All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//August
21 08, 2011

Monster Crocodile Recognised as the Largest in Captivity

By | August 21st, 2011|Animal News Stories, Main Page|1 Comment

Cassius to Enter Guinness Book of Records

An enormous Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) which measures a fraction under eighteen feet in length has been officially recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the largest crocodile in captivity.  The fearsome croc, known as Cassius is a resident at Marineland Melanesia on Green Island off the coast of Cairns (northern Queensland, Australia).  The crocodile, believed to be over 100 years old has been in captivity since it was brought to the marine park back in 1987, having been captured in the wild near to Darwin a few years earlier.  It was captured as it had attacked a number of boats in the Darwin area and it was thought to be too big and dangerous to be left at large.

Saltwater crocodiles are man-eaters and are responsible for a number of fatal attacks on people each year.  Despite his great size, Cassius can stay hidden in just eighteen inches of muddy water, ready to explode out of the water to catch his prey.  These reptile ambush specialists are extremely dangerous and we at Everything Dinosaur have reported upon a number of Saltwater crocodile attacks in recent months.  From the various slide marks and tail drags left in northern territory river banks and mud flats, some tourist guides believe that in the wild there may be one or two “Salties” that are in excess of twenty feet long.

A Saltwater Crocodile

Picture Credit: Associated Press

Guinness World Records also recognised the world record for the Largest crocodile ever, set by Sarcosuchus imperator, which was a prehistoric species of crocodile which lived around 110 million years ago.  Recent fossilised remains found in the Sahara Desert suggest that this creature took around 50-60 years to grow to its full length of around 11-12 metres (37-40 ft) and its maximum weight of around 8 tonnes.  This is likely to prove controversial to palaeontologists as many would suggest that Deinosuchus (Deinosuchus hatcheri), a huge prehistoric crocodile from the Late Cretaceous of the United States, would have been bigger, certainly heavier.  Other scientists may argue that the Miocene crocodile Purussaurus (Purussaurus brasiliensis), known from fossils found in Brazil, Peru and Venezuela could be a contender.

To read an article about Sarcosuchus: Introducing Sarcosuchus

Cassius bears the scars from his battles with other crocs during his younger days, and has lost his left arm. But at times, the giant reptile has shown a softer side.

Marineland crocodile keeper Toody Scott stated:

“He has shown a bit of an affectionate side with some of the younger female crocs we’ve introduced to him.”

But as we know from bitter experience, never trust a crocodile, they are always looking for an opportunity to attack.

“He’s a very wise croc, very good at pretending that he is nice and gentle; added Mr Scott.

“He can very much lull you into a false sense of security, which is what crocodiles are very good at doing.  I wouldn’t trust him for a second.”

We agree, crocodiles and people do not mix, best to leave them alone or at least only view the likes of Cassius from behind the safety of the bars on his enclosure.

To view models of prehistoric crocodiles and dinosaur toys: Dinosaur Toys for Boys – Dinosaur Models

20 08, 2011

Walrus Causes Mammoth Confusion

By | August 20th, 2011|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Fossil Walrus Skull Causes Mammoth Alert

Lennon and McCartney may have written a song called “I am the Walrus” with the opening line “I am he as you are he as you are and we are all together”, but the Beatles could not have imagined that Russian authorities could have mixed up a Walrus with a Woolly Mammoth but that is what is being reported in online media this morning.

According to a number of news sources there was much excitement in Russian scientific circles when it was reported that a reindeer herder had found a perfectly preserved, fossilised baby Woolly Mammoth.  Woolly Mammoth tusks and other isolated fossils are frequently found in the Siberian Summer as ancient remains of these long dead elephants are washed out of melting permafrost.  To find a baby, a Woolly Mammoth calf, even a few articulated fossils would be an extremely significant discovery.  Back in the Summer of 2007, as reported by the Everything Dinosaur web log, Russian scientists were able to extract the deep-frozen remains of a one month old baby Woolly Mammoth which had been almost perfectly preserved.  This Woolly Mammoth, affectionately dubbed Lyuba is now part of a touring Mammoth and Mastodon Exhibition organised by the Chicago Museum.  This exhibition is due to arrive in the UK in 2013.

