All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
21 05, 2014

Google Doodle Celebrates Mary Anning

By | May 21st, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Press Releases|0 Comments

Happy Birthday to Mary Anning – Google Doodle

We wonder what Mary Anning would have made of the internet?  Coming from a poor family she may have found access to a personal computer, smart phone or tablet a little beyond her budget.  Perhaps one of those wealthy individuals who benefited from her fossil finds and research might have provided her with a laptop.  Google has marked the birthday of Mary Anning with a Google Doodle to commemorate her birthday on 21st May 1799.

Google Doodle Celebrates the Birthday of Mary Anning

Happy Birthday Mary Anning

Happy Birthday Mary Anning

Picture Credit: Google

Mary’s contribution to the nascent science of palaeontology was immense.  Along with her brother, Joseph, she is credited with finding the first Ichthyosaur skeleton that was scientifically studied, the discovery of Plesiosaurus fossils (the fossil depicted in the Google Doodle) and for finding and bringing to the attention of science the first Pterosaur fossil to be formally studied outside Germany (Dimorphodon) and only the third to be described in the world.

Everything Dinosaur team members were enthusiastic supporters for the life of Mary Anning to be included in the national curriculum of England.  She is one of the designated people who can be studied by school children as part of the science/history scheme of work within the national teaching guidelines.  As a small team, we have done quite a lot to promote science studies in schools and in particular to champion the role of women in science with the aim of encouraging girls to take up science and to develop a career in science disciplines.

Everything Dinosaur with Mary Anning – Helping to Promote Girls into Science

Helping to promote science for girls by dressing up as Mary Anning.

Helping to promote science for girls by dressing up as Mary Anning.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A couple of years ago Google created a Google Doodle celebrating the life and works of Mary Leakey, now Mary Anning has been honoured.  Happy Birthday Mary!

20 05, 2014

Schleich Pentaceratops Video Review

By | May 20th, 2014|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur videos, Product Reviews|0 Comments

A Video Review of the 2014 Schleich Pentaceratops Dinosaur Model

The colourful Schleich Pentaceratops dinosaur model gets the Everything Dinosaur video treatment.  In this short video review, (five minutes and forty-two seconds), team members discuss the model, compare it to the Schleich Triceratops replica that came out in 2012 and talk about Pentaceratops fossil finds.

Everything Dinosaur’s Video Review of the Schleich Pentaceratops Dinosaur Model

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Titanoceratops (Titanoceratops ouranos) even gets a mention.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of Schleich models: Schleich Prehistoric Animal Models

It may be more than ninety years since the first fossils of Pentaceratops were discovered in New Mexico, but there is a lot of fossil material from the San Juan basin ascribed to Pentaceratops that requires further research and study.  It is also possible that in many of the burlap and plaster wrapped specimens that lie in the vaults of museums there may be other species of Ceratopsid awaiting discovery.

19 05, 2014

Further Crocodile Attacks

By | May 19th, 2014|Animal News Stories, Main Page|2 Comments

More Crocodile Attack Fatalities

A Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) is reported to have attacked and killed a woman whilst she was collecting reeds in the Shire River (Mangochi district, southern Malawi).  Mangochi Police Station Public Relations Officer, Inspector Rodrick Maida stated that the deceased had been in the river gathering reeds with two female friends when the crocodile grabbed her.  The women were unable to free the victim from the crocodile’s grip and ran to nearby houses to fetch help.

A search conducted by a group of villagers from Mtalimanja also ended in tragedy when Walani Lawe (aged 51) was attacked and severely injured whilst attempting to retrieve the woman’s body.  The dead woman’s body has yet to be recovered.  Mr Lawe was taken to Mangochi District Hospital and it has been reported that he is responding well to treatment.  This attack comes just a few days after another fatal crocodile attack this time in Papua New Guinea and the species concerned was a Saltwater or Estuarine Crocodile (C. porosus).  Several media sources have reported that a four metre long reptile attacked and killed an eleven year old boy whilst he fished with his parents.  The incident took place on the Siloura River in Gulf Province, in the southern part of Papua New Guinea. The attack occurred on Thursday afternoon.

