All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
12 08, 2011

Dinosaur Polar Trackways – Theropod Trace Fossils on Australian Beach

By | August 12th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|2 Comments

Trackways found in South Australia Hint at Polar Ornithomimids

The Ornithomimidae (Ostrich mimics), so called as their skeletons superficially resemble modern, ground living birds are known from extensive fossil material from the northern hemisphere.  However, the discovery of a set of dinosaur tracks, in South Australia indicates that Theropods such as members of the Ornithomimidae may have roamed Gondwanaland too.  These trackways support body fossil evidence that suggest that these dinosaurs were indeed common in the southern hemisphere.  Indeed, the tracks made during the Cretaceous Period provide evidence of such dinosaurs living in polar regions in the southern hemisphere.  Scientists have speculated that with these trace fossils, plus evidence from dig sites in northern latitudes, the “Ostrich mimics” may have been warm-blooded.

As the dinosaurs roamed the southern polar regions, they left a series of distinctive three-toed prints in the wet, sandy soil as they crossed a flood plain.  Over time, these trace fossils became compacted into cliffs and it was Anthony Martin  (Emory University) who discovered them in what is now Victoria, (Australia).

All together he found twenty-four complete prints, their different sizes perhaps representing different species or may be juveniles and adults of a single type of dinosaur.

A Close up of one of the Polar Tracks

Picture Credit: Anthony Martin

A single three-toed print can be made out in the picture, the ruler helps to provide scale.

The tracks are all of three-toed animals (that is, three toes to walk on – digitgrade stance).  The narrow toes and their overall size indicate the bird-like prints of a type of bipedal dinosaur belonging to the Theropod group – Ornithomimids.  These light, cursorial dinosaurs had compact bodies, long tails, long necks and very long legs. They were swift runners and palaeontologists believe that some of the larger species such as the four metre long Struthiomimus (Struthiomimus sedens), that lived in North America during the Late Cretaceous (Campanian faunal stage), could have reached speeds in excess of sixty kilometres an hour.

The tracks indicated that the Theropods were of three different sizes, ranging from the size of a chicken to around the size of a crane.  Their size and fossil bones found at other locations in Victoria, suggest to the researchers that these tracks represent evidence of “Ostrich mimics”.

The slabs of sandstone were found along the rocky and remote Milanesia Beach in Otways National Park, west of Melbourne.  The rough surf pounds the coastal cliffs, frequently fracturing slabs and breaking them away from the cliff face.  When the tracks were made, Australia was connected to Antarctica and was located much closer to the South Pole, as a part of the ancient continent of Gondwanaland.  It is thanks to amazing fossil sites such as the famous Dinosaur Cove and East Gippsland locations (Victoria, Australia) that scientists have learnt about the incredible fauna and flora of the Cretaceous polar regions.

Martin set off on the trail toward the footprints among the ragged slabs scattering the shore after he noticed ripple marks and trace fossils of insect burrows.

He commented: “The ripples and burrows indicate a floodplain, which is the most likely area to find polar dinosaur tracks.”

Researchers cannot determine the species of the Theropods from the tracks.  It’s possible they were all of the same species (possibly even a Theropod family), or they could have been different species travelling in the same area at roughly the same time.  Ichnologists (scientists who study trace fossils including tracks and prints), are always reluctant to name a specific species based on the trackway evidence, however, a recent, remarkable examination of a fossil of a Protoceratops unearthed in 1965 provided ichnologists with a “holy grail” of dinosaur fossils – a body fossil of a dinosaur adjacent to a footprint from the same dinosaur species (Protoceratops).

To read more about this remarkable discovery: Stopping a Dinosaur Dead in its Tracks

When the tracks were laid down between 115 million to 105 million years ago, (Late Aptian and Albian faunal stages) the Earth was experiencing global warming, with the average temperature of the area at 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) — about 10 F (6 C) higher than current temperatures recorded in Victoria.  The Cretaceous is one of the warmest periods in the Earth’s recent history.  However, although the area would not have been as cold as polar regions today, dinosaurs would have had to have been tough to survive the low temperatures (it would have been cold enough to permit water to freeze at certain times of the year) and the prolonged period of darkness when the sun dipped below the horizon and the region was plunged into darkness for several months.

