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

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

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

e

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.

15 03, 2016

Fossil Study Suggests how Tyrannosaurs Got Big

By | March 15th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Timurlengia – Important Addition to the Tyrannosaur Family Tree

Timurlengia, or to give the newest member of the Tyrannosaur family tree its full, binomial scientific name Timurlengia euotica (pronounced Tee-mur-leng-gear-ah oo-ot-tick-ah) has been introduced to the world.  Lots of media coverage for this, the latest member of the Tyrannosaur super-family, the Tyrannosauroidea and in this article, rather than go over old ground, we shall instead focus on some of the more significant aspects of this particular piece of fascinating research.

Timurlengia Roaming a Late Cretaceous Flood Plain

The tyrannosaurid Timurlengia wandering its flood plain home.

The tyrannosaurid Timurlengia wandering its flood plain home.

Picture Credit: Todd Marshall

The illustration of Timurlengia above, depicts this Tyrannosaur as a light and agile animal, weight estimates vary (170 to 250 kilogrammes), but note also that this dinosaur has been given a shaggy coat.  There is evidence to suggest that at least some tyrannosaurids may have been feathered, these days, depicting a feathery Theropod is becoming the norm.  Soaring overhead are two Pterosaurs, the species is Azhdarcho longicollis and those white objects in the background that can be seen just below and just above the long tail of Timurlengia are primitive birds.  Uzbekistan might not spring to mind when asked to name a famous fossil-rich part of the world that represents life in the Late Cretaceous, but strata in the Kyzyl Kum Desert represent one of the few places in the world where an insight into life on our planet some ninety million years ago can be obtained.

The Significance of the Bissekty Formation

The fossil material, representing less than five percent of the entire skeleton, comes from exposed strata dating from the early Late Cretaceous.  These rocks are part of the Bissekty Formation of the Kyzyl Kum Desert (Uzbekistan).  The Formation dates from 90 to 85 million years ago, a number of vertebrate fossils including many different types of dinosaur have been found in these rocks.  The sediments indicate a low-lying coastal environment that was crossed by a number of large and highly braided river channels.  The Timurlengia fossil material is believed to date from approximately 90 million years ago (Turonian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous).

The Fossil Material T. euotica

Timurlengia fossils.

Timurlengia fossils.

Picture Credit: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The picture above shows the amount of fossil material collected, crucially the pieces of jaw and the isolated teeth are typical of a tyrannosaurid.  Described as being “the size of a horse”, Timurlengia is very typical in terms of its build and its size with regards to Late Jurassic and Early/Middle to early Late Cretaceous tyrannosaurids.  However, what has puzzled palaeontologists is this, throughout the majority of the long lineage of the Tyrannosaurs these animals probably filled secondary predatory niches in food chains.  Despite their wide geographical distribution, it was only towards the end of the Cretaceous that these types of Theropod dinosaur started to evolve into the myriad of apex predators we know today.  Could Timurlengia provide evidence to support how and why the likes of Tyrannosaurus rex, became so huge and dominant?

Filling a Twenty Million Year Gap

Significantly, the rocks that contained the Timurlengia fossils have been dated to, what might have been a key point in tyrannosaurid evolution.  These fossils come from a time just about ten million years or so before the Tyrannosaurs began to evolve great size.  Tyrannosaurus rex, that most famous of all dinosaurs, was something like thirty times heavier for example, studying the Timurlengia fossils could provide clues as to why after tens of millions of years of being relatively small, did these particular meat-eaters become super-sized.

 The Authors of the Scientific Paper Plotted the Position of Timurlengia in the Tyrannosaur Family Tree

Timurlengia placed into context with other tyrannosaurids.

Timurlengia placed into context with other tyrannosaurids.

Picture Credit: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The picture above shows a Tyrannosaur family tree, the position of Timurlengia euotica is outlined in red.  This dinosaur’s phylogenetic relationship with earlier and the later much larger tyrannosaurids is outlined, along with the location of fossil discoveries and a geological time scale.

Key to Tyrannosaur Fossil Locations

Red = Asia (including Uzbekistan)

Blue = Western North America (Laramidia)

Yellow = Eastern North America (Appalachia)

Pink = Europe

Studying the Braincase – Obtaining Information About Tyrannosaur Senses

The fossils used in the study were collected by Dr. Hans Dieter Sues (Chair, Department of Palaeobiology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution ) and his colleague Alexander Averianov from the Russian Academy of Sciences over a ten year period. It was when the partial braincase was identified and analysed using a CT scanner that the link between this Tyrannosaur and its more illustrious and later relatives became established.  The detailed CT scans revealed that although Timurlengia was not that big, about the size of other Cretaceous tyrannosaurids, it did possess a highly sophisticated brain and its inner ear was very reminiscent to the features of the inner ear found in Late Cretaceous Tyrannosaur giants.    This suggests that Timurlengia had very sharp senses including great hearing, particularly at low frequencies, could this have give this predator a competitive advantage?

