All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
/2016
11 12, 2016

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

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

The Rebor Deinonychus Trio “Cerberus Clan” is Coming to Everything Dinosaur

The Rebor “Cerberus Clan”, the third part of the Acrocanthosaurus/Tenontosaurus diorama is due to arrive at Everything Dinosaur’s warehouse in the next ten days or so.  The trio of raptors “Deinonychus antirrhopus“, nick-named Shoot, Tooth and Thrill (we think), completes the “Hercules and the Ceryneian Hind” model set, all the bases are designed to interlock to provide a seamless prehistoric scene that features a total of five dinosaurs.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Cerberus Clan from Rebor

The trio of three “raptors” from Rebor.

Picture Credit: Rebor/Everything Dinosaur

Deinonychus antirrhopus – Changing Perceptions

It could be argued that the scientific description of Deinonychus antirrhopus by the American palaeontologist John Ostrom in 1969, helped change the perception of the Dinosauria.  Ostrom, portrayed this predatory dinosaur as a very active, bird-like animal, helping to revolutionise thinking with the view that many dinosaurs had similar metabolic rates to mammals and birds gradually displacing the idea that dinosaurs were sluggish, dim-witted and slow-moving.  The new Rebor trio certainly echo much of Ostrom’s work, these dinosaurs are depicted as fast-running, pack hunters capable of challenging a larger meat-eating dinosaur over dining rights.

Around a dozen near complete specimens have been discovered, including remains of Deinonychus individuals next to Tenontosaurus (a large, herbivorous dinosaur), a rare example of predator and prey being found together.  It was these fossils that helped to inspire this particular Rebor sculpt.  At Everything Dinosaur, we are not aware of any Deinonychus fossil material being found in the same strata as Acrocanthosaurus (A. atokensis) fossil remains.  However, both these Theropods lived in North America during the middle Albian , although D. antirrhopus fossil material is associated with the Upper Cloverly Formation and the much rarer Acrocanthosaurus fossils, are associated with the Antlers Formation of Oklahoma and the Twin Mountains Formation of Texas.

The Trio of Rebor Models (Hercules, Ceryneian Hind and the Cerberus Clan)

A trio of Rebor replicas.

The Rebor Acrocanthosaurus, Tenontosaurus and Deinonychus diorama.

Picture Credit: Rebor/Everything Dinosaur

Each item is sold separately, to see the complete range of Rebor models available at Everything Dinosaur: Rebor Replicas and Prehistoric Animal Models

With individuals measuring more than three metres in length, a pack of Deinonychus would have made a formidable and frightening sight, even a giant, eleven-metre-long, fully-grown Acrocanthosaurus might have been well advised to steer well clear of them.

Fine Details on the Rebor “Raptor” Models

Rebor Cerberus Clan "Raptors".

The Rebor “Cerberus Clan”.

Picture Credit: Rebor/Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows the three Deinonychus dinosaur models in the Rebor “Cerberus Clan” set.  Each one is in a different pose and has different colouration.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We are very excited to hear that the Rebor trio of Deinonychus models are ready for shipping.  The first of these model sets should arrive before Christmas, but it is unlikely, that given the delays in post at this time of year, that we will be able to get out orders to customers in time for the big day.  However, what a fantastic way to welcome in the New Year!”

An Early Concept Illustration of the Rebor “Cerberus Clan” Models

Concept design - Rebor "Cerberus Clan".

The Rebor “Cerberus Clan” – concept illustration.

Picture Credit: Rebor

Stock is expected in about ten days or so.

If you would like to reserve this wonderful model set, just email Everything Dinosaur: Email Everything Dinosaur

10 12, 2016

Badger-sized Didelphodon Had a Bite More Powerful than a Hyena

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

Didelphodon Study Suggests a Powerful Bite

Research published in the academic journal “Nature Communications” suggests that dinosaurs in the Late Cretaceous, did not have it all their own way when it came strong teeth and powerful jaws.  This new study, conducted by scientists from the Burke Museum and the University of Washington, indicates that the stem metatherian Didelphodon vorax may have had the strongest bite relative to its body size of any known mammal.  The team estimate that D. vorax could have weighed in excess of five kilogrammes and probably would have attacked and consumed small dinosaurs.  However, microscopic analysis of the wear patterns on fossil teeth suggest that Didelphodon was not entirely carnivorous, it seems to have consumed a wide variety of food items including plants, but those robust jaws and specialised teeth were capable of crushing hard body parts such as the shells of snails and the bones of small dinosaurs.  The research team suggest that Didelphodon may well have been durophagous (jaws and teeth adapted for crushing and coping with bones and other tough body parts, such as mollusc shells, bones and the exoskeletons of Arthropods).

Didelphodon vorax Probably Ate Dinosaurs

Didelphodon vorax illustrated.

Ancient marsupial ancestor may have attacked and eaten small dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Misaki Ouchida

Metatherians

Metatherians are the pouched mammals, the marsupials.  Didelphodon is believed to be distantly related to extant marsupials such as kangaroos, koalas and opossums.  Three genera have been named, all from fragmentary fossils found in North America.  The Didelphodon genus was erected in 1889 by the distinguished American palaeontologist Othniel C. Marsh.  Ironically, it is very likely that small isolated bones and teeth representing many different types of Late Cretaceous mammal may have been overlooked by field teams working for Marsh as they strove to uncover large dinosaur bones in a bid to overshadow the exploits of Marsh’s bitter rival, Edward Drinker Cope.  Described as being roughly the size of a badger, but with the skull reminiscent of the extant marsupial the Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), very little post-cranial Didelphodon material has been formally described.  A specimen has been recently recovered from the Hell Creek Formation, it is likely that a more accurate picture of, what would have been one of the largest mammals of the Late Mesozoic, will emerge.  For the moment, there is a debate amongst palaeontologists as to whether Didelphodon was a semi-aquatic mammal with a lean, otter-like body or whether it was entirely terrestrial.

An Illustration of Didelphodon vorax

Didlephodon - depicted as a semi-aquatic mammal.

An illustration of Didelphodon vorax.

