All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
8 02, 2018

Dinosaurs Reveal the Geographical Signature of an Evolutionary Radiation (Part 2)

By | February 8th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Dinosaurs Reveal the Geographical Signature of an Evolutionary Radiation

Yesterday, Everything Dinosaur posted an article on the newly published scientific paper that examined how the Dinosauria radiated out from their suspected South American origins and came to dominate terrestrial ecosystems around the world.  The research was conducted by scientists based at Reading University and their paper was published this week in the academic journal “Nature Ecology & Evolution”.

To read our article on this research: The Evolutionary Radiation of the Dinosauria Mapped

Building upon earlier research, the Reading University scientists believe that the dinosaurs were already in decline before the final coup de grâce that marked the end of the Cretaceous and the demise of the non-avian dinosaurs.  The dinosaurs spread across the planet, but they began to run out of space to migrate into, becoming victims of their own success.

Everything Dinosaur has received special permission from the University to publish some of the images created by the researchers that plot the routes taken by various dinosaur species as they spread across the world.  The pictures (below), show six reconstructed paths from the dinosaurian root node (black circle) to the fossilised species (black square).  The coloured circles represent the centroids of the reconstructed ancestral locations (these are used for visualisation purposes only and posterior distributions of estimated ancestral locations are used in all analyses).  These maps help to demonstrate the conclusions drawn by the researchers.  Take for example, the first image, that of the path of Rhoetosaurus (R. brownei).  R. brownei was a Sauropod, its fossils are found in eastern Australia and it lived some 170 million years ago.

The Evolutionary Path of Rhoetosaurus brownei

Picture Credit: University of Reading (silhouette credit: Remes K, Ortega F, Fierro I, Joger U, Kosma R et al, silhouette represents Spinophorosaurus nigerensis)

The Evolutionary Path of Archaeopteryx lithographica is Plotted

Plotting the evolutionary path of Archaeopteryx lithographica.

The evolutionary path of Archaeopteryx lithographica.

Picture Credit: University of Reading (silhouette credit: Scott Hartman)

Archaeopteryx lithographica lived around 150 million years ago, its fossils have been found in the limestone quarries of southern Germany.  All the evolutionary paths that have been created by the researchers have been plotted onto geological age level palaeomaps from the time at which the fossil species is dated to (grey).  All preceding age level palaeomaps are plotted in white.

Plotting the Path of the Ornithischian Dinosaur Stegosaurus stenops

Plotting the evolutionary path of the armoured dinosaur Stegosaurus stenops.

Plotting the evolutionary path of Stegosaurus stenops.

Picture Credit: University of Reading (silhouette credit: Scott Hartman)

Like Archaeopteryx, Stegosaurus stenops fossils are associated with Upper Jurassic strata.  However, this research suggests that unlike the Archaeopteryx lineage, which migrated into eastern Laurasia, the evolutionary path of S. stenops was oriented towards western Laurasia, fossils of this iconic armoured Ornithischian being associated with the Morrison Formation of the western United States.

The Evolutionary Path of Andesaurus delgadoi is Plotted

The evolutionary path of Andesaurus delgadoi is plotted.

Plotting the path of the Titanosaur Andesaurus delgadoi.

Picture Credit: University of Reading (silhouette credit: T. Tischler, the silhouette represents the related titanosaurid Wintonotitan wattsi)

Late Cretaceous Migrations

The titanosaurid A. delgadoi lived some 97 million years ago (Cenomanian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous).  Note how the world map has changed in the illustrations, reflecting the change in the position of the continents.  The known fossil evidence suggests that the majority of the titanosaurids were restricted to Gondwana for most of the Cretaceous species.  Only in the very Late Cretaceous did a land bridge form, permitting these dinosaurs to migrate into North America.

Path of Dromaeosaurus albertensis 

Plotting the path of Dromaeosaurus albertensis .

The path of D. albertensis, dromaeosaurs migrated into North America from high latitudes.

Picture Credit: University of Reading (silhouette represents Dromaeosauroides bornholmensis known from Upper Cretaceous rocks from Denmark)

The researchers conclude that the dromaeosaurids associated with North America crossed over from northern Asia.

Last but not least, no evolutionary study mapping the spread of the dinosaurs would be complete without reference being made to the Tyrannosauroidea.  The map below, shows the path plotted for Tyrannosaurus rex.

Plotting the Path for T. rex

Plotting the evolutionary path of Tyrannosaurus rex.

T. rex evolutionary path is plotted.

Picture Credit: University of Reading

From their South America origins, this most famous of the Theropoda seems to have traversed Laurasia before heading westwards to become the dominant, apex predators in the Late Cretaceous (Laramidia and (most likely) Appalachia).

