All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//March
22 03, 2016

Happy Birthday Adam Sedgwick

By | March 22nd, 2016|General Teaching|Comments Off on Happy Birthday Adam Sedgwick

Geologist Adam Sedgwick Born on this Day 1785

On this day in 1785, Adam Sedgwick was born.  He was to play a vital role in the development of geology and did much to help improve our understanding with regards to the age of the Earth and the various geological periods that can be reflected in the fossil record.  A graduate of Cambridge University, Sedgwick spent much of his working life collaborating with another pioneering British geologist, Roderick Murchison and between them they mapped and dated much of the strata of the British Isles.  Adam Sedgwick was responsible for defining the Cambrian geological period and with Murchison, they defined the Devonian.

Adam Sedgwick 22nd March 1785 – 27th January 1873

Adam Sedgwick - pioneering geologist.

Adam Sedgwick – pioneering geologist.

Britain’s Developing Canal Network Permitted Access to Rocks

Extensive engineering projects and widespread quarrying as Britain developed its network of canals provided these early pioneers of geology with unprecedented access to the rocks and strata of the British Isles.  This study was further augmented with the development of the railways.  The industrial revolution greatly increased the demand for coal and this fuelled (no pun intended), a tremendous scientific interest in how rock layers are formed and their relative ages.

The Science of Biostratigraphy

Adam Sedgwick played a significant role in the nascent science of biostratigraphy.  Biostratigraphy is the study of the age of strata using the fossils preserved within the rock layers.  Formations, that may be separated by hundreds of miles can be relatively dated using the fossils preserved within the sediments.  Adam Sedgwick was a vehement opponent of Darwin’s theory of evolution.  Although he admired Darwin for his methodical approach to research, he could not accept the consequences of the theory that Darwin postulated in his seminal book of 1859 – that of evolution by natural selection as explained in the “Origin of Species”.

22 03, 2016

Dinosaur Workshops in Schools

By | March 22nd, 2016|Educational Activities, Teaching|0 Comments

Five Stars for Dinosaur Workshops in School

As the Spring term in the UK draws to a close, Everything Dinosaur team members can reflect on a job well done with their dinosaur and fossil themed workshops in schools.   Since January, our dedicated teaching team have been working the length and breadth of the country supporting teachers and teaching assistants by providing dinosaur workshops to assist in the teaching of the curriculum.  Whether it is a Reception class learning about the properties of materials, a Year Six class discussing natural selection and evolution or even Key Stage Three tackling the complexities of genetics, our experts have been on hand to support learning.

Everything Dinosaur team members receive top marks from teachers for their dinosaur and fossil themed workshops in schools.

The feedback we receive from schools has continued to give our workshops five stars out of five and as we approach the one hundred and fiftieth on line review published on our specialist teaching website: Teaching About Dinosaurs and Fossils in Schools we still have top marks.  Below is a review provided by a Reception school teacher from Cheshire, one of the schools we visited last week.

Top Reviews for Everything Dinosaur’s Teaching Work in Schools

Praise for Everything Dinosaur.

Praise for Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Black Firs Primary/Everything Dinosaur

The teacher who provided this review also added:

“The children had a brilliant time and we absolutely loved it – so a huge THANK YOU to all concerned especially Mike who was fab.”

As well as the teaching workshop, we also provided some extension resources including a dinosaur measuring exercise specially designed for EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage).  These extra resources are just part of the assistance we provide teaching teams.  Everything Dinosaur also offers free dinosaur and fossil themed teaching resources to download.  The downloads are divided into helpful categories, there are general downloads such as pronunciation guides and anti-bullying posters and then categories dedicated to EYFS, Key Stage One and Two and then yet another section dedicated to providing free teaching resources for Secondary schools.

Free downloads of dinosaur and fossil themed teaching resources can be found here: Download Dinosaur and Fossil Themed Teaching Resources

A Key Stage One teacher providing feedback to Everything Dinosaur, after our work with her class wrote in to say:

“It was a really engaging session.  Lots of opportunities for the children to handle objects.  The children really enjoyed learning about dinosaurs and the Everything Dinosaur expert has a great manner with the class.”

