All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
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30 06, 2018

Everything Dinosaur Newsletter (End June 2018)

By | June 30th, 2018|Adobe CS5, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Newsletters, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Newsletter (End June 2018)

The Rebor War Pig Ankylosaurus, new Schleich models, Mojo dinosaurs, the Beasts of the Mesozoic range and Kaiyodo Tyrannosaurus rex figures all feature in Everything Dinosaur’s latest customer newsletter (end June 2018).  Every once in a while, we send our subscribers an email newsletter that helps to keep them informed about developments at Everything Dinosaur and new model ranges.

Everything Dinosaur’s Newsletter (June 2018) Features the Rebor War Pig Ankylosaurus

Everything Dinosaur Newsletter (June 2018).

Rebor War Pig Ankylosaurus models are in stock at Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Rebor War Pig Ankylosaurus Makes Headlines

The new Rebor War Pig figures (Ankylosaurus), make the headlines in our latest newsletter.  There are three colour variants of the War Pig Ankylosaurus, each variant represents a habitat in which this Late Cretaceous armoured dinosaur could have lived – “Plain”, “Woodland” and “Mountain”.  All three of the models have been beautifully crafted and there is quite a debate amongst model collectors and dinosaur fans as to which colour scheme is favourite.

To view the Rebor War Pig figures and the rest to the Rebor model range: Rebor Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals

Beasts of the Mesozoic Saurornitholestes sullivani and New Mojo Models

Beasts of the Mesozoic figures and Mojo models.

Beasts of the Mesozoic Saurornitholestes and new Mojo models for 2018.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Beasts of the Mesozoic and Four New Mojo Models

Newsletter subscribers were the first to learn that another shipment of the very popular Beasts of the Mesozoic 1:6 scale “raptor” figures is on the way.  This shipment will also include two new additions to the range that Everything Dinosaur stocks.  In addition, the latest information on the new for 2018 Mojo dinosaur models was also provided.  Four new models are being introduced by Mojo and a number of existing replicas have been given new paint schemes.  To find out more, we recommend subscribing to our newsletter.

To request a subscription to Everything Dinosaur’s regular newsletter, simply drop us an email: Email Everything Dinosaur

The Four New for 2018 Dinosaur Models from Mojo

Four new Mojo Fun models (2018).

Four new Mojo models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

All four of the new for 2018 Mojo models are lizard-hipped dinosaurs – Saurischia.  The models represent Baryonyx, Deinonychus, Diplodocus and the giant carnivore Giganotosaurus.

New Schleich and Kaiyodo Market Research

Our latest newsletter includes information on three, recently introduced Schleich figures, the last replicas to be added to their “Conquering the Earth” range for this year.   The models are a very colourful Pteranodon, plus a juvenile T. rex and a juvenile Therizinosaurus.  The Schleich juvenile T. rex has an articulated lower jaw, whereas, the Schleich juvenile Therizinosaurus has moveable forelimbs.

Three New Schleich Figures Plus Kaiyodo Market Research

 

New Schleich figures and new for 2018 Kaiyodo collectables.

New Schleich replicas and looking at the prospect of adding Kaiyodo figures into the Everything Dinosaur product portfolio.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur and Kaiyodo

In the newsletter, we explain that Everything Dinosaur has the opportunity to bring in some limited edition and quite rare Kaiyodo Tyrannosaurus rex collectables.  Aimed at model collectors aged 15 and above (15+), Everything Dinosaur is considering bringing in three, articulated T. rex models.  Each model measures around 29 cm long and it can be put into multiple poses (ten points of articulation on each figure).

Everything Dinosaur newsletter subscribers are asked for their comments and feedback about this exciting new range from the talented model makers at Kaiyodo.

29 06, 2018

Papo Acrocanthosaurus (Colour Variant) in Stock

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

New for 2018 Papo Acrocanthosaurus Model in Stock at Everything Dinosaur

The new for 2018 Acrocanthosaurus colour variant from Papo is now in stock at Everything Dinosaur.  Dinosaur fans and model collectors have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of this new version of the Papo Acrocanthosaurus replica, today, that wait came to an end.

The Papo Acrocanthosaurus (Colour Variant) Model is in Stock at Everything Dinosaur

Papo Acrocanthosaurus dinosaur model.

The Papo Acrocanthosaurus (new colour scheme for 2018).  This model, like its Acrocanthosaurus predecessor has an articulated lower jaw.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To purchase the Papo Acrocanthosaurus model and the rest of the Papo prehistoric animals: Papo Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Figures

A New Acrocanthosaurus Colour Scheme

In 2017, Papo introduced a purple-coloured version of Acrocanthosaurus, this model was intended to “whet the appetite” for Papo model fans, as it was withdrawn at Christmas.  The new colour variant, nick-named “tiger stripes” replaces the purple colour scheme figure.  The Papo Acrocanthosaurus with the purple colouration is no longer in production and rapidly become a rare figure.

The Original Papo Acrocanthosaurus (2017 Vintage)

Papo Acrocanthosaurus.

The Papo Acrocanthosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To read an article about the retirement of the original Papo Acrocanthosaurus: Papo Acrocanthosaurus Model Due to be Retired

A Large Papo Dinosaur Model

The two Papo figures are essentially the same sculpt, but with different paint profiles and colour schemes.  The models are quite sizeable, they measure a fraction under twenty-nine centimetres in length and that impressive tail tip is just under sixteen centimetres off the ground.

