All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//April
12 04, 2012

Spring Cleaning the Everything Dinosaur Website

By | April 12th, 2012|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Press Releases|0 Comments

New, Fresh Look for Everything Dinosaur’s Website

Next week sees the update of the Everything Dinosaur home page, with its new look, layout and features.  The changes are being made as part of Everything Dinosaur’s commitment to customer service and quality.  The changes and additions to the website have also been driven by our customer surveys, consumer research and feedback from the many customer responses that we receive in the office.

Part of the New Home Page Layout

Updating the website at Everything Dinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

One of the things that customers requested was to be able to see new products at a glance on the home page.  A new, scrolling feed will be added to the home page, this will display what we term “new arrivals” – the new products that have just come into stock.  With so many items on the Everything Dinosaur website these days, this new facility will certainly help visitors to the site to identify what’s new.

This is just one of a number of updates and changes taking place, all scheduled to go live in a few days time.

To visit Everything Dinosaur to view our range of dinosaur toys and games: Everything Dinosaur’s Website

11 04, 2012

Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Phil Currie is Honoured

By | April 11th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Explorers Club Honours World Famous Palaeontologist

Globe trotting palaeontologist Phil Currie, one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the Royal Tyrrell Museum (Alberta, Canada), has been honoured by being awarded the prestigious Explorers Club Medal in recognition of his contribution to palaeontology through his extensive field work.

Being placed alongside the likes of Neil Armstrong, Sir Edmund Hillary and Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE has come as a surprise to the proud Canadian palaeontologist who commented:

It’s shocking and overwhelming; to even be considered is amazing.”

Phil Currie in the Laboratory with his Beloved Dinosaurs

Awarded for Globe trotting palaeontology

Picture Credit: University of Alberta

As someone whose work takes him all over the world it is fitting that he should be awarded this accolade.  Professor Currie received his medal at a lavish ceremony held at the Club’s annual gala in New York last month.  It is not known whether Phil had time to visit the American Museum of Natural History whilst he was in the city.

The Explorers Club has been in existence for over a hundred years.  Originally founded to honour polar explorers, this select organisation now counts scientists from many fields, astronauts and of course, explorers of other parts of the world amongst its members.  One of the members of the Canadian Chapter nominated Professor Currie, recognising his work in places such as Antarctica, Argentina as well as in Canada.  We at Everything Dinosaur would like to add our congratulations to him and long may the 63 year old keep exploring.

Currie’s work now takes him on regular expeditions to Mongolia’s Nemegt formation where he recent uncovered Tyrannosaur fossils that may indicate pack hunting behaviour and to the foothills of Argentina, to find more new dinosaur species.

Professor Currie stated:

“If you look at my habits, unless it’s work related and I can find a dinosaur there, I probably haven’t been there.  It’s definitely my science and the inquisitive mind about where dinosaurs have been.  What’s the significance of the dinosaurs of Argentina to the dinosaurs of Alberta, for instance.  On the face you’d think nothing, but basically right before dinosaurs went extinct, Alberta-style dinosaurs started showing up in South America.  Why was it so late?  We can learn a lot from asking questions like that.”

When asked where else in the world he would like to work, Professor Currie said that he would like to go to Africa, one part of the world he has not worked in extensively as yet.  Certainly, with a number of new and amazing dinosaur discoveries from countries such as Angola, Botswana and Niger there are probably a lot of prehistoric animal fossil remains on that continent for Professor Currie and his colleagues to explore.

10 04, 2012

Google Shopping Reviews of Everything Dinosaur

By | April 10th, 2012|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Press Releases|0 Comments

Customer Reviews of Everything Dinosaur

One of the many methods of checkout offered by Everything Dinosaur is a Google checkout option.  Customers who purchase dinosaur toys and games using this secure method are given the opportunity to provide a review/rating of the company they have purchased from.  Many of Everything Dinosaur’s customers have been happy to provide information to Google about Everything Dinosaur.