Police Commander Lincoln Gerari, said in the statement that the boy had been identified as Melas Mero.  Following the fatal attack, a large crocodile was tracked by hunters and killed.   The boy’s limbs and part of the hips were found inside the crocodile’s stomach.  Other body parts have been recovered by the police team.

Describing the sudden attack, the Commander explained:

“The crocodile swept the boy with its tail and then attacked the defenceless child.”

This is the second fatal crocodile attack to be reported from Papua New Guinea in 2014.  On January 1st a man was killed by a Saltwater Crocodile at Rawa Bay in North Bougainville.   According to a Darwin based, crocodile data recording team, this is the seventy-fifth crocodile attack recorded in Papua New Guinea since 1958.  Of these seventy-five attacks, sixty-five have proved fatal.

18 05, 2014

A Video Review of the Schleich Light Green T. rex Dinosaur Model

By | May 18th, 2014|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Everything Dinosaur videos, Product Reviews|0 Comments

Schleich Light Green Tyrannosaurus rex Video Review

The new for 2014 Schleich light green Tyrannosaurus rex is the first of the new Schleich dinosaurs to have a a video review created for it.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur have enthusiastically plotted the progress of the four new models scheduled for introduction this year by Schleich into their “World of History” series.  It is our intention to produce reviews for all the new models, but the T. rex replica is a very good place to start.

There are a total of three Tyrannosaurs currently made by Schleich, two within the larger model series and a third, smaller model in what was called “die kleinen Dinos” by our German friends.  As with all prehistoric animal model manufacturers, T. rex tends to act as a flagship model for the factory, after all, it is the one dinosaur replica that is made by all the model manufacturers and the new, light green Tyrannosaurus rex from Schleich stands up very well to scrutiny.

The Light Green Tyrannosaurus rex Model (Schleich)

T. rex (Schleich 2014)

T. rex (Schleich 2014)

It is a very tactile model, has lots of detail and the articulated lower jaw is bound to make it very popular amongst young dinosaur fans.  The five minute video review discusses some of the features of this new replica and compares it to the 2012 Tyrannosaur model introduced by Schleich when their revamped prehistoric animal model range “Urzeittiere Dinosaurier”, this translates as prehistoric animals – dinosaurs, first came out.

Everything Dinosaur’s Video Review of the Light Green T. rex (Schleich)

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In this short video, we look at the possibility of making this new T. rex model the male in a pair of Tyrannosaurs with the slightly larger, dark green, 2012 T. rex being the female.  There is evidence to suggest that the females were larger than the males.  The fossil record from locations such as the the Hell Creek Formation of the western United States indicates two forms of Late Cretaceous Tyrannosaur, a robust form and a gracile form.  Could this fossil material represent differences between boys and girls just as we see today with some species of birds?

To view the Schleich prehistoric animals available from Everything Dinosaur: Schleich Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animal Models

The females may have been bigger as they required wider hips to permit the storage and passage of eggs.  Females in many different types of animal tend to be bigger than the males, In Tyrannosaur circles, could the girls have ruled the roost?  For the moment, the fossil evidence poses this intriguing question finding definitive proof is somewhat tricky, however, thanks to Schleich at least dinosaur fans and model collectors can create their own family of Tyrannosaurs.

17 05, 2014

Biggest Dinosaur of All – A New South American Contender

By | May 17th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Seven Titanosaur Fossil Skeletons – Graveyard of Giants!

So the story is out, we have a new contender for the title of biggest dinosaur known to science!  In fact we have seven of them, for a team of researchers working at an outcrop of Cretaceous aged strata in Chubut Province (southern Argentina),  have uncovered the fossilised remains of seven huge Titanosaurs and when we say huge we really mean it.  These giants could well prove to be the largest terrestrial animals of all.  Somebody is going to need a very big dinosaur museum to exhibit this collection.

A team of researchers led by scientists from the Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio (Trelew City), a museum and scientific research centre that team members at Everything Dinosaur know very well having visited and viewed the spectacular vertebrate fossil collection on numerous occasions, have uncovered a total of two hundred fossils so far from this single location.  Best of all, a film crew from the BBC Natural History film unit was on hand to visit the site and record the field team at work as they carefully gathered evidence of past habitats within the dinosaur bone bed that has been nick-named the “graveyard of giants”.