Fortunately, team members at Everything Dinosaur were able to secure the very last of the production run of the purple Acrocanthosaurus.  This figure is available from Everything Dinosaur whilst stocks last, collectors have the opportunity to complete their collection, before this excellent figure becomes extinct.

The Papo Acrocanthosaurus (2017)

Papo Acrocanthosaurus (2017)

The 2017 Papo Acrocanthosaurus dinosaur model.

Picture Credit:  Everything Dinosaur

An Early Cretaceous Apex Predator of America

Known from Early Cretaceous strata from the United States, “high-spined lizard”, is estimated to have reached lengths in excess of eleven metres. It probably was the apex predator within the ecosystem, but its classification within the Theropoda has been debated over the years.  When first scientifically described (1950), it was assigned to the Allosaurus family, indeed it might be related to the Late Jurassic Allosaurs, but most palaeontologists today classify Acrocanthosaurus as a basal member of the Carcharodontosauridae (the shark-toothed lizards).  The tall neural spines associated with many of this dinosaur’s vertebrae inspired the scientific name for Acrocanthosaurus.  However, they also clouded the taxonomic assessment.  Acrocanthosaurus has been assigned to the Spinosauridae as well as the taxonomic Megalosaurus waste basket in the past.  Affinities with the British Theropod Becklespinax have also been proposed.

One thing is for certain, this new Papo model with its spectacular “tiger stripes” is going to lead to fans of the Papo model range assigning this particular figure to their model collections.

28 06, 2018

Deinonychus – Dinosaur Renaissance

By | June 28th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Deinonychus – Dinosaur Renaissance

Everything Dinosaur team members have just updated their Deinonychus (D. antirrhopus) fact sheet.  From time to time, all our fact sheets get reviewed, revised and updated.  The dromaeosaurid Deinonychus has a special place in vertebrate palaeontology, as it was following the publication of a scientific paper by the American palaeontologist John Ostrom in 1969, that the Dinosauria began to be depicted as animals as active as living birds and mammals.  Prior to Ostrom’s seminal paper “Osteology of Deinonychus antirrhopus, an Unusual Theropod from the Lower Cretaceous of Montana” in July 1969, dinosaurs were still largely depicted as slow-witted, slow-moving, cold-blooded reptiles.

The Illustration of Deinonychus from the 1969 Scientific Paper

The Dinosaur Renaissance - Deinonychus

The original “Dinosaur Renaissance” inspired by Bakker (Deinonychus).

Picture Credit: Robert T. Bakker (1969)

Ostrom along with his student Robert T. Bakker helped to usher in a “Dinosaur Renaissance”, that dinosaurs were potentially endothermic and the body plan of Deinonychus could only represent an extremely active, agile hunter.  Writing in the bulletin (Bulletin 30 – July 1969) of the Peabody Museum of Natural History (Yale University), Ostrom explained:

“A detailed description is presented of the skeletal anatomy and adaptations of Deinonychus antirrhopus (Ostrom 1969), a very unusual carnivorous dinosaur (Order Saurischia, Suborder Theropoda) from the Cloverly Formation (Early Cretaceous) of Montana.  The species is characterised by a number of features that indicate an extremely active and agile animal, fleet of foot and highly predaceous in its habits.”

In this very detailed monograph (it runs to something like 160 pages), Ostrom even described the likely “habits of Deinonychus”.  Ostrom compared the vertebrae to those of living flightless birds such as Moas (Ratites),  he concluded that the backbones were held horizontal to the ground and not in the inclined attitude (the kangaroo stance), usually depicted for Theropods.  Comments were made about the potential speed of this dinosaur, it was stated that Deinonychus was likely to be a fast runner, but the absence of a femur restricted Ostrom from making specific claims as to the velocity of this obligatory biped.  Ostrom did state that the elongated foot bones were reminiscent to those found in deer, the cheetah and in fast-running ground dwelling birds.

Ostrom wrote:

“Regarding locomotion, the hind limbs of Deinonychus appear to have been powerful limbs for moderately, but not unusually fast running.”

This description gave plenty of scope to movie makers when it came to depicting “raptors”, in films such as “Jurassic Park” that were to inspire and thrill in the early 1990’s.

The Scale Drawing of Deinonychus antirrhopus on the Everything Dinosaur Fact Sheet

Deinonychus life reconstruction (2017).

Deinonychus life reconstruction showing feathers.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

No Feathers

We don’t think that the Deinonychus paper published in 1969 mentioned the possibility of this dinosaur having a coat of feathers.  After all, despite the holotype material having been preserved in fine clay, which eventually turned to mudstone, no evidence of feathers has been found in association with D. antirrhopus fossil material.  The presence of feathers is inferred based on exquisite feathered dromaeosaurid fossils, most notably from northern China.  Ostrom did however, start to make the connection with Deinonychus and the possibility of this dinosaur being covered in feathers, a year after his ground-breaking paper was published.  Whilst viewing what was thought to be a Pterosaur fossil from Solnhofen, at the Teylers Museum in Holland, Ostrom identified it as an Archaeopteryx specimen (A. lithographica).  He was able to subsequently make the link between the bones preserved on this fossil slab and those of Deinonychus he had described the year before.  The idea that dinosaurs and birds were closely related was revived, as Bakker later put it, the “Dinosaur Renaissance” had begun.

