All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//July
12 07, 2011

Close Encounters of the Crocodile Kind

By | July 12th, 2011|Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Tourists Get Very Close to Huge Estuarine Crocodile

Many visitors to the Northern Territories of Australia like to get up close to the amazing wildlife of the region. Sure, Australia has cute and cuddly kangaroos and koala bears but for one group of boat trippers out to spot crocodiles they got a little too close a view of one river giant – an eighteen foot long Saltwater crocodile called Brutus.

The incredible animals of Australia, both extinct ones and those creatures that are very much alive and kicking, have been in the news a lot over the last few days.  Last week, Everything Dinosaur reported on the discovery of a very well preserved giant wombat fossilised skeleton that had been found in Queensland.

To read more about this: Outback Dig for Giant Wombat Fossil

However, the tourists on a river cruise got their own encounter with a giant creature from Australia, one of the most dangerous animals on the planet – a giant Saltwater (Estuarine) crocodile.  The crocodiles are attracted to the pleasure crafts by tour guides who dangle kangaroo meat on poles.  The crocs soon learn to associate the river cruisers with food and they tend to congregate in the hope of getting an easy meal.

Jumping for the Tourists – Saltwater Crocodile

Picture Credit: Katrina Bridgeford/REX features

The crocodile, nick-named Brutus is certainly a very impressive beast, perhaps weighing as much as 1200 kilogrammes and measuring almost six metres in length.  This male croc is believed to be one of the largest in the Darwin river system. It is missing its right front limb, perhaps as a result of a fight with a shark or another crocodile.  The loss of the limb does not seem to have affected this crocodile’s ability to leap out of the water to grab the food on offer.  The power to propel them several metres out of the water is generated by their immensely strong tail muscles.

This is certainly one holiday “snap” that will be remembered.  Although such tourist activities brings in much needed income and plays a role in educating visitors to the area about the dangers of crocodiles the number of large crocodiles in the Northern Territories is a cause for concern amongst government officials.  There have been several crocodile attacks in the last few months, including fatalities, the number of such incidents is on the increase as the crocodile population continues to bounce back after years of illegal hunting.

To read about a recent crocodile attack: Crocodile Sinks Teeth into Dentist

This close encounter with Brutus may lead to more calls to restrict the number of river tours and there has already been discussions regarding a cull of crocodiles in the Darwin river system.

11 07, 2011

Colombian Police Discover Fossils

By | July 11th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Rare Andean Fossils Discovered by Colombian Police

The illicit smuggling of fossils out of South America is big business.  Many people are tempted to smuggle by lucrative black market prices for dinosaur and other prehistoric animal fossils.  Such smuggling is not just limited to South America, but Colombian police have struck a blow for the scientific community by intercepting a parcel containing twenty-six rare fossils at the airport that serves the city of Florencia (south east Colombia).

The bones, which make up parts of larger skeletons of the prehistoric mammals and reptiles that once lived in South America are now in custody being examined by experts in order to determine their origin.

Workers at the Colombian institutes of Anthropology and History and of Geology and Minerals have determined that the bones date from the Mesozoic and most likely from the Jurassic, dating the fossils at somewhere between 150-200 million years old.

10 07, 2011

Dinosaurs Unleashed Teams up with a London Charity

By | July 10th, 2011|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Competition Entrants can Help Charity

Ever since February, the area around North Greenwich (London) has resounded to the roars and bellows of the dinosaurs and other amazing prehistoric animals that make up the Dinosaurs Unleashed exhibition.  This attraction featuring huge animatronic models of amazing beasts such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops has teamed up with London’s oldest children’s hospice – Richard House to enable this charity to benefit from donations every time a person enters the Dinosaurs Unleashed competition to win one of its life-sized dinosaur replicas.

This link-up will see the hospice benefit every time someone texts into the Dinosaurs Unleashed competition to win one of the exhibitions amazing dinosaur models. The exhibition opened at The O2 arena in February. Dinosaurs Unleashed is the UK’s largest life-size dinosaur adventure that gives visitors a unique chance to experience some of the most iconic and awe-inspiring creatures to walk the earth.

