All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//June
10 06, 2011

Neoproterozoic Fossils with Armour Plating

By | June 10th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Seven Hundred Million-Year-Old Fossils Pose a Puzzle

Microscopic fossils of marine organisms that lived in the Precambrian may represent the first type of life on Earth to develop the ability to secrete their own mineral coating, perhaps as protection against predators or maybe as a floatation device to help these bizarre micro-organisms remain stable in the water column.

The Proterozoic Eon is the name given to the period of Earth’s history that lasted from approximately 2.5 billion years ago until the start of the Palaeozoic Eon some 550 million years ago and the Cambrian geological period.  The world was very different from today, the atmosphere was probably toxic although during this immense expanse of time photosynthetic microbes began to transform the planet releasing oxygen into the atmosphere.  The continents that we know today, were not present Earth was a very alien world indeed.  However, although for much of the Proterozoic life was entirely microscopic and single-celled, by the end of this eon large, soft-bodied organisms the ancestors of plants, fungi and animals were beginning to colonise the sea bed.

It was during the Proterozoic that perhaps the most fundamental evolutionary development for life on Earth occurred – the evolution of complex cells (eukaryotes).  The first living organisms on the planet had very simple cell structures.  These organisms, most of which consisted of just one cell, had a structure that lacked a nucleus.  Over the course of this eon, cell structures gradually become more complicated with the evolution of nuclei and a cell membrane.   Now a team of U.S. based scientists have published a paper showing evidence of phosphate biomineralisation in micro-organisms dating from more than 700 million years ago – this evidence of a biochemical relationship within organisms helps support earlier published data and helps to shed light on the diversity and early evolution of eukaryotes.

The ability to extract minerals from the environment and use it to build a protective shell or external skeleton can be seen in a number of Phyla today.  For example, Cnidaria (corals) create exoskeletons formed from a form of calcium (argonite), more primitive corals used calcite.  Phosphates can also be used to create an exoskeleton and it is evidence of phosphate biomineralisation discovered in micro-organism fossils from rocks found in Canada that has got the researchers all excited.

Mineralised exoskeletons appear in the fossil record in abundance at the start of the Cambrian geological period, scientists believe the evolution of a mineralised exoskeleton was a key driving force in the Cambrian faunal explosion that led to a huge diversification of animal life.  Indeed, the origins of all the Phyla alive today can be traced to this period in Earth’s history.

The micro-fossils were actually discovered four years ago by a research team working on the Fifteenmile Group of strata in Yukon Province (Canada).  However, the paper detailing the research has only just been published in the scientific journal “Geology”.

Scanning Electron Microscopy Reveals the Plate-like Structures

Picture Credit: Cohen. Macdonald

Images produced by scanning electron microscopes show in high resolution to plate-like structures and tiny spikes, the microfossil (Characodictyon) is approximately 20 microns long, about the fifth of a width of a human hair.

Phoebe Cohen, a postdoctoral researcher in MIT’s department of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences, and Francis Macdonald, an assistant professor of geology at Harvard University, removed a number of candidate rocks from the remote site on the Alaskan/Canadian border and when back in the laboratory, microscopic analysis began to reveal the well-preserved fossils with their tiny shield-like plates, some even had minute spikes and points sticking out them.

These strange organisms have been identified as being members of the Characodictyon genus, lived sometime between 717 million and 812 million years ago, a time period in which single-cell organisms thrived just before the first “Snowball Earth” event, when the planet plunged into a deep freeze and became covered in vast ice sheets.

Cohen suspects the deep freeze killed off these spiny micro-organisms as no trace of such creatures have been found in younger strata.  Using scanning electron microscopy, Cohen and Macdonald, along with collaborators at UCLA, created three-dimensional images of the fossils.  The images revealed the animal was covered in plates, each about 20 microns wide (one-fifth the width of a human hair) and arranged in a honeycomb pattern, with teeth-like spines jutting out and rimming the perimeter.

The plates had patterns similar to those on modern-day Coccolithophores — spherical, single-celled algae found in enormous blooms throughout the ocean.  These algae produce their mineralised plates within vacuoles (sacs that play a role in digestion and release of waste) and ultimately extrude the plates to the surface to form protective coverings.