These harsh conditions would have dramatically affected the planet’s biology and ecology.

Martin went on to add: “These tracks provide us with a direct indicator of how these dinosaurs were interacting with the polar ecosystems during an important time in geological history.”

The discovery of potential Ornithomimid tracks in what would have been a polar environment adds credence to the study carried out by researchers at Canada’s Royal Tyrrell Museum (Alberta, Canada) who proposed that pits and marks preserved in fossilised Ornithomimidae arm bones suggest these dinosaurs may have been covered in proto-feathers.

A spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur commented about these tracks that hint at dinosaurs from polar regions:

“‘These trackways are certainly an exciting discovery and indicate that fleet-footed Theropods were living in the polar regions.  However, it is impossible to tell whether these animals were residents or seasonal migrants.  Finding such trace fossils so far south adds support to the theory that these Theropods may have been feathered to help insulate them and keep them warm.  This in turn suggests that these dinosaurs may have been warm-blooded.”

The report of the footprints was published on line in the journal of Australian palaeontology “Alcheringa”.

11 08, 2011

Update on the Most Popular Articles of 2011

By | August 11th, 2011|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Turtles versus Pterosaurs versus Dinosaurs

With just over two hundred articles written on the Everything Dinosaur blog site this year, we thought it would be a good idea to review which ones were proving to be the most popular.  Some of our older articles, after all, our web log has been running for several years are viewed by thousands of people each year, but looking at those articles published in 2011 we can see that three are currently setting the pace when it comes to being the article that is viewed the most this year.

Naturally, those articles published earlier on in the year have an advantage over those articles that are written and put up towards the end of the year.  However, the three front runners at the moment are typical of the type of articles we write and one was only published online last month.

The three most popular articles at the moment focus on turtles (Chelonia), flying reptiles (Pterosaurs) and on a television programme featuring dinosaurs.

In no particular order:

How Did the Chelonia Survive the Cretaceous Mass Extinction? published on July 15th.  This article describes the research into a particular genus of turtle that survived from the Cretaceous into the Palaeogene.

March of the Dinosaurs a piece we wrote about a ninety minute documentary about polar dinosaurs in the northern hemisphere that was shown on terrestrial television back in April.

The next contender is an article that we put up in January.  This story covered the research into the discovery of a new genus of Pterosaur (flying reptile), with vicious looking teeth.  We published this item under the story line of New Pterosaur with “Piranha-like” Teeth  these three articles are typical of the wide variety of items the blog features.  Each of these pieces have received many hundreds of views, so it will be interesting to see which one of our 2011 articles proves to be the most popular at the end of the year.

10 08, 2011

Plesiosaur Fossil Provides Clue to Marine Reptile Breeding

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

Sea Monster in the Family Way

A paper detailing the research carried out on a superbly well preserved Plesiosaur fossil has just been published in the scientific journal “Science”.  The fossil, a long-necked marine reptile (Plesiosaur) nick-named “Poly” could provide proof that such aquatic reptiles gave birth to live young – that they were viviparous.

The fossil, discovered on a ranch in Kansas in 1987 when fully excavated revealed something very unusual – amongst the large bones of the long-necked Plesiosaur, there were the jumbled up remains of much smaller animal.  Now, researchers have identified the mystery creature and published a paper into their research.  “Poly” the Plesiosaur may have been pregnant.

The Plesiosauria were a group of marine reptiles, ranging in size from about 3 metres in length to more than 15 metres long that lived in the Jurassic and Cretaceous.  Many were long-necked, specialised fish eaters like the Late Cretaceous giant Elasmosaurus, but there were other types of Plesiosaur.  One group for example, were short-necked and became predators of other marine reptiles (Pliosaurs).