Featuring twenty-five life-size dinosaurs, a prehistoric aquarium (CGI), holographic video presentations by wildlife expert Chris Packham, real and replica fossils, interactives galore and more than 40 educational interpretation panels, this unique exhibition has been developed to appeal to family audiences, especially budding young palaeontologists aged  two to twelve.

Nicky Allison, Dinosaurs Unleashed director, said

“When deciding which charity we should support, it was a unanimous decision that it should be a children’s hospice.  Not only can we provide a cash injection, but we can also offer its children, their siblings and their parents a unique and memorable experience at our life-size dinosaur exhibition a brief respite from their otherwise very stressful lives.

Richard House is very close to us at The O2 and it is important for us to support the local community. The professionalism of the staff and the organisation, their relentless fund-raising and enthusiasm for our partnership made the choice of charity very easy.”

The Dinosaurs Unleashed Competition Information

Picture Credit: Dinosaurs Unleashed

To read more about Dinosaurs Unleashed and to enter the competition to win a replica dinosaur, see the Dinosaur’s Unleashed website: please note this competition has now closed.

Richard House Children’s Hospice cares for 250 families of children with life-limiting, life-threatening and complex health-care conditions from across east and north east London.  It needs to bring in £3.1 million each year, and because of this huge fund-raising ask, support from groups such as Dinosaurs Unleashed is essential.

Viv Talbot, Richard House community fund-raising manager, commented:

“Richard House is delighted to be associated with such an excellent exhibition as Dinosaurs Unleashed.  The money raised from the text competition will be used for the care of the children at the hospice.  Every penny raised is needed to continue the work we do here.  This is a fun way of donating whilst having the golden opportunity of winning a dinosaur model.  If 1,000 people took up the challenge of entering the competition this would raise £1,000 for the hospice – sufficient to pay for a child to stay at the hospice for 24 hours.”

Check out the Everything Dinosaur blog for more dinosaur themed news stories.

9 07, 2011

Corythosaurus – Helmet Lizard

By | July 9th, 2011|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|1 Comment

Corythosaurus – A Well-Known Duck-Billed Dinosaur

Corythosaurus was first named and described in 1914 by the American palaeontologist Barnum Brown, following the discovery of a nearly complete fossilised skeleton two years earlier.  A member of the Hadrosauridae, a number of species have been assigned to this genera, perhaps the best known is Corythosaurus casuarius.  More than twenty very well preserved specimens have been discovered to date, the relative abundance of fossil remains has led scientists to suggest that this plant-eating, duck-billed dinosaur lived close to rivers, which would have given these animals a greater fossil preservation potential than other species of Hadrosaur that inhabited upland areas.

The dinosaur was named after its distinctive head crest which resembled a helmet.  Measuring up to ten metres in length this was one of the largest Lambeosaurinae.

A Scale Drawing of Corythosaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

8 07, 2011

Dorset “Super Predator” Skull Goes on Display at Local Museum

By | July 8th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Gigantic Pliosaur Skull Goes on Display to the Public

One of the most spectacular fossil finds from the Jurassic coast of southern England is going on display at a Dorset museum – the skull of one of the largest, most ferocious predators known to science.  The skull and the impressive jaws are from a Pliosaur, a short-necked Plesiosaur (marine reptile) that ruled the waves of the Jurassic seas.  It certainly was an apex predator, capable of attacking and killing any other marine animal, an encounter with this huge Pliosaur for any unwary Ichthyosaurus or Plesiosaur would surely have ended in these reptiles being dinner for this enormous sea monster.

At the time the jaw bones were first discovered, one of the researchers commented that Tyrannosaurus rex would have been a “kitten” in comparison with this fierce carnivore.

