All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
21 08, 2014

Plans to Provide a Trail to Utah’s Dinosaur Tracks

By | August 21st, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Bureau of Land Management Plans to Provide a Trail to Dinosaur Trackway Site

Residents of the town of Moab in Utah are hoping that in the very near future, visitors are going to get much better access to a number of the preserved dinosaur footprints and tracks that have been found in the area.  This part of Grand County (Eastern Utah), is famous for its extensive trace fossils of dinosaurs and other Mesozoic creatures, earlier this year, Everything Dinosaur reported on the theft of a three-toed dinosaur footprint.  Such thefts are an all too common occurrence these days and news that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is planning a properly organised dinosaur footprint trail is most welcome.

To read about the dinosaur footprint theft: Man Charged over Fossil Footprint Theft

Last month, Utah resident Jared Ehlers, who had originally denied any involvement in the theft, admitted stealing and disposing of a dinosaur footprint fossil.  By pleading guilty at a pre-trial hearing, Mr Ehlers was able to have the charges of theft, destruction of evidence and depredation of government property dropped.  Under the terms of a plea deal, he was fined $15,000 USD (£9,000 GBP) and ordered to serve a year’s probation, including six months of home confinement.

The tracks that the BLM intend to create a trail for were discovered by a hiker in 2009.  Scientists from the University of Colorado in conjunction with the BLM had began excavations last year, over the last few weeks a team of volunteers have been clearing away the last of the surface material in preparation for the first public tours.  Up until now the actual location was kept under wraps, this has helped the palaeontologists and ichnologists (specialists who study trace fossils), to map the fossil site and to prevent any potential thefts.

One of the Three-toed Dinosaur Footprints at the Site

A Three-toed dinosaur footprint (Moab).

A Three-toed dinosaur footprint (Moab).

Picture Credit: John Hollenhorst, Deseret News

Over two hundred individual tracks have been uncovered to date and in at least one area an extensive trackway left by a single dinosaur has been discovered.  This trackway consists of seventeen consecutive prints.  Scientists estimate that at least ten different genera may be represented by the trace fossil material.

For Bureau of Land Management palaeontologist, Rebecca Hunt-Foster, the opportunity to help create a tourist trail leading to a greater understanding of the importance of this area for fossils, may help deter thefts in the future.  It is all part of helping to educate and inform local residents and visitors to the area.

Commenting on the significance of the location, the palaeontologist stated:

“It helps kind of to fill in the gaps about these animals that we don’t know much about.  We know they were here, but we just don’t find their bones.”

Such is the excellent state of preservation that even the tail drag from a prehistoric crocodile has been identified.

A Picture Showing the Preserved Tail Drag Fossil

Preserved in the stone a tail drag mark left by a Cretaceous crocodile.

Preserved in the stone a tail drag mark left by a Cretaceous crocodile.

Picture Credit: John Hollenhorst, Deseret News

It is hoped that once the site has been cleared, BLM staff will finish formally mapping and plotting the extensive trackway using three-dimensional photography (photogrammetry).  The fossils were found in strata that make up part of the Ruby Ranch Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation.  The fossils are believed to be around 125 million years of age (Late Barremian faunal stage to Early Aptian faunal stage of the Cretaceous).  As such, these trace fossils are slightly younger than the majority of the dinosaur footprints and other trace fossils preserved in the exposed Wessex Formation of the Isle of Wight.

As the BLM’s regional palaeontologist, Rebecca admits that providing greater access to these sites whilst maintaining their security is a delicate balancing act.  For example, a number of the prints were made by a three-toed Theropod, these tracks are very similar to the one stolen and subsequently lost earlier this year.

Once the volunteers have finished clearing the site and the mapping is completed, then the scientific value of these trace fossils will have some measure of protection.  For having mapped and plotted the tracks very accurately the prints can be replicated, should the fossils be eroded away, damaged or even stolen the data recorded will still permit palaeontologists to study them.

Rebecca explained the importance of the systematic recording of the footprints and other trace fossils by stating:

“We will be able to replicate any of the tracks, should they ever be damaged or destroyed.  And, also people will be able to study them without doing damage to the actual surface.”

The Bureau of Land Management is currently fund raising to build a trail to the dinosaur tracks.  The agency hopes to have the site open to the public in about six weeks time.

20 08, 2014

Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur” Dismantled and Reimagined

By | August 20th, 2014|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Pixar’s Animated Dinosaur Adventure – “Dismantled and Reimagined” According to John Lithgow

Dinosaurs and cinema block busters seem made for each other.  No time travelling film/exploration of a lost world is complete without at least one or two of the Dinosauria showing up somewhere along the way.  For example, in the latest reincarnation of the BBC’s favourite Time Lord,  due to hit our television screens this weekend, “The Doctor” is going to encounter dinosaurs in one of the forthcoming episodes.  So whilst we were waiting for further news of Jurassic Park IV (Jurassic World) and learning all about “Dinosaur 13” via a wonderful documentary directed by Todd Douglas Miller, press releases about Pixar’s animated dinosaur film came to our attention.

