All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
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21 12, 2016

Update on Papo Models (New for 2017)

By | December 21st, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|1 Comment

Update on Papo Models (Prehistoric Animals)

Everything Dinosaur does not yet have permission to post up official pictures of the prehistoric animal models to be introduced by Papo into their “les dinosaures” range in 2017.  However, we can confirm that there will be a total of nine new lines added with one model retirement.  We know how keen dinosaur fans and model collectors are to find out about the new for 2017 models, we promise to post up images and further information as soon as we receive permission to do so.

Papo New Models for 2017 (Story so Far)

Papo logo.

The Papo logo.

Picture Credit: Papo

New Prehistoric Animal Models for 2017

Here is the list of new models due for release next year. Papo is moving towards providing more colourful prehistoric animal replicas, mirroring a trend seen elsewhere in the figures market.
Papo Product code = 55060 Polacanthus – this model measures a little over seventeen centimetres long and it stands around five centimetres high.
Papo Product code = 55061 Ceratosaurus –  this model is just over twenty-one centimetres long and it is over eight centimetres tall.
Papo Product code = 55068 Crylophosaurus – dimensions for this replica have yet to be confirmed.
Papo Product code = 55062 Acrocanthosaurus – the biggest of the prehistoric animal models for 2017, measuring twenty-eight centimetres long and being approximately fifteen and a half centimetres high.
Papo Product code = 55063 Dimorphodon (terrestrial pose) – dimensions yet to be confirmed.
Papo Product code = 55066 Cave Bear – length thirteen and a half centimetres and around eight and a half centimetres tall.
Papo Product code = 55067 Roaring Smilodon – a bigger model than a lot of people expected, measuring over fifteen centimetres long and being over nine centimetres tall (at the model’s highest point).

Re-paints of Existing Sculpts within “Les Dinosaures”

Everything Dinosaur has been informed that two of the existing dinosaurs in the portfolio from Papo will be re-painted in 2o17.  They are namely:

  1. The non-feathered Velociraptor (the new painted version has been nick-named “blue tail” by Everything Dinosaur team members, as the tail of this Velociraptor model has been painted a vivid blue).
  2. Oviraptor with egg (see picture below).  Staff at Everything Dinosaur have nick-named this dinosaur model “blue neck”.  The new Oviraptor paint job depicts a much more colourful dinosaur, the neck for example, has been painted blue.

Due for a Makeover in 2017

Papo Oviraptor model.

The Papo Oviraptor dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The egg this model dinosaur is carrying has not been altered dramatically, although initial, as yet unconfirmed reports, suggest the egg has been painted a light beige colour.

Papo 2017 Dinosaur Retirements

The green Velociraptor dinosaur that Papo introduced this year, is being withdrawn (hence the introduction of the new painted version of this replica).  It is the only retirement from the “les dinosaures” range that Papo has announced, as far as team members at Everything Dinosaur are aware.   However, with the introduction of a new coloured variant of the Oviraptor replica, we suspect this model’s days are numbered too.

The 2016 Papo Green Velociraptor Dinosaur Model is Being Retired

Papo green Velociraptor model.

The Papo green Velociraptor figure.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Nothing official from Papo as to the future of the Papo Oviraptor, we shall see how things develop in the next few weeks or so.

To view the range of Papo prehistoric animals available from Everything Dinosaur: Papo Dinosaurs

When we have official pictures and availability information on the 2017 models we will post up more news.

20 12, 2016

Jurassic Park III Model Diorama Takes Shape

By | December 20th, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page|0 Comments

Working on a Prehistoric Landscape (Jurassic Park III)

Talented model maker and prehistoric animal model fan, Robert Townsend has embarked on an ambitious project to build a large prehistoric diorama, a project he has named “Jurassic Park III”.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur have been lucky enough to have received regular updates as the model begins to take shape.  The baseboard is made from a two-metre-long door blank, as with all projects such as this, a lot of planning and preparation has been undertaken before the construction phase can begin.

The Baseboard Accurately Marked Out

Dinosaur diorama building phase 1.

The dinosaur diorama base with the grid carefully inked in.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

Once Robert had finalised his design plans it was time to mark out the baseboard using an accurate scale so that the model can commence its transformation from the drawing board to three-dimensional reality.  The base was accurately marked out using a pen and a ruler into six inch squares.  This would enable the shapes of land formations and other features to be plotted onto the base.  Using this grid as a guide, Robert was then able to pencil in the various contours and features that he wanted.  A ruler was used for straight lines and a bendy plastic guide for curved areas.  Time and care taken at this stage would ensure that the finished landscape would look realistic.

Cladding the Prehistoric Landscape in Newspaper

Prehistoric landscape feature building.

Building up the features on the prehistoric landscape.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

After the model maker had built up a large collection of sturdy cardboard, landscape construction was begun.  The background and rear areas are normally the highest land formations, so these were built first, enabling the diorama to have an obvious “rear” and “front” to it.  Working to the nearest 1/16 of an inch, each piece of cardboard was measured accurately and then carefully glued into position.  When viewed from underneath, Robert describes these sections as “looking like giant, odd-shaped Lego bricks.”