The authors of the scientific paper state that all silhouettes were downloaded from www.phylopicdotorg.

The scientific paper: “Dinosaurs Reveal the Geographical Signature of an Evolutionary Radiation” by Ciara O’Donovan, Andrew Meade and Chris Venditti published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of Reading University in the compilation of this article.

7 02, 2018

Evolutionary Radiation of the Dinosauria Mapped

By | February 7th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Dinosaurs Reveal the Geographical Signature of an Evolutionary Radiation

The fact that the dinosaurs came to dominate terrestrial ecosystems during the Mesozoic is not controversial.  There is plenty of fossil evidence to suggest that dinosaurs evolved into a myriad of different species (some 1,300 genera have been described to date), these fossils are geographically widespread.  Thanks, in part, to their origins on the supercontinent Pangaea and to the vagaries of continental drift, dinosaurs lived all over the world, from the Antarctic to the Arctic circle.

However, not that much is known about how the dinosaurs spread and became globally distributed.  Indeed, just how quickly the Dinosauria radiated and how soon they rose to prominence in terrestrial ecosystems remains very much open to debate.  Researchers from the University of Reading have attempted to map the geographical spread of the “terrible lizards” and they conclude that the migration of dinosaurs around the world was so rapid, that eventually they ran out of land to colonise and this might have contributed to their extinction.

Dinosaurs Spread from South America to the Rest of the World

Dinosaur diversification and migration coincided with the break-up of Pangaea.

The spread of the Dinosauria – if they originated in South America.  The approximate location of the famous Triassic fossil site (Ghost Ranch) is indicated by the yellow arrow.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Evolution of the Dinosaurs – It’s a Bit of a Puzzle

Just when and where the dinosaurs rose to dominate the land is hotly debated.  The fossil record for early dinosaurs is very poor and extremely fragmentary.  This problem is compounded by the blurring of the definition of the Dinosauria, as living alongside the true dinosaurs for tens of millions of years were their closely related counterparts which together with the dinosaurs comprise the clade Dinosauromorpha.  Palaeontologists can find it extremely difficult to distinguish between a true Triassic dinosaur and a contemporary dinosauromorph.  It seems that in the Triassic, the ancestral forms of the Dinosauria, lived alongside the true dinosaurs for millions of years.

This problem is compounded by the fact that the dinosaur/pterosaur/bird branch of the Archosauria (Avemetatarsalia), were in the evolutionary shadow of the crocodile branch of the “ruling reptiles” the Crurotarsi, for much of the Middle and Late Triassic.  If you were able to interview a Coelophysis or a Tawa (both dinosaurs from the famous Ghost Ranch location of New Mexico), they would have described an ecosystem dominated by other types of Archosaur, not dinosaurs.  With the exception of the abundance of Coelophysis specimens, there are relatively few dinosaur fossils from the Ghost Ranch location, dinosaurs may have only made up around 20% of the terrestrial fauna.

Coelophysis – A Typical Example of a Triassic Theropod

Coelophysis flock.

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

Picture Credit: Matt Celeskey

Jumping into the Jurassic

After the End Triassic mass extinction event, it seems to have been a different story.  The dinosaurs seem to have rapidly risen to dominance and soon the landscape was being dominated by giant herbivores such as the long-necked Cetiosaurs and the first super-sized carnivores such as Dilophosaurus, Cryolophosaurus and the first of the Megalosaurs.  The Reading University team modelled the spread of the dinosaurs by reconstructing the dinosaurs’ ancestral locations (using South America as the starting point for the dinosaur radiation), they then examined the spatial mechanisms that underpinned the spread of the Dinosauria.  The research shows that the speed of this expansion meant that the dinosaurs quickly became cosmopolitan and subsequently ran out of land.  This lack of space then seriously impeded their ability to produce new species.

Typical Early Jurassic Dinosaurs Show an Increase in Size Compared to Late Triassic Counterparts

Early Jurassic giants.

Examples of some of the larger dinosaurs from the Early Jurassic.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Building Upon Previous Research

This new study, published in “Nature Ecology and Evolution”, builds upon previous research from Reading University, published in 2016, that concluded that the dinosaurs were in decline around 50 million years before the mass extinction event that saw the demise of the non-avian forms.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article about the 2016 study: The Fifty Million Year Decline of the Dinosaurs

Lead author of this new research, evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading, Ciara O’Donovan explained:

“Fossil evidence has shown us where the dinosaurs started out and where they died, but there is an important middle period that little was known about.  Our research fills this gap in prehistory by revealing how the dinosaurs spread, how fast they moved and what directions they moved in through time.  The dinosaurs exploded out of South America in a frenzy of movement to cover the planet.  It was during this time that diverse forms evolved and eventually led to species such as the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex, Archaeopteryx (the earliest bird) and the gigantic, long necked Diplodocus.  This honeymoon period could not last forever though, and the dinosaurs eventually filled every available habitat on Earth.  There was nowhere new for species to move to, which may have prevented new species from arising, contributing to the dinosaurs’ pre-asteroid decline.  In essence, they were perhaps too successful for their own good.”

