All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//September
10 09, 2010

Low Tides Could Lead to a Fossil Finding Bonanza

By | September 10th, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

Lowest Tides of the Year Likely to Draw Hordes of Fossil Hunters to the Dorset Coast

The lowest tides of the year are forecast to occur along parts of the UK’s Jurassic coast this weekend says the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.  This could lead to a number of exciting fossil finds as a combination of rough seas in the previous few days and low tides expose potential new discoveries.

Fossil hunters are expected to flock to Lyme Regis and nearby Charmouth on the hunt for Ammonites, Belemnites and fossils of marine reptiles.  Although the chances of finding a dinosaur are remote, the low tides will expose areas not normally able to be explored and the recent pounding the cliffs have taken from the bad weather could reveal many new finds.

Fossil Finds at Lyme Regis

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows a selection of fossils found at Monmouth beach west of Lyme Regis in just a few minutes from one of our Everything Dinosaur team members.  A mixture of Ammonites, Belemnites and a piece of fossilised vertebrate bone was discovered.  The chances of finding such items are increased this weekend with the lowest tides of the year forecast, however, there is a caveat to all this.  True, there may be low tides as a result of the extreme spring tides this autumn but this will also result in higher than normal high tides.

The beaches and cliffs around Lyme Regis can be dangerous places.  It is all too easy to get cut off and trapped by an incoming tide.  Care needs to be taken and it is vitally important to check the tide times.

For an enjoyable fossil hunting experience, Everything Dinosaur team members recommend visitors to the Dorset coast take advantage of the many professionals who offer fossil finding walks.

One such professional fossil hunter is Brandon Lennon, who runs daily fossil hunting trips at Lyme Regis.

To visit Brandon’s website: Lyme Regis Fossil Walks

We look forward to hearing about all the new finds, perhaps even another Scelidosaurus fossil – that would be fantastic!

9 09, 2010

The Herrerasaurus Error Syndrome

By | September 9th, 2010|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Ancient Predator is a Proof Reading Nightmare

Herrerasaurus (H. ischigualastensis) is a bizarre animal, regarded by many scientists as a dinosaur, one of the earliest dinosaurs known from the fossil record, although the number of fused vertebrae over the hips has led some palaeontologists to question its taxonomic status.  Named after a goat farmer who found the first fossils of this dinosaur in the Ischigualasto Basin in north-western Argentina, fossils of Herrerasaurus date from approximately 227 million years ago.  For us this unusual, five-fingered prehistoric animal is interesting enough, and an important scientific discovery but proof reading books and articles about is a nightmare.

There are certain prehistoric animals that cause writers and journalists problems, Herrerasaurus is certainly one of them, it is frequently spelt incorrectly.

An Illustration of Herrerasaurus

Herrerasaurus Drawing

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

As we try to help by proof reading papers and such like we often find that the second “e” is missing or an “r” out of place.  It is easily done, this swift predator perhaps rivals Archaeopteryx (A.lithographica) in  terms of the problems it causes writers and proof readers alike.

8 09, 2010

New European Meat-eater Discovered – One Lump or Two?

By | September 8th, 2010|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Early Cretaceous Hunchbacked Hunter from Spain

A discovery of a bizarre Theropod (meat-eating dinosaur) announced in the scientific journal “Nature” has led scientists to re-examine current theories about the evolution of feathers and the dinosaur/aves link.  This new genus of predatory dinosaur with bony bumps on its arms and a strange lump on its back may provide evidence that feathers evolved earlier than previously thought.

This new species is just one of a number of amazing Early Cretaceous vertebrate fossils discovered at the Las Hoyas site in Spain, in the Iberian Mountain Ranges of Cuenca Province.  Due to the exceptional state of preservation, Las Hoyas, like the Liaoning area in China, is one of the world’s most important fossil sites for understanding the transition from dinosaurs to birds.  Palaeontologists have unearthed from the finely grained sediments, many thousands of well-preserved fossils of birds, most of these have been found in slightly younger strata than the rocks from which this new Theropod comes from, however, this new species of meat-eating dinosaur with its strange arms may shed new light on the dinosaur/aves relationship.

