All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
10 06, 2012

Time to Re-think the Origin of Apes – Evidence suggests Asian Lineage

By | June 10th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Are we all Asian Migrants?

For many years, one specialist branch of the science of palaeontology, those scientists who have been studying the evolution of the primates (palaeoprimatologists) have puzzled over the exact origins of these creatures, a branch of which gave rise to the Hominins and ultimately our own species H. sapiens.

Although the fossil record of early Cenozoic (Palaeogene) primates is exceptionally poor, a number of hypotheses had been put forward that supported an African origin for what is termed the Anthropoids (monkeys, apes and ultimately Hominins).  However, recent fossil finds, most notably in China had began to challenge these theories.  The discovery of four very primitive teeth in Myanmar (Burma), lends support to the notion that the Anthropoids originated in the Far East and not from Africa as previously thought.  A paper has been published in the scientific journal (the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), that suggests that this group of mammals originated in Asia and migrated westwards into Africa.

The Anthropoids were almost all entirely arboreal (tree dwelling).  During the Palaeogene, the geological period that immediately followed the demise of the Dinosauria (Cretaceous), average annual temperatures seem to have been relatively stable, with the world being approximately six degrees warmer than today.  High humidity and rainfall led to extensive forestation.  Global temperatures began to rise and by around fifty million years ago the average, annual global temperature was somewhere in the region of twenty-eight degrees Celsius.  Earth became a lush, tropical paradise with rainforests extending from Canada down to the tip of Chile in the western hemisphere and from the southern tip of Norway to the south of Australia in the eastern hemisphere.  Even the British Isles, those bits that were above sea level; was a tropical paradise, with crocodiles basking on the banks of a river system that resembled the Congo river seen in western Africa today.

Expeditions jointly organised by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (Pittsburgh)  and the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (Beijing) to the Shanxi Province of China in the mid 1990’s uncovered evidence of some of the earliest Anthropoids known.  Specimens such as the tarsier-like Eosimias centennicus, fossils of which were found in sediments along the Yellow River show that primitive Anthropoids inhabited eastern Asia millions of years before they are represented by such nearly complete fossils in the African fossil record.  Because the nearest living relative of Anthropoid primates occurs only in Southeast Asia and because some of the earliest and most primitive fossil Anthropoids are known from Asia, it seems likely that the Anthropoid clade actually originated on the Asian landmass.  Now new fossils from Burma add weight to this hypothesis and provide a timeline for the Anthropoids migration out of Asia and into Africa.

 An Artist’s Impression of a Primitive Anthropoid (E. centennicus)

Does this mean that all humans are ultimately “Chinese Takeaways”?

Picture Credit: Nancy Perkins

Prosimians, including our early ancestors thrived and rapidly diversified.  However, animals living in forests have a poor potential for fossilisation.  Any remains are usually scavenged or rot away leaving nothing available for any type of fossilisation processes.  Occasionally, small fragments of fossil material are found, often individual teeth or part of a jawbone that had been transported by a river system, depositing the bone  and enamel material many miles from where the animal may have actually lived.

To read about a recent fossil primate discovery: New Fossil Primate Discovered – Deep in the Heart of Texas

Building up a more complete picture of the origin and early evolution of the Anthropoid apes has occupied a number of academics for many years.  Most scientists agree that our Hominin branch of the ape family tree, did originate in Africa, but the discovery of just four teeth in Burma, dating from 37 million years ago, suggest that the apes themselves may have evolved in the east before migrating westwards into Africa sometime during the Middle Eocene.

An international team of scientists, examining the strata laid down in an ancient Eocene swampland that covered what was to become Myanmar (Burma) have found amongst the fossil remains of fish, ancient turtles and primitive hippos four fossilised molars that belong to a new species of small primate.  The teeth resemble those of an already described African species, yet they show some more primitive, basal traits.  These fossil teeth suggest that the African apes could be descended from an Asian ancestral clade that migrated westwards, skirting around and across the rapidly shrinking Tethys Ocean to Africa.

The first tooth was found in 2005, a further six years of field work only yielded three other teeth, emphasising how rare Anthropoid fossils are, but these are enough for the research team to describe and name a new species.

Palaeontologist K. Christopher Beard of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (United States) and the research team leader, Jean-Jacques Jaeger of the University of Poitiers, France, in association with colleagues were able to name and describe a new species of Anthropoid based on the shape and size of the molars they had found.  The new species has been named Afrasia djijidae.

Eocene Teeth from Myanmar (Burma) indicate Asian Origin of Anthropoids

“Out of Asia” – Origins of Primates

Picture Credit: K. Christopher Beard/PNAS

Primate fossil teeth from fossil beds in Myanmar suggest our deep primate ancestors arose in Asia.

Commenting on the difficulties of finding fossil evidence of early primates, Dr. Beard, curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, stated:

“It’s a difficult place to work, in six years we found just four teeth.”

The teeth are extremely significant.  Scientists had postulated that early Anthropoids hailed from Asia, but lacked the fossil evidence to provide an indication of the timing of a migration westwards into Africa.  The research work on the fossil beds, part of the Pondaung Formation (Mid-Upper Eocene), near to the village of Nyaungpinle in Myanmar have revealed evidence that 37-38 million years ago there was living in Asia an Anthropoid that seems very closely related to, but slightly more primitive than, a genus of fossil African Anthropoids.

