All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//March
11 03, 2016

Fossil Reptile Discovery “Extraordinary”!

By | March 11th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

New Reptile Species “Just before the Dinosaurs”

The academic journal “Scientific Reports” published today contains a paper detailing the discovery of a remarkably well preserved fossil reptile, one that existed not long after the End Permian mass extinction event.  The fossil, an amazing and nearly complete skull described by the scientists as “extraordinary” plus some cervical vertebrae (neck bones) provides an important link between primitive reptiles and the Archosauriforms that gave rise to modern crocodiles, the Pterosauria, Aves and of course the dinosaurs.

The 1.5 metre long reptile, probably filled an ecological niche similar to today’s smaller crocodile species.  Ambushing smaller vertebrates as they came down to the water’s edge to drink.  It may also have hunted amphibians and fish in the shallows.  Named Teyujagua paradoxa the fossil material comes from the Sanga do Cabral Formation located in the Brazilian State of Rio Grande do Sul in the far south of the country.

The Skull of Teyujagua paradoxa

Scale bar = 5 centimetres.

Scale bar = 5 centimetres.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The picture above shows three views of the “extraordinary” skull right lateral view (top), dorsal view (middle) and left lateral view (bottom).  Scale bar equals five centimetres.

The fossil material was discovered early last year by a field team from the Paleobiology Laboratory of the Universidade Federal do Pampa (Brazil), the genus name means “fierce lizard” in the local dialect of the  Guarani, a name inspired by a mythological and magical beast called Teyú Yaguá.  The species name “paradoxa”, from the Greek for paradox or unexpected, denotes the fact that the fossils show an unusual combination of primitive and more advanced, derived characteristics.

An Illustration of Skull of “Fierce Lizard” Teyujagua paradoxa

Teyujagua skull drawing (right lateral view).

Teyujagua skull drawing (right lateral view).

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The teeth particularly those of the maxilla are large, serrated and curved, the teeth of a carnivore.  The large orbit (eye socket) and the position of the nostrils suggest that this animal could lie in wait for prey under water with only its nostrils above the surface of the water, a typical predatory strategy adopted by many crocodiles today.  The authors of the report state that this fossil find is significant as Teyujagua lived just after the Permian-Triassic extinction event, a mass extinction event that wiped out 90% of all terrestrial vertebrates.  Teyujagua provides new insights into how ecosystems on land recovered and developed following this extinction.  After the extinction, terrestrial ecosystems were sparsely populated, providing opportunities for some groups of survivors to expand in number and diversity.  Archosauriforms and their close kin like Teyujagua became the dominant animals in terrestrial habitats, eventually giving rise to the Dinosauria.

An Artist’s Reconstruction of Teyujagua

A 250 million-year-old reptile.

A 250 million-year-old reptile.

Picture Credit: Voltaire Neto

Dr Felipe Pinheiro, from Universidade Federal do Pampa, São Gabriel, Rio Grande do Sul and the corresponding author for the scientific paper stated:

‘The discovery of Teyujagua was really exciting.  Ever since we saw that beautiful skull for the first time in the field, still mostly covered by rock, we knew we had something extraordinary in our hands.  Back in the lab, after slowly exposing the bones, the fossil exceeded our expectations.  It had a combination of features never seen before, indicating the unique position of Teyujagua in the evolutionary tree of an important group of vertebrates.’

Although, it is difficult to precisely date the Sanga do Cabral Formation, the fossils have been dated based on faunal comparisons with the Karoo Basin deposits of South Africa.  The scientists infer that Teyujagua dates from the Induan to the early Olenekian faunal stage of the Early Triassic (around 251-249 million years ago).  Along with the skull and cervical vertebrae of T. paradoxa, the field team excavated fossil material associated with the parareptile Procolophon trigoniceps along with Temnospondyl amphibians and a number of as yet unidentified Tetrapod bones.

Dr Richard Butler, from the University of Birmingham’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, who also co-authored the scientific paper commented:

‘Teyujagua is a really important discovery because it helps us understand the origins of a group of vertebrates called Archosauriforms.  Archosauriforms are spectacularly diverse and include everything from hummingbirds and crocodiles to giant dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex and Brachiosaurus.  Teyujagua fills an evolutionary gap between Achosauriforms and more primitive reptiles and helps us understand how the Archosauriform skull first evolved.”

The Teyujagua quarry is still being excavated and the researchers are confident that they will find more Teyujagua fossil material along with some more, and perhaps equally “extraordinary” Tetrapods.