The left-hand edge of the Jurassic Park III landscape has been made to exactly match the right-hand edge of Robert’s earlier, large-scale dinosaur diorama.  This will enable him to display them both together, should the need arise.  The entire model was then clad in layers of newspaper to help define the landscape features and in preparation for painting.  Extra strength wallpaper paste was used to ensure all the paper stays in place.

Waterhole Centrepiece

The central feature of the prehistoric landscape will be a substantial waterhole, a place for the various prehistoric animals that will feature in the diorama, to drink.

Robert explained:

“My original design was to have just a small ‘duck pond’ type feature with some small water plants growing around its’ edges, but when I saw the size of the three palm tree figures and the 12-inch Cycad tree model made by CollectA, (which I recently bought from Everything Dinosaur), it was obvious that this was far too small a feature with not enough shoreline for lots of exotic plants and drinking animals.  So, I re-drew it about four times larger and this was definitely the right thing to do.  It will dominate the entire middle third of the diorama, as I think it should.”

The Landscape Clad in Newspaper

A dinosaur landscape being prepared for painting.

The cardboard is covered in paper ready for painting.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

The Model Water Feature

The waterhole will make a natural centrepiece to the diorama and it will represent the lowest lying area of the landscape.  Producing a realistic water effect can be difficult, but a trip to a railway modelling shop enabled resourceful Mr Townsend to acquire a small jar of “model water feature”.  He has not used this substance before and care needs to be taken when brushing this material on, but there is still a lot to do before the water feature can be brought to life.

Applying the Undercoat to the Prehistoric Landscape

Undercoat painting on the prehistoric landscape.

Painting the undercoat on the dinosaur diorama.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

Applying the Undercoat

The entire surface, excluding the central waterhole feature was painted with a pale grey masonry paint.  Two undercoats of this water-based emulsion were applied. The aim was to smooth out and cover wrinkles, creases and imperfections in the newspaper cladding.  This renders the entire surface smooth and creates a solid looking piece of landscape.  Having two coats of paint, (and in some places three), makes for great strength and long lasting surfaces.  After a good 24-hours to allow the undercoating to dry fully, all the vertical rock faces were painted with a second coat of masonry paint, only this time, a brownish-clay colour was selected.   Robert recommends allowing at least a day to let the paint dry completely.

Painting the Edges of the Prehistoric Landscape

Painting the sides of the prehistoric landscape.

Painting the black edging along the sides of the model.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

The next stage saw the upper surfaces painted with a sandstone colour and a couple of coats of a matt black paint was applied to the edges of the model to provide a professional looking finish to the sides of the landscape. In the picture above, the landscape with its central water feature can be seen to be really coming together.  All Robert’s careful planning and preparation is beginning to pay off.  Robert has promised to send us more photographs and updates on his dinosaur themed diorama.  We look forward to seeing how this prehistoric scene looks when it is finished.

Robert enjoys creating prehistoric themed dioramas that show dinosaurs and other extinct creatures that lived during specific periods of the Mesozoic.  Everything Dinosaur blog readers can view several of Robert’s prehistoric scenes:

Giants of South America

The Jurassic of Europe

A Late Cretaceous Dinosaur Diorama

19 12, 2016

Mapping the Microscopic Life Preserved in Rhynie Chert

By | December 19th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|1 Comment

Exploring a Microscopic World 407 Million Years Old

Very often, it is the news about giant prehistoric animals that grab all the attention from the media.  Dinosaurs, Woolly Mammoths, Pterosaurs and monstrous fish such as prehistoric sharks, get all the headlines, but today, we want to highlight a new paper published in the online, open access journal PLoS One, a paper that looks at the discovery of an exquisitely preserved fungus found in association with the minute eggs of a prehistoric freshwater crustacean.  This freshwater fungus, lived far earlier in the history of our planet than any hominin, Woolly Mammoth, Pterosaur or member of the Dinosauria for that matter.  In fact, this newly discovered species of fungus, a fungus that helped to breakdown freshwater plant matter, thrived at around the same time as the very first sharks.

A High Magnification View of the New Species of Fungus

A highly magnified view of the Devonian fungus.

Cultoraquaticus trewini, a new Early Devonian Chytridiomycota.

Picture Credit: PLoS One

The fossils were discovered by a team of international scientists which included researchers from the Natural History Museum (London), the University of Copenhagen and the University of Maine.  The team analysed microscopic slices of Rhynie Chert from Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  The chert represents sedimentary deposits formed when volcanic material from hydrothermal vents periodically erupted and covered an area that featured a braided river channel and an alluvial flood plain.  These hot, viscose fluids preserved both primitive terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, providing a window into the life that existed in both these types of habitat in the Early Devonian.  Various types of fungi have been identified in the Rhynie Chert, this Lagerstätte has provided palaeontologists with evidence of fungal parasitism and symbiosis with early land plants and algae.  Fossils of the earliest freshwater branchiopod crustaceans (fairy shrimps and their close relatives), have also been discovered.

Cultoraquaticus trewini

The new species has been named Cultoraquaticus trewini, the genus name refers to the aquatic habitat of the fungus.  The specific epithet honours Professor Nigel Trewin (University of Aberdeen), for his contribution to the understanding of the geology of the Rhynie Chert.  The fungus has been attributed to the Phylum Chytridiomycota, based on its internal structure, the associated papillae and its size.  The exquisite preservation of this 407 million-year-old fossil has enabled scientists to assess this ancient species’ resemblance to extant fungi.  It seems that these fungi were a parasite of algae and primitive prehistoric freshwater plants.  The tiny, spiked structures seen in the photograph above (B, C and E) are (most likely), the eggs of the Early Devonian freshwater shrimp Lepidocaris rhyniensis.