An Illustration of a Typical Late Cretaceous Plesiosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

If this fossil has been interpreted correctly and the small creature does resemble an unborn Plesiosaur, then this sheds light on the mystery of how these large creatures bred.  Some marine reptiles such as the extant turtles (Chelonia) are able to return to land and lay eggs.  The females then return to the water abandoning the eggs to their fate.  For Plesiosaurs, returning to land may not have been an option, as certainly many later forms would have found locomotion on land with their flippers very awkward, and indeed out of the water their bodies would have been crushed by their own weight.

Commenting on the research, Xiao-Chun Wu, a palaeontologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, stated that pregnant marine reptiles, although rare in the fossil record, were not that unusual.  Dinosaurs living on land may have preferred laying eggs, but their aquatic kin, more closely related to modern lizards than to dinosaurs such as Triceratops and Diplodocus, had given up the terrestrial life.  The flipper-ed Plesiosaurs, in fact, seemed incapable of hauling themselves out of the water to find a spot on land, where it’s much safer for an egg.  Researchers had discovered a number of other pregnant marine reptiles, including “fish lizards” – Ichthyosaurs with several young inside their bodies. But they had yet to find a single fossil of a pregnant Plesiosaur and could only speculate on how these predators that dominated the oceans of the Mesozoic reproduced.

Evidence of Live Birth in Ichthyosaurs – A Viviparous Ichthyosaur

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum

The fossil in the picture, from Germany shows a young Ichthyosaur emerging from an adult.  A number of fossilised bones of other babies can be seen in the body cavity.  More than twenty years after the fossil was removed from the Kansas ranch, preparators have put together the bones and discovered the evidence for a viviparous Plesiosaur.

The species Polycotylus latippinus a typical Plesiosaur of the Western Interior Seaway is quite well known but no fossil like this has been found before.  This specimen part of a new exhibition opened last month at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, to celebrate the opening of the new dinosaur halls, measures five metres long and according to the research team, the more than a metre long youngster is not a meal but a baby inside its mum.

The Prepared Fossil Mount at the Museum of Natural History Los Angeles County

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Writing in the journal Science, the researchers state that the small creature has all the indications of being a baby, with its stubby limbs and big head.  The embryos vertebrae, which in a more mature animal would be much more solid were still separated into smaller pieces.  The little reptile had also been inside its mother when they met their end from an unknown fate, a thin layer of rock had fused the baby’s pelvis to the inside of its mother’s shoulder blade, something that wouldn’t be possible if the two had died side by side. O’Keefe estimates that the young marine predator was only about two-thirds developed.

Scientists have speculated that when the baby Plesiosaur came to term, it could easily have exceeded 1.5 metres in length, or about a third of the mother’s body length.   Having one big offspring that had a long gestation period is more akin to whale behaviour than to breeding behaviour associated with reptiles.

Most known lizards, snakes, and even Ichthyosaurs produced many, even dozens of babies all at once.  Marine mammals such as Orcas (killer whales) in contrast, have fewer young but also tend to be more diligent parents, suggesting that the fierce Plesiosaur may have been a nurturer.

One of the researchers stated that Plesiosaurs were not Orcas, but a few living reptiles also partake in mammalian-style baby making and rearing.  For example, some species of Australian skinks, for instance, live in warrens with as many as seventeen relatives.  Their stable family home makes child care convenient. Poly’s briny lagoon, which extended along what’s now the Mississippi River into Kansas, may have been equally calm, a researcher commented:

“It is plausible that Plesiosaurs lived in some fairly stable environments in which they didn’t move around too much.”

Alternatively, Plesiosaurs may have migrated to a quiet, shallow lagoon type of environment specifically so that they could give birth and spend the first few weeks in relative safety with their offspring.  Although, given the state of the fossilised bones of the embryo, it is likely that the gestation period had sometime to go before this  mother would give birth.