Using a Novel Statistical Analysis

The Reading University team developed a novel, statistical analytical method to help reveal where the ancestor of every dinosaur species lived.  This data was plotted onto a three-dimensional world map.  The analysis revealed that the dinosaurs spread virtually unchecked across the landmass of Pangaea at a rate of 1,000 kilometres (600 hundred miles), per million years.  They dominated every terrestrial habitat, across the globe as the supercontinent of Pangaea broke apart.

Sympatric Speciation

As the space left available for the Dinosauria to expand into was used up, the evolutionary driver for the development of new species might have changed.  The scientists conclude that dinosaurs initially diversified into new kinds driven by the expansion into new environments and habitats, but this driver for change was gradually replaced by sympatric speciation (new species evolving to exploit new niches within their existing environment).  This fundamental change in the way that dinosaurs evolved could have left them vulnerable to global catastrophes such as the extra-terrestrial impact event and the subsequent climate devastation that occurred some sixty-six million years ago.

Dinosaurs in Decline Many Millions of Years Before the End Cretaceous Mass Extinction

Earth impact event.

Cataclysmic impact event that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Don Davis (commissioned by NASA)

Dr Chris Venditti, evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading and co-author of the paper, commented:

“Early dinosaurs had a blank canvas and spread quickly across the devastated Earth, taking up every opportunity in their path.  Virtually every door was open to them as there was no competition from other species.  The inability of the dinosaurs to adapt rapidly enough as the Earth became full may explain why they were in decline prior to the asteroid strike, and why they were so they were so susceptible to almost total extinction when it hit.”

The scientific paper: “Dinosaurs Reveal the Geographical Signature of an Evolutionary Radiation” by Ciara O’Donovan, Andrew Meade and Chris Venditti published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of the University of Reading in the compilation of this article.

6 02, 2018

When Did Flowers Evolve?

By | February 6th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|1 Comment

The Origin of the Angiosperms (Flowering Plants)

Scientists have concluded that the Angiosperms (flowering plants), probably evolved between 149 and 256 million years ago.  In a paper published in the academic journal “New Phytologist”, the researchers, which included scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences as well as Bristol University, conducted a comprehensive analysis of genetic data from 644 plant taxa.  This led them to conclude that, based on this dataset, the flowering plants that dominate the terrestrial flora of the world probably originated as early as the Late Permian or perhaps as recently as the Late Jurassic.

Arguing over the Origins of the Angiosperms

This new research suggests that flowering plants are not as old as suggested by previous molecular studies, nor as recent as the fossil record for Angiosperms reveals.  The team’s conclusions underline the power of using complementary studies based on molecular data and the fossil record, in conjunction with different approaches to infer evolutionary timescales, allowing the establishment of a better understanding of the evolution of organisms.

Ancient Buckthorn Flowers Preserved as Fossils

Two Buckthorn flower fossils.

Two fossilised Buckthorn flowers next to each other were discovered in shales of the Salamanca Formation in Chubut Province, Patagonia, Argentina.

Picture Credit: Nathan Jud/Cornell University (USA)

The “Abominable Mystery”

Darwin commented that the origin of flowering plants was an “abominable mystery”, the palaeogeographical origins of flowering plants , which today are represented by nearly 300,000 species remains a controversial area in palaeobotany.  Recently, Everything Dinosaur published an article documenting research that suggested that a downsizing in the genome of plants helped the Angiosperms become the dominant flora, but when the first flowering plants evolved has proved very difficult to establish.

To read the article on the Angiosperm genome study: Downsizing DNA Brings Success to Flowering Plants

Lead author of the scientific paper, Dr Jose Barba-Montoya (University College, London) explained:

“The discrepancy between estimates of flowering plant evolution from molecular data and fossil records has caused much debate.  To uncover the key to solving the mystery of when flowers originated, we carefully analysed the genetic make-up of flowering plants, and the rate at which mutations accumulate in their genomes.”

The Paucity of the Angiosperm Fossil Record

The fossil record for flowering plants, is very fragmentary.  Angiosperms appear to have radiated and diversified very suddenly around 125 million years ago.  The expansion of the flowering plants may have precipitated substantial changes in the fauna of the Cretaceous, this rapid change in fauna and flora is termed the “Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution”, a short period in geological time when pollinators, herbivores and their predators underwent an explosive co-evolution.