Laser Scans Show the Fungus and the Eggs of the Early Devonian Crustacean (L. rhyniensis)

Crustacean eggs and the fungus revealed by laser scanning.

Confocal laser scanning images of resting eggs of Lepidocaris and of the fungus Cultoraquaticus trewini.

Picture Credit: PLoS One

The tiny, rounded and very spiky eggs of Lepidocaris reaffirm the idea that ancient branchiopods adapted to freshwater environments early in the Devonian.

Comparison Between Lepidocaris (Extinct) and Linderiella (Extant)

Ancient freshwater crustacean compared to an extant freshwater form.

Lepidocaris rhyniensis (A) and its resting egg (B) compared to modern anostracean Linderiella occidentalis (C) and resting egg of Linderiella santarosae (D). Brood pouch is indicated by an arrow. Scale bars represent 20 μm in (B) and 95 μm in (D).

Picture Credit: PLoS One

The Earliest Eggs of the Branchiopoda

Although the research team cannot be one hundred percent certain that the tiny, spiky shapes are the eggs of Lepidocaris, they have made this conclusion based on the fact that L. rhyniensis fossil remains, including individuals at various growth stages, are relatively abundant in the Rhynie Chert deposits.  The fossils closely resembles the egg cysts of various members of Anostraca (fairy shrimps) and they, most probably, represent the earliest eggs of freshwater branchiopods discovered to date.

Sometimes, micro-fossils are not given the prominence they deserve in the mainstream media.  We praise the efforts of the research team for providing more information on the remarkable Rhynie Chert Lagerstätte and for identifying a new fungal/plant matter interaction that helped in the breakdown and mobilisation of nutrients in early freshwater food webs.

The scientific paper: A New Chytridiomycete Fungus Intermixed with Crustacean Resting Eggs in a 407-Million-Year-Old Continental Freshwater Environment

18 12, 2016

Marked Variation in the Body Size of Australopithecus afarensis

By | December 18th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Fossil Footprints from Tanzania Shed Light on Marked Body Size Variation in A. afarensis

Newly discovered footprints of early hominins found by researchers from the University of Dar es Salaam in collaboration with Italian colleagues, show marked body size variation in our 3.66 million-year-old ancestors.  Analysis of the footprints hints at a social grouping structure more akin to modern gorillas than to chimpanzees and bonobos.   The impressions were created when a group of ancient bipeds walked across wet volcanic ash, these new prints, showing evidence of two individuals walking together were found within 150 metres of the hominin trace fossils discovered in 1978.  The 1978 fossils were attributed to the species of hominin (a primate more closely related to our species than to a chimpanzee), dubbed Australopithecus afarensis.  These newly described tracks too, have been attributed to this species.  They show two individuals, named S1 and S2 in the study, moving on the same palaeosurface and in the same direction as the three hominins documented in the 1978 discovery.

In the scientific paper published in the journal “eLife”, the researchers report that the specimen referred to as S1 had much larger feet than any other member of this group.  Size estimates for this individual indicate an Australopithecus standing 1.65 metres tall (five feet, five inches tall), not as tall as a modern man (H. sapiens), but around five centimetres taller than the height of the average British woman.

Ancient Footprints May Indicate Marked Body Size Difference in Australopithecus afarensis

Footprints (A. afarensis).

Ancient footprints from a second site in Laetoli (Tanzania).

Picture Credit: Raffaella Pellizzon with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

In the photograph above, the footprints can be clearly made out, along with tracks made by a number of other Pliocene animals.  The red arrow in the bottom left hand corner marks the direction of travel of the hominins.

The research team propose that these new tracks when reviewed in conjunction with the 1978 trace fossil discovery, may provide clues as to how this ancient species of early human lived.  The newly discovered prints, including the large prints of S1, might be the tracks of a male walking with a collection of smaller females and their offspring.

An Australopithecus Harem?

Commenting on the implications for social behaviour, lead researcher Professor Giorgio Manzi (University of Roma, Italy) stated:

“This novel evidence, taken as a whole with the previous findings, portrays several early hominins moving as a group through the landscape following a volcanic eruption and subsequent rainfall, but there is more.  The footprints of one of the new individuals are astonishingly larger than anyone else’s in the group, suggesting that he was a large male member of the species.”

A Closer View of the Hominin Tracks

Laetoli fossil footprints.

The prints preserved in volcanic ash suggest a large member of the species.

Picture Credit: Raffaella Pellizzon with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

Standing around 1.65 metres tall, makes S1 the largest Australopithecus individual described to date.

Commenting on the significance of this new trackway and its proximity to the other Australopithecus tracks, co-author Jacopo Moggi-Cecchi (University of Florence) said:

“Now that we’ve found a new set of footprints it opens up a completely different window and there could be a number of new possibilities to study what is a photograph in time of the everyday life of this species.”