27 06, 2018

Rare Dinosaur Fossil from Japan

By | June 27th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Researchers Report the Discovery of a Partial Femur from a Hadrosaur

Dinosaur fossils are exceptionally rare in Japan, so when one is discovered, it makes quite a story.  Japanese media have reported upon a paper delivered at last weekend’s meeting of the Palaeontological Society of Japan, which provided details of partial hadrosaurid femur that had been found on Kamikoshikijima Island, at the southernmost tip of the land of the rising sun.

The fossil was discovered two years ago (July 2016), its discovery was announced at the meeting by a team from Kumamoto University and the National Museum of Nature and Science (Tokyo).

The Partial Dinosaur Femur at the Dig Site

Fossil partial Hadrosaur femur (Japan).

The fossilised remains of the partial Hadrosaur femur in situ (tape measure provides scale).

Picture Credit: Satsuma-sendai City Government

Identifying the Fossil as a Duck-billed Dinosaur (Hadrosaur)

Whilst it may not be possible to assign a genus to this fossil, the single bone does at least permit scientists to assign it to the Hadrosauridae family.  The femur is similar in shape when compared to the thigh bones of better known hadrosaurids.  It lacks the pneumatic texture as seen within the bones of Theropod dinosaurs and the position of the fourth trochanter, a flange of bone on the femur associated with muscle attachment, is within the scope of placement associated with duck-billed dinosaurs.

The sediments in which the femur was found date from the Maastrichtian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous, indicating that this herbivorous dinosaur roamed this part of the world some 70 million years ago.

Commenting on the importance of the fossil find, researcher Yuka Miyake, who made the initial discovery stated:

“It is a clue that may enable us to grasp the extent of the diversity of dinosaurs that flourished in Asia.”

The bone measures about 70 centimetres long, if it had been complete it would have measured around 1.2 metres in length.  The scientists estimate that the dinosaur would have measured in excess of ten metres.

An Illustration of Late Cretaceous Hadrosaurs

A typical Late Cretaceous hadrosaurid.

Typical Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian faunal stage) hadrosaurids.

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks

This is the tenth reported Hadrosauridae discovery from Japan.  However, this is the first time a dinosaur fossil has been found on Kamikoshikijima.  Sensibly, the researchers have refused to state the exact location of the fossil find, this will help to protect the fossil site.  The bone will go on public display at the city government’s Kashima branch office in Shimokoshikijima from the middle of next month.

To read other blog articles published by Everything Dinosaur about dinosaur fossil discoveries from Japan:

Tyrannosaurus Roamed Late Cretaceous Japan

Japan’s Most Complete Dinosaur Discovery

Fragments of Fossilised Teeth Hint at Late Cretaceous Japanese Theropod

Japanese Schoolboy Finds Dinosaur Toe Bone

26 06, 2018

Watching the Birdie – Head for the Southern Hemisphere

By | June 26th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Fossil Bird Challenges Perceptions About Avian Evolution

Researchers from the Swedish Museum of Natural History and the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, have re-examined the fossilised remains of an ancient bird from Wyoming, which casts doubt on the generally held perception that the ancestor of all modern birds originated in the southern hemisphere.  The fossil bird, named Foro panarium, was originally described and named back in 1992, but where this 52 million-year-old bird would perch on the avian family tree has been the subject of much debate.

Dr Daniel Field (Milner Centre for Evolution), in collaboration with Alison Hsiang (Swedish Museum of Natural History), have produced a scientific paper that supports the idea that this robust but poor flyer with relatively long legs from the famous Eocene-aged Green River Formation, is the earliest known example of a group of birds called Turacos or “banana eaters”.

Comparing the Skeleton of F. panarium to the Extant Ross’s Turaco (M. rossae)

Holotype of Foro panarium compared to living Turaco species.

The holotype specimen of F. panarium compared to a living species of Turaco.

Picture Credit: BMC Evolutionary Biology

The picture (above) shows a stylised image of the holotype specimen of Foro panarium (a, c, d, e) compared to (b) 3-dimensional CT rendering of the pectoral region of Ross’s Turaco (Musophaga rossae).  Note scale bar is 10 centimetres.

Birds – the Most Specious of all the Terrestrial Vertebrates

Some commentators might state that we are living in “the age of mammals”, it is true that many of  the apex predators, large herbivores and hyper-carnivores around today are mammalian, but in terms of the number of species, there are more species of birds (estimated at 11,000), than there are species of mammals, or amphibians and reptiles for that matter.  In addition, there are far more bird species in the southern hemisphere than in the northern hemisphere.  Charles Darwin during his voyage on the Beagle, marvelled at the great diversity of bird species he encountered on his travels through South America, the Galapagos and islands of the Pacific Ocean.  Naturalists are very aware of the dramatically uneven global distribution of today’s Aves.  Not only are species numbers higher south of the Equator, but many major groups of birds are entirely restricted to Africa, Australasia and South America which were all, once upon a time, part of the great southern super-continent of Gondwana.

Turaco Birds are Known for their Beautiful Plumage

 Guinea Turaco (T. persa).