The Jaws of the Pliosaur prior to Preparation for Display

Picture Credit: Dorset County Council

The person sat at the back of the jaws gives a scale for this animal, although the rest of the skeleton was never found, scientists have estimated that this creature could have been ten and sixteen metres long.  The fossil bones once collected by an local, amateur fossil collector were then sold to Dorset County Council with the aim of putting them on display at the local museum – providing visitors to Dorset an idea of just how dangerous the seas were in the area around 160 million years ago.

Steps have been taken to try to determine whether this is a new species but as yet, staff members at Everything Dinosaur have not received confirmation that the fossils do represent a new type of previously unknown Pliosaur.

To read an article on the research into this Pliosaur skull: Scanning a Pliosaur – the search for a new species

The English palaeontologist, Dr David Martill, an expert on Jurassic marine reptiles commented on the discovery saying:

“These creatures were monsters!  They had massive, big muscles on their necks, and you would have imagined that they would bite into the animal and get a good grip, and then with these massive neck muscles they probably would have thrashed the animals around and torn chunks off.  It would have been a bit of a blood bath.”

Now that the fossilised bones and teeth have been prepared and the jaws fixed in a “open gape” posture this specimen is ready for display at the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester.

7 07, 2011

Prehistoric Times Front Cover Picture

By | July 7th, 2011|Prehistoric Times|0 Comments

Prehistoric Times Front Cover Picture

Everything Dinosaur team members have received a prior to publication copy of the front cover of the next edition of the magazine for dinosaur fans called “Prehistoric Times”.

Next edition due out soon.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Prehistoric Times

If the front cover is anything to go by, dinosaur model fans are going to really enjoy this next issue.

7 07, 2011

Update on the Misidentified Ornithischian

By | July 7th, 2011|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Identify the Dinosaur

Yesterday, we wrote about the exciting developments at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (California), with the countdown to the grand opening of their new dinosaur galleries well underway.  The two new halls will be opened on Saturday 16th July, we at Everything Dinosaur have been keen to hear how the work has progressed.  The dinosaur projects are just part of a huge multi-million dollar investment in the museum and once completed this institution will be one of the best appointed natural history museums in the world.

We have been grateful to the very efficient press team at the museum, who have kept us posted on the work and we included some pictures from a press release that we had been sent showing some of the new exhibits.  One of the pictures was labelled as showing a Corythosaurus.  However, our experienced dinosaur experts saw immediately that this was not the case.

The Misidentified Specimen – What could it Be?

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

The picture shows the skull and cervical vertebrae (neck bones) of a dinosaur, an Ornithischian and a herbivore but not a Corythosaurus.  For a start, if this was “helmet lizard” we could not see the distinctive head crest.  These fossilised bones were not Lambeosaurine – but what could they be?

We had a brief discussion and the conclusion was that this was an Ornithopod, most probably a Camptosaurus (Camptosaurus dispar) and we asked the press room at the museum if they could send us confirmation.   Sure enough, we received confirmation a few hours later that the specimen in the picture, was indeed a Camptosaurus.

A pat on the back all round, as identifying Camptosaurus from the view afforded us in the picture is quite a feat.  Until recently, many mounted exhibits of Camptosaurus fossils were depicted with a deep, rectangular snout.  Unfortunately, in the original research carried out by Marsh, the American scientist responsible for naming and describing this plant-eating dinosaur from the holotype material, a fossilised skull now known to belong to an entirely different dinosaur was used as the basis for describing the head of Camptosaurus.  Scientists now know that the skull of Camptosaurus was broader towards the back of the head and it had a much larger eye socket (orbit).

An Illustration of Camptosaurus (Collecta Dinosaurs)

“Bent Lizard” to scale

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Largely overshadowed by other more famous dinosaurs known from the Morrison Formation, we have a bit of a soft spot for this Ornithopod, after all, fossil material from southern England has been ascribed to this genera but the fossils, very much incomplete skeletons by any stretch of the imagination may actually represent Iguanodontids.  Some Camptosaur material may be “nomen dubium” but we still like Camptosaurus.