Team members at Everything Dinosaur first mentioned that Pixar was going to make an animated feature entitled “The Good Dinosaur” back in the spring of 2012, since then there have been a number of delays and setbacks. The premier being postponed by eighteen months or so and rescheduled for November 2015.

Big Changes for “The Good Dinosaur” (Pixar)

The film is "evolving"

The film is “evolving”

The delay of eighteen months before release came about following the departure of the film’s director.  It now turns out that this production has been undergoing a number of significant changes as alluded to by one of the voice over actors – John Lithgow.

The original storyline for the film imagined what would life on Earth be like if that huge extraterrestrial object that stuck our planet and assisted the demise of the dinosaurs had missed.  In essence, in Pixar’s view of the world, the dinosaurs survived and lived alongside early humans.  John Lithgow had been contracted to play “Poppa” one of the dinosaur characters featured in the film.  In a recent interview, the actor was asked to provide an update on production and he stated that after the director’s departure the entire film was “dismantled” and “completely reimagined.”

There have been lots of rumours surrounding “The Good Dinosaur”.  A number of media reports had cited serious issues behind the decision to change directors and expressed concerns over the quality of the story.  It seems that John Lithgow’s comments may have given some of these reports credence.  From Pixar’s point of view, they want to add to their stable of excellent, award-winning animations, so it is essential that the very best possible film is delivered.

It must be a bit like putting together dinosaur bones for an exhibit, these things take time, the process cannot be rushed and the final result is paramount.  At the time of the change in director, Pixar’s President Ed Catmull told the Los Angeles Times:

“Nobody, ever remembers the fact that you slipped a film, but they will remember a bad film.  Our conclusion was that we were going to give the film some more time.”

More time certainly, but reading between the actor’s lines it suggests that Pixar may have begun the project all over again.  John Lithgow had recorded his entire role for the voice of “Poppa” one of the daddy dinosaurs in the movie.  However, with the changes that are being implemented, John is going to have to re-record his role all over again.  The actor went onto explain that the film was coming out and it was going to be better than he ever imagined.   All sounds good to us.

As far as team members at Everything Dinosaur know, the release date is still scheduled for November 2015, no further delays have been announced.  We look forward to seeing the film when it does hit our screens and of course we can’t wait to meet John Lithgow’s character.

19 08, 2014

Why we Do What we Do

By | August 19th, 2014|Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Teaching|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Helps to Inform and Educate

It seems like a long time ago now, but when our happy band got together we set about creating a mission statement, a sort of who we are, what we do and why do we do it.  Other organisations had such things and we thought we ought to have one too.  As a teaching team, we wanted to help inform and educate and our mission statement for our work in schools reflects this.

Teaching Mission Statement

 “Everything Dinosaur’s aim is to help motivate young people to learn more about Earth sciences by participating in hands-on, dinosaur themed teaching activities and dinosaur workshops.  Our mission is to engage and inspire the next generation of young scientists by having dinosaurs and fossils in school.”

Every day we receive letters, drawings, photographs, pictures all sorts of things from school children.  It is always a pleasure to see them.  We encourage creative writing as part of our work in schools and as a result we get lots of thank you letters, stories and fact sheets sent in.

 A Typical Letter Sent in by a Dinosaur Fan

Helping to encourage sentence construction and creative writing.

Helping to encourage sentence construction and creative writing.

Picture Credit Phoebe (Year 1)

We do our best to reply to all the questions we get asked and we try to make sure that everyone’s efforts are acknowledged.  We have young dinosaur fans all over the world, we get correspondence from Scandinavia, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Australia, just about every country you can think of.

Drawing of a Triceratops (M. V. Eashwar from India)

Super drawing of a Triceratops from M. V. Eashwar.

Super drawing of a Triceratops from M. V. Eashwar.

Picture Credit: M. V. Eashwar

In two weeks time the new school year starts and we can’t wait to meet all the enthusiastic palaeontologists during our many scheduled classroom visits to conduct dinosaur workshops.

18 08, 2014

“Great Eggspectations” Team Members Await News from the Royal Tyrrell Museum

By | August 18th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Scientists Hope to Find More Dinosaur Eggs and Dinosaur Babies in Alberta

Palaeontologists from the Royal Tyrrell Museum (Drumheller, Alberta), one of our favourite parts of the world, have a busy few hours ahead of them.  Starting about now field staff from the museum led by the curator of dinosaur palaeoecologyy Dr. François Therrien, will begin excavating an area which could potentially contain a nest of dinosaur eggs and fossilised embryos.  If an intact or near complete nest of dinosaur eggs is found, it will be the first of its kind ever to be discovered in Canada.