However, other palaeontologists have challenged the viviparous view, claiming that the Plesiosaur baby is in fact the remains of a meal.  This would explain why only one small Plesiosaur was found inside the body cavity.

Kenneth Carpenter, a paleontologist at Utah State University believes that “Poly” should not be considered as an example of live birth in Plesiosaurs.  The young reptile in her abdomen is missing a few bones, and he suspects that “mum” lopped them off when she fed on the unfortunate youngster.  Many modern-day reptiles similarly feast on juveniles, even those from the same species:

He stated:

“This is a stronger case for cannibalism than it is for live birth.”

9 08, 2011

Baby Frogs Leaving the Office Pond

By | August 9th, 2011|Animal News Stories, Main Page|1 Comment

Frogs Start Their Exodus

Over the last few days we have observed a number of tiny frogs in and around the office pond.  Although Tadpoles have been difficult to spot we were confident that a number of tadpoles had been able to survive long enough to complete their metamorphosis into frogs.  We expect that over the next few days these tiny creatures, most measuring about a centimetre in length will make their way out of the pond and disperse around the yard and the surrounding area.

We are not sure whether this year’s frogs should be referred to as  froglets.  However, it is always pleasing to see these creatures complete the change from fully aquatic tadpole to amphibian.  Occasionally, we come across small frogs around the office buildings, we think that these are survivors from 2010.

Interestingly, when we look back at our records and previous web log articles, we note that frogs had been observed leaving the pond earlier in previous years.  There may be a number of reasons for this.  Firstly, the relatively poor Summer with lots of rain may have kept the water temperature lower than the seasonal norm and this may have slowed the tadpoles development.  Perhaps the poor Summer weather resulted in less food available and this too, would have inhibited the tadpoles growth.  It could also be that  we have simply not observed the frogs leaving as we did last year.  When working late yesterday evening, a went out with a torch to see what I could see in the yard by the pond.  It was raining and as we know from experience frogs seem to be more active in rain then when it is dry.  I counted three frogs within the vicinity of the pond, all of them were large so these were not from this year’s hatch.  Perhaps as the froglets are so small, I just did not see them, so this too could account for the lack of young frog observations outside the pond area.

A Fuzzy Picture of One of Last Years (2010) Frogs

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Our records show that young frogs started to leave the pond in mid July back in 2009 and last year.  We have yet to observe one of this year’s tadpoles having left the pond as a fully formed adult, outside the immediate pond area.

8 08, 2011

Last Chance to See – Dinosaurs Unleashed

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

Last Few Days of Dinosaurs Unleashed – London 2011

This is the last week of the spectacular Dinosaurs Unleashed animatronic dinosaur exhibition at the Meridian Gardens at The O2 arena (London).  With just a few days left to come face to face with Tyrannosaurus rex and other amazing dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.  An additional day (today) has been added to accommodate the last minute rush to see the dinosaurs but the experience is being closed from the 11th August.

Time travellers get your skates on as there are only three days left including today to travel back to the Mesozoic and explore the amazing prehistoric animals that roamed the Earth and swam in the seas many millions of years ago.

Staff at Dinosaurs Unleashed are encouraging families to book tickets now to avoid missing out on this unique summer attraction and advise that it is best to book in advance as they expect to be very busy over the event’s last few days.

This attraction is open until Wednesday 10th August with last entry at 16.30pm.

For further information on dinosaur visitor attractions check out this Everything Dinosaur blog.

7 08, 2011

Was Pteranodon the Largest Flying Reptile of All Time?

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

Fielding A Question about Pterosaurs

Staff at Everything Dinosaur do their best to answer the many questions that they get sent.  We try our best to reply to every single query, for example, the other day we were asked a question about flying reptiles, one particular Late Cretaceous flying reptile – Pteranodon and was it the biggest of its kind.