The new species has been named Concavenator corcovatus (the name means “humpbacked hunter from Cuenca”), although just one fossil specimen is known, it is remarkably complete and represents (we think), only the second case of a Theropod dinosaur from the Calizas de la Huerguina Formation.  In fact despite the superb quality of other vertebrate specimens recovered from Las Hoyas, very few fossils of Dinosauria have been found at the site.  Perhaps the most famous dinosaur discovered in this region of Spain is Pelecanimimus polydon, the first Theropod dinosaur to be found.  P. polydon is believed to be an Ornithomimid, a fast running dinosaur that some scientists have suggested may have fed on fish.

Concavenator was definitely a hunter, measuring about 4 metres long, this agile dinosaur may have preyed upon other small vertebrates that shared its environment.  It has been dated to around 130 million years ago (Barremian faunal stage).  Although, the Las Hoyas area today is a hot and arid area, back in the Early Cretaceous the site was a lush, tropical, wetland paradise with many rivers leading to a large, shallow lake.

An Artist’s Interpretation of Concavenator corcovatus

Picture Credit: Raul Martin

The discovery of a new type of European meat-eating dinosaur is exciting in itself, but what has got the researchers really in a flap is that this new specimen may shed further light on the evolutionary link between the Theropods and the birds we see around us today.  For palaeontologist Francisco Ortega of the National University of Distance Learning in Madrid, who led the research, the strange bumps on the forearms could provide evidence of feathers in a dinosaur belonging to a branch of the dinosaur family tree not known for their feathered forms.

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

The research team think that the bumps and nodes on the forelimbs may have been part of structures that anchored the quills in proto-feathers to the arms of Concavenator.

A feathered Theropod is not that unusual, for example, a number of types of meat-eating dinosaur are believed to have been feathered, but they all belong to one particular clade within the Sub-Order Theropoda – the Coelurosauria.  This part of the Theropod family tree contains clades such as Maniraptoriformes and the Dromaeosauridae types of dinosaur such as Bambiraptor, Dromaeosaurus and Velociraptor that many scientists now believe were feathered.  Analysis of the fossilised skeleton of C. corcovatus suggest that this dinosaur was not a member of the Coelurosauria, but more akin to an Allosaur (Allosauroidea), a clade of dinosaurs not known for their feathers.  The Allosaurs are in essence a different branch of the Theropod family tree.

Commenting on the research, Professor Mike Benton, of the department of vertebrate palaeontology at the University of Bristol, (United Kingdom) stated that the bumps on Concavenator’s arms:

“look exactly like the insertions of rather massive flight feathers on bird wings.”

An Enlarged Image of the Foreman of Concavenator compared to an Extant Bird Species

Evidence of feathers on the Ulna?

Picture Credit: Nature

If Francisco and his co-workers have interpreted the “bumps” correctly, this implies that dinosaurs showed feather-like structures much earlier than previously thought.  Unless the development of proto-feathers within members of the Allosauroidea is evidence of convergent evolution (the acquisition of the same biological features by unrelated lineages), this Spanish based research suggests that the common ancestor of both the Coelurosauria and the Allosauroidea may have sported primitive feathers.

Evidence of “bumps” on the ulna bones of dinosaurs have also been discovered.  In an analysis of Velociraptor material; a sequential line of bumps and nodes was found along the ulna, these too were interpreted as being evidence to suggest that Velociraptor was feathered, although no fossils indicating feather impressions have been associated with this genus.

To read more about the analysis of the ulna of Velociraptor: Evidence of feathers on the arms of Velociraptors

Ortega went on to suggest that a member of the Neotetanurae (new stiff-tailed Theropods), the common ancestor of both these two predatory dinosaur branches:

“could have been feathered.”

This hypothesis is really pushing back the date at which the first feathered dinosaurs may have evolved.  The Neotetanurae are associated with the Middle Jurassic such as the Bajocian and the Bathonian faunal stages (170 to 160 million years ago), many millions of years before the Coelurosauria are believed to have evolved.

Francisco Ortega added:

“We’re pushing back the time when bird-like structures appear.”

The scientists have been puzzling over another aspect of this, most definitely cursorial (despite the potential feathers) dinosaur, it had a strange hump on its back,  The eleventh and twelfth vertebrae stick out about twice as far from the animal’s body as the rest.  This does not seem to be pathology (evidence of an injury or disease), but some sort of support for a structure, like a hump or a fin of some kind.  Unlike the long flowing sails of Spinosaurus or indeed the extravagant appendage of the Ourannosaurus, C. corcovatus seems to have a short crest.

