All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//March
31 03, 2018

Extinction and Extirpation

By | March 31st, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Defining Extirpation

The fossil record, despite its extremely fragmentary nature remains the best scientific tool available for learning about life in the past.  It is far from complete and it can only provide a limited amount of information about organisms, ecosystems and palaeoenvironments, but it has provided evidence of extinctions and five major mass extinction events have been identified in the immense time period known as the Phanerozoic.

A Selection of Shark Teeth Fossils

fossilised shark teeth.

A successful fossil hunt, but many organisms are only known from fragmentary fossil material.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

An Extinction is Forever

Notwithstanding the technological developments heralded by advances in genetics, an extinction is finite.  Extinctions represent the complete, world-wide end of the line for a species.  There are no individuals representing that species to be found anywhere.  Non-avian representatives of the Dinosauria, the long-necked Sauropods for example, are extinct, the very last of these animals, collectively termed Titanosaurs, died out at the end of the Cretaceous, some 66 million years ago.

However, it is important to distinguish local extinctions, whereby an organism becomes extinct in a region or area, from true, global extinction.  A species or genus may die out in one part of the area where it is distributed, but it might be thriving, or at least surviving everywhere else.  Identifying local extinctions, especially in an incomplete fossil record, where many of the fossils have been transported long distances and with a record of moving continents (tectonic plate theory), is extremely challenging.

Extirpation

The correct scientific term for a local or regional extinction is “extirpation”, an organism may cease to exist in one area but could still be found in other areas.  Palaeontologists usually use the term extinction in its correct sense, noting the complete disappearance of an organism.  Thanks to the vagaries of the fossil record, identifying extirpation events in deep time is extremely difficult.  The Liaoning Province of northern China has provided scientists with numerous examples of feathered dinosaurs.  Their remains are often beautifully preserved, a result of the way in which these animals may have died .  Corpses were deposited in lakes and sank to the muddy, still bottom before being rapidly buried by fine ash deposited over the region by the nearby volcanoes.  Whether some of these animals drowned, or whether their deaths were directly attributable to the volcanism is difficult to say for certain in most cases.

Zhenyuanlong Fossil (Zhenyuanlong suni) from Liaoning Province

Zhenyuanlong fossil.

Large-bodied, short-armed Liaoning dromaeosaurid described in 2015 (Zhenyuanlong suni).

Picture Credit: Chinese Academy of Geological Science

Unfortunately, whilst a devastating deposit of volcanic ash, perhaps a pyroclastic cloud or the release of toxic carbon monoxide fumes could have led to the deaths of many animals within a habitat, it is very difficult to determine whether such events led to a local extinction (extirpation).  In the case of the Liaoning fossils, the stratigraphic record would indicate numerous volcanic episodes but whether a single episode or a series of catastrophic events led to the demise of an entire taxon in the region it is impossible to say.  However, the forest ecosystem with its large lakes would have suffered a loss of individuals and probably a reduction in diversity over time.

30 03, 2018

Ceratopsian Species – When and Where they Lived (Part 2)

By | March 30th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Ceratopsian Species – Where and When did they Live (part 2)

We conclude our look at the remarkable data that was used to compile a statistical analysis of the Ceratopsia.  The research, published recently in the “Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biology)”, examined the horned dinosaur family tree and set about building a picture of where and when horned dinosaur species lived.  Using this data, which involved more than seventy species, the scientists were able to conclude that horned dinosaur ornamentation probably evolved, not as a method of telling different species apart, but as a way of demonstrating an individual’s fitness for breeding.  Ostentatious and elaborate crests, horns and frills may have had numerous roles, defence being one, for example, but they would also (most likely), have had a “social-sexual” function.

As a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“All those lumps and bumps, horns and frills were basically signalling to other members of the species – look how big and strong I am, I can carry around all this extra weight, so I must be a healthy horned dinosaur and therefore an ideal mate!”

To read our original article on the Ceratopsian research: Why Did Horned Dinosaurs Have Fancy Frills?

The supplementary data associated with the scientific paper included some fantastic details of the Ceratopsian family tree.  In order to conduct their analysis, the research team compiled a table of horned dinosaurs and listed where they lived and approximately when (upper and lower margins of stratigraphical distribution).  In an earlier article, we published the first part of this extensive table, today, we conclude our blog articles on this fascinating piece of Ceratopsian research by posting up the rest of the data.

Plotting Ceratopsian Species Against Temporal and Geographical Distribution (Part 3)

Ceratopsian species - where they lived and when (part 3).

Temporal calibrations and geographical locations of Ceratopsian species (part 3).

Table Credit: Andrew Knapp, Robert J. Knell, Andrew A. Farke, Mark A. Loewen, David W. E. Hone published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biology).

The table (above), shows part 3 of the temporal calibrations and geographical locations of Ceratopsian species. Taxa that were included in the morphological character state analysis (the research into crests and horns), are indicated in bold type.  Region abbreviations: Asia: A; North America: NA; Europe: E.  The source of the table data is shown on the right.

