All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
22 05, 2019

Fossilised Mouse Reveals Evolutionary Secrets of Colour

By | May 22nd, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Ancient Mouse Reveals a Colourful Mammalian Heritage

Many mammals are brightly coloured, we have golden marmosets, red pandas and of course, black and white zebras.  The evolutionary use of colour within the Kingdom Animalia has long held the fascination of scientists, academics and philosophers.  This week, an international team of researchers led by members of The University of Manchester have published a new study revealing the evidence of colourful pigments in the remains of a prehistoric mouse.

The Fossilised Remains of a Prehistoric Mouse

The fossilised remains of a mouse.

The well-preserved remains of a Pliocene mouse used in the study.

Picture Credit: The University of Manchester

Writing in the journal “Nature Communications”, this work marks a major breakthrough in our ability to define colour pigments within the fossilised remains of long extinct animals and emphasises the role colour plays in the evolution of life on our planet.  The paper entitled “Pheomelanin pigment remnants mapped in fossils of an extinct mammal”, outlines the use of X-ray imaging on the 3 million-year-old fossils in order to unravel the story of key pigments in ancient creatures and demonstrates how we might recognise the chemical signatures of specific red pigments in extinct animals to determine how they evolved.

Professor Phil Manning, (University of Manchester), the lead palaeontologist involved in this study explained:

“The fossils we have studied have the vast potential to unlock many secrets of the original organism.  We can reconstruct key facets from life, death and the subsequent events impacting preservation before and after burial.  To unpick this complicated fossil chemical archive requires an interdisciplinary team to combine their efforts to crack this problem.  In doing this, we unlock much more than just palaeontological information.”

Co-author, Professor Roy Wogelius, from the University’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, added:

“This was a painstaking effort involving physics, palaeontology, organic chemistry, and geochemistry.  By working as a team, we were able, for the first time, to discover chemical traces of red pigment in fossil animal material.  We understand now what to look for in the future and our hope is that these results will mean that we can become more confident in reconstructing extinct animals and thereby add another dimension to the study of evolution.”

This exciting, collaborative effort from numerous scientific disciplines reveals that within fossils with exceptionally preserved soft tissues, evidence of black pigmentation can be identified, but furthermore, traces of the much more elusive red animal pigment may be found.  The chemical residue of black pigment, which colours such animals as crows, was first resolved by this team in a previous study nearly ten years ago.  However, the red pigment, characteristic of animals such as foxes and red pandas, is far less stable over geological time and proved much more difficult to detect.

Apodemus atavus Life Reconstruction

Apodemus atavus - mouse from the Pliocene helps reveal the evolution of pigmentation.

A life reconstruction of the mouse from the Pliocene – Apodemus atavus.

Picture Credit: The University of Manchester

Professor Wogelius went on to say:

“We had data which suggested red pigment residue was present in several fossils, but there was no useful data available to compare this to pigmentation in modern organisms.  So, we needed to devote several years to analysing modern tissue before we could go back and review our results from some amazing fossil specimens.  In the end, we were able to prove that detailed chemical analysis can resolve such pigment residue, but along the way we learned so much more about the chemistry of pigmentation throughout the animal kingdom.”

Shining a Light on Pigmentation Thanks to the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource

To unlock the hidden data within the fossil material, the Manchester-based scientists collaborated with researchers at some of the brightest sources of light on the planet, using synchrotron radiation at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (USA), and also at the Diamond Light Source (located in Oxfordshire), to bombard the fossils with intense X-rays.  It is the interaction of these X-rays with the chemistry of these fossils that enabled the team to be the first to recognise the chemistry of red pigmentation (pheomelanin), in fur from the exceptionally well-preserved remains of a mouse that scuttled about in the Pliocene Epoch (Apodemus atavus).

The key to the study was identifying trace metals incorporated by ancient organisms into their soft tissues and comparing these to the modes of incorporation into living species.  The chemistry shows that the trace metals in the mouse fur are bonded to organic chemicals in exactly the same way that these metals are bonded to organic pigments in animals with high concentrations of red pigment in their tissue.

In order to confirm the team’s findings, modern comparison standards were analysed by synchrotron radiation and by specialists in pigment chemistry based at the Fujita Health University in Japan.

A False Colour Image of the Fossilised Mouse

A false colour image of the fossil mouse.

A false colour image of the 3 million-year-old fossil mouse used in the red pigment study.

Picture Credit: The University of Manchester

Summarising the significance of this research Professor Manning stated:

“Palaeontology offers research that is more than relevant to our everyday life.  Information gleaned from the fossil record is influencing multiple fields, including; climate research, the burial of biowaste and radwaste, the measure of environmental impact of oil spills on living species with techniques developed on fossil organisms.  Whilst our research is firmly anchored in the past, we set our sights on its application to the future.”