Finding fossils of early primates is a very rare event, to read about the discovery of a new species of Tarsier from the Miocene of Thailand: The remains of an Eagle’s dinner helps scientists to identify new species of Miocene Tarsier

These teeth, small though they are, were enough to demonstrate that the Burmese Afrasia djijidae, was closely related to another early, primitive Anthropoid that lived roughly around the same time, but whose fossils have been found in North Africa (Libya) – Afrotarsius libycus.

Microscopic analysis of the teeth showed that the teeth from Burma and Libya were extremely similar, such an affinity between Asian and African Anthropoid fossils has not been demonstrated before. Subtle differences, such as a tiny bulge at the back of what would have been the last, lower molar in the jaw of the Burmese Anthropoid suggest that the Pondaung discoveries represent a more primitive, basal member of the Anthropoid clade.

These primitive traits suggest that this group of mammals evolved in Asia and migrated to Africa somewhere between 39-37 million years ago.  Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research team postulate that the “Out-of-Asia” migration was most likely not a single event but a complex migration of a number of genera westwards.  However, once in Africa, these primitive tarsier-like creatures thrived, perhaps the tropical conditions were ideal for them or perhaps they were fewer predators.  This particular group of the primate family tree, underwent rapid evolution and diversification and a number of species have been recorded in the fossil record of Africa just shortly after the proposed “Out-of-Asia” migration event.

Dr. Beard described the rapid diversification as a “starburst of evolution.”

Others agree that if both the new species of primates from Myanmar and Libya are indeed early Anthropoids, they would greatly strengthen the case for the Asian origins of this type of animal.  Vertebrate palaeontologist, Richard Kay of Duke University (North Carolina), stated:

“If proven, the biogeographical significance of these results is profound.”

Ultimately, if the apes evolved in Asia, then our own human origins can be traced back to this part of the world.  Human-like creatures (Hominins) evolved in Africa but their ancestors may have originated in the East.

Dr. Beard added:

“We’ve all heard about Out-of-Africa for human origins.  Now we think there was an Out-of-Asia migration into Africa first.”

9 06, 2012

Tarbosaurus (Tyrannosaur Skeleton) Definitely Smuggled Illegally out of Mongolia say Experts

By | June 9th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Dinosaur Skeleton sold at Auction was Obtained Illegally

The Tyrannosaur skeleton sold at an auction in New York on Sunday May 20th was obtained illegally from Mongolia, experts claim.  The Tyrannosaur specimen, an eight metre long, mounted fossil skeleton of a Tarbosaurus bataar (otherwise known as Tyrannosaurus bataar due to its close affinity to the North American super predator), was sold for the sum of $1,052,500 USD (£630,000), but the sale has proved controversial as the unauthorised excavation and removal of fossil material from Mongolia, where the fossil was assumed to have originated from, has been illegal for fifty years.

To read about the specimen up for auction: Tyrannosaur fossil goes under the hammer in New York

A team of North American and Mongolian palaeontologists who were given access to the fossils, safely secure in storage after the sale, have pronounced that this dinosaur was taken out of Mongolia, most likely within the last decade.

Mark Norell, a palaeontologist at the American Museum of Natural History, who was one of the first to speculate on the validity of the sale commented:

“We have pulled a lot of them out of the ground [Tyrannosaur fossils] and seen a lot of others come out of the ground, and in our professional opinion it is from Mongolia.”

As well as American Museum of Natural History staff, Phil Currie, from the University of Alberta and an authority on Tyrannosaur remains from China and Mongolia was called in to study the fossil bones.  The two Mongolian palaeontologists agreed with their North American colleagues, this particular Tyrannosaur came from, most probably, the Nemegt Formation, of Upper Cretaceous aged strata, found in the Mongolian portion of the vast Gobi desert.

The Controversial Tyrannosaur Specimen

Out of Mongolia – probably in the last ten years or so

Picture Credit: Heritage Auctions

To read more about the controversial auction: Tyrannosaur Bites Back!

Team members at Everything Dinosaur, signed a petition to try to prevent the sale of the specimen in the first place back in May, a spokesperson for the UK dinosaur company stated:

“We were confident that the specimen had come from Asia and if that was the case then we concluded that in all likelihood this specimen had been obtained illegally.  It should not be sold but returned to the Mongolian Government as it is the property of the  Mongolian people”.

The specimen was put up for auction by a UK based private collector, it is not clear how this finding will affect the sale of the mounted specimen.  An anonymous bidder paid more than $1 million USD for the Tyrannosaur, but this was on condition that the sale was approved by a U.S. court.  Earlier on in the proceedings, the Mongolian President intervened and tried, unsuccessfully to prevent the auction going ahead.

An advisor to the President stated that following this investigation:

“I have no doubt that the Tarbosaurus bataar will be returned to Mongolia.”

This would be the outcome that staff at Everything Dinosaur would like to see. The fossil specimen being returned to Mongolia where it, and others like it can be studied by that country’s scientists.  Hopefully, this development will send a strong message to fossil poachers about excavating and selling specimens on the black market.

The New York auction house that handled the original sale, Heritage Auctions; has co-operated with the investigation and has been keen to distance itself from any alleged illegal practices.

Co-Chair, and Co-Founder of the auction house, Jim Halperin said in a statement:

“It would be premature for us to comment on a palaeontological opinion we have neither seen nor had time to study.  Heritage will continue to assist the on-going efforts to achieve a fair and amicable resolution.”

