All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
/2015
16 12, 2015

New from Papo 2016

By | December 16th, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

New Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals from Papo (2016)

Everything Dinosaur has received permission from Papo to reveal the official images of the new for 2016 dinosaurs and prehistoric animal models which are being added to the company’s “Dinosaures” range.  Leaked images from the forthcoming Papo catalogue have been circulating on line via various forums and such like, but our team members felt it appropriate to respect Papo’s wishes and to only show pictures of the new replicas when they had received permission to do so.

Papo Baryonyx Dinosaur Model

Papo Baryonyx dinosaur model - available early 2016 from Everything Dinosaur.

Papo Baryonyx dinosaur model – available early 2016 from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Papo and Everything Dinosaur 

Marking the thirtieth anniversary of the naming and scientific description of this amazing dinosaur, Papo will be introducing a Baryonyx figure in early 2016.  This is the second member of the Spinosauridae the company has made, if it proves to be as popular as their iconic Spinosaurus replica then the designers will be chuffed.  The pose is very dramatic and highly stylised, what we have come to expect from the French model maker.  The lower jaw will be articulated and we appreciate the addition of a nasal crest, not all Baryonyx figures have this feature.  The model is somewhat robust looking and the tail is positioned on the ground to provide support.  We suspect this tripodal stance can be explained by the difficulties in producing a free standing replica of Baryonyx in what may have been a more life-like, realistic pose with the tail lifted well above the ground and the head much lower, almost at the same height as the tip of the tail.

This model is going to be one of the first available from Papo, Everything Dinosaur expects stocks to arrive at their warehouse in quarter one.

 The Feathered Velociraptor from Papo

Available soon from Everything Dinosaur.

Available soon from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Papo and Everything Dinosaur

In contrast to the Papo Baryonyx with its more traditional stance, Papo have produced their first feathered, non-avian dinosaur model*.  The details look amazing and we can’t wait to see the model “in the flesh” as it were, customers of Everything Dinosaur won’t have to wait too long, this model will be in stock during quarter one of next year.

* We classify the recently introduced Papo Archaeopteryx figure in the clade Avialae, a transitional fossil on the road to the true birds (Aves).

Note how in this figure the tail is held aloft, the model is balanced on its two toes of the right hind foot with a bit of support from that fleshy pad at the base of the foot.  The left leg is depicted as if it is just about to be lifted up, the third toe claw is touching the ground.  Additional support and stability is provided by the digits of the left limb we suspect, but a better idea of the stability of this sculpt will come when we can see and handle the first samples.  We think that the Papo designers will have made sure that their feathered Velociraptor is quite stable.

The Colour Variant of the Papo Running Tyrannosaurus rex

The Papo colour variant T. rex model

The Papo colour variant T. rex model

Picture Credit: Papo and Everything Dinosaur

Also coming out quarter 1, is this fantastic colour variant of the Papo Running T. rex.  It really is a most striking model and we look forward to picturing this replica next to the popular Papo green Running Tyrannosaurus rex that was launched back in 2012.  No prizes for guessing the size of this model, it should measure around thirty-three centimetres in length.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of Papo replicas and figures: Papo Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animal Models

Papo’s Plans for the Rest of 2016 – Prehistoric Crocodiles and “Charlie”

Papo Kaprosuchus Model (Quarter 2 – 2016)

A spectacular Papo Kaprosuchus.

A spectacular Papo Kaprosuchus.

Picture Credit: Papo and Everything Dinosaur

The pick of the bunch (and it was a tough choice), is this wonderful Kaprosuchus replica.  The model of “boar croc” will be available sometime in quarter 2.  Known from a beautifully preserved skull that measures more than half a metre in length, palaeontologists have suggested that this ancient Crocodylian, unlike its modern relatives, spent most of its life on land.  It was a “cursorial crocodile” a predator that simply did not lie in wait ready to ambush, Kaprosuchus would have chased after you.  It’s a frightening thought, but over rough terrain this six metre long giant would have been able to run faster than most people.

A Papo Velociraptor Colour Variant – Green (Charlie)

The Papo green Velociraptor figure.

The Papo green Velociraptor figure.

Picture Credit: Papo and Everything Dinosaur

The fifth new model being added to the Papo range next year is this colour variant of the company’s existing Velociraptor (55021).  It is a very attractive colour scheme and it contrasts nicely with the feathered Velociraptor figure that will be introduced a few months earlier (expect the Velociraptor green colour variant to be in stock at Everything Dinosaur in quarter 2).  Fans of the summer blockbuster “Jurassic World” will remember the four Velociraptors that, the film’s hero Owen Grady, partially trained – he’s the alpha!  There’s Blue, Delta, Echo and the youngest pack member Charlie.  Collectors and fans of Papo have already nick-named this the latest edition to the Papo “raptor” pack – Charlie.  Charlie will be in stock at Everything Dinosaur and when it arrives this means that there will be forty replicas in the Papo “Dinosaures” series.

Retirements and New Paint Schemes

The official word from Papo is that there are no retirements scheduled.  This is great news, but collectors and dinosaur fans beware, with the introduction of a green colour variant of the Velociraptor figure, the slate grey  Velociraptor replica may become increasingly rare.  The slate grey version itself (55021), represents a makeover of the original Velociraptor figure, which was one of the first replicas the company introduced, this original Velociraptor figure is a very sought after figure.  We could see a similar fate befalling the slate grey colour scheme dinosaur.

At Everything Dinosaur we predict that a number of Papo figures will have new paint schemes next year.  The Papo Stegosaurus model (55007) was given a fresh look this year and we suspect that other figures in the Papo range will also get a bit of a makeover.

The five new figures represents a considerable increase in Papo’s prehistoric animal model output, in each of the last two years, Papo has added just three models to their range.  We look forward to welcoming these new for 2016 Papo prehistoric animals into our warehouse.

15 12, 2015

New Sail-Backed Dinosaur from Early Cretaceous Spain

By | December 15th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Morelladon beltrani – A Spanish Sail-Backed Dinosaur

A team of Spanish scientists have published details of a new genus of plant-eating dinosaur which roamed the Iberian Peninsula about 125 million years ago (Early Cretaceous).  The dinosaur named Morelladon beltrani is believed to have been closely related to Iguanodon and the discovery helps to reinforce the belief held by many palaeontologists that the Ornithopoda were extremely diverse in Europe during this part of the Cretaceous.  The dorsal vertebrae have large, extended neural spines a feature seen in other Early Cretaceous Ornithopods, dinosaurs such as Ouranosaurus from Niger.  These spines may have supported a hump or perhaps a sail-like structure, the purpose of which remains open to debate.