The scientific paper: “Pheomelanin pigment remnants mapped in fossils of an extinct mammal” by Phillip L. Manning, Nicholas P. Edwards, Uwe Bergmann, Jennifer Anné, William I. Sellers, Arjen van Veelen, Dimosthenis Sokaras, Victoria M. Egerton, Roberto Alonso-Mori, Konstantin Ignatyev, Bart E. van Dongen, Kazumasa Wakamatsu, Shosuke Ito, Fabien Knoll & Roy A. Wogelius and published in Nature Communications

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

21 05, 2019

5-Star Feefo Reviews Keep Coming In

By | May 21st, 2019|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases, Product Reviews|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur and 5-Star Feefo Reviews

This month has seen even more top reviews for Everything Dinosaur.  Over the past three weeks or so, Everything Dinosaur received fifty-two service reviews and a whopping eighty-five product reviews.  Good going, especially when the impact of the early May holiday period is taken into account.  The UK-based company continues to achieve top marks from customers and continues to qualify for Feefo’s highest customer service rating award, the coveted “Gold Trusted Service Award”

Everything Dinosaur is Earning Top Marks for Customer Service

Feefo certificate of excellence (2019).

Everything Dinosaur has won for the second year in a row the top award from Feefo.  The UK-based dinosaur company continues to meet the highest standards for products and customer service.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Genuine Comments from Customers

The Everything Dinosaur website currently shows more than six hundred customer reviews and the Feefo page all about Everything Dinosaur can be found here: Feefo Review Page for Everything Dinosaur.  The Feefo review page has also posted up some of the many product photographs taken by Everything Dinosaur fans and customers.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We are very honoured to receive such lovely feedback from our many customers from all over the world.  We do our best to provide top quality service and to ensure we have the widest range of prehistoric animal models available.  The comments we receive are greatly appreciated.”

Website Reviews

In addition, customers can leave feedback and comments on Everything Dinosaur’s own website.  To date, the company has received over 1,800 product reviews since its new site was set up.  All these reviews can be seen on the appropriate product pages.

Customer Reviews on the Everything Dinosaur Product Pages

Lots of reviews on the Rebor Killer Queen T. rex product page.

New models such as the Rebor Killer Queen model are quickly reviewed by Everything Dinosaur customers.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The reviews help to provide additional information about Everything Dinosaur products as well as helping to assure potential new customers as to our reliability and commitment.  The company is working on a number of new, exciting projects, details of which will be posted up on its various social media pages including this blog site.

To visit Everything Dinosaur’s website: Everything Dinosaur’s Website

20 05, 2019

Sorting out Tiny Fossil Flies

By | May 20th, 2019|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Phylogeny of Fungi-loving Flies Being Sorted

The fossils of dinosaurs and other huge vertebrates might grab the headlines but there is an enormous volume of research dedicated to examining the fossil record of some of the less high profile, but arguably more significant prehistoric creatures.  Take for example, the recent paper put together by researchers from the National Museums of Scotland and the Smithsonian Institution that helped resolve part of the family tree of the Diptera, essentially this is the Order of flies, part of a group of winged insects that could lay claim to being amongst the most successful animals to have ever existed.

The research focused on the fossils associated with one family of flies, the Bolitophilidae.  They are tiny and common in temperate forests across the Northern hemisphere and their larvae feed almost exclusively on mushrooms.  These little flies may not be very big, but the play a huge role in ensuring a balanced, healthy ecosystem.

A New Species of Eocene Fly Has Been Identified from Baltic Amber (Bolitophila rohdendorfi)

Eocene gnat fly preserved in Baltic amber (Bolitophila rohdendorfi)

Bolitophila rohdendorfi – new species of gnat fly identified from Baltic amber.

Picture Credit: National Museums of Scotland

The earliest fossil material associated with bolitophilids comes from Baltic amber and from contemporaneous amber found in Montana (Kishenehn Formation).  The fossilised tree resin has preserved the remains of individuals that had become trapped in sticky tree resin.  These fossils date from approximately 46 million years ago (Lutetian stage of the Eocene Epoch).  The fossilised flies look remarkably like their extant relatives, they look like small crane flies but they are, in truth a form of gnat.  The remarkable specimens entombed in the amber have allowed the scientists to make detailed observations helping to clarify the taxonomy and evolutionary history of this fly family.