The company has amassed over 580 customer comments and product reviews on its own website, and there is a respectable total of twenty-four reviews about Everything Dinosaur on the Google Shopping site.  When purchasers are invited to place a review with Google, they can rate the seller, using a simple five-star rating.  It is gratifying to note that thanks to our dedicated team members and their customer service twenty-one ratings are the maximum five stars with the other three a respectable four stars.  We are grateful for all the feedback we receive from our customers. Everything Dinosaur’s customer rating is an excellent 4.875 or put another way 97.5%.

9 04, 2012

A Review of the Collecta Dead Triceratops Dinosaur Model

By | April 9th, 2012|Everything Dinosaur Products, Everything Dinosaur videos|2 Comments

Collecta Triceratops Dinosaur Reviewed

In recognition of the excellent new introductions into the Collecta dinosaur model range, we have produced a video review of one of the more unusual additions to the range.  Collecta have introduced a replica of dead Triceratops, a model that shows evidence that this large, Late Cretaceous herbivore had been attacked by a Tyrannosaurus rex.

Everything Dinosaur’s Video Review of the Collecta Dead Triceratops Model (Collecta Dinosaur Models)

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To read a review of this particular dinosaur replica: Collecta Dino Prey – Dead Triceratops

We have praised the design team at Collecta for creating this dinosaur replica, indeed, we were keen to encourage Collecta to make this model and we have suggested that when the not-to-scale Triceratops figure is re-modelled that the livery and colour spectrum is changed to reflect the colour scheme seen on this replica.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls

8 04, 2012

Queensland Fisherman Catches Saltwater Crocodile using Prawns as Bait

By | April 8th, 2012|Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Local Fisherman Catches 2.5 metre long Crocodile

Queensland residents and Government officials are calling for a cull of Saltwater crocodiles as the number of close encounters with these potential man-eaters continues to increase.  One of the latest crocodile incidents took place near the town of Port Douglas (Queensland), when a local angler caught more than he bargained for when a 2.5 metre long crocodile grabbed his bait.

Twenty-nine year old school teacher, Jamie Finger was fishing at a popular spot, the old Mowbray River bridge, helping to bag himself one or two nice specimens when the crocodile grabbed the prawn that the keen angler has been using as bait.  A ten minute struggle followed as the crocodile refused to let go and Mr Fisher stubbornly held on in a bid to try to save his fishing rod.

Mr Finger, who had been fishing alone managed to get some remarkable pictures of his strange catch, before the crocodile, tired of the fishing tug of war and let the bait go, perhaps preferring to go after the barramundi, that had been Mr Finger’s original target.

Saltwater Crocodile Grabs Bait

The one that got away

Picture Credit: J. Finger

When asked about his crocodilian encounter, brave Mr Finger stated that he had seen a crocodile lurking near the bridge before it disappeared under the murky brown water.  A few minutes later in a scene reminiscent from the movie “Jaws” his reel began spinning and crocodile appeared below him.

Commenting on his ordeal, Jamie said:

“At first I just thought, I’ve got a big one here, and then this croc came up and began death rolling.  At least with a shark, if you get it on land, you have some hope.  But crocs have legs.  They keep going.  I  took a few photos and a video because I thought no one would believe I had caught a croc.”

After a ten-minute fight the Saltwater crocodile let go, spitting out the bait and the hook.  Leaving Mr Finger with just a fisherman’s tale to tell.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“The Saltwater crocodile was in the area doing exactly what Mr Finger was doing – looking for some fish.  Fish tend to congregate in areas of slack water in rives such as around the supports of a bridge, the presence of prey would have attracted the crocodile to the location and the splashing a the bait hit the water would have induced this predator to attack”.

There have been a number of crocodile encounters reported in the Australian media over the last few days, all involving Saltwater crocodiles.  A crocodile had to be removed from a golf course north of Cairns when it got too close to the clubhouse and a two metre long reptile attacked a car in the Mackay district.  Local ministers and officials have called for a cull of adult animals or a policy of crocodile nest destroying to try to reduce the numbers of these man-eaters in areas where people tend to go.