To read more about the discovery of Lyuba: New Baby Woolly Mammoth Found

It was initially claimed that the find was as well preserved as Lyuba.   Believed to have died around 40,000 years ago, Lyuba is the best preserved Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) known to scienceAuthorities in the Yamalo-Nenets region said yesterday morning they were scrambling a helicopter to the location.  With the high Summer melt well underway, any flesh that has thawed will start to rot and therefore the Russian authorities were in a race against time to reach this remote location.

A spokesperson for the scientists, scrambled to reach the carcase stated:

“If what is said about how it is preserved turns out to be true, this will be another sensation of global significance.”

However, the scientists and researchers were to be disappointed, as when examined the fossil turned out to be that of a Walrus.  Leader of the Woolly Mammoth rescue mission Ms Fyordorova commented:

“It turned out to be a walrus skull; apparently a fossilised one.  It’s still a good present for us.  We don’t have any walruses yet.”

It may not be a Mammoth, but the fossilised remains of an ancient Walrus could provide the researchers with valuable information as to how the region has changed over thousands of years.

Better luck next time, as the Beatles sang “I am the Walrus, goo goo g’joob”.

To view a soft toy Woolly Mammoth and other prehistoric plush: Prehistoric Mammals and Stuffed Animals

19 08, 2011

A Fossil Hunting We Will Go

By | August 19th, 2011|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Bringing a Jurassic Beach to the Heart of Cheshire

Today, team members at Everything Dinosaur have been invited to Alsager (Cheshire) to provide a “Walking with Dinosaurs” experience for school children.  We are going to be undertaking a number of exercises and experiments with young dinosaur fans and their parents/guardians at the local leisure centre.  There is fossil casting, fossil show and tell, dinosaur runaround and we will also be making a mini-Jurassic beach and getting the enthusiastic young palaeontologists to help us find fossils – best of all, if they want to they can take home what they find.

There are not many opportunities to fossil hunting in the county of Cheshire, we have to thank glacial action and the Permian for much of our exposed geology.  During the Permian Period, this part of the world resembled the Sahara desert, it was what is termed a “red desert” which meant there was little life.  Many of the exposed outcrops of rock are sandstone formed from these dunes and therefore they are largely devoid of fossils.

Everything Dinosaur Leading a Fossil Hunt (Indoors)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture shows team members at Everything Dinosaur helping young fossil finds discover fossils at an earlier event that we held.

It is a good job that we have brought plenty of fossils from our various expeditions with us, I’m sure all the boys and girls (plus their parents/guardians) will have a lot fun.

18 08, 2011

Jawbone Suggests Giant Birds May have Lived Alongside the Dinosaurs

By | August 18th, 2011|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

New Fossil Discovery Suggests Giant Birds Lived During the Mesozoic

Most scientists now agree that the birds (Aves) are descended from a particular group of dinosaurs – Theropods, but the accepted view that birds were small, crow-sized creatures living very much in the shadow of their reptilian cousins has been challenged once again with the discovery of a single jawbone fragment.  This fossil suggests that gigantic, prehistoric birds, the size of the largest bird living today (Ostrich), could have roamed amongst the dinosaurs during the Late Cretaceous.

Ironically, the fossil languished in a museum collection before its significance was recognised, as we at Everything Dinosaur know from experience, sometimes an animal new to science can be found within a museum’s collection.  Either the key, holotype fossils have been incorrectly assigned to an already known species or in many cases the importance of the fossil is simply not recognised.  Even new dinosaur species can be found lurking inside museum cabinets and collections.

To read an article on discovery dinosaurs inside museums: The Best Place to Find a New Dinosaur Inside a Museum

Two lengths of bone were uncovered at a dig site in southern Kazakhstan  (Kyzylorda district) by a joint Soviet-East German scientific expedition in the 1970s.  The fossil fragments were carefully prepared and put together to make a jaw almost thirty centimetres in length but the significance of the fossil was not recognised.  The jaw was the property of a German collector for a number of years and then went on display in a Belgian museum.