Close up of a Plate

 

Picture Credit: Cohen, Macdonald

Analysis of the plate composition by X-rays indicates that the lattice work of the plate-like structure (a) was composed of a number of elements, shown in the image above as organic carbon (red), calcium (purple) and phosphorus (green).

The researchers think the newly discovered organisms may have formed their spiny coats similarly as these ancient creatures also lived in a water column environment.

Exactly why such a complex biomineralisation process evolved in such a simple organism remains a mystery.

Commenting on the discovery Cohen said:

“It takes a lot of effort, energy and just sheer biomass to create these.”

The researchers speculate, that the spines and plates helped the small organisms stay afloat, sort of biomineralised, phosphate based life jackets – helping to keep these sun loving creatures stable in the water column.  Today, Coccolithophores reside in the ocean’s photic zone, which extends from the surface to just above the depth at which light can no longer reach.  Maintaining the most light efficient place in this zone allows such plankton to grow and thrive — an advantage their ancient counterparts also may have developed, the researchers say.

Intriguingly, pointing at some pre-Snowball Earth arms race, the plates may also have served as armour, discouraging other organisms from attacking them.  If this is the case then this is further evidence for more complex food chains in the Precambrian than previously thought.

Associate professor of geological sciences at the University of California, Susannah Porter stated:

“It’s a good possibility that these fossil plates functioned in defence against predators.  This would be significant if true, for it would be some of the earliest evidence for complex food webs that consist not only of primary producers … but also organisms that actively prey on other living organisms.”

The American based research team hopes that their discovery will encourage other scientists to study strata dating from a roughly similar time in the Proterozoic to search for other evidence of complex life.  This discovery provides a unique window into the diversity of early eukaryotes – the ancestors of complex celled organisms on our planet, including humans.

9 06, 2011

A Dragonfly Emerges from the Pond

By | June 9th, 2011|Animal News Stories, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Spotting a Dragonfly

Yesterday, we noticed that a dragonfly nymph had climbed up a reed stem by the pond and undergone metamorphosis changing into its adult form.  We have many different sorts of damselfly that lay eggs in the pond, we occasionally spot the larval stages in the pond, but finding a dragonfly especially one that has just emerged from our pond is a real red letter day for us.

The Dragonfly Seen at the Office Pond

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To us, dragonflies are beautiful creatures and we have been lucky to have attracted dragonflies to our pond for the last few years or so,  however, we don’t recall one emerging from the pond so early in the summer.  The cast nymph case can be seen in the picture, it is on the rock immediately belong the dragonfly.  Dragonflies have been around since the Carboniferous, but their fossil remains are extremely rare.

To read about a dragonfly fossil discovery: Amazing Fossil Find from the Eastern USA

None of us are experts on the Order Odonata, but we think this is female Southern Hawker, although we could be wrong.  It has not flown away yet, the showers are not helping.  We hope it is going to be OK.

8 06, 2011

Having our Photo Taken

By | June 8th, 2011|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Spot the Old Fossil

The Open University have requested that they take some photos of our team members for some promotional work they are doing on courses that can be studied through that institution.  Happy to oblige, a couple of us have been interviewed and this morning we had our photos taken.

Not sure how photogenic we are but the photographer wanted some pictures of us with various dinosaurs and other items so we assembled a collection from our product range and left it to her to decide what to use and how they were to be laid out.  The Open University is going to be running a promotional campaign focusing on how studying with the OU can help improve your career prospects.

The picture below captures one of our team members deep in conversation with other members of our team, the books on the table are books from the various OU courses  that we have studied.

A Typical Everything Dinosaur Board Meeting

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

So we ended up taking photographs of the photographer taking photographs of us.  Not sure which is the “old fossil” in the picture.

7 06, 2011

New Technology Shows that in Early Hominins Girls Roamed whilst Boys Stayed at Home

By | June 7th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Ancient Hominin Females Moved from the Groups they were Born Into

A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig), have utilised a new research technique involving the analysis of strontium isotopes in fossilised tooth enamel to suggest that it was the females that roamed whilst the males were stay-at-homes.