The Royal Tyrrell team will be exploring two locations within the Devil’s Coulee Dinosaur Egg Site, which is in the small town of Warner, about three hours drive or so from the Museum.  Seventy-five million years ago or thereabouts, this part of southern Alberta was a duck-billed dinosaur nesting ground with at least two genera of Hadrosaurs known to have nested in the area.  The media has been invited in so that they can witness and report upon the progress of the excavation.

A Hypacrosaurus egg was discovered eroding out of a hill earlier this summer and a second site identified which contained a substantial amount of fossilised eggshells which were once part of a Maisaura’s nest.  Hypacrosaurus was a member of the Lambeosaurine clade of duck-billed dinosaurs.  It had a dome-shaped crest on its head.  Fossils of this large, herbivorous dinosaur have been found in Alberta and over the border in Montana (United States).

A Picture of Two Duck-Billed Dinosaurs (Hypacrosaurus)

Hoping to find a nest of dinosaur eggs.

Hoping to find a nest of dinosaur eggs.

Picture Credit: Ohio State University

Maiasaura was a Saurolophini clade member of the duck-billed dinosaur.  The name means “Good Mother Lizard” and this dinosaur is most famous for being sent into space (another blog article) and for providing scientists with extensive evidence of dinosaur nesting sites.  A nesting colony, nick-named “Egg Mountain” because of the wealth of fossil material, was discovered in Montana.  Dr. Therrien and the rest of the field team will be hoping to find intact eggshells and the preserved remains of dinosaur embryos or possibly dinosaur babies.

An Illustration of a Maiasaura and Her Nest

"Good Mother Lizard"

“Good Mother Lizard”

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Devil’s Coulee site was discovered in 1987 when a local teenager found dinosaur eggshell fragments.  Since then it has been one of the best known locations in the world for dinosaur nests and embryo fossils, however, no new evidence of a dinosaur nest has been found for over six years.  The Royal Tyrrell team are hoping to rectify this and add to the research on the four Hypacrosaurus nests that have been found at this location.

Good luck to everyone involved.  Hope you have smashing time (not literally of course).

Oh yes, that reference to Maiasaura in space, for an explanation: Dinosaurs in Space

17 08, 2014

Exclusive Dinosaur Themed T-shirts

By | August 17th, 2014|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur’s Exclusive Dinosaur Themed T-shirts

The first of Everything Dinosaur’s exclusive dinosaur themed T-shirts are now in stock and team members are running around the office roaring with excitement.  Three brand new designs have been added to our T-shirt range, just part of a number of new additions to the clothing section of our website.

Colourful, Dinosaur Themed T-shirts from Everything Dinosaur

The first of the dinosaur themed T-shirts from Everything Dinosaur.

The first of the dinosaur themed T-shirts from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The T-shirts are all great quality and hard wearing (185 gsm) and with help from our customers, we have set about creating the exclusive designs that have been produced as direct to garment prints.  The pink and the sky blue dinosaur themed T-shirts are available in sizes from 3-14 years (chest size 66cm to 90cm), or in imperial measurements if you prefer, chest sizes 26 inches to 35¼ inches.

The red “Apprentice Palaeontologist” T-shirt is available in age ranges 3-11 years (chest size 66cm to 84cm), or once again in imperial measurements 26 inches to 33¼ inches.

Three Bright and Colourful Exclusive Dinosaur Themed T-shirts

Exclusive to Everything Dinosaur

Exclusive to Everything Dinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To see Everything Dinosaur’s range of  dinosaur themed tees for children: Dinosaur Themed T-shirts for Children

Our team members are especially proud of the pink (sorbet) T-shirt, which has been designed with budding Mary Annings in mind.  The caption reads: “Palaeontologists think that T. rex girls were bigger and fiercer than T. rex boys – SO WATCH OUT!”

The females of many species of bird, the Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) for example, are much larger than the males.  This trend is seen in a number of Theropod dinosaurs too, including Tyrannosaurus rex.  This is an example of Cretaceous girl power and since we at Everything Dinosaur are keen to encourage girls as well as boys to take up a career in the sciences, we thought it a good idea to create a sassy, dinosaur themed t-shirt with a girl power motif.

A special mention to those hard working guys at Shirt Monkey who helped us with the designs and produce the T-shirts for us.  Is this an example of monkeys and dinosaurs working together?   Whatever next!

To visit Shirt Monkeys: Visit Shirt Monkey

We hope you like our range of dinosaur themed T-shirts, a special thank you for all the customers and Facebook fans who provided us with feedback and advice (we have made these T-shirts available in larger sizes as promised).