An Illustration of Morelladon beltrani

An illustration of Morelladon.

An illustration of Morelladon.

Picture Credit: Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (Spain)

This new species of dinosaur has been named from the fossilised remains of a single animal, preserved bones consist of dorsal vertebrae, the sacrum, partial ribs, the pelvic girdle, isolated teeth from the lower jaw and the right tibia.  However, despite a lack of cranial material, the team of scientists from the Spanish equivalent of the Open University (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia) and the Autonomous University of Madrid (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), identified eight unique anatomical features (autapomorphic features) that enabled a new genus to be established.

Elongated Neural Spines

One of the unique anatomical features identified were the very elongated and tall neural spines of the dorsal vertebrae.  Such features are known in other plant-eating dinosaurs, such as the Ouranosaurus (Ouranosaurus nigeriensis) from the Early Cretaceous of Africa and although Morelladon is related to Ouranosaurus, a phylogenetic analysis carried out by the Spanish team suggests that this new Spanish dinosaur is more closely related to other western European dinosaur taxa.  Dinosaurs such as Iguanodon (I. bernissartensis) from Belgium and Mantellisaurus atherfieldensis (from England).

The Extended Neural Spines of the Dorsal Vertebrae

A photograph of the fossil material and accompanying line drawing.

A photograph of the fossil material and accompanying line drawing.

Picture Credit: Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (Spain)/PLOS One

The fossils come from a dig site within a quarry about five miles south-west of the city of Morella (Castellón Province), on the eastern coast of Spain.  The specimen was excavated from a red clay bed dated to the Upper Barremian age (125 million years ago), part of the Arcillas de Morella Formation.  The dinosaur’s name means “Morella tooth”, after the location of the fossil find and in keeping with the naming of Iguanodon, which itself means “iguana tooth”.  The trivial name honours quarry owner, Víctor Beltrán who has been prominent in the excavation and research of a number of Cretaceous vertebrates from this part of Spain.

The Fused Sacral Vertebrae of the Specimen (Sacrum)

The sacrum (fused vertebrae over the hips) of Morelladon.

The sacrum (fused vertebrae over the hips) of Morelladon.

Picture Credit: Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (Spain)/PLOS One

Measuring up to six metres long and standing around 2.5 metres high at the hips, this new genus supports the hypothesis that the Iberian Peninsula in the Early Cretaceous was home to a large number of different types of Iguanodon-like herbivorous dinosaurs.

Why the Tall Neural Spines?

There have been a number of theories put forward to explain the presence of elongated neural spines in some types of dinosaur.  For example, one of the most famous of all the meat-eating dinosaurs – Spinosaurus had neural spines which supported a structure its back, often referred to as a “sail” that must have been more than two metres high.  The neural spines of Morelladon hint at a much smaller feature, around half a metre tall.  It has been proposed that since this dinosaur lived in a delta subject to distinct seasons the spines could have supported a fleshy hump where food reserves and fat could be stored to help the animal through leaner times.  Extant North American buffalo (Bison bison) have dorsal spines that support such structures.  The spines could also have supported a sail-like structure, perhaps this had a role in communication within the herd, or display.

Commenting on another potential purpose for the structure, Dr. Fernando Escaso (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia) stated:

“The “sail” could have helped in heat exchange [thermoregulation] by releasing excess body heat into the environment as do the ears of the modern-day elephants.”

An effective heat exchanger would have been useful for such a large-bodied animal.  Everything Dinosaur team members suspect that oxygen isotope analysis from the many different types of teeth found in eastern Spain in Early Cretaceous rocks, would provide palaeontologists with a lot of information about the palaeoclimate.  For instance, some researchers claim that there was an annual average temperature range of thirty-six degrees with temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius being recorded with annual lows of around 4 degrees C.

What are Styracosternan Dinosaurs?

Other media sources have cited the comment that Morelladon represents a new member of the styracosternan sub-group of the clade Iguanodontia.  What does this mean?  In the mid 1980’s it had become clear to many palaeontologists that the division of the Ornithopoda into large bodied forms such as Iguanodon and Dollodon and smaller forms such as Hypsilophodon was over simplistic.  A number of academics proposed new classifications of these bird-hipped dinosaurs, for example Paul Sereno (1986) proposed a new clade within the Ornithopoda called the Ankylopollexia “stiff thumbs”.  This clade included the Camptosaurs, Iguanodonts, Ouranosaurus and the hadrosaurids “duck-billed dinosaurs”.  This clade was further divided by Sereno et al (1986) into the Styracosterna, which included all the Ankylopollexia members with the exception of the camptosaurids (Camptosauridae family).

  1. Ankylopollexia = a clade of the iguanodontian dinosaurs
  2. Styracosterna = a clade of the iguanodontian dinosaurs the same as Ankylopollexia but with the camptosaurids excluded.

Therefore, the Styracosterna dinosaurs can be divided as a sub-group of the Iguanodontia clade that contains all the “duck-billed dinosaurs” and all the dinosaurs more closely related to them than to the Camptosauridae.

Phylogenetic relationships of Morelladon beltrani within the Iguanodontia Clade

Phylogenetic relationships of Morelladon beltrani with the Styracosterna.

Phylogenetic relationships of Morelladon beltrani with the Styracosterna.

Picture Credit: PLOS One with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The diagram above shows how the Styracosterna fit into the clade Iguanodontia.   Phylogenetic analysis places Morelladon beltrani firmly in the with the styracosternan dinosaurs but more closely related to Western European iguanodonts such as Iguanodon bernissartensis and Mantellisaurus atherfieldensis than to other Iberian styracosternans such as Delapparentia turolensis and Proa valdearinnoensis.

14 12, 2015

Another Potential Leptoceratopsid from China

By | December 14th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Ischioceratops zhuchengensis – Potentially a New Leptoceratopsid

A team of international scientists including researchers from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (Beijing), the Chicago Field Museum and the Zhucheng Dinosaur Museum, (Zhucheng, Shandong Province, China) have published a paper on the fossilised bones of a Late Cretaceous leptoceratopsid, one that although scientifically named may turn out to be further material that ends up assigned to Zhuchengceratops.  This new dinosaur has been named Ischioceratops zhuchengensis but as the fossils were found at about the same stratigraphic level as the holotype material assigned to Zhuchengceratops, Ischioceratops may end up as a junior synonym of Zhuchengceratops inexpectus.  Let’s explain.