The Prepared Fossil Skeleton of C. corcovatus

Concavenator

Picture Credit: Nature

The picture shows the prepared fossil skeleton of Concavenator, displayed showing the typical “death posture” of a meat-eating dinosaur.  As the carcase lies on the surface undisturbed, it dries out and the tendons in the neck and tail contract leading to an arching effect as the tail and head bend towards each other.

Scientific opinion is divided as to what the crest could have been used for, perhaps it was used for visual communication between individuals or members of a hunting pack, or it could also have been used to help this relatively small dinosaur to regulate its body temperature (thermo-regulation).  If this dinosaur was feathered, or at least partly feathered; the feathers could have helped insulate the animal and keep it warm, aiding the thermo regulation offered by the crest.  Alternatively, if the crest was predominately used for display then the feathers on the arms may also have helped in the visual displays.

One thing is for certain, until more fossils of this type of dinosaur are found, the role of the crest will remain disputed, however, Professor Benton summed up this new genus very concisely when he stated that”

“We can’t say anything about it other than: isn’t it weird?”

This new dinosaur discovery poses another question in relation to bird biology according to Professor Benton:

“What is the range of feather-like structures among dinosaurs which don’t exist in any birds today?”

The bumps on Concavenator’s arm evoke those on feathered birds, but may have been anchors for other structures such as bristles built from keratin, the same protein that makes up feathers, fur and nails.  There may be other evolutionary dead ends like strange bumps on the arm of this Spanish dinosaur among dinosaurs that modern-day bird biologists would like to know about, the Professor added.

The research leader Francisco Ortega agrees that there is probably a great deal more to learn about the evolutionary relationship between Dinosauria and Aves.

He went on to state:

“We’re going to have to conceive of more dinosaurs as being more like birds.  Most Allosaurids are depicted as plodding animals, quite distant from birds.  What this tells us is that they may have included more bird-like species too.”

7 09, 2010

Cold Climate Fauna – Mammoths and Woolly Rhinos in Spain

By | September 7th, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Spanish Team Review Prehistoric Fauna in Iberian Peninsula

A team of Spanish researchers have reviewed the fossil evidence for cold climate fauna in the Iberian Peninsula and although the likes of Woolly Mammoths, Woolly Rhinos and Reindeer (mega fauna) were relatively rare, there is evidence to suggest they existed in this part of southern Europe some 150,000 years ago.

The researchers, from two Spanish Universities, the University of Oviedo and the Complutense University of Madrid collated all the fossil evidence for the existence of species associated with cold climates, extinct animals such as the Woolly Rhino (Coelodonta antiquitatis) as well as extant species such as the Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) and the Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus).  Using these species, as well as several others, as prehistoric indicators of cold climates; the team have linked their work to the palaeoclimatic scale created on the basis of the isotopic composition of oxygen in ice cores taken from Greenland.

Commenting on the study, lead author Diego Álvarez-Lao, a researcher in the Palaeontology Department at the University of Oviedo stated:

“The findings of cold climate fauna in the Iberian Peninsula coincide with the periods of greatest global cooling recorded in the ice of Greenland.”

The paper, published in the scientific journal “Quaternary International” reveals that the most ancient fossils of mega fauna adapted to cold climates found in the Iberian Peninsula belong to mammals which lived in isolation in Spain approximately 150,000 years ago.

Diego Álvarez-Lao went onto add:

“The glacial fauna entered the Peninsula at that time because the environmental conditions in central and northern Europe were so extreme that the animals were obliged to migrate to the south, where the climate was less severe.”

The faunae can be plotted against ancient climate data and the research suggests that animals adapted to a cold climate became more prevalent in Spain about 45,000 years ago, as cold periods alternated with milder, warmer periods.

According to the research team, the last findings of these cold species date back to just 10,000 years ago, and coincide with the end of the last glacial phase.  At that time the climate became warmer and the more settled climate of the last ten millennia helped the human population thrive in the more favourable habitat.  The increase in temperatures across the northern hemisphere led to the faunae that was most suited to glacial environments being forced to migrate into more northerly latitudes.

A spokesman for the researchers, commenting on the demise of animals such as the Woolly Mammoth said:

“The increase in temperatures caused a genuine biological crisis for these animals from extremely cold climates.  Some species such as the Reindeer and the Arctic Fox found their new habitat in the Arctic regions of the planet, where they still survive today.  Others, such as the Woolly Mammoth and the Woolly Rhinoceros were not so lucky.”