Local MP Warren Entsch, a former crocodile farmer stated:

“Encounters with crocodiles are increasing up here.  There is a strong argument for removal, whether it’s eggs or grown crocs out of populated areas.” 

Certainly, it is true that crocodile populations have increased rapidly since hunting and trapping was banned.  There have been further calls for culls in other areas of Queensland as well in the Northern Territories.  With Saltwater crocodiles capable of growing to lengths in excess of six metres, these formidable predators pose a series threat to locals and tourists.

7 04, 2012

Alvarezsaurid Dinosaur Eggs Uncovered in Patagonia

By | April 7th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Geology|1 Comment

Joint Swedish/Argentinian Research Team Report on Dinosaur Egg Discovery

A team of Swedish and Argentinian scientists have reported discovering the fossilised remains of a type of bird-like dinosaur in southern Argentina (Patagonia).  In a first for South America, the fossilised hindlimb has been found in association with the pair of eggs, indicating that these eggs had not yet been laid when the female dinosaur which carried them met her end.

The eggs, with their pimple-like texture have been associated with the fossilised hindlimb and identified as being the eggs of a new type of bird-like dinosaur known as Bonapartenykus ultimus – classified as a type of Alvarezsaurid.

A Picture of the Fossilised Egg

Dinosaur Eggs laid in Pairs – Apt for Easter a story about Eggs.

Picture Credit: Fernando Novas

The Alvarezsaurids are one of the most bizarre groups of dinosaurs known to science.  These fleet-footed, bipedal dinosaurs had compact bodies, long legs, long slender tails and narrow skulls.  The arms and claws of these relatively small dinosaurs are unique amongst the Order Dinosauria.  The humerus is relatively short but the ulna (one of the bones in humans between the elbow and wrist) is massive.  The claw bone of the single digit is almost as big as the ulna.  The fact that in most Alvarezsaurids the enormous ulna projects well back from the elbow joint suggests very powerful leverage.  Scientists remain unsure as to what these strong, single-clawed arms were used for but it has been suggested that these dinosaurs could have broken into the nests of termites and other social insects just as the ant-eaters in South America do today.

Of all the known types of dinosaur, the Alvarezsaurids have the most bird-like skeletons of all.  The bird-like anatomical features include the specialised forelimbs, fused ankle bones, a prominent furcula (breast bone) and narrow skulls.

Fossils of these strange, cursorial dinosaurs are known from Argentina and from eastern Asia, indicating that this particular group of prehistoric animals had a wide geographic distribution.  The earliest Alvarezsaurid fossils date from the Late Cretaceous (90 million years ago), as these early Alvarezsaurid fossils have been found in South America, it suggest that this group evolved in the southern hemisphere before radiating out northwards.

Bonapartenykus ultimus has been named and described based on the post-cranial fossil remains found at the dig site.  The fossils come from the Allen Formation of the Río Negro in north-western Patagonia (Argentina).  The fossils include dorsal vertebrae (back bones), pelvic bones and the hind limbs.  B. ultimus has been further classified into a new clade of Alvarezsaurid termed the Patagonykinae – a family of South American Alvarezsaurids that show anatomical characteristics mid-way between more primitive forms known from South America and advanced Alvarezsaurids such as Mononykus olecranus known from Upper Cretaceous strata of Mongolia.

An Artist’s Illustration of Bonapartenykus ultimus

Dinosaur Nest Found in Patagonia

Picture Credit: Gabriel Lio

Commenting on this discovery, regarded as unique, Dr. Martin Kundrát of Uppsala University (Sweden) stated:

“What makes the discovery unique are the two eggs preserved near articulated bones of the hindlimb.  This is the first time the eggs are found in a close proximity to the skeletal remains of an Alvarezsaurid dinosaur.”

The eggs were discovered in a joint Swedish/Argentinian expedition to the region in search of dinosaur fossils back in December 2010. The field team consisted of scientists from Sweden’s Uppsala University and the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales.

At an estimated 2.6 metres long, B. ultimus is one of the largest dinosaurs of this type found to date.  The fossilised remains also indicate that basal forms of the Alvarezsaurid clade survived in Argentina to at least seventy million years ago, towards the end of the Cretaceous geological period.