To learn more about our dinosaur and fossil themed workshops in schools: Contact Everything Dinosaur

Fun Learning All About Fossils and Life in the Past

Brainstorming dinosaurs with a class of school children.

Brainstorming dinosaurs with a class of school children.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Once the short Easter break is over and the Everything Dinosaur team members have finished their outreach work scheduled to take place over the holiday period, then its Summer term and more dinosaur themed workshops being delivered at various schools across the country.  Naturally, Everything Dinosaur will be aiming to keep up its five star rating!

21 03, 2016

Everything Dinosaur Prepares for Easter

By | March 21st, 2016|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur’s “Egg-citing” Easter Activities

As team members prepare to conduct all their dinosaur themed teaching workshops this week, an “egg-citing” conclusion to lots of term topics in schools, we are also aware of a number of emails received over the weekend from anxious customers who have contacted us to enquire when they should make a purchase in order to ensure arrival in time for Easter.  Everything Dinosaur’s busy staff are working very hard to ensure that all orders placed over the weekend are packed and despatched today.  In addition, the vast majority of orders placed with Everything Dinosaur over the morning and during the early part of the afternoon will also be sent out today.

Everything Dinosaur Working Hard to Support our Customers

UK orders still being packed and despatched in time for the Easter holidays.

UK orders still being packed and despatched in time for the Easter holidays.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Naturally, for the majority of our overseas customers, it is now too  late to order items in time for the holidays.  However, for our UK customers, Everything Dinosaur team members are still packing and despatching UK orders in time for Easter delivery.  We advise that placing an order as early as possible really helps.  We monitor the website very carefully and we are quick to respond to customers, handling enquiries and dealing with any questions, all this helps us to have a very quick turnaround.  Our record from receipt of payment until receipt into the UK national mail network stands at forty minutes, that’s a very fast and efficient service!

We will continue to work during the rest of the week, ensuring that all orders received for toys and games from Everything Dinosaur are despatched as quickly as possible.

No Postal Deliveries or Courier Services on Friday 25th or Monday 28th March

UK customers are reminded that as Friday and Monday are national holidays (Bank Holidays), there are no Royal Mail postal deliveries.  Our couriers will also not be collecting or making deliveries on these two days.  We intend to operate a skeleton service over the holiday period, emails and the various websites will still be monitored and checked and staff are coming into the office on Sunday morning to ensure that our packing team don’t have too big a pile of parcels to pack when normal office hours are resumed on Tuesday 29th March.

Everything Dinosaur team members will also be checking the updates from Royal Mail and the various courier services we use, just to keep abreast of any changes in the potential speed of delivery due to disruption in the delivery network.

Yes, we are egg-cited about Easter, lots of fieldwork and other projects to do, but we remain committed to providing our customers with “egg-cellent” customer service!

20 03, 2016

We Have Frog Spawn

By | March 20th, 2016|Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Frog Spawn Spotted in the Pond

More than a week later than 2015 and a day later than what we recorded in 2013 but we have got the first batch of frog spawn in our office pond.  We noted increased frog activity about a week ago and in the warm weather yesterday afternoon we spotted a mating pair and suspected that the eggs would be laid in the night.  Sure enough, when the pond was examined this morning we noticed our first batch of frog spawn for the 2016 season.

A Close up of the Frog Spawn in the Office Pond

Frog spawn in the office pond (spring 2016).

Frog spawn in the office pond (spring 2016).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows a batch of frog spawn, the first of the season in our office pond.  A large Ramshorn snail is close by but this herbivore will pose no threat to the newly laid eggs.  The frog species is the Common Frog (Rana temporaria), these amphibians are no longer common, their numbers have declined dramatically in recent years and garden ponds are an important habitat for them.  Most gardeners welcome these unobtrusive creatures as they consume lots of garden pests such as slugs and beetles.