The Partial Braincase (top) and the CT Scan Evidence (bottom)

The braincase of Timurlengia and data from the CT scan showing brain and inner ear shape.

The braincase of Timurlengia and data from the CT scan showing brain and inner ear shape.

Picture Credit: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The partial braincase was actually discovered back in 2004, but it has remained unexamined and in storage at the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences until palaeontologist Steve Brusatte (Edinburgh University) was given the chance to study the fossil.  He realised the importance of this specimen, the CT scans showed that Timurlengia had long inner ear canals, ideal for hearing a range of sounds especially low frequency noises and this research has led to the subsequent paper being published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The picture above shows three views of the partial braincase of Timurlengia euotica (posterior view, ventral view and right lateral view).  The bottom row of images are composite pictures from the various CT scans.  The brain is stained dark blue, the inner ear is pink, nerves highlighted in yellow and major blood vessels are coloured red.  This study suggests that the Tyrannosauroids apparently developed huge size rapidly during the latest Cretaceous, and their success in the top predator role may have been enabled by their brain and keen senses that first evolved at smaller body size.

Dr Sues commented:

“This fossil shows that Tyrannosaurs developed their advanced head first.  Timurlengia’s skull, though much smaller than that of T. rex, shows a sophisticated brain that would have led to keen eyesight, smell and hearing.”

The genus name honours the Asian warlord Timur (also known as Tamerlane), the trivial name means “well-eared” a direct reference to this dinosaur’s hearing capabilities.

Not the Entire Story

Having very well developed senses would have greatly assisted the tyrannosaurids, but this in itself does not explain how these Theropods rose to dominance towards the end of the Mesozoic.  There were, in all likelihood, a number of other factors involved.  For example, bigger predatory dinosaurs would have had to have gone into decline and probably become extinct to permit the tyrannosaurids to exploit the vacuum left in the food chain.  The reason for the decline of other predators remains unclear.  As far as we aware, despite the abundance of vertebrate fossil material associated with the Bissekty Formation, no very large Theropod fossils have been found to date.  If there was an apex predator or predators sharing this environment, then the identity of these dinosaurs remains unknown.  World-wide many of the apex dinosaur predators known to have existed around 100 to 90 million years ago are representatives of the Carcharodontosauridae.  This family of Theropods, which includes such iconic giants such as Acrocanthosaurus (United States), Sauroniops (Morocco) and Carcharodontosaurus (North Africa), did decline and did eventually become extinct, but studies have shown that these predators too, also possessed sophisticated senses.  Perhaps the evolution of different types of prey triggered this “changing of the guard”, this in turn, could have been influenced by the rise of the Angiosperms (flowering plants).

Tyrannosaurs may be iconic dinosaurs but there is much about their long history that we still do not understand.  Timurlengia along with future fossil finds will help to shed more light on this palaeontological puzzle.

A Close up View of a Tooth Assigned to Timurlengia

View of the left and right side of Timurlengia tooth.

View of the left and right side of a Timurlengia tooth.

Picture Credit: James Di Loreto, Smithsonian Institution

Last month, Everything Dinosaur reported on a new study into the Tyrannosaur family tree by Steve Brusatte and colleagues.  This was a re-assessment of an earlier piece of research (2010), the phylogeny of tyrannosaurids being updated as a result of recent fossil finds.

To read this article: An Update on the Evolution of Tyrannosaurs

14 03, 2016

Safari Ltd Models (Unboxing Video)

By | March 14th, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Everything Dinosaur videos, Product Reviews|0 Comments

Matthew the Dinosaur King – Unboxing Video

It is always a pleasure to receive feedback from our many thousands of customers.  A number of dinosaur fans even have their own dedicated websites that review purchases made from Everything Dinosaur.  Take for example, Matthew the Dinosaur King’s YouTube channel, a site dedicated to reviewing his ever-growing prehistoric animal model collection and to dinosaurs in general.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur try their best to keep up with all the amazing video reviews that our customers post up.  There is never enough time to watch all the videos, or indeed, to read all the blog articles written about the various models bought,  however, from time to time there is a slot in our busy schedules and we get the chance to view and to comment.

Here is an unboxing video from Matthew.  In this short video (it is just under five minutes long), Matthew discusses his recent purchase of the new for 2016 Safari Ltd dinosaur models and the re-issue of the prehistoric animals – the Megatherium and the baby Woolly Mammoth.  He has produced a number of individual video reviews of these replicas and we are looking forward to viewing them.

Everything Dinosaur Unboxing Video (Number 14)

Video Credit: Matthew the Dinosaur King

To subscribe to Matthew’s YouTube channel: View Matthew’s Videos and Subscribe

All the models in this Everything Dinosaur unboxing video come from the Wild Safari Prehistoric World range (Safari Ltd).

Matthew provides lots of helpful information to the viewer.  Videos such as this unboxing video can help inform potential customers who are uncertain whether to buy a particular model.  The close up shots of each replica really gives the viewer the opportunity to get a good look at each figure.  In addition, Matthew adds lots of helpful details about the prehistoric animals he reviews, explaining where the fossils were found and what sort of habitat the creature might have lived in.  His videos are most informative and we are always pleased to see how our models (and our packaging) is appreciated by customers.