Two New Species of Bolitophilid Fly Erected

These well-preserved fossils have allowed the scientists to erect two new species within the Bolitophilidae family.  The specimens from Montana have been named Bolitophila warreni and the Baltic amber fossils represent Bolitophila rohdendorfi.  Perhaps more significantly, these Eocene gnats have permitted scientists to revise the phylogeny of other ancient flies.  Fossils from the Lower Cretaceous of Mongolia and Transbaikalia had been placed in the Bolitophilidae family (subfamily Mangasinae) but their taxonomic position was controversial.  Thanks to this new research, the affinity of the Mangasinae within the Bolitophilidae has been confirmed.  In addition, a review of the fossil material has enabled a further two species of the fly genus Mangas to be erected, namely Mangas kovalevi and Mangas brevisubcosta both of which originate from the Lower Cretaceous of Khasurty in Western Transbaikalia.

Beautifully Preserved Lower Cretaceous Fly (Mangas kovalevi)

Mangas kovalevi fossils.

Mangas kovalevi, new species of gnat fly from Cretaceous of Transbaikalia.

Picture Credit: National Museums of Scotland

Linking Lower Cretaceous Flies to Upper Cretaceous Dromaeosaurs

Dinosaurs were plagued by flies, just like animals today, although members of the Bolitophilidae family would have been more interested in fungi than flesh.  However, there is a further link between these flies and a member of the Dinosauria.  The dromaeosaurid named Tsaagan mangas, which was scientifically described in 2006, its trivial name was also inspired by a legendary Mongolian monster, the same legendary beast that was the inspiration behind the name of the bolitophilid subfamily, the Mangasinae and the erection of the Mangas genus.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from the National Museums of Scotland in the compilation of this article.

The scientific paper: “Review of the Fossil Record of Bolitophilidae, with Description of new Taxa and Discussion of Position of Mangas kovalev (Diptera: Sciaroidea)” by Dale E. Greenwalt and Vladimir A. Blagoderov published in the journal Zoo Taxa.

19 05, 2019

Rebor Announces New Dilophosaur Models

By | May 19th, 2019|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Rebor “Green Day” and “Oasis” Dilophosaur Models

The latest additions to the popular range of Rebor prehistoric animal models have been announced.  A pair of Dilophosaurus dinosaurs entitled “Green Day” and “Oasis” are due to be in stock in about six to eight weeks’ time (June/July 2019).

The New for Summer 2019 Rebor Dilophosaurus Models “Green Day” and “Oasis”

Rebor Dilophosaurus models "Green Day" and "Oasis"

The Rebor Dilophosaurus replicas “Green Day” and “Oasis”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur Reserve List is Open

Our reserve list for these fine dinosaur models is now open.  To join our priority reserve list for these new Rebor replicas, simply drop us an email and when the models are in stock (estimated around June/July), then we will set the model(s) that you want aside and drop you an email letting you know that the Rebor Dilophosaurus is available to purchase.

To join our priority reserve list: Email Everything Dinosaur to Reserve Your Rebor Dilophosaurus Model(s)

Dilophosaurus wetherilli

The Rebor replicas are representations of the Early Jurassic theropod Dilophosaurus wetherilli, that was formally named and described in 1954.  Since its discovery, (the first fossils were found in 1942), D. wetherilli has become one of the most extensively studied Jurassic carnivorous dinosaurs.  It is apt that Rebor have created two models, as the first set of fossils discovered represented more than one individual dinosaur.

The Female Dilophosaurus “Oasis”

Rebor replica Dilophosaurus "Oasis" model.

Rebor Dilophosaurus replica “Oasis”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Articulated and Poseable Dinosaur Models

These superb Rebor replicas represent a male and female Dilophosaur.  “Green Day” is the male figure, whilst “Oasis”, pictured above, represents a female.  The models are approximately the same size, the models represent 1:35 scale figures (adult animals), but if required as juveniles reflecting their size in the famous “Jurassic Park” movie, they are in approximately 1:11 scale.  The paint schemes are subtly different, sharp-eyed readers will note for example, that the male figure “Green Day” has a small flash of red painted over the eye, an artful and very shrewd nod in the direction of current palaeontological thinking on behalf of the Rebor design team.

Can You Spot the Flash of Red over the Eye of the Male Dilophosaur?

Rebor Dilophosaurus replicas compared.

Comparing the Rebor Dilophosaurus replicas “Green Day” and “Oasis”.  Dinosaurs are thought to have had colour vision and splashes of colour on their facial crests and other ornamentation could have signalled maturity and fitness for breeding.  Nicely done Rebor!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Articulated and Poseable Dilophosaurus Models

Both the male Dilophosaur “Green Day” and the female “Oasis” have articulated lower jaws.  Each figure also has a flexible neck and tail allowing model collectors to depict their dinosaurs in a variety of poses.  The forelimbs on both models are articulated too.