An Overview of the Fossil Site

Up to seven individual Titanosaur remains found.

Up to seven individual Titanosaur remains found.

Picture Credit: Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio (MEF)

This part of Argentina has produced a number of giant dinosaurs, including immense Titanosaurs, the largest of which, to be formally described is Argentinosaurus huinculensis.  However, this new discovery is remarkable as there are a number of individuals to be studied and the preservation of the bone material is exceptional.  This new species of Titanosaur has yet to be named.

Size and Scale of New Dinosaur Discovery

The thigh bone of one of the giant Titanosaurs.

The thigh bone of one of the giant Titanosaurs.

Picture Credit: Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio (MEF)

The picture above shows one of the researchers lying beside the thigh bone (femur) of one of these enormous plant-eating dinosaurs.  It is a kind of a tradition amongst palaeontologists to have their picture taken lying next to the huge limb bones of these long-necked dinosaurs.  Many field workers have posed for such photographs, it is probably the most practical and simple way to demonstrate the immense size of the fossils in the field.

In 2011, a local farmworker contacted the MEF and reported the finding of large bones that were exposed and weathering out of the surrounding rock.  Field team workers have been busy excavating the site, which is approximately 160 miles south-west of Trelew City, close to the small town of El Sombrero.  About one fifth of all the fossil material has been removed and transported back to the MEF for further restoration and preparation.  The size of the fossil bones made transport no easy task and the scientists were grateful for the support and advice of the Highways National Road Administration as well as the National Atomic Energy Commission which provided tools and heavy plant equipment to help with the fossil dig.

Heavy Duty Fossil Handling Equipment Required

Big fossils require big diggers to excavate them.

Big fossils require big diggers to excavate them.

Picture Credit: Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio (MEF)

The industrial plant, more at home on a construction site, certainly beat our hammers and chisels, but big diggers are required when handling fossil extraction on this scale.

The strata in which the fossils have been found has been tentatively dated to around 95 million years ago (Cenomanian faunal stage of the Cretaceous).  This dry and dusty part of Patagonia was very different back then, it was a lush and verdant dinosaur paradise, criss-crossed by slow flowing rivers.  For this group of Titanosaurs, it may be a case of “paradise lost” as they all perished together.  Amongst the huge bones, the palaeontologists have found sixty broken teeth from large Theropod dinosaurs. It seems the carcases of these animals were scavenged by some big meat-eaters.  The heap of decaying corpses would have attracted every carnivorous dinosaur from miles around, after all, there would have been something like 250 – 300 tonnes of meat available for the scavengers to consume.  One of the benefactors of this feast might have been the Carcharodontosaurid known as Tyrannotitan (T. chubutensis).  Fossils of this twelve metre plus giant have been found in slightly older strata in the same area.

The site has also yielded important data on the flora that existed in this part of the world during the Cretaceous.  Amongst the fossil material excavated to date there are chunks of fossilised wood and the delicate impressions of the leaves of early flowering plants (Angiosperms).  However, with the number of fossil bones found and their degree of preservation, scientists are confident that they can gather accurate data on just how big these dinosaurs were.  The seven individuals represent adult animals,  there are some slight differences in the size of the bones, indicating that some of the dinosaurs were bigger than others.  Initial estimates of body size and mass of the largest individual, calculated by measuring the length and circumference of the femur (thigh bone) suggest an animal around eighty tonnes in weight and forty metres in length.  Such figures are approximations and further work is required but the bones are on a par with those ascribed to the biggest dinosaur yet described, the mighty Argentinosaurus.

Recently, Everything Dinosaur reported on a study conducted by an international team of scientists that compared how quickly dinosaurs evolved compared to birds.  As part of this research, the body weights of the largest known dinosaurs were calculated.  The femur size and circumference measure for Argentinosaurus gave this dinosaur a body mass of around ninety tonnes.  However, the femur used was a fragmentary fossil, in this instance scientists have, for the first time, got the virtually complete super-sized Titanosaur limb bone material to work with.