To view the Wild Safari Prehistoric World model series available from Everything Dinosaur: Wild Safari Prehistoric World models

Thanks for your comments about our “awesome website” Matthew, this is much appreciated.

13 03, 2016

Megaloceros Fossil Exhibit

By | March 13th, 2016|Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Megaloceros (Irish Elk)

One of the best exhibits in the walkway between the galleries at the National Museum of Scotland (Edinburgh), is this magnificent Megaloceros fossil skeleton.  The name of this extinct member of the deer family (Cervidae), means “great horn” and although antlers are not technically horns, it is not hard to see why this Ice Age herbivore got its moniker.  The fossils were found in the Isle of Man and we think this was one of the first if not the very first specimens to be scientifically studied.  Although a number of species have now been assigned to the Megaloceros genus, this is the largest of the species M. giganteus.

The Magnificent Megaloceros on Display at the Museum of Scotland (Edinburgh)

A Megaloceros skeleton on display.

A Megaloceros skeleton on display.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The impressive antlers grew each year and a large pair could measure more than three and a half metres wide.  The weight of the antlers was considerable putting tremendous pressure on those cervical bones and the muscles in the neck.  It has been estimated that a pair of antlers could weigh as much as forty kilogrammes.  That is heavier than the young girl in the pink coat in the picture.  Although also known as the “Irish Elk”, Megaloceros was not restricted to Ireland.  It had a very wide distribution, fossils having been found all over northern Europe and Asia.  Fossils of Megaloceros have even been found in China.  It was also not very closely related to the extant Elk, but more closely related to modern Fallow Deer.  Standing more than two metres high at the shoulders, it is one of the largest members of the Cervidae family known.  Note the elongated skull, the strong neck and the strong legs.   Sadly, this magnificent beast became extinct at the end of the last Ice Age, however, a dwarf species is believed to have survived on the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sardinia until about 5,000 B.C.

It is always a pleasure to find a Megaloceros exhibit on display so prominently in a museum.

12 03, 2016

Oldest Pine Fossils Reveal Link with Firestorms

By | March 12th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Oldest Pine Tree Fossils Described

A pine tree is such a familiar object that it hardly deserves a second glance.  Walking in the park, driving into work, many people will pass these ubiquitous trees without giving them a thought.  Pine trees are also found in gardens, if you are mowing the lawn this weekend, stop for a moment and nod your head towards your pine as these types of tree originated at least 140 million years ago.  In addition, pine trees that dominate much of the northern hemisphere today might owe their success, if not their very existence to a fiery past.

Pine Trees Once Overlooked Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs once roamed Surrey (England).

Pine trees part of the faunal landscape of the Cretaceous.

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum (London)

The pine trees (Pinaceae) are a very diverse conifer genus these days, there are something like 115 species known today.  They are renowned for their ability to retain water thanks to their tough needles and their adaptations that help them withstand forest fires.  They contain highly flammable deadwood that burns very easily.  Conifers produce terpenes, which are highly combustible organic compounds, it is these compounds that make pine trees so inflammable.  They also produce cones that will only germinate in many cases after being scorched by fire.  A new generation of pine trees can then emerge, using the nutrient rich ash left by a forest fire to sustain them and without much competition from other plants as these would have been destroyed by the conflagration.

A team of scientists from the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway (University of London), have found the oldest fossil evidence of pine trees.  The discovery was due to serendipity almost as much as hard work and dedicated research.  Dr.  Howard Falcon-Lang discovered the fossils preserved as charcoal in a rock layer dated to the Valanginian faunal stage of the Cretaceous, approximately 133 to 140 million years ago.  The tiny fragments of pine tree suggest that conifers co-evolved with fire at a time when atmospheric oxygen levels were much higher than today, making forest fires much more likely and intense.

A False Colour Image of a Pine Tree Fragment Preserved as Charcoal

Fossilised pine tree fragment preserved as charcoal.

Fossilised pine tree fragment preserved as charcoal.

Picture Credit: Royal Holloway, University of London.

Commenting on the significance of the fossil find, Dr. Falcon-Lang stated:

“Pines are well adapted to fire today.  The fossils show that wildfires raged through the earliest pine forests and probably shaped the evolution of this important tree.  Modern pines store flammable resin-rich deadwood on the tree making them prone to lethal fires.  However, they also produce huge numbers of cones that will only germinate after a fire, ensuring a new cohort of trees is seeded after the fire has passed by.”

A paper detailing the research has been published in the journal of the Geological Society of America.  The fossils had been gathered several years ago and lay unexamined in a cupboard.  It was only when the rock samples were subjected to acidification to digest the matrix material that the tiny fragments of tell-tale pine tree were revealed.  Although each specimen is only a few millimetres in length they have been interpreted as being the remains of an evergreen two-needle pine.

The research is published in the journal Geological Society of America.

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