominent and the two holes in the crest were probably covered in skin when the animal was alive.  The skull and crest are very similar to the fossilised remains of another Dinosaur Provincial Park resident Chasmosaurus russelli.

The neck frill would have looked very spectacular when this dinosaur stomped around western Canada 75 million years ago, the crest may have been used for visual communication amongst herd members, perhaps to ward off rivals or to attract a mate. Researching into the origins of the word “mojo” Dr. Longrich discovered that the joke name that he had thought of on the spur of the moment is very appropriate.

He commented:

“I discovered that “mojo” is an early 20th Century African-American term meaning a magic charm or talisman, often used to attract mates.  This dinosaur probably used its frill to attract females (or males if this is a female), so the name makes sense”.

The specific name published in the scientific description earlier this month is Mojoceratops perifania.  The species name is Greek meaning “pride”, all advanced Ceratopsians known in the fossil record had frills on the top of their skulls and whilst animals such as Triceratops may be more famous, it seems that Mojoceratops had the most ostentatious frill known to date.

Dr. Longrich got his first clue that he might have found a new species at the American Museum of Natural History (New York), where he was studying the dinosaur fossil collection in 2008.  There, he found a distinctive frill that didn’t match anything previously known.  Later, while sketching the skull of another specimen on display, which was thought to be a species called Chasmosaurus, he noticed the skull was identical to the one on the specimen next to it.

He explained:

“I realised the skull on the supposed Chasmosaurus must have been a reconstruction.”

When he examined the skull closely Longrich noticed some subtle differences from the Chasmosaurus holotype, including longer horns.  Investigations carried out at other museums with Ceratopsian fossil collections turned up more examples that did not fit the Chasmosaurus holotype.  Expressing surprise at the discovery of a new genus of horned dinosaur amongst fossil collections that have been extensively studied Nicholas added:

“The fossils we were studying didn’t look like anything we had seen before.  They just looked wrong.”

According to Longrich, finding yet another previously unknown large dinosaur species in the Dinosaur Provincial Park area, a part of the world that boasts the world’s most diverse dinosaur fauna, is a little surprising, especially since the area has been so closely studied.

He commented:

“So far, we really have no good explanation for why there are so many dinosaurs in the area and how they managed to coexist.”

The unique geology of the Dinosaur Provincial Park may explain why so many vertebrate fossils have been found in that part of the world.  It was certainly a lush habitat but an explanation of the large numbers of dinosaur fossils, especially the extensive bone beds has recently been proposed – this prehistoric coastal area was hit from time to time by ferocious tropical storms.

To read more about this theory: Northern Alberta Centrosaurine Bone Bed

All in all, Longrich turned up eight partial skulls of the new species, which now boasts a name with just as much flair as its unusually shaped skull.  However, with all the reclassification of horned dinosaurs going on at the moment coupled with more recent studies into Dinosauria ontogeny (growth rates), it may be just a matter of time before Mojoceratops gets reclassified.

21 07, 2010

More Fossil Evidence of Proboscidea found in South America

By | July 21st, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Elephant Fossils Found in Brazil

When people today are asked about elephants they associate these members of the Class Proboscidea (animals with trunks) with Africa and India.  Those extant species that survive today are strongly associated with the African Savannah and the Indian sub-continent.  However, the elephant lineage is long and the fossil evidence indicates that over the course of the Cenozoic these animals have existed in some form or other over much of the globe.

For example, the United Kingdom has its fair share of prehistoric elephant fossils, perhaps most notably the West Runton elephant.  Partial remains including elements of the pelvis, skull and tusks of an enormous prehistoric elephant (Mammuthus trogontherii) were discovered eroding out of the sea cliffs at West Runton, near Cromer on the Norfolk coast in 1990.  A complete excavation took place in 1995 and evidence of a ten tonne giant elephant was revealed.