To read more about this research: Dinosaurs Shrank So That They Could Continue to Evolve

Commenting on the size of these potential record breaking dinosaurs, palaeontologist Dr. José Luis Carballido (MEF) stated:

“It’s like two semi trucks, one after another, and the equivalent of more than 14 African elephants weighed together.  It’s a real palaeontological treasure, there were so many bones and the remains are practically intact, this does not happen very often.  All previously discovered giant Titanosaur fossils are very fragmented”

The giants seem to have all perished around the same time, indicating that this might represent a herd or at least a partial herd of these herbivorous dinosaurs.  A spokes person from Everything Dinosaur remarked that the fossil find was indeed astonishing and that the fossils once prepared and protected against further erosion and damage would yield new information on just how big some dinosaurs could grow to.

The spokes person added:

“We can speculate that this bone bed deposit represents a herd of Titanosaurs that stayed close to a dwindling water supply that eventually dried up.  In a drought, these giants would have been trapped close to a water source and yet in need of vast amounts of vegetation to fuel their huge bodies, even if they had the lower metabolisms of cold-blooded creatures.  We see similar instances of mass mortality of large herbivores in Africa today, when significant numbers of elephants succumb to drought in places such as within some of the National Parks of Botswana.”

The South American research team are optimistic that these enormous fossils will eventually go on display to the public, but for the Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio, this is going to cause a bit of headache.  They are going to need a much bigger main gallery to display them in.

A Comparison of Body Sizes – Scale of Titanosaurs

New dinosaur discovery compared to a human, a giraffe and a meat-eating Theropod.

New dinosaur discovery compared to a human, a giraffe and a meat-eating Theropod.

Picture Credit: Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio (MEF)/Everything Dinosaur

The diagram above shows the new, as yet unnamed dinosaur compared to a human (yellow), a giraffe (red) and the meat-eating, Theropod dinosaur known as Tyrannotitan.

16 05, 2014

Identifying the First Americans

By | May 16th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

“Naia” – The Water Nymph Provides Clues to the First Americans

To a palaeontologist, the Yucatan peninsula of Eastern Mexico is a fascinating part of the world, for it was here something like sixty-six million years ago, that an extraterrestrial body crashed into the Earth which contributed to the Cretaceous mass extinction event leading to the demise of the dinosaurs.  In addition, the amazing geology of the area, essentially extensive limestone deposits that over millions of years have been hollowed out in places by the action of water to create an enormous network of caverns, yields secrets of much more recent times – the remains of creatures and people that lived in America during the last Ice Age.

The discovery of the remains of a teenage girl who fell to her death in a cave between 12,000 and 13,000 years ago are helping archaeologists to piece together the story of how the Americas came to be populated.  The skeleton, nick-named “Naia” by the scientists, (the name means water nymph), represents the oldest genetically intact human known from the Western Hemisphere.  The water nymph epithet is apt, as the when the Ice Age began to give up its icy grip on the continent around 10,000 years ago, the caves quickly became inundated with water and much of this subterranean world was submerged, including the cavern where the bones of this young girl were found.

Divers Carefully Move the Human Remains

Divers carefully transport the ancient human skull.

Divers carefully transport the ancient human skull.

Picture Credit: Reuters/Paul Nicklen/National Geographic/Reuters Handout

The picture above shows Divers Susan Bird (in blue) and Alberto Nava (in yellow) carefully transporting the skull to an underwater turntable so that it can be photographed from various angles to make a three-dimensional image of the human remains.  Details of the research into mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) extracted from a tooth have been published in the academic journal “Science”.  Mitochondrial DNA is passed down the maternal line, from mother to daughter.  The mitochondria are the “factory” areas in cells with a membrane, these convert chemical energy into food substances that can be utilised by the body.  By mapping the genetic information and identifying markers within it, the girl’s ancestry can be compared with those of Native American Indian populations, helping scientists to determine how North America came to be inhabited, by whom and when.  It also permits researchers to look more closely at the genetic relationships between today’s Native American population and the first inhabitants of this continent.

