All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
/2010
21 12, 2010

Relatives of Tyrannosaurus rex were Vegetarians

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

New Study Shows Diversity in Coelurosaurs

The Coelurosaurs were the most successful and diverse of the groups of dinosaurs that make up the Theropods.  Scientists had thought for many years that the majority of the animals that were classified as Coelurosaurs were small, nimble predators with long arms, equipped with sharp-clawed, three-fingered, grasping hands.  Birds are now believed to be advanced members of the Coelurosaur group.  Although the phylogeny of Coelurosauria is far from resolved, Tyrannosaurs are classifed as members of the Coelurosauria and as such the typical Coelurosaur may be thought of as being entirely carnivorous.  However, a new study into the known Coelurosaur fossil material has revealed that a surprising number of families were not entirely meat-eaters, indeed, many were omnivores whilst others may have been entirely vegetarian.

In a new review of all thing Coelurosauria, published in the scientific publication “The Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”, it seems that members of the Coelurosauria adapted to a very wide ranging variety of diets.  True, some were vicious predators, feeding entirely on meat, whilst others adopted a completely vegetarian habit.

The study was carried out by scientists attached to the Field Museum in Chicago (United States), ironically, the home of the perhaps the best known extinct Coelurosaur fossil of all – the giant T. rex known as “Sue”.  One of the authors, Lindsay Zanno stated:

“Anything that belongs in that group that seems to be an exclusive meat-eater, things like Velociraptor of Jurassic Park fame, it means it probably evolved from an ancestor that had already begun eating some plants.”

The problem with the classification of Theropoda can be traced back to the 19th Century when Victorian scientists first began to classify dinosaurs.   Their early work led to the establishment of two, great groups of bipedal, lizard-hipped dinosaurs.  Firstly, there was the Carnosaurs – large bodied, bipeds with large skulls, a group that included the likes of Allosaurus and Megalosaurus.  It was the German scientist and palaeontologist Friedrich von Huene who first coined the phrase Coelurosauria (1914), the “hollow tailed lizards”, consisting of small, gracile, bipedal Theropods.  It was Huene himself, who first postulated that the Tyrannosaurs may be Coelurosaurs and not Carnosaurs, contradicting his classification of these two main groups of Theropod dinosaurs.  This was the start of the intense debate over Theropod phylogeny.

The Diversity of Diets within Coelurosauria

Picture Credit: Lindsay Zanno

Adding to the data, is this new study by Lindsay Zanno and her Field Museum colleague Peter Makovicky.  If one considers extant birds, they all have toothless beaks, but they eat a great variety of different foods, from garden worms, insects, to berries, nectar and carrion.  Zanno and Makovicky set out to review the fossil Coelurosaur material to see if they could establish a clearer idea of just what each main type of Coelurosaur may have eaten.  The researchers identified 72 Coelurosaur species that had been found with direct fossil evidence of what they ate, including fossilised stomach contents and coprolites.  The American based scientists then statistically analysed the anatomy of these dinosaurs looking for physical traits that correlated with plant-eating.

Physical characteristics such as a longer neck, leaf-shaped or peg-like teeth and the presence of a horny beak were identified in 44 of the species studied, across six subgroups.  Their assessments indicate that these members of the Coelurosaur family were at least partly vegetarian.

Commenting on the findings, Lindsay Zanno said:

“It appears as if the transition from carnivory, or meat-eating, to plant-eating occurred very early in the evolutionary history of the group and probably occurred once.”

The research suggests that Late Cretaceous carnivores such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor likely evolved back to meat-only diets after their ancestors spent at least some time chewing on plants.

Commenting on the study, Thomas Holtz, a vertebrate palaeontologist at the University of Maryland stated:

“Wer’re not seeing special cases of herbivory evolving from carnivorous ancestors.  We are seeing one origin of the herbivory here.”