We suspect it will not be long before our second batch of frog spawn is laid.  We have noticed another breeding pair in the pond this afternoon.  It is likely that we will have a second batch of spawn in the morning.  Interestingly, the spawn has been laid in one of the deeper parts of the pond.  The office pond is only about two feet deep (sixty centimetres) and it has been cleaned out with a lot of the weed having been removed recently, however, in folklore, frogs laying their spawn deep means that we are in for a particularly dry spring.  We doubt the weather forecasting abilities of the frogs ourselves but we shall have to wait and see.

Mystery Tadpole in the Pond

A single large tadpole has been observed in the office pond.  This animal overwintered in the pond and has yet to develop legs.  We were surprised to see this tadpole, we were not aware that some tadpoles did not undergo metamorphosis in the summer months after hatching in the spring.  Some research led us to the website of the Freshwater Habitats Trust: Freshwater Habitats Trust – The Common Frog and in their highly informative article, it is stated that the overwintering phenomenon has been recognised but the reasons for adopting this strategy are not fully understood.  The web page did state that these tadpoles are in some way ahead of the game come the following spring and the decision about whether to follow this strategy appears to be made quite early on in the year.  We are not aware whether individual tadpoles are genetically predisposed to develop over two years or whether all Common Frog tadpoles could potentially do this.

Reference is made to an academic paper on this subject, namely: Larval over-wintering: plasticity in the timing of life-history events in the common frog P. T. Walsh, J. R. Downie, P. Monaghan, Journal of Zoology Volume 276, Issue 4, pages 394–401, December 2008.

19 03, 2016

Key Stage 1 Study Dinosaurs

By | March 19th, 2016|Key Stage 1/2|Comments Off on Key Stage 1 Study Dinosaurs

Year 1 and Year 2 at All Saints’ Primary Learn About Dinosaurs

A very special thank you to all the children at All Saints’ Primary who sent in thank you letters to our office after Everything Dinosaur conducted a dinosaur themed workshop at their school.  Members of the enthusiastic teaching team working with Key Stage 1 classes took up one of our “pinkie palaeontologist challenges” and under their expert tutelage, the children composed beautiful thank you letters, many complete with super drawings of dinosaurs and fossils.

Soren Sent Everything Dinosaur a Super Thank You Letter

A thank you letter from a Key Stage 1 pupil after a dinosaur workshop.

A thank you letter from a Key Stage 1 pupil after a dinosaur workshop.

Picture Credit: All Saints’ Primary (Marple, Cheshire) and Everything Dinosaur

Soren wrote to say thank you for visiting and letting the children hold the fossils.  Soren added that his favourite dinosaur was Diplodocus.

Young Lois included a lovely picture of our fossil expert “dinosaur Mike” in with her thank you letter.  There were also super dinosaur drawings provided by Erin, Finley and Jude.  The thank you letter idea was one of the extension suggestions made by our staff member during the dinosaur workshop at the school.  Over the morning, a number of extension activities were proposed, in addition, Everything Dinosaur emailed over some more teaching resources to help support the cohort’s scheme of work.

In Katie’s letter she recalled information that we had provided on Velociraptors.  She liked the idea that they were probably feathered and Katie included a lovely picture of a purple and blue armoured dinosaur.

Katie Sends a Thank You Letter to our Office

Katie says thank you to Everything Dinosaur.

Katie says thank you to Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: All Saints’ Primary (Marple, Cheshire) and Everything Dinosaur

A very big thank you to all the children at All Saints’ Primary school who sent in letters to Everything Dinosaur, our thanks goes to Louie, Isla, Katie, Soren, Erin, Lois, Finlay, Kieran, Freya, Lilly, Jacob, Henry, the other Kieran in the class, Ava, Tyler, Leila, Edward, Oliver, Brooke, Jack, James, Bella, Charlie, Kelan, Isaac, Ethan, Jude and to all the children involved.