This  part of the Ceratopsian table helps to demonstrate the diversity of the horned dinosaurs in North America during the Late Cretaceous, especially on the western part of the continent, the landmass known as Laramidia.

The Ornamentation of Diabloceratops (D. eatoni) was Included in the Study

Collecta Diabloceratops dinosaur model.

“Devil Horned Face” – Diabloceratops eatoni.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Campanian and Maastrichtian Stages

Tables (3 and 4) list the horned dinosaur species from the later stages of the Cretaceous (Campanian and Maastrichtian).  In part 4 (shown below), the dominance of Ceratopsian species from North America continues with a further nineteen North American species listed.

Plotting Ceratopsian Species Against Temporal and Geographical Distribution (Part 4)

Ceratopsian species - where they lived and when (part 4).

Temporal calibrations and geographical locations of Ceratopsian species (part 4).

Table Credit: Andrew Knapp, Robert J. Knell, Andrew A. Farke, Mark A. Loewen, David W. E. Hone published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biology).

The Very Last of the Horned Dinosaurs

The last parts of the data table focus on the youngest species of horned dinosaur known.  These are the Ceratopsians that lived during the last few million years of the Cretaceous.  Once again, North America is the only continent represented in this part of the table.  This does not mean that horned dinosaurs were extinct elsewhere in the world, that cannot be inferred from the information provided, but it is worth noting that no Asian horned dinosaurs for example, are known from the Maastrichtian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous.

Plotting Horned Dinosaur Species Against Temporal and Geographical Distribution (Part 5)

Ceratopsian Species - where they lived and when (part 5).

Temporal calibrations and geographical locations of Ceratopsian species (part 5).

Table Credit: Andrew Knapp, Robert J. Knell, Andrew A. Farke, Mark A. Loewen, David W. E. Hone published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biology).

Last of All Triceratops prorsus

The last three species listed are all believed to be the youngest of the horned dinosaurs described so far, in terms of geological age.  The two species of Triceratops are known from the Hell Creek Formation, whilst the controversial Nedoceratops (known from only one skull and therefore thought by some palaeontologists to be nomen dubium), comes from the Lance Formation of Wyoming.  All three species are classified as members of the Ceratopsidae sub-family Chasmosaurinae, which with Torosaurus also a Chasmosaur (T. latus listed in table 5), suggests that Centrosaurine dinosaurs may not have persisted to the very end of the Age of Dinosaurs.

Plotting Horned Dinosaur Species Against Temporal and Geographical Distribution (Part 6)

Ceratopsian species - where and when they lived (end).

Temporal calibrations and geographical locations of Ceratopsian species (end of the Maastrichtian stage).

Table Credit: Andrew Knapp, Robert J. Knell, Andrew A. Farke, Mark A. Loewen, David W. E. Hone published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biology).

Triceratops – One of the Very Last of All the Dinosaurs

Schleich Triceratops dinosaur model (2018).

The new for 2018 Schleich Triceratops dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We once again congratulate the researchers for producing such an amazing study and for making available in the supplementary data all these really informative tables.

For the first part of our review of the Ceratopsian data tables: Ceratopsian Species – When and Where They Lived (Part 1)

29 03, 2018

Talented South African Model Makers

By | March 29th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Prehistoric Dioramas Showcased in the South African Sun

Brothers Luke and Raef have their very own customised, unique prehistoric landscapes for their dinosaur models to explore thanks to a hard-working and dedicated father.  A few weeks ago, Everything Dinosaur was sent in some pictures of a second dinosaur diorama that had been built by dad Paul at their home in South Africa.  The two prehistoric landscapes, complete with replica volcano, a cave inhabited by early hominins and a marine seascape, look fantastic side by side in the family’s garden.  It helps to live in a hot country when it comes to showcasing your model making skills outdoors.

The Prehistoric Landscapes in the Garden

Two stunning dinosaur dioramas.

The two dinosaur dioramas side by side (latest landscape is on the left).

Picture Credit: P. M.

Many Hours of Hard Work

Fans of building dioramas and model scenes will know just how many hours of hard work have gone into building these prehistoric landscapes.  The second project was started over the Christmas holidays and the material chosen to provide the contours and that steep cliff leading to the water feature was fibreglass, which can be tricky to work with, but the end results speak for themselves.

The Second Prehistoric Landscape was Started in Late December

Dinosaur diorama, work in progress.

Work in progress on the dinosaur diorama.

Picture Credit: P. M.

Over the years, we have featured several examples of prehistoric landscapes and dioramas, we are always impressed and amazed by the ingenuity shown by the talented model makers.  Young Raef’s landscape includes a cleverly constructed marine environment, just the sort of place needed for your sea monsters and other figures to hang out.

A CollectA Deluxe Kronosaurus Has Grabbed an Unfortunate CollectA Dolichorhynchops

Kronosaurus attacks Dolichorhynchops.