10 03, 2016

How to Tell a Girl T. rex from a Boy T. rex

By | March 10th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Chemical Analysis to Identify Medullary Bone in the Dinosauria

Chemical analysis to help identify medullary bone preserved in the femur of a Tyrannosaurus rex from the Museum of the Rockies may help scientists to probe deeper into the evolutionary relationship between living Archosaurs (birds and crocodiles) and their extinct near relatives the Dinosauria.  Using a chemical test to identify the tell-tale traces of keratan sulphate (a long-chain, complex molecule), a component unique to medullary bone, scientists may be able to shed more light on the evolution of egg laying in extant Aves (birds) as well as having the handy side-effect of being able to tell the girl dinosaurs from the boys.

An Illustration of a Gravid Tyrannosaurus rex

An illustration of a gravid T. rex.  Medullary bone chemical analysis provides new data on egg laying evolution.

An illustration of a gravid T. rex. Medullary bone chemical analysis provides new data on egg laying evolution.

Picture Credit: Mark Hallett

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences have confirmed the presence of medullary bone in the thigh bone of a Tyrannosaurus rex from Montana.  Amongst the scientists who authored a paper on this study, is Dr. Mary Schweitzer (Department of Biological Sciences, North Carolina State University), who has caused much scientific controversy over her research into the possibility of recovering organic remains from long extinct creatures.

For example, last December Everything Dinosaur reported on a remarkable piece of research that provided evidence of the preservation of blood vessels within the fossilised bones of a duck-billed dinosaur.  To read about this fascinating study: Duck-billed Dinosaur Blood

The Importance of Medullary Bone

Medullary bone is laid down within the bones of female birds immediate prior to or during the egg laying period.  Medullary bone has been detected in virtually all extant bird species (with the possible exception of some Passarines).  The bone is produced quickly and provides a mobile source of calcium for the building of egg shells.  The easy to identify bone (it has a very different internal structure compared to other bone types and tends to be less dense), has a high preservation potential within the fossil record due to the high levels of the mineral calcium within the bone tissue.  Medullary bone has not been detected in those other near dinosaur relatives the Crocodilians.  This suggests that the ability build up a reserve of calcium for egg-laying and to rapidly reabsorb the minerals once the reproductive need had been met, evolved in the Avemetatarsalia, one of two clades into which all Archosaurs are classified.  The Avemetatarsalia include modern birds and dinosaurs, the other Archosaur clade (Crurotarsi) includes the Crocodilians, it can be suggested that in the Crurotarsi medullary bone did not evolve.

As dinosaurs also laid eggs, then if medullary bone-like material is preserved in the fossil record then it can be deduced that those bone fossils that contain physical evidence of this specialised bone must represent females.

Chemical Analysis Supports Earlier Findings

Back in 2005, Dr. Schweitzer published a paper describing the research into medullary bone found in a 68 million year old partial T. rex femur (MOR 1125).  However, her findings were not entirely accepted by the majority of the scientific community.

Dr. Schweitzer explained:

“All the evidence we had at the time pointed to this tissue being medullary bone, but there are some bone diseases that occur in birds, like osteopetrosis, that can mimic the appearance of medullary bone under the microscope. So to be sure we needed to do chemical analysis of the tissue.”

If the physical evidence could be backed up by further testing to identify without doubt medullary bone then that would be a great step forward.  These researchers have taken up this challenge and using monoclonal antibodies they have identified a chemical signature that relates to the presence of keratan sulphate within the fossil material.   It had been previously thought that none of the original chemistry of dinosaur bone would survive millions of years.  However, comparative tests using known medullary tissue from ostriches and chickens confirmed their analysis.  The team conclude that the tissue from the femur of a Tyrannosaurus rex is indeed medullary bone.

CT Scan Images of Femur (MOR 1125) Showing Differences Between Medullary (MB) and Cortical Bone (CB)

Medullary bone identified in Tyrannosaurus rex femur.

Medullary bone identified in Tyrannosaurus rex femur.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The picture above shows various CT scans of the femur bone from the study.  Medullary bone is identified as MB, the denser cortical bone (CB) is also shown.  A-D are volumetric readings, whilst E-G show cross sections.  In pictures A and B, the high density cortical bone is rendered transparent to show the lower density medullary bone material.  Picture E shows the density as a spectrum from high density (black) to low density (white).  The bone fragment is (C, D and G) colour mapped and (F) heat mapped.  Colour mapping key: (C, D, G)  medullary bone equals orange/red and cortical bone is beige/yellow.  Heat mapping key (F) highest density is red, lowest density blue.  The sample shown in A, C, E-G is shown in cross sectional view, whereas B and D are medial views.