So far ranging and residence patterns amongst early hominins have been indirectly inferred from morphology, stone tool sourcing, comparison to living primates and phylogenetic models.  An international team of researchers including Sandi Copeland, Vaughan Grimes and Michael Richards (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology) have now investigated landscape use in Australopithecus africanus (with fossils from sites dating between 2.8-2.0 million years ago) and Paranthropus robustus (with fossils from sites dating between 1.9-1.4 million years ago) from the Sterkfontein and Swartkrans cave sites in South Africa using strontium isotope analysis. This method helps identify the geological substrate on which an animal lived during tooth mineralisation, the paper has been published in the latest edition of the science journal “Nature”.

The researchers show that a high proportion of small, but not large, hominin teeth had non-local strontium isotope compositions.  Given the relatively high levels of sexual dimorphism in early hominins, the smaller teeth probably represent females, indicating that females were more likely than males to disperse from their natal (ie. where they were born) groups.  This is similar to the dispersal pattern found in chimpanzees, bonobos, and many human groups, but dissimilar to that of most gorillas and other primates.

Established palaeontological and archaeological techniques provide little tangible evidence for how early hominins used and moved across landscapes.  For example, home range size has been estimated based on a rough correlation with body mass, and models of early hominin dispersal have relied on behaviours common among hominoids and presumed to be present in a common ancestor.

Commenting on this Dr. Copeland from the Institute’s department of Human Evolution stated:

“However, the highly uncertain nature of such reconstructions limits our understanding of early hominin ecology, biology, social structure, and evolution”.

Copeland and colleagues have now used a geochemical proxy, strontium isotope analysis of tooth enamel, to investigate early hominin landscape use.  Strontium is ingested and incorporated in trace quantities into mammalian teeth.  First, the researchers determined strontium isotopes in plant specimens that were collected within a 50 kilometre radius of the Sterkfontein and Swartkrans caves in order to establish the background of biologically available strontium across the region.  They then sampled a series of hominin tooth crowns by employing a relatively new method for measuring strontium isotopes in teeth that is called laser ablation multicollector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-MC-ICP-MS).  This method is almost non-destructive as it leaves only tiny traces on the enamel surface.  The researchers found that although there is no significant difference between the proportion of non-locals in P. robustus (36 %) and A. africanus (25 %), there are significant differences between subsets of hominins defined by tooth size.

A Skull of Paranthropus robustus (Swartkrans Cave – South Africa)

Picture Credit: Darryl de Ruiter

Explaining the results of the study, which was carried out with the co-operation from scientists from other universities including the University of Colorado and Oxford University, Dr. Copeland said:

“The strontium isotope data suggest differences in landscape use between males and females.  Because strontium was incorporated into the teeth before adulthood, when the hominins were probably travelling with their mothers, the data are unlikely to reflect differences in foraging areas between adult males and adult females.  Rather, the strontium isotopes probably indicate that females preferentially moved away from residential groups”.

The hominins’ female but not male dispersal pattern is similar to the one found in chimpanzees, bonobos, and many human groups, but dissimilar to that of most gorillas and other primates.  This suggests that early hominin social structure was not like that of gorillas in which one or few males dominate groups of females.

The small proportion of non-local large hominins could indicate that male Australopiths had small home ranges, which would be surprising given that the evolution of bipedalism is commonly attributed to the need to move over large distances.  The results could also imply that male Australopiths preferred the types of resources found on dolomite landscapes.  This study was the first to apply this method to early fossil hominins, and lays the groundwork for future studies of other fossil species, including Australopithecus and Paranthropus in East Africa, and later hominins belonging to our genus Homo.

6 06, 2011

Ornitholestes – “Bird Stealer”

By | June 6th, 2011|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Ornitholestes – Questions about this Jurassic Theropod

Thanks to episode two of the “Walking with Dinosaurs” television series, we get a lot of questions about Ornitholestes.  Viewers watching the episode entitled “Time of the Titans”, which focuses on life on the Laurasian plain during the Late Jurassic, in what was to become the western United States, come across this small, active dinosaur as it attacks hatching Sauropods.