A report from Brazil states that scientists have described a fossil tooth, that could only belong to an elephant in the Amazon jungle.  The existence of elephants in South America in prehistory is not disputed, especially when one considers the excellent fossil material of Cuvieronius that has been found in Argentina and Bolivia.  This elephant genus was originally named and described by that great French scientist and anatomist Georges Cuvier back in 1808.  These fossils and those of another member of the Gomphotheridae – Stegomastodon (Stegomastodon platensis) indicate that a number of elephant genera were present in South America.

What is unusual about this fossil tooth from the Amazon, is that it has been dated to just 45,000 years ago, indicating the presence of elephants in South America during the Pleistocene Epoch, whereas the elephant fossils found to date are from the earlier geological Epoch, the Pliocene.

Scientists from Brazil say that this fossil tooth, proves the presence of Pachyderms in South America as recently as 45,000 years ago.  The tooth had been discovered in the early 1990s, around the time of the excavation work on the West Runton elephant, but it was only recognised as a tooth from an elephant after a close examination by a University student from the Federal University of Minas Gerais.

Commenting on the find, palaeontologist Mario Cozzuol of Federal University stated:

“Only elephants and capybaras have teeth with this kind of laminate structure, but those of capybaras are no longer than five centimetres, while the fossil measured twelve centimetres.”

Earlier fossil discoveries had indicated that ancient elephants were present in Central America during the Pleistocene, but there was an absence of evidence to indicate that elephants from North America had migrated further south.  Both the African and Indian elephant are very much at home in enclosed forest environments, so the existence of ancient elephant species in the forested Amazon basin would not be entirely surprising.

To view a model of a prehistoric elephant and dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

20 07, 2010

Review of Prehistoric Times (Issue 94)

By | July 20th, 2010|Dinosaur Fans, Magazine Reviews, Main Page|0 Comments

Review of Prehistoric Times Magazine (Summer edition)

The eagerly awaited next edition of the quarterly magazine Prehistoric Times arrived late last week, sent over from the United States as promptly as ever.  Prehistoric Times is the magazine for dinosaur enthusiasts and model collectors.  Once again this Summer edition does not disappoint, we loved the front cover artwork depicting two time travellers coming face to face with a Tyrannosaur in some ancient, primeval jungle.  The artist Mark Rehkopf produced this illustration especially for the magazine and there is an interview with Mark and a showcase of some of his work on the inside pages.

The Specially Commissioned Artwork for Prehistoric Times

Summer edition

Picture Credit: Mark Rehkopf/Mike Fredericks

The featured prehistoric animals this quarter are Therizinosaurs (a special on Scythe Lizards) plus an article on amazing Pterosaurs and an update on Megalodon facts and fallacies.  Once again there are lots of examples of reader’s artwork featured and a really fascinating article written by the excellent Tracy Lee Ford on swimming Psittacosaurs.  Great to see a review and some super pictures of the Museum of Ancient Life in Utah (we really must send in some pics and information on the museums we work with).  Also, in the book review section there is an unbiased and informative review on the new Horned Dinosaurs book – “New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs: The Royal Tyrrell Museum Ceratopsian Symposium”, a definitive study of horned dinosaurs (not withstanding the current controversy over T.  latus and T. horridus.

All in all a super magazine and well worth the subscription.

To visit the Prehistoric Times website: Prehistoric Times

19 07, 2010

New Fossil Discovery from Saudi Arabia provides Evidence of Monkey/Ape Divergence

By | July 19th, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Educational Activities, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Saadanius hijazensis – New Oligocene Primate sheds light on Divergence of Apes

Saudi Arabia 30 million years ago, looked very different than it does today.  Much of this desert kingdom was a lush and verdant paradise for the rapidly diversifying mammalian species.  Bordering the last remnants of the once mighty Tethys ocean there were extensive mangrove swamps and thriving in this half-way house environment between the land and sea were a number of genera of monkeys and other arboreal creatures.  The discovery of a partial cranium (part of the skull) dating from approximately 28-29 million years ago, may have shed light on the divergence of the apes from Old World monkeys.