 

A Predator/Scavenger of the Hell Creek Formation

The research team, which included lead author, Dr Gregory Wilson (Burke Museum), examined four specimens from the Hell Creek Formation, namely a near complete skull, the most complete fossil skull of Didelphodon found to date, a partial snout and two upper jaw bones (maxillae).  All four specimens had been assigned to D. vorax based on an analysis of the cheek teeth that were present.  These fossils enabled the team to estimate the strength of this mammal’s bite and the results, coupled with a study of teeth morphology, suggest that Didelphodon occupied a durophagous predator/scavenger niche in the Hell Creek ecosystem.  Pound for pound, Didelphodon had a stronger bite than a Hyena!

Some of the Fossil Specimens Used in the Study

Skull and jaw fossils of Didelphodon.

The partial snout (UWBM 94084) and the near complete skull (NDGS 431) of Didelphodon used in the bite force study.

Picture Credit: Burke Museum

Dr Wilson stated:

“What I love about Didelphodon vorax is that it crushes the classic mould of Mesozoic mammals.  Instead of a shrew-like mammal meekly scurrying into the shadows of dinosaurs, this badger-sized mammal would have been a fearsome predator on the Late Cretaceous landscape – even for some dinosaurs.”

Most Cretaceous mammals are known from only isolated teeth and fragments of jaw.  However, with a nearly complete skull, part of the North Dakota Geological Survey State fossil collection, the scientists were able to examine in more detail the phylogenetic relationship between Didelphodon and modern-day marsupials.  The team concluded that marsupials most probably evolved in North America, as part of a Late Cretaceous diversification of the Mammalia and later dispersed to South America.  The Cretaceous extinction event that saw the demise of the Dinosauria and Pterosaurs also resulted in the near extinction of the metatherian mammals.  These stem marsupials became larger and evolved to take advantage of different ecological niches before a decline in the North American metatherian diversity from the Late Campanian through to the Maastrichtian faunal stages of the Late Cretaceous, before these types of mammals died out almost entirely in North America at the end of the Mesozoic.  Marsupials survived in South America and marsupial diversity and evolution shifted to this part of the Americas.

A Closer View of the Snout of Didelphodon

Fossilsed snout of Didelphodon.

A close up view of the snout of Didelphodon, one of four fossils used in a new study into Late Cretaceous metatherians.

Picture Credit: Burke Museum

 Marsupials seem to be the dominant types of mammal in the Hell Creek Formation, approximately sixty species have been described, Didelphodon being the largest.  An analysis of the snout bones including the premaxilla suggests that this mammal had a highly mobile snout, a feature lost in most later metatherians.

Fearsome Jaws and a Strong Skull (D. vorax)

Drawings of the skull and jaws of Didelphodon vorax.

Line drawings (various views) of the skull of Didelphodon vorax.

Picture Credit: Wilson et al (Nature Communications)

The picture above shows the reconstructed jaws and skull of D. vorax (scale bar = 1 cm).  Picture (a) shows the anterior view (view from the front), whilst (b) shows the posterior view (view from the rear).  A view from the top down (dorsal) is (c), whilst (d) is a drawing viewed from underneath (ventral view).  Drawing (e), shows the skull and jaws as viewed from the right (right lateral view).  Although, these four specimens involved in the study have done much to improve our understanding of the skull morphology of Didelphodon, the areas not preserved in the actual fossils include the lower incisors, some upper incisors and parts of the back of the skull.  Some suture lines remain unclear, these are shown in the above illustrations as dashed lines.

Commenting on the significance of this new insight into Late Cretaceous mammal evolution, Dr Wilson said:

“Our study highlights how, despite decades of palaeontology research, new fossil discoveries and new ways of analysing those fossils can still fundamentally impact how we view something as central to us as the evolution of our own clade, mammals.”

The scientific paper: “A Large Carnivorous Mammal from the Late Cretaceous and the North American Origin of Marsupials”, published in Nature Communications.

9 12, 2016

Year 2/3 Children Design Dinosaurs

By | December 9th, 2016|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Dinosaur Designs

As 2016 draws to a close, team members at Everything Dinosaur can reflect on all the teaching work that they have carried out over the last twelve months.  Our work in schools may be just about finished for the year, but we are still responding to emails and phone calls from teachers advising them on next term’s dinosaur topic.  The teaching itinerary may be completely full for the Spring Term, next week will see us sending out emails to schools to finalise the arrangements for January’s teaching dates, but we are still supporting those schools and classes that we visited in November, helping the teaching team to maximise the benefits from one of our dinosaur workshops in school.

A Thank You Letter from Cyprian

Year 2/3 children design dinosaurs.

A “Cypyensores” created by Cyprian (Year 2/3).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Thank You Letters

Take for example, one of our recent visits to work with a mixed class of Year 2/3 children.  During our dinosaur and fossil themed workshop, we set the class a number of our “pinkie palaeontologist” challenges.  We asked the children to send us a thank you letter.  This provides the teacher with a great opportunity to introduce a dinosaur-themed writing exercise.  The picture above shows one such thank you letter, sent into Everything Dinosaur from Cyprian.  If the children had questions that we had not been able to answer during our morning of dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed teaching activities, we suggested that they might want to include the question within their letter.  This gives the teaching team the opportunity to check appropriate use of grammar and punctuation.  It also provides a wonderful opportunity for the children to practice their cursive hand-writing, a key requirement of the English element of the national curriculum for this age group.

A Dinosaur Design by Lois

Lois (Year 2/3) designs a plant-eating dinosaur.

Lois and her green, plant-eating dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Designing Dinosaurs

During the workshop with this mixed class of Year 2/3 children, we asked the class to have a go at designing their very own dinosaur.  This permitted us to help reinforce the teacher’s scheme of work which included reference to simple food chains, habitats and the idea of extinction events.  Cyprian designed a “Cypyensores”, whilst Lois, one of his classmates, opted to produce a green, plant-eating dinosaur, with lots of lovely labels to help describe this dinosaur and to indicate what it might have needed to survive if this dinosaur had lived millions of years ago.

The class teacher commented:

“Thank you so much for coming to visit us on Friday, I really hope you enjoyed your time at our school.  All of the children really enjoyed meeting you and learning some amazing information about the dinosaurs.  It was a great discussion point for my class, which carried on until home time!”

