All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
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6 06, 2018

Giant Ammonites – Potentially Under Your Feet

By | June 6th, 2018|General Teaching|Comments Off on Giant Ammonites – Potentially Under Your Feet

Giant Ammonites – Potentially Under Your Feet

Ammonites are closely related to extant squids and octopi (cephalopods).   Ammonite fossils can be collected from many sites around the world, including numerous locations in the UK. Often, an ammonite fossil shell is the first discovery of a young fossil hunter, a find that can lead to a lifetime of fossil collecting.

The Simple Pleasure of Finding an Ammonite Fossil

A beautiful ammonite fossil.

A beautiful pyritised ammonite fossil.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Titanites giganteus

Whilst on a visit to the Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy (London), a team member of Everything Dinosaur took a photograph of a giant ammonite fossil (Titanites giganteus) in one of the glass display cases.

The Relatively Small – Titanites giganteus Specimen at the Museum

An enormous ammonite fossils photographed in the Grant Museum of Zoology (London).

A giant ammonite fossils photographed in the Grant Museum of Zoology.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This is a relatively small specimen, measuring around forty centimetres in diameter.  The biggest specimens of this ammonite species have shells more than a metre across.  University College London is built from Portland Stone, a limestone formed in tropical seas in the Late Jurassic around 146 million years ago.  This stone is quarried from the Isle of Portland in Dorset and is used all over the world for building projects.  Some of the ammonite specimens that have been collected were huge, with shells much bigger than the one in the Grant Museum.  This one photographed by an Everything Dinosaur team member, could represent a relatively young animal or perhaps a male (female ammonites are believed to have been much larger than males).

The helpful information in the display case explains that visitors to London can see a rare example of a fossil Titanites ammonite in building stones outside the Slade School of Fine Art in the University’s Main Quad.  In the paving are slices of preserved whorls, each one is a slice through the same fossil.  Hundreds of people walk over this fossil every day, we wonder how many of them notice?

Stepping Over a Giant Ammonite

University College London Titanites cross section preserved in a paving stone.

University College London Titanites cross section.

Picture Credit: Ruth Siddal/University College London

5 06, 2018

Acknowledging World Environment Day

By | June 5th, 2018|General Teaching|Comments Off on Acknowledging World Environment Day

World Environment Day

Today, June 5th is World Environment Day.  This annual event organised by the United Nations aims to raise awareness of the environment and specific issues caused by human activity that are threatening our planet’s ecosystems and habitats.  This day, sometimes referred to as “World Eco Day”, was established in principle in 1972 and the first commemorative events took place two years later.

A Collection of Preserved Eggs at the Grant Museum of Zoology (London)

Various bird eggs including a Great Auk egg.

Bird eggs, (left to right) emu, rhea, ostrich and very poignantly the egg of a Great Auk.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The photograph (above), was taken by an Everything Dinosaur team member on a visit to the Grant Museum of Zoology in London.  The display case shows examples of large eggs from birds, the white egg with dark marbling on the far right of the picture is an egg from a Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis).  We have posted this up as on June 3rd 1844, the last two confirmed specimens of this once widespread, flightless bird were killed on the remote island of Eldey, off the Icelandic coast.   Eldey had been a breeding colony for these magnificent creatures.  The death of these two birds ended the last known attempt at breeding.  Over the next few years, there were claims of sightings, but none of these could be verified and confirmed.

So, it seems fitting that today, World Environment Day, we remember the now extinct Great Auk, a bird once treasured and honoured by many ancient maritime cultures that bordered the Atlantic.  Within a hundred years or so after being scientifically described, this bird, that once ranged from the Arctic to the shores of the Iberian Peninsula was dead and gone forever.

5 06, 2018

Amargasaurus Makeover

By | June 5th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Amargasaurus Makeover

The new for 2018, Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus model has been given a makeover by talented model maker Martin Garratt.  The “lizard from Amarga Canyon” has had its head raised, alterations have been made to those famous, bizarre spines and the tail has been shortened.  The end result is a very impressive dinosaur model indeed!

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus Model has been “Customised” by Martin Garratt

A customised Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus dinosaur model.

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus model is customised.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/UMF Models

Re-designing a Diplodocid

This stunning figure looks very different from the Safari Ltd dinosaur model, upon which it is based.  However, one of the great benefits of the Safari Ltd range is that model makers are starting with a well-made, detailed figure to begin with.  From this solid foundation, talented individuals like Martin can modify and customise the piece to create truly unique and most attractive dinosaur dioramas.

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus Dinosaur (2018)

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus dinosaur figure.