Collecta introduced a Camptosaurus model into their Collecta range in 2010, the first Camptosaurus model from a mainstream manufacturer.

To view the Collecta range and other dinosaur toys: Dinosaur Toys for Girls and Boys – Dinosaur Models

6 07, 2011

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Ready for Grand Opening

By | July 6th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

New Permanent Dinosaur Display to Open on July 16th

Staff at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (California) are busy with the final preparations for the grand opening of their new permanent dinosaur exhibition.  The new “Dino Halls”, part of a multi-million dollar refurbishment and development programme at the Museum are being opened on Saturday 16th July.

The all-new, 14,000-square-foot Dinosaur Hall, marks the halfway point of the Museum’s seven-year transformation.  Twice the size of the Museum’s old dinosaur galleries, the new permanent exhibition will feature over 300 fossils and 20 complete mounts of dinosaurs and sea creatures.  The hall will rival the world’s leading dinosaur halls for the number of individual fossils displayed, the size and spectacular character of the major mounts, including the world’s only Tyrannosaurus rex growth series, (Tyrannosaurs depicted in a family group, that will get Professor Phil Currie and his colleagues very excited no doubt), and the accessible integration of recent scientific discoveries and research into the displays.

We at Everything Dinosaur, have followed the progress of the building work with great interest, to read an earlier article on the refurbishment of the museum: New Ways to Display Your Dinosaurs – Museums for he 21st Century

In the new, spacious, light-filled galleries, visitors come face-to-face, and in some cases can walk underneath, huge prehistoric skeletons, as well as see the dinosaurs as they were in life, illustrated on giant murals and animated in hands-on interactive and multi-media displays. It is great to hear about such innovative ways in which museum specimens can be shown to the public, we recall the excitement we all felt when we walked into the American Museum of Natural History (New York) for the first time and saw their spectacular mount of the Barosaurus mother and baby fending off an attack from two Allosaurus – simply astonishing.  In addition to views on this grand scale, visitors can also get a very detailed, close-up look at fossils at this Los Angeles County based museum, they can touch several, look at many through magnifying glasses as a scientist would, and in the interactive displays, excavate from simulated dirt and rock as palaeontologists would.

Throughout the exhibition, visitors will encounter science not as static information, but as a vibrant, ongoing investigation into dinosaur mysteries, some resolved, and some still being explored.  They will learn that the investigations are still taking place today, reinforcing the fact that discovery is not just something that happened in the past; it is work that is happening now, all around us.

One of the Exhibits on Display at the New Dinosaur Halls

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

In the press release we were kindly sent, this image is incorrectly labelled as a Corythosaurus, we don’t think this is so and we have asked the Dinosaur Institute to clarify (we will keep you posted on this).

Dr. Jane Pisano, the Museum’s President and Director commented:

“The new Dinosaur Hall is an exciting realisation of the goal of our institution-wide transformation, which is to bring the Museum’s research and collections vividly to life for a public that is hungry for the real thing, an encounter with authentic fossils and with the genuine, fascinating process of scientific exploration.  This exhibition will emerge as one of the great dinosaur experiences in the world, and a major reason why NHM (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County) is one of America’s leading natural history museums.”

Standout Specimens

To provide insight into how scientists puzzle out answers to questions about dinosaurs, to reveal the stories behind these astonishing specimens, the exhibition draws from the ambitious discovery and research programmes of the NHM’s in-house Dinosaur Institute (DI), directed by world-renowned palaeontologist and exhibition lead curator, Dr. Luis Chiappe.  The DI’s field research programme has located key specimens all over the world, from the dinosaur-rich badlands of the American West to remote parts of South America and Asia.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is the T. rex growth series, containing an extraordinary fossil trio of the youngest known baby, a rare juvenile, and a recently-discovered young adult, one of the ten most complete T. rex specimens in the world.  The Dinosaur Hall’s other standout exhibits include an imposing new Triceratops; the armour-backed Stegosaurus; the predator Allosaurus; a 68-foot, long-necked Mamenchisaurus; and giant marine reptiles that swam in the oceans covering what is today California.  Two-thirds of the full fossil skeletons have never been displayed before.  Specimens that were previously seen have all been re-articulated into more dynamic new poses based on recent scientific findings.