The genus Pteranodon contains a number of assigned species, the largest of which we believe is Pteranodon longiceps.  This particular member of the Pterosaurs had a wingspan in excess of 7 metres in length and perhaps weighed as much as 50 kilogrammes.  It is difficult to give an accurate estimate of body size as the fossils of Pterosaurs tend to be highly fragmentary and those that are discovered are often badly crushed.  One of the hazards of having thin bone walls, and pneumatic bones (bones which are filled with air spaces).

A Picture of a Pteranodon

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Scientists think that the largest of the Pterosaurs did live at the very end of the Cretaceous Period, but they were not members of the Pteranodontidae but representatives of another type of flying reptile the Azhdarchidae.  These Pterosaurs were very widely distributed, fossil remains have been found in China, Japan, Jordan, Morocco, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Spain and Uzbekistan, as well as North America.  Palaeontologists still debate which was the largest of these type of Pterosaurs.  Here again the fossil evidence is too fragmentary to provide firm conclusions but Quetzalcoatlus Q. northropi from Texas (United States) and Hatzegopteryx thambema known from fossils found in Transylvania are believed to be amongst the largest.  These two Pterosaurs may have had wingspans in excess of 12 metres, much larger than any known member of the Pteranodontidae.

6 08, 2011

Stopping A Dinosaur “Dead in its Tracks”

By | August 6th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Protoceratops has Something in Common with Cinderella

It is not often that palaeontology mixes with the realms of children’s stories but thanks to some research into a articulated skeleton of a Protoceratopsid (small, horned dinosaur), scientists have their own version of Cinderella, with a search for the foot to fit,  not a glass slipper but a footprint preserved next to the fossilised bones.

For the first time, a footprint of a dinosaur has been found next to the fossilised remains of the same type of dinosaur that made the footprint.  A sort of trace fossil and body fossil all found together, or as the scientists term it; an example of the first discovery of a dinosaur track in close association with an articulated skeleton.

The dinosaur playing the role of Cinderella is from a genus of horned dinosaur known as Protoceratops.  Protoceratops is known as the “sheep of the Cretaceous” due to the remarkable number of fossils of this particular member of the Neoceratopsia that have been found.  Dozens and dozens of specimens have been excavated from the Djadokhta Formation of the Gobi desert, including juveniles and fossilised eggs.  This has enabled palaeontologists to study how these little dinosaurs changed as they grew (ontogenic studies).  Two forms of adults are known, a lightweight form with a low neck frill and a more robust form with a big frill and a pronounced “bump” on the snout, where perhaps a small horn would have been.  Scientists think that these two forms of Protoceratops do not represent separate species but indicate females and males respectively.  Examples of sexual dimorphism in the Dinosauria are difficult to prove due to the lack of fossils of individual species.  However, with the relative abundance of Protoceratops remains to examine, the case for having differences in the ontogenic characteristics of adult females and males is certainly very strong.

Protoceratops was a heavy-set, herbivorous dinosaur that lived towards the end of the Cretaceous Period.  It had a deep tail, short legs and a thick neck which supported a heavy skull.  The largest specimens known, believed to be old, mature males measured no more than 2.5 metres in length.

Protoceratops Fossil Specimen

Protoceratops fossil.

Protoceratops fossil skeleton due to be returned to Mongolia.  The large frill suggests a male.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Fossil invertebrates, such as trilobites, are sometimes found next to their tracks and burrows, staff at Everything Dinosaur recall seeing a beautiful fossilised king crab and its tracks from Upper Jurassic strata of southern Germany, but this find has been trumped by palaeontologists Grzegorz Niedźwiedzki, Tomasz Singer, Gerard Gierliński and Martin Lockley who have written a paper on the body and trace fossil combination concerning the remains of a Protoceratops.

The fossil was collected by a joint Polish/Mongolian research team back in 1965, but only recently studied closely and the discovery of a four-toed footprint underneath the hip bones of the dinosaur made.  Such close association between tracks and their potential track-makers is extremely rare, the first line of the scientific paper on the specimen, due to be published in the journal “Cretaceous Research” states:

“Finding a dinosaur dead in its tracks constitutes the holy grail of vertebrate ichnology.”