The data supports the hypothesis that Ice Age humans who crossed from Asia into the Americas did in fact give rise to the modern Native American Indians.  This means that tribes people today can trace their origins back to the very first settlers who migrated from Asia into Alaska via the landmass called Beringia that linked these two continents together.  The date when people first crossed over from Asia to America is hotly debated amongst palaeoanthropologists.  Some scientists suggest that migrations began as recently as 15,000 years ago.  With the discovery of the human remains in eastern Mexico and their dating to circa 12,000 – 13,000, this suggests that either modern humans spread very rapidly south, or that migrations may have started much earlier.

The Ice Ages led to the locking up of vast quantities of water in ice sheets.  Global sea levels fell and Asia and the Americas were linked.  A land bridge existed between the north-eastern tip of Siberia and the State of Alaska (Beringia), the ancestors of “Naia” crossed this land bridge and the Americas were colonised.

Early Human Settlers Crossed into America via Beringia

Ancient humans crossed from Asia to America using the land bridge that is now covered by the Bering Straits.

Ancient humans crossed from Asia to America using the land bridge that is now covered by the Bering Straits.

Picture Credit: SLP

The girl, believed to have been around fifteen or sixteen years of age when she died, probably fell in the cave.  The pelvis is shattered, the break suggests this was an injury caused from a fall and not the distortion of fossil material as a result of the fossilisation process.  Scientists have speculated that the girl may have fallen a considerable distance, having entered the cave looking for a source of water.  The divers also found a collection of other bones that represent prehistoric animals, some of which “Naia” would have been familiar with.  The divers found the remains of giant ground sloths, sabre-toothed cats, cave bears and a Gomphothere (extinct type of elephant).  Around twelve thousand years ago, this part of Mexico was much more arid than it is today, some of the caves would have held freshwater in them, and the girl may have been part of a group of gatherers looking for fresh water supplies.  Measuring under 1.5 metres tall and slightly built, the girl fell into a pit which is over thirty metres deep in places.  The bell-shaped cave, now flooded is so dark and claustrophobic that the divers refer to it as “Hoyo Nero” – the black hole.

Archaeologist, James Chatters (Applied Paleoscience [American spelling]), one of the leaders of the research team stated that the cavern represented “a time capsule of the environment and human life at the end of the Ice Age.”

The origins of the first Americans has been a source of controversy for some time.  The date when the first, nomadic, hunter-gatherers crossed from Beringia remains unclear, evidence collected from early human settlements found in north-eastern Siberia (Ushki Lake and Berelekh) when compared to later human settlements in North America (Tuluaq Hill, Bluefish Caves and Swan Point) suggest that the crossings of Beringia may have taken place between 26,000 and 18,000 years ago.  However, the discovery of “Naia” has confused academics as the girl had skull characteristics that distinguish her from modern Native Americans.  For instance, the skull is narrower and this and the other anatomical differences led researchers to propose that the first people of the New World might represent an earlier migration from a different part of the world, than the true forebears of today’s modern Native Americans.

Analysis of the mtDNA extracted from a wisdom tooth identifies the girl as belonging to the same Asian-derived genetic lineage as those of modern Native Americans.  The tooth along with bone samples was used to provide an estimate of the age of the human material.

Divers Explore the Enormous Cavern “Hoyo Negro”

Divers explore the large, submerged cave.

Divers explore the large, submerged cave.

Picture Credit: Roberto Chavez Arce

The genetic data, although far from comprehensive suggests that the physical facial and skull differences between the first New World inhabitants and today’s Native American population probably arose due to evolutionary changes after the first migrants had crossed over from Beringia.

The study was led by the Mexican Government’s National Institute of Anthropology and History supported by the National Geographic Society.  In addition, to the human remains the researchers are keen to put the prehistoric mammal fossil discoveries on display once they have been prepared.

The Bones of Large Vertebrates Can Also be Found in the Cave

Ice Age mammal bones litter the cave floor and ledges.

Ice Age mammal bones litter the cave floor and ledges.

Picture Credit: Roberto Chavez Arce

In terms of human migration, the arrival of our species in America happened relatively recently.  Homo sapiens (if we accept the “out of Africa” theory), has been steadily spreading out from Africa for the last 130,000 years or so.

To read an article about the recent discovery of a H. sapiens skull in Laos that is helping to map the progress of the earliest settlers in Asia: Laos Man and the Spread of Humans into South-East Asia.