Bonapartenykus ultimus represents the latest survivor of its kind known from landmass called Gondwanaland, the southern landmass in the Mesozoic Era, the researchers state.  Despite the absence of skull material to help give the scientists a more accurate impression of what this dinosaur looked like, reconstructions have been made based on those fossils found and by comparing the remains to Patagonykus puertai – a closely related Alvarezsaurid from the Nequen Province of Argentina.

In a paper published in the scientific journal “Cretaceous Research” the scientists propose that the two eggs may have been inside the oviducts of the female when this animal died.  Other finds of eggshells in the vicinity indicate that some eggs were incubated and contained embryos at a later stage of development.  This find adds weight to the theory that unlike birds, which have just one oviduct, dinosaurs had two oviducts.  However, just like many birds, dinosaurs would have probably laid a clutch of eggs over several days.   The eggs seem to be larger than hens eggs, with an estimated circumference of around twenty centimetres.

The eggs had a relatively rough, outer texture, a sort of pimple-like outer surface.  A microscopic analysis of the fossilised eggs found in association with the hindlimb indicate that the eggs had been contaminated by fungi.  This is the first instance recorded in the fossil record of fungal contamination of dinosaur eggs.  It is likely that this contamination occurred after the female had died and the corpse had begun to rot out on the Cretaceous plain where this mother-to-be met her death.

6 04, 2012

Woolly Mammoth Colour Variations

By | April 6th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Research into Woolly Mammoth Genome Provides Understanding of Hair Colour

For many years, scientists believed that Woolly Mammoths were brown in colour but recent studies using frozen Woolly Mammoth remains discovered in Siberia has provided a better understanding of the colour variations of these Ice Age creatures.  Thanks to the discovery of some beautifully preserved specimens many of them babies or juveniles (Dima, Lyuba and Yuka for example), palaeontologists have a much better idea of the genome of these prehistoric mammals.

It is from this better understanding of the DNA of Woolly Mammoths (M. primigenius), that scientists have begun to piece together evidence to suggest that Mammoths could have almost the same hair colouration variances as modern humans, with ginger, brunettes and even a potential blonde Mammoth.

The coat of Woolly Mammoths was adapted to the harsh climate of the northern Steppe.  It consisted of two distinct layers.  The first layer was composed of long, coarse guard hairs, six times thicker than human hair.  This coat grew to almost a metre long in adult animals.  This coat served to trap air helping to keep the animal warm and also effectively to waterproof and snowproof the animal in a similar way to the long, shaggy coat of an extant Musk Ox.

The second, inner layer which made up the undercoat  had hairs that were much thinner, shorter and softer.  This coat would have trapped air too, helping to insulate the animal from the cold.  Columbian Mammoths (Mammuthus columbi), which lived in North America; were less hairy than their Siberian cousins.  It is possible that Mammoths moulted in the spring, producing a lighter summer coat.

The colour of the hairy coat of a Woolly Mammoth, according the genome research could vary.  There were indeed brown Woolly Mammoths, but also those which were a reddish/orange in colour.  Some Mammoths were also a strawberry blonde hue.  It seems that if you were to travel back in time to Siberia 25,000 years ago and observed several family groups of Woolly Mammoths you would probably have seen a surprising amount of coat colour variation.

Ironically, a number of cave paintings show Woolly Mammoths.  These creatures were obviously very important to our ancestors as sources of meat, hide and ivory for tools.  These large herbivores would have been a formidable opponent for human hunters armed with nothing more than sharpened stakes and stone tipped spears.  The cave paintings depict Mammoths in a variety of colours, more than 350 caves with paintings have been discovered in Europe alone.  Some of these cave have paintings of Mammoths on their walls.  It was thought that the cave artists using natural pigments such as ochre, haematite and charcoal, showed the Mammoths in a variety of colours for perhaps symbolic affect or to portray deeper meaning.   However, a 21st Century understanding of the Mammoth genome demonstrates that Woolly Mammoths did come in a variety a colours.