To enquire about Everything Dinosaur’s teaching work in schools (summer term): Email Everything Dinosaur About Dinosaur Themed Workshops in School

8 12, 2016

The Tale of a Dinosaur Tail

By | December 8th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Dinosaur Tail Preserved in Mid-Cretaceous Amber

A team of international scientists including Lida Xing (University of Geosciences, Beijing), Phil Currie (University of Alberta), Michael Benton (University of Bristol), Ryan McKellar (Royal Saskatchewan Museum) and Xing Xu (Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology) have published a paper describing the discovery of a partial dinosaur tail preserved in amber.

The Dinosaur Tail Segment Preserved in Burmite (Amber from Myanmar)

A tiny dinosaur tail preserved in amber.

The exquisitely preserved dinosaur tail in amber.

Picture Credit: R. McKellar/Royal Saskatchewan Museum

 It is the first time that non-avian Theropod remains have been found preserved in amber and this remarkable fossil find may help scientists to uncover more information about dinosaur biology and the evolution of plumage.

Views of the Preserved Dinosaur Tail

Preserved in amber, a dinosaur tail.

Dinosaur tail preserved in amber.

Picture Credit: Elsevier Ltd (Current Biology)

The picture above shows various photomicrographs of the plumage of the fossilised tail (specimen number DIP-V-15103).  The exquisite details of the individual feathers and the barbs and barbules that help to “zip” the feather together can be made out.  This fossil find confirms the theory long held by evolutionary biologists that the branching structures of feathers evolved before a modern-looking rachis (central shaft).

Photomicrographs of DIP-V-15103 Plumage

(A) Pale ventral feather in transmitted light (arrow indicates rachis apex) – scale bar = 1 mm.

(B) Dark-field image of (A), highlighting structure and visible colour – scale bar = 0.5 mm.

(C) Dark dorsal feather in transmitted light, apex toward bottom of image – scale bar = 0.5 mm.

(D) Base of ventral feather (arrow) with weakly developed rachis, scale bar = 0.5 mm.

(E) Pigment distribution and microstructure of barbules in (C), with white lines pointing to pigmented regions of barbules, scale bar 0.5 mm.

(F–H) Barbule structure variation and pigmentation, among barbs, and ‘rachis’ with rachidial barbules (near arrows); images from apical, mid-feather, and basal positions respectively, scale bars 0.25 mm.

An analysis of the preserved pigmentation signatures suggests that this little dinosaur’s tail was a light chestnut colour with a paler, or possibly white underside.

Definitely a Dinosaur

Lida Xing, the lead author of the study, discovered the remarkable fossil at an amber market in Myitkina (Kachin State, northern Myanmar).  The 99-million-year-old amber had already been polished for jewellery and the retailer had thought that the “furry looking” object visible inside the polished piece was plant remains.   However, on closer inspection, it turned out to be the tail of a feathered dinosaur about the size of a sparrow.  It was then a case of detective work, with Lida Xing eventually tracking down the amber miner who had originally found the specimen.  Once the team had an idea of the location of the fossil find, they could begin the process of analysing the remains, knowing that what was inside had lived during the Middle Cretaceous.

Scanning electron microscopy permitted the team to view the skeletal structure of the tail.  The caudal vertebrae (tail bones) are not fused into a stiff rod, nor are the vertebrae compressed into a pygostyle (the last five tail bones much reduced and fused into a plate of bone, the pygostyle, birds more advanced than Archaeopteryx of the Late Jurassic had a pygostyle), as in extant birds and their close relatives.  This tail was long and flexible with keels of feathers running down each side – the tail of a small dinosaur.

Treasures Preserved in Burmite

Earlier this year, Everything Dinosaur reported upon the discovery of bird wings preserved in burmite (the term used to describe amber from Myanmar, which was formerly called Burma), the researchers, many of whom collaborated on the study of the dinosaur tail, identified the tiny wings of a hatchling bird that had become trapped in sticky tree resin.  The wing fossil came from a bird that was a member of the Enantiornithes group of birds.  Enantiornithes are the most widespread, diverse and abundant type of bird known from the Mesozoic.  Like the more primitive Confuciusornithids, these birds had pygostyles, the long sinewy tail preserved in this piece of amber strongly suggests that this is a piece of a dinosaur, albeit a small piece the tail measures just 36.73 mm long.

Views of the Dinosaur Tail Preserved in Amber

Views of the dinosaur tail preserved in amber.

Photomicrographs and SR X-Ray μCT reconstructions of the specimen (DIP-V-15103).

 

Picture Credit:  Elsevier Ltd (Current Biology)

To read Everything Dinosaur’s earlier article (June 2016), about the bird wings preserved in amber: Bird Wings Preserved in Amber from Myanmar

The picture above shows photomicrographs and synchrotron radiation X-ray images of the tail.

(A) Dorsolateral overview (view from the top) – note the insect remains also found within the amber nodule, burmite has provided palaeontologists with a large number of insect specimens to study.  Scale bar = 5 mm.

(B) Ventrolateral overview (view from underneath) with decay products (bubbles in foreground, staining to lower right).  Scale bar = 5 mm.

(C) Caudal exposure of tail showing darker dorsal plumage (top), milky amber, and exposed carbon film around vertebrae (centre).  Scale bar = 2 mm.

(D–H) Reconstructions focusing on dorsolateral, detailed dorsal, ventrolateral, detailed ventral, and detailed lateral aspects of tail, respectively, showing layout of the vertebrae and the orientation of feathers.  Scale bar in (D) and (F) = 5 mm.  Scale bar in (E), (G) and (H) = 2 mm.

Asterisks in (A) and (C) indicate carbonised film (soft tissue) exposure.  Arrows in (B) and (E)–(G) indicate shared landmark, plus bubbles exaggerating rachis dimensions; brackets in (G) and (H) delineate two vertebrae with clear transverse expansion and curvature of tail at articulation.  Abbreviations for feather rachises: d, dorsal; dl, dorsalmost lateral; vl, ventralmost lateral; v, ventral.

Vestiges of Organic Remains

Chemical analysis of the carbonised soft tissues where the tail was exposed at the surface of the amber nodule indicate traces of ferrous iron Fe+2, this suggests that the specimen may contain vestiges of haemoglobin, a relic of the blood of a dinosaur.  It had been rumoured that other remains of vertebrates had been found in burmite, but these pieces quickly found their way into the hands of private collectors and they were lost to science.  This piece remains unique in that preserved dinosaur remains in amber have come to the attention of the scientific community and a study has been undertaken.