Ichnology is the study of trace fossil such as trails, burrows and footprints.  Ichnologists tend to be very cautious when it comes to identifying the type of dinosaur that made a certain type of footprint.  From the fossilised bones of dinosaur’s feet they can determine the type of footprint that particular dinosaur might make, but being able to pin down a trackway or single footprint to a specific type of dinosaur is extremely difficult.  In this instance, they have the body and adjacent to it the impression of the left foot of a protoceratopsid.

The Fossilised Protoceratops and Associated Trace Fossil

Picture Credit: Grzegorz Niedźwiedzki et al

To help show the footprint, we have highlighted it in red, the impressions of the four toes can be clearly made out.  However, just because the footprint was found adjacent to the bones, it does not mean that the last step of this Protoceratops was preserved.  The footprint has to fit the foot of the dinosaur that it is associated with.  Martin Lockley, one of the research paper’s authors (University of Colorado), referred to the quest to match the footprint with the animal that actually made it as the “Cinderella Syndrome”.  The foot bones found at the site, match the trace fossil well, scientists are confident that the print is from the left foot of a protoceratopsid, the same type of dinosaur as the corpse, but it is unlikely that the footprint represents the very last step that this particular dinosaur took.

The research team think that the track shows an animal that was in active motion when the footprint was left.  If this is correct, then it is strange that the footprint and skeleton are so close together, as if the dinosaur simply dropped “dead in its tracks” as it were.  The track was not made by the foot of the animal after its death and may not represent the last steps of the individual represented by the skeleton.  It is much more likely that another protoceratopsid dinosaur may have walked by that location earlier, in the place where the corpse of a different individual came to rest.  Most palaeontologists believe that Protoceratops lived in herds (or should that be flocks as they are known as the “sheep of the Cretaceous”)?  Perhaps, the footprint was made by a herd member shortly before the other dinosaur met its demise.

Not only is the discovery of the body and trace fossils in close proximity a rare event in vertebrate palaeontology, the fossilised Protoceratops footprint is the first of its kind to be discovered from Upper Cretaceous strata of the Gobi desert – we think.  It is certainly, a wonderful fossil and we at Everything Dinosaur have a soft spot for the Protoceratops genus.  These dinosaurs may have lacked the spectacular horns of their distant descendants such as Triceratops and Styracosaurus but for us, Protoceratops remains one of our favourites of all the Dinosauria – if the shoe fits…

5 08, 2011

The Everything Dinosaur Blog – The Story Continues

By | August 5th, 2011|Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Blog to be Transferred to New Platform

Having written an article, put up a picture, posted information and such like everyday since late May 2007, the Everything Dinosaur blog consists of nearly 1,500 articles and our readership grows from strength to strength (big thank you to all our readers).  However, we are planning changes to the blog, its format and layout which will be taking effect within the next ten weeks.  The platform on which the blog is currently being hosted – Blogware provided by Tucows is being closed on October 3rd this year and we are already planning to migrate the blog to another platform – WordPress.

When the move happens, readers will notice a new format and one or two other changes but in essence the blog will remain the same with all the articles, pictures and such like transferred over.  According to the notes that we have on the transfer process, it is relatively straight forward, after all, every blog on the Tucows platform will have to migrate.  We will lose the identifiers on the comments made on the blog, they will all become anonymous, our apologies for this but there is nothing we can do it, just one of the drawbacks of the transfer process that we have to contend with.

Anyway, here’s to a different, updated blog in the very near future.

4 08, 2011

The First of the Great Apes

By | August 4th, 2011|Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Newly Discovered Fossil Could Be the First Evidence of a Great Ape

Scientists believe the Hominids evolved in Africa from apes, however, the paucity of the fossil record has prevented researchers from learning more about the evolution of the apes themselves.  Now the discovery of a twenty million year old fossil in Uganda could help scientists piece together an aspect of primate evolution.