The finding of a male perhaps walking with several females could mean their social structure was closer to the gorilla-like model than to chimpanzees or to modern humans.  These tracks could be interpreted as a large, dominant male walking with his troop of female mates, a sort of Australopithecus harem.

A Map Showing the Location of the Trackways in Northern Tanzania

A map of the Laetoli area (Tanzania)

The site of the Australopithecus trackways in Tanzania.

Picture Credit: eLife

This new trackway evidence, in combination with a comparative reappraisal of the 1978 footprints has important implications for the Pliocene record of early hominin behaviour and morphology.  The results are consistent with considerable body size variation and, probably a degree of dimorphism between males and females within a single species of bipedal hominin as early as 3.66 million years ago.

A Line Drawing of the Hominin Tracks and Other Associated Features

Line drawing of the fossil trackway.

A line drawing of the Laetoli tracks.

Picture Credit: eLife

The four excavated pits that make up the new trackway evidence are represented above in the line drawing.

Dashed lines indicate uncertain contours. Some of the most interesting tracks are coloured: hominins in orange (heel drags in dark grey), prehistoric horses in dark green (M9), rhinoceros in red (M9), giraffe in light brown (M10), and guinea fowl in blue (M10).  Large roots and the bases of trees are in light green (L8).  The main faults/fractures are indicated by brown lines.  Raindrop impressions occur in the northern part of L8 (dotted areas).

The scientific paper: “New Footprints from Laetoli (Tanzania) Provide Evidence for Marked Body Size Variation in Early Hominins” published in the journal eLife.

17 12, 2016

A Moroccan Fossil Safari

By | December 17th, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Amazing Trilobite Fossils from Morocco

Morocco is a very beautiful country.  Tourists might be attracted to its wonderful beaches as well as the bustling bazaars and souks but there is much more to this part of north Africa, especially if you are a keen fossil hunter.  Take for example, the fossil hunting trips organised by young geologist Mohamed Koumali, he and his enthusiastic team give clients the opportunity to explore the amazing and highly fossiliferous deposits of Tinghir Province, a part of the world famous for its Trilobite fossils.

A Wonderful Example of a Moroccan Trilobite

A prepared fossil Trilobite.

A fantastic Moroccan Trilobite fossil.

Picture Credit: Koumali Trilobites

The picture above shows one of the amazing Trilobite fossils from south-eastern Morocco.  The specimen has been carefully prepared and fine details of the exoskeleton have been revealed.

Trilobita from Morocco

Team members from Everything Dinosaur have been lucky enough to visit Morocco on numerous occasions.  The geology of the country is truly remarkable and fans of the Trilobita can acquire specimens that represent at least nine Orders of Trilobites, and we thought Wales was at the heart of Trilobite fossil hunting adventures!  Morocco has a number of advantages over Wales when it comes to going on a Trilobite hunt.  For a start, the weather tends to be warmer, sun protection is definitely recommended, as is cool clothing and a hat.  The hot, dry winds have removed what soil there was exposing, great rocky pavements, although some of the fossil bearing strata is as hard as concrete and expert guides are required to help give visitors the best chance of finding a prize fossil specimen.

A Chance to Explore the Palaeozoic Past of Morocco

A Moroccan Trilobite hunting trip.

Spectacular views are guaranteed on a Moroccan Trilobite hunt.

Picture Credit: Koumali Trilobites

Depending upon which part of the country you visit, tourists can search for some of the best examples of Late Cambrian Trilobite specimens, but there are also great swathes of Ordovcian and Devonian-aged strata to explore.  The range of Trilobite specimens associated with rocks of Devonian age is particularly diverse, Mohamed’s home time of Alnif is regarded by many invertebrate palaeontologists as the best place in the world to find complete fossils of the spiny, thumb-sized Trilobite Dicranurus monstrosus.  This part of Morocco has yielded much larger examples of Devonian Trilobite fauna.  The Bou Dîb Formation exposures have provided scientists with some wonderful examples of the hand-sized Drotops megalomanicus, complete with huge, compound eyes.  The team at Koumali Trilobites take parties out to explore the remarkable rock formations and with a little luck, they too, can uncover an amazing Trilobite fossil.

Cracking Open a Nodule to Reveal the Fossil Treasure Within

A Moroccan Trilobite fossil.

The slab and counter slab of a Trilobite fossil.

Picture Credit: Koumali Trilobites

Fluent in both English and French, Mohamed enjoys taking visitors out on fossil hunting trips, helping to educate and to inform people about the rich fossil heritage of his home.  He has also had the opportunity to exhibit at several European fossil trade shows, including the prestigious Saint Marie-Aux-Mines Mineral and Gem show in France.

To enquire about tours, email: koumali.trilobite@yahoo.fr for information.  Or why not check out Mohamed’s Facebook page for further details: Message Mohamed Koumali via Facebook

An Amazing Day Exploring the Geology of South-eastern Morocco

Hunting for Moroccan Trilobites.

Out on a Trilobite hunt.

Picture Credit: Koumali Trilobites

A guided tour, a fossil walk through the beautiful Moroccan landscape with an expert guide, is one of the best ways for amateur fossil hunters to explore the geology of North Africa.