Dr. Chiappe, outlining his aspirations for the new “Dino Halls” stated:

“We hope to inspire new generations of scientists, since this exhibition highlights the experience of going outdoors and finding treasures, and then understanding how they fit within the current scientific record.  Most dinosaur exhibitions are organised around specific types of dinosaurs or by periods of time.  Our approach is to use new discoveries and research findings to bring visitors into the world of dinosaurs, exploring the great questions of how they lived, behaved, and died, and whether they still exist.”

The Exhibition Experience

For those people not lucky enough to visit this museum over the opening weekend, here is a quick guide to the extensive exhibits on display at these newly refurbished galleries as provided by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County to staff members at Everything Dinosaur.

The Dinosaur Hall extends through two conjoining two-story galleries.  One is a part of the recently restored 1913 Building (the Beaux-Arts structure that was the Museum’s original home).  The second belongs to the newer 1920s building, which has been seismically renovated and outfitted with floor-to-ceiling windows that give passersby in Exposition Park a peek at the giants inside.

One of the exhibit goals was to bring visitors closer than ever to the real specimens,85 percent of the exhibition’s fossils are the real thing, not casts or reconstructions, and remove barriers whenever possible.  To accomplish this, the major fossil skeletons were placed on special platforms that allow the fossils to be shown without glass barriers, and to pass directly underneath a dinosaur neck and stand under a T. rex skull.

This is a key to the exhibition’s visitor experience, as many of these fossils were prepared and articulated in recent years, using modern methods that forgo the thick layers of shellac used by palaeontological conservators of decades past.  Never-before-seen details of the fossils are revealed. Some specimens have rich red and green hues, coloured by the minerals in the lands where they were found.  Some contain visible traces of skin textures, respiratory systems, and in one instance, the stomach contents of a last meal.

The Dinosaur Hall is organised around a series of questions: What is a dinosaur?  What was their world like?  How did they live, grow and behave?  And finally, what happened to them?  Such a layout is indeed innovative and will permit the curators to continually update the exhibits in the light of new scientific research.

A quick walk through the exhibit reveals these main ideas, as they appear on large, colourful mural illustrations.  For visitors who crave more background, context, and stories of discovery, multi-layered content is available for readers in text and in touchscreen kiosks, and for young non-readers, in simple mechanical, manual games.

Upstairs on the mezzanine are displays about the lab and field aspects of palaeontology.  These are hands-on experiences, with touchable specimens, magnifying glasses, and a look at the tools and tricks of dinosaur research, from a camping supply list for a fossil hunting expedition, to Dr. Chiappe’s hand-written field journals.

Gallery One

As visitors enter the exhibition’s first gallery, they are immediately greeted by a magnificent, never-before displayed Triceratops, mounted on a contoured platform with details of the new research that has re-interpreted, via the animal’s forelimb, how this huge creature walked in life.  Forelimbs of Triceratops in the fossil record are extremely rare, we think that this was one of the “choicest cuts” and as they were eminently portable, at least to an adult Tyrannosaurus rex most carcases lost their forelimbs so they had little chance of being preserved in the fossil record.

The Superbly Mounted Triceratops Specimen

“Three horned face”

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

This image really shows the fantastic views visitors can get of the museum specimens.  The state-of-the-art supporting armature, permits this Triceratops to be posed in such a way that visitors can look right into the fossilised skeleton, revealing details not seen by members of the public before – terrific!

Framing the gallery is a 40-foot “fossil wall” showcasing 100 diverse dinosaur specimens, an artful take on traditional palaeontological display, with bones, teeth, eggs, footprints, skin patches, and coprolites (fossilised droppings). Two touch-screen kiosks work as virtual indexes here, allowing visitors to explore what each bone is, and in some cases, turning them around 360 degrees on the screen.