All we have to do now is get the photography sorted and of course start work on some new designs…

16 08, 2014

Like Mother Like Son – Mammoth Tusks Found 22 Years Apart

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

Son Finds Mammoth Tusk at Same Location as Mother

Sometimes there can be strange coincidences surrounding fossil finds.  On this blog we have reported the discovery of an Iguanodont dinosaur bone in Sunderland, the discovery of more dinosaur fossils in a Frenchman’s garden and how a stone ornament turned out to be the remains of a prehistoric fish.  However, this week, a story about the finding of a Woolly Mammoth tusk in Alaska caught our attention.  The discovery of the four-metre long tusk is no great surprise, after all, for hundreds of thousands of years, these ancient elephants roamed North America, but in this instance the finder’s mum had found another tusk at the same location twenty-two years earlier.

Andrew Poses with His Lucky Find

History repeats itself, son finds Mammoth tusk in same location as mum.

History repeats itself, son finds Mammoth tusk in same location as mum.

Picture Credit: Andrew Harrelson

Andrew Harrelson was having no luck fishing for Salmon on the Fish River, close to his home in the village of White Mountain about fifty miles east of the settlement called Nome.  He decided to wander along the bank to see what the river had washed out of the bank and whether there were any fossils to be found.  At a bend in the river, near to the spot where his mother had found a thirty-six kilogramme mammoth tusk back in 1992, he spotted a large Mammoth tusk eroding out of the sediment.  Andrew was only three when his mother found the tusk, he barely recalls the incident, but he did pose for a picture with the fossil, although at the time he had no idea what the strange object was.

Andrew recalled:

“This big, old log-looking thing.  I had no clue what it was until they told me.”

The square and blocky teeth (cheek teeth) of Mammoths have also been found at this location, in a bid to explain why this particular area holds a number of Mammoth remains, Mr Harrelson’s father Daniel stated:

“I think at one point, thousands of years ago, it must have been a mud hole or something that animals got stuck in and then died in it.  Everything froze in there and then slowly, over time, thaws out a little bit year by year.”

When first spotted, only the base of the tusk was exposed, Andrew returned to the spot a little while later and with the help of a relative they were able to prise the four-metre long tusk out of the riverbank.

Having weighed their fossil find on the bathroom scales the Alaskan family are now the proud owners of seventy-three kilogrammes of Mammoth ivory.  Dale Guthrie, a retired palaeontologist from the University of Alaska Fairbanks explained that the Mammoth remains could be anything from 400,000 to just 12,000 years old.  He stated that the last glacial period in Alaska occurred around 18,000 years ago with the Mammoths becoming extinct around 12,000 years ago.  Radiometric dating was the only technique that could provide a method of determining the fossil’s true age.

The 1992 Picture of Mum with Her Fossil Find

3 year old Andrew poses in front of the 1992 find.

3 year old Andrew poses in front of the 1992 find.

Picture Credit: Andrew Harrelson

Andrew hopes to sell his lucky find, a question of history repeating itself just twenty-two years after his mum found a Mammoth tusk.  He wants to raise funds so that he can use the money raised as a down payment on a family home.  Although it is illegal to trade elephant ivory, Mammoth ivory can be sold under certain circumstances, we at Everything Dinosaur believe.  Most of Alaska is public land and it is against the law to remove Mammoth fossils from federal or state property without a Bureau of Land Management permit, however, the area surrounding the Fish River is privately held and so long as permission is granted  fossils can be collected.  As with all these cases, we would urge those involved to check with the authorities with regards to the legal implications for such a sale.

15 08, 2014

“Dinosaur 13” Documentary Film Released Today

By | August 15th, 2014|Dinosaur Fans, Famous Figures|0 Comments

Documentary about “Sue” the Tyrannosaurus rex in Selected Cinemas from Today

August 12th 1990 and a team from the Black Hills Institute of South Dakota, were doing what they do best, working in the field in the middle of jacketing a partial Triceratops skull that had been painstakingly excavated by removing the overlaying South Dakotan hillside rock by rock.  Susan Hendrickson, one of the team members, had slipped away from the main dig site to go scouting to see what else was slowly eroding out of the sixty-seven million year old sediment…

Just a typical day for the field team, carefully working away to extract fossilised dinosaur bone that had been entombed for millions of years.  However, what took place that afternoon was to have a significant impact on  the science of palaeontology, it changed the lives of everyone involved and the story is told in the documentary film “Dinosaur 13” which is released in the UK today.

When Pete Larson, palaeontologist, fossil collector/dealer and President of the Black Hills Institute for Geological Research (to give Pete and the Institute their full titles), looked up and saw Susan returning in the 100 degree heat he was in for quite a shock.  Sue held out her hand and revealed what she had found, two small, brown coloured, honey-combed lumps – to the casual observer not much to look at, but for “Palaeo Pete” one of the most knowledgeable people on the planet when it comes to Late Cretaceous Theropod dinosaurs, he knew exactly what these fragments of bone represented.

 The First Hints of a Tyrannosaurus rex Fossil Discovery

The inside of T. rex vertebrae is riddled with holes.

The inside of T. rex vertebrae is riddled with holes.