The models can be purchased separately and Everything Dinosaur will also offer them as a pair.  Each Rebor Dilophosaurus comes with its own detailed base but they can be combined together to make a bigger, twin set diorama.

The Male Dilophosaurus “Green Day”

"Green Day" Dilophosaur model by Rebor

Rebor Dilophosaurus dinosaur model “Green Day”

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The models are due to be in stock at Everything Dinosaur in just a few weeks’ time (expected June/July 2019).  To join our priority reserve list for these Rebor replicas: Reserve Your Dilophosaurus Models by Emailing Everything Dinosaur.

To view the rest of the Rebor range of prehistoric animal models in stock at Everything Dinosaur: Rebor Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animal Figures.

18 05, 2019

Walking with Dinosaurs – How?

By | May 18th, 2019|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Sauropods Had Fleshy Pads on Their Feet

A team of scientists led by researchers from the University of Queensland have concluded that giant, long-necked dinosaurs (Sauropoda), probably walked in a “high-heeled fashion”.  Their great weight was supported by a fleshy pad at the base of the foot, effectively cushioning the heel and helping to support their enormous weight.  Elephants also have a fleshy pad on their feet, it seems that these two types of terrestrial, giant tetrapods, although not closely related, evolved the same type of soft tissue pad supporting the elevated metatarsus, an example of convergent evolution.

An Anatomical Reconstruction of the Right Hind Foot of a Sauropod (Rhoetosaurus brownei)

The right hind foot of Rhoetosaurus brownei.

The right hind foot of Rhoetosaurus brownei in dorsal view.  The first four digits have been preserved although the fifth is missing (replaced by a cast).

Picture Credit: Jay P. Nair and Andréas Jannel (University of Queensland)

Sauropod Locomotion – The Biomechanics

How the sauropod foot worked is very poorly understood.  This is partly because there are not that many complete foot fossils to study (manus and pes in these quadrupeds), especially amongst early members of the group and there is no living equivalent of these long-necked giants around today, to provide scientists with anatomical comparisons.  The researchers from the University of Queensland in collaboration with colleagues from Monash University (Victoria), examined the foot and toe bones of Rhoetosaurus brownei in a bid to plot the biomechanics of sauropod locomotion.

At around twenty tonnes and with a body length in excess of fourteen metres, Rhoetosaurus was a very sizeable animal, but certainly not the biggest of the Sauropoda.  However, it is known from eastern Australia so its fossils were easy to access for the researchers and it is the earliest representative of sauropods known from Australia.  In fact, according to the press release from the University of Queensland, it is the only named Australian sauropod that dates from the Jurassic.  Conveniently, it is the only one from the Gondwanan Middle Jurassic that preserves an articulated foot.

A Model of Rhoetosaurus (R. brownei)

CollectA Rhoetosaurus model.

A model of the Middle Jurassic sauropod Rhoetosaurus brownei.  Whether this dinosaur could rear up onto its hind legs is speculative.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Three-dimensional Modelling of a Dinosaur’s Foot

The scientists carefully analysed the foot bones and compared them to the foot bones of an African elephant (Loxodonta).   Lead author of the research, PhD student Andréas Jannel (University of Queensland), explained:

“Looking at the bones of the foot, it was clear that Rhoetosaurus walked with an elevated heel, raising the question: how was its foot able to support the immense mass of this animal, up to 40 tonnes?  Our research suggests that even though Rhoetosaurus stood on its tiptoes, the heel was cushioned by a fleshy pad.  We see a similar thing in elephant feet, but this dinosaur was at least five times as heavy as an elephant, so the forces involved are much greater.”

The researchers used physical models and computer simulations to map the posture and the range of motion of the foot bones.  The results generated permitted the team to model all the foot bone postures and from this it was deduced that some of these movements would have been restricted by soft tissue in life, but this soft tissue would have helped to support the animal’s great weight.

The team concluded that the in‐life plantar surface of the sauropod pes is inferred to extend caudally from the digits, with a soft tissue pad supporting the elevated foot bones, in essence, these terrestrial giants walked in a “high-heeled fashion”.  Furthermore, the plantar pad is inferred to play a role in the reduction of biomechanical stresses, and to aid in support and locomotion.  A foot pad may have been a key biomechanical innovation in early sauropods, ultimately resulting in a functionally plantigrade foot, which may have arisen during the Early to Middle Jurassic.  Although, these dinosaurs, like all other dinosaurs had a digitigrade or semi-digitigrade stance, the soft tissue pad changed their feet morphologically, so, these dinosaurs had a more plantigrade stance (not just walking on their toes).