Dr. Schweitzer added:

“This analysis allows us to determine the gender of this fossil, and gives us a window into the evolution of egg laying in modern birds.”

It might be very difficult to find further examples of medullary bone for this type of chemical analysis in the tyrannosaurid fossil record as the transitional nature of medullary bone means that animals would only possess this type of bone within their bodies for very short periods.  However, Everything Dinosaur has reported on the finding of physical evidence to support gender identification in the Dinosauria before.

For example, in 2011 Everything Dinosaur reported on a study led by British scientists using the fossilised bones of a Stegosaur (Kentrosaurus) to establish dinosaur genders.

To read more about this research: Telling the Girl Dinosaurs from the Boys

The femur was already broken when the team from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences set about their study and most palaeontologists would not want to cut open or demineralise fossils to search for rare medullary bone, however, the ability to conduct CT scans to examine internal fossil structures would greatly improve the chances of success without having to damage the fossil material.

This new chemical detection method may help to split the girl dinosaurs from the boys.

9 03, 2016

Rebor 1:6 Scale Hatchling Velociraptors

By | March 9th, 2016|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Everything Dinosaur videos, Main Page|0 Comments

Rebor 1:6 Scale Velociraptor Hatchlings

The latest offering from Rebor has arrived in our warehouse and for the time being Everything Dinosaur team members are in danger of being overwhelmed by a pack of baby Velociraptors.  Rebor has added a set of nine, beautifully painted, 1:6 scale hatching Velociraptors to their blossoming product portfolio.  All of the dinosaur figures have different paint schemes and fans of the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World franchise will, no doubt, be able to match a number of the figures to the various Velociraptor incarnations seen in movies.

In Stock at Everything Dinosaur the Rebor 1:6 Scale Hatchling Velociraptors

The Rebor Hatching Velociraptor set.

The Rebor Hatching Velociraptor set.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We are not too sure what the collective noun for a group of Velociraptors is, perhaps a “savage of Velociraptors” might be appropriate.  Whatever the term, Rebor have taken care to produce nine differently hand-painted models.  Not only is the skin colouration different, but there is some variation in the eye colouration and in addition, some hand-painted replicas have a vertical slit for a pupil, whilst others have a rounded pupil.

One of the 1:6 Scale Hatching Velociraptors by Rebor

A Velociraptor Hatchling by Rebor.

A Velociraptor Hatchling by Rebor.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the complete range or Rebor replicas including the new hatching Velociraptor figures: Rebor Replicas and Figures

Our chums at JurassicCollectables have produced a marvellous unboxing video which shows the models in all their glory.  In this short video review (around eight minutes in length), JurassicCollectables open a set of nine boxes in turn and provide a close up view of each replica.  At Everything Dinosaur, we have made the complete set of all nine figures available as a single purchase option, but collectors do have the opportunity to purchase models individually, should they wish to go down the mystery blind box purchase route.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“The boxes are “blind”, this means that you can’t tell which Velociraptor model is inside until you actually open the box.  When sold individually, these Rebor 1:6 scale hatchling Velociraptors are a mystery blind box item.  We cannot guarantee which particular figure is in which box, we do appreciate that a number of model collectors do enjoy this aspect of collecting, never knowing quite which one of the set they are getting until the box is opened and all is revealed.”

The Unboxing Video Review by Jurassic Collectables

Video Credit: Jurassic Collectables

All of the models are depicted in the classic Velociraptor form, there are no feathers to be seen, just lots of careful attention to detail.  Each model comes with its own stand so that the hatching Velociraptor can be displayed.  We are confident these little figures will prove to be very popular and we look forward to receiving comments from customers as they go about identifying their brood.

Check out the YouTube channel of Jurassic Collectables here: JurassicCollectables on YouTube , don’t forget to subscribe to the JurassicCollectables channel.

8 03, 2016

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2016

By | March 8th, 2016|Educational Activities, Famous Figures, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

A Blue Plaque for Mary Douglas Leakey (1913 – 1996)

Today, is International Women’s Day (March 8th), a day for recognising the role of women in our culture and society.  Within the scientific community the struggle for equality still continues, although it has drastically improved since the time of Mary Anning, Marie Stopes et al.  However, only last year, a Nobel Laureate, Sir Tim Hunt caused a substantial row when speaking at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul (South Korea) stating that girls in the laboratory, in his opinion caused trouble.