The Holotype Material of Ischioceratops zhuchengensis 

Left lateral view (A), line drawing (B) and skeletal placement (C)

Left lateral view (A), line drawing (B) and skeletal placement (C)

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The picture above shows the fossil material used to describe and name this new genus of the family Leptoceratopsidae.  The fossils found include the right femur (thigh bone), plus the lower leg bones from the right hind limb (tibia and fibula), along with the anterior portion of the tail (articulated tail bones), a complete sacrum, both halves of the pelvis and a number of ossified tendons.  Although a only a portion of the skeleton representing a single individual has been found, and it is from the animals backside, not to put too fine a point on it, the morphology of the bones, especially those bow shaped ischia have enabled scientists to firstly, confidently assign these fossils to the Leptoceratopsidae family and secondly to erect a new genus for this Chinese dinosaur.

A Dorsal (Top Down) View of the Fossil Material

A top down view of the fossil material with the left ischium ringed in the photograph and highlighted in the line drawing.

A top down view of the fossil material with the left ischium ringed in the photograph and highlighted in the line drawing.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The picture above shows the unique shape of the ischia (a pair of bones that make up part of the pelvic girdle.  The bone is curved sharply towards the proximial end of the bone (part of the bone closest to the animal’s trunk).  In the photograph above the left ischium in the photograph has been ringed and in the line drawing opposite the same bone has been highlighted. Although there has been some distortion and displacement as part of the fossilisation process the research team are confident that is the shape of the actual bone and therefore they have erected a new genus.

Naturally, with such a unique autapomorphy (distinctive anatomical feature) associated with the ischia, it is only appropriate to name this new dinosaur after this feature.  Hence the name Ischioceratops zhuchengensis (this means ischium horn-face from Zhucheng), the trivial name honours the fossil find location, the city of Zhucheng, in the south-east of Shandong Province.

Assigning the Fossils to a New Genus based on the Ischia

Ossified tendons indicate a member of the Ornithischia and the shape of the actual bones suggests that this animal was an example of a leptoceratopsid. Those never-seen-before ischia have resulted in the erection of a new genus.  No other dinosaur known* has a pelvic bone quite shaped like these two, therefore the research team felt confident that a new dinosaur could be added to the fold.

Left Side Views of Other Ornithischian Dinosaurs Compared to Ischioceratops

Not line drawings are not to scale.

Not line drawings are not to scale.

Picture Credit: PLOS One with modification and additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows a number of line drawings of the left ischium of a number of well-known Ornithischian (bird-hipped), dinosaurs.  Although more closely related to the Ceratopsians listed (E to F) than to the other bird-hipped dinosaurs included in the diagram, the unique shape of the ischium of Ischioceratops can clearly be seen.  It is on this basis, that the dinosaur fossils, currently part of the collection of the Zhucheng Dinosaur Museum have led to the establishment of a new dinosaur genus.

The fossil material has been dated to the Late Cretaceous (72 million years ago to 66 million years ago approximately – Maastrichtian faunal stage) and based on the femur length of around 29 centimetres, in comparison to the femur length of the related Brachyceratops, Everything Dinosaur estimate that this plant-eating dinosaur was around 1.8 to 2 metres long.

The Fly in the Ointment – An Uneasy Feeling in our Hip Pocket

Unique morphology, so far so good for Ischioceratops, but there may be a problem to the establishment of this new dinosaur name.  The site where the fossils were found, known as the Kugou quarry has yielded a great quantity of vertebrate fossil bones, including other ceratopsids.  Back in 2010, another new leptoceratopsid dinosaur was named from the Kugou quarry location – Zhuchengceratops (Z. inexpectus).  These fossils were found at the same level in the strata as the newly named Ischioceratops.  Sadly, the fossil material ascribed to Zhuchengceratops (ribs, vertebrae, skull, jaw bone etc.) represent bones from the front of the animal.  Ischioceratops and Zhuchengceratops do not have any overlapping fossil bones to allow a direct comparison to be made.  Therefore, it is possible that the fossils found and described as a new genus could represent the back end of the already described Zhuchengceratops.

The authors of the scientific paper acknowledge this potential threat to their new dinosaur.  Hopefully, future fossil discoveries will settle the argument and we will know for sure whether Ischioceratops and Zhuchengceratops are two different, but closely related dinosaurs that co-existed or whether  Ischioceratops is a junior synonym of Zhuchengceratops.

What Does the Term “Junior Synonym” Mean?

A synonym is another name for an item, a synonym is a word that means exactly the same as another word in the same language.  It comes from the ancient Greek for “with word”.  When it comes to erecting new taxa, the first name used to describe the organism becomes the senior synonym and any other names coined afterwards are referred to as the junior synonyms.  In this instance, should further fossil discoveries prove that Ischioceratops and Zhuchengceratops are indeed the same dinosaur, then Zhuchengceratops (first coined in 2010) will become the senior synonym and Ischioceratops (2015) will become the junior synonym.

No other dinosaur known* – the bow shaped ischia could end up being assigned to Zhuchengceratops.   Ischioceratops and Zhuchengceratops could be conspecific (the same species).

To read a recently published article about the discovery of leptoceratopsid fossil material from the eastern United States: Leptoceratopsidae from Appalachia in the Spotlight

13 12, 2015

The Dinosauria Sprinted Out of the Blocks

By | December 13th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

New Study Suggests the Dinosaurs Evolved Quickly

An international team of researchers have accurately dated rock layers exposed in north-western Argentina deposited during the Triassic.  The subsequent geological timeline they have been able to construct suggests that the time elapsed between the emergence of early dinosaur relatives and the origin of the first dinosaurs is much shorter than previously believed.  In essence, the Dinosauria evolved much more quickly than previously thought.