The freshly unearthed 20-million year old skull may have belonged to a common ancestor of humans and the other great apes so say excited palaeontologists.  A team led by Martin Pickford, a palaeoanthropologist at the College de France in Paris, and Bridgette Senut, at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, discovered the fossils last month, while excavating the semi-arid region surrounding the extinct Napak Volcano in northeastern Uganda.

The team attributed the partially complete skull to the species Ugandapithecus major, a hulking Miocene epoch ape known mostly by its other body parts.

Pickford commented:

“It was a pretty big animal, almost as large as a gorilla, about the size of a chimpanzee.”

His team plans to analyse the fossil more closely in France (it will be cleaned and prepared in France) and describe it in a Ugandan scientific journal.  But he says its small brain already stands out.

He went on to add:

“You’re talking about an animal that has the muzzle of a gorilla with the brain size that would go with a baboon.”

Its small brain and other facial features such as its teeth and palette could suggest that modern chimpanzees and gorillas have evolved substantially from their ape ancestors, the researchers have concluded.  The skull shares a number of features with modern-day orangutans, suggesting that the evolutionary lineage that gave rise to modern orangutans changed less.

But the evolutionary origins of great apes – humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans – are poorly understood, due to the paucity of the fossil record.  The discovery of well preserved elements of the skull are an important find.  The size of the canines indicate that this animal was probably a male, the lack of wear on the teeth (molars) and other characteristics indicate that it died when it was about ten years of age.

Part of the Skull of Ugandapithecus major Displayed at a News Conference

Picture Credit: Reuters

Pickford stated:

“Finding the skull of Ugandapithecus is really going to focus the debate on that particular linage, but we must not forget there were quite a few other species running around at the same time.”

He went on to comment that closer examination should reveal more about the relationship between U. major and the extant great apes such as gorillas and orangutans that are alive today:

“My gut feeling at the moment is that it’s not far from the ancestor of modern African apes and orangutans.  I’ve been waiting for about 30 years for this kind of discovery.”

Image courtesy of Martin Pickford, Uganda Museum, Kampala and the Uganda Palaeontology Expedition

3 08, 2011

In Praise of Amebelodon

By | August 3rd, 2011|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

A Pleasure to see Prehistoric Animal Models

These days with a number of model retirements from the mainstream manufacturers it is always a pleasure to recall that Safari of the United States, although having cut down on their Prehistoric Life range still market a Gomphotheres, a beautiful model of an ancient, prehistoric elephant known as Amebelodon.

Amebelodon was a Perissodactyl (odd-toed hoofed mammal) and a primitive member of the Gomphotheres, a group of elephant-like animals that originated in Africa but spread worldwide during the early Cenozoic.  These animals are distantly related to the modern African and Asian elephant.  The model from Safari, we think represents and American member of this diverse group (Amebelodon fricki).  This particular family member was named and described by the eminent American palaeontologist and geologist Erwin Hinckly Barbour in 1927, following the discovery of a mandible with tusks and skull material in the U.S. state of Nebraska.  The species name honours Childs Frick, a trustee of the American Museum of Natural History.  Hard to imagine Childs Frick thinking about this animal being represented as a prehistoric animal model.

The Safari Prehistoric Life Amebelodon Model

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To see the Carnegie models on offer from Everything Dinosaur and other dinosaur toys: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Prehistoric Animal models

This Amebelodon model is typical of the quality from Safari, it is very well made and accurately painted from the tip of its shovel-like tusks (after which this animal was named) to the black tufts of hair at the end of its tail.  It is always a pleasure to see models of some of the more unusual prehistoric animals remaining in manufacture.  How long the Amebelodon remains around is open to question, let’s hope it is a while before Safari make this particular prehistoric mammal model extinct after all, it is a fine example of the company’s Wild Safari Dinos models.

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