A beautiful Turaco bird.  A Guinea Turaco (T. persa)

Picture Credit: Dr Daniel Field

Dr Field and Dr Hsiang set out to examine the avian fossil record to see if they could help to explain the uneven geographic distribution of modern-day birds.  Did, as many scientists believe, the ancestor of all modern birds (Neornithes), originate in the southern hemisphere, or are there more complex issues in play restricting the distribution of birds through deep time?

Turning to the Fossil Record for Answers

In order to map the evolutionary history of our feathered friends – the avian dinosaurs, the scientists turned to the fossil record for answers.  Writing in the academic journal “BMC Evolutionary Biology”, the scientists report their study of the 52-million-year-old fossil bird named Foro panarium.  The taxonomic placement of this species has been controversial, as the fossil shows a mixture of anatomical characteristics.  However, using updated information relating to other Eocene and Palaeocene bird species, the researchers concluded that the specimen represents the earliest known relative of the “banana eaters”, the Turacos (Musophagidae family).  Turacos today are entirely restricted to sub-Saharan Africa.  This enigmatic family of birds are renowned for their bright, gaudy plumage, elaborate head crests and some species have very loud alarm calls (hence their nick-name in parts of Africa, “go away birds”).  The feathers of several species contain unique pigments that generate bright green and magenta tones.

If the American fossil bird F. panarium is indeed a basal member of the Musophagidae, then it suggests that these birds had a much wider, global distribution in the distant past.  If this is the case, then why are extant Musophagidae  members restricted to Africa?

Biogeographical  and Bayesian Statistical Phylogenetic Analysis

Furthermore, an examination of the fossil record of Aves, suggests that Foro panarium is not the only example of a fossil bird being discovered outside the modern geographical distribution for that kind of bird.  For example, the Trogoniformes (Trogons and Quetzal birds), which are restricted to the southern hemisphere today, have basal members preserved in fossils from the Messel Shales of Germany.

The Beautifully Preserved Remains of a Bird from the Messel Shales of Germany

Bird Fossil - Messel shale.

A bird fossil from the Messel shale of southern Germany.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The scientists confirm the complex historical biogeography of crown birds across geological timescales.  The geographical distribution of ancient species and their subsequent radiation and restriction is likely to be much more complicated than previously thought.  The idea that the common ancestor of all living birds (Neornithes), arose in the southern hemisphere is not discounted, but this paper suggests that this assertion may not be as strongly supported by the evidence as previously thought.

Commenting on the significance of this study, Dr Field stated:

“Our picture of bird evolutionary history will continue to grow sharper as each new bird fossil gets unearthed.”

Shedding Light on the Turaco Lineage

It is likely that the birds went through a rapid phase of evolution after the End-Cretaceous extinction event that saw the demise of many ancient avian groups as well as the non-avian dinosaurs.  A seed-eating diet, may have helped numerous lineages to persist as the world’s ecosystems recovered.

To read a recent article about this: Seed Eating May Have Helped Some Types of Bird to Survive the Cretaceous Extinction Event

For the F. panarium fossil specimen itself, it may provide vital clues as to the age of the Musophagidae.  Turacos must have diverged from their closest living relatives by at least 52 million years ago, (by the middle of the Ypresian faunal stage), thus supporting the idea of a rapid diversification of the Aves during the Palaeocene Epoch.  The fossil also provides some intriguing insights into the evolution of modern Turaco biology.  Living Turacos have short hindlimbs and hind feet claw adaptations to help them to perch in trees.  In contrast, the fossilised hindlimbs of Foro panarium are quite long, suggesting that this bird was more of a ground-dweller than its modern descendants.

The scientific paper: “A North American Stem Turaco, and the Complex Biogeographical History of Modern Birds” by Daniel J, Field and Allison Y. Hsiang published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology

25 06, 2018

Rebor War Pigs (Ankylosaurus) Figures in Stock

By | June 25th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Rebor War Pigs (Ankylosaurus) Figures in Stock

The trio of tanks, the three Rebor War Pigs (Ankylosaurus) dinosaur models are now in stock at Everything Dinosaur.  This beautiful, 1:35 scale replica of Ankylosaurus (A. magniventris) is available in three colour schemes, each one representing a potential environment in which this iconic dinosaur could have lived in.  There is “Plain”, “Woodland” or the “Mountain” colour scheme to choose from.

A Dorsal View of the Three Rebor Ankylosaurus Colour Schemes (Mountain, Plain and Woodland)

Rebor has made three different versions of Ankylosaurus.

The three different Rebor models – left “mountain”, middle  “plain” and “woodland” on the right.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Rebor War Pig Plain Ankylosaurus

Although Ankylosaurus has given its name to a family of armoured dinosaurs, the Ankylosauridae, it is actually a very poorly known representative and its fossils are highly fragmentary.  There are much more complete fossil specimens of club-tailed, armoured dinosaurs in the fossil record, but because of its large size and since it has been known about for more than 110 years, Ankylosaurus has become an iconic example within the Thyreophora.

The Rebor War Pig Ankylosaurus (Plain) Colour Scheme

Rebor War Pig Ankylosaurus (Plain).

Rebor Ankylosaurus War Pig (Plain) colour scheme.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The “Plain” colour scheme is certainly colourful with overtones of clay and a strong marmalade hue.  As with all the Rebor War Pig figures, the model is in approximately 1:35 scale and the tail, which comes as a separate piece, is flexible, permitting that powerful tail club to be placed in several poses.