The study raises new questions about the environmental niches inhabited by Coelurosaurs, such as whether switching to plant-based diets restricted their range.  The research is also helpful in the context of understanding the evolutionary of Aves.  Although beaks evolved independently many times throughout history, the new study suggests that a plant- based diet was the push the Coelurosaurs needed to turn toothy mouths into toothless beaks.

Zanno commented:

“Once you have a beak, you can adapt it into all different shapes and sizes, and you can adapt it to do all different kinds of things.”

21 12, 2010

What’s up with the Prehistoric Animal Models

By | December 21st, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Safari Ltd withdraw Baby Woolly Mammoth Model

We accept that prehistoric mammals are not as popular as dinosaurs and pterosaurs but we were disappointed to hear of yet another prehistoric mammal model being retired by a major manufacturer.  It seems that Safari Ltd, after a review are going to stop making their baby Woolly Mammoth, Whilst we can understand the reasons for doing so, it is such a shame especially with the Chicago Field Museum “Mammoths and Mastodons” exhibition touring the United States and then Europe.

To confirm, the Prehistoric Life Woolly Mammoth Baby – product code 280029 is being retired in 2011.

20 12, 2010

Everything Dinosaur – Working Hard to Ensure Christmas Deliveries

By | December 20th, 2010|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Update on Christmas Mail

The continuing bad weather over much of the UK and Europe is still affecting parcel deliveries.  The extra staff at Everything Dinosaur and the longer shifts have helped keep us on top of the packing and despatching of Christmas parcels.  We continue to work hard to ensure that parcels, letters and packets are given every chance of reaching their destination in time for the big day.

However, please note, that the adverse weather conditions are having an impact on Royal Mail and other national mail networks.  Some delays into areas such as the northeast of England and Scotland are inevitable.

Royal Mail have put up further information on their website, but as a summary this is what they are currently saying:

Royal Mail teams are working hard across the country to operate services impacted by recent weather conditions.  In Scotland, it’s taking longer to deal with the mail affected by recent and current weather conditions, as well as the additional seasonal mail coming into and out of the country. We’re deploying additional measures where we can, in the continuing difficult conditions to collect, sort, transport and deliver the large volume of seasonal mail now progressing through our network.  We’re doing all we can in Scotland to get mail to customers as quickly as possible.”

The last recommended posting dates for First Class mail in time for Christmas is Tuesday 21st December (UK customers).  All orders placed on Saturday afternoon and yesterday are packed, checked and  being despatched this morning (Monday).  They will all be sent out with the very first collection of the day.

19 12, 2010

What is an Ichnologist?

By | December 19th, 2010|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Main Page|0 Comments

Ichnology – A Definition

The other day we were asked the question what is an Ichnologist?  This is an interesting question and gives us the opportunity to discuss a very important aspect of palaeontology, trace fossils.  An Ichnologist is someone who studies trace fossils, those marks preserved in the fossil record that show evidence of the activity of organisms.  Trace fossils have a major advantage over body fossils.   Unlike body fossils that may be transported a long distance from where the original organism actually lived, most trace fossils are direct evidence of the environment at the time and the place the organism lived.  For example, dinosaur trackways show where dinosaurs actually walked.

The branch of geology that deals with the study of traces of organisms is called Ichnology.  Trace fossils include fossils of tracks, individual footprints, trails, burrows and borings.  Cave paintings made by our ancestors, as they are evidence of activity are classified as trace fossils.  The word Ichnology is derived from Latin and from Greek – ikhneumon “tracker” and from iknnos meaning “footstep”.

Cave Paintings – Trace Fossils of Humans

Picture Credit: French Ministry of Culture

18 12, 2010

No Australian Tyrannosauropus After all – Lark Quarry Revisited

By | December 18th, 2010|Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

New Interpretation of Lark Quarry Dinosaur Trackways – Suggest no Large Theropod

Every once in while a very special type of fossil site is discovered, one that provides an exciting and unique glimpse into the ancient world of the Mesozoic.  One such place is Lark Quarry, located near the small town of Winton, Queensland (Australia).  The region is very famous for its Early Cretaceous dinosaur fossils.  However, at Lark Quarry it is not fossilised bones that so excited researchers when they were first brought to the site, it is the presence of literally hundreds of beautifully preserved dinosaur footprints.  One set of footprints, was believed to show the presence of a large “T. rex-like” meat-eater causing smaller dinosaurs to stampede.  Now some further research published in the scientific journal “Cretaceous Research” offers a new interpretation.