How Did it Get There?

Dr Ryan McKellar (Royal Saskatchewan Museum), stated that the dinosaur tail was not dried out or desiccated when it was trapped in the tree resin.  This suggests that a little dinosaur became stuck in the resin when it was still alive.  Co-author, Professor Mike Benton (Bristol University) commented:

 “It’s amazing to see all the details of a dinosaur tail – the bones, flesh, skin, and feathers – and to imagine how this little fellow got his tail caught in the resin, and then presumably died because he could not wrestle free.”

The resin was presumably coming out of a wound in a coniferous tree, either running down the truck or lodging in a branch.  This suggests that this little dinosaur may have been arboreal, a tree dweller.  It has long been thought that there were a large number of small types of Theropod dinosaur, but the fossil record for such small, forest dwelling reptiles is virtually non-existent.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“It is likely that there were many different types of insectivorous Theropod dinosaur, inhabiting woodland habitats, but their delicate bones and the fact that forest corpses have a very limited fossil preservation potential, greatly reduces the chances of palaeontologists being able to study their remains.  These types of dinosaurs are likely to be severely underrepresented in the fossil record.”

What Sort of Dinosaur?

Although feathers have been found preserved in amber before, the lack of skeletal remains associated with them frustrated scientists when it came to identifying what sort of creature the feathers belonged to.  However, in this case, with the tail segment and its preserved caudal vertebrae, the researchers can confidently assign this specimen to the Dinosauria, but what type of dinosaur was it?

An Artist’s Reconstruction of the Little Feathered Dinosaur

Feathered dinosaur illustration.

An illustration of the feathered dinosaur, about to become stuck in amber.

Picture Credit: Cheung Chung-Tat

In the artist’s reconstruction, the dinosaur is depicted as a ground dwelling animal, however, team members at Everything Dinosaur don’t rule out the idea of an arboreal dinosaur becoming stuck in the tree resin. A spokesman for the Cheshire based company explained:

“A number of dinosaurs show adaptations for climbing indicating that they were at least, partially arboreal.  You would have been more likely to have encountered tree resin on a resin producing tree such as a conifer and whilst we can’t completely rule out the idea that a ground dwelling dinosaur was unlucky enough to become trapped in amber, the context of this fossil raises the possibility that indeed, a number of dinosaurs lived in trees, after all, that would be one way of keeping out of the way of terrestrial predators.  It is tantalising given what the amber fossil shows, but it could be speculated that this little dinosaur, if arboreal, could have been a glider or may be even capable of powered flight.”

As for honing the specimen down to a specific genus or even a family, that is quite a challenging task.

The shape of the feathers are different from a number of known feathered dinosaurs.  For example, the dromaeosaurid Sinornithosaurus has a reduced rachis and long, naked, filamentous feather barbs.  The plumage on specimen DIP-V-15103 also contrasts with the therizinosaurid Beipiaosaurus.  The researchers conclude that it was probably bipedal and this dinosaur has been assigned to the Coelurosauria clade, a sub-group of the Theropoda that includes the tyrannosaurids, compsognathids, the ornithomimids and the “raptors”.

The scientific paper: “A Feathered Dinosaur Tail with Primitive Plumage Trapped in Mid-Cretaceous Amber” published in the journal “Current Biology”.

7 12, 2016

Sizing Up Early Dinosaurs – Variation an Evolutionary Advantage?

By | December 7th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

For Coelophysis Variety Might Have Been the Spice of Life

Scientists from Virginia Tech University have concluded that early dinosaurs had a wide variety of growth patterns, a trait that may have helped species survive extinction events ultimately assisting the Dinosauria to establish themselves as the dominant, large terrestrial fauna.  The study, published in the academic journal “The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”, focuses on one early Theropod, Coelophysis (pronounced: See-low-fy-sis), and the scientists conclude that a single dinosaur species contained a huge amount of diversity in terms of the size that the animals grew to.

This sets dinosaurs apart from birds, which tend to be much more uniform in terms of their growth rates and sizes within a single species. A species that contained a broad range of different sized individuals may have had an advantage during hard times or when a sudden catastrophe occurred.  This ontogenetic variation may have helped dinosaurs like Coelophysis survive the harsh environment at the end of the Triassic some 210 to 201 million years ago, a time when a large number of other terrestrial reptile species became extinct.

Study of the Theropod Coelophysis May Provide a Clue to the Success of Dinosaurs

Coelophysis flock.

A flock of Coelophysis descend on a waterhole (Ghost Ranch).

Picture Credit: Matt Celeskey

A Race for Supremacy Across Pangaea

The end Permian extinction event devastated terrestrial ecosystems and the early dinosaurs rapidly evolved and radiated to take advantage of vacated ecological niches.  During the Triassic, a wide variety of land animals competed with each other – cynodonts, dicynodonts, rauisuchids, phytosaurs and dinosaurs.  Scientists have put forward several theories as to why the Dinosauria eventually rose to become the dominant megafauna.  This new research, conducted by Christopher Griffin and Sterling Nesbitt (Department of Geosciences, Virginia Tech), looked at the variation in growth patterns in a mass death fossil assemblage of Coelophysis, a flock of fast-running, carnivorous dinosaurs that died together in a flood some 208 million years ago, in present-day New Mexico (Ghost Ranch).  Hundreds of individuals were buried together, ranging from youngsters, to sub-adults to fully grown animals.  In total, the researchers examined the fossilised remains of 174 specimens, housed in museums across America.

An Illustration of the Head of Coelophysis

Coelophysis (Hollow Form).

Coelophysis of the Late Triassic.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Explaining their results, lead author, Christopher Griffin stated:

“We found that the earliest dinosaurs had a far higher level of variation in growth patterns between individuals than crocodiles and birds, their closest living relatives.  Not only were there many different pathways to grow from hatchling to adult, but there was an incredible amount of variation in body size, with some small individuals far more mature than some larger individuals, and some large individuals more immature than we would guess based on size alone.”