15 05, 2014

Questions We Get Asked

By | May 15th, 2014|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Press Releases, Teaching|0 Comments

Frequently Asked Questions Page Completed

The FAQs (frequently asked questions) section of the new dinosaurs in school website being devised by Everything Dinosaur team members has been completed.  Banners have been prepared and uploaded and the text has now been added.  This is the latest part of the website to be finished and a spokesperson for the company stated that the project was on schedule with the list of typical questions that staff get asked added to the appropriate section of the new site.

One of the FAQs Banners Being Used on the New Website

New website nears completion.

New website nears completion.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur visits schools, museums, after school clubs, and youth groups to delivery innovative and very educational dinosaur and fossil themed workshops.  It seemed appropriate therefore, to feature both fossils and a little boy’s drawing of a dinosaur on the banner used as the featured image on the FAQs section of the new website.  These pages will provide a handy guide to those museum curators, scout group leaders and teaching staff who want to find out more about the teaching and educational services the team at Everything Dinosaur deliver.

The teaching staff always try to dove-tail their teaching work into the aims and objectives of the national curriculum whilst at the same time ensuring that the teaching is delivered in a fun, memorable and entertaining manner. Staff are away today carrying out a number of teaching sessions in Wales, working specifically with Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 students.  Perhaps some examples of the work of these students as they study rocks, fossils and evolution will be included on Everything Dinosaur’s new website dedicated to teaching about prehistoric life.

14 05, 2014

Preparing for the New Schleich Dinosaur Models

By | May 14th, 2014|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Imminent Arrival of Four New Dinosaur Models (Schleich Prehistoric Animals)

Everything Dinosaur is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the four, new dinosaur models from Schleich of Germany.  Fact sheets have been prepared, drawing materials commissioned and everything is in place to welcome these latest additions to the company’s huge model range.

Schleich Models Available from Everything Dinosaur

Four new dinosaurs coming soon.

Four new dinosaurs coming soon including a Schleich Pentaceratops.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Three of the new dinosaurs are Theropods, three are bipeds, two represent dinosaurs that Schleich have created models of before, two represent new species for the German manufacturer and all four are bound to please collectors and young dinosaur fans alike.

There is a brightly coloured horned dinosaur called Pentaceratops.  Not to be mistaken for Triceratops “five horned face” was a little smaller than “three-horned face”.  This herbivorous dinosaur was named and described by the same scientist who described Tyrannosaurus rex.  Talking of T. rex Schleich are introducing a second replica of this fearsome carnivore into their “Prehistoric Life” series.  This one is a lighter green version, it has an articulated lower jaw, just like the other Tyrannosaurus rex in the range that we at Everything Dinosaur refer to as the “World of History”.

Not to be outdone, the existing Velociraptor model  has a new, colourful partner.  The new green Velociraptor has a moveable lower jaw and moveable arms.

Say Hello to the New Velociraptor Dinosaur Model from Schleich

Velociraptor Dinosaur Model from Schleich.

Velociraptor Dinosaur Model from Schleich.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

All the models are designed for creative, imaginative play and are robust enough to survive even the toughest of geological periods.

The final model to be added to the Dinosaurier, (as our German friends call the dinosaurs), is a wonderful model of the bizarre Theropod dinosaur called Therizinosaurus.   This dinosaur model too, has an articulated lower jaw and moveable arms.  Look out for those amazing three-fingered claws on this dinosaur, whose ancestors ate meat but which took up a vegetarian diet.

The Schleich Therizinosaurus Dinosaur Model

The "Freddy Kruger" of the Dinosaur Family

The “Freddy Kruger” of the Dinosaur Family

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of Schleich prehistoric animal models: Schleich Dinosaur Models

Time to make some space in our warehouse to accommodate these new additions.

13 05, 2014

Frequently Asked Questions?