The Rapid Evolution of Flowering Plants May Have Led to the “Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution”

When did flowering plants evolve?

When flowering plants evolved there was a burst in evolution as symbiotic relationships formed.

Picture Credit: Bristol University

A Much Older Origin of the Angiosperms

Molecular-clock dating studies, however, have suggested a much older origin for flowering plants.  This  implies a cryptic evolution of flowers that has yet to be supported by fossil discoveries.  The discovery of wing scales from 200 million-year-old representatives of the Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies), hinted that flowering plants may have originated earlier than previously thought, after all, the adult butterflies and moths might well have fed on nectar from flowering plants.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article about the ancient wing scales from Lepidoptera: Ancient Butterflies Flutter By

Professor Philip Donoghue (University of Bristol’s School of Earth Science), a senior author of the newly published  study, stated:

“In large part, the discrepancy between these two approaches [the fossil record and molecular dating] is an artefact of false precision on both palaeontological and molecular evolutionary timescales.”

Palaeontological timescales calibrate the family tree of plants to geological time based on the oldest fossil evidence for its component branches.  Molecular timescales build on this approach, using additional evidence from genomes for the genetic distances between species, aiming to overcome gaps in the fossil record.  Molecular clocks predict the age of organisms by looking at the rate of mutation between different genomes.

Senior author of the study, Professor Ziheng Yang (University College, London) added:

“Previous studies into molecular timescales failed to explore the implications of experimental variables and so they inaccurately estimate the probable age of flowering plants with undue precision.”

As a history of the evolution of the flowering plants, the fossil record which is particularly poor, is inadequate and conclusions based on the paucity of fossils are not possible.  The scientists compiled a substantial collection of genetic data for many flowering plant groups including a dataset of eighty-three genes from over six hundred taxa.  This evidence in conjunction with an extensive review of the fossil record allowed the team to plot the potential origins of the Angiosperms within upper and lower limits of geological time.

Co-author of the study, Dr Mario dos Reis (Queen Mary University, London) stated:

“By using Bayesian statistical methods that borrow tools from physics and mathematics to model how the evolutionary rate changes with time, we showed that there are broad uncertainties in the estimates of flowering plant age, all compatible with Early to Mid-Cretaceous origin for the group.”

Scientists may be some way off, being able to pin down the origins of flowering plants, more fossils, particularly of primitive Angiosperms are needed, but at least this new study has attempted to define the uncertainties associated with the evolution of this type of flora.

The scientific paper: “Constraining Uncertainty in the Timescale of Angiosperm Evolution and the Veracity of a Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution” by J. Barba-Montoya, M. dos Reis, H. Schneider, PCJ Donoghue and Z. Yang published in the journal “New Phytologist”.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from Bristol University in the compilation of this article.

5 02, 2018

The Tale of the Spiders with Tails

By | February 5th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|1 Comment

Prehistoric Spiders Had Tails

A team of international scientists, including researchers from the University of Manchester, have announced the discovery of a new species of Cretaceous-aged spider.  The arachnid (Class Arachnida), which was preserved in amber from Myanmar (burmite), is helping palaeontologists to better understand the evolution of these very successful and diverse, eight-legged invertebrates.  This new spider species, named Chimerarachne yingi possessed a whip-like tail, a characteristic associated with ancestral forms and the most primitive types of extant spider, but the burmite has preserved a spider with this characteristic, that lived at least 250 million years after the first spiders evolved.

Photographs of the Spider Fossil with Accompanying Line Drawings

Chimerarachne yingi fossil and line drawings (dorsal and ventral views).

Chimerarachne yingi dorsal view (a) with accompanying line drawing and (b) ventral view with accompanying line drawing.

Picture Credit: The University of Manchester

Potentially a Transitional Fossil

The characteristics of today’s spiders are very well known.  These creatures have eight legs, several eyes and can spin silk, often to create cobwebs.  A “whip-like tail” is one feature that you would not normally associate with these particular creepy-crawlies.  The researchers, writing in the academic journal “Nature Ecology and Evolution”, conclude that the specimen might represent a transitional fossil, it possesses a tail (flagellum) and as such, the fossil may help scientists to better understand how the Arachnida evolved and diversified.

What is a Transitional Fossil?

Transitional fossils are defined as any fossil that demonstrates traits that are common to both an ancestral group and descendants.  Perhaps the best-known example is Archaeopteryx lithographica from the Late Jurassic of southern Germany.  The “Urvogel” shows both reptilian traits and characteristics of a bird, so it is regarded as a transitional fossil highlighting the evolution of one part of the Theropoda into modern Aves (birds).