In the hills overlooking the Red Sea a team of scientists have unearthed the fossilised elements of a skull of an ancient creature that may be a transitional fossil showing a point in the evolution of apes from monkeys.

The skull could help palaeontologists to answer questions about the life of primates in a geological epoch that until now has provided few fossil clues.  The report on this fossil and its potential implications regarding the evolution of apes is published in the scientific journal “Nature”.

Commenting on the discovery, Iyad Zalmout, a palaeontologist with the University of Michigan and an author of the paper stated:

“It turns out it’s not an ape, it’s not a monkey, it’s something intermediate.”

The expedition were a little surprised to find the fossil, their primary objective being to explore the coastal sediments to excavate ancient whale fossils, helping to piece together the evolution of this particular group of mammals. They were not expecting to find ancient monkey/primate remains, especially skull material which could provide a fresh insight into the evolution of apes from Old World monkeys.

A Photograph of the Skull Material

Picture Credit: Nature/Zalmout et al

The picture shows an anterior view of the skull material (view from the front) on the left and a ventral view (view from the side) on the right.  Although fragmentary, the nasal concha (hole where the nose tissue would be) is clearly visible, along with the nasal bone (links nose to the eyes) and elements of the maxilla.  The face although elongated and angular does have a flattened appearance, a characteristic of apes and of our own hominid ancestors.

This new genus has been named Saadanius hijazensis and it shares morphological features with a family of apes known as the Propliopithecoidea, an ancestor of apes and monkeys that lived more than 30 million years ago.  The fossil record of monkeys from this part of the Cenozoic is particularly poor, arboreal dwelling animals do not generally have a high potential for fossilisation to occur.  This is due to a number of factors but living in a forested environment leads to very few chances of a corpse being fossilised and preserved.  S. hijazensis lacks the advanced sinuses of extant apes and monkeys (collectively called Catarrhines), however, it does have a bony ear tube that was not fully developed in the Propliopithecoidea.

Commenting on the discovery, Erik Seiffert, an anatomist at Stony Brook University in New York said:

“This fossil is really key because it has that bony tube.”

He went on to add that comparison of the bony tube and other features such as the teeth and the forward facing position of the orbit (eye sockets) with those of other primates could help palaeontologists to build up a more complete picture of the ape/monkey family tree.

Zalmout and his co-authors are confident that S. hijazensis could help scientists make sense of “competing hypothesis” about how the shape of Catarrhine skulls changed over time.  One theory put forward by palaeontologists based on the limited fossil evidence found to date is that the Catarrhines developed long, flat faces relatively early on in their evolutionary history.  Other scientists, such as comparative anatomists point out that modern, extant genera such as gibbons, have rounder faces and use this evidence to suggest that long, flat faces evolved much later.

The fragmentary Saadanius fossil has a long, flat face and this discovery has excited scientists as it lends support to the theory suggesting the evolution of the flat face very early on in ape evolution.

Erik Seiffert stated:

“This evidence [Saadanius fossil] very clearly supports the palaeontological point of view.”

However, other scientists warn on the over reliance of fossil evidence to prove a particular theory.  For example, facial features may be distorted over the long preservation and fossilisation process, geological pressure can crush, compact and distort features.  Eric Delson, a palaeontologist from Lehman College of the City University (New York), suggested that fossils may only reflect part of the diversity of a group of particular animals, making it difficult to draw precise conclusions.

All the scientists agree that the discovery of more ancient transitional fossils will help to shed light on the evolutionary relationships between different groups.  Saudi officials, keen to promote tourism have already taken steps to preserve this particular dig site.  This will afford palaeontologists the opportunity to explore the area in more depth, perhaps unearthing more fossils that can indicate how Saadanius moved around its mangrove environment and what it ate.

Delson put it succinctly stating:

“It would be interesting to know whether these primates were beginning to come down from the trees and to know something about what they were eating.”