To enquire about Everything Dinosaur’s dinosaur themed workshops in schools: Contact Everything Dinosaur

Thank you letters such as these are a great way for the children to practice sentence construction and letter formation as well as word spacing and other hand writing skills.

19 03, 2016

Year 1 and Year 2 Study Dinosaurs

By | March 19th, 2016|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Dinosaur Workshops at All Saints’ C of E Primary School (Stockport)

Back in February, one of the fossil experts at Everything Dinosaur visited All Saints’ Primary (Marple, Stockport, Cheshire), to conduct a couple of dinosaur themed workshops with the children in Key Stage 1.  Over the course of the morning, the Year 1 and Year 2 children were given lots of challenges as part of our support for the diverse and very enriched scheme of work the teaching team had devised for the term topic.  One of the challenges we set was for the children to write a thank you letter.  Thank you letters provide an excellent opportunity for the children to practice their hand-writing as well as helping to reinforce what the children learned and could recall from the workshop we provided.

Bella has Sent Everything Dinosaur a Thank You Letter

Bella's thank you letter to Everything Dinosaur.

Bella’s thank you letter to Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Bella wrote to say that her favourite part was learning all about Tyrannosaurus rex and holding all the fossils.  Bella recalled that when you first touch real fossils they feel cold and that T. rex had two fingers on each hand.

Oliver’s Thank You Letter

Oliver says thank you.

Oliver says thank you.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Oliver included a picture of a brown coloured Triceratops on the back of his thank you missive.  In his letter he explained he liked learning how old fossils were.  A letter writing activity such as this provides school children with an opportunity to learn how to lay out a letter in the correct format as well as getting to grips with sentence construction.  Oliver demonstrated lots of lovely finger spacing between his words and he kept his writing in between the lines beautifully.

Ava’s Thank You Letter Sent into Our Office

Ava's thank you letter to Everything Dinosaur.

Ava’s thank you letter to Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Ava included a lovely drawing in with her letter, lots of smiling faces.  A special thank you to Jacob, Henry, Kieran, Ava, Tyler, Leila, Edward, Oliver, Brooke, Jack, James, Bella, Charlie, Kelan, Kieran, Isla, Louie, Freya, Lilly, Isaac, Ethan, Jude, Finley, Lois, Erin, Soren, Katie and to all the children involved.

Lois wrote to say:

“Thank you for letting me see the fossils and thank you for the stickers.”

You are most welcome, a special thank you from all the team members at Everything Dinosaur to all the children who sent letters into us.  Also a big Iguanodon thumbs up to the enthusiastic teaching team who helped us on the day and inspired the children to produce the letters.

Well done to all!  Pleased to hear that everyone loved our dinosaur workshop for Key Stage 1.

18 03, 2016

New Dinosaur Described

By | March 18th, 2016|General Teaching|Comments Off on New Dinosaur Described

New Dinosaur Described – Boreonykus certekorum

Canadian palaeontologist Philip Currie in collaboration with Australian Phil Bell has published a scientific paper announcing the discovery of a new meat-eating dinosaur, one that was very probably closely related to the famous Velociraptor.  The fossils of a Theropod dinosaur, described by a member of the Everything Dinosaur team as being “about the size of a German Shepherd dog”, come from an extensive dinosaur bonebed containing the remains of a number of huge horned dinosaurs (Pachyrhinosaurus).  The shed teeth and isolated bones, including diagnostic cranial material that proved critical in the establishing of a new genus, had been preserved amongst the immense bones of the horned dinosaurs.  These fossils provide evidence that a number of different types of carnivorous dinosaur would have scavenged the carcases of horned dinosaurs, possibly the victims of an attempt to cross a river in flood.

A Pair of Boreonykus Feeding on the Carcase of Pachyrhinosaurus

An illustration of Boreonykus.

An illustration of Boreonykus.