A Fossil of the “Urvogel” Archaeopteryx Regarded as a Transitional Form

The Wellnhoferia Archaeopteryx.

The Wellnhoferia Archaeopteryx specimen.

Picture Credit: Pascal Goetgheluck

Chimerarachne yingi

The genus name comes from the Greek chimera – a mythical beast that was made up of parts from numerous animals.  The research team conclude that this new species belongs to an extinct group of spiders which were very closely related to true spiders.  What makes the fossil so unique, and different to spiders of today, is the fact it has a tail.  The discovery sheds important light on where modern spiders may have evolved from.  The Arachnida is an extremely successful class of invertebrates.  Spiders are the most diverse and numerous of all the arachnids, together spiders are grouped into the Order Aranae, some 47,000 living species have been documented.  Their evolutionary origins are obscure, but the first spiders may have evolved in the Late Devonian.  Over hundreds of millions of years, they have evolved several key innovations found only in this group.  These include spinnerets for producing silk for webs (as well as for other purposes like egg-wrapping), modified male mouthparts (pedipalps), unique to each species, which are used to transfer sperm to the female during mating, and venom for paralysing prey.

An Illustration of the Newly Described Cretaceous Arachnid Chimerarachne yingi

Cretaceous spider illustrated (Chimerarachne yingi).

Chimerarachne yingi illustrated (note the whip-like tail, the flagellum).

Picture Credit: The University of Manchester

The researchers, led by Bo Wang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and including Dr Russell Garwood (University of Manchester), state that Chimerarachne yingi closely resembles a member of the most primitive group of modern living spiders – the mesotheles.  These spiders have a segmented abdomen unlike other groups found today, such as the mygalomorphs (Mygalomorphae), which include well-known spider species like tarantulas and funnel-webs.  Mesothelae spiders are restricted to south-east Asia, China and Japan today, but in the past they probably had a world-wide distribution (across the ancient super-continent of Pangaea).

Several Important Spider Characteristics

Chimerarachne yingi has several important spider features such as the spinnerets and a modified male pedipalp, but, outside of the obvious tail, it also demonstrates some anatomical differences. For instance, the male pedipalp organ of Chimerarachne appears quite simple, more like that of a mygalomorph spider than a mesothele spider.

Note the Long “Whip-like Tail” (Flagellum)

Ancient spider illustrated - Chimerarachne yingi.

Chimerarachne yingi illustrated (dorsal view).

Picture Credit: The University of Manchester

Dr Garwood explained:

“Based on what we see in mesotheles, we also would have expected the common ancestor of spiders alive today to have had four pairs of spinnerets, all positioned in the middle of the underside of the abdomen.  Chimerarachne only has two pairs of well-developed spinnerets, towards the back of the animal, and another pair that is apparently in the process of formation.”

Working Out the Evolutionary Tree of the Arachnida

The team studied the fossil using a range of different techniques.  One of Dr Garwood’s roles in the study was to help work out where this fossil sits in the evolutionary tree of the Arachnida.

Dr Garwood added:

“Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the new fossil is the fact that more than 200 million years after spiders originated, close relatives, quite unlike arachnids alive today, were still living alongside true spiders.”

Despite the beautiful state of preservation, the scientists are unable to state what function the tail might have had, or indeed, if this spider had a venomous bite.

Co-author of the study, published today, Dr Jason Dunlop (Museum Für Naturkunde in Berlin) stated:

“We don’t know whether Chimerarachne was venomous.  We do know that the arachnid ancestor probably had a tail and living groups like whip scorpions also have a whip-like tail. Chimerarachne appears to have retained this primitive feature.  Taken together, Chimerarachne has a unique body plan among the arachnids and raises important questions about what an early spider looked like, and how the spinnerets and pedipalp organ may have evolved.”

A Timescale Outlining the Proposed Evolution of the Chimerarachne

A timescale of Chimerarachne evolution.

A timescale showing the proposed evolutionary time scale for the Chimerarachne.

Picture Credit: The University of Manchester

Despite its appearance, the research team have concluded that C. yingi is not a direct ancestor of modern day spiders.  Spider fossils, although very rare, go back a long way into deep geological time.  Instead Chimerarachne belongs to an extinct lineage of spider-like arachnids which shared a common ancestor with the spiders, some of whom survived into the mid-Cretaceous of Southeast Asia.

By the Late Carboniferous Arachnids Represented a Diverse and Important Group of Terrestrial Predators

A carboniferous scene.

By the Carboniferous the insects and the mostly predatory arachnids were already highly diversified.