Picture Credit: Peter Larson

The bone fragments were light and hollow, the honeycomb texture is called camellate structure and it is found in the vertebrae of birds and Theropod dinosaurs.  What Sue had discovered eroding out of a cliff face some two miles or so from the Triceratops, was the fossilised remains of that most famous of all the dinosaurs – Tyrannosaurus rex.

“Dinosaur 13” documents the story of the discovery of the T. rex named “Sue” (after Susan Hendrickson), which turned out to be one of the most complete specimens of this iconic animal ever found and indeed, the biggest tyrannosaurid ever discovered.  Two years later, when the FBI and the National Guard showed up, battle lines were drawn over ownership of Sue.  The United States government, world-class museums, Native American tribes, and competing palaeontologists became the Goliath to Larson’s David as he and his team from the Black Hills Institute fought to keep their dinosaur and wrestled with intimidation tactics that threatened their freedom as well.

Sue Hendrickson Photographed Next to the Jaws of the Tyrannosaurus rex

Sue Hendrickson next to her  T. rex namesake.

Sue Hendrickson next to her T. rex namesake.

Picture Credit: Peter Larson

This ninety-five minute documentary chronicles an unprecedented saga in American history and details the fierce battle to possess a relic from the Late Cretaceous.  It’s a sort of custody battle, one that involves a huge, predatory dinosaur, a female to boot, with fifty-eight huge teeth in her immense jaws.  With consummate skill, director Todd Miller excavates layer after layer, exposing human emotion in a dramatic tale that is as complex as it is fascinating.

We have had the great pleasure of meeting Pete Larson, the story of “Sue” will help to highlight some important issues surrounding the excavation of fossils and how best to go about preserving fossil material.  We have not had the chance to view the documentary yet, (hopefully soon), but with Peter, his enthusiasm and love of what he does comes across very clearly.  He and his team are passionate palaeontologists and they have done much to help in our understanding of the ancient ecosystem represented by the sedimentary deposits of the western United States.

At Everything Dinosaur, we might not necessarily agree with the some of the media straplines heralding the Tyrannosaurus rex fossils as being the “one of the greatest discoveries in history”, however, we suspect that “Sue” now on permanent display at the Field Museum in Chicago (Illinois), has inspired many millions of young dinosaur fans to learn more about these amazing creatures.

The documentary is on release in selected cinemas from today (15th August), for further details visit the website of the documentary’s distributors: DogWoof where further information about the film and a list of venues showing the film can be found.

Neal Larson (Black Hills Institute) with “Sue’s” Lower Leg Bones – Left Leg

The red arrow points to a suspected healed break in the left fibula of "Sue".

The red arrow points to a suspected healed break in the left fibula of “Sue”.

Picture Credit: Peter Larson

As for the documentary’s title, why dinosaur 13?  The answer is simple, these fossils represent the thirteenth T. rex discovered, ironic really as the number thirteen is associated with bad luck in much of the western world and it could be argued that for Pete Larson and his colleagues 13 proved to be a very unlucky number indeed.

Dinosaur 13 Trailer

Video Credit: Youtube

14 08, 2014

New Species of Flying Reptile Identified from “Pterosaur Graveyard”

By | August 14th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

New Flying Reptile with a Crest Shaped Like a Butterfly’s Wing

Scientists have announced the discovery of a new species of flying reptile (Pterosaur) that very probably lived in colonies and had a bizarre head crest shaped like the wing of a butterfly.  The fossils were found in south-eastern Brazil, near to Cruzeiro do Oeste in Paraná State, about 300 miles west of the city of São Paulo.  The actual fossil site discovery was made in 1971, but a formal study of the extensive fossil material has only just been completed. The scientists who carried out the research were drawn together from various Brazilian museums and research institutes as this discovery represents the first time an extensive bone-bed of Pterosaur fossils has ever been found.  The fossilised remains of at least forty-seven flying reptiles have been described to date, although the strata may have preserved the remains of hundreds of individual animals.

This new species has been named Caiuajara dobruskii (pronounced Kay-you-ah-jar-rah doe-brusk-key)  and the fossils represent  mainly young animals although the remains of at least two fully grown adults have been identified.  The smallest Pterosaurs preserved had wingspans of around sixty-five centimetres, whilst the adults had wingspans in excess of 2.3 metres, making a fully grown Caiuajara about the size of Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos).

An Artist’s Impression of the New Species of Flying Reptile

The fossilised bones of at least 47 individuals have been found.

The fossilised bones of at least 47 individuals have been found.

Picture Credit: Maurilio Oliveira/Museu Nacional-UFRJ

So far, about 130 different genera of Pterosaur have been identified worldwide.  However, most of these are known from just a few fragmentary bones.  In this instance, the palaeontologists have hundreds of bones to study and they can map the growth and development of these creatures.  It seems that the bizarre “butterfly-wing shaped crest”, got bigger and more elaborate as this reptile grew and matured.  The Brazilian researchers were able to plot how the crest changed as these animals got older.  Palaeontologists think that a number of types of flying reptile sported elaborate crests.  It seems that the males of many species used their crests to display and attract a mate, as the one definite fossil of a female Pterosaur known did not have a substantial crest.

