All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//July
3 07, 2018

Eggshells and Eggs Provide a Unique Insight

By | July 3rd, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Cracking the Code – What Eggs and Eggshells Can Tell Us

A researcher based at the University of Edinburgh has produced a “cracking” assessment on the use of eggs and eggshells of living and extinct Archosaurs to obtain information about ancient environments, the behaviour and biology of vertebrates that may have lived many millions of years ago.

Writing in the open access Royal Society Open Science, Shaena Montanari (School of GeoSciences, Edinburgh University), has reviewed how the use of eggshells in the modern and fossil record allow an interpretation of a variety different Archosaurs and other amniotes across deep time, providing a unique record of ancient environments and ecosystems.

A Nest of Large Dinosaur Eggs

Titanosaur dinosaur eggs.

An example of Titanosaur fossil eggs.  Fossil eggs and eggshell can provide valuable insights into egg-layers and environments.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Overlooked Body Fossils

Biologists studying living vertebrates and palaeontologists studying extinct animals can look at the skeleton (fossil bones) and make deductions.  Other materials in both modern and ancient environments can be overlooked.  Take for example, the shelled eggs of Archosaurs, the Squamata and potentially monotremes, these, if they are preserved in the fossil or archaeological record, can provide a wealth of information to help support other areas of research.  Palaeontologists know that dinosaur eggs were not that much different from the eggs of living birds.  Eggs provide another biogenically created material that can be used to reveal specific information about the egg-layers and the environments they live in when assessed with different types of geochemical, morphological and molecular techniques.   The matrix surrounding the holotype fossil material of the dromaeosaurid Deinonychus (D. antirrhopus), contained fragments of fossil eggshell, later assigned (in all probability due to the low energy depositional environment and taphonomy of the fossil material), to Deinonychus.   This was the first record of a dromaeosaurid egg, however, this material was either overlooked or perhaps ignored when the dinosaur bones were first found back in the 1930’s.

Examples of Fossil Eggshell

Examples of fossil eggshell.

Three examples of fossil eggshell.

Picture Credit: Royal Society Open Science

The photograph (above) shows three examples of dinosaur eggshell fragments from the Gobi Desert.  Such items may be overlooked in the quest for more substantial body fossils but different eggshell types possess varied forms of ornamentation and can help to establish more information about the fossil biota.  The three pieces in the photograph, probably represent different types of dinosaur (from left to right Titanosaur, oviraptorid and potentially troodontid).  Microscopic analysis of the shell structure, along with pore density and isotope data can provide information about the ancient environment and inferred nesting behaviour of long extinct creatures.  Isotope analysis from eggshell can even provide information on the diet of the animal that laid the egg.

Post-doctoral researcher Shaena, explains in the paper that archaeologists can learn a remarkable amount about early human settlements by examining ostrich eggshells.  Ostrich eggshell is found in association with human food waste dumps, as bead decorations, sometimes associated with ritual burial or as containers for water.  Archaeological sites as far apart as China, India and north Africa have yielded Ostrich egg remnants.  These pieces of shell could be used to provide direct evidence of environments where early communities settled.

A Selection of Whole or Virtually Complete Dinosaur Eggs

Examples of fossil Archosaur eggs.

Examples of whole or partial fossilised eggs.

Picture Credit: Royal Society Open Science

The photograph shows a variety of fossil Archosaur eggs from Mongolia (a) three bird eggs from the Gobi Desert, (b) a pair of unidentified Theropod dinosaur eggs from the Cretaceous of Mongolia (AMNH FR 6513).  Photograph (c) shows an oviraptorid egg (Cretaceous of Mongolia -AMNH FR6508) and (d) is a probable Ornithopoda egg, again from the Cretaceous of Mongolia (AMNH field number 707)

Clumping Isotopes – Learning About Body Temperature

Researchers have developed a technique in which the body temperature of the dinosaur laying the egg can be calculated by plotting the presence of two rare isotopes found in calcium carbonate a key element in the formation of eggshell and a material that has a high preservation potential.  From an analysis of the way in which these two isotopes clump together in the same molecule, scientists are able to infer data about the body temperature of the mother.  As the eggs are formed within the oviduct(s) of egg-laying animals, the temperature of mineral formation should reflect the body temperature of the ovulating female.  In this way, such studies can inform the debate about endothermy or otherwise within the Dinosauria.

The scientific paper: “Cracking the Egg: The Use of Modern and Fossil Eggs for Ecological, Environmental and Biological Interpretation” by Shaena Montanari and published in the Royal Society Open Science.

2 07, 2018

A Placoderm “Platypus” Fish from Australia (Where Else)?