Spain 150,000 Years Ago?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view a set of prehistoric mammals and dinosaur toys: Dinosaur Toys for Children – Dinosaur Models

The research team used analysis of pollen remains to assess the landscape of the period in which the great mammals lived in the Iberian Peninsula comprised mainly of “steppe-like” flora.  The researchers conclude that trees would have been very scarce in the times of extreme cold and environmental aridity.

A total of seventy-two sites were studied, most in the north, but also in the south of the Peninsula, the researchers point out that these prehistoric animals co-existed with two species of human, the Neanderthals and our own species (Upper Palaeolithic era in Western Europe).

To view a forensic kit based on a real Neanderthal skeleton and other prehistoric themed craft kits: Dinosaur Crafts for Children

Article information supplied in part by Plataforma SINC (07/09/2010) – Woolly Mammoth, Woolly Rhinoceros and Reindeer lived on Iberian Peninsula 150,000 years ago, findings show – Science Daily.

6 09, 2010

Dinosaurs – Giving Them Some Flannel

By | September 6th, 2010|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Proofing Dinosaur Flannels

Another day and another interesting job for team members at Everything Dinosaur.  Yesterday, whilst visiting a trade show we came across a company that manufactured bathroom accessories.  They had on display a dinosaur flannel for young children, unfortunately, there were a number of spelling mistakes and inaccuracies on this item and we approached a person on the trade stand and pointed this out to them.

They were most apologetic and asked us to examine the other flannels in their range to see if we could find any other mistakes.  The flannels come in egg-shaped packets that expand and reveal a flannel when they are dropped into water.  The set consists of six different prehistoric animals – Tyrannosaurus rex, Velociraptor, Pteranodon, Triceratops, Stegosaurus and Brachiosaurus.

Our plan is to immerse the packages into water and then once the flannels have expanded, we will proof read and check the information, making corrections as appropriate.  It’s all in a day’s work for us, we do a lot of checking and proof reading for various companies and organisations, it is surprising what mistakes we uncover, or should that be dig up?

5 09, 2010

Thirsty Work – Fossil Hunting

By | September 5th, 2010|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

New Dinosaur Themed Water Bottle from Everything Dinosaur

When going out on fossil hunts, whether in the UK or working abroad, it is always important to keep hydrated.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur pack a water bottle along with the other essentials that they take with them on such expeditions.  We had for some time been looking for such an item to add to our back to school range, to be able to offer a dinosaur themed drinks bottle to go along with the school backpacks and lunch boxes that we also provide.

Just introduced is the stainless steel dinosaur themed water bottle.  A robust and durable drinks bottle with a leak-proof twist cap.

The Everything Dinosaur Stainless Steel Dinosaur Themed Drinks Bottle

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This stainless steel water bottle has a capacity of 12 fluid ounces (355 mls) and is sturdy and robust enough to withstand the knocks and bumps associated with being carried in a palaeontologist’s rucksack (or school bag for that matter).  The dinosaur themed pattern matches the design on the Everything Dinosaur school lunch bag.

To view more details on the dinosaur water bottle and other dinosaur themed back to school items: Back to School and Other Supplies

It is quite a well known fact that most people do not intake enough fluids, when working on a beach or cliffside, perhaps when exploring a quarry it is amazing how quickly we can become dehydrated, especially if we are working in warm weather.  It is all to easy to be so busy concentrating on looking for fossils and to forget to take in fluids.  There are a number of signs to look out for to indicate that you are in danger of becoming dehydrated, we have provided some below:

Some Tell Tale Signs of De-Hydration

1). Thirsty

2). Dry mouth and throat

3). Reddening of the face and skin (not to be confused with sunburn or blushing)

4). Feeling tired

5). Dizzy feelings, especially if you get up quickly

6). Dark coloured urine

7). Inability to concentrate

Fluid intake is very important, helping to maintain a healthy mind and body, which is why we are delighted to be able to include this dinosaur themed stainless steel water bottle in our product range.  Ideal for school, trips out and even for fossil hunting, just what young palaeontologists need for their own expeditions.

Some of the Essentials for Fossil Hunting

Water bottles – very important on a fossil dig

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

4 09, 2010

How did Plateosaurus get its Name?