North-western Argentina Around 235 Million Years Ago

Diverse fauna of north-western Argentina

Diverse fauna of north-western Argentina including ancestral dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Victor Leshyk

The Triassic A Time of Transition

The vertebrate fauna of the Triassic (approximately 251 million to 201 million years ago), changed dramatically.  Few of the fossil lineages found in Lower Triassic rock formations can be found in strata laid down later on.  The mass extinction event that marked the end of the Palaeozoic and the beginning of the Mesozoic led to a radical shift in the diversity, type and geographical distribution of back-boned land animals and arguably, the emergence of more modern-looking ecosystems.  To help unravel some of the mysteries surrounding this “faunal shift” and to more accurately date the appearance of the first dinosaurs, the scientists travelled to north-western Argentina (La Rioja Province) and set about dating different beds that make up the exposed sandstones and mudstones of the Chañares Formation.

The debate as to where and exactly when the first dinosaurs evolved is one of those topics that comes up frequently at symposiums and conventions.  The evidence suggests that the Dinosauria first appeared in the southern hemisphere and for a long time South America was thought to have been the place they originated from.  Research published in 2013 challenged this idea, proposing that Africa may have been home to the first dinosaurs, but exactly when did the dinosaurs as an Order of reptiles (Dinosauria) really take off?  At what point in geological time did the dinosaurs commence their journey to becoming the dominate terrestrial life forms of the Mesozoic?

To read an article regarding the possibility of dinosaurs having first evolved in Africa: Africa – The Cradle of the Dinosauria?

Problems Accurately Dating Deep Time

The sedimentary exposures of the Chañares Formation permit accurate stratigraphic dating because of a quirk of fate.  Back in the Triassic, this part of the world was a lush, tropical paradise, however, nearby volcanoes from time to time deposited vast amounts of ash in the area.  These ashes formed easily recognisable layers (called tuffs) and within these layers the scientists, which included researchers from the University of Buenos Aires, the University of Brasília (Brazil), along with American colleagues and collaborators from Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council, were able to identify microscopic crystals called zircons.  It is these zircon crystals that hold the key to accurate dating of geological deposits.

Zircon Crystals and Radiometric Dating of the Chañares Formation

The uniform decay of radioactive elements allows an accurate date of geological formations.

The uniform decay of radioactive elements allows an accurate date of geological formations.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The research team took samples from the various ash layers and noted their position within the sedimentary beds and the vertebrate fossils associated therein.  Zircon crystals were identified within the volcanic layers and these were radiometrically dated using the ratio of uranium decay to lead isotopes.  In this way, thanks to advances in mass spectrometry the team were able to determine an accurate age of the zircon and by inference the age of the fossil bearing sedimentary layers above and below the ash layers.  The technique has been used before, for example to date the lower portions of the Chinle Formation of the United States (U-PB ID-TIMS zircon geochronology dating method [uranium to lead]).

So what would have been bad luck for the fauna and flora around at the time, a devastating deposit of choking volcanic ash, has permitted palaeontologists to be able to date with considerable accuracy the deposition timeline of this part of the Chañares Formation.

Identifying the Ash Layers for Sampling (Chañares Formation)

Co-author Adriana Mancuso (right) points to a volcanic ash layer (tuff) in the Chañares Formation that was sampled for radioisotopic dating.

Co-author Adriana Mancuso (National Scientific and  Technical Research Council) points to a volcanic ash layer (tuff) in the Chañares Formation that was sampled for radiometric dating.

Picture Credit: Randall Irmis (University of Utah)

What Does the Accurate Triassic Timeline Reveal?

It had been thought that the strata was around 226 to 228 million years old (early Late Triassic, the Carnian faunal stage).  However, this study indicates that these rocks were laid down much earlier in the Triassic, perhaps 5 to 10 million years earlier, making the rocks, effectively Middle Triassic in age (234 to 236 million years old, the Ladinian faunal stage).  Fossils of dinosaur precursors, known as dinosauromorphs, Archosaurs that are very closely related to the Dinosauria and the ancestors of the dinosaurs are found in these rocks.  The first dinosaur fossils date from around 230 million years ago approximately, perhaps even earlier.  This means that the true dinosaurs evolved from the dinosauromorphs much quicker than previously thought.  There was a much more rapid transition from a world with dinosauromorphs to a terrestrial ecosystem with dinosaurs in it.  In short, dinosaurs very quickly became established.

The Fossil Assemblage of the Chañares Formation (Schematic Diagram

Vertebrate fossils found include a range of Tetrapods including Dinosauropmorphs and Dicynodonts.

Vertebrate fossils found include a range of Tetrapods including Dinosauromorphs and Dicynodonts.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur (inset photograph Randall Irmis)

Commenting on the significance of this new study, which has just been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), Randall Irmis stated:

“To discover that these early dinosaur relatives were geologically much younger than previously thought was totally unexpected.”

What Does This Mean for Other Middle Triassic Formations Elsewhere?

This shift in the date for these deposits that make up a portion of the Chañares Formation has serious implications for other fossil-bearing strata that were also believed to represent the Middle Triassic.  Similar types of vertebrate fossil are found in the Santa Maria Formation (southern Brazil) and in the Karoo Basin (South Africa), but none of these formations have been radiometrically dated.  These too, could be 5 to 10 million years older than previously thought.

Summarising the research a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur explained:

“The geological dates for certain fossil assemblages may have to be reconsidered in the light of these findings.  The evolution and subsequent radiation of the Dinosauria has become somewhat concertinaed.  This research suggests a much more rapid evolution from dinosauromorphs to true dinosaurs than previously thought.”

Why Did the Dinosaurs Evolve Rapidly?

The first dinosaurs believed to have evolved were the Saurischian Theropods.  These Archosaurs were bipeds and their skeletons show that they had an advantage over many of the other predators (bipedal and quadrupedal) around at the time.  Firstly, the pelvic area has a fully open acetabulum (the rounded hole in the pelvis where the head of the femur fits).  This allows the hind legs to locate much more directly under the body, providing a more efficient locomotion.  Secondly, the femur itself has a ball-shaped head turned slightly inward to slot into the acetabulum.  This arrangement, also supports the hind legs located directly under the hips.  These anatomical features, (plus one or two others), evolved to permit these Theropods to develop stronger legs making them faster and more powerful than other Archosaurs.  These strong legs seem to have enabled the dinosaurs to “sprint out of the evolutionary blocks”, leading to their domination of terrestrial ecosystems for the best part of 160 million years or so.