Welcoming the news that Saudi officials want to preserve the site and to promote fossil tourism Zalmout concluded:

“In my experience, if you find one primate there should be more there.  This will be important to see the whole story about fauna in Arabia and Africa.”

We at Everything Dinosaur look forward to reading about future discoveries.

18 07, 2010

Today is Nelson Mandela Day

By | July 18th, 2010|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Famous Figures, Main Page|0 Comments

Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela

Today, is the ninety-second birthday of Nelson Mandela, a man whose humility and humble dignity has done much to advance the course of world peace.  Mandela’s immense achievements and role on the world stage are far to many to list on this small web log article, but clearly he has been one of the most influential political leaders in the last one hundred years or so.  He is a world icon, his role in the destruction of apartheid, his presidency of South Africa and his role as a human rights advocate have been well documented, but he has also done much to promote education and the study of science in South Africa and beyond.

The 18th of July has been declared Nelson Mandela International day. To commemorate this and, as it is his birthday, we wanted to reflect on his support for education and the teaching of science.  The Nelson Mandela Foundation supports a vast range of educational and science themed projects – many of them centred around South Africa’s particularly rich fossil heritage.

For example, the annual Nelson Mandela Science Lecture, held last November featured Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum presenting a talk on Darwin, Africa and the origins of our own species.  Although, perhaps as not widely known as his other achievements, Nelson Mandela has done much to open up the South African education system and to permit access to learning to far more people in South Africa and neighbouring countries.

The Nelson Mandela Science Lecture is a partnership project between the Africa Genome Education Institute and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.  The 2009 lecture was held jointly with the Darwin200 series of lectures, a partnership project of the Africa Genome Education Institute & the Division of Human Genetics at the University of Cape Town.

Just another example of the great man’s influence on his beloved South Africa and the world – many happy returns Mr Mandela.

17 07, 2010

Cave full of Marsupial Fossil Treasures Discovered in Queensland

By | July 17th, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|1 Comment

Australian Discovery Provides Evidence of “Mob” Behaviour in Ancient Marsupials

By the late Eocene, Australia had become isolated from the rest of the world.  Here in splendid isolation, its primitive mammals, especially the marsupials were allowed to evolve unheeded without the frequent migration of other types of creature into Australian habitats.  In contrast to their South American cousins, which were usurped from many environmental niches by more modern placental mammals from North America, the Australian marsupials survived as the dominant group in this part of the world.

Scientists from the University of New South Wales have reported on the discovery of a cave which contains a substantial number of prehistoric marsupial fossils.  Their findings are reported in the scientific publication “The Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology”, analysis of the fossils indicate that they are approximately 15 million years old (dating to the middle of the Miocene Epoch).

The cave is located in the northwest of Queensland, near to the famous Riversleigh site, an area famous for its prolific quantities of Cenozoic mammal fossils.  Riversleigh is a relatively remote area, with few townships and lots of ranches.  Evidence for Australian marsupials ranging from 23 million years ago to less than 20,000  years old have been found.  Fossils have been excavated from the Riversleigh area for more than 100 years but the real breakthrough which put this relatively obscure part of Australia firmly on the palaeontological map occurred in 1983 when a few weathered blocks of Riversleigh limestone revealed more than 30 new species of mammal.

For much of the Miocene and Pliocene Epochs this part of Australia was a lush lowland rain forest that was teeming with life.  One particular site at Riversleigh has been recorded as one of the most vertebrate fossil rich locations known.  In 1983, a two cubic metre block of limestone yielded 58 new mammal species.  The Riversleigh area is a limestone terrain which in the Miocene had a lot of surface water.  These were ideal conditions for bone preservation.

One of the Beautifully Preserved Nimbadon Fossil Skulls

Picture Credit: Associated Press

The cave system contains a number of complete prehistoric marsupials skeletons, their discovery has revealed some surprising similarities between these ancient creatures and extant species of modern-day kangaroos and koalas.