The Fossilised Jaw Fragments

Picture Credit: The Press Association

The fossil was found in strata from the Bostobynskaya Formation (also known as the  Bostobe Formation).  It has been dated to the Late Cretaceous approximately 85 million years ago.  The team of scientists, including Gareth Dyke from University College Dublin, dissolved away the plaster and glue that had been used to prepare the fossil fragments in the 1970s to reveal the true fossil bone.

The research paper co-authored by scientists from University College, Dublin, University of Portsmouth, Museo Geologico e Paleontologico (Bologna) plus contributions from French and Belgium based researchers has been published in the scientific journal “Biology Letters”.

Dr. Dyke commented:

“This is one of the largest birds that’s ever been described of any age.  We don’t have much of it, but we know the lower jaw is at least as big if not bigger than the Ostrich lower jaw.  At the age it is, it’s pretty exciting.”

Although, the toothless jawbone indicates a member of the Aves, some scientists have proposed that the specimen could represent a member of the Dinosauria, after all, toothless dinosaurs with beaks are known from the Late Cretaceous fossil record and a number of different types of dinosaur do have a number of anatomical features that closely resemble those of extant birds – dinosaurs such as members of the Oviraptorosauria, Ornithomimids and Alvarezsauria for instance.

To Fly or Not to Fly – Samrukia nessovi?

Big Bird from Everything Dinosaur

Picture Credit: John Conway

The image shows two possible body plans for S. nessovi, firstly that of a flightless bird such as an extant Emu or Ostrich, secondly, as a bird capable of flight.  The human figure (looking remarkably like the statue of David by Michelangelo), provides scale.  The small bird in the diagram represents the size of a typical Late Cretaceous flying bird as known from other fossil material found in Asia.

Dr. Dyke added:

“We have always assumed that giant size in birds was something that evolved relatively late in the history of the group, so to find a specimen so early is remarkable.  This is a giant of a bird with no teeth from the Late Cretaceous.”

The world of fossilised birds has been subject to a number of seismic shocks recently.  For example, Chinese scientists have reported that the iconic fossil of Archaeopteryx (A. lithographica) may not actually represent a bird at all.  These scientists have postulated that Archaeopteryx may be a feathered, cursorial Theropod.

To read more about this issue: Is Archaeopteryx about to be Knocked off Its Perch?

The fossil has been ascribed to the Aves and it has been formally named Samrukia nessovi.  This creature is named after a mythological phoenix-like bird from local legend – the Samruk. The specific name honours  Lev Nessov, an eccentric Russian palaeontologist who used to take the bus or train from St Petersburg into Central Asia to embark on long hikes into the desert to hunt for fossils.  He committed suicide in 1995 at the age of 48 after the breakup of the Soviet Union restricted his travels.

The researchers are unsure as to whether S. nessovi was flightless or not.  Based on measurements from the single fossil jaw, they have estimated that if it had the same body shape as an Ostrich, it would have stood between two and three metres tall.  If it resembled an Albatross it would have had a wingspan of over four metres.  Unfortunately, with only one fossil specimen to work with it is impossible to say much more about this creature.

The fossil is only the second giant, land-living bird species to be discovered in Cretaceous-aged rocks and the first to be found in Asia.  A previously recognised species, Gargantuavis philoinos, was named in 1998 from France but experts have argued over its identification.  If Samrukia nessovi is a bird as scientists suggest the new, Kazakh specimen would help confirm the presence of giant birds in the Cretaceous period.

Dr. Darren Naish, an eminent palaeontologist from the University of Portsmouth, said that the creature provides significant new information on life in Cretaceous times.

He stated:

“Since the 1850s we’ve known that numerous bird species lived during the age of the dinosaurs (known as the Mesozoic Era), but virtually all were crow-sized or smaller.  The Ostrich-sized Gargantuavis from France is the one notable exception and now this new Mesozoic bird from Kazakhstan – known only from its toothless lower jaw – shows that gigantic birds also lived in Cretaceous Central Asia.”