Kronosaurus makes a meal of Dolichorhynchops.

Picture Credit: P.M.

A Team Effort

The whole family was involved in this enterprise, all helping to create the landscape, paint the scenery, sort out the planting of the prehistoric vegetation, seaweeds and corals (see above) and to create some of the amazing special effects such as wires for the pterosaur models to be suspended from.

Painting the Prehistoric Landscape – Dealing with the Details

Prehistoric landscape painting.

Painting the prehistoric landscape.

Picture Credit: P.M.

Commenting on the success of the projects, dad Paul stated:

“We completed the second landscape over Christmas, I never want to work with fibreglass again, but all is well that ends well.  The kids were heavily involved in modelling and painting the landscape.  They are very pleased with it and therefore so am I!”

Customers of Everything Dinosaur for several years, the family have slowly and surely built up a collection of prehistoric animals, including some rare figures, to populate their landscapes.

A Maiasaura and Hatchlings Very Much at Home in the Dinosaur Diorama

Maiasaura mother and nest.

A Maiasaura mother and nest in the diorama landscape.

Picture Credit: P. M.

The photograph (above) highlights the attention to detail in the dinosaur dioramas, what a rich and varied planting scheme.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“What an impressive pair of dioramas!  It has taken some skill and technical ability to construct such beautiful prehistoric landscapes.  Each diorama has some amazing features like smoking volcanoes, flowing lava and a Stone Age cave complete with prehistoric art.”

Can You Spot the Cave Paintings?

The inhabitants of the prehistoric cave.

Fantastic detail such as these cave paintings feature in the prehistoric dioramas.

Picture Credit: P.M.

Entering Model Making Competitions

In their email correspondence with Everything Dinosaur, the family have asked us about whether they could enter any model shows or diorama contests, we provided some advice suggesting that it was worthwhile seeing if there was a local model making club in South Africa where they could display their completed work.  Our congratulations to Paul, Raef, Luke and Amanda, we really appreciate you taking the time and trouble to share these images with us.

28 03, 2018

A New Megaraptoran Theropod – Tratayenia rosalesi

By | March 28th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

After the Carcharodontosaurids Tratayenia rosalesi Ruled

Scientists have described a new type of megaraptoran Theropod dinosaur from Upper Cretaceous strata in north-western Patagonia (Argentina).  Although, less than five percent of the skeleton has been discovered, the fossil bones are similar to other megaraptorids such as Aerosteon (A. riocoloradense) and Megaraptor (M. namunhuaiquii).  This has enabled the researchers, that include Juan Porfiri from the Museo de Ciencias Naturales (Buenos Aires), and Matthew Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (Pittsburgh), to confidently assign these fossils to the Megaraptora clade, the clade of “giant thieves”!

A Scientific Illustration of the New South American Megaraptoran T. rosalesi

Tratayenia stalking prey.

An illustration of the new Late Cretaceous megaraptoran dinosaur Tratayenia.

Picture Credit: Andrew McAfee (Carnegie Museum of Natural History)

Tratayenia rosalesi

Described from a series of articulated dorsal and sacral vertebrae, along with two ribs and elements of the hips, the dinosaur named Tratayenia rosalesi is estimated to have been around eight to nine metres in length, possibly even bigger.  Tratayenia is the geologically youngest of the Megaraptora known to science and it is the first megaraptoran that preserves the complete sequence of sacral vertebrae (fused back bones located over the hips).  Its discovery has helped palaeontologists to learn more about the hips and pelvic region of these Late Cretaceous meat-eaters.  The genus name is from Tratayén, the area in the eastern part of Neuquén Province from where the fossils come from.  The trivial name honours Diego Rosales who made the initial fossil discovery.  Tratayenia rosalesi is pronounced tra-ta-yen-nee-ah rose-ah-less-eye.

View of the Articulated Dorsal and Sacral Vertebrae (Tratayenia rosalesi)

Tratayenia, dorsal and sacral vertebrae.

Views of the articulated dorsal and sacral vertebrae (Tratayenia rosalesi).

Picture Credit: Cretaceous Research

The fossil material comes from a horizon of Upper Cretaceous-aged deposits (Santonian faunal stage), in the Bajo de la Carpa Formation of the Neuquén Group (Neuquén Basin), exposed close to the small town of Añelo.  Notwithstanding the fact that the age of the fossil material representing the megaraptorids Aerosteon and Orkoraptor (O. burkei) remains uncertain, these fossils could describe the geologically youngest megaraptoran to date, thus extending their temporal range.  In addition, it is the largest carnivorous vertebrate to have been found in the Bajo de la Carpa Formation, as such, the researchers speculate that this fearsome, long-jawed, long-clawed dinosaur was an apex predator.