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

Brindabellaspis – Placoderm Resident on Australia’s First Reef

The Queensland coast (Australia), might be famous for its Great Barrier reef today, but this was not Australia’s original reef, some 400 million years ago, there was a reef, located in what is now New South Wales, mostly built by entirely different types of organisms, that was a natural wonder of the Early Devonian.  Living on the bottom of the shallow sea in which this ancient reef formed was a strange-looking fish, with a sensitive beak, oddly reminiscent of another, not quite so ancient resident of  “Down Under” – a duck-billed platypus.

New Research Suggests that Brindabellaspis stensioi had a Sensitive “Beak” Like A Duck-billed Platypus

Brindabellaspis life reconstruction.

Brindabellaspis stensioi illustration.

Picture Credit: Jason art Shenzhen

The Placoderm, named Brindabellaspis stensioi was originally scientifically described in 1980.  However, new fossil specimens, revealed by carefully removing the rock matrix using dilute acids, have shed new light on the evolution of jaws and provided palaeontologists with evidence that the earliest fish dominated ecosystems supported a myriad of forms.

Limestone beds exposed on the shores of Lake Burrinjuck in New South Wales have preserved an extensive reef fauna.  Over seventy species of fish have been identified to date, of these, it is the Placoderms that dominate, with around 45 species named and described so far.  Palaeontologists from Flinders University (South Australia) and the Australian National University (Australian Capital Territory), have reconstructed two of the ancient fossils and discovered that Brindabellaspis had a long bill (rostrum), extending out in front of its eyes.

The Picturesque Limestone Beds of Lake Burrinjuck

400 million-year-old limestone beds of Lake Burrinjuck.

Lake Burrinjuck in New South Wales (Australia).

Picture Credit: Flinders University

One of the authors of the study, published in “Royal Society Open Science” Benedict King, a Flinders University graduate stated:

“This was one strange looking fish.  The eyes were on top of the head and the nostrils came out of the eye sockets.  There is this long snout at the front, and the jaws were positioned very far forward.”

Unique Sensory System

Following a comprehensive evaluation of the skull including the anterior portion (revealed for the first time with these new specimens), the researchers discovered an exceptionally long premedian bone forming an elongated rostrum, supported by a thin extension of the postethmo-occipital unit of the braincase.  This seems to be a modified form of pressure sensor, perhaps used to detect prey in the muddy/sandy bottom of the seafloor.

Professor John Young (Flinders University), a world authority on ancient fish and a co-author of the paper added:

“We suspect that this animal was a bottom-dweller.  We imagine it used the bill to search for prey, somewhat like a platypus, while the eyes on top of the head looked out for danger from above.”

Adding the Missing Pieces – Thirty-Eight Years Later

For Dr Gavin Young (Flinders University), the discovery of the front portions of the skull and that remarkable, sensitive rostrum helps to “flesh out” his original research on Brindabellaspis stensioi.  Dr Young has spent more than five decades studying the fossil fish from the Lake Burrinjuck limestone beds, Dr Young was responsible for naming and describing this Placoderm in 1980, now thanks to these new fossils and high-resolution X-ray tomography, this 400 million-year-old fish has a face, albeit a very peculiar one, but one that may demonstrate convergent evolution with the egg-laying monotreme (platypus – Ornithorhynchus anatinus).

New Specimens of  Brindabellaspis stensioi  Included in this Study

Brindabellaspis fossils and a line drawing.

The rostrum and one of the new skull fossils with a line drawing.  Note scale bar (left) equals 1 centimetre.

Picture Credit: Royal Society Open Science

Dr Young explained:

“When we saw the dense sensory tubes on another broken snout, we immediately thought of the local platypus.  I am very gratified there is finally an accurate reconstruction of this strange skull.”

Specialists and Not Generalists

The scientists conclude that as Brindabellaspis was clearly such a specialist, then the ancient reef was a thriving and very diverse ecosystem with very probably, a range of specialist organisms making a living on the reef and in the surrounding shallow waters.

Professor Long commented:

“Despite this being one of the earliest well-known ecosystems including many species of fish, the inhabitants of this ancient reef were clearly not in any way primitive.  The new findings show that they were highly adapted and specialised in their own right.”

The Elongated Premedian Plate (Rostrum) of Brindabellaspis stensioi

Brindabellaspis elongated premedian plate.

The elongate premedian plate of Brindabellaspis. ANU V3247 in dorsal (a) and ventral (b) views. (c,d).  Interpretative drawings of a and b.  Scale bars represent 10 mm.

Picture Credit: Royal Society Open Science

The scientific paper: “New Information on Brindabellaspis stensioi Young, 1980, Highlights Morphological Disparity in Early Devonian Placoderms” by Benedict King, Gavin C. Young and John A. Long published in by Royal Society Open Science.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from Flinders University in the preparation of this article.

1 07, 2018

New Deluxe CollectA Figures in Stock

By | July 1st, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

New Deluxe CollectA Figures in Stock

The new for 2018, CollectA Deluxe prehistoric animal models are in stock at Everything Dinosaur.   The CollectA 1:40 scale Ceratosaurus, along with the CollectA 1:20 scale Dimetrodon, Gomphotherium and the amazing Estemmenosuchus.  These hand-painted replicas are welcome additions to, what is already an extensive range of prehistoric animal figures offered by CollectA

CollectA Prehistoric World Scale Models in Stock at Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur stocks the hand-painted, CollectA Prehistoric World scale models.