To view the range of Rebor prehistoric animal figures available from Everything Dinosaur, including the three War Pig Ankylosaurus variants: Rebor Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animal Models

Rebor War Pig Woodland Ankylosaurus

Ankylosaurus is ecologically rare in Late Cretaceous palaeoenvironments.  Edmontonia, for example is much better known from similarly aged deposits.  These two members of the Thyreophora may have inhabited different habitats, Edmontonia calling low lying, flood plain habitats home and Ankylosaurus living elsewhere.  But where?  Hence the three colour schemes from Rebor, “Plain”, “Woodland” and “Mountain”.

The “Woodland” Version of Ankylosaurus magniventris by Rebor

Rebor Ankylosaurus "Woodland".

Rebor “Woodland” Ankylosaurus dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To read an article which explains why Ankylosaurus is regarded as atypical of the Ankylosauridae: Ankylosaurus – Not Your Typical Ankylosaur

Rebor War Pig Mountain Ankylosaurus

The third colour variant is the Rebor War Pig “Mountain” Ankylosaurus.  This figure, like the other two, measures a fraction under twenty-nine centimetres in length.  Rebor have therefore suggested (1:35 scale), that this Late Cretaceous armoured dinosaur, one of the last of its kind measured around ten metres in length.   That is around the range stated in the latest scientific papers regarding A. magniventris, it was certainly a very large dinosaur, around the size of a school bus.

The Rebor 1:35 scale War Pig Ankylosaurus – Mountain Colour Scheme

Rebor Ankylosaurus figure "Mountain".

Rebor War Pig Ankylosaurus “Mountain”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

For dinosaur fans and model collectors, Rebor has generously provided them with three different versions of this iconic dinosaur to collect.  Each one has been beautifully crafted and collectors can select the one they prefer, or perhaps they can choose the version that they think best reflects the habitat which this very famous herbivorous dinosaur might have roamed some sixty-six million years ago.

24 06, 2018

Fossil Fungi

By | June 24th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Mesozoic Mushrooms

The evolutionary history of the Fungi – (Kingdom Fungi), toadstools, yeasts, moulds, mushrooms and such like is very poorly understood.  These soft-bodied eukaryotes, which are so important when it comes recycling nutrients in ecosystems, have an exceptionally sparse fossil record.  Twelve months ago, researchers writing in the on-line academic journal described a very remarkable fossil, that of a mushroom that had been found preserved in Cretaceous-aged rocks from Brazil.

The Oldest Fossil Mushroom

Early Cretaceous mushroom Gondwanagaricites magnificus.

Gondwanagaricites magnificus fossil and line drawing.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The picture (above) shows a picture of the gilled mushroom (A) and an accompanying line drawing (B).  The fossil from the Lower Cretaceous Crato Formation of north-eastern Brazil, represents the oldest fossil mushroom discovered to date and the first to be identified from the southern super-continent of Gondwana.

Gondwanagaricites magnificus

The specimen was collected from the laminated limestones of the Crato Formation, which outcrop on the northern flanks of the Chapada do Araripe in Ceará, (Brazil).  Other fossil mushrooms, (Class Agaricomycetes, Order Agaricales) are preserved in the fossil record, but these fossils are associated with amber inclusions, all of which relate to younger material (Mid-Cretaceous to Miocene amber).

The genus name for this remarkable discovery (paper published in 2017), is derived from Gondwana and the Greek “agarikon” meaning mushroom.   The species epithet is from the Latin, meaning splendid or magnificent, a reference to the remarkable state of preservation of the specimen.

The scientific paper: “The Oldest Fossil Mushroom” by Sam W. Heads , Andrew N. Miller, J. Leland Crane, M. Jared Thomas, Danielle M. Ruffatto, Andrew S. Methven, Daniel B. Raudabaugh, Yinan Wang published in the open access on-line journal PLOS One

A correction to the original paper, concerning the correct nomenclature to be used when referring to this amazing example of a fossilised fungus has just been published.

The Crato Formation, might be more famous for its Pterosaur fossils, but the preservation of a gilled mushroom in this Lagerstätten is nothing short of astonishing.

23 06, 2018

Stem Mammal Skull Re-shapes Ancient Landmasses

By | June 23rd, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Cifelliodon wahkarmoosuch – Pangaea Split Later Than Thought

A fossilised skull of a stem mammal dating back to the Lower Cretaceous suggests that the super-continent Pangaea split up more recently than previously thought.  The skull, identified as a new species, comes from Utah and it indicates that there were still land links between North America and other landmasses making up Pangaea, as this is the first evidence of a member of the Hahnodontidae to have been described from North American fossil material.

Linking Super-continents Cifelliodon wahkarmoosuch

Cifelliodon wahkarmoosuch life reconstruction.

A life reconstruction of the stem mammal C. wahkarmoosuch.  The fossilised skull of this small stem mammal suggests that Pangaea broke up later than previously thought.

Picture Credit: Jorge A. Gonzalez

Scientists, including researchers from the University of Chicago and the Utah Geological Survey writing in the journal “Nature”, have named the new stem mammal Cifelliodon wahkarmoosuch.

Lead author of the study Zhe-Xi Luo (University of Chicago), explained that palaeontologists had thought that the primitive precursors to today’s mammals – the monotremes, marsupials and placental mammals, were anatomically similar and ecological generalists.  However, recent fossil discoveries suggest that many stem mammals were very specialised.