Ontogenetic Sequence Analysis

A technique called ontogenetic sequence analysis was used to assess the growth of the Coelophysis fossil assemblage, this data set was compared to two extant birds and one crocodile species, animals alive today that are closely related to extinct dinosaurs.  The birds (Aves) are the fastest growing terrestrial vertebrates, anyone who has observed nesting garden birds can see how, within a few weeks, the hatchlings are almost the same size as their parents.  Birds develop unlike all other living Archosaurs.  As part of this postnatal development, birds possess a low amount of intraspecific variation, put simply, one bird such as a blackbird (Turdus merula) grows at much the same rate as other members of its species and there is little size variation in populations.  The Coelophysis flock shows a very different growth rate with a wide variety of adult sizes.  When did this low variation in body size amongst Archosaurs evolve?  By studying the extensive fossil collection of one species of non-avian, extinct animal (Coelophysis), scientists hope to pinpoint this transition in Mesozoic Theropods.

Coelophysis Study Sheds Light on the Evolution of Growth Rates Amongst the Theropoda

Coelophysis - Late Triassic dinosaur.

A drawing of a Coelophysis dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Geosciences Master’s student Christopher Griffin went onto state:

“As these animals grew, muscle attachment scars formed on the limb bones, and the bones of the ankle, hips, and shoulder fused together, similar to how the skull bones of a human baby fuse together during growth.  Fossils of even a single partial skeleton of an early dinosaur are exceptionally rare, so to have an entire group of a single species that lived and died together provided an unparalleled opportunity to study early dinosaur growth like never before.”

The team concluded that this high variation in early dinosaurs as demonstrated by the Coelophysidae was lost in more derived Theropod dinosaurs such as Allosaurus of the Late Jurassic and Late Cretaceous tyrannosaurids.  This intraspecific high variance could have contributed to the rise of the Dinosauria during the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event.

Assistant professor Sterling Nesbitt added:

“Large variation in early dinosaurs may have allowed them to survive harsh environmental challenges like dry climate and high levels of carbon dioxide.  Understanding why dinosaurs were so successful has been a great mystery, and high variation may be one of the characteristics of dinosaurs that led to their success. However, it’s difficult to determine whether this trait evolved in response to the environment or was simply a stroke of luck that allowed these dinosaurs to survive and thrive and become the most dominate vertebrates on Earth for 150 million years.”

Variation in those species of early dinosaurs which have a more substantial fossil record had been put down to sexual dimorphism in the past.  However, this new study, which focused on growth rate analysis as conferred by the degree of bone fusion and muscle scar evidence on the fossilised bones, did not find data to support that the fossil assemblage growth rates were solely down to differences in the adult size of males and females.

Steve Brusatte, a palaeontologist from the University of Edinburgh, who has undertaken research into the growth rates of other types of Theropods, such as Tyrannosaurs, commented:

“Studies like this are a perfect demonstration of how fossils can help us understand the evolution of peculiar features and behaviours of modern animals.  How dinosaurs grew may have been both the key to their early success and the reason that one particular unique subgroup, the birds, survives today.”

The scientific paper: “Anomalously High Variation in Postnatal Development is Ancestral for Dinosaurs but Lost in Birds”.

6 12, 2016

Rebor 1:1 Scale Lourinhanosaurus Embryonic Skeleton Reviewed

By | December 6th, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Rebor Club Selection Lourinhanosaurus antunesi Embryonic Skeleton

The latest edition to the Rebor “Club Selection” range is this wonderful Lourinhanosaurus antunesi embryonic skeleton replica.   Those clever people at Rebor have got together with the EoFauna Scientific Research Group and created a 1:1 scale replica of a Lourinhanosaurus antunesi embryonic skeleton.  This model has been affectionately nick-named “Bony Bonnie” and with only 1,000 figures made, it is certainly going to have rarity value.

The Rebor Club Selection Lourinhanosaurus antunesi Embryonic Skeleton Replica

Rebor Club Selection Lourinhanosaurus replica.

The 1:1 scale Rebor Club Selection limited edition Lourinhanosaurus antunesi embryonic skeleton model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Based on Actual Fossil Material

The large meat-eating dinosaur known as Lourinhanosaurus has been described from a single, partial skeleton and other fragmentary fossils including a thigh bone, all from the Upper Jurassic strata of the Lourinhã Formation on the western coast of Portugal.  The holotype material (the fossils upon which the genus description is based), consists of vertebrae, a few ribs, bones from the hips and some leg bones including a single pes (toe bone).  The first fossils of Lourinhanosaurus were found by a local farmer in 1982, it was not until 1998 that this dinosaur was formally scientifically named and described.  The Rebor Club Selection Lourinhanosaurus antunesi 1:1 scale replica is based on actual fossil material (specimen number ML 565).  Back in 1993, a scientist found the remains of over one hundred dinosaur eggs, some of which contained complete fossilised embryos.  These egg fossils were assigned to L. antunesi.  The scientist who discovered the egg fossils was Isabel Mateus, the mother of the Portuguese palaeontologist Octávio Mateus who was responsible for the scientific description of this Theropod.

A Close-up View of the Beautiful Skull of the Rebor Lourinhanosaurus Replica

Rebor Club Selection Lourinhanosaurus replica, close up of the head.

The 1:1 scale Rebor Club Selection limited edition Lourinhanosaurus antunesi embryonic skeleton model. A close-up of the head.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the range of Rebor replicas available at Everything Dinosaur, including the limited edition (only 1,000 made), Rebor 1:1 scale Lourinhanosaurus antunesi embryonic skeleton: Rebor Prehistoric Animal Models and Replicas

Rebor’s “Bony Bonnie”

This is the fourth model to be added to the Rebor Club Selection range and like the previous three, “Bony Bonnie” has been skilfully crafted and shows lots of amazing detail.  There is much to be admired in the skeleton model, which is a fraction under nineteen centimetres in length.  Naturally, once hatched the baby Lourinhanosaurus would have been much longer and if it made adulthood it would have grown into a formidable predator, perhaps exceeding eight metres in length and weighing as much as a Jaguar E-type sports car.

The Rebor Club Selection Lourinhanosaurus antunesi Embryonic Skeleton Model

"Bony Bonnie" from Rebor.

The Rebor Club Selection Lourinhanosaurus replica.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A Close-up View of the Egg

Much has been said about the skeleton model, it really is a fantastic piece, but at Everything Dinosaur we would like to conclude by focusing on the broken egg element of the replica that forms the stand for the skeleton.   Lots of detail is shown on the broken egg component of the replica with the typical pits and marks associated with dinosaur egg shell.