12 12, 2015

Plesiosuchus and Doedicurus Models in Stock

By | December 12th, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

New Additions to the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Range

It is quite rare for us to mention a Late Jurassic marine crocodile and an American Glyptodont in the same sentence, they do tend to make quite odd bedfellows, but as the first of the 2016 models from Safari Ltd are now in stock we can discuss Plesiosuchus and Doedicurus together.

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World Plesiosuchus Model

Available from Everything Dinosaur.

Available from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd

The marine crocodile we refer to is of course the Plesiosuchus (metriorhynchid), an animal very much at home in a marine environment.  The Glyptodont in question is the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Doedicurus, a re-issue of a model that was retired a couple of years ago.  It makes a welcome return to this ever expanding model range.

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World Doedicurus Model

Good old "pestle tail" is back.

Good old “pestle tail” is back.

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd

Talk about contrasting prehistoric animals, the streamlined and smooth-skinned Plesiosuchus represents a reptile that swam in the shallow tropical seas that covered Europe a little over 150 million years ago.  Whereas, the scaly, armour plated Doedicurus, with its vicious medieval club tail, thrived on the open grasslands of southern North America and South America some 2 million years ago.  Indeed, fossil evidence (all those ossicles and scutes), suggests that this terrestrial herbivore may have survived in isolated pockets up to around 10,000 years ago.

The models do have a number of things in common.  For example, they both show lots of detail and each replica is hand-painted.  In addition, Everything Dinosaur will be supplying a fact sheet all about the prehistoric animal with every model we sell.

Getting to Grips with a Glyptodont

Everything Dinosaur's illustration is in the centre.

Everything Dinosaur’s illustration is in the centre.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view these two models and the rest of the Safari Ltd Prehistoric Animal model range: Safari Carnegie and Prehistoric World Models

Our team members research and write fact sheets for every named prehistoric animal model we sell.  This has become quite an undertaking and the company has built up a portfolio of several hundred data sheets.  The Doedicurus fact sheet was written about two years ago, but it has recently been updated.  The Plesiosuchus fact sheet was approved in November, and a number have already been printed off so that they can be sent out with those orders from customers who had reserved models with us.

The Plesiosuchus replica measures around seventeen centimetres in length, although this is a not to scale model, given that the largest genus of Plesiosuchus known to science reached a length of around seven metres, the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Plesiosuchus is roughly in 1:40 scale.  The Doedicurus model is smaller.  It measures a fraction under eleven centimetres long.  Given that the largest specimens of Doedicurus (D. clavicaudatus) are estimated to have been 3 metres long, this makes the model around the 1:27 scale size.

The Doedicurus makes a welcome return and it is joined by a marine crocodile model.  Marine crocodiles are rare sculpts from the mainstream factories and we are sure model collectors are going to be as delighted as we are.  Strange, that the first two, new for 2016 models released from Safari Ltd are not actually dinosaurs.

11 12, 2015

Lufengosaurus Fossils Hold Up Road

By | December 11th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Lower Jurassic Fossils Lead to Chinese Road Hold Ups

Chinese news agencies have released some remarkable photographs showing the preserved remains of two types of Early Jurassic herbivorous dinosaur, whose fossils have been found during a road building project in Yunnan Province (south-western China).  The dinosaurs have been identified as two different species within the Lufengosaurus genus, in fact, Lufengosaurus has only two recognised species within the genus, it is quite unusual to find examples of the same genera in such close proximity.  These fossils were found less than five hundred metres apart.

The Superbly Well-Preserved Lufengosaurus magus Specimen

The individual is estimated to be around nine metres in length.

The individual is estimated to be around nine metres in length.

Picture Credit: Chinese News Agencies

Once the construction workers had realised that they had stumbled across some dinosaur bones, palaeontologists from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (Beijing) were called in and the fossils were carefully excavated.  The picture above shows the preserved rear end of Lufengosaurus magus.  The hind limbs, dorsal area and the anterior portion of the tail have been preserved in almost perfect articulation.  A spokesperson for the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology explained that measurements of the hind limbs and tail bones suggest that this dinosaur would have been around nine metres in length.

A Close up of the Lower Leg Bones and Foot (Pes) of Lufengosaurus magus

The lower leg and foot (pes) of the dinosaur.

The lower leg and foot (pes) of the dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Chinese News Agencies

Early Jurassic Prosauropods

The Lufengosaurus magus material consists of three sacral vertebrae, rib bones, the pelvis, thirteen dorsal vertebrae, tail bones and the complete hind legs.   The other Lufengosaurus material, assigned to the smaller of the two species L. huenei consists of elements of the leg bones, dorsal vertebrae and two tail bones from the anterior end of the tail.

The Lufengosaurus huenei Fossil Material

Lufengosaurus huenei fossil material.

Lufengosaurus huenei fossil material.

Picture Credit: Chinese News Agencies

The Director of the Department for Geological Heritage Protection at the Lufeng Land Resources Bureau stated that a museum might be built over the site to preserve the fossils in situ.  This could mean that the road that was being built could end up being diverted.

Lufengosaurus Fossils Could be Left in the Ground as Part of a Museum Display

The beautiful fossils of this Early Jurassic herbivore.

The beautiful fossils of this Early Jurassic herbivore.

Picture Credit: Chinese News Agencies

Lufengosaurus – Profile

Although a number of media reports suggest that the fossils are about 180 million years old, team members at Everything Dinosaur suspect that the fossils are at least fifteen million years older.  Lufengosaurus was a long-necked, bipedal plant-eating dinosaur with a small head, a large, round body and the hind limbs were bigger, longer and more robust than the forelimbs.  Regarded as a Prosauropod, debate surrounds this dinosaur as to whether or not it is very closely related to the European Prosauropod Plateosaurus.  Other writers have suggested that this dinosaur may be more closely related to Massopondylus.  CollectA made a very good quality replica of this dinosaur.  This was introduced into the “Prehistoric World” range of not to scale models in 2012.

To see the Lufengosaurus model and other replicas in the “Prehistoric World” range: CollectA “Prehistoric World” Model Range

The CollectA Lufengosaurus Model

The CollectA Lufengosaurus model.