A Section of the Famous Lark Quarry Dinosaur Footprints

Picture Credit: Queensland Museum

Many scientists have studied the extensive trace fossils, but perhaps the most famous part of the site represents the preserved evidence of what took place in perhaps less than ten seconds nearly 100 million years ago.  A herd of small, plant-eaters (the footprints of which have been ascribed to Wintonopus by ichnologists), plus a large number of predatory Coelurosaurs (named Skartopus) were disturbed by the approach of what was thought to be a large, carnivorous Theropod dinosaur (known as Tyrannosauropus).

The large, meat-eater seemed to have the smaller dinosaurs trapped and the only chance they had to escape was to run straight past the giant predator as quickly as they could.  The tracks indicate that the smaller animals sprinted past the bigger dinosaur, running at speeds in excess of 12 miles an hour as judged by the stride length.  This famous part of the trackways preserved in the fine grained sandstone of Lark Quarry was studied by doctors Tony Thulburn and Mary Wade, who published their results in 1984.  They cited the evidence of the large footprints to support the theory that enormous predatory dinosaurs lived in what was to become Australia, in the Early Cretaceous.  This, they thought was evidence of 11 metre long carnivores stalking smaller dinosaurs.  The Trannosauropus’s trackway actually consists of eleven footprints, (three-toed prints), some of which were interpreted as showing the marks left in the soft sand by sharp claws on the toes.  The stride length indicates that it moved at about 3-5 miles per hour – a walking speed and it seems to have weaved about slightly, with a tendency to slow down towards the end of the tracks.  This was interpreted as the meat-eater lurching at the smaller dinosaurs but slowing down as it realised that its attack had been unsuccessful.

A Close up of One of the Tyrannosauropus Prints

Dinosaur Footprint

Picture Credit: Queensland Museum

The matches (roman numerals number six) and the matchbox provide scale and we have outlined the three-toed print in red to give a clearer image of the dinosaur footprint.  The animal’s toes are facing to the right of the picture.  It was these large prints that were originally interpreted as being from a large, meat-eating dinosaur, however, a new study has indicated that this may not be the case.

New research by scientists at the University of Queensland suggests that the large footprints were not made by a carnivorous dinosaur at all.  The prints actually represent the tracks made by a large, but definitely herbivorous dinosaur.  If this new theory is accepted it means that the Lark Quarry trace fossils are not evidence of a large Theropod dinosaur, something similar to a T. rex or an Allosaurus.

University of Queensland School of Biological Sciences PhD student Anthony Romilio, the lead author of the research, believes that the large prints actually represent the tracks made by an Ornithopod dinosaur, perhaps something resembling a Muttaburrasaurus.

Muttaburrasaurus (M. langdoni), is known from two skeletons found in eastern Australia.  This large animal has been taxonimcally classified as an Iguanodont, an Ornithopod.

An Illustration of Muttaburrasaurus langdoni

Muttaburrasaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Anthony came to this conclusion after comparing the characteristics of the Lark Quarry Tyrannosauropus prints with those of other Theropods and known Ornithopods.

He stated:

“Making the distinction between the three-toed tracks of herbivorous Ornithopod dinosaurs and the three-toed tracks of carnivorous Theropod dinosaurs can be quite difficult.  This confusion has led to numerous Ornithopod dinosaur tracks being incorrectly identified as belonging to Theropods, and vice versa.”

For many years, these large prints from the Lark Quarry site were regarded as being from a meat-eater that had caused a dinosaur stampede, but earlier work, highlighted by Mr. Romilio does suggest a big plant-eater was the culprit.