This research into the locomotion of the biggest land vertebrates that ever lived has provided some intriguing insights, but the authors of the scientific paper admit that further mechanical studies are ultimately required to permit a more complete understanding of how these giants moved about.

Studies of Sauropod Tracks and Trackways Lend Support to Idea that these Animals Walked on Pads of Soft Tissue

The fossilised footprint of a Late Cretaceous Titanosaur.

Professor Shinobu Ishigaki (Okayama University of Science) provides the scale for the dinosaur print.  The track of a Titanosaur (Sauropoda).

Picture Credit: Okayama University of Science

The scientific paper: “Keep your Feet on the Ground”: Simulated Range of Motion and Hind Foot Posture of the Middle Jurassic Sauropod Rhoetosaurus brownei and its Implications for Sauropod Biology by Andréas Jannel, Jay P. Nair, Olga Panagiotopoulou, Anthony Romilio and Steven W. Salisbury published in the Journal of Morphology.

17 05, 2019

The Jurassic Angiosperm Gap

By | May 17th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

The Jurassic Angiosperm Gap

Today, the flora of the world is dominated by the angiosperms (flowering plants), they are the most diverse and widespread group of land plants comprising more than four hundred families, but their origin remains a mystery.  The fossil record for flowering plants is sparse, but there are numerous, unequivocal angiosperm fossils known from Cretaceous rocks.  Fossils of angiosperms from the Cretaceous appear abruptly and demonstrate a remarkable abundance of different forms.  The apparently rapid evolution of flowering plants in the Cretaceous was commented upon by Charles Darwin, the author of the ground-breaking “The Origin of Species”.  Darwin described the diverse Cretaceous-aged fossils of flowering plants when very few earlier flowering plant fossils were known as “a great abominable mystery.”

To read an earlier article (published in 2018), that looked at the puzzle of when angiosperms evolved: When Did Flowers First Evolve?

Fossils of Water Lilies (Nymphaeales) Are Known from the Cretaceous but when did the Flowering Plants Evolve?

A water lily in flower.

From the time of the Dinosaurs, but when did the angiosperms first appear?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Molecular Clock Dating and Genome Analyses Indicate Origins Earlier in the Mesozoic

Molecular clock studies have frequently suggested an earlier origin for angiosperms in the Jurassic, or even potentially within the Triassic.  However, many studies have lacked extensive sampling, especially at the ordinal and familial levels.  Now, in a new scientific paper published in the journal “Nature Plants”, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have mapped and plotted a comprehensive angiosperm phylogeny, sampling nearly 3,000 chloroplast genomes from species representing all 64 known plant Orders and 85% of all the flowering plant families described to date.  This most intensive study of living flowering plants has been cross-referenced with the fossil record of angiosperms and indicates an origin of these types of plants in the Late Triassic (around 209 million years ago – Norian stage of the Late Triassic).

This earlier age for angiosperm evolution leaves a gap between the earliest fossils and the origins of flowering plants of almost 70 million years, roughly the length of the entire Jurassic period, the authors term this huge period of geological time as “the Jurassic Gap”.

Identifying “The Jurassic Gap” in the Angiosperm Lineage

The "Jurassic Gap" in the evolutionary history of flowering plants.

Identifying the angiosperm “Jurassic gap”.  If flowering plants originated around 209 million years ago, then there is a gap of some 70 million years in the fossil record which if filled in would plot the rise of this important group and their radiation.

Picture Credit: Nature Plants with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

Arising in the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic

The authors of the paper propose that the earliest lineages of flowering plants originated in the Late Triassic or Early Jurassic.  These early parts of the angiosperm family tree are represented (as expected), by a few species totalling no more than a couple of hundred taxa or so.  These early members of the angiosperm group include water lilies (Nymphaeales), the woody plant order Austrobaileyales, which contains star anise and the large shrub Amborella trichopodanative to the island of New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific Ocean, a plant which is regarded as the sister taxon to the remaining angiosperms.

The data generated by the scientists indicates that major diversifications subsequently occurred in the Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous resulting in 99.95% of the extant diversity of flowering plants.  The relationships of the five major clades of this large diversification (core angiosperms) have long been difficult to determine and the researchers conclude that despite this extensive study, more work is required to resolve this aspect of flowering plant evolution.