Zhe-Xi Luo stated:

“Now we know mammal precursors developed capacities to climb trees, to glide, to burrow into the ground for subterranean life, and to swim.  With this new study, we also know that they dispersed across from Asia and Europe, into North America, and farther onto major southern continents.”

Honouring Richard Cifelli

The genus name honours American palaeontologist Richard Cifelli, at Oklahoma University.  Professor Cifelli is regarded as one of America’s leading experts in North American Cretaceous mammals.  The species name “wahkarmoosuch”, means “Yellow Cat” in the local native American language for that part of Utah.  The fossil comes from the Yellow Cat Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation.  Sophisticated high-resolution computerised tomography (CT), was used to create a detailed, three-dimensional model of the skull.

James Kirkland, co-author of the paper and a Utah State palaeontologist commented:

“The skull of Cifelliodon is an extremely rare find in a vast fossil-bearing region of the Western Interior, where the more than 150 species of mammals and reptile-like mammal precursors are represented mostly by isolated teeth and jaws.”

The Fossilised Skull of C. wahkarmoosuch and a Computer -generated Image of the Fossil Material

The skull and scan of C. Dorsal view of the fossil skull (left) and the computer generated image (right) C. wahkarmoosuch.

Dorsal view of the fossil skull (left) and the computer-generated image (right) of  C. wahkarmoosuch.

Picture Credit: Huttenlocker et al

Nocturnal Predator

Cifelliodon wahkarmoosuch was small, weighing around two kilograms, it was probably about the size of a terrier.  This might be tiny compared to some extant North American mammals around today such as the moose, wolf and bison, but back in the Early Cretaceous, some 130 million years ago, it was a relative giant amongst its Cretaceous contemporaries.  Analysis of the teeth and preserved teeth sockets suggest that it had teeth were similar to fruit-eating bats and it could bite, shear and crush.  It may have been omnivorous, eating small animals but also incorporating plants into its diet.

The skull reveals that this newly described species had a relatively small brain and giant olfactory bulbs to process smell.  The small orbits (eye-sockets), suggest that C. wahkarmoosuch probably relied on its sense of smell to find food.  It probably did not have good eyesight or colour vision and Cifelliodon may have been nocturnal.

Super-Continent and Land Bridges

The research team have assigned Cifelliodon to the clade Haramiyida, a group of mammaliaform cynodonts that have a long temporal range in the fossil record.  Most of these animals are known from fragments of jawbone or fossil teeth.  The teeth, which are by far the most common fossil remains of these animals, resemble those of another ancient type of mammal the Multituberculata (Multituberculates).  With the discovery of a North American Haramiyidan, scientists are going to have to re-examine fossil teeth from this area that had previously been assigned to the Multituberculata, these teeth might represent members of the Haramiyida.

The fossil discovery emphasises that Haramiyidans and some other vertebrate groups existed globally during the Jurassic-Cretaceous transition, meaning the corridors for migration via landmasses forming the super-continent Pangaea remained intact into the Early Cretaceous.  There must have been land bridges permitting the migration of these small animals for longer than previously thought.

Most of the Jurassic and Cretaceous fossils of Haramiyidans are from the Triassic and Jurassic of Europe, Greenland and Asia.  Hahnodontidae was previously known only from the Cretaceous of northern Africa.  The Utah fossil discovery provides evidence of migration routes between the continents that are now separated in northern and southern hemispheres.

Commenting on the implications for the break-up of Pangaea, Adam Huttenlocker (University of Southern California), a co-author of the study said:

“But it’s not just this group of Haramiyidans.  The connection we discovered mirrors others recognised as recently as this year based on similar Cretaceous dinosaur fossils found in Africa and Europe.”

The researchers conclude that hahnodontid mammaliaforms had a much wider, possibly Pangaean distribution during the Jurassic–Cretaceous transition.

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

The scientific paper: “Late-surviving Stem Mammal Links the Lowermost Cretaceous of North America and Gondwana” by Adam K. Huttenlocker, David M. Grossnickle, James I. Kirkland, Julia A. Schultz and Zhe-Xi Luo published in the journal Nature.

22 06, 2018

Tongue-tied Dinosaurs

By | June 22nd, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Most Dinosaur Tongues Rooted to the Bottom of their Mouths

New research undertaken by the University of Texas at Austin in conjunction with the Chinese Academy of Sciences suggests a link between the origin of flight within the Archosauria and an increase in tongue diversity and mobility.  It seems that Theropod dinosaurs had tongues very similar to those of extant crocodiles, these tongues are immobile and firmly attached to the floor of the mouth.  In contrast, Ornithischian (bird-hipped) dinosaurs, pterosaurs and birds may have had more mobile tongues, in the case of the volant animals, the tongue could have become adapted to serve as a device to compensate for a loss of dexterity as hands evolved into wings.  For the Ornithischians, their plant-eating needs could have resulted in a more mobile and dextrous tongue to assist with the processing of large quantities of coarse vegetation in the mouth, after all, most derived Ornithischians unlike their Sauropodomorpha and Theropod cousins chewed their food to some extent.

A Tongue-tied Dinosaur – Most Theropods Had Tongues Like Extant Crocodilians

A tongue-tied dinosaur.