16 12, 2016

Updating the Deinocheirus Fact Sheet

By | December 16th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Deinocheirus Fact Sheet is Updated

One of the wonderful things about vertebrate palaeontology is that ideas about prehistoric animals are changing all the time.  Fossil discoveries and new research often challenges existing assumptions leading to a revision of data.  Model making companies often reflect the changing views about a long extinct animal by introducing a new version of that animal to their prehistoric animal model portfolio.  CollectA for example, recently introduced a new model of the bizarre Late Cretaceous Theropod Deinocheirus (D. mirificus).  In addition, CollectA will be bringing out a new Deluxe version of Deinocheirus in 2017.  This means, that for Everything Dinosaur team members, there is a need to update and revise the company’s Deinocheirus fact sheet.

The New Scale Drawing of Deinocheirus from Everything Dinosaur

Deinocheirus mirificus scale drawing.

A scale drawing of Deinocheirus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Deinocheirus – Taller than a Lamppost!

Thanks to two new fossil discoveries (a sub-adult found in 2006 and the fossils of a much larger individual discovered in 2009), palaeontologists have a much better idea about what this giant ornithomimid looked like.  As a result, further changes to the Everything Dinosaur fact sheet have been made.  In the original data sheet, prepared in 2012, prior to the scientific paper providing the new description, it was stated that the known fossils ascribed to Deinocheirus represented one of the largest Theropods from Asia.  This remains true, however, an assessment of the fossilised bones of the individual found in 2009, including a humerus six centimetres longer than the holotype, indicate that Deinocheirus reached a length of around eleven metres.  Subsequent study of the strongly reinforced pelvis and the robust hind limbs have led palaeontologists to reconsider how heavy this animal might have been.  It probably had a narrower stance than the pot-bellied Therizinosaurs, but scientists estimate that Deinocheirus might have weighed as much as six tonnes and it would have stood around five metres tall.

The New for 2017 CollectA Deluxe 1:40 Scale Deinocheirus Replica

The CollectA 1:40 scale Deluxe Deinocheirus model.

The CollectA 1:40 scale Deluxe Deinocheirus dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We look forward to the arrival of the new CollectA Deluxe 1:40 scale Deinocheirus replica and the other exciting new models to be added to CollectA’s “Prehistoric Life” model range.

To read more about the new CollectA Deluxe Deinocheirus: New CollectA Models for 2017 (part 2)

15 12, 2016

Studying the Growth Stages of Parareptiles

By | December 15th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Juvenile Skull Specimen of Delorhynchus cifellii Helps in Growth Study

A team of scientists from the University of Toronto Mississauga (Canada), have analysed a total of seven different skulls of the parareptile Delorhynchus cifellii collected from the Early Permian fissure-fill deposits of Richard Spur, Oklahoma.   This research, looking at the skulls which represent different growth stages of this primitive reptile, is helping palaeontologists to learn more about how the skulls of early Tetrapods changed as they grew.  It may also provide a valuable insight into how temporal fenestrae (holes in the skull), of other types of vertebrate evolved.

An Illustration of a Typical Early Reptile

The parareptile Delorhynchus.

Everything Dinosaur’s illustration of the Early Permian parareptile Delorhynchus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Detailed Study of Cranial Ontogeny

Two species have been assigned to the genus Delorhynchus, the first D. priscus was named and described in 1962.  In 2014, a second species was described D. cifellii, from a series of fossilised remains, including cranial (skull) material excavated from strata estimated to be around 275 million-years-old.  The researchers, which included Yara Haridy (Dept. of Biology, University of Toronto Mississauga), examined the partially articulated skull and jaw of a Delorhynchus cifellii believed to represent a juvenile (based on the size of the skull compared to other specimens and the lack of fully fused skull bones).  This specimen probably represents an earlier growth stage (ontogenetic stage) of all the other known Delorhynchus skull material and as such, it helps provide a basis for a better understanding of how these ancient reptiles changed as they matured.

Views of the Delorhynchus cifellii Juvenile Skull Material Used in the Study

Delorhynchus fossil.

The cranial fossil material of a juvenile Delorhynchus.

Picture Credit: University of Toronto Mississauga

The photograph shows (above) a line drawing and image of the fossil material (right lateral view) and (below), a line drawing and image of the fossil material seen from above (dorsal view).  The line of articulated vertebrae shown in the dorsal view do not belong to this individual.  Scale bar = 1 centimetre.

Key

an, angular; ar, articular; ch, ceratohyal; d, dentary; f, frontal; j, jugal; la, lacrimal; m, maxilla; n, nasal; pal, palatine; pf, postfrontal; pm, premaxilla; po, postorbital; prf, prefrontal; q, quadrate; qj, quadratojugal; so, supraorbital; sp, splenial; sq, squamosal; st, supratemporal.

Comparisons between this juvenile and previously described specimens indicate that the size and shape of the temporal fenestra in Delorhynchus vary as the animal ages.  These changes occur as the skull bones bordering the fenestra change shape.  The growth series available for study, show that the jugal (cheek bone) becomes more robust as the reptile gets older and the proportionate size of the temporal fenestra is reduced.  The scientists discovered that as Delorhynchus grew, the single, large fenestra seen in the skull of juveniles was gradually sub-divided into two smaller holes in more mature individuals.

Line Drawings Showing a Comparison between a Juvenile Delorhynchus Skull (Top) with a Mature Adult Delorhynchus (Bottom)

Delorhynchus skull comparisons.