The exhibition’s largest specimen, a 68-foot Mamenchisaurus, stands in front of the gallery’s large central windows with its long neck and tail sprawling throughout the gallery.  This is one of the exhibit’s few casts, most other mounts include real fossils.  We suspect that posing such an impressive beast using the real fossils would have been a health and safety nightmare – so for once a replica fossil specimen is used.

Suspended from the ceiling overhead, and also viewable from the gallery’s new mezzanine, are marine reptiles that lived in the warm sea that once covered California.  Here, visitors will come face to face with the exhibit’s marine monsters.  The Mosasaur Plotosaurus and the Plesiosaur Morenosaurus are both cantilevered over the main floor in a breathtaking, gravity-defying scene.  In some cases, large fossil plaques show animals still encased in dirt and rock, a display method that offers staggering glimpses of prehistory.  There is a Mosasaur plaque, for instance, that reveals traces of a partial body outline, skin colour markings, external scales, a down-turned tail, branching bronchial tubes, and evidence of the animal’s last meal 85 million years ago – fish.

At the end of Gallery One, visitors will get an insight into the field experiences and work done by the Dinosaur Institute expedition teams, led by Chiappe.  On five television screens, video from a recent field expeditions in Utah shows the often gruelling conditions and exciting moments of discovery that characterise Dinosaur Institute excursions.  Nearby, a specimen is displayed, in the plaster “jacket” with which it was transported out of the quarry it was found in.

Gallery Two – 1913 Building – The Tyrannosaur Growth Series

The show-stopping centrepiece in this gallery is the platform featuring a very special trio: the young adult Tyrannosaurus rex nicknamed Thomas after the discoverer’s brother (34 feet, and approximately 17 years old) joined by a 20-foot juvenile (approximately 14 years old) and an 11-foot baby (2 years old).  The growth series is a fascinating look at the ways that T. rex specimens grew, a process that included incredible growth spurts and body changes.  After hatching as a 2-foot, 6-pound baby, for example, a T. rex could reach 30 to 35 feet (10,000 to 12,000 pounds) in less than two decades – if it was lucky.

The Unique Exhibit Showing the Ontogeny (Growth of Tyrannosaurs)

A T. rex family gathering

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

But the growth series is also a snapshot of dinosaur life; the terrain on which they are mounted finds Thomas and the baby standing on one side, while the juvenile lurches toward the carcass of a duck-billed Edmontosaurus.  Though nearby content is careful to point out that theories about a long-extinct animal’s behaviour are just that, the scene intends to raise questions about the behaviour of the T. rex.  A nod perhaps towards Professor Phil Currie and his fellow researchers at the University of Alberta and the IVPP (Beijing) who have recently re-inflated the debate about pack behaviour in large Theropods.

In another panel, the mystery of how and when the large dinosaurs died out is introduced, with evidence for a mass extinction event at the end of the Mesozoic.  This section also highlights the evolutionary connection between dinosaurs and birds, providing compelling evidence about why the latter should be considered living dinosaurs.

The second level of the exhibition takes a closer look at the science behind these specimens, from how we know where to look for specimens to the work we do in palaeontology labs.  One area focuses on field work and the surprising data that a quarry can reveal in addition to its fossil treasures and examples of excavation methods (which, unlike lab work, have not changed drastically over the last several decades).  Multi-media interactive kiosks allows visitors to “excavate” specimens and investigate the finds.  The companion area focuses on laboratory discoveries, research tools that have evolved to include high-tech microscopes, CT scans, and genome studies.

This is a project five years in the making with hundreds of contributors.  Inside NHM, the Dinosaur Hall was supervised by Dr. Karen Wise, VP of Education and Exhibits.  Dr. Chiappe was its lead curator; Jennifer Morgan was its project manager.