Although unsure whether or not this bird was flightless or whether it took to the skies, Dr. Naish added:

“We can now be really confident that Mesozoic terrestrial birds weren’t all thrush-sized or crow-sized animals, giant size definitely evolved in these animals and giant forms were living in at least two distinct regions.  This fits into a larger, emerging picture that Mesozoic birds were ecologically diverse, with lots of overlap between them and modern groups.  The fragmentary nature of our Samrukia specimen will always mean that some people have doubts about it, but specialists who have seen the remains agree with our interpretation.  The French Gargantuavis has already demonstrated the presence of giant Cretaceous birds and we argue that Samrukia adds a second example and increases the significance of Gargantuavis since it shows that it wasn’t a one off.”

Unfortunately, the absence of other fossil material prevents the scientists from finding out much more about this creature that is new to science.  They can only speculate on what it ate for instance.  Did S. nessovi hunt small dinosaurs, or was it an omnivore perhaps?

Dr.Naish commented:

“We have only the lower jaw, and this doesn’t provide key information on what the whole bird was like.  We hope that new material will be unearthed to provide us with more information, such as understanding what role it was playing in Cretaceous ecosystems.  We do know that the fossil came from a floodplain environment.  This would have been a large flattish plain, criss-crossed by big, meandering rivers.  Fossil wood shows that forests were present nearby and aquatic animals indicate the continual presence of lakes, pools or big rivers.  Samrukia was conceivably in danger from Tyrannosaurs, Dromaeosaurs and other predatory dinosaurs that occurred in the same region but we can’t say whether Samrukia itself was predatory, herbivorous or omnivorous as the lower jaws don’t reveal any obvious specialisations for, say, dedicated plant-eating or feeding on aquatic prey.”

Hopefully, new fossil finds will help scientists to piece together (literally), more information about this strange creature from the Late Cretaceous.  If more fossil material is found, then scientists may be able to confirm that Samrukia nessovi is a bird to resolve the puzzle of whether or not it could fly and what it ate.

Dr. Naish concluded:

“People tend to forget that birds co-existed with their Dinosaurian relatives but it now seems that the Cretaceous was not a ‘dinosaurs-only theme park.’  This find confirms that large birds were living alongside dinosaurs and may have been more widespread than previously thought.”

17 08, 2011

Super Cheetah! – Fossils of Largest Cheetah Known to Science Discovered

By | August 17th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Super Fast, Super Strong – Super Cheetah

The Cheetah is recognised as the fastest land mammal with some of these speedy carnivores having been clocked at more than sixty-five miles an hour.  Efficient predators they may be, but the African Cheetahs around today would have been no match for a fearsome member of the cat family, whose 1.8 million year old fossils have been found in the Republic of Georgia.

Although now confined to the continent of Africa, the Cheetah along with a number of big cats were much more widely distributed in prehistoric times.  Now scientists have uncovered the remains of the largest and most dangerous type of Cheetah known from the fossil record, a super strong, super sized predator most likely feared by those Hominids unfortunate to have been around when this cat stalked south-eastern Europe.

The ancient Cheetah fossils were found at a 1.8-million year old site in Dmanisi in the Republic of Georgia, one of the oldest known sites for ancient human species out of Africa, where fossils of a sabre-toothed cat and a similar scimitar cat had already been discovered before. What with the discovery of the prehistoric Cheetah fossils, this location is proving to be a rich hunting ground for palaeontologists trying to understand the evolution of the Felidae.

Based on its arm and paw bones, the stoutly built Cheetah (Acinonyx pardinensis) is believed to have weighed about 110 kg, about double the weight of its modern African cousin.  The oldest Cheetah fossil known was a skull of Acinonyx kurteni found in China; the animal lived between 2.2 million and 2.5 million years ago, suggesting that these type of cats originated in Asia.

To read an article on the origins of the Cheetah: Cheetahs originated in the “Old World

The research team that have studied the fossils of this “Big Cat”, write in the scientific journal “Quaternary Science Review”, that this particular predator lived in a savanna type environment with forests near by.  It probably hunted on the open plains, running down prey just like its modern cousin.  Scientists have discovered the fossilised bones of a number of potential prey animals including a number of different types of antelope.