A Reddish/Brown Woolly Mammoth Model

Woolly Mammoth Model without the usual brown coat

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

For model makers, there is a tendency to produce Woolly Mammoth models and other Ice Age toys that are brown in colour.  The Natural History Museum produced a reddish/brown Mammoth some years ago, (see picture above), around the same time that Everything Dinosaur team members were working on a Woolly Rhino model (Coelodonta).  However, with this increased knowledge regarding the coats of these Ice Age creatures perhaps it is merely a question of time as to when a manufacturer will break rank and produce a “strawberry blonde” Woolly Mammoth like “Yuka”.

To view Prehistoric Mammal models including Woolly Mammoths: Ice Age Toys

Strawberry Blonde Woolly Mammoths – Papo’s Next Innovation?

Strawberry Blonde Mammoth from Everything Dinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The recently introduced, Papo Woolly Mammoth juvenile has been given a lighter coloured coat similar to the coat found on the carcase of the recently discovered Siberian Mammoth juvenile known as “Yuka”.

6 04, 2012

Baby Mammoth Killed by Lions and then Butchered by Humans

By | April 6th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Educational Activities|0 Comments

Yuka – The Siberian Baby Mammoth Killed by Steppe Lion and then Butchered by Humans

A number of television documentaries have aired recently concerning the discovery and the initial research on a baby Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) whose frozen carcase was recovered from Siberia.  Each spring, as the winter snows thaw, a number of Pleistocene animal remains are discovered as they are eroded out of the thawing ground by the action of rivers in spate.  These fossils, some of them beautifully preserved with internal organs and fur intact reveal that this part of the world during the Pleistocene Epoch was inhabited by some spectacular prehistoric mammals.

The habitat known as the Russian Mammoth steppe was a huge expanse of grassland that existed between the northern ice sheets and more wooded, mainly conifer forest that was to be found further south.  A number of large herbivores grazed on the plains.  As well as Mammoths, there were Woolly Rhinos (Coelodonta spp.), giant deer, several other types of now extinct antelope and horses.  Living alongside these herbivores there were several types of predator, a number of species of bear, plus Sabre Tooth Cats and other members of the Felidae (cat family) such as Cave Lions and the slightly smaller Steppe Lion.

Recently, the body of a baby Mammoth was discovered and scientists from the international Mammuthus organisation have been studying this carcase in a bid to find out more about Mammoths in general and to identify how this particular young animal met its end.  The baby Mammoth has been given the name Yuka, and as well as being remarkably well-preserved, this corpse reveals evidence with other inhabitants of the Mammoth steppe, including the possibility of human hunters.

Yuka – The Baby Mammoth

Mammoth Carcase shows signs of Predation

Picture Credit: International Mammuthus Organisation

 The skull and pelvis have been removed from the corpse, they were found close to the body but most of the ribs and much of the spine is missing.  There is a long, straight cut along the top of the animal’s back, this was made by people, but whether it is evidence of the body being butchered as the remains rested on the steppe thousands of years ago or more recent human activity is difficult to determine.

The scientists are fairly certain that this young Mammoth was not actually killed by people.  Yuka shows signs of being attacked by an apex predator possibly a Cave Lion or a Steppe Lion, certainly a member of the Felidae (cat family).  It is very likely that this predator killed the Mammoth calf, human hunters may have discovered the carcase and removed some of the bones and meat, or perhaps they chased the lion(s) off the kill and took over the body, robbing the big cats of their meal.

Poor Yuka, seems to have had a very unfortunate and brief life.  Healed scratches on the preserved skin shows that this Mammoth survived another attack by a cat – possibly an Eurasian Cave Lion, but much deeper wounds and a broken leg which had not healed imply that a second attack was either fatal or severely weakened the young animal.

The carcase provides evidence of potential ancient human interaction.  Radio carbon dating indicates that this Mammoth lived right at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, perhaps it was one of the last Mammoths to live in this part of Siberia.  The corpse is estimated to be around 10,000 years old.  The long, straight cut along the back, in conjunction with other cut marks that show a distinctive pattern as if they were created by a saw-bladed cutting tool of some kind, provide evidence that humans have interfered with the body.