The CollectA Lufengosaurus model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

11 12, 2015

A Mosasaur From Japan

By | December 11th, 2015|General Teaching, Key Stage 1/2, Key Stage 3/4|Comments Off on A Mosasaur From Japan

Scientists Describe New Species of Marine Reptile

Scientists from the Royal Tyrrell Museum, the University of Alberta (Canada), the University of Cincinnati (USA), Hobetsu Museum, Fukuoka University (Japan) and the University of Cincinnati (USA) have published a scientific paper announcing the discovery of a new species of a type of marine reptile known as a mosasaur.  This new mosasaur has been named Phosphorosaurus ponpetelegans and the huge eye socket in the skull suggests that this animal, distantly related to  modern snakes and lizards, hunted in low light conditions.

An Illustration of the Newly Described Mosasaur

A new species of Japanese mosasaur is described.

A new species of Japanese mosasaur is described.

Picture Credit: Tatsuya Shinmura / Ashoro Museum of Palaeontology / Trustees of the Natural History Museum, (London).

Scientists have suggested that this three-metre long carnivore may have specialised in hunting in deep water or perhaps it evolved to fill a specific ecological niche, that of a night time hunter preying on bioluminescent fish and squid.  Fossils of such fish along with Cephalopods have been found in the same Upper Cretaceous strata on the island of Hokkaido (northern Japan), where the mosasaur fossils were found in 2009.

A Picture of the Prepared Fossil Skull of Phosphorosaurus Showing the Huge Eye Socket

Note the huge eye socket.

Note the huge eye socket.

Picture Credit: Takuya Konishi et al.

Teaching Ideas/Extension

  1. Note that the photograph above has a scale bar showing below the fossilised skull (line of black and white squares).  Why do palaeontologists put a scale bar on their photographs?
  2. Approximately, how long is the skull of this marine reptile (note each black and white square in the scale bar equals one centimetre)?
  3. How wide is the eye socket in centimetres?
  4. Why would a carnivorous marine reptile need big eyes (link to the environment/habitat)?
  5. What does it mean when scientists think an animal fitted a “specific ecological niche”?
10 12, 2015

New Dinosaur from Spain

By | December 10th, 2015|Key Stage 1/2|Comments Off on New Dinosaur from Spain

New Species of Early Cretaceous Dinosaur Named

A new dinosaur species is named and described every twenty to thirty days according to the database on dinosaur research managed by Everything Dinosaur team members.  The latest addition to the Order Dinosauria is a plant-eating dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of Spain.  This dinosaur has been named Morelladon beltrani.  Described from the rear portion of the skeleton, including some vertebrae and hip bones, this dinosaur pronounced “mor-rell-ah-don bell-tran-eye”, is believed to have been closely related to Iguanodon.

An Illustration of the Newly Described Spanish Dinosaur Morelladon

Plant-eating dinosaur with a hump or perhaps a sail.  What did it use this for?

Plant-eating dinosaur with a hump or perhaps a sail.  What did it use this for?

Picture Credit: Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (Spain)

The bones in the back of this animal have extended spines (neural spines).  These spines may have supported a fleshy hump or perhaps a sail-like structure.

Extension Ideas

  • Challenge the class to find pictures of other dinosaurs in books or on line with humps or sails on their backs.  What do scientists think that these humps and sails were used for?

(clue – look up Spinosaurus, Amargasaurus, Ouranosaurus, Ichthyovenator)

  • Challenge the class to think of animals with humps or sails that are alive today.  Can they name some and explain why these animals have such structures?
  • Why do scientists use information about animals alive today to help them work out how extinct animals may have looked/behaved?
  • How might the hump or sail in a dinosaur evolve?  Can the children come up with some theories?

Curriculum Links

Link to adaptation, variation in populations and environments.  Use to help support science curriculum objectives in Year 6 relating to the exploration of evolution and how fossils can inform us about life in the past.

The Large Spines on the Vertebrae of Morelladon Suggest a Sail or a Hump

The enlarged neural spines of Morelladon.

The enlarged neural spines of Morelladon.

Picture Credit: Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (Spain)/PLOS One

Further supporting information to help with school extensions can be found here: New Species of Dinosaur Described from Spain

10 12, 2015

Dog-sized Dinosaur and Chasing “Ghosts”

By | December 10th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Hornless Hualianceratops wucaiwanensis

So details regarding  the dog-sized newest member of the Ceratopsia has been published in the on line academic journal PLOS One.  Say hello to Hualianceratops wucaiwanensis (pronounced as wal-lee-an-sera-tops woo-sigh-wan-en-sis), a small plant-eating dinosaur at the very foot of the dinosaur family tree that would lead to the mighty horned dinosaurs, animals such as Triceratops, Styracosaurus and Pachyrhinosaurus.

New Horned Dinosaur Without Any Horns

Hualianceratops illustrated.

Hualianceratops illustrated.

Picture Credit: Portia Sloan Rollings

Ever Expanding Horned Dinosaurs

Over the last ten years or so there have been a remarkable number of new genera of horned dinosaur erected, mostly representing Late Cretaceous Ceratopsians from North America.  Back in July, for example, Everything Dinosaur team members wrote an article about the latest edition to the Centrosaurine group of horned dinosaurs  Wendiceratops (W. pinhornensis).  The month before that, the other great Subfamily of the Ceratopsians, the Chasmosaurines got a new member (Regaliceratops peterhewsi).  Whilst there is undoubtedly lots of attention focused on the six metre plus, very ornate giants of North America, palaeontologists, as yet, don’t really understand how the horned dinosaurs evolved, or indeed, little is known about the phylogenetic relationships of some of the earliest forms.

Step into the frame Hualianceratops (the name translates as “ornamental face”), here’s a half metre long dinosaur that may shed some much needed light on Ceratopsian ancestry.  Ironically, Hualianceratops manages to hint at future fossil discoveries without providing a great deal of data about itself.

To read the article on Wendiceratops pinhornensisSouthern Alberta’s Wendiceratops

To read an article describing the discovery of Regaliceratops: New Horned Dinosaur Causes a Royal Rumble

The angular and the dentary (bones that form the lower jaw along with the predentary) have a roughened texture (rugose).  It is this rough texturing not known in any other basal Asian Ceratopsian that gives this little dinosaur its genus name.  The species or trivial name comes from the Chinese Wucaiwan “five colour bay” from the area in Xinjiang Province where the fossils were found.  The strata forms part of the famous Junggar Basin (Shishugou Formation).