By | September 4th, 2010|Main Page|2 Comments

Plateosaurus – The Naming of “Flat Lizard”

With the start of the Autumn term, team members at Everything Dinosaur get the chance to go into schools to conduct experiments and explain some of the things we know (and some of the things we don’t know) about dinosaurs.

During one such dinosaur teaching session this week, we were asked by an inquisitive eight year old, how did Plateosaurus get its name?  Plateosaurus (pronounced plat-ee-oh-sore-us), was one of the first dinosaurs to be formally named and described, although it was not ascribed to the Order Dinosauria by Sir Richard Owen at the time that the term Dinosauria was first used  This was due to the fact that those fossils that had been studied were fragmentary and a complete picture of this plant-eating dinosaur had not yet emerged.

Plateosaurus was a large herbivorous dinosaur, perhaps one of the first large herbivores to evolve.  Its fossils have been found in numerous locations in western Europe.  Growing up to eight metres in length and weighing more than an Indian elephant, this Triassic plant-eater was one of the largest land animals ever to walk the Earth up to around 200 million years ago.

An Illustration of Plateosaurus

Plateosaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This dinosaur, often referred to as a “Prosauropod” is believed to be quite closely related to those other Saurischian plant-eaters, the long, necked Sauropods such as the Diplodocids and Cetiosaurs.  Plateosaurus was formally named and described in 1837 by the eminent German palaeontologist Hermann von Meyer, whose birthday it was yesterday (born September 3rd 1801), the day we were asked this question by the school girl.

Three years ago we reported on the discovery of a huge Plateosaurus bone-bed in Switzerland, a site that had the remains of hundreds of individual animals awaiting excavation.

To read more about this story: Europe’s Largest Dinosaur Graveyard Discovered

As for the name, “Flat Lizard” does not seem appropriate for a dinosaur that weighed 4,000 kilogrammes approximately.  Quite how Plateosaurus got its name is shrouded in mystery.  It may have been the fifth dinosaur genera described, but the etymology of the name is unclear.  The original scientific descriptions do not shed much light on this matter.

However, the Swiss-American scientist Louis Agassiz, (thanks to David for pointing our our mistake, much appreciated) offered the explanation that the name refers to the Greek “platys” for paddle or rudder which when translated into Latin (these languages are used by scientists to name creatures, so that all academics, where ever they may be can understand the name), the word becomes “pala” – spade-like.  Based on this, Agassiz consequently renamed this dinosaur “Platysaurus”, now an invalid junior synonym for Plateosaurus.  The name could refer to the broad, flat shoulders, a relatively unique feature in Reptilia at the time this dinosaur was first described.  After all, Plateosaurus is believed to have been a facultative biped, i.e. capable of adopting a two-legged stance when it wanted to and then reverting back to its quadruped posture.

Other scientists copied the work of Agassiz and Plateosaurus (broad or flat lizard) as we know it today became established, but the truth is no one can be really sure as to why this dinosaur was named as it was and for what reasons.  Although, the likes of Plateosaurus has been known for at least 170 years or so, it is surprising how little we really understand, even the name is shrouded in mystery.

As with many things in palaeontology, my colleague tells me that she has heard of a different reason as to why Plateosaurus got its name.  In ancient Greek “plateia” means broad, or broad way, could the derivation of the name have its roots in ancient Greek for broad shoulders?  If this is the case then “Flat Lizard” should actually be referred to as “Broad Lizard”.

Could anyone come up with an explanation for the genus of marine crocodile – Geosaurus (Earth Lizard)?

To view dinosaur models including Plateosaurus: Dinosaur Models and Toys

3 09, 2010

Oceans “Gripped” by Sixth Mass Extinction Event

By | September 3rd, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Educational Activities, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

Australian Scientist Warns of Marine Environment Mass Extinction Event

Our influence on the climate leading to global warming and the acidification of the oceans, over fishing and other human activities are leading to a mass extinction according to an Australian study.

Extinction is the complete, global end for a species, mass extinctions are major reductions in the diversity of life and the geological fossil record shows that there have been five major extinction events in the Phanerozoic era (visible life – the last 545 million years).  In a new paper published in the journal “Science” the fossil record of marine life suggests that this current environmental pressure on the oceans could lead to such dramatic extinctions that the world could take tens of millions of years to recover.