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Additional of Scales Running Down the Back

Eagle-eyed readers will note that Martin has added a row of scales running down the back of the plant-eating dinosaur.  In addition, the neck has been filled out somewhat and made thicker.  The pose remains virtually unaltered and although the colour scheme for the paint job is very different, it still incorporates the concept of counter shading as seen in the original Wild Safari Prehistoric World model.

A Close-up view of the Repainted and Re-modelled Head and Neck

A view of the re-painted and re-modelled Amargasaurus.

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus figure gets a makeover.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/UMF Models

An Amazing Amargasaurus

This South American dinosaur (fossils come from Argentina), was named and described in 1991 by Leonardo Salgado and José Bonaparte.  It has been assigned to the diplodocid group of Sauropods, this means that it was related to the better-known, North American members of the Sauropoda, such as Diplodocus, Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus.   As the holotype specimen is missing much of the tail, the length of this Early Cretaceous dinosaur is not known.  However, most palaeontologists estimate that it was around twelve metres long.

The Amargasaurus Replica Created by Martin Garratt

A model of Amargasaurus.

The Amargasaurus has been mounted onto a bespoke base.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/UMF Models

The animal was named after the river (La Amarga) and the nearby town, plus the rock formation within which the fossils were found is also named La Amarga. This dinosaur was described during a period of research that led to the recognition of South America’s unique dinosaur fauna.  The amended figure has been placed on a bespoke base.

To view the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus and the other figures in the Safari Ltd range: Safari Ltd/Wild Safari Prehistoric World Models

The Beautiful and Detailed Head of the Amargasaurus

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus gets a makeover.

A close-up view of the head of the Amargasaurus figure.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/UMF Models

The picture (above) shows a close-up of the head and neck of the dinosaur model.  The details in the figure and the care taken with the painting are clearly evident.  Our congratulations to Martin for producing such an elegant and beautiful dinosaur figure.

The Customised Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus Dinosaur Model

An Amargasaurus dinosaur model.

An Amargasaurus dinosaur figure.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/UMF Models

4 06, 2018

Linheraptor – Dinosaur Drawing

By | June 4th, 2018|General Teaching|Comments Off on Linheraptor – Dinosaur Drawing

Linheraptor exquisitus by Caldey

Our thanks to young Caldey for sending in her picture of the “raptor” called Linheraptor (Linheraptor exquisitus).   Most people might be familiar with dinosaurs such as Velociraptor, made famous from the “Jurassic Park/Jurassic World” film franchise, but in truth, there were a large number of “raptor-like” dinosaurs and they were all (very probably), feathered and potentially quite colourful creatures too.

A Drawing of the “Raptor” Linheraptor (L. exquisitus) by Caldey

A drawing of Linheraptor exquisitus.

A beautiful drawing of the dromaeosaurid dinosaur Linheraptor by Caldey.

Picture Credit: Caldey/Everything Dinosaur

The Dromaeosauridae

Dinosaurs like Velociraptor and Linheraptor are members of the Dromaeosauridae family.  The Dromaeosauridae are very geographically diverse, bird-like dinosaurs that were particularly abundant during the Late Cretaceous.  Linheraptor was named relatively recently, (2010), the first of dromaeosaurid was named in 1922 (Dromaeosaurus).  Like many of its kind, the fossils of Linheraptor come from Asia.

Our thanks to Caldey for sending in her super illustration.

4 06, 2018

New Study Provides Fresh Insight into Ancient Africa’s Climate

By | June 4th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Hominin Ancestors Had to Cope with Climate Change Too

It seems that climate change for hominins is not a new phenomenon, our ancient ancestors living in southern Africa almost two million years ago, had to cope with climate change too.  A new study published in the academic journal “Nature Ecology and Evolution”, reveals that the climate of the interior of southern Africa during the Early Pleistocene (Gelasian stage), was like no modern African environment.  The hominins around at the time would have had to cope with much wetter conditions.

The Entrance to the Wonderwerk Cave (Northern Cape Province)

Wonderwerk cave in South Africa.

The entrance to Wonderwerk cave in South Africa.

Picture Credit: Michaela Ecker/University of Toronto

That is the conclusion reached by an international team of scientists who conducted an analysis of the fossilised teeth of herbivores found in two-million-year-old sediments in South Africa’s Wonderwerk Cave.  Lead author of the study,  Michaela Ecker, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Toronto’s Department of Anthropology, in collaboration with colleagues such as Michael Chazan the director of the University of Toronto’s Archaeology Centre, mapped the environmental change recorded in the sediments and fossils found in the Cave.