Based on comparisons with close relatives like Megaraptor, palaeontologists estimate that this carnivorous dinosaur sported two, forty-centimetre-long talons on the innermost fingers of each hand.  The discovery of Tratayenia adds weight to the hypothesis that the megaraptorids became the top predators in the southern parts of Gondwana following the extinction of the carcharodontosaurids.

An Illustration of Tratayenia rosalesi Showing Known Fossil Material

Tratayenia silhouette, known bones in white.

The bones in white indicate the known fossil material (holotype) of Tratayenia.

Picture Credit: Cretaceous Research

An article that explains more about the megaraptoran dinosaurs including Murusraptor: Getting Our Claws into the Megaraptora

For an article that outlines the potential origins of the Megaraptora: “Lightning Claw” – A Deadly Predator

The scientific paper: “A New Megaraptoran Theropod Dinosaur from the Upper Cretaceous Bajo de la Carpa Formation of North-western Patagonia” by Juan D. Porfiri, Rubén D.Juárez Valieri, Domenica D.D.Santos and Matthew C. Lamanna published in the journal “Cretaceous Research”.

27 03, 2018

Ceratopsian Species – When and Where they Lived (Part 1)

By | March 27th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Ceratopsian Species – Where and When did they Live (part 1)

A few days ago, Everything Dinosaur published an article which summarised some remarkable research into the Ceratopsian family tree undertaken by a team of international scientists.  This research team, that included researchers from the University of London, postulated that all those fancy frills and horns associated with the horned dinosaurs, probably evolved to help individuals attract a mate.  This statistical study involved mapping when different species of horned dinosaur lived, where they lived and what other Ceratopsians may have been contemporaneous.

In the supplementary data, the researchers provided a marvellous Ceratopsian family tree plotted against geological time.  Quite a feat considering more than seventy species of horned dinosaur were analysed.  In addition, the team published very useful tables that summarised the data they had compiled.  The table listed the horned dinosaurs and provided information about which continent their fossils had been found and calibrated their approximate ages (upper limit and lower limit of stratigraphical distribution).

Plotting Ceratopsian Species Against Temporal and Geographical Distribution

Ceratopsian species and temporal calibration/geographical location.

Temporal calibrations and geographical locations of Ceratopsian species (part 1).

Table Credit: Andrew Knapp, Robert J. Knell, Andrew A. Farke, Mark A. Loewen, David W. E. Hone published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biology).

The table (above) shows temporal calibrations and geographical locations of Ceratopsian species.   Taxa that were included in the morphological character state analysis (the research into horns and crests), are indicated in bold type.  Region abbreviations: Asia: A; North America: NA; Europe: E.

One of the earliest Ceratopsians described to date is Yinlong downsi, fossils of which were found in Upper/Middle Jurassic aged rocks in Xinjiang Province (western China).  It is likely that the Ceratopsian lineage originated in the Middle Jurassic and that these bird-hipped dinosaurs first evolved in Asia.

An Illustration of Yinlong downsi – An Early Ceratopsian

An illustration of Yinlong downsi.

Yinlong downsi, an early Ceratopsian dinosaur.  The first horned dinosaurs were very probably small and bipedal.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Building on the Shoulder of Giants

The research team collated a significant amount of data that had been produced by other scientists.  Using this extensive research (source of the data is recorded in the table), a table listing Ceratopsian species, where they lived and when they lived was produced.

Plotting Ceratopsian Species Against Temporal and Geographical Distribution (Part 2)

Ceratopsian species - where they lived and when (part 2).

Temporal calibrations and geographical locations of Ceratopsian species (part 2).

Table Credit: Andrew Knapp, Robert J. Knell, Andrew A. Farke, Mark A. Loewen, David W. E. Hone published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biology).

The second part of the table lists horned dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous (majority) and also includes the first reference to a horned dinosaur from Europe Ajkaceratops kosmai, which is known from anterior portions of the skull and jaws discovered in Hungary.

To read our article from 2010, which discusses the discovery of the first European Ceratopsian (A. kosmai): Evidence of European Ceratopsians Grows With Hungarian Discovery

We congratulate the research team conducting the statistical study into the ornamentation of the Ceratopsia and praise all those patient, dedicated scientists that helped to provide the data set for them to work on.  A second article will be published shortly that features the rest of the horned dinosaur temporal and geographical distribution table.

To read our original article on the Ceratopsian research: Why Did Horned Dinosaurs Have Fancy Frills?

To view the timeline of Ceratopsian species – (a family tree of horned dinosaurs): A Horned Dinosaur Family Tree Plotted Over Geological Time

26 03, 2018

Keeping Safe Online

By | March 26th, 2018|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

What Can You Do to Help Protect Your Privacy and Personal Data?

These days, we seem to be spending more and more time online and there is a growing awareness about protecting privacy and personal data when it comes to the internet.  As Everything Dinosaur’s plans to comply with the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)* progress, we thought it would be helpful to our customers and to visitors of our various websites to provide some tips about how individuals can help to keep their personal data safe and secure.  After all, if Everything Dinosaur is working hard to safeguard your personal data, it only makes sense to do what you can to help maintain your privacy and personal security too.