Given their findings, the researchers conclude that this extinct cheetah likely thrived as a killer, with each cat downing an estimated 7,500 kg of prey a year, more than any other predator within its community.  That’s the equivalent of 100 people every year, or two a week.  It is likely that this predator did prey on our ancient Hominid ancestors.

Commenting on this fossil find, researcher Ralf-Dietrich Kahlke, a palaeontologist at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Weimar (Germany) stated:

“I was really astonished by how much meat it could bring down.”

16 08, 2011

Bizarre “Primitive” Eel – A Fishy Tale

By | August 16th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

New Species of Pacific Eel shows Primitive Features

A new species of eel, discovered inside an underwater cave of the Pacific island of Palau has astonished scientists as it displays ancient characteristics of the eel family as seen in 100 million year old fossil material.

The island of Palau is certainly a remote location, being approximately 500 miles to the east of the Philippines, but here, in an undersea cave more than thirty metres down, researchers have made the amazing discovery.  A number of specimens of this new species have been collected including a juvenile fish measuring less than five centimetres in length and then a larger eel, believed to be an adult female measuring nearly twenty centimetres long.

This new species is so distinct from other known, extant eels that scientists have had to create a new taxonomic family to describe its relationship to other members of the eel family.  The international research team, the including scientists from the USA, Japan as well as Palau state that the eel’s anatomical features suggest that it has had a long and independent evolutionary history stretching back to at least the beginning of the Jurassic Period.

The Primitive Eel – A Fishy Tale

Picture Credit: Jiro Sakaue

A paper on the team’s research findings can be found in the latest edition of the scientific “Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biology)”.

The research team were not sure of this creature’s affinity with the eel family (Anguilliformes), but genetic analysis confirmed that this fish was a “true-eel”, and a very primitive one at that.  It has been described as a “living fossil”, but this phrase can be misleading.

The scientists have stated:

“In some features it is more primitive than recent eels, and in others, even more primitive than the oldest known fossil eels, suggesting that it represents a ‘living fossil’ without a known fossil record.”

Many of the physical features of this new genus and species of eel, Protoanguilla palau, reflect its relationship to the 19 families of Anguilliformes (true eels) currently living.  Other, more primitive physical traits, such as a second upper jaw bone (premaxilla) and fewer than 90 vertebrae, have only been found in fossil forms from the Cretaceous Period (144 million to 65 million years ago).  Still other traits, such as a full set of bony toothed “rakers,” in the gill arches are a common feature in most bony fishes, but lacking in both fossil and living eels.  The team’s analyses of total mitochondrial DNA indicate that P. palau represents an ancient, independent lineage with an evolutionary history comparable to that of the entire order of living and fossil eel species.

In order to classify the new animal, the researchers had to create a new family, genus and species, bestowing on the animal the latin name Protoanguilla palau the name means “first eel from the island of Palau”.

An Adult Female P. palau

Picture Credit: Jiro Sakaue

The picture shows one of the ten specimens of this newly discovered eel that the scientists used to determine that this was a new fish species.

The team – including Masaki Miya from Chiba’s Natural History Museum in Japan, Jiro Sakaue from the Southern Marine Laboratory in Palau and G David Johnson from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC – drew up a family tree of different eels, showing the relationships between them, they then postulated as to the time when the ancestors of P. palau split away from other types of ancient eel.

Their results suggest this new family has been evolving independently for the last 200 million years, placing their origins in the Mesozoic era, a time when the dinosaurs were diversifying and becoming the dominant terrestrial mega fauna.

The researchers say the Protoanguilla lineage must have once been more widely distributed, because the undersea ridge where its cave home is located is between 60 and 70 million years old and the cave in which they were found is believed to less than two hundred thousand years old.

15 08, 2011

Ichthyosaurus Coprolite

By | August 15th, 2011|Photos/Pictures of Fossils|1 Comment

A Picture of Coprolite from a Marine Reptile

At the request of several blog site readers, Everything Dinosaur has posted up a picture of the coprolite (poo) of an Ichthyosaur.

The Picture of the Coprolite

Marine reptile poo.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We at Everything Dinosaur obviously aim to please our readers.