Views of the Lower Jaw of Hualianceratops

The mandible of Hualianceratops wucaiwanensis (IVPP V18641)

The mandible of Hualianceratops wucaiwanensis (IVPP V18641)

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The picture above shows two photographs of part of the lower jaw of this little dinosaur, the angular bone (an) and the dentary (d) have a roughened texture.  The fossil material consists of the majority of the skull, plus some fused sacral vertebrae and portions of the lower limbs which include an almost complete left hind leg.  It is from these bones that the scientists have been able to deduce that Hualianceratops was a biped, moving around on its back legs, in contrast to the much larger, heavier and later North American Ceratopsians such as the famous Triceratops.

Post Cranial Fossil Material (Lower Limbs and Left Foot (Pes)

A partial hind limb and the left foot of Hualianceratops.

A partial hind limb and the left foot of Hualianceratops.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The researchers behind the scientific paper, published this week in PLOS One, consist of a team from the University of Washington and from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology, (IVPP), part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.  These institutes have been collaborating since 2002, exploring numerous fossil sites in north-western China.  A number of early Ceratopsians have already been named as a result of this research programme.  The oldest known member of the horned dinosaur family Yinlong (Yinlong downsi) was found in the same Formation by these researchers.  It was formally named and described back in 2006.

An Illustration of Yinlong downsi Earliest Known Ceratopsian

Yinlong downsi, the earliest known Ceratopsian dinosaur.

Yinlong downsi, the earliest known Ceratopsian dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The newly described Hualianceratops would have looked very similar, but it was slightly shorter and stockier.  The bristles are speculative, no evidence of bristle-like structures have been found in association with Yinlong or Hualianceratops fossil material, as far as team members at Everything Dinosaur are aware, but if the related Psittacosaurs had such structures it can be speculated that these little dinosaurs also sported similar quills and bristles.  Both Yinlong and Hualianceratops, despite being classified as basal horned dinosaurs, did not have any horns.

The genus name Yinlong means “hidden dragon”, this does not reflect any great difficulties of extracting the fossil from the dig site, but merely pays homage to the fact that Xinjiang Province provided most of the location shots for the award winning Chinese film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.

Both Hualianceratops and Yinlong were found in the same fossil bed, although Yinlong’s location suggests that this animal lived before Hualianceratops evolved.  The age of the rocks in the Junggar Basin are difficult to date accurately, there is considerable debate as to the precise age of the strata, however, the rock layer from which these two dinosaurs were extracted has been dated to the Oxfordian age (Late Jurassic, approximately 163.5 to 157.3 million years ago).

Greater Diversity of Late Jurassic Horned Dinosaurs

The discovery of a new type of horned dinosaur from Upper Jurassic rocks provides evidence that as early as 160 million years ago, a number of Ceratopsia genera had already evolved.  These little hornless horned dinosaurs were much more diverse much earlier in geological time than previously thought.

Commenting on the discovery, Professor Catherine Forster, a biologist at George Washington University and co-author of the scientific paper on Hualianceratops, stated:

“Finding these two species in the same fossil bed reveals there was more diversity there than we previously recognised.  It suggests that the Ceratopsian dinosaurs already had diversified into at least four lineages [possibly five] by this time in the Jurassic Period.”

Looking for Ghosts

That’s really the significance of these fossil finds, prior to 2006, not a single Ceratopsian was known from the beginning of the Late Jurassic.  Although, the exact evolutionary path of the Ceratopsia remains unknown and the exact relationship between the likes of Yinlong, Hualianceratops and the closely related Psittacosaurus is unclear, because of these fossil discoveries and similar finds in China, palaeontologists can work out that there must be other early horned dinosaurs awaiting discovery.

Hualianceratops and the Ghosts (Ghost Lineages)

Hualianceratops and the ghost lineages..

Hualianceratops and the ghost lineages.

Picture Credit: PLOS One with additional annotation from Everything Dinosaur

Comparing the features of known early horned dinosaur fossils has led scientists to identify a number of “ghost lineages” in the early horned dinosaur family tree.  In this instance, when the family tree of these basal Ceratopsians is pieced together, the “best fit” that can be made indicates that there are a number of pieces missing.  These are ghost lineages, an evolutionary line that has no traces in the fossil record.  In simple terms, if the fossils of the “ghosts” have been preserved, then nobody has found them yet.

The researchers conclude that, based on the fossils that have been found at least five Ceratopsian lineages were present at the beginning of the Late Jurassic.

  1. Yinlong
  2. Hualianceratops
  3. The ghost lineage that led to the Psittacosaurs (dotted red line on the left of the picture)
  4. The ghost lineage that led to the later horned dinosaurs Chaoyangsaurus and Xuanhuaceratops (middle red dotted line)
  5. The ghost lineage that led to the evolution of the later Neoceratopsia (the red dotted line on the right)

Potentially, there are more “hidden dragon” fossils waiting to be found.  Perhaps, the name for the next basal horned dinosaur to be found from this part of north-western China will be inspired by another film, not “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” but “Ghostbusters”!

9 12, 2015

Big-eyed Mosasaur from Japan – A Night Time Hunter?

By | December 9th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Phosphorosaurus ponpetelegans – New Species of Mosasaur Announced

An international team of researchers, including scientists from the Royal Tyrrell Museum, the University of Alberta (Canada), the University of Cincinnati (USA), Hobetsu Museum and Fukuoka University (Japan), have announced the discovery of a new species of Mosasaur found in Upper Cretaceous rocks in Japan.  This three metre long predator may have specialised in hunting in deep water or perhaps it evolved to fill a specific ecological niche, that of a night hunter preying on bioluminescent fish and squid.

The Newly Described Phosphorosaurus ponpetelegans

The first Japanese Mosasaur to be identified.

Rare Japanese Mosasaur identified.

Picture Credit: Tatsuya Shinmura / Ashoro Museum of Palaeontology / Trustees of the Natural History Museum, (London).

Growing to around the size of an extant American Alligator (C. mississippiensis), this large-eyed Mosasaur from the island of Hokkaido (northern Japan), was probably most closely related to another species of Late Cretaceous Mosasaur, but one from Belgium thousands of miles away (P. ortliebi).  This fossil find, consisting of beautifully preserved cranial material plus some post cranial elements, will help palaeontologists to build a better understanding of the biogeographical distribution of certain types of Mosasaur towards the end of the Mesozoic.