Picture Credit: Canadian Press

The discovery of a frontal bone (a bone from the front of the skull), led to the erection of a new genus.  The dinosaur has been named Boreonykus certekorum and a phylogenetic analysis indicates that this dinosaur was probably a descendent of Asian members of the Velociraptorinae sub-family of dromaeosaurids.  The researchers propose that the ancestors of B. certekorum migrated across a land bridge from Asia into North America.

Polar Dinosaurs

The fossils come from the Wapiti Formation of north-western Alberta, Canada.  The Pachyrhinosaurus bonebed is located at Pipestone Creek and the fossils have been dated to around 72.5 million years ago or thereabouts.  Writing in the open access, on line journal “The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology” the scientists suggest that Boreonykus is potentially a close relative of the famous Velociraptor from Asia.

The Sickle-shaped Killing Claw on the Second Toe of Boreonykus

The sickle-shaped toe claw (left foot, second toe) of Boreonykus.

The sickle-shaped toe claw (left foot, second toe) of Boreonykus.

Picture Credit: The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology

During the Late Cretaceous, this part of northern Canada would have been part of an extensive “polar” climate adjacent to an substantial inland sea.  Although not as cold as this region of Canada today, Alberta in the Late Cretaceous would have suffered from long winters with plenty of snow and temperatures below freezing.  It is likely that Boreonykus was covered in a thick coat of shaggy proto-feathers to help keep out the cold.  This small meat-eating dinosaur may not have been a permanent resident of this polar environment, however, it has been noted that relatively small dinosaurs such as Boreonykus would have found migrating long distances quite a challenge.  Indeed, if the bonebed with the Pachyrhinosaurus fossils is anything to go by, there would certainly have been enough carcases in the area to sustain a population of Boreonykus dinosaurs through any long , dark winter.

18 03, 2016

Boreonykus certekorum – A Polar Dinosaur Related to Velociraptor

By | March 18th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

A Polar Dromaeosaurid – Boreonykus certekorum

Picking over the carcases of the remnants of a herd of Pachyrhinosaurs some seventy-two and a half million years ago was a small, Theropod dinosaur named Boreonykus (B. certekorum), the scene, taking place in the high latitudes of northern Canada has been pieced together after painstaking research by two famous palaeontologists who have collaborated on a number of projects helping to increase our understanding of the lives and behaviours of dinosaurs that lived in high latitudes, the so called “polar dinosaurs”.

Publishing in the open access on line journal “The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology”, please excuse the American spelling of palaeontology, scientists Philip Currie and Phil Bell report on the new dromaeosaurid material described from an extensive horned dinosaur bonebed located at Pipestone Creek, near the city of Grande Prairie (Alberta, Canada).  This dog-sized little Theropod has been tentatively assigned to the Velociraptorinae “wing” of the Dromaeosauridae (no pun intended), thus making Boreonykus potentially a close relative of the famous Velociraptor from Asia.

A Pair of Boreonykus Dinosaurs Feast on the Carcase of a Pachyrhinosaurus (P. lakustai)

A pair Boreonykus feeding on the corpse of a Pachyrhinosaurs lakustai.

A pair Boreonykus feeding on the corpse of a Pachyrhinosaurs lakustai.

Picture Credit: Canadian Press

Australian Phil Bell (School of Environment and Rural Science at the University of New England), has worked on a number of polar dinosaurs, including several known from Australia, which, for much of the Cretaceous would have been part of high latitude environments in the southern hemisphere, so it could be said that Dr. Bell has researched dinosaurs at the opposite ends of the Earth.  Isolated teeth had been found in association with the fossilised bones of the horned dinosaur Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai back in 1988, but they were thought to have been shed by other feeding, small-bodied Theropods that had already been scientifically described.  Previous studies had concluded that these small Theropod fossils found in the extensive Pipestone Creek bonebed belonged to Saurornitholestes langstoni or possibly Dromaeosaurus albertensis.  However, when more fossil material was found in 2012 including a portion of the skull (the frontal), scientists began to realise that the teeth and isolated bone fragments caught up in the huge plaster jackets of the giant Pachyrhinosaurus excavations, might just be something entirely new.