Threshold values for specific foot proportions for both Theropod and Ornithopod dinosaurs enabled the Queensland team to distinguish between the tracks made by different types of dinosaur and based on this research Anthony was able to conclude:

“The footprint analysis shows overwhelmingly that the Lark Quarry tracks were made by an Ornithopod dinosaur.  The best preserved prints show a remarkable similarity in overall size, shape and claw outline to Ornithopod tracks from Canada named Amblydactylus gethingi.  These features mean that we need to re-name the large Lark Quarry tracks Amblydactylus cf.  A. gethingi.”

The size of the prints and the fact that Muttaburrasaurus fossils have been found in sediments of the same age as the Lark Quarry deposit have led the team to suggest that a “Muttaburrasaurus-like” animal probably made them.  Muttaburrasaurus is believed to have been a facultative biped, that is, an animal that walked on all fours for most of the time, but if the need arose it could rear up onto its hind legs and walk in a bipedal fashion.

To view a model of Muttaburrasaurus and other dinosaur toys: Dinosaur Models for Girls and Boys – Dinosaur Models

Anthony’s PhD supervisor, Dr. Steve Salisbury stated that the previous identification of the Lark Quarry tracks as belonging to a large, meat-eating dinosaur was central to the interpretation of the track site as a stampede.

He added:

“The approach of the large dinosaur was thought to have triggered the stampede of 150-170 smaller dinosaurs across the sandy mud nearly 100 million years ago.  Whether the presence of a large herbivore like Muttaburrasaurus was enough to spook a herd of smaller dinosaurs into a stampede is now unclear.  Further research on the actual nature of the stampede itself is what we are now focusing on.”

An Illustration of the Ornithopod making the Lark Quarry Tracks

The plant-eater wandering across the Lark Quarry environment

Picture Credit: Anthony Romilio, The University of Queensland

17 12, 2010

Research Suggests that some of our Ancestors were Cannibals

By | December 17th, 2010|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Gnawed Bones Indicate Cannibal Cavemen

A team of researchers have conducted a rather macabre experiment to see if they could confirm the theory that some of our ancestors chewed on human bones.  Scientists have found butcher marks and other signs on fossil human bones suggesting that some of our ancestors and indeed, some other species of hominid were cannibals.  However, to gain further insight, scientists needed to show that the marks and scratches found on ancient human remains had been created by people biting and chewing on the bones.

To understand more about the marks on the bones, the researchers first had to gain more information as to what such bite and gnaw marks might look like.

Volunteers were asked to chew and gnaw on a variety of bones, not human bones of course, but raw pork ribs and sheep legs as well as a variety of cooked bones.  The bone-chewers included both Europeans and representatives of the Koi people from Namibia.  It was important to include Africans in this study as most scientists now believe that hominids and our own ancestors evolved in Africa.

The researchers identified several patterns in the chewed bones, including bent rather scalloped edges, surface punctures and grooves.  Similar bite marks and scratches have been found on 12,000-year-old fossil bones from H. sapiens (modern humans) from Gough’s Cave in England.  Gough’s Cave is part of a cave system in the Mendip Hills (Somerset), there has been extensive evidence of human habitation, now this new research sheds light on a more disturbing aspect of human behaviour.   Similar marks and scratches on fossilised bones have been found on the ancient bones of the extinct human species H. antecessor at the Gran Dolina site in Spain.

A Photograph of one of the Gnawed Bones from the Experiments

Picture Credit: Y. Fernandez-Jalvo et al

The picture shows a rib fragment compressed and slightly bent at one end (shown by the white arrow), chewed by a European volunteer using the molars (cheek teeth).  The small inset shows one of the volunteers in action.

It is interesting to speculate on the reasons for the cannibalism.  Perhaps, it was out of necessity with hominids having to turn to eating human flesh and bones due to lack of other food resources.  May be the gnawing of human bones had some sort of ceremonial purpose.