If the liver had been removed, then this could be further evidence that the carcase had been butchered for its meat.  The liver is regarded as one of the most nutritious parts of any mammal carcase.  Nomadic hunters today, when killing and butchering large mammals such as antelope often remove the liver first.  If the liver is missing and the body cavity shows signs of intrusion then this could confirm the hypothesis that some human hunters 10,000 years ago grabbed an opportunity to get some food from the young Mammoth’s remains.

The researchers from the International Mammuthus Organisation suggest that Yuka was about 30 months old at the time of death.  In Africa, lions are known to attack young elephants (African elephants – genus Loxodonta), but this is the first time that evidence has been found of a Woolly Mammoth being attacked by members of the Felidae.

Tackling an elephant is a substantial task, even for a pride of lions.  Often the elephants are aware of the big cats, but during daylight they can fend off any attacks.  The lions tend to wait until dark, their better night vision gives them an advantage over their much heavier intended victims.  It can only be speculated, but perhaps a Steppe Lion attacked a weakened Yuka at night, finally bring the young animal down.

Much of the soft tissue is still connected to the bones, and there is a substantial amount of Mammoth fur on the remains.  Fur is still on the flanks, on the rump and the feet, it is as strawberry blond colour, bearing out predictions made a few years ago on the potential colour of Mammoth fur after a detailed genetic analysis on another frozen baby Mammoth known as Lyuba.

Finding such beautifully, well-preserved remains of these ancient herbivores will help scientists to better understand Mammoth DNA and traits such as eye and hair colour.  Although, many Mammoths were a reddish-brown colour, the gene that contains fur/hair colour is very similar to the gene that controls the colour of human hair.  This means that Woolly Mammoths could be as varied in colour as human hair – Mammoths could be blond, ginger or even brunettes.

To view Woolly Mammoth soft toys and other prehistoric animal soft toys: Ice Age Soft Toys

5 04, 2012

Europe’s Biggest Dinosaur Skull Goes on Display

By | April 5th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|1 Comment

Skull of Huge Dinosaur on Show at Dinosaur Exhibition

The prepared skull of a huge, herbivorous dinosaur that once roamed the land that was to eventually become Spain has gone on display at the Dinopolis Foundation in the town of Teruel, in the province of Aragon (eastern Spain).  During the Late Jurassic, this part of Europe was a lush tropical paradise, criss-crossed with rivers and this habitat supported an extensive and diverse range of dinosaurs including large Sauropods, one of which is the largest European dinosaur known to science.

The dinosaur is Turiasaurus riodevensis (the name means “Teruel lizard”, as Turia is the Latin word for Teruel) and although far from complete, the fossils ascribed to this specimen including the skull which has now been carefully prepared and pieced together suggest that this dinosaur could have reached lengths in excess of thirty metres and perhaps weighed as much as forty tonnes.

Excavating the Huge Fossilised Bones of Turiasaurus

Femur of a huge Sauropod

Picture Credit: AFP

Formally named and described in 2006, the thirty-five separate bones that make up the skull, plus seven peg-like teeth were presented this week at the Dinopolis Foundation, the name of the town’s dinosaur exhibit.  These bones helped scientists to recognise T. riodevensis as a separate species when the bones were discovered in 2005 during excavations at the Barrihonda-El Humero, fossiliferous strata, which dates from the Upper Jurassic/Lower Cretaceous boundary.

From measurements taken from a 1.79 metre long humerus (upper arm bone), the scientists have concluded that this dinosaur was one of the biggest animals on Earth approximately 145 million years ago, bigger than the better known Sauropods of the United States whose fossil also date from the end of the Jurassic, dinosaurs such as Apatosaurus and Camarasaurus.