Keeping Safe Online – Protecting Your Privacy and Personal Data

Protecting your privacy and personal data.

Protecting your personal data and privacy.

Here is a list of some things to consider to help stay safe online and to enjoy your browsing experience.  It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but we hope it provides additional support and assistance.

Protecting Personal Data – Tips

  • Have strong and safe passwords.  Remember to keep them private and change them periodically.  Passwords to more sensitive information such as financial details should be changed more frequently.  Never disclose your passwords, anybody who knows your password may access your personal data/accounts.
  • When using a device in a public place, it is recommended that you always log out and close the website browser when you have finished online.   Be careful, somebody might be watching you, ensure that as you type in or access sensitive information, you are not being overlooked.
  • Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.
  • When creating a password, use a minimum of seven characters.  Never use words, email addresses or any other aspect of your personal data within your password.  Letter, figure and symbol-based passwords are best.  When Everything Dinosaur upgraded its websites, existing account holders were asked to change their passwords and new stronger password creation measures were put in place.  A few moments of inconvenience are more than made up for by knowing that your personal data is protected and more secure.
  • Everything Dinosaur will never ask you to confirm any bank account or credit/debit card details or other financial information via email.  If you receive an email claiming to be from an organisation asking you to do so, treat this with great caution.  It is often best to ignore it and not to respond.  Do not click on any links within such emails.
  • Look for the padlock…  Look for HTTPS – all Everything Dinosaur’s sites are safeguarded by HTTPS protocols

The Green Padlock and HTTPS Helps to Give Web Browsers Confidence and Builds Trust

The padlock and HTTPS at Everything Dinosaur.

HTTPS and the padlock sign provides extra security to website visitors.  The red arrow in the picture above shows the location of the padlock and the secure HTTPS information associated with a website managed by Everything Dinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

  • Beware of websites offering discount codes or vouchers for Everything Dinosaur’s products and services.  Our company philosophy is very simple, we try to offer the very best service we can at the cheapest possible prices.  If you come across a website claiming to offer discount or voucher codes for Everything Dinosaur, we would urge you to take caution.  You can always contact Everything Dinosaur to check, we have included our contact email details within this blog post.
  • When on a social networking platform, think about how to keep your personal data safe.  Check and adjust the site’s privacy controls if necessary, use strong passwords and secure logins, consider the amount of personal information that you post up, could this data put you at risk from identify theft/fraud?
  • Make sure that your computer has an effective firewall and appropriate anti-virus/spy-ware/anti-malware programmes in place.  Only download files from trusted sources.
  • Before you give out any personal information online, make sure you know who you are dealing with.
  • Check the email address carefully before opening the message, don’t click on any links or attachments unless you are sure of the sender’s identity.
  • Ensure any mobile devices are kept secure, use passwords and secondary security systems such as thumb print identity checks.  Make sure your operating system has the latest updates and do not delay the installation of updates.

Everything Dinosaur Contact Details 

If you have a query regarding Everything Dinosaur’s privacy policy, a question relating to the company’s policies helping to protect your personal data and privacy or if you have come across a website claiming to offer discount codes and vouchers for Everything Dinosaur’s goods and services, you can email us here: Email Everything Dinosaur

What is the GDPR?

The GDPR is the European Union’s binding legislation for the protection of personal data. This regulation will be in effect from the 25th May 2018 onwards, it has been designed to deal with the inconsistencies within the current data protection laws that exist throughout the European Union.  It aims to facilitate the secure, free-flow of data and provide enhanced protection for data subjects (individuals whose data is managed, processed, handled, stored and so forth).

What is HTTPS?

HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), is the protocol where encrypted HTTP data is transferred over a secure connection.  Everything Dinosaur’s websites have digital certificates that authenticates the identity of our websites and encrypts information sent to servers.  Encryption involves the scrambling of data into an undecipherable string that can only be returned to a readable format with the proper decryption key, this helps to protect the privacy and integrity of exchanged data.  This helps to ensure that any personal data collected is held more securely.

25 03, 2018

A Horned Dinosaur Family Tree

By | March 25th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Ceratopsia Family Tree

Recently, Everything Dinosaur posted up an article that featured some remarkable research by an international team of scientists who set about answering the question, why did horned dinosaurs have fancy frills?  The scientific paper detailing this fascinating study, undertaken by scientists from the Natural History Museum of Utah, the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Palaeontology (California) and the University of London has been published in the “Proceedings of the Royal Society B.”

To read our article: Why Did Horned Dinosaurs Have Fancy Frills?

The researchers conclude that there is no statistical evidence to support the idea that the elaborate horns, neck frills and bony outgrowths associated with the skulls of the Ceratopsia evolved to help with inter-species recognition.   If a Centrosaurus (Centrosaurus apertus), happened to encounter an Achelousaurus (A. horneri), then it is likely that they used more subtle signals to help distinguish themselves.  Although, inter-species recognition is discounted, the paper suggests that the amazing skull ornamentation evolved as a sign that the individual was genetically healthy and therefore an attractive mate.