Unfortunately, as far as we know, there is not a lot of fossil material associated with this particular genus of Late Jurassic meat-eater.  There is one badly crushed skull and some associated bones found that have been ascribed to Ornitholestes and this discovery was more than one hundred years ago.  Since that time, no other fossils relating to this dinosaur have been found.

A little over two metres in length (a third of which was tail), this dinosaur weighed about us much as an Alsatian dog.  The skull indicates that it was a meat-eating; with jaws full of sharp teeth.  The long-hands ended in three fingers which were probably used to grasp its prey – smaller reptiles, insects, mammals and such like.  Palaeontologists have speculated that it probably inhabited forest areas, this would make the preservation of any organic material highly unlikely.  This may explain why fossils of this dinosaur are so rare, despite the plentiful dinosaur material preserved in the Morrison Formation.

A Scale Drawing of Ornitholestes

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The name of this dinosaur means “bird stealer”, the arms with their clawed hands looked strong enough to snatch a bird from its perch.  In the 1903 scientific description put forward by Henry Fairfield Osborn he stated that this dinosaur probably specialised in hunting birds.  This impression was reinforced by Charles Knight, a famous artist and illustrator of the time.  He created an artwork showing Ornitholestes catching a primitive bird (Archaeopteryx).  This helped “cement” into people’s minds the concept of a dinosaur specialising in hunting such creatures, although Osborn, aware of the lack of fossil bird material from the Morrison Formation later refuted this idea.

The Ornitholestes Charles Knight Sketch

Catching the Bird – “Bird Stealer”

Picture Credit: Wildlife Forum/Charles R. Knight Collection

Sometimes Ornitholestes is depicted as having a small crest on its snout, a number of Theropod dinosaurs sported such crests, however, the very crushed nature of the Ornitholestes skull material has prevented palaeontologists from confirming this – the crest could be a deformed and crushed nasal bone.

5 06, 2011

“Dinosaurs” an Insult? We are not so Sure

By | June 5th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|2 Comments

Diego Maradona in Spat with FIFA calls Organisation a “Dinosaur”

With the controversy surrounding the world football organisation FIFA and its president Sepp Blatter, who was elected unopposed to serve yet another term, the former Argentinian captain and World Cup winner Diego Maradona has waded into the fray referring to FIFA as a “dinosaur” stating that the global soccer body was ruled by people who did not actually know how to play the game.

This got us to thinking how often the term “dinosaur” is used these days as an insult or put down.  Recently, a union associated with the communication and logistics industries in the UK was referred to as a “dinosaur” by commentators who queried their response to proposed working practices.  Reaching for our dictionaries we noted that two definitions for the word “dinosaur” were given. The first – an extinct reptile from the Mesozoic era, often of enormous size and secondly – a large and unwieldy system or organisation especially one not adapting to new conditions.

The public’s perception of dinosaurs seems little changed over the last fifty years or so, despite the wealth of documentaries, books and internet site portraying these animals as very much more dynamic than previously imagined.

Not so long ago, a genuinely serious theory about the extinction of the Dinosauria proposed that they “simply became to stupid to survive”.  This theory was given credence by a number of academics, although fortunately it has rather fallen by the wayside.  How such a diverse and successful group of reptiles can end up being part of an insult, appertaining to slow and unwieldy organisations seems a little perverse to us.  From humble origins, this Superorder became the dominant vertebrate animals on land for something like 150 million years.  They are a spectacular success story with their descendants the birds still doing rather well today.  Indeed, my colleague tells me that there are still more species of birds on the planet than they are mammal species.

It seems that using the term “dinosaur” to represent and inefficient, outmoded person or organisation seems a little bit unfair   On balance the Dinosauria were rather successful, arguably more successful than many Orders of Mammalia, including our own part of the Mammalian family tree, after all, unless there is some ancient ape-like creature lurking unseen in the Himalayas or some form of Gigantopithecus hiding in the Rockies, or indeed pygmy- like “hobbits” on the Indonesian island of Flores, Homo sapiens is the last human species to be found on Earth.