Crest Shape and Size Changed as these Pterosaurs Grew

Reconstructing the shape of adult and juvenile Caiuajara skulls.

Reconstructing the shape of adult and juvenile Caiuajara skulls.

Picture Credit: PLOS One/Everything Dinosaur

The picture on the left shows various bone fragments representing different stages of growth, from very young animals (top left) through to mature adults (bottom right).  The crest images indicate the suggested changes in the skulls of these Pterosaurs as these animals grew and matured  from a juvenile skull (light colour) to an adult (dark colour).

The fossils were found at three levels of sandstone that form part of the Caiuá Group of the Goio-Erê Formation.  A fourth layer, representing a younger geological deposit was also excavated but this only yielded a few very fragmentary remains.  The strata represents deposition in a palaeodesert environment associated with a water source, very probably a lake.  The research team have suggested that Caiuajara dobruskii lived in large colonies around an oasis which was surrounded by desert.  Since no egg shell material has been recovered it seems unlikely that this was a nesting site.  However, study of the very youngest specimens suggest that these animals were precocial (able to fend for themselves almost immediately after hatching), and that they could fly at a very young age,  although an extensive period of parental care is not ruled out by the researchers.

As the fossils were found in defined layers, the scientists have concluded that this region was home to Pterosaur populations for an extended period of time, thousands of years.  Dramatic events such as violent storms could have hit the colony from time to time carrying any bones into the lake where they would eventually be preserved.  An alternative hypothesis, not favoured by the researchers, who have published their data in the latest edition of the on line scientific journal “PLOS One”, is that this region represented a staging post and Caiuajara was migratory.

Demonstrating the Density of the Fossil Material that Accumulated

Dense fossil deposit.

Dense fossil deposit.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The picture above shows one of the blocks of sandstone containing a large number of disarticulated Pterosaur fossil bones, at least fourteen partial skulls have been identified in this individual stone block.  Scale bar = 20 centimetres, mandible (jaw bones) = man and cranium (skull bones) = cra.

This is an important fossil discovery because:

  • This is the first time Pterosaur fossils have been found in south-eastern Brazil.  Brazil has produced some amazing Pterosaur fossils in the past but these have been located in the north-east of the country.
  • The quantity of fossils has permitted scientists to plot how the anatomy of these flying reptiles changed as the animals grew.
  • The finding of so many fossils of the same species together indicates that these animals may have lived in colonies, it suggests that Pterosaurs may have been highly social animals.
  • Caiaujara dobruskii fossil material is associated with an inland environment, most Pterosaur fossils have been found in marine sediments.
  • These fossils may represent the youngest (in terms of geological age) of this type of Pterosaur found anywhere in the world.

If Pterosaurs like C. dobruskii were indeed gregarious and highly social animals then this might help explain the evolution of those bizarre crests.  Bigger and more elaborate crests being selected for as females over generations showed a preference for larger crests in potential mates.

This new species has been assigned to the Tapejarinae sub-family of Tapejaridae Pterosaurs.  The genus name is a combination of Caiuá after the formation in which the fossils were found and the Pterosaur family name (although coincidently, there is a small town called Tapejara close to where the fossils were discovered as well).  The trivial name honours Alexandre Dobruski, who with his son, João Dobruski, found the fossil site back in 1971.

An Illustration of a Typical Pterosaur from the Tapejaridae Family

A model of Tapejara imperator (Safari Ltd)

A model of Tapejara imperator (Safari Ltd)

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd /Everything Dinosaur

The Goio-Erê Formation has proved extremely difficult to date.  It is estimated that the sandstones that make up this formation were laid down sometime in the Upper Cretaceous from around 93 million years ago to 75 million years ago.  Other Tapejaridae fossils found in north-eastern Brazil, Europe and China date from the Lower Cretaceous, making Caiaujara dobruskii potentially the youngest known member of the Tapejaridae family in terms of geological deposition.

A spokes person from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Although the head crest makes this flying reptile look quite fierce it actually had no teeth in its jaws.  It is not known what this Pterosaur may have eaten but like other members of the Tapejara family it possessed a relatively short but robust beak.  It could have specialised in eating fruits and seeds from the flourishing flowering plants (angiosperms).  Imagine that!  Pterosaurs playing a role in seed dispersal for flowering plants.”

13 08, 2014

Dinosaur Footprints Damaged

By | August 13th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Welsh Dinosaur Footprints Vandalised

They might be as much as 200 million years old but the thoughtless actions of fossil hunters have damaged a number of dinosaur footprints preserved at a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) in Wales.  A number of prints have been damaged including one that was filled with plaster of paris in a bid to make a cast and then an attempt was made to hammer the cast out of the rock.  The fossilised footprints form part of an important palaeontological site in the Vale of Glamorgan.  The prints can be found on a stretch of exposed coastline between the towns of Barry and Sully on the northern coast of the Bristol Channel, the trace fossils are the oldest known dinosaur tracks to found anywhere in the British Isles.