Commenting on the significance of the study, Michaela Ecker stated:

“The influence of climatic and environmental change on human evolution is largely understood from East African research.  Our research constructed the first extensive palaeoenvironmental sequence for the interior of southern Africa using a combination of methods for environmental reconstruction at Wonderwerk Cave.”

A Different Climate to East Africa

While East African research shows increasing aridity and the spread of savannah (grassland habitats), this new research showed that during the same time period, southern Africa was significantly wetter and housed a plant community unlike any other in the modern African savannah.  The scientists conclude that early humans were living in environments other than open, arid grasslands.

The Interior of Wonderwerk Cave

A view of the interior of Wonderwerk Cave (South Africa).

The interior of Wonderwerk Cave (South Africa), the sediments have been studied for over seventy years.

Picture Credit: Michaela Ecker/University of Toronto

The limestone Wonderwerk Cave is located in the Kuruman Hills between Danielskuil and Kuruman in Northern Cape Province, the sediments deposited in the cave provide a palaeoenvironmental record of the climate of southern Africa.  These sediments and the artefacts and fossils found within them have been studied since the 1940’s.  Analysis of the cave sediments to date has established a chronology for hominin occupation of the anterior portions of the cave stretching back two million years.  In this research, Ecker and her collaborators were able to reconstruct the vegetation by using carbon and oxygen isotope analysis on the fossil teeth of herbivores found at various sediment layers within the cave.

Ecker added:

“Understanding the environment humans evolved in is key to improving our knowledge of our species and its development.  Our work at Wonderwerk Cave demonstrates how humankind existed in multiple environmental contexts in the past, contexts which are substantially different from the environments of today.”

The scientists propose that Oldowan and early Acheulean lithic industries (distinctive periods of stone tool making), in this part of Africa took place in a much wetter environment than when compared to sites of showing similar stone tool cultures in eastern Africa.

The scientific paper: “The Palaeoecological Context of the Oldowan-Acheulean in Southern Africa” by Michaela Ecker, James S. Brink, Lloyd Rossouw, Michael Chazan, Liora K. Horwitz and Julia A. Lee-Thorp published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

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

3 06, 2018

Beasts of the Mesozoic Velociraptor mongoliensis

By | June 3rd, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Beasts of the Mesozoic Velociraptor mongoliensis

The amazing Beasts of the Mesozoic model range arrived at Everything Dinosaur’s warehouse last week and over the last few days, team members have been busy sorting out all the orders from customers, including all those dinosaur fans who had Beasts of the Mesozoic figures on reserve.  With lots of parcels now safely delivered, Everything Dinosaur is starting to get feedback on these superb, articulated 1/6th scale replicas.

Fans Take Pictures of their Beasts of the Mesozoic Models

Beasts of the Mesozoic Velociraptor on the prowl.

A photograph of a Beasts of the Mesozoic Velociraptor mongoliensis from a dinosaur model fan.

Picture Credit: Andrea/Everything Dinosaur

The Deluxe Velociraptor mongoliensis

Andrea sent us a picture of her Deluxe Beasts of the Mesozoic Velociraptor mongoliensis model.  It was ordered on Friday and it was delivered the next day.  It looks like the lizard model from the Rebor Dimorphodon figure (Judy) is in a lot of trouble, if it does not move it is likely to end up as dinner for the Velociraptor.  The diet of the two species of Velociraptor (V. mongoliensis named in 1924 and Velociraptor osmolskae, which was described in 2008), remains uncertain, although it is likely they fed on a variety of other creatures including mammals, amphibians and other reptiles.

One of the most famous fossils ever found was discovered in 1971.  A joint Mongolian/Polish expedition uncovered the fossilised remains of a Velociraptor mongoliensis that had been preserved in combat with another dinosaur (Protoceratops andrewsi).  This was evidence that Velociraptor attacked other dinosaurs.

The Famous “Fighting Dinosaurs” Fossil Excavation

Velociraptor in combat with Protoceratops.

“Duelling dinosaurs” – Velociraptor fighting with Protoceratops.

Picture Credit: Polish Academy of Sciences

To view the Beasts of the Mesozoic Deluxe Velociraptor mongoliensis figure and the rest of this 1:6 scale model range: Beasts of the Mesozoic

An Illustration Showing the Velociraptor Fighting a Protoceratops

Fighting dinosaurs.

Fighting dinosaurs – a Protoceratops defends itself against Velociraptor.