Just how do palaeontologists determine the origins of a specimen when it has been prepared and removed?  There are a number of tell-tale clues that experts can follow to help them identify the origins of a particular dinosaur fossil, or indeed  any fossil vertebrate and to a large extent fossilised invertebrates too.

When bone fossilises, especially in a fossilisation process called permineralisation, the organic bone is replaced by inorganic minerals from the surrounding sediment.  The white to beige colour of the fossils match those of other Tyrannosaur specimens taken from the Nemegt Formation.  Whilst scientists can not pinpoint the exact location, the colour and hue of the bones can indicate a general location.

The palaeontologist identified twelve specific characteristics of the fossilised bones that confirmed their initial thoughts that this was a Mongolian Tarbosaurus bataar.  Subtle anatomical differences and slight differences in bone shape (morphology) help scientists to distinguish between genera and species.

The “clincher” for the scientists was the discovery of tiny fragments of reddish sediment material in the cracks and fissures of the bones.  These are particles from the surrounding matrix from the excavation site.  The unique chemical “thumb print” of this sediment can help palaeontologists to provide a more exact guide as to the original fossil location.  Scientists are working on a “sediment map” that would allow all dinosaur specimens to be “tagged” by the mineral composition of their matrix, steps have already been taken to build up a database so that palaeontologists can confirm the authenticity and origins of dinosaur fossils.

As Professor Currie pointed out, the stubby arm length made it clear to him that this specimen was definitely a Tarbosaurus.  Tyrannosaurus rex, regarded as a close cousin of Tarbosaurus may be famous for having short arms, but Tarbosaurus bataar had proportionally shorter forelimbs.

The poaching of fossils out of Mongolia and neighbouring China is a growing problem, especially when the price paid for dinosaur fossils is considered.  There are strong regulations in place with fines and prison sentences for those smugglers who are caught, but when dinosaur fossils sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds, the rewards for the illegal traders can be very high.

Professor Currie went on to explain that based on his own experiences of fossil hunting in Mongolia, the T. bataar specimen was most probably subjected to two rounds of poaching.  He stated that unskilled poachers often will take the teeth and the claws off a specimen, leaving or destroying the rest.  The teeth and claws are the most valuable and portable parts of a specimen such as this, they can be sold on to collectors or even can find their way into traditional Chinese medicine cabinets.  This Tarbosaurus  bataar was missing most of its claws and teeth.

Professor Currie then added that in his opinion, the remainder of the specimen was removed by excavators with more skill, but even so, the job was not well done with a lot of damage evident on the fossil bones.

He commented:

“There is a lot of restoration done on the bones to make them look good, but when you look closely at it you can see there is a lot of plaster restoration towards the ends of the bone, a lot of the processes [protrusions] are broken or chipped off and gone.”

Most palaeontologists would like the fossil skeleton returned to Mongolia, permitting this specimen to be studied along with other Tarbosaurus remains.  However, the fate of this particular Late Cretaceous predator remains uncertain.  With the high prices paid for dinosaur fossils and the relative poverty of these who live close to the Nemegt Formation, the problem of illegal excavation and smuggling of fossil material is likely to persist for some time.

8 06, 2012

Euro 2012 Football Championship and Prehistoric Animals

By | June 8th, 2012|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|1 Comment

Everything Dinosaur aims to Use Palaeontology to Predict the Winners of Euro 2012

Back in 2010 when the Football World Cup was being held in South Africa , the media covered stories about an octopus in an aquarium that was allegedly able to predict the outcomes of football matches during the tournament.  The octopus, called Paul if we remember correctly, predicted a number of results.  However, this is not the first instance of bizarre methodology being used to calculate soccer results.  For example, back in 2008 team members at Everything Dinosaur used palaeontology and geography to see if we could predict the competition winners before a ball had been kicked.  Not a bad effort considering we were distracted at the time thanks to lots of deliveries of dinosaur toys.

It was only for a bit of fun, and it did lead to some lively conversations in the office, and when we came to assess how we had done the model could hardly be regarded as “sound and robust”, however, under our system we did predict four out of the eight quarter finalists.   In a spirit of continuity and with the 2012 European Championships about to kick off we thought  our dinosaur model experts ought to have another go.

How did we do in 2008: Euro 2008 Predictions – How Did we Do?

Each of the sixteen finalists, have been analysed according to the number of well-known fossil genera found within their country’s borders, this has been cross referenced with that nation’s land surface area in square kilometres, a crude assessment of the amount of potential fossil bearing strata to be found (ignoring metamorphic and igneous rock issues of course).  These assessments were then weighted against the number of times that particular country has been mentioned in this Everything Dinosaur blog and referenced against the way in which the teams had been drawn in the four round-robin qualifying groups, with each group producing two quarter-finalists.  The results yielded some interesting data.

Using Palaeontology to Predict Euro 2012 Winners

England comes out on Top

Table Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Let’s not get too carried away, but according to our predictions the winners will be… England.  England are predicted to beat Germany in the final, with Portugal and France making the semi-final stages.  England comes out top under our ranking system, in part as we have specialised in discussing English fossil remains in the blog and in addition we receive a lot of press releases from museums and other bodies based in the UK.   Mixed results for the two host countries.  Poland for example, are predicted to make it out of the group stages, whilst Ukraine fail to qualify for the latter part of the tournament and come out of our analysis with the lowest ranking.  This is probably due to our lack of knowledge regarding Mesozoic or Cenozoic dated fossil finds rather than any affirmation of the Ukrainian’s football prowess.