Most Theropod dinosaurs such as this Deinonychus had immobile tongues.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Comparing Hyoid Bones

The University of Texas at Austin and Chinese Academy of Sciences researchers compared the hyoid bones of living and extinct Archosaurs.  The hyoid bones support and ground the tongue.  In addition, to challenging how dinosaur tongues are depicted in movies such as “Jurassic Park”, the study proposes a connection between the origins of powered flight and an increase in tongue diversity and mobility.

Lead author of the research. Zhiheng Li, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences commented:

“Tongues are often overlooked but, they offer key insights into the lifestyles of extinct animals.”

Associate professor Zhiheng Li conducted the research whilst working towards his PhD at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences.

The study involved comparing the hyoid bones of extinct dinosaurs and pterosaurs with the hyoid bones of living Archosaurs.  The research team looked at the hyoid bones and associated muscles of alligators and modern birds.  The hyoid bones act as anchors for the tongue in most animals, but in Aves (birds), these bones can extend to the tip.  Comparing anatomical traits across these groups can help scientists understand the similarities and differences in tongue anatomy and how traits evolved through time and across different lineages.

The Research Team Examined Extant and Extinct Archosaurs Plus Other Groups Such as Sphenodonts

Working out the tongue function in extinct Archosaurs.

Muscular, fleshy, bone or cartilage elements of the tongue in extant archosaurs and outgroups.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

Fifteen Modern Specimens Compared to Extinct Archosaurs

High-resolution images of hyoid bones and muscles were made from fifteen modern specimens.  The bird species examined included ducks and ostriches.  The X-Ray Computed Tomography Facility at the Jackson School of Geosciences was used to create the images.  Most of the fossil specimens used in the study came from north-eastern China (Liaoning Province), the exquisite preservation of these fossils gave the researchers the best opportunity to examine in detail images of the delicate tongue bones.  The iconic Late Cretaceous dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex was also included in this research.

The results indicate that the hyoid bones of most members of the Dinosauria, were reminiscent of extant crocodilians, the hyoid bones of dinosaurs were short, simple and connected to a tongue that was relatively immobile.  Co-author of the scientific paper, published in the on-line journal PLOS One, Julia Clarke (Jackson School of Geosciences), explained that the dramatic reconstruction of dinosaurs with their tongues stretching out from between their jaws as seen in many movies, was just wrong and inaccurate.

Julia Clarke stated:

“They have been reconstructed the wrong way for a long time.  In most extinct dinosaurs their tongue bones are very short and in crocodilians with similarly short hyoid bones, the tongue is totally fixed to the floor of the mouth.”

Overturning Common Misconceptions About Dinosaurs

Professor Clarke is accustomed to overturning common misconceptions when it comes to dinosaurs.  In 2016, Julia was one of the co-authors of a study into a Late Cretaceous bird (Vegavis iaai), the research team concluded that dinosaurs probably did not roar but may have made booming noises in a similar way to the vocalisation found in ostriches.

To read about this study: Ancient Bird Voice Box Sheds Light on the Voices of Dinosaurs

In contrast to the short hyoid bones of crocodiles, the scientists found that pterosaurs, bird-like dinosaurs, and living birds have a great diversity in hyoid bone shapes.  They think the range of shapes could be related to flight ability, or in the case of flightless birds such as ostriches and emus, evolved from an ancestor that could fly.  The researchers propose that taking to the skies could have led to new ways of feeding that could be tied to diversity and mobility in tongues.

Examples of Fossilised Hyoid Bones in the Archosauria

Fossil bones in extinct Archosaurs.

Archosauria and fossilised hyoid bones.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The picture above shows a number of fossilised hyoid bones associated with extinct members of the Archosauria.

Key

(A) Alligator prenasalis, pterosaurs (B) Liaoxipterus brachycephalus and (C) Ludodactylus sibbicki, (D) basal Ornithischian Jeholosaurus shangyuanensis, (E) Tyrannosaur Yutyrannus huali (F) Sinosauropteryx prima.

Professor Clarke added:

“Birds, in general, elaborate their tongue structure in remarkable ways, they are shocking.”

Co-author of the study, Zhiheng Li (Chinese Academy of Sciences), stated that the elaboration of the tongue could be related to the loss of dexterity that accompanied the evolution of flight.  The tongue could have compensated for the transformation of hands into wings.

Li stated:

“If you can’t use a hand to manipulate prey, the tongue may become much more important to manipulate food.  That is one of the hypotheses that we put forward.”

Volant Dinosaurs And Fossil Birds (Hyoid Study in Paravians)

Fossil hyoid bones in flying dinosaurs and extinct birds.

Hyoid remains in Paravians.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

Key

(A) Microraptor zhaoianus, (B) Confuciusornis sp., (C) Enantiornithine sp., (D) Hongshanornis longicresta.  The blue arrow indicates the ossified basihyal in Confuciusornis and Hongshanornis; it was also observed in one specimen of Microraptor.  The green arrow indicates the phylogenetically earliest epibranchial.

An Exception – The Ornithischia

The scientists did identify one exceptional group amongst the Dinosauria, the Ornithischian dinosaurs.  Derived members of this group chewed their plant food and had hyoid bones that were highly complex and more mobile, although they were structurally different from those of volant dinosaurs and pterosaurs.