In biological terms, such a limited genus could be prone to extinction – heading for what we term a “dead end branch” on the tree of life.  The ballooning of the human population on a world with finite resources is putting pressure on Earth’s ecosystems – the geological record in the future when lead to a re-interpretation of just what is successful and what is not when it comes to hominids own role in the story of life on Earth.  What intrigues us is what will be around to interpret this record and make sense of our own role in evolution.

4 06, 2011

Mastodons of All Ages Excite Museum Field Staff

By | June 4th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Snowmass Site Revealing Fossils of Ancient Elephants

Scientists and field workers from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science are finding evidence of Mastodons (ancient elephants) of all ages and sizes including juveniles and infants as they continue their excavation of the Snowmass reservoir site in Colorado.

For sometime now, team members at Everything Dinosaur have been following and reporting on the excavation of an ancient Ice Age lake bed organised by the Denver museum in a race against time before a reservoir extension is completed.  The scientists and volunteers have so far recovered a treasure trove of amazing fossil fossil finds providing a detailed insight into the fauna and flora of the United States from the time of the “mega” mammals such as Mammoths, giant bison and Mastodons.

To read about previous discoveries at the Snowmass site: Huge Prehistoric Bison Skull Unearthed in Colorado

Given only a short window of opportunity to work in the area before the construction teams move in to complete their building project, it is a race against time to find and extract the fossils and the hard work of the people involved has been rewarded with some amazing discoveries including Mastodon fossils from individuals of all ages.

The Denver Museum has been keen to co-operate with the construction companies involved in the building project, ensuring that agreement was reached to let them continue their research.

To read more about this: Scientists reach Agreement over Snowmass Excavations

The Mastodon fossil finds so far include a small skull of an infant (the size of a basketball), a small skull of a juvenile (the size of a beer keg), a tiny femur or thigh bone that may have belonged to a foetus (it measures seven inches in length), and more than twenty tusks of varying shapes and sizes.

Dr. Kirk Johnson, the leader of the museum’s excavation team commented:

“Based on our previous research, we know that we are finding male and female Mastodons of all ages.  Since beginning the dig last fall, we have uncovered 26 total Mastodon tusks, which means we have evidence for at least 13 to 20 different mastodons on this site.  We’ll know more as we study the growth rings on each tusk and identify pairs of tusks that belonged to individual animals.”

Prior to the fantastic discoveries near Snowmass, on the reservoir excavation project, there had only been three other Mastodon finds on record in the state of Colorado, and no Mastodon skull material had ever been found in this part of the United States.

One of the Mastodon Vertebrae Discovered at the Snowmass Site

Picture Credit: Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Dr. Johnson went on to add:

“We have so many speculative questions, like why were so many Mastodons in this one location, and what can scientists learn from this discovery?  At this point, we only have speculative answers.”

Scientists are busy collecting data and mapping the finds — details that can help them piece together what occurred at the site, an ancient lake where hundreds of Ice Age fossils have been recovered.  Scientists believe the oldest fossils being recovered are 130,000 to 150,000 years old.

This is the Denver Museum’s largest ever fossil excavation project with more than one hundred and fifty personnel involved including scientists, volunteers and other staff members.  They have just a few weeks to complete the work before the site has to be closed to enable the reservoir to be completed.

3 06, 2011

Kentrosaurus Helping Scientists Tell the Girls from the Boys

By | June 3rd, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

British Scientists use Dinosaur Thigh Bones to Tell Boys from Girls

A team of British scientists have concluded that the shape and size of muscle attachment scars seen on the upper hind limb bones (femur) of dinosaurs may provide clues that will help them distinguish between males and females.  The technique, if proven, may help palaeontologists understand more about some of the ornate frills and crests that some dinosaurs had – anatomical differences between male and female dinosaurs of the same species.