By | May 13th, 2014|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Press Releases|0 Comments

Preparing New Images for the Everything Dinosaur School Site

One of the more challenging projects today was how to create some visuals for use on that part of Everything Dinosaur’s new school website dedicated to frequently asked questions.  Team members respond quickly to all the enquiries we receive from teachers and museum staff, however, we thought it would be a good idea for the new school website, to have a dedicated page or two related to those questions we get frequently asked (FAQs).  With this in mind, we set about creating some banners that could be used on the “FAQs” page.  Lots of ideas were put forward but in the end we decided the simplest thing to do would be to use some of the thousands of fossils we have in our warehouse to make a “question mark”.

Belemnites Help to Make Up a Question Mark

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Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

These calcite guards, the preserved remains of Middle Jurassic Belemnites, proved to be just the job for creating a question mark for use on the new website.  The word Belemnite comes from the Greek for “dart” and if you examine the picture closely you can see the reason for this name.

Onwards and upwards with our new dinosaurs for school website.

12 05, 2014

“Gluttonous and Filthy” – New Species of Cretaceous Crocodile

By | May 12th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Aplestosuchus sordidus – Fearsome Late Cretaceous Predator from Brazil

When it comes to naming new species, a candidate for the best and most appropriately named in 2014  has got to be Aplestosuchus sordidus.  Aplestosuchus was a Crocodilian that roamed south-central Brazil in the Late Cretaceous.  The name means “gluttonous and filthy crocodile”, for found in the body cavity of this nearly complete specimen was the remains of its last meal – another crocodile.  Direct fossil evidence of interactions between extinct species of crocodiles is extremely rare, but this fossil shows that large Crocodyliforms ate smaller Crocodyliforms and more importantly, it helps scientists to understand a little more about the food chain that existed in this part of South America around eighty million years ago.

A scientific paper on the newly described species of crocodile, a distant relative of today’s extant crocodiles, has just been published in the academic journal “PLOS One”.  The fossils were found in a rocky outcrop, close to a small river.  The strata at this location makes up part of the Adamantina Formation which has been tentatively dated to the Turonian to Santonian faunal stages of the Late Cretaceous, although some strata that form the upper layers of this formation may be younger, dating from the Campanian faunal stage.

A number of Crocodyliform fossils have been found in the Adamantina Formation. During the Cretaceous, crocodiles occupied many more niches in food chains than they do today.  There were terrestrial forms as well as species more adapted to a semi-aquatic lifestyle.  Some evolved heavy armour and whilst predominately a clade of carnivores, a number of fossils show evidence of herbivory.  This fossil of Aplestosuchus was recovered from two blocks, the first of which contained a nearly complete, although somewhat compressed skull and jaws.  The second block contained most of the rest of the body, just elements from the end of the tail and the hind limbs were missing.  The animal fossil remains measured just over a metre in length and it has been assigned to the Baurusuchidae family of Crocodyliforms, terrestrial predator crocodiles in which some species exceeded four metres in size.  Inside the body cavity of this specimen was the remains of a small, not yet fully described species of crocodile, which has been assigned to the Sphagesauridae family.  Sphagesaurid crocodiles, themselves evolved into a variety of forms and are distantly related to the Baurusuchidae.  The scientists who studied the fossilised stomach remains have concluded that given the relative size of the two fossil specimens, it is likely that the larger Aplestosuchus attacked and killed the smaller crocodile.  This is cited as evidence of predator/prey interaction and not a case of A. sordidus scavenging a carcase.

Fossil Crocodiles Showing Evidence of a Predator/Prey Relationship

Skull material seen in top left of the image.

Skull material seen in top left of the image.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The picture shows (A) skull material in one block with the rest of the fossil remains located in a larger adjacent block, scale bar = 10 cm.  Picture B, is a close up of the body cavity showing evidence of predation, scale bar 5 cm.

The illustration (C) shows a drawing of the larger Crocodyliform with the prey in its mouth (scale bar = 50 cm).

Examination of the abdominal cavity revealed the presence of skull bones and a tooth from the smaller sphagesaurid crocodile.  This location has yielded a number of Crocodyliform fossils, something like twenty different species have been identified so far.  It is not known whether this particular part of South America proved to be a locus for extensive Crocodyliform radiation, or whether there is a strong bias towards crocodiles within the fossil record at these sites.

A Colour Coded Image Showing a Close Up of the Stomach Contents

A close up of the body cavity showing evidence of predation.