CollectA Prehistoric World – prehistoric animal models in stock at Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows the latest figures to be added to Everything Dinosaur’s CollectA inventory.  In response to the requests from model collectors, the company has decided to make more models of Palaeozoic animals, hence the addition of the bizarre, “crowned crocodile” Estmmenosuchus and the iconic, sail-backed reptile Dimetrodon.  A model of the Late Devonian Placoderm Dunkleosteus was introduced by CollectA earlier in the year.  Another Theropod dinosaur has been added, this time it is a 1:40 scale model of the Late Jurassic predator Ceratosaurus.  The last of the quartet is a superb replica of the early elephant (Gomphotherium), a timely reminder, that the elephant family was once far more diverse than it is today.

The Age of Dinosaurs 1:40 Scale Range

As the CollectA range has expanded, the company has undertaken a degree of rebranding.  A new “Age of Dinosaurs 1:40” scale range has been introduced, although model collectors will note that it also includes pterosaurs and marine reptiles.  New to this range is the 1:40 scale Ceratosaurus, a vividly coloured meat-eating dinosaur with an articulated lower jaw.  A number of species have been assigned to the Ceratosaurus genus, most of which were somewhat lighter and smaller than other hypercarnivores associated with the Morrison Formation of the United States.  To achieve an accurate depiction, CollectA have cleverly depicted their Ceratosaurus figure on a sculpted base.  This permits a more dynamic pose and allows the hind feet to be in appropriate proportion to the rest of the body.

The New for 2018 CollectA 1:40 scale Ceratosaurus Model

CollectA Ceratosaurus dinosaur model.

CollectA Deluxe 1:40 scale Ceratosaurus dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view all four models and to see the rest of the scale CollectA figures: CollectA Deluxe Prehistoric Animal Models

CollectA Other Prehistoric Animals

Three new models have been added to this range.  There is the remarkable Estemmenosuchus, a large, robust animal, distantly related to modern mammals.  Fossil of this Dinocephalian come from Europe (Russia).   Two species have been described, the smaller, E. mirabilis (which we think this CollectA replica represents), was named and described fifty years ago.  It is apt therefore, that on the golden anniversary of the naming of this species, CollectA should introduce a 1:20 scale replica.

Famous for the Bony Horns – Estemmenosuchus from CollectA

Estemmenosuchus model from CollectA.

A Deluxe 1:20 scale Estemmenosuchus model from CollectA.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

1:20 Scale Dimetrodon Model

No Palaeozoic model series is complete without a replica of Dimetrodon.  This pelycosaur is one of the best known of all the Permian synapsids and a number of species have been named.  The new for 2018, CollectA Dimetrodon is in 1:20 scale and it shows some of the very latest thinking concerning this carnivore.   That famous sail does not extend all the way up those tall spines, reflecting the views of a number of palaeontologists.  The Dimetrodon has been given a coat of camouflage, a nod to the likely predatory habits of this reptile, it was probably an ambush hunter, relying on camouflage to permit prey to approach too close, unaware of the presence of the predator.  The CollectA model also has an articulated lower jaw.  Note also the hole in the sail, many fossil specimens show signs of pathology, so CollectA have given their Dimetrodon figure a little bit of “battle damage”.

The CollectA 1:20 Scale Dimetrodon Model

CollectA Dimetrodon model.

CollectA Dimetrodon in 1:20 scale.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

CollectA Deluxe Gomphotherium

Last but not least, is the excellent CollectA Deluxe Gomphotherium figure.  This model too is in 1:20 scale and it is great to see another species of prehistoric elephant being included in the model series. Although the Gomphotheres have an extensive fossil record, with some evidence suggesting the very last of them died out around 8,000 years ago, they are not that closely related to extant elephants.

The CollectA Deluxe Gomphotherium 1:20 Scale Model

CollectA Gomphotherium.

The CollectA 1:20 scale Gomphotherium model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Intriguingly, the length of the trunk is speculative, as the trunk contains no bones, it does not readily fossilise and the length of this iconic piece of a Proboscidean is not known.  CollectA have opted to give their Gomphotherium figure a functional trunk.

Commenting to Everything Dinosaur when these models were first announced, designer Anthony Beeson stated:

“He [the Gomphotherium model] is an addition to our prehistoric elephants.  He is a strange beast with his upper enamel-covered tusks recurving whilst the lower are thought to have been used for digging up roots or water plants.  The length of the trunk is unknown, so I have calculated what I believe would be a useful length.  I have given him a partial furring of hair.”

All four of these exciting replicas are now in stock at Everything Dinosaur.

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