This new study and its implications is discussed in a paper published in the scientific publication the Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology.  How to tell male from female dinosaurs apart has long been a subject of controversy for many scientists.  Unfortunately, with in most cases, only the fossilised bones to study, determining which dinosaur fossils represent boys and which ones are girls is quite difficult – but not impossible.  For example, studies into the structure of some large Hadrosaur bones and other dinosaur remains has led to the identification of medullary bone tissue, calcium rich deposits inside the bones which females use to draw the reserves of calcium required to produce bird egg shells.  If a cross-section of dinosaur bone shows evidence of medullary bone tissue, this is significant evidence to suggest that the bones come from a female.  However, this is a costly and destructive technique so if another fool-proof method could be identified, one which was based on an external observation and comparison of fossil material then so much the better.

To read more about the examination of internal fossil bone structures to identify female dinosaurs and matters related to ontogeny (growth rates in dinosaurs): Research Shows that Dinosaurs May have Grown Quickly and Died Young

Co-author of the research paper Susannah Maidment of the Natural History Museum (London) stated:

“Bones are shaped by the muscles that attach to them, so difference in the shape or size of muscle attachments on the leg bones suggests differences in the muscle mass of the animal that the leg belonged to.”

The dinosaur chosen for the study was the Stegosaurid Kentrosaurus, (K. aethiopicus), known from Upper Jurassic (Kimmeridgian faunal stage) strata from the famous Tendaguru site in Tanzania (Africa).  Several specimens of this particular Ornithischian dinosaur have been discovered, including many individual bones, most famously by German led expeditions that explored the Tendaguru Formation between 1909 and 1912.  Something like the bones from seventy different Kentrosaurs have been found to date.  The scientists analysed the shape and muscle attachment scars on fifty femora (the plural of femur – thigh bones).

Closely related to the American Stegosaurus, Kentrosaurus had two pairs of small plates that ran along its back and neck.  The plates became pairs of spikes as they continued down the body to the tail.  A larger spike was found on the shoulder blade, providing protection from attack, although some scientists believe this spike was actually positioned over the thigh.

A Scale Drawing of Kentrosaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Maidment went on to comment:

“We used a method that examines shape differences in the leg bones, and we were able to show that at the top end of the bone, where some of the hip muscles attach, there are shape differences.  We were able to group the adult bones into two statistically significant groups: that is all adult bones had one morphology or the other morphology.”

Fossils for juvenile dinosaurs and sub-adults, did not fall into the groups, indicating that the bone shape differences didn’t occur until adulthood when the young dinosaurs likely evolved their secondary adult characteristics such as distinctive crests, frills and horns as in the case with other Ornithischian dinosaurs.  If the two morphologically exclusive groups of bones represent adult males and adult females, then this is a start, but at the moment the researchers are unable to conclusively state which group were males and which female.

Maidment added:

“We’ll probably never know that unless a complete, spectacularly well preserved specimen of Kentrosaurus is found with an egg in its oviduct.”

Notwithstanding the obvious problems of trying to determine the status of dinosaur fossils approaching 150 million years old, this new technique provides researchers with a tool that can be used to complement other observed differences among members of the same dinosaur species.

The scientists therefore now suspect that the unusual spikes and armoured plates found on Stegosaurs may have had unique particular shapes, depending on whether the individual was a male or female.  Since there are only two specimens of Stegosaurus with complete rows of Armour, the researchers cannot yet assess those probable  differences between the boys and girls.  However, such differences are only likely to be trivial and superficial in the opinion of Everything Dinosaur’s experts.  The primary function of spikes is not for displaying difference amongst genders but for defence, natural selection would not necessarily lead to armour and defensive weapons being selected for to permit gender differentiation, although it could be argued that in extant deer, the antlers of the bucks are very different from those of the does (if they have antlers) and indeed there is huge variation in antler shape and size amongst individuals.

Ken Carpenter at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science has down some work on Tyrannosaur pelvises.  He and a number of other researchers have identified “gracile” and “robust” forms of T. rex.  Could these differences have something to do with the need to store and pass eggs in the females?  It is certainly a well-written and interesting paper and we shall see how this Kentrosaurus focused story evolves.