We at Everything Dinosaur, don’t wish to enter into that particular debate, whether or not biochemists should insist on gender-segregation in the laboratory, but instead, we choose today to nominate one distinguished London born scientist for a blue plaque.  Mary Douglas Leakey (1913 to 1996), made an enormous contribution to our understanding of human evolution.  Along with her husband Louis, Mary proved that the cradle of mankind was Africa and she made some very notable scientific discoveries including a beautifully preserved specimen of a Proconsul Miocene Ape during an expedition to Lake Victoria in 1948.  Her most famous fossil discovery, is perhaps the Laetoli hominin footprints that are believed to be around 3.6 million years old.  In addition, without her meticulous research a number of other hugely significant fossil finds would not have been made and she almost single-handedly documented and mapped out the sequence of stone tools found at the Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania.

The Remarkable Mary Leakey’s Centenary was Celebrated in a Google Doodle in 2013

Celebrating the role of women in science.

Celebrating the role of women in science.

Picture Credit: Google

The Leakey Foundation and other notable institutes continues the research began by Louis and Mary Leakey and with a recent press release from English Heritage stating that only 13% of all the blue plaques in London are dedicated to women, Everything Dinosaur has today contacted English Heritage to propose that Mary Leakey be honoured.

It is now twenty years since the death of Mary, before a person is considered for a blue plaque at least two decades must have elapsed before a proposal can be put forward.

On International Women’s Day it seems fitting to add our voice to those who have called for this remarkable woman to be honoured with the provision of a blue plaque.

7 03, 2016

The Dinosaur Connection with Dragons

By | March 7th, 2016|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Dragons and Dinosaurs

Whilst in the West Midlands visiting Oasis Academy Short Heath to deliver a pair of dinosaur workshops, Everything Dinosaur’s fossil expert was given the opportunity to view some amazing dragon models made by pupils and parents.  The children in Year 1 at the Academy are studying dinosaurs for the remainder of the Spring Term and as part of the exciting scheme of work that had been devised for them, Everything Dinosaur had been invited into the school to provide dinosaur workshops for each class.

An area of the large and well appointed school hall used by the Breakfast Club had been made available for Everything Dinosaur to use, but a good portion of the rest of it had been dedicated to displaying some amazing dragon models that parents and pupils had made as part of a week of learning all about these mythical creatures.

Dragon Models on Display at Oasis Academy Short Heath

Dragons on display.

Dragons on display.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaurs and Dragons – The Connection

Legends and stories about dragons can be found in many cultures.  However, they are principally associated with China.  It is thought that the discovery of dinosaur bones and teeth gave rise to the dragon myth.  Fossils, including those of dinosaurs, have been weathering out of rocks for millions of years.  Parts of China have particularly rich fossil deposits and it is likely that the discovery of these strange and often immense objects were explained away as being the long dead remains of dragons – how close to the truth they were!

Dragon Myth Probably Inspired by Dinosaur Fossil Finds

The dragon myth was very probably inspired by the discovery of dinosaur fossils.

The dragon myth was very probably inspired by the discovery of dinosaur fossils.

The First Documented Fossil Find

The children in Year 1, learning all about dinosaurs and fossils might hear about the discoveries made by Mary Anning, or perhaps the work on dinosaurs carried out by Sir Richard Owen or Gideon Mantell.  However, the first record of a dinosaur fossil discovery dates back more than seventeen hundred years.  The first description of a probable dinosaur fossil bone discovery can be found in a book written around 300 AD by the Chinese scholar Chang Qu.  He describes the finding of “dragon bones” at Wucheng, in what is now Sichuan Province (south-western China).

Perhaps the First Written Record of a Dinosaur Fossil Discovery

The first written record of a dinosaur fossil discovery.

The first written record of a dinosaur fossil discovery.

Sichuan Province is now famous for its dinosaur discoveries and a number of dinosaur genera have been named from fossil discoveries Theropods, armoured dinosaurs and numerous Sauropods including perhaps the most famous of all the Sichuan Province dinosaurs Shunosaurus “Sichuan Province Lizard”.

A Model of Shunosaurus (Wild Safari Prehistoric World Shunosaurus)

Available from Everything Dinosaur - Shunosaurus.

Available from Everything Dinosaur – Shunosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the complete range of Wild Safari Prehistoric Animal models including the Shunosaurus replica: Wild Safari Prehistoric World Dinosaur Models

6 03, 2016

A Remarkable Window into the Mesozoic

By | March 6th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Major Jurassic and Early Cretaceous Fossil Site Announced

A team of scientists have announced the discovery of an enormous area of fossil-rich land in the highlands of southern Patagonia (Argentina), the site, which has yet to be fully explored, may extend for some sixty thousand square kilometres and as such, this location may prove to be the greatest single concentration of fossils (Lagerstätten) yet found anywhere in the world.  Lead author of the research paper published in the on line, bi-monthly, scientific journal “Ameghiniana”, Juan Garcia Massini, concludes that this huge site could provide an unprecedented amount of fossil material and provide an unparalleled view of life on Earth between 160 million and 140 million years ago.