The exhibition was designed by Brooklyn-based Evidence Design, with graphics from Los Angeles’ Kim Baer Design Associates (KBDA).  Lexington was the fabricator, and New York-based United Field created its multi-media assets.  Two of North America’s finest fossil mount makers worked on the exhibition. Phil Fraley Productions, the company that headed the articulation of Sue, the iconic T. rex of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History; undertook the T. rex specimens, the giant marine reptiles, and the Triceratops.  The Ontario, Canada-based Research Casting International remounted the exhibition’s largest specimen, the 68-foot Mamenchisaurus and six additional medium-sized mounts.

One of the Fantastic Illustrations that Adorn the new Dinosaur Halls (Mamenchisaurus)

Old Long-neck takes a walk

Mamenchisaurus

Picture Credit: Julius Csotonyi/Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

The seismic retrofit and historic renovation of the Dinosaur Hall galleries was led by CO Architects Principal, Jorge de la Cal, and Cordell Corporation President, Don Webb, with Matt Construction.  We at Everything Dinosaur would like to congratulate all those people who have been involved in the project and one day, perhaps, some of our team members will get the chance to visit such an exciting museum – if only our busy schedules (and our budget) will allow.

 

5 07, 2011

Outback Dig Provides Fossils of Giant Wombat

By | July 5th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Diprotodon – A Monster Marsupial

A set of fossilised giant Wombat bones found at Burketown in north-west Queensland are getting Australian palaeontologists hopping with excitement as they could represent the most complete fossil skeleton of a Diprotodontid ever found, beating a 33,000 year old specimen found near Sydney back in 1979.

By the Late Eocene Epoch, Australia had become completely isolated from the rest of the world, finally having split from Antarctica with the forming of the Southeast Indian Ridge.  This ridge opened up a seaway between these two landmasses and Australia was separated, breaking up the last remnants of the super-continent known as Gondwanaland.  Australia began to move north as the seaway expanded, a journey the country is still on, one day it will bash into south east Asia but for the moment this huge area of land, with all its strange fauna and flora are very much on their own.

Fifty-five million years ago, back in the Eocene Epoch this isolated part of the world, complete with its primitive mammals, in particular the marsupials, took a very different evolutionary path compared to the rest of the world, where placental mammals tended to dominate.  Australian marsupials flourished, as indeed they do today and if you think that Kangaroos and Koalas are strange beasts then the animals that dominated prehistoric Australia are in another league.  It is the remains of one such strange prehistoric beast, perhaps the largest marsupial that ever lived that has got Australian scientists so excited.

Scientists are hoping to piece together the world’s most complete Diprotodon skeleton ever sourced from a single specimen.  Diprotodontids were a diverse group of quadrupedal, herbivorous marsupials some of which grew to enormous sizes.  Diprotodon for example, grew to the size of a modern day hippo and would have tipped the scales at around 3,000 kilogrammes.

Professor Michael Archer, of the University of New South Wales commented:

“What we’re seeing here is the biggest marsupial that ever lived in the world – a three-tonne monster that was walking around this land somewhere between 50,000 and two million years ago.  This was its last stand.”

Professor Archer says it is unusual for all the creature’s bones to be found in one place, most large animals would have been scavenged by Thylacines and leopard sized marsupial lions but although dis-articulated the scientists are hopeful that the complete skeleton can be found.

A Reconstruction of the Giant Marsupial Diprotodon

Picture Credit: Australian Museum/James King

Professor Archer added:

“All the bones are not necessarily in their right position but probably the whole skeleton of this giant is in this one spot where it fell maybe 50,000 years ago.”

Scientists are hoping to piece together the world’s most complete Diprotodon skeleton ever sourced from a single specimen.  Australian palaeontologists have benefitted from the remarkable fossil bearing rocks to be found at another remote location in Queensland – Riversleigh.  Fossils found at this location date from the Miocene Epoch to the Late Pleistocene and document the bizarre fauna that existed in lush, lowland rain forests up to around 20,000 years ago.