Comparison of Three Frontal Bones of Members of the Dromaeosauridae

The angle of the frontals bone in relation to the asupratemporal ridges led to a new dinosaur.

The angle of the frontal bone in relation to the supratemporal ridges led to a new dinosaur.

Picture Credit: The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

Skull Bone Provides Vital Clue

It was when the frontal bone from the Pipestone Creek bonebed was compared to the frontal bones of Saurornitholestes and Dromaeosaurus that the researchers noticed a vital difference.  The angle between the frontal and the supratemporal ridges on the skull was much more acute.  This suggested that the Theropod material found did represent a new genus of small, agile hunter.

The picture above shows a comparison of dromaeosaurid frontal bones (dorsal view).  The angles between the supratemporal ridges are given.  The fifty-five degree angle for the frontal assigned to B. certekorum is noticeably smaller.

Commenting on the study, Phil Bell explained that the frontal was the most important bone, that helped to clinch what type of animal it was and led to the erection of a new genus.

Dr. Bell added:

“Its [Boreonykus] closest ancestors were from Mongolia, so this species probably crossed the land bridge from northern Asia to North America.  The first bones were discovered in 1988 and laid unstudied in a museum in Alberta for 25 years.  We then started to turn up a few more bones from the very same spot in 2012, so that reinvigorated interest.  Although we don’t have the whole skeleton, we know, based on parts of the skeleton, that it belonged to this type of dinosaur.  The raptors’ skin was probably feathered to keep them warm in the cold dark winters in north Canada.”

The Sickle-Claw from the Second Toe of the Left Hind Foot

The killing toe claw of the "raptor"Boreonykus.   Scale bar = 1 centimetre.

The killing toe claw of the “raptor” Boreonykus. Scale bar = 1 centimetre.

Picture Credit: The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology

Boreonykus certekorum

The genus name Boreonykus is a reference to the modern day boreal forest where the type specimen was found and “onychos” is from the Greek meaning claw.  The species name honours Certek Heating Solutions and the Barendregt family of Wembley, Alberta, who have sponsored the field work and supported efforts to record and preserve the fossil fauna of this part of Alberta.  More than 99% of all the fossil material recovered from the Pipestone Creek bonebed has been assigned to the Centrosaurine Pachyrhinosaurus (P.  lakustai), some fragmentary Edmontosaurus fossils may have also been found (we think) along with evidence of other Theropods.  The bonebed is very dense and there are up to two hundred bones per square metre, the other Theropod material found to date consists of shed teeth assigned to Troodon and indeterminate tyrannosaurids.

Two Shed Tooth Crowns from the Pipestone Creek Site Assigned to B. certekorum

Two shed teeth from the Pipestone Creek bonebed assigned to Boreonykus.

Two shed teeth from the Pipestone Creek bonebed assigned to Boreonykus.

Picture Credit: The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology

The picture above shows two shed teeth from the bonebed which have been assigned to the new Velociraptorinae genus.  The dating of the bonebed is not precise, however, a volcanic ash layer approximately one metre above the site has been dated to 73.27 million years ago +/- 250,000 years.  The researchers comment that all the material assigned to Boreonykus probably came from a single individual and the identification of a new dromaeosaurid, classified as a eudromaeosaur (a sub-group of the Dromaeosauridae family) and possibly a member of the Velociraptorinae, a sub-family of the Dromaeosauridae, if this is the case, it extends the known palaeofauna of the polar dinosaurs in northern latitudes to include Velociraptorinae and extends the known record of North American Theropods which are closely related to the predominately Asian Velociraptors and their close relatives.

17 03, 2016

A Damaged Dilophosaurus

By | March 17th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Scientists Examine the Pathology Preserved on the Dilophosaurus wetherilli Holotype

Life was tough for the Dinosauria, the Mesozoic was no “walk in the Jurassic Park”, that’s for sure.  However, detailed analysis of injuries or disease preserved in the fossilised bones of dinosaurs does not take place that often.  Here we report on a paper published in the on line, academic journal PLOS One that provides a comprehensive account of the pathology on the holotype specimen of the Theropod dinosaur Dilophosaurus (D. wetherilli).