The discovery was made back in 2012, but it has taken nearly four years for the Argentinian research team to map and plot the area and to gain an appreciation of the astonishing array of organisms preserved.

A Map of the Southern Highlands of Patagonia Showing the Hot Spring Fossil Locations

The hot spring deposits identified to date are shown in red.

The hot spring deposits identified to date are shown in red.

Picture Credit: Regional Centre for Scientific Research and Technology Transfer

For Juan Garcia Massini (Regional Centre for Scientific Research and Technology Transfer, known s CRILAR), the site is truly remarkable, he stated:

“No other place in the world contains the same amount of diversity of Jurassic fossils.”

Volcanic Hot Springs Preserve Fossils in Exquisite Detail

This region of southern Argentina was once very geologically active.  There were volcanoes and hot springs, resembling the sort of springs found in Yosemite National Park (in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California), from time to time these hot springs went into overdrive and large amounts of silica-rich, hot water erupted, covering the land.  This petrified the local fauna and flora that was not mobile enough to get out of the way.  The organisms were preserved in situ and almost instantaneously trapped as fossils.  This led to an amazing degree of preservation.  Plant remains, fungi, nematodes, insects and other Arthropods have been preserved, providing scientists with a unique window into life in the Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous.

Dr. Massini explained:

“You can see the landscape as it appeared in the Jurassic—how thermal waters, lakes and streams as well as plants and other parts of the ecosystem were distributed.”

The Fossilised Compound Eye of an Insect

A beautifully preserved compound eye from an insect.

A beautifully preserved compound eye from an insect.

Picture Credit: Regional Centre for Scientific Research and Technology Transfer

The exquisite fossilised eye was found in an area of the Patagonian Highlands called La Bajada, just one of several areas identified so far to have particularly high concentrations of fossils.  By slicing the silicate rocks and polishing the exposed surface, very small fossils of the micro fauna and flora can be observed.

The area has been slowly eroded exposing the highly fossiliferous layers, providing the scientists with an almost pristine “in situ” Jurassic and Early Cretaceous landscape to study.

A Piece from a Conifer and a Nematode Worm

The remains of a sprig of a conifer (left) and a nemotode worm (right)

The remains of a sprig of a conifer (left) and a nematode worm (right)

Picture Credit: Regional Centre for Scientific Research and Technology Transfer

A large number of fossils are remarkably well preserved, the speed of petrification may have caused this, with the scientists suggesting that significant areas may have been covered by the hot springs in less than a day, preserving the area as a time capsule providing a unique window into life in the Mesozoic.

Dr. Massini added:

“You can see how fungi, cyanobacteria and worms moved when they were alive.”

The slow erosion of the layers of rock that covered the sites in the Deseado Massif mountain range has contributed to the phenomenal level of preservation.  The region has been compared to the famous Rhynie Chert sedimentary deposits of eastern Scotland, named after the nearby village of Rhynie (Aberdeenshire).  This site preserves the flora and fauna of a Devonian ecosystem that was also preserved due to the influx of hot springs inundated with silica.    These fossils are much older, dating from approximately 410 million years ago (Pragian faunal stage of the Early Devonian).  The Rhynie Lagerstätten preserves evidence of some of the very first terrestrial inhabitants, including the first land plants.

The silica-rich sediments are referred to as cherts and when sliced very thinly and studied under powerful microscopes they reveal their fossil content.  The preparation, cutting and polishing of the material will take time, the field team expect to be working on the Deseado Massif for decades as they gradually build up an extremely detailed and unique picture of life in the Mesozoic.

5 03, 2016

Lizards Preserved in Amber

By | March 5th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Lizards in Amber – A Window into a “Lost World”

Whilst much attention is focused on the Dinosauria when it comes to the fauna and flora of the Mesozoic, many scientists are busy piecing together the evolutionary relationships of a number of smaller reptiles, those creatures such as lizards that shared the world of the dinosaurs but so very little fossil evidence to indicate their existence has been preserved.  Thanks to a new study of amber from Myanmar (Burma), undertaken by researchers based in the United States and Germany, a glimpse into a “lost world” has been permitted.