Spain, many people’s favourites for the title, don’t make it out of the group stages, whilst Holland, which does rather well under our rating and ranking system, just fails to qualify due to the fact that two higher ranking teams happen to be placed in the same group for the first stage of the tournament.

No need to dash a quick email off to the English FA, telling Roy Hodgson and his boys that the geological record seems to be on their side, this is only for a bit of fun… but you never know it could be England’s year.

7 06, 2012

Update on Rare Bullyland Models

By | June 7th, 2012|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|2 Comments

Prehistoric Animal Models – Not Extinct

Excitement is building at Everything Dinosaur, as we eagerly await the arrival of the rare Bullyland prehistoric animal models and early human figures from the company’s “evolution of man” series.  Some of these models were retired by Bullyland of Germany, the figure and model manufacturer, as far back as 2006.

The shipment is expected to arrive sometime on either the 11th or 12th June.  We have already received a lot of forward orders, especially for the likes of the Terror Bird model, the one that Bullyland refers to as the “predatory ratite”, but most model collectors simply call Diatryma.  We have all volunteered to work late to enable us to get the boxes unloaded and packed and stored safely in the warehouse.

Rare Bullyland Prehistoric Animal Models

Everything Dinosaur gets rare models

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To register an interest in these items and the Bullyland evolution of man series which depicts the ascent of man from Ape to modern H. sapiens, simply email our team members and we will do our best to help.

Email Everything Dinosaur: Contact Everything Dinosaur

The ascent of man series consists of six models, they are available individually but they depict how hominins evolved from apes – Dryopithecus is the ape model in the series, through the Australopithecines, to the first true hominins such as H. habilis, H. erectus to Neanderthals and finally to our own species – so called “wise man” H. sapiens.

Although this series covers at least six million years of evolution, it is interesting to note that at least two of the models represent humans that shared the world with our own kind.  Neanderthals and Upright Man (H. erectus) are contemporaries of our own species.

If you are reading this, and if you are of European origin then it is likely that your DNA contains 2.5% Neanderthal.  Whether this is evidence of our species interbreeding with the Neanderthals or just the throwback DNA linking us to our common ancestor – H. heidelbergensis is hotly debated by palaeoanthropologists.

For the record, latest scientific research suggests that those of us with a European descent background and certainly a substantial proportion of the modern population of South East Asia and Australasia may have within their DNA make-up genetic material from a third human species – the Denisovans.

To read more about the Denisovans and the “X-Woman”: Evidence of a third European Hominin species

6 06, 2012

Everything Dinosaur Announces Rare Bullyland Models Soon to be in Stock

By | June 6th, 2012|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Press Releases|0 Comments

Rare Prehistoric Mammals and the Ascent of Man Series Soon to be Available

Team members at Everything Dinosaur are pleased to announce that negotiations with Bullyland, the German based figure and model manufacturer have been concluded successfully and the UK based dinosaur company will soon be getting a range of rare prehistoric animal and early human figures into stock.

Over many years, Bullyland have built up a substantial back catalogue of prehistoric animal models, including Mastodons, Chalicotheres, Deinotherium, Woolly Rhinos, Ancient Horses, Irish Elk and Terror Birds.  Customers of Everything Dinosaur will soon be able to get their hands on these rare, hand-painted models.  However, these models will only be available for a limited period.

The Bullyland Deinotherium – Back from Extinction

Rare Models Re-introduced but for a Limited Period Only

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur’s museum contacts informed them that Bullyland was going to produce a small run of its retired prehistoric animal and human figures for sale within the German museum market.  However, thanks to the company’s close relationship with Bullyland and its expertise in the field of prehistoric animal figures, Everything Dinosaur is to be supplied with a limited stock of the models.

A spokeswoman for Everything Dinosaur stated:

“We are delighted to see a number of the previously retired Bullyland models come back.  These once extinct replicas so sought after by collectors are now available once again.”

However, it was pointed out that a number of enthusiasts and collectors had already placed orders with Everything Dinosaur, so the spokesperson added:

“This is really an exciting opportunity for collectors to get hold of some extremely rare models, we suspect that demand is going to outstrip supply for a number of replicas, so it is going to be a case of first come, first served.”

Model collectors can contact Everything Dinosaur, and express their interest in these replicas including the rare Bullyland prehistoric animal models by emailing the company:

Email Everything Dinosaur: Contact Everything Dinosaur

Models can then be reserved and the customer contacted when the shipment arrives (scheduled to be available by mid June).

Predatory Ratite – Terror Bird Makes a Welcome Return

Available for a short period – Terror Bird back from Extinction

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

It is not just prehistoric animals that are being re-introduced, the famous and almost mythical “evolution of mankind” series of models is also going to be available.  This series featured six hominin models that portrayed the evolution of our own species.  The first model is a replica of the ape Dryopithecus, this is followed by an Australopithecine, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, a Neanderthal and concluding the set a replica of a modern man, referred to by Everything Dinosaur staff as the “Clovis Man Replica”.

The Ascent of Man Series that is Going to be Available

The Ascent of Man Model Series

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The models are due to arrive week commencing 11th of June, model collectors are urged by Everything Dinosaur to get in contact quickly to avoid disappointment.  These rare hominin figures and prehistoric animals will only be available for a short time and in small quantities.