The Broken Egg Stand for the Lourinhanosaurus Embryonic Skeleton

Rebor Club Selection Lourinhanosaurus egg.

The broken egg stand for the Rebor Club Selection limited edition Lourinhanosaurus antunesi embryonic skeleton.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Rebor in conjunction with the EoFauna Scientific Research Group must have studied dinosaur eggshell fossils before embarking on this sculpt.  The eggshell is very robust and sturdy and makes an extremely effective stand complimenting the skeleton element of the model.  The name plate on the piece gives the impression of brass and the scientific name has even been inscribed in an italic font, as per scientific convention.

Our congratulations to Rebor and EoFauna Scientific Research Group for this super new addition to the Rebor Club Selection model range.

5 12, 2016

Bridging Romer’s Gap – Early Scottish Tetrapods

By | December 5th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

New Tetrapods from the Lower Carboniferous

Last spring Everything Dinosaur team members had the opportunity to travel to Edinburgh (Scotland), to view several early Tetrapod fossils that had been excavated from a number of remarkable fossil sites located in the Scottish Borders.  This week sees the publication of a scientific paper that describes five new Tetrapods, helping to greater enrich our understanding with regards to the evolution and diversity of some of the very first vertebrates to adapt to terrestrial environments.

Scotland 355 Million Years Ago

Scotland 355 million years ago.

Scotland in the Early Carboniferous.

Picture Credit: Mark Witton/National Museums of Scotland

Scotland and Romer’s Gap

During the Late Devonian and into the Carboniferous, the area of land that makes up much of Scotland today was part of a giant super-continent called Laurentia.  The Scottish Borders were located almost on the equator and the low-lying land was covered with some of the first large forests to evolve on Earth.  The climate was hot, humid and steamy, with seasonal flooding and also periods of intense drought.  A team of scientists, that includes leading early Tetrapod specialist Professor Jennifer Clack (Cambridge University), reporting in the academic journal “Nature Ecology & Evolution” describe five new Early Carboniferous Tetrapods, helping to narrow a fifteen-million-year hole in the fossil record known as Romer’s Gap.  Fossils of Late Devonian Tetrapods have been found, an example of which is Acanthostega, a stem Tetrapod, fossils of Acanthostega have been found in Greenland, including fossil material found by Jennifer Clack.  Acanthostega dates from around 365 million-years-ago, however, the next type of fossils found, date from rocks approximately 350 million-years-old and reveal animals with strong rib cages to support lungs and long, slender limbs – adaptations for a life on land.  Harvard professor Alfred Sherwood Romer, was one of the first scientists to research early Tetrapods and to identify this hole in the fossil record.  This fifteen-million-year interval became known as “Romer’s Gap”.

Professor Alfred Sherwood Romer (1894-1973)

Alfred Romer (courtesy of Harvard University archives)

Harvard Professor Alfred Sherwood Romer.

Picture Credit: Harvard University Archives

Five Almost Complete Fossils Plus Many Fragments of Bone

Building upon the early work of renowned Scottish palaeontologist Stan Wood and his co-worker Tim Smithson (Cambridge University), who, coincidentally, is also an author of this new paper, these researchers have identified a total of five new Tetrapods from rocks laid down in the very Early Carboniferous (Tournaisian stage).    Although, isolated Tetrapod limb bones dating from the Tournaisian faunal stage have been found outside of Scotland, most notably from the Horton Bluff Formation at Blue Beach, Nova Scotia (Canada), collecting from five Scottish locations has identified five new animals with at least seven other new taxa, that have yet to be fully studied.

Tournaisian Tetrapod Fossil Collecting Locations (Scotland)

Fossil locations (early Tetrapods) Scotland.

Scottish Tetrapod fossil locations.

Picture Credit: Nature Ecology & Evolution

This new research, which included exploring strata that today forms the bed of the River Whiteadder, a tributary of the River Tweed, has provided scientists with much more information about the diversity of early Tetrapods and given them an insight into the fauna and flora that existed in some of the world’s first forests.

The five new Tournaisian Tetrapods named are:

  1. Perittodus apsconditus “concealed odd tooth”, known from the cheek region of the skull, lower jaw bones and postcranial elements found at Willie’s Hole on the River Whiteadder (Chirnside).  The lower jaw measures a fraction under seven centimetres in length.
  2. Koilops herma “hollow-faced boundary marker”, the fossils consist of a natural mould of an isolated skull found at Willie’s Hole (River Whiteadder, Chirnside).  The skull measures 8 centimetres long.

Two of the New Early Carboniferous Tetrapods (Perittodus apsconditus and Koilops herma)

Tetrapod fossils helping to close "Romer's Gap".

New Tetrapod tax identified from fossils found on the Scottish borders – Perittodus apsconditus and Koilops herma.

Picture Credit: Nature Evolution & Ecology

The photograph above shows (a) a photograph of the natural mould of the skull of K. herma with interpretative line drawing (b).  Photograph of the main specimen block of Perittodus apsconditus (c), with reconstructions of the lower jaw (d-g).

Fossils and Line Drawings of Ossirarus kierani

Ossirarus fossils and illustrations.

Photographs of Ossirarus fossils with accompanying line drawings.

Picture Credit: Nature Evolution & Ecology

3.  Ossirarus kierani “Kieran’s scattered bones” from Burnmouth Ross end cliffs (see picture above which shows photographs of the fossil material and line drawings).  The species name honours the Kieran family who have done much to protect the natural habitat on this part of the Scottish coast.  The taxon has been described from a single block of stone with preserved skull elements and postcranial bones.  Ossirarus may have been a basal amniote, whilst the other four taxa named are classed as basal Tetrapods.

4.  Diploradus austiumensis “double row of teeth from the mouth of the river”, a reference to the strange configuration of the teeth in the lower jaw and the fact that the specimen, consisting of a single block of bones, was found at Burnmouth Ross end cliffs.

5.  Aytonerpeton microps “small faced crawler from Ayton”, in reference to the size of the skull and the fossil find location (foreshore of Burnmouth Ross end cliffs heading towards the small village of Ayton).