The Horns of Triceratops Probably Played a Role in Demonstrating Fitness for Breeding

Triceratops dinosaur illustration.

Triceratops was one of the last dinosaurs to evolve and its horns probably played a role in demonstrating fitness for breeding as well as defence.

Picture Credit: Julius Csotonyi

How Many Horned Dinosaurs and When Did They Live?

Before the statistical analysis could be carried out, the dedicated research team had to create a pool of horned dinosaur data to work with.  To test the idea about fancy frills and huge horns having something to do with inter-species identification, the scientists had to work out when the species of horned dinosaur lived, where they lived and what other horned dinosaurs shared their habitat.  In essence, an audit of the stratigraphical, geological and temporal evidence for the Ceratopsia (more than 70 species), had to be constructed.

Drawing on numerous sources, the research team compiled a time-scaled phylogeny for all the known Ceratopsians.  When each species of horned dinosaur lived was plotted against the geological timescale.  In this way, a single chart could show which horned dinosaurs were contemporaneous.

When the Horned Dinosaurs Lived (Ceratopsians) Plotted Against Geological Time

Phylogeny of the Ceratopsia (spring 2018).

The Ceratopsia family tree (spring 2018).

Picture Credit: Published in the Supplementary Section of the Scientific Paper*

The picture (above), shows a time-scaled phylogeny for all the Ceratopsian species known at the time of compilation.  Estimated temporal range of each species is indicated by the thick, black bars at the branch tips.  This phylogeny was created using strap package for R. (Bell and Lloyd, 2014).

From their Middle Jurassic origins, the evolution of the horned dinosaurs can be outlined in a single figure.  Dinosaur fans can see which Ceratopsians lived at the same time as each other.  They can also observe which horned dinosaurs are associated with the various faunal stages that make up the Jurassic and the Cretaceous.

The very last horned dinosaurs include the likes of Nedoceratops hatcheri, Torosaurus latus and Triceratops prorsus, this information can be found towards the bottom corner of chart.  Note how the two recognised species of Triceratops T. horridus and the geologically younger T. prorsus are not contemporaneous.  This reflects recently published research (2014), that mapped changes in the Triceratops fossil population and the evolution of a new species as the genus changed over time.

To read the article on the evolution of species within the Triceratops genus: How Triceratops Got Its Horns and Beak

*The scientific paper:  “Patterns of Divergence in the Morphology of Ceratopsian Dinosaurs: Sympatry is not a Driver of Ornament Evolution” by Andrew Knapp, Robert J. Knell, Andrew A. Farke, Mark A. Loewen, David W. E. Hone published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biology).

24 03, 2018

Everything Dinosaur Maintains 5-Star Customer Service

By | March 24th, 2018|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Top Marks from FEEFO for Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur continues to set the pace when it comes to independent reviews for the company’s products and customer service.  The UK-based supplier of dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed merchandise is approaching the milestone of having 500 on-line customer service reviews published by the independent ratings company FEEFO.  Everything Dinosaur continues to earn the coveted 5-star rating.

FEEFO Awards Everything Dinosaur Top Marks

Everything Dinosaur 5-star Feefo rating.

5-star rating for Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Over 1,000 Product Reviews

Ever since Everything Dinosaur entered into a partnership with the FEEFO reviews company in the early spring of last year, the product reviews, feedback and comments have come rushing in from satisfied and often delighted Everything Dinosaur customers.  Soon the mail order business will have published its 1,000th product review.  A few weeks ago, Everything Dinosaur was awarded the highest accolade from FEEFO, the Gold Trusted Service Award that reflects on the company’s constant attention to detail and care of its customers.

Everything Dinosaur Awarded the Highest Accolade by FEEFO

Everything Dinosaur wins top award.

FEEFO Gold Trusted Service Award (Everything Dinosaur).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To see Everything Dinosaur’s page on the FEEFO website: Everything Dinosaur on FEEFO

In a statement released by the ratings company, the significance of the Gold Trusted Service Award was explained.

“Our highest accolade – the Trusted Service Award honours the best businesses using FEEFO, that go above and beyond for their customers.  Held annually, every business that works with FEEFO is automatically entered and those that meet the criteria receive the award.  We have worked hard to ensure that the Trusted Service Award retains its status as the symbol of outstanding service – as voted by genuine customers.”

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur added:

“Our business model has always been based on providing the very best customer service that we can.  Savvy shoppers are beginning to realise that there are a lot of organisations operating on-line that have not been entirely honest in how customer’s data and information has been treated.  At Everything Dinosaur, we recognise the importance of trust, our customers trust us to look after them, to make sure that their purchases are securely packed and that they are delivered promptly and safely.  In addition, our customers know that Everything Dinosaur can be relied upon to protect their information and personal data too.  Respecting the rights of individuals with regards to their personal data will become increasingly important, we have always fostered a climate of respect and in this aspect of our business we are ahead of the curve.”