One of the authors of the report, which appears in the latest edition of the scientific publication “The Journal of Human Evolution”, Fernandez-Jalvo stated:

“Think that a member of your group dies, the body can give one day off from hunting, which was always dangerous at that time, and what to do with the dead body that may attract other dangerous carnivores that may attack the group.  This could be a good solution.”

16 12, 2010

Geminiraptor – Part of a Record Breaking Year for Utah’s Dinosaurs

By | December 16th, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

New Troodontid Dinosaur from Utah – Record Breaking Year for the American State

The announcement of the discovery of a new genus of dinosaur from Utah, makes it a record-breaking year for the State, as this is the eighth new genus of dinosaur announced in 2010.  More importantly, the discovery of a Troodontid dinosaur from Lower Cretaceous strata is the first evidence of this dinosaur family living in North America in the Early Cretaceous.

Troodonts were a group of active, relatively small Theropod dinosaurs, that from a phylogenetic perspective seem to fit somewhere between the Ornithomimidae (ostrich-like dinosaurs) and the fearsome Dromaeosaurids (raptors) on the dinosaur family tree.  These animals were bipedal, fast running and all the genera described to date had large eyes and big skulls.  Scientists believe that these little dinosaurs were warm-blooded and most probably covered in feathers.  The brains of Troodontids were the largest brain in comparison to body size of any known type of dinosaur.  A number of palaeontologists, perhaps most notably Canadian Dale Russell, have suggested that had these meat-eaters not died out; they would possibly have evolved into an intelligent humanoid form over the sixty-five million years from the end of the Cretaceous to the Quaternary Period.

An Illustration of a Typical Troodontid (Troodon formosus)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Not only does this discovery make it a record breaking year for Utah, in terms of new dinosaurs but it adds greatly to our understanding of the Troodontidae.  Troodonts are known from the Upper Cretaceous of Asia and from the Upper Jurassic and Upper Cretaceous of North America, however, this is the first evidence of Troodonts living in what was to become North America in the Early Cretaceous.

Commenting on the new dinosaur, Scott Foss, a regional palaeontologist for the US Bureau of Land Management stated:

“Its skull is six times larger than other dinosaurs.  One find a year is unusual but eight is outstanding.”

He went on to add that approximately one percent of all known dinosaurs described to date have had their fossils found in Utah.  We at Everything Dinosaur, think this claim is a little exaggerated, but the importance of the western United States as a location for Mesozoic vertebrate fossils should not be underestimated.

Seven of the new types of dinosaur found this year in the State of Utah have been found on Bureau of Land Management territory, whilst the other find was from the Dinosaur National Monument.

The dinosaur has been named Geminiraptor suarezrum.  The name is derived from the Latin geminae (twins), in honour of Doctors Celina and Marina Suarez, twin geologists who discovered the fossil bearing rock strata in which this dinosaur and other dinosaurs remains have been found.  The scientific name can be interpreted as “twin thief from the Suarez site”.

The Suarez site, has produced a number of dinosaur fossils, notably the fossils of the Early Cretaceous Therizinosauroid Falcarius (scythe lizard).  The rocks have been dated to the Barremian faunal stage, approximately 125 million years old, the first fossils of this particular dinosaur were found in 2004 and the animal has been estimated to have measured about two metres in length.  The upper jaw bone (maxilla) is small enough to fit in the palm of the hand.

Co-author of the scientific paper, James Kirkland of the Utah Geological Survey commented that the maxilla was hollow and could be inflated “like a balloon”.  This strange characteristic has got the scientists speculating as to what purpose this anatomical adaptation may have served.

He stated:

“There is no clue what it was used for.  Maybe it was some kind of resonating chamber for vocalisation.”

Some birds have resonance capabilities using air to assist vocalisation and provide them with more powerful calls, if these little dinosaurs lived in flocks then perhaps the jawbone provided extra resonance for their communication calls.