Commenting on the significance of these new Scottish fossils, Professor Clack stated:

“We’re lifting the lid on a key part of the evolutionary story of life on land.  What happened then affects everything that happens subsequently, so it affects the fact that we are here and which other animals live with us today.”

Charcoal Analysis

Sedimentary evidence analysis indicates that these early land animals lived on the low-lying land that was heavily forested, a sort of primeval, prehistoric swamp.  This region was subject to frequent flooding, the fossils of various plants and invertebrates in conjunction with these exceedingly rare vertebrae specimens from locations such as Willie’s Hole are helping scientists to build up a picture of an Early Carboniferous palaeoenvironment – one of Scotland’s first wetlands.

It had been thought that atmospheric oxygen levels crashed during the Late Devonian/Early Carboniferous that inhibited the evolution of land-based vertebrates.  A study of fusinite (fossil charcoal) collected from Willie’s Hole and the Burnmouth locations not only indicated that wildfires did occur, devastating local habitats, but chemical analysis revealed that oxygen levels did not drop below a level of around 16% in the atmosphere during the Tournaisian.  The scientists compared these results to fusinite samples taken from both younger and slightly older strata and they concluded that atmospheric oxygen levels were stable across the Devonian/Carboniferous boundary and therefore, probably did not inhibit the evolution of terrestrial vertebrates.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“It’s great to see more research being carried out in these Scottish locations, building on the work of field palaeontologists such as Stan Wood and we recognise the important role of the Natural Environment and Research Council for funding the study.  The number of potential new taxa identified from the Scottish Borders raises the tantalising possibility that there are a lot more discoveries likely to be made in sedimentary rocks of a similar age.”

The scientific paper: “Phylogenetic and Environmental Context of a Tournaisian Tetrapod Fauna” published in the journal “Nature Ecology & Evolution”.

4 12, 2016

The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs: 2nd Edition Reviewed

By | December 4th, 2016|Book Reviews, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs: 2nd Edition Reviewed

In 2011, team members at Everything Dinosaur had the pleasure of reviewing “The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs” by Gregory S. Paul.  A second edition of this book has just been published, it reflects the dramatic increase in our knowledge of the Dinosauria that has taken place over the last five years or so.  This updated and revised edition is essential reading for fans of dinosaurs, as well as academics and professional palaeontologists.

The Front Cover of “The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs”

"The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs" - 2nd edition.

The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs (second edition).

Picture Credit: Princeton University Press

A Comprehensive Overview of the Dinosauria

This large format book, is more than ten percent bigger than its predecessor, a testament to the increase in the number of new dinosaur genera and species that have been discovered.  The second edition includes details of some one hundred new dinosaur species plus updated illustrations and information on very well-known prehistoric animals such as Triceratops and Brontosaurus.

Using the tried and tested formula of the first book, Gregory S. Paul guides the reader through the history of dinosaur research, before defining dinosaurs and introducing some of the latest ideas about their biology, senses, vocalisation and pathologies.  The author considers aspects of dinosaur behaviour including an assessment of dinosaurs as social, herding animals.  Particular attention is given to the evolution and loss of avian flight, in fact, throughout this volume, the close relationship between the Aves (birds) and Dinosauria is emphasised and exquisitely illustrated with a plethora of feathered dinosaur drawings.

Group and Species Accounts

Each of the main groups of dinosaurs, the Theropods, Sauropodomorphs and the Ornithischians is taken in turn and skilfully segmented to reveal their anatomical relationships.  Many of the individual dinosaur descriptions have been extensively revised and expanded, none more so than the likes of Deinocheirus mirificus that adorns the front cover, just one of over two hundred new and updated illustrations.

Gregory S. Paul has done a great deal to help change people’s perceptions towards the Dinosauria, his latest book, “The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs”, has clearly been a labour of love for this leading dinosaur illustrator and researcher.  It is crammed full of fascinating information, beautiful drawings and the author’s trademark skeletal reconstructions.  This new for 2016 edition, remains a must-have for avid dinosaur fans as well as appealing to the general reader with an interest in how some of the most spectacular lifeforms to have ever existed on our planet evolved and flourished.

Filled with Beautiful Illustrations “The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs”

The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs

Wonderful dinosaur drawings Stenonychosaurus inequalis (nomen dubium).

Picture Credit: Gregory S. Paul (Princeton University Press)

Book Details:

Title: “The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs” by Gregory S. Paul

Publisher: Princeton University Press

ISBN: 9780691167664

More details and book orders can be made here: “Princeton University Press”

Recently, Everything Dinosaur reviewed the excellent “The Princeton Field Guide to Prehistoric Mammals”, an up-to-date guide to the diverse and eclectic prehistoric mammals that evolved after the extinction of the Dinosauria.  This volume includes many reconstructions of prehistoric mammals never before depicted.

To read our review of this well-researched and superbly illustrated book: The Princeton Field Guide to Prehistoric Mammals

Two Books Definitely Worth Adding to Your Christmas Shopping List

Great prehistoric animal books.

Two superb prehistoric animal books.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

3 12, 2016

Packing Orders for Christmas in Full Swing

By | December 3rd, 2016|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Saturday – Preparing and Packing Orders

Armed with some hot tea and warm mince pies, team members at Everything Dinosaur have spent most of today (Saturday), sorting out orders ready for a prompt despatch on Monday.  At this time, it is “all hands on deck” as the company enters into its busiest time of the year.  The dinosaur and fossil themed workshops may be concluding this week, but with just twenty-two days to Christmas, staff are busy ensuring that orders placed on the website and via the telephone, are packed in readiness for a prompt despatch at the start of the the working week.

Royal Mail service updates that we receive state that normal weekend deliveries and collections of mail should be made in all parts of the UK and we are not anticipating any problems with collections from our warehouse next week.  For our international customers, it is worth noting the last recommended posting dates for parcels to be sent overseas, we have detailed this information in the table below.

Last Recommended Posting Dates for Christmas 2016

Royal Mail last posting dates (2016).

Last recommended posting dates for Christmas 2016.

Table Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The table above has been compiled using Royal Mail data.