23 03, 2018

Why Did Horned Dinosaurs Have Fancy Frills?

By | March 23rd, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Why Did Horned Dinosaurs Have Fancy Frills (and Horns Too for that Matter)?

One of the great pleasures of working with so many young dinosaur enthusiasts is that we get to answer lots of their amazing questions.  We do get asked all sorts of things, such seems to be the fascination with dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.  Scientists get to ask questions too, after all, the essence of scientific enquiry is all about seeking answers.  It is surprising just how often the question asked of us by an eight-year-old overlaps with the sort of enquiries being explored by palaeontologists.  Take for example, the question of why did horned dinosaurs have horns and frills?  Thanks to a some recently published fascinating statistical analysis, researchers are able to at least rule out one possible explanation for these very ornate and often bizarre examples of dinosaur head gear.

Writing in the “Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biology)”, researchers have concluded that all this ornamentation probably did not evolve to help a dinosaur distinguish itself from another species.  Yes, they may have had a role in defence, after all, many of the later Ceratopsians had to contend with Tyrannosaurs in their neighbourhood, but this new analysis lends weight to the idea that the diverse range of headgear sported by horned dinosaurs probably evolved to help them win mates.

Lots of Horned Dinosaur Species – But Why all the Different Horns and Ornamentation?

So many different horned dinosaurs.

Illustrations of different horned dinosaurs but why the fancy headgear?

Picture Credit:  Everything Dinosaur with artwork from Julius Csotonyi, Danielle Dufault and the Canadian Museum of Natural History/Andrey Atuchin

A Statistical Study of Ceratopsians

The research team which included scientists from the University of London, the Natural History Museum of Utah and the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Palaeontology in California, first set about building a list of all the known horned dinosaurs that had been described to date.  The Ceratopsia (horned dinosaurs), is a major clade of the bird-hipped dinosaur lineage, it contains over seventy species, all of which possessed some form of skull ornamentation, from the small “sticky-out” cheek horns of Psittacosaurus from the Early Cretaceous to the spectacular multi-faceted head crests and horns sported by Late Cretaceous giants such as Styracosaurus, Triceratops and Pachyrhinosaurus that lived some fifty million years later.

Members of the Ceratopsia with Differing Ornamental Traits

Comparing the skulls of Triceratops and Psittacosaurus.

Ornamental traits in the Ceratopsia. Psittacosaurus and Triceratops compared.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

These horned dinosaurs had very different shaped skulls and to test the idea that these features evolved to help with species recognition, the researchers then set about looking at which horned dinosaurs lived at the same time and in the same parts of the world.  In essence, they looked to see if any two species were sympatric – this simply means whether two species live in the same area at the same time and therefore encounter each other.  A modern example can be found in the Serengeti National Park, where Impalas and Grant’s Gazelle, two species of antelope, live side by side.  There is sympatry between Impalas and Grant’s Gazelle.

Diverse Skulls – All Shapes and Sizes

Once the fossil records for all the known species of Ceratopsian had been analysed by location and when these animals lived, the team set about looking at the physical features of all those species which had enough fossil material associated with them to make any analysis statistically valid.  To test the idea that these horns and frills evolved to help in species recognition, there should be some evidence that at some point, several closely related species with different ornamentation lived at the same time in environments that at least partially overlapped and therefore these animals would have encountered each other.

Horned Dinosaur Skulls Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Line drawings of horned dinosaur skulls.

Line drawings of Ceratopsian skulls showing different morphology.

Picture Credit: Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biology)/Scott Hartman

The picture above shows seven line drawings of horned dinosaur skulls namely:

a).   Liaoceratops yangzigouensis – from Asia with a temporal range of 125 to 121 million years ago (Aptian faunal stage of the Early Cretaceous)

b).  Protoceratops andrewsi – from Asia with a temporal range of 76.38 to 72.05 million years ago (Campanian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous)

c).  Centrosaurus apertus – from North America with a temporal range of 77 to 75.5 million years ago (Campanian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous)

d).   Achelousaurus horneri – from North America with a temporal range of 75.8 to 74 million years ago (Campanian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous)

e).  Pachyrhinosaurus canadensis – from North America with a temporal range of 72 to 68.3 million years ago (Campanian/Maastrichtian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous)

f).  Chasmosaurus belli – from North America with a temporal range of 77 to 76 million years ago (Campanian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous)

g).  Triceratops horridus – from North America with a temporal range of 66.8 to 66.4 million years ago (Maastrichtian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous)

The red node 1 represents the clade Coronosauria a sub-division of the Ceratopsia that contains all the horned dinosaurs with enlarged frills.  Node 2 represents the clade Ceratopsoidea, which is split into two branches, the Centrosaurinae (orange branch) and the Chasmosaurinae (blue branch).  It is these two branches, the Centrosaurines and the Chasmosaurines that exhibit the majority of the cranial ornamental diversity.