Email Everything Dinosaur:Contact Everything Dinosaur

 The List of Rare Bullyland Replicas soon to be Available from Everything Dinosaur

Rare Models soon to be available from Everything Dinosaur

Table Credit: Everything Dinosaur

As if all these models was not excitement enough, Everything Dinosaur have one more surprise hidden away in the geology ruck sack.  The company has been able to secure a limited stock of the exceptionally rare Bullyland Mastodonsaurus model.

Bullyland Mastodonsaurus Model

Rare model back in stock for a short time only

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Mastodonsaurus was a large-headed, giant amphibian belonging to the Temnospondyl clade.  It lived in the Triassic and some species grew to the lengths of modern-day Caiman.  A fierce predator, it is great to see a model of this prehistoric animal available once again.  An example of an creature thought to be extinct, coming back from the dead perhaps?

6 06, 2012

Dinosaurs Lighter than Previously Thought

By | June 6th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans|0 Comments

University of Manchester Scientists “Slim down the Dinosaurs”

Just how big were the dinosaurs?  This is a question that has vexed palaeontologists ever since the first fossil bones of these prehistoric animals were studied in detail.  The size of extinct animals can be calculated by measuring the length of individual bones but the calculation of mass is much more difficult.  Scientists at the University of Manchester have developed a new technique that “slims down” the Dinosauria.  Some of the largest leviathans may not have weighed upwards of eighty metric tonnes as previously thought, around twenty-three tonnes may actually be nearer the mark.

Just how big were the dinosaurs has sparked lively debate for many years, to read an article on the possible size and weight of Brachiosaurus (published in 2009): Just how big was Brachiosaurus?

Palaeobiologists at the University have developed a new technique to accurately measure the weight and size of dinosaurs and discovered they are not as heavy as previously thought.  University of Manchester biologists used lasers to measure the minimum amount of skin required to wrap around the skeletons of modern-day mammals, including reindeer, polar bears, giraffes and elephants.  Using animals alive today, that can be weighed allows the researchers to test their calculations against the actual  recorded weight of the animal.  What the laser mapping technique shows, is that the dinosaurs may not have been as heavy as earlier estimates.  This has implications for the study of their behaviour and locomotion, even whether some of the biggest dinosaurs of all – the long-necked Sauropods may have been capable of rearing up onto their hind legs.

The Manchester based team discovered that the animals they measured had almost exactly 21% more body mass than the minimum skeletal “skin and bone” wrap volume.  They then applied this to a giant Brachiosaur skeleton in Berlin’s Museum für Naturkunde, (Humboldt Museum).  This skeleton stands over forty feet tall, and is made up of the fossilised bones of several individuals.  It represents a Brachiosaur from Africa and it is the largest mounted dinosaur skeleton on display in Europe.

The Brachiosaur Skeleton Used in the Study

How to Slim Down a Dinosaur

Picture Credit: Speigel Online International

Previous estimates of this Brachiosaur’s weight have varied, with estimates as high as 80 tonnes, but the Manchester team’s calculations – published in the journal Biology Letters – reduced that figure to just 23 tonnes.   Still a substantial weight, but intriguing establishing the giant mammals known as the Indricotheres as potentially the heaviest land living animals known to science.  The team says the new technique will apply to all dinosaur weight measurements and thus the mass of all the known dinosaurs can be calculated.

Commenting on the research, lead author Dr. Bill Sellers said:

“One of the most important things palaeobiologists need to know about fossilised animals is how much they weighed.  This is surprisingly difficult, so we have been testing a new approach.  We laser scanned various large mammal skeletons, including polar bear, giraffe and elephant, and calculated the minimum wrapping volume of the main skeletal sections”.

One of the arguments put forward against depicting the dinosaurs as more agile, active creatures was their great size and weight.  Despite a number of evolutionary adaptations to lighten their skeletons such as the evolution of pneumatised bones, many scientists had argued that predators such as Tyrannosaurus rex would have been just to heavy and slow to be effective hunters and therefore probably scavenged carcases.

Dr. Sellers went onto state:

“We showed that the actual volume is reliably 21% more than this value, so we then laser scanned the Berlin Brachiosaur, Giraffatitan brancai, calculating the skin and bone wrapping volume and added 21%.  We found that the giant herbivore weighed 23 tonnes, supporting the view that these animals were much lighter than traditionally thought.”

Dr. Sellers, based in Manchester’s Faculty of Life Sciences, explained that body mass was a critical parameter used to constrain biomechanical and physiological traits of organisms.

He added:

“Volumetric methods are becoming more common as techniques for estimating the body masses of fossil vertebrates but they are often accused of excessive subjective input when estimating the thickness of missing soft tissue. Here, we demonstrate an alternative approach where a minimum convex hull is derived mathematically from the point cloud generated by laser-scanning mounted skeletons.  This has the advantage of requiring minimal user intervention and is therefore more objective and far quicker.”

Interestingly, as scientists debate the body weights of Brachiosaurs, it is worth noting that until recently the Brachiosaur in the Berlin museum was described as belonging to the genus Brachiosaurus.  However, studies of the fossil material ascribed to this genus that had been found in East Africa and the Western United States indicate that the African material is sufficient different to be put into its own, separate genus – Giraffatitan.