The cave has kept the fossils beautifully preserved.  The fossil find includes 26 skulls from an extinct, wombat-like marsupial called Nimbadon (N. lavarackorum).  The herbivorous Nimbadon was approximately the size of a sheep, but with giant claws.

Co-author of the study, University of New South Wales palaeontologist Mike Archer commented:

“It’s extraordinarily exciting for us.  It’s an extra insight into some of the strangest animals you could possibly imagine.”

The cave was found in the mid 1990s and has been extensively explored.  The scientists were amazed at how well preserved the fossils were and the large number of fossilised bones discovered at the site.  The number of skulls found together (twenty-six) suggests that these particular marsupials may have travelled as a group or to use an appropriate collective noun a “mob”.

The scientists remain unsure as to how all the animals ended up in the cave.  One theory put forward suggests that the mob of kangaroos fell into the cave through a whole in the roof that had been obscured by overgrowing vegetation.  These poor animals would have either been killed by the fall or become trapped and starved to death.

One of the Complete Fossilised Skeletons found at the Cave Site

Prehistoric Skeletons

Picture Credit: Associated Press

The fossil bones include the remains of joeys still in their mother’s pouches.  This gives the researchers an insight into how these ancient marsupials developed.  The skulls of the babies reveal that the bones at the front of the face developed quite quickly, this would have allowed the joey to suckle from its mother at an extremely young age.

Karen Black, the expedition’s leader, commented that the Nimbadon joeys developed in a similar way to extant kangaroos today, probably being born after a month’s gestation and crawling into their mother’s pouch for the remainder of their development.

The large claws indicate a potential arboreal existence, with Nimbadon climbing trees in a similar way to modern Koalas.  With large marsupial predators in the area, animals such as the carnivorous kangaroo Ekaltadeta and the marsupial “tiger” the Thylacine, being able to climb trees may have been a very effective strategy for defence.

Discussing this significant discovery, palaeontologist Liz Reed of Flinders University (South Australia) stated:

“To find a complete specimen like that and so many from an age range is quite unique.  It allows us to say something about the behaviour and growth and a whole bunch of things that we wouldn’t normally be able to do.”

Australia may be well known today for its unique fauna and flora but it seems back in the Miocene the unusual life in the Riversleigh area would have given today’s strange Australian natives a run for their money.

16 07, 2010

Dinosaurs Unleashed – Poster Picture

By | July 16th, 2010|Dinosaur Fans|0 Comments

Dinosaurs Unleashed

Straight off the presses, a first peak at the new Dinosaurs Unleashed poster that is being prepared for a dinosaur exhibition organised by Everything Dinosaur and the BIC.  Looks like their is going to be some monster fun!

Tyrannosaurus rex on the Attack

Picture Credit: BIC

Designed to help boost tourism at the seaside town of Bournemouth (Dorset, southern England), we think that the dinosaur exhibition, that will include some of the items used by Everything Dinosaur in their very popular dinosaur workshops in school, will be a “roaring” success.

16 07, 2010

Frogs from Switzerland

By | July 16th, 2010|Animal News Stories, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Swiss Frogs – Frogs from Switzerland

One of our team members had been recounting to a friend how well our frogs in the office pond had done this year.  We had a record amount of frog spawn and this has resulted in a multitude of baby frogs in and around the office pond.  However, we had not seen the number of tadpoles encountered by a traveller whilst on holiday in Switzerland.

The pictures taken of a vast shoal of tadpoles in the shallows of a Swiss lake, certainly put the numbers of tadpoles we had seen in our pond to shame.  Whilst walking close by to the lake, a strange dark patch was seen in the shallows and it was only when observed at close quarters that the viewer discovered that they were tadpoles – thousands of them.

The Huge Shoal of Tadpoles in the Swiss Lake

Picture Credit: COL/SPJ

The tadpoles shoal together in vast numbers presumably as a protection against predators.  Switzerland may not be famous for its reptiles and amphibians but it has a number of native species including frogs, toads, newts, as well as snakes, lizards and we think a terrapin, although our expertise on central European fauna is a little limited.