A comparison between the composite reconstructions of the youngest and most mature individuals in the Delorhynchus growth series.

Picture Credit: University of Toronto Mississauga

The research team highlight the fact that the fossil record showing the growth of Delorhynchus is far from complete.  They also point out that the largest specimen is not a fully mature individual, however, the data suggests that as the skull changed so the fenestra became much smaller and it would eventually be split into two small holes, due to the extension of the jugal bone.  The complete closure of the temporal fenestra may have occurred in very old animals, this cannot be ruled out, but the available skulls have provided a valuable insight into the possible growth trajectory of the fenestra of parareptiles.   The scientists also speculate that the research on this anapsid (likely to have no fenestra in the skull when an adult), may help them to better understand the evolution of skulls in other anapsids, as well as diapsids (one pair of holes) and the synapsids (two pairs of holes).

The scientific paper: “Ontogenetic Change in the Temporal Region of the Early Permian Parareptile Delorhynchus cifellii and the Implications for Closure of the Temporal Fenestra in Amniotes” published in the on line academic journal PLoS One.

14 12, 2016

Tumour Discovered in 255 Million-Year-Old Monster

By | December 14th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Gorgonopsid with Compound Odontoma

Researchers at the University of Washington have discovered evidence of a benign tumour in the fossilised lower jaw of a Late Permian predator, a gorgonopsid.  Thin sections of bone examined under the microscope reveal that this distant relative of modern mammals was suffering from a compound odontoma.  Scientists are studying the fossils of “mammal-like reptiles”, in a bid to learn more about how common diseases in mammals first evolved.

The fragment of jaw bone was found by Professor Christian Sidor (University of Washington and curator of vertebrate palaeontology at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture), whilst on a field trip to the Late Permian beds of Tanzania.  The fossil was identified as belonging to a member of the Gorgonopsidae, a diverse group of Permian therapsids that evolved around 260 million years ago and ranged widely across the super-continent of Pangaea.  Although early gorgonopsids were small, some no bigger than a terrier, later gorgonopsids evolved into apex predators.  As members of the Therapsidae, they belong on the same branch as the vertebrate family tree as the mammals, although there is still much debate as to how closely related gorgonopsids are to extant mammals.

A Typical Late Permian Gorgonopsid – Inostranvecia alexandri

A scale drawing of the Late Permian gorgonopsid Inostrancevia

Scary monster from the Permian.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Models and replicas of gorgonopsids are quite rare, but collectors and fans of prehistoric animals can pick one up from Everything Dinosaur.  Safari Ltd added a model of the gorgonopsid Inostrancevia to their Wild Safari Prehistoric Life range in 2011, to view this product range: Wild Safari Prehistoric Life Models

A Compound Odontoma

In a letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology, the research team report on the evidence that an animal that lived in Africa some 255 million years ago, had a small, benign tumour within its lower jaw.  The tumour has been identified as a compound odontoma, essentially, an abnormal growth in the jaw in which clusters of tooth-like structures complete with enamel, dentine and cementum form.  They are quite common in mammals and can affect our own species.  Although benign, most people have them removed as their growth and encroachment into other tissues and bone can cause considerable pain.

Senior author Professor Sidor stated:

“We think this is by far the oldest known instance of a compound odontoma.  It would indicate that this is an ancient type of tumour.”

Other odontomas have been found in the fossilised remains of mammals before, but as far as Everything Dinosaur team members are aware, all these fossils are associated with Quaternary deposits and thus, the fossils come from mammals that lived much more recently.

A Lateral View of the Skull of a Typical Gorgonopsid

Gorgonopsid skull.

Lateral view of a gorgonopsid skull.

Picture Credit: Professor Sidor/University of Washington

Tracing the Origins of Pathology within the Mammalia

Finding evidence in an ancient jaw bone suggests that the causes of odontoma in the Mammalia are nested deep within the ancestral roots of this Class of vertebrates.  The fragment of lower jaw was found in isolation, this single fossil was not found in association with other material, so its scientific value was minimal.  As such, it was selected to undergo thin slicing and subsequent microscopic analysis and CT scanning, a process that would destroy it.  Although the outside of the fossil showed no signs of pathology (disease or injury), when thin sections were viewed under high magnification evidence of the compound odontoma was revealed.

A Typical Fragment of Fossil Jaw Similar to the Specimen Used in the Study

Anterior portion of gorgonopsid lower jaw.

A partial dentary of a gorgonopsid.

Picture Credit: Professor Sidor/University of Washington

The Gorgonopsidae are synapsids, Tetrapods that possess a single pair of openings low down in the skull behind the eyes.  Modern mammals are synapsids, and studying the pathology of extinct synapsids such as the “mammal-like reptiles”* can provide scientists with information on how diseases and other problems such as tumours first came about.

Lead author, University of Washington biology graduate student, Megan Whitney explained:

“Most synapsids are extinct, and we, that is, mammals, are their only living descendants.  To understand when and how our mammalian features evolved, we have to study fossils of synapsids like the gorgonopsians.”