To read an article on the scientific debate between Brachiosaurus and Giraffatitan genera: Brachiosaurus versus Giraffatitan

Explaining how the research team estimated the weight of the Berlin specimen, Dr. Sellers stated:

“We tested this method on 14 large-bodied mammalian skeletons and demonstrated that it consistently underestimated body mass by 21%.  We suggest that this is a robust method of estimating body mass where a mounted skeletal reconstruction is available and demonstrate its usage to predict the body mass of one of the largest, relatively complete Sauropod dinosaurs, Giraffatitan brancai, as 23,200 kilogrammes.”

When asked to put this new research into the context of earlier studies that had produced much higher weights for dinosaurs, Dr. Sellers commented:

“The value we got for Giraffatitan is at the low range of previous estimates; although it is still huge, some of the enormous estimates of the past – 80 tonnes in 1962 – are exaggerated.  Our method provides a much more accurate measure and shows dinosaurs, while still huge, are not as big as previously thought.”

The debate over the weight of the Dinosauria, especially the really big Sauropods is likely to rumble on.  Still at twenty-three metric tonnes, this makes one particular Late Jurassic Sauropod much heavier than any land living animal alive today, many times the weight of the biggest elephants.

We are grateful to the University of Manchester for supplying information in a press release for use in this article.

5 06, 2012

Wild Safari Dinosaur Acrocanthosaurus Model Reviewed

By | June 5th, 2012|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur videos|0 Comments

A Review of the New Acrocanthosaurus Dinosaur Model

Safari Ltd have introduced four new dinosaur models into their eclectic Wild Safari Dinos model range.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur have written reviews on al four of these new introductions, Acrocanthosaurus, Dracorex, Ceratosaurus and the “wandering horned dinosaur” – Vagaceratops.  These reviews are going to be supplemented by video reviews of the new Safari replicas.  We aim to produce a five minute video showing the model, explaining how it reflects the fossil evidence and pointing out some interesting features about it and the prehistoric animal the model represents.

Here is the first of our video reviews on the new Safari Ltd introductions:

A Review of the Acrocanthosaurus Dinosaur Model

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

It is great to see a new interpretation of “High-spined Lizard”, a meat-eating dinosaur whose fossils have been discovered in Lower Cretaceous strata.

To see Everything Dinosaur’s Wild Safari Dinosaurs and Carnegie models: Carnegie Collection and Wild Safari Dinosaurs

Acrocanthosaurus may be a contender for the largest known, land based, predatory prehistoric animal.  Palaeontologists have few fossils to study, but it has been estimated that Acrocanthosaurus (A. atokensis ) may have been more than twelve metres in length.  Trackways discovered in Texas (United States), might be those of Acrocanthosaurus, the age of the strata relates to the fossil bearing sediments in which the Acrocanthosaurus material was discovered.  If these foot prints are indeed those of Acrocanthosaurus, then it suggests that this dinosaur may have hunted in packs.

4 06, 2012

New Species of Abelisaurid Described

By | June 4th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans|1 Comment

Eoabelisaurus – Ancient Abelisaurid but with Advanced Anatomical Characteristics

A team of scientists from the Edigio Feruglio Museum of Palaeontology in Chubut (southern Argentina), have unveiled the near complete fossil skeleton of a Jurassic-aged Abelisaurid Theropod dinosaur.  The fossils of this fearsome, meat-eating dinosaur were discovered in Mid Jurassic aged strata.  Basal Abelisaurids are known from the Jurassic, but most of the fossils found of this type of predator in South America, are associated with much younger rocks laid down towards the end of the Cretaceous some ninety million years after this new dinosaur genus roamed what was to become Argentina.  The fossils reveal that this ancient creature, a dinosaur that lived before iconic dinosaurs of the Jurassic such as Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus and Allosaurus evolved, had a number of anatomical features associated with the last of the Abelisaurs, creatures that roamed the Earth at the very end of the Cretaceous geological period.

The Abelisaurs are a very distinctive group of meat-eating dinosaurs, known almost exclusively  from fossils found in the southern hemisphere.  Palaeontologists believe that they evolved from a primitive line of Theropod dinosaurs known as the Ceratosaurids.  It seems that towards the end of the Cretaceous, whilst the Tyrannosaurs became the dominant, apex predator in northern latitudes, in the south, the top predators were the Abelisaurids.

An Illustration of a Typical Abelisaur (Rugops primus)

Fearsome Predators of the Southern Hemisphere

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Abelisaurids are noted for their deep, blunt but narrow skulls, the top of which were often adorned with crests or horns.   These bipeds had large pelvises and very tiny, much reduced, stubby arms with four fingered hands.  A number of Abelisaur fossils have been found mainly in India, Madagascar and South America.  Scientists have speculated that more primitive members of this group, earlier forms, referred to as basal Abelisaurids, probably had longer arms, similar in proportion to their Ceratosaur ancestors, but this new specimen, scientifically named as Eoabelisaurus mefi (Early Abel’s Lizard), although dating from 170 million year old strata, it too has the tiny arms of its relatives that lived much later in the Age of Dinosaurs.

As a group, the Abelisaurs were virtually unknown until the mid 1980s when scientists exploring the geology of South America discovered the skull of a new type of huge, meat-eating dinosaur.  Argentinean palaeontologists Jose Bonaparte and Fernando Novas were responsible for the scientific study of this specimen and they named this new dinosaur Abelisaurus (A. comahuensis), the name honours Roberto Abel, the director of the Argentinean Museum of Natural Sciences at the time.