Picture Credit: Richard Bizley

The scientific paper: “Cretaceous Arachnid Chimerarachne yingi et sp. nov. Illuminates Spider Origins”, by Wang, B., Dunlop, J. A., Selden, P. A., Garwood, R. J., Shear, W. A., Müller, P. & Lei, X published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of the University of Manchester in the compilation of this article.

4 02, 2018

Mantellisaurus Drawing

By | February 4th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Preparing for the CollectA Mantellisaurus Figure

Not long to wait now until the arrival of the first batch of new for 2018 CollectA prehistoric animal models (CollectA Prehistoric Life and CollectA Deluxe).  Our fact sheets for the new figures are complete and the scale drawings and illustrations that we commissioned have all been sorted out.  The picture (below), is our illustration of the new CollectA Prehistoric Life Mantellisaurus replica.  It is great to see a model being made of a dinosaur that was named in honour of Gideon Mantell.

An Illustration of Mantellisaurus (Dinosaur Scale Drawing)

Mantellisaurus scale drawing.

A Mantellisaurus scale drawing.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The CollectA Mantellisaurus is depicted in a drinking pose, our drawing is a very close representation of the actual figure which is due to be in our warehouse soon.

The CollectA Mantellisaurus Dinosaur Model

CollectA Mantellisaurus dinosaur model.

CollectA Mantellisaurus drinking.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We look forward to getting our hands on this new Ornithopod replica.

3 02, 2018

Clevosaurus cambrica – Evidence of Island Dwarfism in the Ancient Triassic

By | February 3rd, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Fossil from South Wales Identified as New Triassic Species

In the 1950’s the Pant-y-ffynnon Quarry in South Glamorgan (Wales), provided a wide variety of vertebrate fossils giving palaeontologists an insight into the fauna of an ancient Triassic archipelago.  However, a comprehensive analysis of the fossil material was not carried out.  Scientists from the University of Bristol including an undergraduate student have undertaken a systematic review of the specimens and this has resulted in the naming of a new species of Rhynchocephalian.  The little reptile has been named Clevosaurus cambrica and this newly described animal hints at adaptive radiation for the Clevosaurs on the island chain.  In addition, since the researchers found no evidence of any reptiles in excess of two metres, they propose that the palaeofauna represents a possible example of insular dwarfism.  The concept of insular dwarfism (sometimes referred to as the “island rule” involves residents of islands with limited resources tending to become smaller overtime when compared to their mainland counterparts.

A Three-Dimensional Computer-generated Image of the Jawbone of C. cambrica

Clevosaurus cambrica jaw.

A three-dimensional image of the jaw of Clevosaurus cambrica.

Picture Credit: Bristol University

“Gloucester Lizard from Wales”

Emily Keeble’s final-year project for a degree in palaeontology at the School of Earth Sciences, (Bristol University) involved a reappraisal of the  Pant-y-ffynnon Quarry specimens.  Working alongside her course supervisors, the undergraduate was able to identify a new species of Clevosaurus, a type of reptile that was widespread across the supercontinent Pangaea in the Late Triassic.  Clevosaurus was named after “Clevum”, the Latin name for the city of Gloucester, as a number of species have been identified from this locality.  The trivial name “cambrica” honours Wales, where the fossil quarry is located.

In the Late Triassic, the hills of South Wales and the south-western part of England formed an archipelago that was inhabited by early dinosaurs, crocodylomorphs distantly related to modern crocodiles and alligators along with representatives of the Sphenodontidae such as the Clevosaurs.  The once diverse and geographically reptile family – the Sphenodontidae is today, represented by the rare Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus) which is limited to a few small islands off New Zealand.

Clevosaurus cambrica Would Have Looked Like a Tuatara

An adult male Tuatara.

Only one species and a sub-species represent the Sphenodontidae today.

Picture Credit:  New Zealand Tuatara Conservation Team

Commenting on the significance of her discovery, Emily said:

“The new species, Clevosaurus cambrica lived side-by-side with a small dinosaur, Pantydraco, and an early crocodile-like animal, Terrestrisuchus.  We compared it with other examples of Clevosaurus from locations around Bristol and South Gloucestershire, but our new beast is quite different in the arrangement of its teeth.”

C. cambrica has been identified based on some articulated bones and some isolated fragments.  An analysis of the teeth in the jaws provided evidence that this small reptile probably was an insectivore.  The shape of the teeth and their arrangement identified the fossil as a new species.

Professor Mike Benton, a co-author of the paper and one of Emily’s supervisors added:

“We were lucky to find quite a lot of the skeleton and Emily was able to scan the blocks and make 3-D reconstructions of the skull, neck, shoulder and arm region.”