A Close up of the Tadpoles

Picture Credit: COL/SPJ

The tadpoles were estimated to be more than 2 cm long with large, well developed heads.  It is difficult to be certain as to what species they are, after all, we are not very knowledgeable when it comes to the fauna of Switzerland but at a guess we would say that they are what we in the UK call the Common Frog (Rana temporaria).  The Swiss call this frog – Grasfrosch.

15 07, 2010

The Extinction of Torosaurus – Second Time Around

By | July 15th, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|1 Comment

American Study Suggests Torosaurus is Actually an Elderly Triceratops

The horned dinosaurs, known as Ceratopsians were some of the very last kinds of dinosaur on Earth.  These horned, long-frilled prehistoric monsters grew bigger than elephants and they ranged across North America from Colorado in the south up to Alberta and Saskatchewan in the north.  Although, their bones and fossils have been studied for more than 120 years, new research suggests that the genus Torosaurus (Torosaurus latus) could well be examples of elderly Triceratops and not a separate and distinct genus from Triceratops at all.

The study of the main groups of advanced, horned Ceratopsians – the Centrosaurines and the Chasmosaurinae is marked by the enormous amount of classification and reclassification of these huge reptiles.  Now a new study from leading American scientists proposes that those fossils assigned to the genus Torosaurus, a genus that was originally named in 1891, actually represent mature and elderly specimens of Triceratops (T. horridus).

Scale Drawings of Triceratops and Torosaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Torosaurus fossils are much rarer than Triceratops remains and the claim for specimens of Torosaurus being the animal with the one of the longest skulls of any known dinosaur has been cast into doubt if the entire genus is eliminated from the Chasmosaurinae family tree.  More importantly, if this theory is proved correct, then it demonstrates that towards the end of the Cretaceous there was much less diversity amongst Dinosauria than previously thought.

The reclassification was first proposed at an international meeting of fossil experts last year.  However, a paper on the research has been published in the scientific publication “the Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology”.  Montana State University researcher John Scannella and famous palaeontologist John “Jack” Horner lay out a detailed case for reassessing the fossils ascribed to the genus Torosaurus and placing these specimens under Triceratops as they suggest the Torosaurus fossils are just mature and much older specimens of Triceratops.

The U. S. based scientists examined the skulls and other bones of fifty Torosaurus and Triceratops individuals.  Their research concluded that the distinctive size and shape of the neck frill on the fossils thought to be from Torosaurus specimens really represented examples of Triceratops that had been lucky enough to survive into the late stages of life.

It is intriguing to consider that no juvenile Torosaurus skulls have been recorded, adding credence to the theory of Torosaurus being a Triceratops OAP.  The study of the growth of animals is called ontogeny, scientists are now aware that certain dinosaurs changed dramatically over their lives and these changes have often led to the misinterpretation of fossil evidence.

Significantly, the scientists state in their study, Triceratops’ elaborate headgear continued to grow and change throughout its life cycle, creating the impression of subtly different species at different dig sites.

And the revelation that Torosaurus and Triceratops are the same species, the American scientists argue, adds further evidence that dinosaur biodiversity had severely diminished in the years just before their worldwide extinction about 65 million years ago.

Scannella and Horner comment in their paper:

“Triceratops and ‘Torosaurus’ were proposed to be the last of their lineages.  Collapsing the two species into one shows that dinosaur diversity was more depleted than traditionally thought well before the end of the Cretaceous Period.”

Scannella said he and Horner tried for three years to look for alternative explanations for their findings.  They finally agreed that the Triceratops and Torosaurus were the same dinosaur.

Montana State University doctoral student John Scannella said he presented his and Jack Horner’s findings at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Conference in Bristol, England, last year and it was met with equal parts intrigue and scepticism.