4 07, 2011

Snowmass Excavations Come to an End

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

Scientists Leave Ziegler Dam Site to Engineers

It’s a wrap, literally, as the last of the Ice Age fossils found at the Ziegler Dam location in Colorado are carefully wrapped in preparation for their journey to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  The excavation, the second part of the dig, after the first studies were curtailed by heavy snow falls last Autumn, came to an end on Friday and the researchers, scientists and fieldworkers began to depart over the weekend.

Scientists from the museum, have been working at the site close to Snowmass Village which is believed to be the largest deposit of Ice Age fossils in North America yet discovered.  The first fossils were found last October as a bulldozer driver working on the extension to the reservoir uncovered some large fossilised bones.

Scientists quickly moved in and began excavating the fossils from what they believe is the site of a former Ice Age lake.  They worked until mid-November, but had to halt activities when the area began receiving heavy snowfall.  Then an agreement was reached with the construction company to permit the scientists to return in the late Spring to remove as many bones as they could before the engineering work could move ahead.

Volunteers and Scientists Busy Wrapping Fossils at the Site

Picture Credit: Denver Museum of Nature and Science

In their first time at the dig site, the scientists, fieldworkers and volunteers  recovered portions of eight to ten Mastodons, four Mammoths, four Giant Bison, two fossilised Deer and the remains of a Giant Ground Sloth.  We at Everything Dinosaur have followed the work up at Snowmass Village and we have reported regularly on the team’s progress.

The First Discoveries: Huge Prehistoric Bison Skull Discovered in Colorado

Agreement is reached to continue the excavations: Agreement is Reached to Permit Scientists to Continue their Work

The Research Continues: Researchers Ready to Return to the Ice Age

In the second round of excavations, crews discovered many more bones, recovering a grand total of 4,517 fossils from twenty different animals, including additional Mastodon, Mammoth, Bison and Deer bones. They also discovered Camel, Otter, Muskrat, Bat, Rabbit and bird skeletons, among many others, providing scientists with a rare insight into the fauna of this area over the last fifty thousand years.

Crews from the museum moved out of the area on Friday in order to allow construction on the dam to continue. However, a few scientists will remain behind to make sure any additional bones that are discovered are safely transported to the Museum of Nature and Science’s Fossil Preparation Laboratory.  Scientists say they are confident the technique they used when excavating the site means the majority of the bones have already been found.

Scientists Uncovering Another Prehistoric Elephant Bone

Picture Credit: Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Kirk Johnson, the Chief Curator and Vice President of the research and collections at the Denver based museum stated:

“The key thing to realise is that the fossils are in the lake bed sediments, and we know exactly where the lake bed sediments end and where the rest of the lake begins, so we’re basically scooping out the sediments.  When we finish scooping out the sediments, we’ve basically removed all possibility of finding bones.”

Some of the bones scientists are working with are quite large and the next step is to get all of the fossils back to Denver.

Johnson added:

“We’ve got one gigantic fossil that is in a giant plaster jacket that probably weighs in the vicinity of 10,000 pounds. So that’s going to be a real fun one to move.”

A crane will be required to remove that item.  Forty-five additional large, plaster-wrapped fossils, weighing anywhere from 100 to 700 pounds, will be brought to Denver on a flat bed truck.  Smaller fossils have been transported to Denver in museum vehicles throughout the course of the dig, some of which Johnson says are already on display in the window of the Fossil Preparation Laboratory.

However, visitors will not have to wait much longer to catch a glimpse of some of the larger finds.

Commenting on the work ahead of the scientists, Johnson said:

“I would say like middle of July you should start seeing big Snowmass fossils in the fossil prep lab window.  We’ll probably get some down to the main floor of the museum as well because some of these fossils are too big to get up to the prep lab.  So, it’s going to be an ongoing exciting process that you’ll be able to watch unfold in the museum starting in a couple weeks, and lasting for many months.”

The whole project has been a triumph for the museum and its staff and much credit must also go to the construction company and engineers, without whose co-operation many of the fossils, perhaps some of the most important Ice Age fossils ever found in the United States would have been lost forever when the reservoir was extended.

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