Dr. John Alroy from Macquarie University in Sydney analysed the fossil record for oceans, dating back to the Cambrian period (over 500 million years), to study how major changes in marine animal groups take place.

In the Late Ordovician for example, many types of Arthropods, Molluscs, Corals, Graptolites and Echinoderms became extinct.  Extinction events are happening all the time, there is a “background” level of extinction and periodically this “background” rate increases.  However, scientists recognise just five major extinction events in the geological record, the last, and perhaps the most famous being the mass extinction event 65 million years ago that saw the end of the Dinosaurs.

Dr. Aloy used an example from the greatest mass extinction event known to science – the Permian mass extinction, that occurred approximately 250 million years ago.  Species of animals known as lamp shells, which had dominated sea-beds, were suddenly replaced by clams and snails.

He stated:

“The lamp shells were all over the place and diverse for a quarter of a billion years, then the biggest mass extinction in the history of life on earth happened – the Permian-Triassic extinction – and they went from being all over the place, to being rare and not very diverse.”

Previously, scientists had thought that these mass extinctions were governed by the slow unwinding of predictable evolutionary “rules” that operated over  hundreds of millions of years.  However, this new research contradicts this hypothesis.

Dr. Aloy commented:

“What my paper shows is that this story is fundamentally wrong, in that it doesn’t take into account the way a big evolutionary innovation or mass extinction can overturn the rules.  The change in the balance of groups is not random.  It’s not that some groups have good luck and some have bad luck.  There has actually been a resetting of the rules of evolution.”

From our own perspective, at Everything Dinosaur we do believe that serendipity does have an effect on evolutionary success.  For example, our species, H. sapiens are still around, but the Neanderthals are extinct.  To become extinct the Neanderthals did not have to fail, just to be slightly less successful than competing species.  Dr. Aloy paints a bleak picture for the world’s oceans, human activities such as over-fishing, ocean acidification and the introduction of alien species are threatening to trigger a mass extinction event.

He added:

“It’s not just a mass extinction, but a massive reshuffling of species across the globe.  We’re simultaneously ruining the environment and selectively wiping out certain groups.”

The research paper indicates that a combination of pressures and stresses could leave ocean biodiversity devastated, Dr. Aloy stated:

“Things are so bad right now in so many different ways it’s very hard to imagine that you wouldn’t have a big long-term overturn in the balance of groups.”

The geological record shows that life on Earth took many millions of years to recover from such extinction events.

“It will take tens of millions of years before there is a full recovery with respect to the number of species in the ocean and the balance of groups.  It will establish a new order that will persist for a very long time.”

Extinction is a consequence of natural selection and the interaction between ecosystems and the environment, a number of studies indicate that a large and diverse range of organisms are endangered or threatened with extinction.  Indeed, a rough estimate often quoted is that one species of vertebrate goes extinct every day.

2 09, 2010

New Giganotosaurus Model from Schleich

By | September 2nd, 2010|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

New Scale Model of Giganotosaurus from Schleich of Germany

The long awaited Giganotosaurus model from Schleich has just been launched and Everything Dinosaur, is one of the very first companies to get their stock.  This beautifully painted, scale model of Giganotosaurus (giant southern lizard), shows this large Allosaurid as a robust and stocky animal, much as depicted by Paul Sereno et al.

Schleich Giganotosaurus Model

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view a model and other dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys for Boys – Dinosaur Models

The Giganotosaurus model measures over 36cm long and the head stands nearly 20cm off the ground.  The model is well proportioned and the teeth and jaws are particularly well painted.

Close up View of Giganotosaurus Model

Schleich Giganotosaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

It certainly is a fearsome beast and makes a very nice addition to the Schleich Saurus range.  This is the only new dinosaur model Schleich intend to launch this year, but there are plans for new models in 2011 and 2012, dinosaur fans will have to wait and see what comes out but for the time being there is this new Giganotosaurus interpretation to satisfy their appetites for exciting dinosaur figures.

1 09, 2010

Putting the Burgess Shales in the Shade

By | September 1st, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

Canadian Scientists Discover new source of Cambrian Fossils

A team of Canadian scientists have discovered a treasure trove of Cambrian fossils, including eight new taxa at a location high in the Canadian Rockies, just 25 miles from the famous Burgess Shale sites.  This discovery may herald a new era in palaeontology as more Cambrian fossil sites may exist, many more than previously thought.