The Pathology of a Dilophosaurus Specimen (UCMP 37302)

A total of eight damaged bones on the pectoral girdle and forelimbs.

A total of eight damaged bones on the pectoral girdle and forelimbs.  Scale bar = 5 centimetres.

Picture Credit: PLOS One (L. Walters)

Dilophosaurus – Lithe Early Jurassic Carnivore

At around six metres in length, Dilophosaurus was one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs known from the Early Jurassic.  A number of species have been described, fossils of D. wetherilli are associated with the Kayenta Formation of Arizona.  Both jaws were relatively light and slender and the upper jaw had a distinctive kink.  Studies of the dentition (teeth) and analysis of skull stresses indicates that this dinosaur probably specialised in hunting relatively small prey.  It may also have scavenged the kills of other dinosaurs.

Dilophosaurus a Light and Agile Theropod

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Dilophosaurus.

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Dilophosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The holotype specimen shows eight substantial injuries, signs of healing indicate that this unfortunate meat-eater survived the traumas, but it probably spent a considerable portion of its adult life in quite a lot of pain.  On the left side of the dinosaur, the shoulder blade (scapula) is fractured (c in the pathology illustration above), the left radius shows a severe fracture that has healed (h).  The ulna shows signs of infection and the left thumb (digit I) had been dislocated, highlighted as (f) in the diagram at the top of the article.  On the right side of the holotype, more pathology can be found.  Abnormal torsion of the right humerus (b), three bony tumours on the radius (a), along with damage to metacarpal III (e). The right finger was so badly damaged (i), that it could not flex properly.  Some of the deformities, the researchers conclude, are the result of osteodysplasia, a condition that causes bone growth defects.  This is known in modern birds but has not been reported before in non-avian dinosaurs.

 The Badly Damaged Right Hand of the Holotype Specimen (UCMP 37302)

The damaged hand of the Dilophosaurus holotype.

The damaged hand of the Dilophosaurus holotype.

Picture Credit: PLOS One (L. Walters)

The damage to the digits would have meant that this dinosaur would have been severely hampered as it tried to grasp prey.  How the injuries were caused remains the subject of speculation.  The authors of the paper, Phil Senter (Department of Biological Sciences, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina) and Sara Juengst (Department of Anthropology, Appalachian State University, North Carolina) state that it is not possible to determine the number of traumatic events that all these pathological features preserved in the skeleton represent.  All the injuries and damage could have been sustained in one catastrophic event, perhaps in a fight with a rival or in an attempt to subdue prey.  The authors can at least be certain that this Dilophosaurus survived for some considerable time as the injuries show signs of extensive healing, although it would have been in a great deal of discomfort.  The fact that this dinosaur survived is a testament to how hardy these reptiles were.  It is also intriguing to speculate how this dinosaur fed whilst recovering from its various debilitating injuries.  It may have subsisted on very small prey, small enough to be subdued by the mouth and or feet.

Underreported Pathology in Dinosaurs

Injuries, trauma and general pathology is underreported.  When describing a new dinosaur species, researcher often fail to mention any pathological features that have been found.  For example, in the scientific description of the holotype specimen of Dilophosaurus wetherilli only one of the pathological features reported by the authors of this paper was described.  This Dilophosaurus specimen is a record breaker for broken bones reported in the Dinosauria portion of the fossil record, even beating the famous Allosaurus (A. fragilis) called “Big Al”.