Linked to the Rise of Insects – Symbiotic Relationships with Flowering Plants

If the first angiosperms arose in the Triassic, this corresponds with the timing of the evolution of several types of insects including katydids, crickets, alderflies and the common ancestor of the Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies).  However, the spectacular diversification of core angiosperms in the Jurassic and Early Cretaceous notably also coincides with the origin and evolution of the Phytophaga, arguably the most diverse radiation of plant-feeding beetles.  Their association with angiosperms has long been proposed to account for the apparent evolutionary success of the Phytophaga.  Furthermore, modern beetle diversity in general as well as other pollinators, including moths and butterflies, had their origins in the Cretaceous, which coincides with the rise of flowering plants to ecological dominance and the major diversifications of extant angiosperm diversity in the phylogeny as reported by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The Present-day Diversity of Beetles Could be Linked in Part to the Success of Flowering Plants

A beetle.

Soldier Beetle – the evolution and radiation of flowering plants is linked to the radiation of the Insecta – a result of the symbiotic relationship between many angiosperms and insects.

Picture Credit: English-Country-Garden.com

To read an article about ancient wing scales found in a drill core that suggests a Triassic origin for the Lepidoptera: Ancient Butterflies Flutter By

Why the Jurassic Gap?

One explanation put forward for the “Jurassic Gap” is that in the early days of flowering plant evolution, these plants were rare and thus the chances of any number becoming preserved as fossils were slim.  Another explanation proposed, is perhaps they occurred in habitats that were unsuitable for preservation such as forests.  Charles Darwin commented that it was “wretchedly poor conjecture” that angiosperms could have had a pre-Cretaceous history on a remote, but lost, island, meaning that all evidence of early flowering plants had been essentially wiped out.

A somewhat less exotic explanation is that the structures, flowers or fruits of early flowering plants were too small to now be confidently assigned to angiosperm lineages.  Perhaps, more fossils will be found to help plug the “Jurassic Gap”, but for the time being this period of seventy million years or so remains a mystery.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the compilation of this article.

16 05, 2019

Estemmenosuchus and Edaphosaurus Models

By | May 16th, 2019|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Estemmenosuchus and Edaphosaurus Models

Team members at Everything Dinosaur have posted up an image featuring two of their favourite Permian tetrapods, the sail-backed, herbivorous reptile Edaphosaurus and the “crowned crocodile” Estemmenosuchus.  Although these reptiles lived during the Permian geological period, their fossils are not found in the same rock formations and although both animals are classified as members of the Class Synapsida, they are not closely related.

An Illustration of Estemmenosuchus and Edaphosaurus

The CollectA Deluxe Estemmenosuchus and the CollectA Edaphosaurus model.

The CollectA 1:20 scale Estemmenosuchus model and the CollectA Edaphosaurus figure. What a splendid pair of Palaeozoic Era models!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

CollectA 1:20 Scale Estemmenosuchus and the CollectA Edaphosaurus

Often described as dinosaurs, these two CollectA figures represent vertebrates that lived long before the first dinosaurs evolved.  As synapsids, they are actually more closely related to modern mammals than they are to the Dinosauria.  The CollectA Deluxe 1:20 scale Estemmenosuchus was introduced in 2018, whilst the CollectA Edaphosaurus came out earlier this year (2019).  They are most impressive models and are part of an initiative by CollectA to add more models and replicas of animals that existed before the dinosaurs evolved to their already extensive range of prehistoric animal figures.

The first species assigned to the genus Edaphosaurus may have originated in the Late Carboniferous.  Edaphosaurus spp. fossils are known from the southern United States and Europe (notably the Czech Republic and Germany).  In contrast, Estemmenosuchus fossil material, as far as we at Everything Dinosaur know, comes from the Perm region of Russia.  It is from this region of Russia that the geological period – the Permian was named.

The image (above), depicts two splendid CollectA figures, the company has been praised for introducing more replicas of Palaeozoic animals into its model range, but based on the current fossil record, such a meeting between these two animals never took place.  Estemmenosuchus was geographically and chronologically separated from those species assigned to the Edaphosaurus genus.

In answer to a query raised by one of Everything Dinosaur’s customers, the CollectA Deluxe Estemmenosuchus model does indeed have an articulated jaw.

15 05, 2019

Fossil Hunting on Mars?

By | May 15th, 2019|Geology, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Fossil Hunting on Mars – Where to Look?

The second stage of the joint European and Russian ExoMars project is due to launch in 2020.  The first part of the mission involved an atmospheric probe designed to search for trace amounts of methane and other gases in the thin Martian atmosphere – evidence of there having been life on the planet in the past.  The results so far have been a little disappointing but, part two will continue the main aim of this programme, addressing the question as to whether or not we are alone in the universe.  A rover will explore the surface and crucially, it will collect samples with a drill down to a depth of two metres and analyse them onboard using sophisticated instrumentation.  Samples from beneath the surface of Mars are more likely to include biomarkers, as the thin atmosphere provides little protection from radiation and photochemistry, but could ExoMars be looking for evidence of life in the wrong place?