15 08, 2011

A Mystery Object – What Might This Be?

By | August 15th, 2011|Educational Activities, Main Page|0 Comments

Mystery Object from Everything Dinosaur

Every now and then we like to tease our readers by showing them a photograph of an object from our fossil collection.  Having written about the Very Reverend Dr. William Buckland yesterday, the 155th anniversary of the death of this English geologist and academic – we thought we would put up this picture.

A Mystery Object – What is This?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The ruler in the picture provides a scale – any ideas?

This is an example of a coprolite, very similar to ones that William Buckland studied so intently as this is a coprolite from an Ichthyosaur, (fossil found near Weymouth on the English south coast).  The famous fossil collector at Lyme Regis – Mary Anning had described a number of strange, stony objects that were often found in the body cavities of Ichthyosaur fossil skeletons.  These were known as “Bezoar Stones”, but no one was really sure what they represented.  It was Anning who noticed that if such stones were examined carefully and even broken apart they contained strange, blackend fragments.  These turned out to be the hard parts of Belemnites and other squid, such as hooks and mouth parts, plus the occasional fish scale fragment

These observations by Anning lead William Buckland to propose in 1829 that the stones were fossilized faeces and the term coprolite was first used to describe them.  The term coprolite has come to mean the general name for all fossilized faeces.  Buckland also concluded that the spiral markings on the fossils indicated that Ichthyosaurs had spiral ridges in their intestines similar to those of extant sharks.  He also postulated that some of these coprolites were black because the Ichthyosaur that has produced them had ingested ink sacs from Belemnites.

In the picture above, in the left segment of the object a number of black fragments can be made out.   When examined using a folding 10x magnifying glass it can be seen that these black objects are indeed hooks, fish scales and beak parts of animals that an Ichthyosaur consumed.  These materials represent the indigestible remains of animals eaten by a Jurassic Ichthyosaur.

14 08, 2011

Remembering Dr. William Buckland (1784 -1856)

By | August 14th, 2011|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Main Page|0 Comments

Died this Day – Dr. William Buckland

The Very Reverend Dr. William Buckland died this day (14th August) in 1856.  He was an English clergyman (became Dean of Westminster in 1845), geologist and scientist who dedicated himself to the study of geology and to the fossil bones that were being found in various parts of England.  Many academics at the time, postulated that these bones represented animals that had perished in the Biblical flood.  Indeed, Buckland’s early work focused on the study of such bones that had been found in cave deposits. In 1823, his first great work “Observations on the Organic Remains contained in caves, fissures and diluvial gravel attesting the Action of a Universal Deluge”, covered his study of the remains of prehistoric Hyenas and other such creatures.  My, how the Georgian’s liked to have snappy titles for their published work.

Perhaps, William Buckland is best remembered for being tasked with describing and naming a prehistoric creature from a large fossilised jawbone.   He was asked to study the fossilised remains of a large, unknown animal whilst he was the first Professor of Geology at the University of Oxford.  This animal was to be named Megalosaurus (Megalosaurus bucklandii).  It has the distinction of being the first dinosaur named (1824), although the name Megalosaurus “Big Lizard”, was first used by James Parkinson and the Dinosauria was not classified as a particular Order in the Class Reptilia until the 1840s.

Regarded as an eccentric, we think that William Buckland is credited with the naming of fossilised faeces as coprolites.  In other words, he was one of the first people to study fossilised poo, examining a number of coprolites that had been found in association with Ichthyosaur remains on the English south coast.

13 08, 2011

1,500 Not Out

By | August 13th, 2011|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Blog – 1,500 Articles

On Sunday 27th May 2007, team members at Everything Dinosaur posted up their very first blog article.  Today, we are putting up this – article number 1,500, which is quite an achievement we think.  We try to post up an article every day, news stories concerning dinosaur discoveries, press releases that we have been sent by our many friends working for the press teams of natural history museums around the world, updates on our own fossil finds, photos, interpretations of papers and such like.

Palaeontology can be described as a “move-able feast” it is forever changing, there is so much to discover and learn.  Thanks to all our readers and contributors, roll on the next 1,500.

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