A close up of the body cavity showing evidence of predation.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

Photograph A shows the green ribs of A. sordidus, the belly ribs (gastralia) are highlighted in orange.  The remains of the smaller sphagesaurid are shown in yellow, with diagram B providing a key to sphagesaurid fossil bones found: f, frontal; j, jugal; p, parietal; pl, palpebral; t, tooth.

Scale bar = 5 cm.

Baurusuchid crocodiles were formidable predators and in the absence of Theropod dinosaurs, larger species would have probably occupied the position of apex predators within the terrestrial environments of south-central Brazil during the latter stages of the Cretaceous.  The skull although compressed, indicates that Aplestosuchus sordidus had a formidable bite and the largest teeth in the jaws are over 2 cm in size.

A Lateral (side) View of the Skull of A. sordidus

A strong and powerful skull.

A strong and powerful skull.

Picture Credit: PLOS One/Everything Dinosaur

The Adamantina Formation has provided researchers with a wealth of Late Cretaceous fossil material.  As a result, a picture of the fauna that existed has been built up, but until now it was not certain how the food chain relating specifically to Crocodyliforms was set up.  This fossil material suggests that, as previously thought, the Baurusuchidae occupied an apex predator position.   Only a handful of Theropod dinosaur fossils have been found.  These specimens represent a miscellany of meat-eating dinosaurs and no genera have been successfully ascribed from the fossil evidence.  Teeth fossils along with fragmentary body fossils indicate the presence of large, carnivorous dinosaurs (abelisaurids, carcharodontosaurids, or possible other Tetanurans).  As fossils of large herbivorous dinosaurs (Titanosaurs) have been found in this formation, it is likely that big Theropods co-existed with them but in this instance the fossil evidence suggests that crocodiles made up a significant proportion of the predators within this environment.

Suggested Food Web Reconstruction (Adamantina Formation) South-Central Brazil

Crocodyliforms shaded black.

Crocodyliforms shaded black.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The red arrow indicates the predator/prey relationship between the Baurusuchidae and sphagesaurids.

Key

1, Large Theropods (Abelisauridae, Charcarodontosauridae, Megaraptora); 2, Peirosaurids (Montealtosuchus arrudacamposi, Pepesuchus deiseae); 3, Turtles (Bauruemys elegans, Roxochelys wanderleyi); 4-6, Fishes (Teleostei, Lepisosteidae, Dipnoi); 7, Trematochampsids (Barreirosuchus franciscoi); 8, “Notosuchians” (Labidiosuchus amicum, Mariliasuchus amarali, M. robustus, Morrinhosuchus luziae); 9, Baurusuchids (Baurusuchus albertoi, B. pachecoi, B. salgadoensis, Campinasuchus dinizi, Gondwanasuchus scabrosus, Pissarrachampsa sera, Stratiotosuchus maxhetchi); 10, Mammals; 11, Anurans; 12, Adamantinasuchus navae; 13, Sauropods (Adamantisaurus mezzalirai, Aeolosaurus maximus, Gondwatitan faustoi, Maxakalisaurus topai, Nemegtosauridae); 14, Other sphagesaurids (Caipirasuchus paulistanus, Caryonosuchus pricei, Sphagesaurus huenei, S. montealtensis); 15, Unenlagiines; 16, Birds (Enantiornithes); 17, Lizards (Brasiliguana prudentis); 18, Snakes (Anilioidea); 19, Insects (Coleoptera); 20, Armadillosuchus arrudai.

This latest research highlights the significant diversity of crocodiles and it also provides evidence of predator/prey interactions amongst Crocodyliforms.  The artwork created by Rodolfo Nogueira which accompanied the PLOS One paper is superb.  As well as demonstrating robust academic vigour, the research team involved in this study have been able to provide a vivid illustration that interprets this fossil evidence.

Aplestosuchus sordidus Preying on a Unknown sphagesaurid

Predator/prey relationship within Late Cretaceous Crocodyliforms.

Predator/prey relationship within Late Cretaceous Crocodyliforms.

Picture Credit: Rodolfo Nogueira

If the fossil evidence is anything to go by, then Aplestosuchus sordidus “gluttonous and filthy crocodile” has been appropriately named.

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