Gorgonopsids have several mammalian characteristics.  Many species walked with an upright gait and like us, they have heterogeneous teeth (differentiated teeth with differing morphology designed for specialised purposes).  The jaw bone of a gorgonopsid was studied to see if these ancient creatures had other mammalian characteristics too.

Megan added:

“Most reptiles alive today fuse their teeth directly to the jawbone, but mammals do not.  We use tough, but flexible, string-like tissues to hold teeth in their sockets and I wanted to know if the same was true for gorgonopsians.”

The multiple thin slices of jaw, each slice no thicker than a piece of note paper, were polished so that their internal structure could be revealed.  When viewed under the microscope these slices revealed evidence of the compound odontoma embedded in the bone adjacent to the root of a canine tooth.  At higher magnification, the components of the tumour could be made out, tiny teeth, each with distinct layers of dentine, enamel and cementum.

A Highly-Magnified Image of the Compound Odontoma

Histological section of jaw showing compound odontoma.

Thin section of gorgonopsid lower jaw showing a cluster of tooth-like structures – a compound odontoma.

Picture Credit: Professor Sidor/University of Washington

The picture above shows the “U” shaped structure of the canine tooth root with a cluster of tooth-like structures erupting around it and penetrating the adjacent bone.

Professor Sidor concluded by stating that this odontoma was possibly the first case found in a non-mammal, to have been reported.  Such an ancient tumour suggests that this mammalian condition existed tens of millions of years before the first true mammals evolved.

The professor summarised the research by stating:

“This discovery demonstrates how the fossil record can tell us a lot about our present-day lives, even the diseases or pathologies that are part of our mammalian heritage and you could never tell that this creature had it from the outside.”

“mammal-like reptiles”* a term falling out of favour with modern cladistics, groups like the Pelycosaurs and the Gorgonopsidae are referred to as “stem mammals” or sometimes “proto mammals”.

For a video review of the Wild Safari Prehistoric Life Inostrancevia model: Inostrancevia Model Video Review

13 12, 2016

Redefining the Horned Dinosaurs

By | December 13th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Two New Ceratopsian Clades – Nasutoceratopsini and the Centrosaurini

Over the last few years, the number of horned dinosaurs described from fossils found in North America has risen at a rapid rate.  New additions to the Ceratopsidae include Machairoceratops and Spiclypeus (2016), Wendiceratops along with Regaliceratops (2015), Pentaceratops aquilonius and Mercuriceratops (2014) Judiceratops, Nasutoceratops and Bravoceratops (2013), Medusaceratops, Utahceratops, Kosmoceratops and Mojoceratops (2010) and Albertaceratops (2007) – we did say that the number of identified North American genera had gone up rapidly!  All these new horned dinosaurs has led to an inevitable revision of the Ceratopsidae family tree.  Writing in the academic journal “The Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences”, researchers have erected two new clades, otherwise referred to as “tribes” – namely the Nasutoceratopsini and the Centrosaurini.

A New Tribe Helping to Sort Out Horned Dinosaurs – Nasutoceratopsini

Nasutoceratopsini clade erected.

A new type of horned dinosaur based on the fragmentary skull CMN-8804.

Picture Credit: Canadian Museum of Natural History/Andrey Atuchin

International Rules of Taxonomic Classification

There are international rules laid out to help ensure that scientists are consistent in their use of appropriate terminology when it comes to classifying organisms.  Admittedly, we at Everything Dinosaur don’t always follow those rules on this blog, but when it comes to classification, the ending given to a word helps to define the rank within taxonomy of that word.  Here’s an example

Order: Ornithischia (bird-hipped dinosaurs)

Clade: Marginocephalia (bony shelf at the back of the skull)

Family: Ceratopsidae (note – all zoological families end in the letters “idae”)

Sub-Family or Clade: Centrosaurinae (a sub-family is written with the suffix “inae” to help denote the status in taxonomy)

Clade or Tribe: Nasutoceratopsini (a division of the family, above the rank of genus but below sub-family or family.  It is a rank always denoted by the ending letters “ini”)

Genus: Nasutoceratops (a taxonomic rank just above species that groups together very closely related species)

Species: Nasutoceratops titusi (the lowest of the major taxonomic classifications, denoting an individual species with the species name usually written in italics or underlined if the name is hand-written)

Nasutoceratopsini and the Centrosaurini

The scientists, which include lead author Dr Michael Ryan (Cleveland Museum of Natural History), have erected these two tribes, or clades within the sub-family Centrosaurinae based on an assessment of anatomical characteristics following extensive comparative analysis of the fossilised bones of these large, herbivorous dinosaurs.  A fragmentary skull which includes parts of the snout and beak of a Ceratopsian, collected nearly eighty years ago in southern Alberta, has led to the establishment of the Nasutoceratopsini.  The fossil skull (pictured below), was collected by the famous palaeontologist Charles Sternberg from southern Alberta in 1937.  Although it is too fragmentary to allow the identification of autapomorphies (unique characteristics) that would allow a new species to be named, it has helped the research team to identify the Nasutoceratopsini based on several features such as the large, broad neck frill and the shape of the beak.

Specimen Number CMN-8804 Helping to Define the Nasutoceratopsini 

Fragmentary Ceratopsian skull from southern Alberta.

Highly fragmentary Ceratopsian skull collected by Charles Sternberg in 1937.