One of the Vandalised Fossilised Dinosaur Footprints

Three-toed dinosaur footprint with marks showing attempt to remove print from site.

Three-toed dinosaur footprint with marks showing attempt to remove print from site.

Picture Credit: Media Wales Ltd

The picture above shows one of the three-toed (tridactyl) prints with marks around it where an attempt was made to cut out the fossil from the surrounding rock.

The fossils, which are located in strata that form the Mercia Mudstone Group have been subjected to vandalism before.  Sadly, authorities and conservation bodies face a dilemma, do they permit free access to the site so that walkers can view the fossilised footprints and tracks in situ or should the trace fossils be removed and stored in a secure facility to prevent vandalism and fossil thefts?

Back in August 2012, Everything Dinosaur team members reported on the theft of footprint fossils from the same area, fortunately the fossils were recovered a few weeks later.

To read about the earlier fossil theft: Dinosaur Footprints Stolen from the Vale of Glamorgan

This new damage was discovered by South Wales archaeologist Karl-James Langford whilst he was conducting students around the SSSI.

Mr Langford, the founder of Archaeology Cymru (Archaeology Wales) stated:

“I took a group of ten students to give them the tour of the dinosaur footprints.  I could not hide my horror at the damage which had been deliberately caused.   We examined one print that had been filled with plaster of paris.  On a visit to inspect the damage with another group later that same day, somebody had deliberately tried to smash it out with a breeze block, damaging the 200 million year old print in the process.”

It has also been reported that fires had been lit around the site and rubbish left, calls were made last night to provide this extremely important fossil site with greater protection.

What’s so Special About this Location?

The mudstones exposed on this stretch of the coast running along the northern edge of the Bristol Channel were laid down towards the end of the Triassic Period (Upper Triassic – Norian to Rhaetian faunal stage), dinosaur footprint fossils from this time in Earth’s history are extremely rare and the site is one of the world’s most important in terms of recording the activities of Late Triassic dinosaurs.  This was an area of mud flats and silts leading towards the edge of a shallow tropical sea to the south-west.  Many different types of ancient reptile crossed these mud flats and their footprints and tracks were preserved.  Hundreds of individual prints have been recorded and something like sixty trackways have been mapped.  Most of the dinosaur tracks represent a small, three-toed, Theropod which has been given the ichnogenus Grallator.  An ichnogenus is a name given to an organism that has left trace fossils, usually tracks, prints or burrows.  Other types of dinosaur footprints have been recorded, including tracks representing a large meat-eater (Theropod) and a series of trails left by plant-eating Prosauropods.

Field Photograph Showing Preserved Trace Fossils at Barry (Vale of Glamorgan)

Dinosaur Tracks from the Late Triassic.

Dinosaur Tracks from the Late Triassic.

Picture Credit: Tom Sharpe (Dinosaurs of the British Isles)

The photograph above shows a number of rounded footprints and tracks.  The rounded prints are believed to have been made by a Prosauropod dinosaur.  Many of the tracks are quite difficult to spot, the best time to see them is in the evening when the low sun casts shadows on those tracks which represent natural casts.  In addition, if there has been recent rain, or a high tide many of the trackway depressions will be filled with water and this makes observing the prints much easier.

Team members at Everything Dinosaur would like to echo the comments made by a number of other organisations with regards to this damage.  It is essential that sites such as this are protected and safeguarded and we urge all readers to remember that this is a SSSI and as such it is an offence for any person or persons to intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy any of the features of special interest of an SSSI!

If any visitor to this location sees suspicious activity, such as damage to footprints, attempts to make casts or actions that could lead to the theft of a print, please alert the Countryside Council for Wales, the Geology Department of the National Museum of Wales or the Geologists’ Association South Wales Group.

Useful Contacts

For the Geology Department of the National Museum of Wales telephone +44 (0)29 2057 3213

Email: the Geologists’ Association of South Wales Group:

For the Countryside Council for Wales, try Natural Resources Wales (Mon-Fri) on 0300 065 3000

12 08, 2014

Early Dinosaurs of North America – Pushing the Date back 11 Million Years

By | August 12th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans|0 Comments

New Research Suggests Dinosaurs were Living in North America Earlier than Previously Thought

A team of researchers have used radiometric dating of zircon crystals to determine that the first dinosaurs lived in North American more than eleven million years earlier than previously thought.  Publishing their work in the scientific publication “American Journal of Science”, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists state that the uranium to lead decay ratios recorded in the zircon crystals indicate that there were dinosaurs living in North America as early as 223 million years ago (Carnian faunal stage of the Upper Triassic).