2 06, 2011

Getting to Grips with Facebook

By | June 2nd, 2011|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Facebook Logo Now on Everything Dinosaur Home Page

Careful not to be regarded as old fossils ourselves, we have been dipping our toes into the amazing world of social networks.  A few months ago we created the Everything Dinosaur Facebook page, and I big thank you for everyone who has already given us a like and become friends with us.

It is interesting to note how many of our colleagues and associates already have a social network presence, we shall endeavour to make our Facebook wall as interesting as possible with pictures of our fossil digs and finds, work in schools, new products and everything and anything to do with our company.  Naturally, we shall continue with the Everything Dinosaur web log, it is a shame that we can’t unite these two sites together but our blog platform currently does not permit this.  Still Facebook gives us yet another way in which we can converse, correspond and generally keep in touch with people.

We have just put the official Facebook log onto the Everything Dinosaur home page, by clicking on this link visitors can see what we have been doing on our Facebook wall.

To visit our Facebook pages: Everything Dinosaur on Facebook

1 06, 2011

Appreciating the Art of Drawing Dinosauria

By | June 1st, 2011|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

In Praise of the Work of Palaeoartists

As we sit in the office struggling to get to grips with the technical wizardry of CS5 and Adobe Photoshop, it can be quite humbling to compare and contrast our own meagre efforts with someone who has a real gift for portraying images and showing fine detail, such as a professional illustrator.  Observation is a key skill for any scientist, we stress to the students that we meet on our school visits the importance of being able to observe an object in fine detail.  Photographs are very helpful, but to get to know an object such as a piece of fossilised bone, there is no better way than observing it carefully and then trying to draw what you see.

When discussing the importance of illustrations in scientific literature over a coffee, a colleague remembered being told by an old professor that in his opinion, no one actually knew or understood a specimen properly until they took the time and the trouble to draw it.

Being able to draw what you see is a rare gift, but rarer still is that ability to take scientific principles and theories about the past and then make ancient history come alive on a canvas.  Palaeoartists are able to do this.  They take current scientific thinking and create a scene from prehistory depicting how the fossils came to be formed, how the Sauropod happened to be entombed in what was to become the Morrison Formation or how the action of a Arthropod scuttling across the shoreline of a Jurassic lagoon came to be preserved as a fossil within lithographic limestone.  This takes great skill, being able to interpret and apply scientific knowledge to produce a work of art depicting a scene that vividly brings to life those animals and plants preserved in the fossil record.

One such palaeoartist is Milan born, Fabio Pastori, whose work is often featured in Prehistoric Times and a number of other leading publications.  His dedication, passion for detail and exquisite eye for detail has enabled him to produce some truly outstanding illustrations.  For example, the picture below entitled “The Perfect Storm” captures a dramatic moment in the life of a herd of a group of Late Jurassic Sauropods, an excellent example of the fossil record being brought to life by the efforts of a talented individual.

The Perfect Storm – Europasaurus hogeri and a Juvenile Theriosuchus

Picture Credit and with Kind Permission: Fabio Pastori

Fabio kindly supplied some details of the original artwork:

Life like appearance of depicted taxa and surrounding habitat in traditional technique 2D: acrylics by brush on cardboard- original size: 23 x 36.7 cm ( 9.8 x 14.4 inches ).

He explains that the image illustrates a very special moment during the Late Jurassic (Kimmeridgian faunal stage) in northern Germany.  This is depiction of several individuals of the genus Europasaurus  in total panic feeling the approach of an storm.  In a few minutes some of these unfortunate animals would be caught in a deluge of rain and swept out to sea.  Whilst the herbivores panic a juvenile Theriosuchus jumps away from this commotion of dwarf Sauropods, … but giants compared to his very small size.

When commenting on the composition of this particular picture Fabio states:

“The painting plays on many levels in prospective, leaving in focus just the central individual of sub-adult of Europasaurus”.

From our perspective we can only admire the care and attention to detail that Fabio displays in his artworks.

To view more of Fabio Pastori’s dinosaur inspired images and other paintings: The Artwork of Fabio Pastori

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