An Artist’s View of the ExoMars Rover on the Martian Surface

ExoMars Rover (2020)

Set to launch in 2020 the ExoMars expedition will include a sophisticated rover that will drill into the soil to test for past life.

Picture Credit: European Space Agency (ESA)

An Atlas of Volcanic Rock – On the Hunt for Extremophiles

Researchers at the Swedish Museum of Natural History (Stockholm),  have begun compiling an atlas of fossils in volcanic rock, to guide where and what to look for in the search for Martian life.  Most fossils are associated with sedimentary rocks and there are sedimentary rocks on the red planet (deposits formed in layers), either through the transport of material via water, with the assumption that in the ancient past, liquid water existed on the Martian surface, or via wind (aeolian) deposition.  However, igneous rocks dominate the geology of Mars and writing in the academic journal “Frontiers in Earth Science”, the scientists suggest that it is these igneous rocks that may harbour evidence of life.  Producing a guide to the microbial fossils found in volcanic rocks on Earth, can then assist the Mars exploration team in identifying suitable sites to hunt for Martian microbial fossils.

An Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope Image of Fossilised Fungi

Fossil fungal mycelium.

ESEM image of a fossil fungal mycelium with associated “cauliflower-like” microstromatolite formed by iron-oxidizing bacteria. From Koko Seamount, Pacific Ocean, 43 million years old.

Picture Credit: Frontiers Press

Lead author of the paper, Dr Magnus Ivarsson explained:

“We propose a “volcanic microfossil atlas” to help select target sites for missions seeking evidence of extraterrestrial life, such as the NASA Mars mission 2020 and ExoMars.  The atlas could also help us to recognise what Mars microfossils might look like, by identifying biosignatures associated with different types of fossilised microbes.”

Life Buried in Deep Rock and Deep Geological Time

Dr Ivarsson and his colleagues study life buried in deep rock and deep geological time.  Looking for the fossilised remains of ancient microbes, that have lived up to one thousand metres below the deepest ocean floors and may have originated more than 3.5 billion years ago.

The Martian Surface But Could the Subsurface Harbour Evidence of Ancient Life?

The surface of Mars.

Evidence of ancient life could be preserved beneath the surface of Mars.

Picture Credit: Frontiers Press

Dr Ivarsson added:

“The majority of the microorganisms on Earth are believed to exist in the deep biosphere of the ocean and continental crust.  Yet we are just now beginning to explore, through deep drilling projects, this hidden biosphere.”

In a saline, water world of extreme pressure, that is in perpetual darkness, fungi, bacteria and other microbes have adapted to feed on the igneous rock that surrounds them.  There are even predator/prey relationships.  These organisms spread through microscopic fractures and cavities forming complex ecosystems.  When these lifeforms die, they can become microfossils, providing a history of their existence.

Fossilised Fungal Mycelia

Fossilised fungal mycelia in a subseafloor basalt.

An image by optical microscopy of an open vesicle in subseafloor basalt from Koko Seamount.  Fossilised fungal mycelia protrude from the vesicle wall, yellow and brownish microstromatolites grow on the hyphae and large calcite crystal occur in the middle of the vesicle.

Picture Credit: Frontiers Press

An Atlas of Microfossils from Igneous Rocks

Scientists are aware that the rocky planets Mars and Earth are very similar geochemically, so by looking at igneous rocks on Earth, this should help guide the search for life on Mars.

Ivarsson explained:

“Our aim is to be able to use the oceanic crust microfossil record as a model system to guide Martian exploration.  Our review of existing knowledge is an important first step, but a more comprehensive understanding of the deep life is needed to show where and what to search for.”

The microfossil atlas would also help to determine which samples should be targeted for return to Earth for further analysis, given the limited payload of the Mars missions.  Perhaps, within two years of this article having been written, we will know the answer to the question about whether or not we are alone in this universe, that there was once, perhaps there still is, microbial life deep underground on Mars.

Could Evidence of  Ancient Life on Mars be Discovered within the Next Two Years?

Synchrotron-based X-ray tomography - an image of fungi and prokaryotic cell-like structures.

Three-dimensional reconstruction made by synchrotron-based X-ray tomography (srxtm).  Fungal mycelium with microstromatolitic structures and remains of prokaryotic cell-like structures in between the fungal hyphae.