Triceratops Had a Mobile and Dextrous Tongue

New colour Mojo Fun large Triceratops (2018).

Mojo Fun large Triceratops (new colour 2018). We will be looking carefully at the tongue.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The team propose that more work needs to be done to understand the anatomical changes that occurred with shifts in tongue function.  Professor Clarke commented upon how changes in the tongues of living birds are associated with changes in the position of the opening of the windpipe.  These changes could in turn affect how birds vocalise and breathe.

The scientific paper: “Convergent Evolution of a Mobile Bony Tongue in Flighted Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs” by Zhiheng Li, Zhonghe Zhou and Julia A. Clarke published in PLOS One.

21 06, 2018

Researchers Identify New Species of Ancient Marine Lizard

By | June 21st, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Primitivus manduriensis – New Semi-Aquatic Lizard Honours Red Wine Grape

The discovery of an articulated fossilised skeleton with exceptional soft tissue preservation indicates that the enigmatic Dolichosaurs were around at least fifteen million years later than previously thought.  Researchers, including scientists from the University of Alberta (Canada), have described a new species of Dolichosaur, naming it Primitivus manduriensis.  The fossil specimen was found near Nardò (Lecce, Puglia), a small town located in the Salento Peninsula (southern Italy).   The animal was probably semi-aquatic, hunting for small fish in shallow waters whilst also venturing out onto land from time to time.  The specimen, although crushed flat, is so well-preserved that muscle, skin and scales can be observed under ultra violet light.  Even the small bones of its fish prey have been preserved in the gut.

The reptile, which was approximately one metre in length has been named after the local Manduria variety of red wine grape primitivo.

A Life Reconstruction of Primitivus manduriensis

Primitivus life reconstruction.

A life reconstruction of the newly described marine lizard Primitivus from southern Italy.

Picture Credit: Fabio Manucci

Found in Rocks Dating from the Late Campanian to the Early Maastrichtian

The fossil was discovered in what was once a shallow water environment, perhaps an embayment.  After it died, this member of the Squamata (it was related to lizards, snakes and Mosasaurs), sank to the bottom and was covered in sediment, safe from any currents that would otherwise have scattered its remains and away from scavengers.

Lead author of the paper, published in Royal Society Open Science, University of Alberta student Ilaria Paparella commented:

“The marine lizards are essentially small, long-bodied animals that look like regular lizards with longer necks and tails.  They have paddle-like hands and feet for swimming but could also move on land.”

Dorsal View of the Holotype Primitivus manduriensis Fossil Material

Views of the holotype of P. manduriensis.

Top – the holotype fossil material of P. manduriensis and (bottom) under UV light.

Picture Credit: Royal Society Open Science

The photographs (above), show the holotype of Primitivus manduriensis (MPUR NS 161) in natural (a) and UV light (b) as exposed from the matrix in dorsal view.  The imaging under UV radiations is a composite of two pictures, finalised with Adobe Photoshop CC 17 (2013 release).   Note scale bars equal 5 centimetres.

At around 70 million years old, this specimen is significantly younger than other existing specimens from the Dolichosaur group, extending the temporal range of their existence by about fifteen million years.  The fossil also represents the first evidence of the presence of Dolichosaurs in the southern Italian Carbonate Platform, filling a palaeogeographic gap in the Mediterranean Tethys.

Soft Tissue Preservation

For PhD student Paparella, one of the most fascinating things about the specimen was the ability to study the soft tissues, including scales, muscle and skin.  The Department of Biological Sciences student conducted the research as part of her PhD with University of Alberta palaeontologist Michael Caldwell, helping to write the paper.

Ilaria explained:

“There need to be very special conditions for soft tissue to be preserved on a fossil.  The location where the Primitivus manduriensis was found has a great deal of potential.  We hope to get permits from the Italian authorities to conduct further fieldwork.”

“This was the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to look at the complete picture of a beautifully preserved specimen, right down to the scales.  For living species, scientists use scale patterns and skin for identification.   It was unique to be using these techniques to look at a specimen that died 70 million years ago.

When the area of the gut was studied, the researchers identified several tiny, rod-like fragments of bones visible under ultra violet light.  Although their identity could not be clearly assessed, this evidence suggests that Primitivus was feeding on small vertebrates (e.g. fish).

A View of the Crushed Skull of the Holotype (P. manduriensis)

Close-up view of the skull of P. manduriensis and the same fossil material under UV light.

Views of the skull of the holotype fossil of Primitivus manduriensis.

Picture Credit: Royal Society Open Science

The two photographs (above), show imaging of the skull of Primitivus manduriensis MPUR NS 161 under (a) natural light and (b) UV light.  The skull of the holotype is heavily crushed (a) and part of the elements are only preserved as impressions on the matrix, as observed under UV light (b), where the bone material still preserved is bright white.  Note scale bar equals 1 cm.

The new specimen may represent local persistence of a relict Dolichosaur population until almost the end of the Cretaceous in the Mediterranean Tethys, and demonstrates the incompleteness of our knowledge of Dolichosaur temporal and spatial distributions

The scientific paper: “A New Fossil Marine Lizard With Soft Tissues From the Late Cretaceous of Southern Italy” by Ilaria Paparella, Alessandro Palci, Umberto Nicosia, Michael W. Caldwell and published in Royal Society Open Science.

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