Picture Credit: Canadian Natural History Museum/The Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences

The new Nasutoceratopsini grouping includes Avaceratops from Montana as well as the recently described Nasutoceratops from Utah), along with an as yet undescribed skull specimen from Malta, Montana (specimen number GPDM-63).  Unlike, their ostentatious contemporaries within the Centrosaurinae, the Nasutoceratopsini had prominent frills that lacked well-developed ornamentation.  In a press release, the scientists state that the Nasutoceratopsini were not dinosaur show-offs, choosing instead to blend into their environments.

A Close View of the Head of the Dinosaur (Specimen CMN-8804)

 Nasutoceratopsini head.

The broad frill lacking excessive ornamentation of a Nasutoceratopsini.

Picture Credit: Canadian Museum of Natural History/Andrey Atuchin

Although all nasutoceratopsins lack shield ornamentation, they had two long brow horns above their eyes.

Dr Ryan explained:

“Nasutoceratopsins took a different evolutionary path from their centrosaurine cousins, which typically have highly ornamented skulls.  We believe that the skull ornamentation was important for attracting mates.  If nasutoceratopsins lacked bony ornamentation, it’s possible that they may have used distinctive coloration patterns, social behaviours or vocalisations, like modern birds do in their courtship behaviours.  But we’ll never know for sure since those latter features don’t fossilise.”

The second new tribe described by the scientists, Centrosaurini, formally acknowledges its members (such as Centrosaurus) as being a natural grouping of horned dinosaurs with highly ornamented frills and short brow horns.

A Reassessment of the Centrosaurinae (Phylogeny)

Centrosaurinae phylogeny (2016).

Looking at the phylogeny of the Centrosaurinae.

Picture Credit: The Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences with additional annotation from Everything Dinosaur

In the consensus tree diagram above, the phylogenetic relationship between members of the tribe Nasutoceratopsini are shown within the sub-family Centrosaurinae.  The new clades Nasutoceratopsini and Centrosaurini are underlined in red.

The fact that the two tribes are found together over a great distance in rocks of the same age indicates that they would have overlapped in the same regions at the same time.  Nasutoceratopsins and centrosaurins co-existed.  The research team examined the strata in the Belly River Group (southern Alberta) and compared it to the roughly same-aged rocks that comprise the Judith River Formation of north-central Montana.  They then mapped the Ceraptosidae fossils so that they could estimate which types of ceratopsids were contemporaneous.

Which Types of Horned Dinosaur Lived When?

Nasutoceratopsini and Centrosaurini species were contemporaries.

Nasutoceratopsini and Centrosaurini species were contemporaries in Laramidia.

Picture Credit: The Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences with additional annotation from Everything Dinosaur

In the sequential strata diagrams above different members of clades that comprise the Ceratopsidae have been identified.

Key

B C = Basal ceratopsid

C = Centrosaurini

N = Nasutoceratopsini

P =Pachyrhinosaurini

Co-author of the paper, Dr Jordan Mallon (Canadian Museum of Nature), compared the ceratopsids of North America in the Campanian stage of the Late Cretaceous to extant populations of African rhinos, Dr Mallon stated:

“It’s probably similar to how two species of rhinoceros can broadly overlap in their geographic ranges, but do not actually compete with each other for resources.  Black rhinos will feed on woody browse, while white rhinos are primarily grass grazers.  Thus, the two species tend to utilise different parts of the same environments.  The assumption that centrosaurins and nasutoceratopsins may have had different feeding strategies is supported by the fact that the two tribes had different types of jaws, with the lower jaws of nasutoceratopsins being shorter and deeper.”

The scientific paper: “A Basal Ceratopsid (Centrosaurinae: Nasutoceratopsini) from the Oldman Formation (Campanian) of Alberta, Canada” published in The Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences

12 12, 2016

A Drawing of Regaliceratops

By | December 12th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

A Drawing of Regaliceratops

As Everything Dinosaur prepares for the arrival of the first of the new for 2017 prehistoric animal models from CollectA, which are due to arrive in the first quarter next year, team members have been busy preparing fact sheets to accompany the new models.  When fact sheets are prepared, illustrations of the prehistoric animal featured are required, below is the drawing that will be used to illustrate the fact sheet all about the horned dinosaur Regaliceratops.

A Drawing of the Horned Dinosaur Regaliceratops

Regaliceratops drawing.

A drawing of the horned dinosaur Regaliceratops.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Regaliceratops peterhewsi

Geologist Peter Hews discovered a large fossilised skull in strata estimated to be around 68 million years old back in 2005.  The fossil material consisted of a substantial amount of the skull, some elements were missing such as the dentary (lower jaw) and the rostral bone, although the majority of the skull bones were present.  The fossil came from the St Mary River Formation exposures of south-western Alberta (Canada).  The genus name honours the Royal Tyrrell Museum (Drumheller, Alberta) as well as giving a nod to that flamboyant crown-like bony frill.  The specific epithet honours the discoverer of the holotype fossil material as well as giving recognition the geologist’s contribution to the study of the St Mary River Formation.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s 2015 article about the naming of this Late Cretaceous dinosaur: Regaliceratops – A Right Royal Rumble

For an article on the new for 2017 CollectA Regaliceratops dinosaur model: New CollectA Models for 2017 (Part 2)

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