Tips and Additional Helpful Suggestions from Everything Dinosaur

  • Post items as early as possible, this gives parcels the best chance of reaching their destination in time for the big day.
  • Remember to check the delivery address (house number, business name, postcode/zip code) as you progress through checkout.
  • Before pressing the “submit order” button, to send an order to Everything Dinosaur, check the delivery address one more time – remember the phrase “check the address to save you stress”.
  • You can always nominate a neighbour’s address where the parcel can be delivered to if you are likely to be out when the parcel is delivered.
  • A different delivery address, other than your home address can be specified during our check out process.  Perhaps the parcel could be sent to your work, a relative, a friend and so forth.

 

Everything Dinosaur – Helping to Take The Stress Out of Christmas Shopping

A stress free time shopping for dinosaur themed gifts.

Everything Dinosaur helping to take the stress out of Christmas shopping.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

If you have a query about Christmas deliveries, or indeed any aspect of Everything Dinosaur’s delivery service please feel free to contact us: Email Everything Dinosaur

To view the Everything Dinosaur website: Dinosaur Toys and Games

Happy Christmas shopping to all our existing and potential customers and remember, Everything Dinosaur’s team members will be on hand to help and assist you.

2 12, 2016

Fossilised Bacteria Shed Light on Life Before Oxygen

By | December 2nd, 2016|Geology, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Ancient African Rocks Provide Evidence of Life Before Oxygen

The fossils of ancient bacteria that existed in deep water environments during the Neoarchean Era some 2.52 billion years ago, have been identified by an international team of researchers.  They don’t represent the oldest known life on our planet, recently, Everything Dinosaur published an article on some new research that postulates that microbial colonies existed on Earth some 3.7 billion years ago*, but these South African fossils may represent the oldest evidence of a bacteria capable of oxidising sulphur (within the Class Gamma Proteobacteria), found to date.

A Highly Magnified Image of a Fossilised Bacteria

Fossilised bacteria.

A view of one of the spherical structures identified as fossil bacteria.

Picture Credit: Andrew Czaja

This discovery is significant as it sheds light on a time in Earth’s history, when, essentially, all the microbial forms that exist today had probably evolved, but the fossil record for their existence is particularly sparse. Writing in the journal of the Geological Society of America, the researchers which include scientists from the University of Cincinnati and the University of Johannesburg, report on large, organic, smooth-walled, spherical microfossils representing organisms that lived in deep water, when our planet’s atmosphere had less than one-thousandth of one percent of the oxygen we have today.

Microscopic Life in the Archean

The research team discovered the microscopic fossils preserved in black chert that had been laid down at the bottom of a deep ocean, in the Griqualand West Basin of the Kaapvaal craton of South Africa (Northern Cape Province).  Geologist Andrew Czaja (University of Cincinnati), explained that this part of South Africa was one of the few places in the world where rocks of this great age were exposed.  The fossils are very significant as they represent bacteria surviving in a very low oxygen environment, the bacteria existed prior to “Great Oxygenation Event”, sometimes referred to as the GOE, a period in Earth’s history from about 2.4 billion to 2.2 billion years ago, when water-borne cyanobacteria (blue-green bacteria), evolved photosynthesis and as a result, oxygen was released into the atmosphere.  More oxygen in our atmosphere helped drive the evolution of complex organisms, eventually leading to the development of multi-cellular life.

Commenting on this research Assistant Professor Andrew Czaja stated:

“These are the oldest reported fossil sulphur bacteria to date and this discovery is helping us reveal a diversity of life and ecosystems that existed just prior to the Great Oxidation Event, a time of major atmospheric evolution.”

Radiometric dating and geochemical isotope analysis suggest that these fossils formed on an ancient seabed more than one hundred metres down.  The bacteria fed on sulphates that probably originated on the early super-continent Vaalbara (a landmass that consisted of parts of Australia and South Africa).  With the fossils having been dated to 2.52 billion years ago, the bacteria were thriving just before the GOE, when shallow water bacteria began creating more oxygen as a by-product of photosynthesis.

Czaja’s fossils show the Neoarchean bacteria in plentiful numbers while living within the muddy sediment of the seabed.  The assistant professor and his co-researchers postulate that these early bacteria were busy ingesting volcanic hydrogen sulphide, the molecule known to give off a rotten egg smell, then emitting sulphate, a gas that has no smell.  This is the same process that goes on today as extant microbes recycle decaying organic matter into minerals and gas.  The team surmise that the ancient oceanic bacteria are likely to have consumed the molecules dissolved from sulphur rich minerals that came from the land rocks associated with Vaalbara or from volcanic rocks on the seabed.

Andrew Czaja Points to the Rock Layer where the Fossil Bacteria was Found

Indicating the layer of rock from which the fossil bacteria was collected.

Andrew Czaja (University of Cincinnati), points to the rock layer from which fossil bacteria was collected.

Picture Credit: Aaron Satkoski

Sizeable Bacteria

These fossils occur mainly as compressed and flattened solitary shapes that resemble a flattened, microscopic beach ball.  They range in size from 20 microns (µm), about half the thickness of a human hair, up to a whopping 265 µm, that’s some very large bacteria, about forty times bigger than a human red blood cell, making the fossils exceptionally large for an example of bacteria.  The research team hypothesis that these ancient bacteria were similar in habit to the modern, equally large-sized bacteria Thiomargarita, which lives in oxygen-poor, deep water environments.

Described as being morphologically similar to Proterozoic and Phanerozoic acritarchs and to certain Archaean fossils interpreted as possible blue-green bacteria (cyanobacteria), these fossils are the oldest reported sulphur processing bacteria described to date.  They reveal that microbial life was diverse as early as 2.5 billion years ago and provide further evidence that organisms can thrive in very low oxygen environments.  This may have implications for astronomers as they search for evidence of life on other planets and moons within our solar system.

Images of the Microstructures (Dark, Round Spots within Ancient Rocks)

Microstructures indicate sulphur oxidising bacteria.

Images of microstructures that have physical characteristics with the remains of spherical bacteria.

Picture Credit: Andrew Czaja

*To read Everything Dinosaur’s recently published article (September 2016), about the possible identification of evidence of microbial colonies in strata some 3.7 billion years old: 3.7 Billion-Year-Old Microbes

The scientific paper: “Sulfur-oxidizing Bacteria prior to the Great Oxidation Event from the 2.52 Ga Gamohaan Formation of South Africa”, published in “Geology” the journal of the Geological Society of America.

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