In addition, the team have demonstrated that these earliest dinosaurs coexisted with close non-dinosaur relatives, as well as significantly more evolved dinosaurs, for more than 12 million years.  To add to the mystery, they identified a 16-million-year gap, older than the dinosaur-bearing rocks, where there is either no trace of any vertebrates, including dinosaurs, in the rock record, or the corresponding rocks have eroded away.

During the Triassic period, most of the land masses we now know today were joined together to form a single, super-continent (Pangaea).  It had been thought that the Dinosauria evolved in the portion of this landmass that ended up becoming South America.  Fossils dated to around 228 million years ago from Argentina indicate the presence of small, Theropod dinosaurs (Eoraptor), however, the “Dinosaurs evolved in South America” theory has recently been challenged after the discovery of fragmentary fossils in southern Tanzania that may date from as early as 240 million years ago.

To read more about this: The Oldest Dinosaur?

Lead author of the paper, Jahan Ramezani, a research scientist at the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (MIT), stated:

“Right below that horizon where we find the earliest dinosaurs, there is a long gap in the fossil and rock records across the sedimentary basin.  If the record is not there, it does not mean the dinosaurs didn’t exist.  It means that either no fossils were preserved, or we haven’t found them.  That tells us the theory that dinosaurs simply started in South America and spread all over the world has no firm basis.”

The difficulty we have is that vertebrate fossil records are exceptionally fragmentary from the Triassic and what fossils that have been found such as extensive fossil material associated with the Dicynodont Placerias is very difficult to date accurately.  Another factor which can confuse palaeontologists is that during the Triassic, a number of Archosaur groups thrived and determining which fossils represent an example of a true dinosaur or a Crocodylomorph, Aetosaur or Rauisuchian is a very complicated business.

During the Triassic – All Kinds of Reptile Coexisted

All kinds of "Dinosauromorphs" existed.

All kinds of “Dinosauromorphs” existed.

Picture Credit: Journal Science

Certainly, parts of Argentina have a more recognisable stratigraphic geology than North America.  Plotting the progressive evolution of dinosaurs in the United States is therefore more problematical.  However, the research team focused on the Upper Triassic rocks of the Chinle Formation of the south-western United States.  This is where the oldest dinosaur fossils from North America can be found.  But just how old are they?

The Chinle Formation covers parts of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. It is probably best known for the Petrified Forest National Park location (Arizona), with its extensive fossils of prehistoric trees.  Scientists had previously dated isolated beds of this formation, and determined the earliest dinosaur-like animals, discovered in New Mexico, appeared by about 212 million years ago.

Dating Strata at the Petrified Forest National Park (Blue Mesa Location)

The red arrows indicate petrified wood.

The red arrows indicate petrified wood.

Picture Credit: Malka Machlus from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University

The picture above shows the Blue Mesa locality of the Petrified Forest National Park, a few logs of petrified wood (rust colour) can be seen eroding out of the sun-bleached sandstones (white).  We have highlighted the location of some of the chunks of petrified wood using red arrows.

Ramezani and his colleagues sought to more precisely date the entire formation, including levels in which the earliest dinosaur fossils have been found.  The team took samples from exposed layers of sedimentary rock that were derived, in large part, from volcanic debris in various sections of the Chinle Formation.  In the lab, the researchers subjected the rocks to acids and intense heat in order to break them down and isolate individual microscopic grains of zircon, a uranium-bearing mineral that forms in magma shortly prior to volcanic eruptions.  From the moment zircon crystallises, the decay of uranium to lead begins in the mineral and, as Ramezani explains it, “the chronometer starts.”  Researchers can measure the ratio of uranium to lead isotopes to determine the age of the zircon, and, inferentially, the rock in which it was found.

This is virtually the same dating technique that was used to help date Venezuela’s first dinosaur Laquintasaura.

To read more about Laquintasaura and what this discovery means: Laquintasaura – What’s All the Fuss About?

The study involved a number of researchers from MIT, including co-author of the scientific paper Sam Bowring, the Robert R. Shrock Professor of Geology at MIT.  David Fastovsky, (Professor of Geosciences at the University of Rhode Island), also assisted in the research.  It seems that dinosaurs, both primitive members of this Order and more advanced forms happily co-existed together for many millions of years.  These reptiles in turn, shared the habitat that was to eventually form the southern United States with a wide variety of other Archosaurs.

A spokes person from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“The U-PB ID-TIMS zircon geochronology dating method [uranium to lead] is very precise and this team’s study has led to a reassessment of the age of the rocks that make up the lower portions of the Chinle Formation.”

Charting the evolution of the Dinosauria in North America is extremely difficult due to the sparse nature of the fossil record and the lack of firm data to assist with the relative ages of Tetrapod fossil bearing strata.  This new study prompts a revision of the dating of the Lower Chinle Formation and provided a new temporal context for its rich and diverse Tetrapod fauna.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of MIT in helping to compile this article.

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