Mid Cretaceous Amber Preserves the Lizard Remains

Affording a rare insight into small creatures of the Cretaceous.

Affording a rare insight into small creatures of the Cretaceous.

Picture Credit: Science Advances

The picture above shows some of the beautifully preserved lizard fossils in the Burmese amber (known as burmite). The fossil collection has been collated, some from American museums, many other pieces from private collections and they provide a record of the fauna and flora of a sub-tropical forest some 99 million years ago.

Key

(A) Lizard (body cavity empty, epidermis translucent)

(B) Lizard (epidermis translucent, hind leg preserved with bones)

(C) Lizard (intact specimen, with some tissue preserved)

(D) Lizard (skin and scales with some internal organs and bones)

(E)  Stem Gekkota (ancestral to modern Geckos, hind legs, pelvic area and tail base preserved

(F) Stem Gekkota (manus including bones and impressions of toe pads)

(G) Stem Gekkota (skull material and spine with disarticulated limb and pelvic bones)

(H) Agamidae (left hind leg, including epidermis)

(I) Agamidae (translucent epidermis, pelvic with elements of the left limb and pes)

(J) Lacertoidea (skeletal elements preserved as internal casts and integument)

(K) Stem Chamaeleonidae (ancestral Chameleon with most of the skeleton preserved

Scale bar 1 cm for all photographs except (F) which has a scale bar of 0.1 mm and (I) with a scale bar of 1 mm.

Writing in the open access journal “Science Advances” the scientists from Sam Houston State University (Texas), the American Museum of Natural History (New York), the Florida Museum of Natural History along with researchers from the California Academy of Sciences and the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology (Munich, Germany), have shed fresh light on the evolution and radiation of the Squamata.  Ancestral forms of the Chameleon and Gecko families have been identified along with other lizard specimens that relate to the agamids.

Commenting on the study, one of the researchers, Dr. Edward Stanley (Florida Museum of Natural History) stated:

“The fossilised amber provides a view into a lost world, revealing that the tropics of the Mid-Cretaceous contained a diverse lizard fauna.”

Oldest Lizard Assemblage Preserved in Amber

It is rare for such small creatures to be preserved as fossils.  The specimens represent the oldest lizard assemblage preserved in amber known.  In all, the twelve fossils preserve fine details of soft tissue and bone, allowing the scientists to gain a better understanding of how unique adaptations such as the sucker-like feet of the Gecko evolved.  The fossil material was all collected from northern Myanmar (Kachin Province) and zircon crystals recovered from sediments in the Burmese amber outcrops that have been radiometrically dated indicate an age of around 99 million years.  This places the age of the amber very close to the boundary between the Early and the Late Cretaceous (Albian-Cenomanian stage boundary).

Such is the degree of preservation that the scientists were able to obtain a great deal of information from the amber nodules.

Professor Juan Daza (Sam Houston State University) explained:

“We can pretty much see how the animals looked when they were alive.  They [the fossils] provide a really nice snapshot of the past.  To me it is like going back in time and doing a lizard collecting trip when we can see what these animals looked like.”

CT Scans and High Resolution Images Reveal Remarkable Detail

Exquisite detail.

Exquisite detail.

Picture Credit: Science Advances

 

The amber (fossilised tree resin), provides a fascinating insight into some of the smaller organisms that lived alongside the dinosaurs during the Cretaceous.  Fungi, plant remains including pollen and fern spores plus many different types of invertebrate remains have been identified from burmite.

For example, last year Everything Dinosaur reported on the discovery of a remarkably well preserved Cretaceous cockroach found in amber from northern Myanmar.

To read about this discovery: Cretaceous Cockroach – Deadly Nocturnal Predator

The detailed preservation of the lizard fossils permits scientists to identify characteristics helping to define and reassess the phylogenetic relationships between different groups.  It has also given the researchers a surprise.  The highly sophisticated projectile tongue, a characteristic of Chameleons has been identified in one of the specimens (K).  The lizard in question, has been assigned to a basal position in the Chameleon family, the presence of the highly modified tongue suggests that this anatomical feature evolved very early on in these lizards, whereas, the absence in the fossil of those modified tree-grasping fused toes, indicates that the fused toes evolved much later.

4 03, 2016

Partial Femur Hints at Large Abelisaurid

By | March 4th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Massive Abelisaurid from Morocco

A partial femur (thigh bone) found in Morocco has provided palaeontologists with yet more evidence of the amazing diversity of Theropod dinosaurs that flourished in North Africa during the Middle Cretaceous.  The fossil, measuring around 33 centimetres in length has been identified as coming from a large abelisaurid.  Based on thigh bone comparisons with better known Abelisauridae, dinosaurs such as Carnotaurus and Ekrixinatosaurus (both from the Late Cretaceous of Argentina), scientists have estimated that this meat-eating dinosaur measured around nine metres in length and may have weighed as much as two tonnes.