It was the famous American palaeontologist Charles Walcott, who first came across a profusion of fossils in shale beds, at the site that was to become known as the Burgess Shale.  He found the fossils quite by accident as he walked along a high ridge in the Rockies.  The date of his discovery was 31st August 1909, now a team of Canadian researchers exactly, one hundred and one years and one day later, have announced the discovery of a new fossil rich location that could put the Burgess Shale in the shade.

Burgess Shale fossils are so important, as not only are the hard parts of organisms preserved, but in many cases evidence of soft tissues and actual body parts have also been preserved.  Many palaeontologists regard the specimens from the Burgess Shale as the most perfectly preserved fossils from any geological period, quite an accolade as the strata dates from more than 500 million years ago.

It had been thought that the Burgess Shale fossils were unique and that no other locations would have the exact geological features that would have permitted such a large amount of fossil material to be preserved.  With the discovery of this new fossil rich site, with its own exquisitely preserved specimens, just 25 miles from the original Burgess Shale location, many more such fossil rich areas may soon be discovered.

The creatures entombed in the Burgess Shale deposits inhabited a marine environment directly under a submarine cliff.  Mudslides from this cliff buried these animals, but significantly the mud was low in oxygen.  Rapid burial in a de-oxygenated environment led to a slowing down in the decomposition of body tissues.  Often these tissues were permineralised (replaced by minerals) and consequently much better preserved.

Burgess Shale fossils actually occur in several locations, but they are all contained within a small area of the Rockies, around the little town of Field in Yoho National Park (British Columbia).  All the fossils are found in strata belonging to the Stephen Formation, which in some parts is extensively exposed and represents deposits over 250 metres thick.  However, a team of scientists led by palaeontologist Jean-Bernard Caron of the Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto) have reported finding Burgess-like fossils in the valley of the Stanley Glacier in Kootenay National Park.  At this location, the Stephen Formation is exposed but in much thinner strips, no more than 160 metres thick.

Writing in the scientific journal “Geology” the team report that about 50% of the animal groups represented at the Stanley Glacier site have been found at other Burgess Shale locations, but in different abundances.  This information will help the scientists to learn more about the evolution and diversity of Arthropods such as the Trilobites for example.

Trilobites were a highly successful Order of marine Arthropods, that arose in the Cambrian and eventually became extinct at the end of the Permian approximately 250 million years ago.

A Model of a Trilobite

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view more amazing prehistoric animal models: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

Commenting on this new site, Peter Allison, a geoscientist at Imperial College (London) stated:

“This new locality adds to our knowledge of the environments where these organisms lived and died and thus adds important context.”

Eight new taxa, previously unknown to science have also been unearthed.  These new organisms include a new, as yet unnamed worm, a new member of the Anomalocarids, a predatory group of nektonic (actively swimming) predators and another type of Arthropod with primitive eyes on stalks that projected from its head shield.

The new Anomalocarid has been named Stanleycaris hirpex in honour of the Stanley Glacier.  All these creatures inhabited an area of warm, equatorial sea just off the coast of the landmass known as Laurentia.

A Picture of a Typical Anomalocarid

Picture Credit: BBC Worldwide/Framestore

Anomalocarids were a group of predatory Arthropods, that have no extant relatives.  Some of these marine hunters were up to ten times bigger than any other animal living at the time, with some specimens estimated to be approximately 2 metres long.  They had large, rotund eyes on stalks and under the head, a circular shaped mouth with sharp interlocking plates that could crush the exoskeletons of Trilobites and other marine creatures.  The curled front appendages had sharp spikes on them and scientists believe that these pincer-like organs were used to grab prey.  The name Anomalocaris (pronounced An-oh-mal-low-kar-is) means “odd shrimp”.

The Stanley Glacier fossils were not formed in the presence of a submarine cliff.  This suggests that creatures can be fossilised in amazing detail under other geological conditions, giving rise to the possibility of many more Cambrian fossil sites with soft body preservation being found.

The research team state:

“We consider it likely that future exploration and study will continue to yield new taxa from the “thin” Stephen Formation, which is exposed over a broader area regionally than the “thick” Stephen Formation.”

To read more about amazing discoveries and the work of the Royal Ontario Museum: Discoveries from the Cusp of the Phanerozoic

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