When first discovered it was thought that this combat between two dinosaurs had been preserved as both animals had drowned, but subsequent studies showed that these poor, unfortunate creatures had been covered in sand, presumably as a dune had collapsed and buried them both, or they may have been caught in a sudden sandstone.  The Protoceratops skeleton shows signs of having been scavenged, so these two dinosaurs could have died locked in combat before being completely covered.  It remains one of the most remarkable vertebrate fossil discoveries known to science and provided evidence of predatory behaviour amongst dromaeosaurids.

Velociraptor – A Very Popular Dinosaur

Whether it is due to the over-sized Velociraptors depicted in the “Jurassic Park ” film franchise or due to amazing fossil examples such as the “fighting dinosaurs” fossil from Mongolia, Velociraptor remains a very popular dinosaur and it is great to see an articulated, highly-detailed Velociraptor mongoliensis model on the market.

The Beasts of the Mesozoic Velociraptor mongoliensis Figure

Beasts of the Mesozoic Velociraptor mongoliensis.

Velociraptor mongoliensis.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

2 06, 2018

The Mother of All Dragons – Megachirella

By | June 2nd, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

The Mother of All Dragons – Megachirella wachtleri

A team of international scientists, including palaeontologists from Bristol University, Midwestern University (Arizona) and the University of Alberta, have identified the world’s oldest lizard fossil, permitting fresh insight into the evolution of extant snakes and lizards (Squamata).  Writing in the journal “Nature”, the researchers, including co-author Dr Massimo Bernardi from MUSE – Science Museum, Italy and University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, built the largest dataset of reptiles ever assembled in order to assess where in the evolutionary tree of the Reptilia a fossil from the Dolomites of Italy should be placed.

The Holotype Specimen of Megachirella wachtleri

The origins of the Squamata - The holotype of Megachirella wachtleri.

The holotype of Megachirella wachtleri.

Picture Credit:  MUSE – Science Museum

Megachirella wachtleri

The fossil, consisting of an articulated partial specimen was discovered in marine sediments in the Dolomites of Italy and named Megachirella wachtleri in 2003.  Although, found in marine sediment, the fossil, which represented the front portion of the animal, showed no adaptations to an aquatic existence.  On the contrary, it had strong legs with claws and although small at around twenty centimetres in length, it was probably a capable climber.  It was concluded that the carcass of this reptile had been washed out to sea following a storm.

An analysis in 2013 concluded that Megachirella wachtleri was a member of the Lepidosauromorpha, a group of diapsid reptiles defined as being closer to Squamata than to the Archosauria.  Lepidosaurs include modern snakes and lizards, many extinct forms of reptile and the Order Rhynchocephalia, once very diverse, but now only represented by the tuatara of New Zealand.  This new research, which drew upon an enormous database of skeletal and molecular information about 129 different types of reptile, revealed that Megachirella had characteristics that are only found in the Squamata.  It was concluded that M. wachtleri was a stem squamate – think of it as being the “the mother of all dragons”.

Co-author Dr Randall Nydam of the Midwestern University in Arizona stated:

“At first I did not think Megachirella was a true lizard, but the empirical evidence uncovered in this study is substantial and can lead to no other conclusion.”

The 240-million-year-old fossil, Megachirella wachtleri, is the most ancient ancestor of all modern lizards and snakes discovered to date.  The study also found that geckoes are the earliest crown group squamates not iguanians as previously thought.

A Life Reconstruction of  Megachirella wachtleri

Megachirella wachtleri in the Dolomites 240 million years ago.

A life reconstruction of Megachirella wachtleri.

Picture Credit: Davide Bonadonna

The beautiful illustration of M. wachtleri produced by Davide Bonadonna is featured on the front cover of the journal Nature, which provides details of this scientific study.

The research team conclude that the Squamata probably evolved in the Late Permian and therefore, the ancestors of today’s snakes and lizards survived the most devastating mass extinction event known to science – the end Permian extinction.

Tiago Simões, lead author of the scientific paper and a PhD student at the University of Alberta (Canada), explained:

“The specimen is 75 million years older than what we thought were the oldest fossil lizards in the entire world and provides valuable information for understanding the evolution of both living and extinct squamates.”

10,000 Squamate Species

It has been estimated that there are around 10,000 species of lizards and snakes living today, twice as many different species as mammals.  Despite this modern diversity, scientists did not know much about the early stages of their evolution.

Student Tiago Simões added:

“It is extraordinary when you realise you are answering long-standing questions about the origin of one of the largest groups of vertebrates on Earth.”