16 03, 2016

“Tully Monster” Riddle Solved

By | March 16th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Bizarre “Tully Monster” Finds a Place on the Tree of Life

The bizarre “Tully Monster” a very peculiar sea creature that swam in the tropical waters that once covered Illinois (United States), has finally been allocated a position on the tree of life.  So weird was “Tully” or to give this thirty centimetre oddity its formal, binomial scientific name – Tullimonstrum gregarium, that palaeontologists could not classify it even to a Phylum.  However, a new study published in the journal “Nature” has finally solved this riddle.  It is a soft-bodied vertebrate, one that is related to extant jawless fish such as Hagfish and the Lamprey.

The Riddle of the “Tully Monster” Solved

Fossils found in 1958, described in 1966 but not classified until 2016.

Fossils found in 1958, described in 1966 but not classified until 2016.

Picture Credit: Sean McMahon (Yale University)

Thousands of Fossils but Just From One Location

The story of this strange creature begins in 1958 when amateur fossil collector Francis Tully stumbled across a specimen whilst exploring the silt and mudstone beds of the Mazon Creek Formation that are exposed in Grundy County Illinois.  The fossil was studied by palaeontologists at the Chicago Field Museum and, with more specimens having been recovered from the same location, the first formal description of this marine animal was published in 1966.  Since then, it has been described as a nektonic mollusc, an Arthropod, a marine worm and even a Conodont (a jawless chordate, possibly related to primitive, jawless fish).  Thousands of specimens have been collected from the Mazon Creek beds, but this fossil has not been recorded anywhere else in the world.

Tullimonstrum gregarium – Described

This animal had no bones or hard parts, but seemed to have been an active swimmer, due to the fact that there is some evidence of streamlining of the body and fins to provide thrust and manoeuvring in open water.   The long body had a thin bar crossing the top (or could that be the bottom)?  This bar showed that at each end there was some sort of organ, this has been interpreted as an eye.  Reaching forward was a long, delicate proboscis which seemed to end in a mouth with up to eight primitive teeth in the jaws.  This appendage must have been quite delicate, as despite the exceptional preservation conditions associated with the Mazon Creek Formation, less than 5% of all fossil specimens preserve this proboscis in its entirety within the fossil.

A Typical Hard to Decipher “Tully Monster” Fossil

A "Tully Monster" fossil.

A “Tully Monster” fossil.

Picture Credit: Paul Mayer (Chicago Field Museum)

This enigmatic marine animal, probably lived in open water, but storms washed these creatures into the shore and they ended up stranded on the mud and silts of a river estuary.  The high levels of iron found in these sediments helped preserve these and other soft-bodied animals, providing a unique faunal record of life 300 million years ago (Late Carboniferous).

Scientists from Yale University, along with collaborators from The Field Museum, The American Museum of Natural History, Argonne National Laboratory (Illinois) and Yale Peabody Museum examined some two thousand fossil specimens and conducted an array of tests and assessments including sophisticated synchrotron elemental mapping techniques (thanks to Argonne National Laboratory).  The synchrotron study permitted the team to identify the anatomy and physical features of the creature by plotting the chemical signatures left behind by organic material preserved in the matrix.  The scientists were able to confirm that T. gregarium had gills and a rudimentary notochord, which functioned as a backbone.  Neither of these two features had been recognised before.

Victoria McCoy, lead author of the research commented:

“I was first intrigued by the mystery of the Tully Monster.  With all the exceptional fossils, we had a very clear picture of what it looked like, but no clear picture of what it was.”

The “Tully Monster” a Vertebrae Related to Jawless Fish

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Tullimonstrum gregarium

 

Picture Credit: Sean McMahon (Yale University)

With its formal classification now assured, the celebrity status of this foot-long oddity is unlikely to diminish.  In 1989, Tullimonstrum gregarium became the official fossil of the State of Illinois.

Dr. McCoy said:

“It’s so different from its modern relatives that we don’t know much about how it lived.  It has big eyes and lots of teeth, so it was probably a predator.”

Some intriguing questions remain.  The fossils of this animal are confined to one location, no one knows when these animals evolved, or even when they became extinct, perhaps somewhere out there on the immense abyssal plain a “Tully Monster” still lurks.  Now that’s an interesting thought.

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