Commenting on his work Scannella added:

“Scepticism is important and a good thing.  But, so far, all the evidence we have strongly supports the idea.”

Indeed, the two palaeontologists tried to find ways to explain their findings, examining possible alternative theories, but in the end they concluded that Torosaurus and Triceratops may, after all, not be distinct species.

An Illustration of the Proposed Triceratops’ Ontogeny

Ceratopsian growth.

Illustration Credit: Holly Woodward (Montana State University undergraduate student)

The illustration above compares a Triceratops (on the left) with that of a Torosaurus (on the right).  The green and yellow colours in the enlarged frill represent additional neck frill growth if Torosaurus specimens are really older individuals of the Triceratops genus.  Scientists had long since speculated that these Maastrichtian faunal stage dinosaurs were closely related, but this new research suggests that specimens represent the same species but at different ages.  Although the skulls of these two dinosaurs are similar, many scientists had thought the neck crests were distinctive.  Triceratops for example, being regarded as having a solid neck crest, whereas, Torosaurus had a pair of large fenestrae (skin covered holes) in its skull crest.

The history of the study of Ceratopsians is full of reworkings of once accepted scientific data, at one time in the past, almost a dozen species of Triceratops were assigned but now there are just two.  Like a herd of these late Cretaceous leviathans on the move, we think this debate will rumble on..

14 07, 2010

Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Bournemouth International Centre

By | July 14th, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Dinosaurs Unleashed Visits the Jurassic Coast

Dinosaurs Unleashed – the unique dinosaur experience is visiting the Jurassic coast of Dorset for the Summer holidays.  The Purbeck Hall at the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) is the venue for this dinosaur themed family attraction featuring a huge 30 metre-long Diplodocus and a host of other life size prehistoric monsters.

A total of twenty-two animatronic dinosaurs will be at the exhibition, very appropriate to have the likes of a huge, fearsome Megalosaurus, a vicious Jurassic carnivore and the enormous Diplodocus also from the Jurassic at Bournemouth – on the Jurassic coast.  Visitors will get the chance to get up close to the huge, robotic dinosaurs and to explore the prehistoric aquarium that depicts life 160 million years ago up the road in the Lyme Regis area.  Take time out to see Ammonites, Ichthyosaurs and a giant Liopleurodon swimming by on the hunt for Plesiosaurs in the computer generated attraction.

Some of the Everything Dinosaur team members had the opportunity to visit the Dinosaurs Unleashed exhibition in London before it was opened to the public.  The early start was well worth it as the enormous animatronic models were spectacular.

The Tyrannosaurus rex at London (Oxford Street)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Lovely to see that as well as dinosaurs such as Plateosaurus, Ornitholestes, Iguanodon and Othnelia (some of the more unusual models) there is the chance to see the fantastic model of Placerias (the huge Triassic Dicynodont that lived alongside the first of the dinosaurs).

Look out for the fearsome Deinosuchus (huge crocodile), one false move and you could well end up as his dinner.  Watch your step or the mob of feathered Velociraptors could ambush you.

A series of Dreamoc 3-D displays provide a holographic-like, free floating video narrative, hosted by the famous wildlife expert Chris Packham, this information as well as the plentiful display boards permits mums and dads to keep one step ahead of all the young dinosaur experts who we know will be swishing their tails with excitement at the thought of visiting the BIC and the Dinosaurs Unleashed exhibition.

A truly interactive experience, the next generation of young palaeontologists can get amongst the fossils as they unearth their own dinosaur.  Leading computer technology enables visitors to create their own colourful dinosaur, there are quizzes and puzzles galore aimed at young children from 3 years and upwards.

Regular presentations from trained professionals will be taking place throughout the holidays, allowing visitors to gain an insight into the amazing world of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals from the Mesozoic.

This fun and highly interactive exhibition runs from Saturday July 17th until September 5th and it is open from 10am each day.

For further information and tickets about dinosaur events, check out the Everything Dinosaur blog.

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