The skull will go onto form a centre piece for the site’s, dinosaurs of the Iberian Peninsula exhibition.  Ironically, the skulls of Sauropods are extremely rare in the fossil record.  The heads of these huge herbivores do not seem to get fossilised very often.  Compared to the rest of the animal the heads are relatively small.  For example, the head of another Sauropod, Diplodocus is only about the same size as that of a horse, but the Diplodocus weighed as much as fifteen tonnes and would have measured in excess of thirty metres in length.

The heads seem to have fallen away from the caudal vertebrae as the carcase deteriorated, once detached they are rarely preserved as fossils to be found by palaeontologists millions of years later.  Most of the Sauropod dinosaurs seen in Natural History Museums do not have the correct head on their bodies, rather than display a head-less skeleton, curators model a composite skull or provide a replica skull from a close dinosaur relative.

To read more about Europes’ Largest Dinosaur: Which is the Biggest Dinosaur Known from Europe?

Only a handful of Sauropods have skull material assigned to their genera, these animals include Giraffatitan from Africa, Mamenchisaurus from China, Turiasaurus from Spain and Apatosaurus from the United States.

 

4 04, 2012

One Tonne Basal Tyrannosauroid

By | April 4th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|6 Comments

Meet your Tyrannosaur Feathered Friend – Yutyrannus

Palaeontologists  from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (Beijing, China) have published a scientific paper on a newly described feathered dinosaur.  Over recent years, there have been many discoveries of  new types of feathered dinosaur fossils in the Liaoning Province of northern China.  However, this new dinosaur find, named Yutyrannus huali stands out for a number of reasons. Firstly, the specimens are very well-preserved and nearly complete, secondly, different sized individuals have been found, an adult and two juveniles, helping scientists to determine how these animals grew and developed and thirdly – Y. huali was huge.   At something like nine metres in length and weighing over a tonne (estimated 1,400 kilogrammes), this dinosaur is one of the largest feathered creatures known to science.  As if this wasn’t enough to get dinosaur fans swishing their tails and roaring with excitement it seems that this new feathered giant may have been a primitive member of the Tyrannosaurs, that famous clade of Theropods that include Albertosaurus, Daspletosaurus and of course T. rex.

A number of websites have reported on this discovery, some have claimed that this new species is the largest feathered creature known to science.  True, when compared to the likes of the Therizinosaur Beipiaosaurus (Beipiaosaurus inexpectus), a feathered dinosaur also from the Liaoning Province, it is very big.  Beipiaosaurus is estimated to have measured around 2.5 metres in length and weighed as much as eighty kilogrammes, but commentators are forgetting the enormous, Oviraptorid – Gigantorapotor erlianensis, discovered in 2005 by an expedition to Mongolia by scientists from the Beijing based institute.  Indeed, some of the team that studied the eight metre long Gigantoraptor have also been working on this new giant feathered dinosaur.  Gigantoraptor is estimated to have been taller than a giraffe.

To read more about the discovery of the oviraptorid Gigantoraptor: New Chinese Dinosaur Discovery – Gigantoraptor

Analysis of the skull material suggests that Yutyrannnus was a member of the Tyrannosaur family, a tyrannosauroid, although it is not a direct ancestor of the famous Tyrannosaurus rex, it was carnivorous and most probably an apex predator in its environment.  The name Yutyrannus huali means “beautiful feathered tyrant”, in recognition of the evidence of long, filamentous feathers that have been found in association with the fossil remains and the classification of this new dinosaur species as a Tyrannosaur.

An Artist’s Impression of a Flock of Yutyrannus on the Prowl

Giant Theropod with Feathers from Liaoning Province

Picture Credit: Brian Choo

Yutyrannus huali roamed what was to become northern China approximately 125 million years ago (Barremian faunal stage of the Early Cretaceous).  The Tyrannosaur family and its direct ancestors can be traced back into the Late Jurassic, Xu Xing one of the Chinese palaeontologists involved in the study of Yutyrannus was responsible for naming and describing Guanlong (Guanlong wucaii), a basal member of the Tyrannosaurs that lived something like thirty million years earlier.