A paper describing this new dinosaur genus has been published in the leading London-based, scientific journal “the Proceedings of the Royal Society”.

The animal has been described as a scaled-down version of Tyrannosaurus rex, another dinosaur known for its tiny, stunted arms.  However, the Tyrannosaurs and the Abelisaurids were not closely related.   The forelimbs of these two types of predatory dinosaur may have been similar, but the resemblance was only superficial.  In Tyrannosaurs, the bones of the lower arm (the ulna and radius), were smaller than the bone found in the upper arm (the humerus), but they were still substantial bones, the hand had two functional fingers (first and second digits), Tyrannosaurs being descended from meat-eating dinosaurs that had three-fingered hands.  In later Abelisaurids, the ulna and the radius were very much smaller than in similar sized Tyrannosaurs, these bones in Abelisaurs were little bigger than some of the bones that made up the wrist portion of the forelimb.

The Fossil Material Ascribed to the new Abelisaur Genus (Eoabelisaurus mefi)

New Type of South American meat-eating Dinosaur Discovered

Picture Credit: AFP

This fossil discovery, is remarkable for two reasons.  Firstly, the fossils found make up an almost complete specimen, finding such a near complete specimen of a dinosaur, especially a Theropod is exceptionally rare.  Secondly, this discovery helps confirm that primitive Albelisaurs, albeit with some advanced anatomical features such as the reduced arms, were present in the Mid Jurassic.  This new species E. mefi, is one of the earliest known members of this group, and it predates most of the other Argentinean Abelisaur material by tens of millions of years.  The only other basal Abelisaurid known from this part of the Jurassic, is a species known as Berberosaurus liassicus, fossils of which were found in Morocco.

Scientists have estimated that this new South American dinosaur would have been at least six metres long, not the largest Abelisaurid known to science; but a sizeable beast none the less, and probably the apex predator in the region during this part of the Jurassic geological period.  It is difficult to estimate the weight of such a creature, but the robust femur (thigh bone) and strong looking legs give an indication that this dinosaur could have weighed more than one tonne.

A spokes person for the scientists responsible for producing the academic paper on this creature stated that unlike other types of Abelisaurid from the Early Cretaceous, Eoabelisaurus mefi had completely reduced arms and tiny claws.  The arm bones resemble those associated with much later types of Abelisaurid, fearsome creatures such as Rajasaurus (India), Majungasaurus from Madagascar and Carnotaurus (also from Southern Argentina).  The fossils of these Abelisaurids date from at least seventy million years ago, a time towards the end of the Age of Dinosaurs, at the very end of the Cretaceous geological period.

An Illustration of Eoabelisaurus mefi

Fearsome Mid Jurassic Predator

Picture Credit: AFP

The reduced arms in this Mid Jurassic dinosaur may be an example of convergent evolution, where two organisms evolve the same adaptations but are not necessarily that closely related.  For example, Eoabelisaurus could have evolved the same hunting technique and style of biting of its much later Abelisaurid cousins such as Carnotaurus and Rajasaurus.  The arms being so small, would have been virtually vestigial and unable to grasp and hold prey.  It is likely that these types of dinosaurs evolved a technique of hunting that only required the use of their teeth.  The fossil evidence suggests that these dinosaurs had very powerful bites and strong, sharp teeth that would have made them very effective hunters of other large dinosaurs that shared their habitat.

The first fossilised remains of this dinosaur, consisting of part of the skull and backbone were found by a scientific expedition back in 2009, but as the weather closed in, the dig site, at a location known as Condor Hill, had to be abandoned until the following year.  Once the fossil material had been carefully excavated from the site, it was transported in large plaster-jacketed blocks for further preparation at the Edigio Feruglio Museum of Palaeontology in Chubut Province.  Palaeontologists hope that the near complete and articulated dinosaur fossils will form part of a new exhibition which will highlight the evolution of Theropod dinosaurs in Argentina.

An Illustration of the Abelisaurid Majungatholus

Fearsome Abelisaurid Predator

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

3 06, 2012

Should Everything Dinosaur work with the Walking with Dinosaurs Arena Tour?

By | June 3rd, 2012|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|1 Comment

 Should Everything Dinosaur work with the Walking with Dinosaurs Arena Tour?

The “Walking with Dinosaur” arena spectacular is returning to the UK in December of this year.  There will be a nationwide tour which will run until the middle of 2013.  This is the second time this attraction has visited, the “Walking with” tour played to packed audiences back in the summer of 2009.  We at Everything Dinosaur have followed this tour, in the media, as it has travelled around the world, we even went to one of the shows in Manchester during the 2009 tour.  A few months ago, we were approached by one of the marketing agencies responsible for promoting this event and asked whether we were prepared to sell tickets to the shows on the Everything Dinosaur website.

Whilst we were flattered to be asked, naturally, we told that we would be paid a commission for every ticket sold via us, we politely turned down this offer.  The ticket prices are high anyway and we felt that we would just not be comfortable associating our business, with commission being earned on ticket sales.

At Everything Dinosaur, we are a small team of dedicated people who genuinely care about what we do.  Our passion for palaeontology and enthusiasm for our subject comes through and we do try to help our customers and offer what we think is value for money.  We even provide lots of free advice and information in the Everything Dinosaur Blog.