Evidence of Insular Dwarfism

The researchers conclude that the archipelago held a relatively impoverished fauna, dominated by rhynchocephalians such as the Clevosaurs.  The new species has a dental morphology that is intermediate between the Late Triassic Clevosaurus hudsoni, from Cromhall Quarry to the east, and the younger C. convallis from Pant Quarry to the west, suggesting adaptive radiation of Clevosaurs in the palaeo-archipelago.  Adaptive radiation is the term used to describe the evolutionary process whereby organisms diverge from a common ancestor to fill a multitude of different ecological niches, think of Darwin’s finches on the Galapagos Islands, for example.

Co-author of the paper and co-supervisor of Emily Dr Whiteside (Bristol University) explained:

“The dinosaurs, crocodiles, and lizards were isolated to some extent on their islands, and perhaps smaller ones were better at surviving in the changed ecologies of the islands.”

The scientific paper: “The terrestrial fauna of the Late Triassic Pant-y-ffynnon Quarry fissures, South Wales, UK and a new species of Clevosaurus (Lepidosauria: Rhynchocephalia)” by Keeble et al published in the Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of a press release from Bristol University in the compilation of this article.

2 02, 2018

A Customised Schleich Psittacosaurus

By | February 2nd, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Schleich Psittacosaurus Gets a Makeover

At Everything Dinosaur, we are always keen to receive pictures from our customers of their model collections.  Many of the models and figures are displayed in dioramas and prehistoric scenes and it always amazes us when we see these fantastic creations.  We have concluded that there are a lot of very talented people who collect prehistoric animals.  Take for example, Elizabeth, an enthusiastic collector who commissioned Martin Garratt of UMF Models to customise her recently purchased Schleich Psittacosaurus figure.

The New for 2018 Schleich Psittacosaurus Dinosaur Model

Schleich Psittacosaurus (2018).

New for 2018, the Schleich Psittacosaurus dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The new for 2018 Schleich Psittacosaurus has a lot going for it.  The pose is quite dynamic and the model has plenty of carefully crafted skin texture.  Schleich deserve considerable credit for creating a figure that reflects the latest scientific thinking when it comes to this early member of the Cerapoda.  Martin Garratt was able to repaint this little dinosaur and he has produced a beautiful diorama influenced by the recently published research into Psittacosaurus that indicated that this forest dweller probably had countershading to help to keep it safe.

The Customised Schleich Psittacosaurus Model

Customised Schleich Psittacosaurus.

A stunning Schleich Psittacosaurus dinosaur diorama.

Picture Credit: Marilyn (UMF Models) by permission of dinosaur model collector Elizabeth

Psittacosaurus and Countershading

Everything Dinosaur team members have been lucky enough to have viewed up close the remarkable fossil specimen that formed the basis of the research into the colouration of Psittacosaurus.  The study was published in 2016 in the academic journal “Current Biology”.  The authors of the paper, including researchers from the University of Bristol, concluded that this plant-eating dinosaur was light underneath but darker on its back.  This pattern is known as countershading and is a seen in a number of animals today.  To help illustrate the team’s conclusions, talented palaeoartist and model maker Bob Nicholls was asked to create a life-sized model of the creature so that the effectiveness of the camouflage could be tested.

Psittacosaurus Demonstrates Countershading

Psittacosaurus model in the Bristol Botanic Garden.

Psittacosaurus photographed in the Bristol Botanic Garden.

Picture Credit: Jakob Vinther

To read our article on the research: Calculating the Colour of Psittacosaurus

Dioramas and Dinosaur Research Coming Together

It is great to be able to view a customised dinosaur model that has been influenced by actual scientific research.  Ironically, thanks to copious fossil specimens from Asia, the Psittacosaurus genus is perhaps, the most studied of all the dinosaur genera.  Martin’s composition certainly mirrors the very latest thinking with regards to this two-metre-long dinosaur.

The Psittacosaurus Model with Carefully Selected Foliage to Mimic an Early Cretaceous Forest Environment

Schleich Psittacosaurus diorama by Martin Garratt.

The Schleich Psittacosaurus diorama.

Picture Credit: Marilyn (UMF Models) by permission of dinosaur model collector Elizabeth

The Skilfully Painted Replica Reflects Scientific Research into Countershading in the Dinosauria

Schleich Psittacosaurus diorama.

The Schleich Psittacosaurus dinosaur diorama.

Picture Credit: Marilyn (UMF Models) by permission of dinosaur model collector Elizabeth

Our thanks to Elizabeth for giving us permission to post up Martin Garratt’s work and for allowing us to publish Marilyn’s photographs.  Elizabeth tells us that she has more pictures of this excellent and beautifully composed diorama and we look forward to being able to put these on-line too in the very near future.