Co-author of the study, Dr Michael Caldwell from the University of Alberta, explained that fossils represent the only accurate window into the ancient story of life on our planet.  The new understanding about Megachirella and its significance is but a point in deep geological time, it does tell us things about the evolution of lizards that we simply cannot learn from any of the extant species today.

Co-author Dr Massimo Bernardi from MUSE – Science Museum, Italy and University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, commented upon the importance of such fossil specimens, stating:

“This is the story of the re-discovery of a specimen and highlights the importance of preserving naturalistic specimens in well maintained, publicly accessible collections.”

The scientific paper:

“The Origin of Squamates Revealed by a Middle Triassic Lizard from the Italian Alps” by T. Simões, M. Caldwell, M. Tałanda, M. Bernardi, A. Palci, O. Vernygora, F. Bernardini, L. Mancini and R. Nydam published in the journal Nature.

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

1 06, 2018

Pterosaur Models Go on Display

By | June 1st, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos|1 Comment

Pterosaurs at the Field Museum

Visitors to the famous Field Museum in Chicago (USA), might get into a bit of flap today, as they will be coming face-to-face with life-size replicas of flying reptiles.  The pterosaurs are part of a $16.5 million USD re-fit for the Museum.  They will be installed into the enormous Stanley Field Hall, sharing the space with a giant Titanosaur exhibit.

Unloading the Head and Neck of Quetzalcoatlus

Quetzalcoatulus head being unloaded.

The head of a life-size Quetzalcoatlus model being unloaded at the Field Museum (Chicago).

Picture Credit: (c) Field Museum, photo by John Weinstein

A Flock of Pterosaurs

The flock of pterosaurs will give visitors a lifelike look at the animals that shared the Mesozoic with the dinosaurs.  They’ll also serve as a way-finding tool from Stanley Field Hall up to the rest of the dinosaurs in the permanent exhibition – “The Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet”.  The life-size pterosaurs and the thirty-seven-metre-long Titanosaur will be displayed amongst a series of hanging gardens, as staff at the Field Museum prepare to commemorate the institution’s 125th anniversary.

Commenting on the new exhibits, Field Museum president Richard Lariviere stated:

“Our goal as an institution is to offer visitors the best possible dinosaur experiences and we want that to start right when visitors first enter Stanley Field Hall.  The new hanging gardens and the flock of pterosaurs will take our visitors back to the age of the dinosaurs and will complement the new Titanosaur.”

The Body of a Giant Quetzalcoatlus is Unloaded

Unloading Quetzalcoatlus.

Unloading a giant pterosaur.

Picture Credit: (c) Field Museum, photo by John Weinstein

Rhamphorhynchus, Pteranodon and Quetzalcoatlus

The pterosaur replicas include nine hawk-sized, long-tailed replicas of the Jurassic flying reptile Rhamphorhynchus, two Pteranodon figures and two huge replicas of Quetzalcoatlus.  Pteranodon and Quetzalcoatlus are associated with Upper Cretaceous strata.  Flying reptiles from the Pteranodon genus were thought to have been the largest flying vertebrates that ever existed, that was until 1975, when the much larger azhdarchid Quetzalcoatlus was scientifically described.

Manhandling a Pterosaur Replica (P. sternbergi)

Unloading a Pteranodon.

A life-size Pteranodon replica is unloaded.

 

Picture Credit: (c) Field Museum, photo by John Weinstein

Senior Exhibitions Project Manager Hilary Hansen exclaimed:

“The pterosaurs are nothing short of amazing.  Since Stanley Field Hall is such a massive room, we had the opportunity to add a Titanosaur and an entire flock of pterosaurs.  It’ll really transform the space.”

The models were created by Blue Rhino, under the supervision of the scientists at the Field Museum, the brief was to create the most up-to-date and scientifically accurate figures possible.

Pteranodon Taken up the Stairs

Taking Pteranodon into the museum.

Carrying Pteranodon up the steps.

Picture Credit: (c) Field Museum, photo by John Weinstein

Wingspans the Length of a Bus

The giant Quetzalcoatlus replicas really help to convey the size and scale of these magnificent reptiles.  The wingspan of the models is a little under twelve metres, that’s about as long as a school bus!  The skulls of these types of pterosaur are immense.  Azhdarchid pterosaurs like Quetzalcoatlus had the largest skull of any terrestrial vertebrate.

The Huge Head of a Quetzalcoatlus Replica

Carrying the head of a replica Quetzalcoatlus.

Carrying the head of Quetzalcoatlus, it certainly is a team effort.

Picture Credit: (c) Field Museum, photo by John Weinstein

 

 

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