Looking at Traits/Examining Characteristics

The next step was to classify those differences in the skeleton to separate out any features that may have played a role in inter-species recognition.  The scientists looked for anatomical traits within the skeleton.  Each trait was classed as either external or internal, based on whether it was likely to have an effect on the exterior appearance of the animal in life.  External characters were further subdivided into display and non-display, defined as whether or not the character or trait in question was deemed whole or part of an ornament (i.e. in Ceratopsians, the frill, horns and bosses of the skull).

An Example of the Traits Identified by the Researchers (Styracosaurus)

Styracosaurus skeleton showing examples of traits used in the study.

A skeletal reconstruction of the Centrosaurine dinosaur Styracosaurus (S. albertensis).

Picture Credit: Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biology)/Scott Hartman

The statistical analysis found no evidence to support the idea that the horns and frills of Ceratopsians evolved to help these animals differentiate themselves from other species that they shared habitats with.

Palaeontologist David Hone (University of London), explained that this study suggests that these ornamentations evolved as “social-sexual functions” i.e. as both males and females of each species had similar ornamentation, the horns and frills evolved to help advertise the animal’s condition and fitness for breeding.

He stated:

“We think that, really, it’s mostly a big kind of display feature, so just as peacocks have the big showy feathers and lions have the big mane and deer have big antlers.  It’s some kind of big advertising feature for these animals to show off.”

Billboards for Mutual Attraction

These skull ornamentations may have been a horned dinosaur’s way of demonstrating that it was healthy, strong and had good genetic make-up.  In short, both males and females were advertising their fitness for mating.  In evolutionary terms, the more fantastic your head crest and the bigger the lumps, bumps and horns on your face the dinosaur is highlighting that it is fit and healthy. It shows that it can grow lots of bone and carry it around without suffering from any disadvantages, such as being too slow and heavy to avoid a T. rex.

Those Skull Features – Basically They Communicate Fitness for Breeding

Yehuecauhceratops Museum Replica

Scientists have constructed a model of the Mexican dinosaur called Yehuecauhceratops.  Those horns, crests and frills probably advertise the animal’s fitness for breeding.

Picture Credit: Museo del Desierto, Mexico (The Coahuila Desert Museum)

The researchers conclude that the theory that all this ornamentation evolved as a species recognition mechanism, has no statistical support among known Ceratopsians.

The various features associated with the vast and diverse family of horned dinosaurs probably had other functions too.  Perhaps they played a role in thermoregulation and they may have functioned as defensive structures, plus they could have had a role in visual communication and display.  However, the idea that they developed to aid with inter-species recognition has been rejected by this research team.

The next time we get asked by an eight-year-old why did Triceratops have horns?  We can provide a more complete answer…

The scientific paper: “Patterns of Divergence in the Morphology of Ceratopsian Dinosaurs: Sympatry is not a Driver of Ornament Evolution” by Andrew Knapp, Robert J. Knell, Andrew A. Farke, Mark A. Loewen, David W. E. Hone published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biology)

22 03, 2018

Frog spawn in the Office Pond

By | March 22nd, 2018|Animal News Stories, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Frog Spawn in the Pond

After a false start, when we noticed one clump of unfertilised frog spawn in our pond, we are happy to announce that on the morning of the 17th March we spotted three clumps of newly laid frog spawn.  The first eggs were produced on the 20th of February, just prior to a sudden cold snap.  Whether a female frog had been stressed we don’t know, but despite our careful gathering of the tennis ball-sized clump of spawn and storing it in a goldfish bowl along with some of the pond water and pond weed, the eggs failed to develop.  Our intention was to protect the spawn from the extremely cold weather and then once the snow had melted, to re-introduce the spawn into the pond.

 Frog Spawn in the Office Pond (March 2018)

Frog spawn in the office pond (2018).

Frog spawn 2018, at least three clumps of spawn have been spotted.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Later Than Last Year

The spawning has taken place around a week later than last year.  We suspect the cold weather delayed the onset of breeding.  Hopefully, with the approach of warmer weather (no snow at least), this spawn will be able to develop and soon we will have tadpoles to observe.  The amount of spawn, is about average, we estimate that three females laid eggs.  Although the eggs tend to merge into one, single mat of jelly, if you can observe the egg masses before they swell you can get a reasonable idea of the number of fertile females present.

We Intend to Keep a Close Watch on the Frog Spawn

Frog spawn in the office pond (2018).

Frog spawn 2018.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Our pond is a haven for wildlife and we hope that at least some of the tadpoles make it to adulthood.   Common Frogs (Rana temporaria) inhabit our pond, although sadly, these animals like most of the native British amphibians are no longer common.  At least our little pond is helping with conservation efforts.

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