The Countershading Concept Demonstrated in a Dinosaur Diorama

Schleich Psittacosaurus dinosaur diorama.

A view of the Schleich Psittacosaurus dinosaur diorama.

Picture Credit: Marilyn (UMF Models) by permission of dinosaur model collector Elizabeth

To view the new for 2018 Schleich models as well as the rest of the Schleich range available from Everything Dinosaur: Schleich Prehistoric Animal Models

1 02, 2018

Rare Ichthyosaur Specimen Only the Second to be Described

By | February 1st, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Second Specimen of Wahlisaurus massarae to be Described

A rare 200 million-year-old specimen of a “fish lizard” has been discovered in a private collection twenty-two years after it was originally found.  The fossil is only the second example of Wahlisaurus massarae, a species of Ichthyosaur, to have been described.  The new species was established in 2016, by University of Manchester palaeontologist, Dean Lomax following his detailed assessment of a fossil specimen that had been found in Nottinghamshire many decades ago.

An Illustration of Wahlisaurus massarae

Wahlisaurus massarae illustrated

An illustration of the Ichthyosaur known as Wahlisaurus massarae.

Picture Credit: James McKay

To read Everything Dinosaur’s 2016 article on the discovery of W. massaraeNew Species of British Marine Reptile Surfaces

This second example of Wahlisaurus was originally found in 1996.  It has now been donated to the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, an institution that houses several examples of marine reptiles, including a specimen of Excalibosaurus, which, until the naming of Wahlisaurus two years ago had been the most recent species of Ichthyosaur from the British Isles to have been scientifically described.

Ichthyosaurs in the Limelight

The Ichthyosauria clade has been much in the news of late.  For example, earlier this month the discovery of a large Ichthyosaur fossil in the cliffs close to Lyme Regis in Dorset, was the subject of a BBC television documentary, narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article on “Attenborough and the Sea Dragon”: Attenborough and the Sea Dragon (BBC)

Dean Lomax named W. massarae in honour of two vertebrate palaeontologists who had spent much of their lives studying marine reptiles (Professor Judy Massare and Bill Wahl).

Dean commented:

“When Wahlisaurus was announced, I was a little nervous about what other palaeontologists would make of it, considering the new species was known only from a single specimen.  As a scientist you learn to question almost everything and be as critical as you can be.  My analysis suggested it was something new, but some palaeontologists questioned this and said it was just variation of an existing species.”

Clues in the Shape of the Coracoid Bone

In this new research, Dean teamed up with Dr Mark Evans, palaeontologist and curator at the New Walk Museum, Leicester, and fossil collector, Simon Carpenter from Somerset.  The study focused on a specimen Dean identified in Simon’s personal collection, which is an almost complete coracoid bone (part of the shoulder girdle, otherwise referred to as the pectoral girdle).  This bone had exactly the same unique features of the equivalent bone in the holotype of Wahlisaurus described in 2016.  Simon’s fossil specimen was originally collected twenty years ago, from a quarry in northern Somerset.  Once the specimen’s rarity was realised, Simon immediately donated it to Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.

Dean Lomax, Simon Carpenter and Deborah Hutchinson with the Coracoid Specimen

Dean Lomax with Simon Carpenter and Deborah Hutchinson pose with the M. massarae coracoid.

Dean Lomax, (left), Simon Carpenter (centre) and Deborah Hutchinson from the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery (right) with the coracoid specimen.

Picture Credit: Manchester University

Dean added:

“You can only imagine my sheer excitement to find a specimen of Wahlisaurus in Simon’s collection.  It was such a wonderful moment.  When you have just one specimen, “variation” can be called upon, but when you double the number of specimens you have it gives even more credibility to your research.”

The new discovery is from a time known as the Triassic-Jurassic boundary, right after a world-wide mass extinction.  For these reasons, the team have been unable to determine exactly whether the Ichthyosaur was Late Triassic or Early Jurassic in age, although it is roughly 200 million-years-old.

A Better Understanding of the Skull Structure

As part of the research, Dr Evans cleaned the bones and removed additional rock from the first specimen.  This assisted in a detailed re-examination of the original skull, which led to the discovery of additional bones helping scientists to better understand the morphology of the skull of this British marine reptile.

Finding evidence to help confirm the validity of a genus within a private fossil collection helps to demonstrate the important contribution that can be made to science by dedicated and responsible fossil collectors.

The scientific paper: “An Ichthyosaur from the UK Triassic–Jurassic boundary: A second specimen of the Leptonectid Ichthyosaur Wahlisaurus massarae Lomax 2016” by Lomax, D. R., Evans, M. and Carpenter S., published in the Geological Journal.

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