The Maxilla of Geminiraptor suarezrum

Geminiraptor fossil material

Picture Credit: PLoS ONE Journal

Key to the Illustration

(A) a side view of the maxilla (upper jawbone) – Lateral view

(B) a view of maxilla (upper jawbone) – Cranial view

(C) a view of the inside of the maxilla, from the inside of the face looking outwards – Medial view

(D) a view of the jawbone from the bottom looking up – Ventral view

The thick, black line is a scale bar of one centimetre in size and the abbreviations stand for:

alv = dental alveoli – the cavities or sockets in which the teeth were located

iof = internal antorbital fenestra – a bony opening in the skulls of Archosaurs between the naris and the eye socket

mxf = maxillary fenestra – a bony opening in the maxilla bone

pf = pro-maxillary fenestra – an opening in the Archosaur skull in front of the mxf (anterior to)

Only fragmentary remains of this little dinosaur have been recovered to date, but it is hoped that more Troodontid material will be discovered a the Suarez location.

15 12, 2010

Alaskan Dinosaurs from the Jurassic?

By | December 15th, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Trackways Indicate Dinosaurs Roamed Alaska in the Jurassic

The discovery of dinosaur fossils in Alaska, indicating that dinosaurs lived at northern latitudes at the end of the Cretaceous was surprising, after all the debate as to whether these animals were warm-blooded or cold-blooded still rages.  Over the last twenty years or so, palaeontologists have uncovered an amazing ecosystem indicating that many different types of dinosaur spent at least some of the time up north, perhaps migrating there annually to take advantage of the long summer days and abundant plant growth.

Now a team of researchers have re-discovered a set of three-toed tracks, that suggest that some dinosaurs may have roamed southwestern Alaska in the earlier Jurassic Period.

University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists have documented the fossilised tracks of a small, Theropod (meat-eating), dinosaur that appear to date from the Jurassic.  If this evidence is proved to be dinosaur footprints, then it puts back the existence of dinosaurs in the U.S. state by more than seventy million years.

Although no evidence of polar ice caps in the Jurassic Period has been found, it is likely that even though Alaska was not as far north as it is today, there was almost certainly winter snow and ice.  Fossil evidence (flora and fauna) found in Siberia and elsewhere in the world suggest that even lands close to the poles had relatively mild climates when compared to today.  For example, plant fossils associated with areas of the world that were at high latitudes during the Jurassic; indicate average annual temperatures of no more than 8 degrees Celsius – decidedly chilly and not the sort of climate one would associate with reptiles like the dinosaurs.  Even though the world was much warmer in the Jurassic than it is in modern times, the short days of the polar winter would still have meant that plant food was scarce for a considerable part of the year, and conditions would have been tough for animals that were permanent residents.

Earth sciences curator at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, and assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks department of geology and geophysics, Patrick Druckenmiller commented:

“In one fell swoop we pushed the record of dinosaurs in Alaska back.”

In 1975, geologists mapping strata near Chignik Bay, on the south side of the Alaskan peninsula and approximately 250 miles southwest of Anchorage, discovered what appeared to be three-toed dinosaur tracks located part way up a sandstone cliff.  The group photographed the site but did not collect any other data, and crucially they did not mark the exact location of their find.

One of the Original 1975 Trackway Photographs

Picture Credit: Robert Price/Bristol Bay Nature Corporation

Last summer, Dr. Druckenmiller and a team of researchers set out to find the location in the photograph and study the trace fossils.  The team included Kevin May from the museum plus University of Alaska Fairbanks geologists and an invertebrate palaeontologist, Robert Blodgett of Anchorage.

Reaching the remote site, was only part of the problem, the team hoped that the local vegetation had not changed so much that the original site would be impossible to find and there was always the threat of bear attack, plus the nuisance of biting insects to contend with.  The precise location of the tracks was uncertain, so the team obtained permission to work both on Chignik Lagoon Native Corporation land and in the Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge.