The adult skeleton measures about nine metres in length and indicates that this new dinosaur would have rivalled Gigantoraptor for the title of the biggest feathered creature known to science.  The other two individuals are believed to represent immature individuals and not a second species.  This has been determined by the Chinese researchers who noticed that a number of vertebrae (back bones) had not fully fused indicating that these fossils represent creatures that had not reached adulthood.  Even so, these youngsters were already hefty.  Each one would have weighed almost as much as a fully grown dairy cow.

All three fossil specimens show evidence that these dinosaurs had feather-like filaments adorning their bodies.  Some of the feathers were at least fifteen centimetres in length.  In the adult, traces of feathers have been found along the tail, with the immature animals, the feathers appeared to have been along the neck and down the humerus (upper arm) in one specimen and near the pelvis and foot in the other.  Taken together it can be speculated that a single Yutyrannus may have been entirely feathered.  Certainly, younger animals may have been completely feathered, the feathers helping to insulate this warm-blooded dinosaur.  Older animals, with larger bodies, which can retain heat better (surface area to volume assessments), may not have been completely feathered.  It is possible that as the animals grew the feathers become important not for insulation against the chilly conditions in northern China but for display or to show status in the “flock”.

This new discovery, reported in the academic journal “Nature”, suggests what a number of palaeontologists have thought for sometime, that even the biggest Theropods could have been feathered.  Certainly, due to the size of these individuals these dinosaurs could not fly, but the feathers served another purpose – signalling amongst other members of the species or perhaps to insulate the animal against the cold.

One of the Skulls of this new Tyrannosaur (Yutyrannus huali)

Basal Tyrannosaur – Yutyrannus

Picture Credit: Zang Hailong

The picture shows a close up the skull of Yutyrannus, the teeth can be clearly seen.  This dinosaur may have had a thin crest running from the tip of the snout to the back of the skull.  What purpose this crest may have served is unknown.

Commenting on the Chinese research, Richard Prum, an evolutionary ornithologist at Yale University (USA) stated:

“The new finding shows for the first time that even giant Theropods could be plumaged, and likely fully plumaged.”

The Chinese team are using microscopy and other techniques to try to determine the colours of the feathers, this may give the scientists more data on just what purpose the feathers served.  Their discovery has re-ignited the debate whether other Cretaceous Tyrannosaurs such as T. rex  were feathered too.

Although, extensive coal deposits found in the northern hemisphere (Canada and Siberia), which date from the Early Cretaceous suggest that the climate was warmer than today, the high latitude with which these fossils are associated with indicates that the environment in which these giant Theropods roamed could be decidedly chilly.  Analysis of oxygen isotope ratios recovered from the teeth of Yutyrannus suggests that the climate in this part of China was remarkably similar to northern China today.  It has been estimated that the average annual temperature was around ten degrees Celsius – much colder than in other parts of the world where dinosaur remains have been discovered.  This finding adds weight to the speculation that the feathers helped to keep these creatures warm, insulating their bodies against the cold.

Irrespective of the feather’s function, the research team have concluded that Yutyrannus shows that a drastic reduction in plumage was not an inevitable consequence of having a large body size.

Thomas Holtz Junior, a vertebrate palaeontologist specialising in the Dinosauria, based at the University of Maryland (USA), commented on the new discovery.  He stated that this new fossil find was:

“Another good example of evolution being a predictive science.”

The Liaoning Province had provided a lot of evidence of small, feathered dinosaurs, so many scientists had suggested that it was only a matter of time before evidence of a big dinosaur with feathers would be found.

Yutyrannus huali provides direct evidence that large, feathered dinosaurs did exist.  It offers new insights into the origins and evolution of feathers, which are in themselves highly modified reptilian scales.  The fact that two juveniles have been discovered permits scientists to examine how these animals changed as they grew (helping with ontogenic studies).  Described as a basal tyrannosauroid, Yutyrannus is similar to other primitive Tyrannosaurs found in northern China, although unlike the later T. rex it had three fingers on its hands, and the arms were proportionately much bigger than the arms of later Tyrannosaurs.

This discovery represents one of the most significant finds from the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation of Liaoning Province.

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