The Partial Femur of the New Dinosaur

Various view of a abelisaurid dinosaur femur from Morocco.

Various view of a abelisaurid dinosaur femur from Morocco.

Picture Credit: PeerJ.com

The picture above shows various views of the partial dinosaur thigh bone.

Key

(A) a proximal view, that portion of the femur that would articulate with the hip region.

(B) an anterior view, the view of the front side of the bone.

(C) a medial view.

(D) a posterior view, a view of the rear side of the bone.

(E) the lateral view.

(F) a distal view, the part of the thigh bone that would be furthest away from the trunk of the animal, that part of the bone closest to the lower leg bones.  Please note, the scale is different for picture (F).

The scale bar (white bar) is five centimetres.  Abbreviations gt, greater trochanter; iMie, insertion for the Musculus iliofemoralis externus (a muscle and subsequent muscle scar); fn, femoral neck; s, shallow sulcus.

The fossil is part of the collection at the Geological Museum in Palermo (Italy) and a paper on the femur has just been published in the on line, open access journal (PeerJ).  The scientific paper has been co-authored by PhD student Andrea Cau of Bologna University and fellow PhD student Alfio Alessandro Chiarenza (Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College London).

An Illustration of a Typical Abelisaurid Theropod Dinosaur

A scale drawing of a typical abelisaur (Rugops)

A scale drawing of a typical abelisaur (Rugops primus)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

“Stromer’s Riddle”

The fossil is from the Kem Kem Formation of Morocco, that part of the deposit that has been dated to the Cenomanian faunal stage or the Cretaceous (Cenomanian faunal stage around  100 million to 93.5 million years ago approximately).  The beginning of the Cenomanian marks the start of the Late Cretaceous as defined by the International Commission on Stratigraphy.  The scientific paper concludes that the abelisaurids had indeed reached their largest body size by the “Middle Cretaceous” and that Abelisaurs did co-exist with a number of other gigantic Theropods in Africa during this time.

The number of different types of meat-eating dinosaur all living together in Africa during this part of the Cretaceous has posed a puzzle for palaeontologists.  The puzzle is named after Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach, the German palaeontologist who first brought North African dinosaurs to prominence.  Spinosaurids, members of the Ceratosauria clade (Deltadromeus), Carcharodontosauridae dinosaurs and abelisaurids all seem to have been present in this part of the world.  The researchers examine this phenomenon and using comparisons with Theropod lineages from South America, they deduce that these large super-predators probably did not overlap, with a number occupying different niches in the food chain, or living in different habitats.  Niche partitioning did very probably occur, however, studies of the skulls and teeth between abelisaurids and the carcharodontosaurids such as the mighty Carcharodontosaurus iguidensis indicates that these types of dinosaurs did probably compete directly for resources.

Further fossil finds and more research will need to be undertaken before a better understanding of the interactions between these Theropods can be achieved.

3 03, 2016

JurassicCollectables Review Dimetrodon

By | March 3rd, 2016|Everything Dinosaur videos, Main Page, Product Reviews|0 Comments

Schleich Dimetrodon under the Spotlight

Those clever people at JurassicCollectables have produced a video review of the new for 2016 Dimetrodon replica by Schleich.  Under the brand umbrella “First Giants”, Schleich have introduced two models so far this year, the blue-coloured Dilophosaurus was recently reviewed and now the second of the replicas in this series, the Dimetrodon has been scrutinised.

The Review of the Dimetrodon Model (Schleich) by JurassicCollectables

Video Credit: JurassicCollectables

In this brief video (it is a little over six minutes in length), a tour of the model is provided with commentary on the fantastic detail, especially those saggy skin folds and scales that makes this pelycosaur look so reptilian.  Quite a remarkable feat of model making by the design team at Schleich, they really do seem to have captured the essence of this bygone predator.  Particular attention is given to the paint job of the head and jaws (the lower jaw is articulated, like a number of other Schleich models).  The palate is well painted and shows some nice touches and those heterodont teeth are carefully weathered to give the model a touch of realism.  After all, depicting Dimetrodon with uniform teeth, just wouldn’t do.