Aided by the provision of a helicopter to help ferry the team to the area, the scientists established a field camp and started to prospect for fossils.  After only two days of searching they discovered the footprints.

A member of the field team said:

“After staring at the 1975 photograph for so long, it was a real thrill to finally see it in real life.”

The layer of tracks was tilted nearly vertically and could only be reached with the help of climbing gear.  Once they had reached the site, Dr. Druckenmiller and his team made replicas of each of the prints so that they can be returned to the museum for closer analysis.

Dr. Druckenmiller commented on the amount of information the field workers were able to gather:

“Based on their size and shape, we can tell that the tracks were made by a human-sized, meat-eating (Theropod) dinosaur.  We could even see impressions from tips of their claws.  That makes these tracks especially rare.”

Analysis of the rock strata (sandstone) indicates that the dinosaur walked along a sandy beach, before time and geology turned the trackways into constituent parts of an Alaskan cliff face.

One of the Three-Toed Tracks (potential Theropod Dinosaur)

Dinosaur Footprint

Picture Credit: Kevin May/U. A. Museum of the North

The hand in the photograph provides a good scale for the footprint, the three toe marks of one print can be clearly seen facing towards the hand.

Dr. Druckenmiller went onto add that  the findings provide an entirely new chapter in the story of the life that once existed in Alaska and he added that he hoped to return to that site in the near future to continue this work.

As this part of Alaska remains relatively unexplored for Mesozoic fossils he and his team are confident that more discoveries will be made.

Dr. Druckenmiller concluded:

“We are pretty sure there are other surprises waiting for us out there.”

Although it is very difficult to associate a specific genus of dinosaur to the trackways, the presence of small Theropod tracks poses some interesting questions.  For example, was this animal a resident of the area or a migrant, perhaps following herbivores north as they looked for plant food?  Indeed, one could speculate that this is a juvenile animal, perhaps one that scavenged along the shoreline to see what animals had been stranded by the tide.

More fossils will have to be found before scientists can begin to piece together the ecosystem that once existed in ancient Alaska.

14 12, 2010

Bad Weather Ahead – Difficulties for Christmas Deliveries Forecast

By | December 14th, 2010|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

More Snow and Ice on the Way – Could cause further Problems for Christmas Mail

With just a few days left until the big day, the threat of further snow and cold weather is causing a number of retailers to withdraw their online retailing offers, for fear of not being able to pack and despatch parcels in time for them to be received at Christmas.

We at Everything Dinosaur, have been aware of the backlog of parcels and other deliveries building up with UK couriers and Royal Mail.  Certainly, the bad weather has not just been restricted to parts of the UK, other areas of Europe have experienced delays with parcel deliveries as Airmail and international courier networks have been disrupted due to the ice and snow.  The extra staff and longer working hours implemented by the company has enabled Everything Dinosaur to keep up with the packing and despatching of items and this has ensured that parcels have been sent out as quickly as possible, giving them every chance of making it to their destination in time for the festivities.

The last recommended safe posting date for Royal Mail standard parcels is tomorrow the15th of December, with the last recommended date for second class this Saturday and for first class the following Tuesday.  Staff at Everything Dinosaur, are working late into the night to ensure that they keep on top of the orders, but insist on checking and re-checking address labels, especially postcodes, doing all they can to ensure a speedy delivery.

A spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur stated:

“We are aware that the recent bad weather has severely disrupted deliveries of goods into a number of areas of the UK, the weather forecast for the end of this week, is not very encouraging as more snow and ice could cause further delays.  However, we will do all we can to pack and despatch parcels as quickly as we can to give them every chance of reaching their destination in time for Christmas.”

13 12, 2010

Extremely Rare Nearly Complete Dimetrodon Fossil from Texas

By | December 13th, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Ancient Palaeozoic Predator Unearthed in Texas

A team of palaeontologists and field workers are busy extracting the fossilised remains of a Permian predator, a Dimetrodon, that has been nicknamed “Wet Willi” by the excavation team.