When we saw the show back in 2009, we were impressed, the dinosaurs are indeed spectacular.  We all went, a sort of Everything Dinosaur afternoon out.  The consensus was that although we enjoyed the show, for a family seeing this it would prove to be a very expensive experience, especially when you consider that most museums with real dinosaur fossils are free to enter (long may this continue).  As the lights dimmed and the show began, I happened to glance down at my watch, when the first part of the show was over, I noted that only forty-five minutes or so had passed.  The second act, ending with the exciting visit of a Tyrannosaurus rex and a baby T. rex was not much longer.  On the “Walking with Dinosaurs” own website, the organisers have been kind enough to list the approximate running time of the show.  They state that it lasts about an hour and twenty minutes with a twenty minute interval.  If you dig a little deeper (no palaeontology pun intended), in the FAQs the actual length of the show itself is given as ninety-six minutes.  I guess this is like going to watch a Premier League football match in terms of the cost of the tickets and the duration of the actual action.

We have just been approached by a second marketing agency, keen to promote the “Walking with” tour.  As Everything Dinosaur is staffed by teachers, and dinosaur experts, it is only to be expected I suppose, after all, we do know lots about dinosaurs and we have all seen the show.  The London based agency has enquired whether we would be prepared to promote the tour by running a prize draw for our customers to win tickets, this could be promoted by online banners on the Everything Dinosaur website and via our e-newsletter and other communication media.  For our co-operation the agency staff member generously offered to provide us with an allocation of tickets for our team members or for use in corporate entertainment – not that we do much corporate entertainment, unless of course you count taking a few people out with us on our fossil hunting expeditions.

Whilst, once again we are flattered to be asked, this approach has led to much debate amongst our team members.  One of the other issues we had with the 2009 tour was the very expensive merchandise that was sold with the show.  We know how keen the “Walking with” tour is to position itself as an educational experience, we commend them for their efforts in this direction.  However, whether it is rock groups, festivals or dinosaur shows, there always seems to be huge expense involved for families.  I think there are some family concession tickets available, but when we saw the show three years ago the ticket price was about £35 each person, the seats were close to the front of the arena and the view was excellent but similar tickets on sale for the 2013 tour are now priced at around £50.  We baulked at the high prices back in 2009, the merchandise in particular upset us.  We help design and we sell dinosaurs and prehistoric animal models ourselves, whilst we appreciate the costs of running such a show and the need to make money from merchandising it was very expensive – we wrote an article about this at the time:

To read our article (July 1st 2009): Walking with Dinosaurs/Dinosaur Live Merchandise Rip Off

The question remains do we associate Everything Dinosaur, our little company with this arena spectacular?  We are passionate about dinosaurs and prehistoric animals, to us this is the most important thing – whether it is helping a school girl with her “show and tell” project, sourcing rare dinosaur models for a collector or just answering all the questions we get on email from young dinosaur fans.

It just does not feel right, we are a commercial organisation ourselves, but we try our very best to help each and everyone of our customers, with high ticket prices, expensive merchandise and all that this involves in terms of the cost of a family day out, it does not feel that this event is something that we should be associated with.

2 06, 2012

Celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

By | June 2nd, 2012|Adobe CS5, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|0 Comments

The Dinosauria over the Last Sixty Years

Over the next few days a number of events are being held around the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth  II, who has been the queen for sixty years.  The queen’s coronation was held on the second of June 1953, but she actually ascended to the throne a year earlier on the death of her father, King George VI.  At Everything Dinosaur, the challenge was how to create a banner for placing on our website celebrating the occasion and how to incorporate palaeontology and specifically dinosaurs into the theme.

Everything Dinosaur – Diamond Jubilee Banner

A Royal Occasion with one or two Dinosaurs

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To return to Everything Dinosaur’s home page: Everything Dinosaur

For example, if the queen reigns for another three years and one hundred days or so, she will become the longest reigning British monarch, passing Queen Victoria who reigned from 1837 until 1901.  It was in the reign of Queen Victoria that the word Dinosauria was first coined.  Richard Owen (later Sir Richard Owen), used the phrase “fearfully great lizards”, otherwise referred to as “terrible lizards” to establish a new Order of reptiles – the dinosaurs.

More different types of dinosaurs have been discovered in the reign of Her Majesty the Queen than in the reign of any other British monarch.  In fact, more dinosaur species have been named and described in the last sixty years than in the previous one hundred and fifty years.

The dinosaur featured on the banner, wearing the Union Jack bowler hat and holding a Union Jack flag is a Proceratosaurus.  This dinosaur was chosen at it was named and described in the year her Majesty was born (1926).  The fossils of this dinosaur were found in England (Gloucestershire), this is the county where two of the queen’s children Prince Charles and Princess Anne have their royal residences (Highgrove House and Gatcombe Park).  Proceratosaurus is believed to be a member of the Tyrannosaur family (Tyrant Lizard Kings), appropriate to have a Tyrannosaur on a banner celebrating a royal occasion.  In addition, this dinosaur although discovered in England, was named by a German palaeontologist, our Royal family (the house of Windsor) are of German descent.

Proceratosaurus Celebrates a Royal Occasion

Theropod Enters into the Party Spirit

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Let’s hope the weather improves and that the forecast rain does not occur so that the diamond jubilee celebrations can proceed under clear, blue skies.

Hope everybody has fun.  Congratulations your Majesty.

To return to Everything Dinosaur’s home page: Everything Dinosaur

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