Dimetrodon – “Two Form Tooth”

This Permian predator was not closely related to the dinosaurs and birds.  It is often described as a “mammal-like reptile”, or, to be more technically accurate a “stem mammal” or a “non-mammalian synapsid”.  These reptiles were part of the evolutionary lineage that gave rise to modern mammals and that includes us.  The Dimetrodon genus was named by the famous American palaeontologist Edward Drinker Cope and a number of species are now known, they all had different sized and different shaped teeth in their jaws.

A Close Up of the Jaws of the Schleich Dimetrodon

The jaws of the Schleich Dimetrodon.

The jaws of the Schleich Dimetrodon.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Schleich have taken care to ensure that different sized teeth are depicted in the jaws (incisors and caniniforms at the front of the jaws), with smaller teeth towards the back of the mouth.  The notch located in the upper jaw in front of the premaxilla, typical of this family (Sphenacodontidae), can be clearly seen in the model.

To view more prehistoric animal reviews on the YouTube channel and to subscribe to JurassicCollectables: JurassicCollectables YouTube Channel

“First Giants”

Although included in a range entitled “First Giants”, it is worth remembering that there were many large terrestrial vertebrates prior to the evolution of Dimetrodon, indeed, amongst the dozen of so species of Dimetrodon named, a number were relatively small, and most certainly, not all of them were apex predators.  However, having made this point, it is great to see a video review of this famous sail-backed reptile.  The narrator draws comparisons between this Schleich model and the Dimetrodon replica introduced by Papo back in 2013.  Everything Dinosaur produced their own video review of the Papo Dimetrodon, to view the video: Papo Dimetrodon Reviewed by Everything Dinosaur

To purchase the Schleich Dimetrodon and other prehistoric animals in the Schleich model range: Schleich Prehistoric Animal Replicas

2 03, 2016

Everything Dinosaur Newsletter March 1st

By | March 2nd, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Newsletters, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

E-news from Everything Dinosaur

The latest e-news was sent out by Everything Dinosaur to its customer database and subscriber lists yesterday.  Call them “updates”, “shouts”, “bulletins” or whatever, we intend to send out a newsletter to our fans, customers and subscribers ever fourteen days.  So much is going on inside the company these days, a more frequent mailing might be more appropriate, but for the time being we will limit our mail shots to one every two weeks.   After all, we always respond to customer requests, emails and letters, so we are always doing our best to keep everyone up to date with developments.

Our newsletters are being rolled out in response to increasing requests from customers and dinosaur fans in general to be kept informed regarding new models and other product developments at Everything Dinosaur.  The newsletter for March 1st featured information on the new for 2016 Safari Ltd dinosaur models, last minute support for grown-ups as they prepare for World Book Day, plus news of an exciting feathered dinosaur exhibition coming to the UK next year.

The March 1st “E-zine” from Everything Dinosaur

Keeping dinosaur and fossil fans up to date.

Keeping dinosaur and fossil fans up to date.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Feathered Dinosaurs, Notebooks and Glyptodonts

The newsletter also featured details about a super dinosaur notebook that has been added to our “back to school” range of products.  This is bound to get young dinosaur fans roaring with excitement.  It is great for school and it will, no doubt, encourage junior palaeontologists with their handwriting.  Details on the feathered dinosaur exhibition is provided along with news of prehistoric mammal model re-issues, (that Glyptodont, the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Doedicurus, for example).

It’s not just dinosaurs at Everything Dinosaur, we stock prehistoric mammals too: Prehistoric Mammals

Like all of Everything Dinosaur’s commercial activities, subscribers to our newsletter have to opt in to receive the information.   The customer database is very well maintained and team members dedicate quite a considerable portion of their time to ensuring the data provided by customers is secure and up to date.

If readers of this blog would like to subscribe, then you have to give us your permission, this can be done by contacting Everything Dinosaur by email: Contact Everything Dinosaur

If you send us an email requesting to be added to our e-news database, then we shall add you to our subscriber list.  It would be helpful if you provided us with your name and surname this will enable our team members to personalise the correspondence.

Everything Dinosaur and JurassicCollectables

Readers of our newsletter were also informed about Everything Dinosaur’s working relationship with the video makers JurassicCollectables.  A partnership which will provide  our customers and fans with access to the amazing JurassicCollectables video portfolio, via our own social media channels.

New for 2016 Wild Safari Prehistoric World Models Take Centre Stage in the March 1st Newsletter

New dinosaur models for 2016.

New dinosaur models for 2016.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Our next newsletter is due out in the middle of March and we are also planning our Easter edition (end March).

If blog readers would like to subscribe, then all you have to do is to drop us an email: Contact Everything Dinosaur

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