The scientists from the Houston Museum of Natural Science (Texas), including Dr. Robert T. Bakker, the curator of palaeontology at the museum, are busy, carefully excavating the articulated specimen of this ancient carnivore from 287 million year old strata in Baylor County.

“Willi” as he is known (although at this stage identifying whether this is a male or female is a very complicated issue), is a species of Dimetrodon called Dimetrodon giganhomogenes, originally described in 1907.  However, this is the first Dimetrodon of this species to be found with most of the skull material intact.  The researchers gave the fossil the name “Wet Willi” – because the bones were first seen whilst a team of construction workers dug a drainage trench for the quarry site.  The second part of the name is for Samuel Williston, a renowned palaeontologist of the early 20th Century who conducted a number of excavations of Permian aged material from this location.

Members of the Excavation Team Hard at Work

Picture Credit: Houston Museum of Natural Science

The picture shows some of the rod-like extensions that supported the sail which was on the back of Dimetrodon, an anatomical trait that Dimetrodon shared with other Pelycosaurs, the purpose of which, remains a mystery.

Single Dimetrodon bones are occasionally found at the Craddock quarry dig site, but the discovery of an articulated, almost complete specimen is an exceptionally rare event.  Most of the mounted Dimetrodon exhibits seen in natural history museums around the world are constructed using material found in the north of Texas.  This part of the United States with its significant quarries and prominent exposures of Permian aged strata is one of the most important locations in the world for Permian aged vertebrate fossils.

In life, “Willi” was one of the apex predators of the world during the Permian.  Although, Dimetrodon models and toys are often included in dinosaur model sets, Dimetrodon was not a dinosaur, in fact as a synapsid, it is actually more closely related to mammals than to the dinosaurs.  The large sail-like structure on the back of Dimetrodon, was supported by rod-like extensions of the backbone.  Scientists remain uncertain as to why these Pelycosaurs had these anatomical features.  They could have been used for display or perhaps acted like giant radiators and were used in some form of thermoregulation.

An Assessment of the “Completeness” of the Dimetrodon Specimen

Dimetrodon fossil

Picture Credit: Houston Museum of Natural Science

Most of the specimen seems to be present, the only elements missing are parts of the lower jawbone, elements of the limbs and the caudal vertebrae (tail bones).

“Wet Willi” will be the star of the Permian section of the Museum’s newly renovated palaeontology hall, which is due to open in 2012, and will serve as a focal point for this part of the museum.

David Temple, Associate Curator of Palaeontology at the Houston museum stated:

“I am delighted that the nearly half million school kids who visit the museum each year will have the opportunity to see this relic of Texas geologic history.  We are very passionate about science literacy and in particular, geo-science literacy.  The palaeontology hall, will be a powerful tool for learning and exploring the geo-sciences.”

The Permian outcrops in Texas are an excellent portal for learning about this important and enigmatic period in Earth’s history.  The Permian ended with the worst mass extinction known, and was a direct precursor to the rise of dinosaurs.  At present, the Museum has a mural of the Permian Period featuring a Dimetrodon, but no fossils on display.

Over the past five years, the Houston Museum of Natural Science field crews under the direction of Dr. Robert T. Bakker, have collected hundreds of bones, teeth, and coprolites (fossilised dung), as well as complete skeletons of the smaller reptiles and amphibians that lived alongside the fearsome Dimetrodons.  They have been able to build up a picture of the environment in prehistoric Texas, with its bizarre flora and fauna.

Commenting on the discovery of the Dimetrodon fossil, Dr. Bakker stated:

“There is a very strong Texas connection to Dimetrodon, and we are thrilled to be able to display one in Houston, along with the other animals that made up this ancient ecosystem.”

Dr. Bakker went onto add that he thought the skeleton was “jaw droppingly beautiful”, certainly, the finding of such a complete specimen is an exceptionally rare event and with the relatively intact skull material, perhaps more can be discovered about the way in which these large predators interacted with their environment.

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