In 2009, scientist Tomohiro Nishimura (Hobetsu Museum), recovered a calcareous nodule from one of the tributaries of the Pankerusano-sawa Creek, about 3 miles east of the town of Hobetsu.  The rivers in this part of Hokkaido cut through sandstones which were laid down at the very end of the Age of Dinosaurs (Hakobuchi Formation of the uppermost Yezo Group), the fossil is believed to have come from the lowermost strata representing the early part of the Maastrichtian age, approximately 71 million years ago.

Mosasaur Creek!  The Rivers Cut Through the Loosely Compacted Sandstones

Small rivers cut deep channels in the sandstone.

Small rivers cut deep channels in the sandstone.

Picture Credit: University of Cincinnati

The picture above shows the topography of the area.  Shallow soils overlie sandstones and the action of rivers results in deep channels being cut in the rock which can expose fossils such as ammonites and occasionally the fossilised bones of marine vertebrates.

Views of the Remarkably Well-Preserved Skull

Dorsal view (left), ventral view (right), lateral view (bottom). Scale bar = 5cm.

Dorsal view (left), ventral view (right), lateral view (bottom).
Scale bar = 5 cm.

Picture Credit: Takuya Konishi et al.

Phosphorosaurus ponpetelegans  means “phosphorus lizard from an elegant creek”,  co-existed with much larger Mosasaurs, ten-metre plus monsters that were the apex predators.  The scientists propose that P. ponpetelegans adapted to an ecological niche, that of a night time predator or perhaps a deep water hunter.  The almost complete skull was slowly removed from its rocky matrix by being placed in a bath of dilute acid each night.  Once the skull bones had been freed from the rock, the researchers set about piecing the skull together.

Huge Eyes

This marine reptile had huge eye sockets and a reduced snout when compared to other Mosasaurs.  As the fossil skull was so well preserved the scientists have been able to determine that Phosphorosaurus ponpetelegans had binocular vision, its eyes were located on the front of its face, providing depth perception.  Most other Mosasaurs have eyes towards the side of their heads.  This gives them a large, all round field of view but they lack the depth perception to the extent demonstrated by a study of Phosphorosaurus cranial material.

The Huge Orbit (Eye Socket) of P. ponpetelegans

The skull in lateral view showing the huge eye-socket.

The skull in lateral view showing the huge eye-socket.

Picture Credit: Takuya Konishi et al.

Commenting on the significance of the size and position of the eyes, lead author Takuya Konishi explained:

“The forward-facing eyes on Phosphorosaurus provide depth perception to vision, and it’s common in birds of prey and other predatory mammals that dwell among us today.  But we knew already that most Mosasaurs were pursuit predators based on what we know they preyed upon — swimming animals.  Paradoxically, these small Mosasaurs like Phosphorosaurus were not as adept swimmers as their larger contemporaries because their flippers and tail fins were not as well developed.”

The researchers depict Phosphorosaurus has a nocturnal hunter, although the pursuit of prey in deeper water cannot be ruled out.  Phosphorosaurus could be thought of as an owl, whereas the diurnal, larger, more streamlined Mosasaurs in the ecosystem were the equivalent of day time hunters such as hawks and eagles.  The binocular vision in nocturnal animals doubles the number of photoreceptors to detect light.  Just like an extant owl, this small Mosasaur had very large eye sockets.

A Comparison of the Binocular Vision Potential of Different Mosasaurs

The forward facing vision of Mosasaurs are compared.

The forward facing vision of Mosasaurs are compared.

Picture Credit: The Journal of Systematic Palaeontology with additional notation by Everything Dinosaur

Key

BFoV = Binocular Field of Vision

In the line drawing above, the field of vision of Phosphorosaurus ponpetelegans (c) is compared to two other Mosasaurs.  The skulls are drawn not to scale.  Plotosaurus bennisoni (a) was a much larger, more streamlined Mosasaur.  Its fossils come from Upper Cretaceous rocks found in California.  It grew to lengths in excess of twelve metres and it was very probably an open ocean predator relying on its pursuit speed to catch its prey, which probably included other Mosasaurs and marine reptiles.  The binocular field of vision for the long-snouted Plotosaurus bennisoni has been calculated to around 22 degrees.  Mosasaurus missouriensis (b)was also a large, apex predator.  Size estimates vary, but this Mosasaur, whose fossils come from North America, could have been four times the size of Phosphorosaurus.  It too, was an ocean going predator, but it is depicted as being more bulky and therefore less streamlined than Plotosaurus.  Its binocular field of vision has been calculated at around 29 degrees.  In contrast, the much smaller, shorter snouted Phosphorosaurus with its forward facing and proportionately much larger eyes had a binocular field of vision of around 35 degrees.

What Did Phosphorosaurus Hunt?

Numerous fossils of Cephalopods such as squid and ammonites have been recovered from the same strata as the Phosphorosaurus fossil remains.  In addition, fossils of ancient lantern fish have also been found.  The scientists speculate that this Mosasaur may have hunted the bioluminescent fish and squid at night, whilst larger Mosasaurs in the area hunted during the day.

Discussing the potential ecological niche of Phosphorosaurus ponpetelegans Takuya Konishi stated:

“If this new Mosasaur was a sit-and-wait hunter in the darkness of the sea and able to detect the light of these other animals, that would have been the perfect niche to co-exist with the more established Mosasaurs.” 

Such is the exquisite quality of the preserved skull, that the researchers hope to be able to piece together more details concerning the evolution and radiation of the Mosasaur group as a whole.  Phosphorosaurus has been assigned to the Halisaurinae Sub-family of Mosasaurs.  Its discovery will help to fill the gap between similar types of Mosasaur fossils found in Europe and the Middle East and those from the Eastern Pacific.

Biogeographical Distribution of Late Cretaceous Halisaurine Mosasaurs

The distribution of the Halisaurine Mosasaurs (Late Cretaceous).

The distribution of the Halisaurine Mosasaurs (Late Cretaceous).

Picture Credit: Journal of Systematic Palaeontology with additional notation by Everything Dinosaur

The red mark indicates the Phosphorosaurus ponpetelegans fossil location.  It is the most northerly Halisaurine Mosasaur discovered to date.

The Teeth of Phosphorosaurus ponpetelegans

The curved and widely spaced teeth support the idea that this Mosasaur hunted squid.

The curved and widely spaced teeth support the idea that this Mosasaur hunted squid.

Picture Credit:  Takuya Konishi et al.

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