Picture Credit: Frontiers Press

The scientific paper can be found here: NASA May Have to Look in Igneous Rocks to Detect Ancient Life on Mars

14 05, 2019

Archaeopteryx Gets Company

By | May 14th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Alcmonavis poeschli – Another Late Jurassic “Early Bird”

Scientists have identified a new species of “proto-bird” which was contemporaneous with Archaeopteryx (A. lithographica).  Known from a single, fragmentary fossil, excavated from the Lower Tithonian Mörnsheim Formation of the Solnhofen Archipelago, the species has been named Alcmonavis poeschli.  Its discovery supports the hypothesis that there were numerous bird-like dinosaurs in the Late Jurassic.

The Late Jurassic of Europe Could Have Been Home to Numerous “Proto-birds”

Archaeopteryx could have been one of numerous bird-like dinosaurs from the Solnhofen Archipelago.

Picture Credit: Carl Buell

A Right Wing from a Volant Animal

A. poeschli is represented by a right wing (specimen number: SNSB-BSPG 2017 I 133).  The bones are partially dislocated but lying in proximal association, the fossils consist of the humerus, radius, ulna, the hand and finger bones with claws.  Although there are only a handful of bones to study, they show a number of derived characters such as a pronounced attachment area for the pectoralis muscle and a robust second finger.  These traits indicate that Alcmonavis is a more derived avialan than Archaeopteryx.

A Photograph Showing the Holotype Fossil of Alcmonavis poeschli

Alcmonavis poeschli holotype fossil material.

Alcmonavis poeschli holotype.

Picture Credit: Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie/AFP

The photograph (above), shows the wing of Alcmonavis poeschli as it was found in the limestone slab.  Alcmonavis poeschli is another example of a volant bird from the Jurassic period.  It may have been a more capable flyer than the urvogel (Archaeopteryx).  Scars on the wing bones suggest the placement of sizeable muscles, indicating that the raven-sized Alcmonavis was capable of flapping its wings with some force.

One of the authors of the scientific paper, published this week in the academic journal “eLife”, Oliver Rauhut of the Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie (Bavarian State Collection of Palaeontology and Geology) stated:

“At first, we assumed that this was another specimen of Archaeopteryx.  There are similarities, but after detailed comparisons with Archaeopteryx and other, geologically younger birds, its fossil remains suggested that we were dealing with a somewhat more derived bird.  The wing muscles indicate a greater capacity for flying.”

This discovery indicates higher avialan diversity in the Late Jurassic than previously recognized.

Named after the Altmühl River

The genus name is derived from the old Celtic name for the Altmühl River which flows through the Solnhofen limestone region and from the Greek “avis” for bird.  The species name honours Roland Pöschl who leads fossil hunting expeditions to the Old Schöpfel Quarry, where the fossilised wing was discovered.

To read an article published in 2017 about another feathered dinosaur from Solnhofen: The Archaeopteryx That Wasn’t

To read an article from February 2019, that explains how the iconic Archaeopteryx feather fossil was reclassified: Iconic “Archaeopteryx” Feather Not From Archaeopteryx

13 05, 2019

“Oh We Do Like to be Beside the Seaside” – Triassic Marine Phytosaurs

By | May 13th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Austrian Phytosaur Fossils Point to Phytosaurs in Marine Environments

Look at most books that feature an illustration of the fauna of the Triassic and it is likely that squeezed into the colourful but so spurious illustration of early dinosaurs, beaked rhynchosaurs and cynodonts all going about their business but effectively ignoring each other, you will spot a phytosaur.  Phytosaurs, the long-snouted, semi-aquatic carnivores that resembled crocodiles but were certainly not crocodilian, were widely distributed during the Triassic.  However, very little evidence had emerged that linked these predators with marine ecosystems.  It had been thought phytosaurs were confirmed to freshwater or brackish environments.  The publication of a new scientific paper, reporting on the discovery of the remains of at least four individuals from an ancient lagoon, represents the best evidence yet that these formidable predators also inhabited the sea.

Phytosaurs in Marine Ecosystems

Mystriosuchus steinbergeri life reconstruction.

A newly described species of Austrian phytosaur provides evidence of a marine existence.  Mystriosuchus steinbergeri life reconstruction.

Picture Credit: Mark Witton (© 2019 The Linnean Society of London, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society)

Mystriosuchus steinbergeri

Although the fossil remains were laid down in a coastal, lagoonal environment, these days, thanks to plate tectonics, the quarry site is two kilometres above sea level in a remote part of the Austrian Alps.  The fossils were found in 1980 by Sepp Steinberger, a member of a local caving club.  The species name (Mystriosuchus steinbergeri), was erected in his honour.  One of the reasons cited for the amount of time it has taken to fully study these fossils is that despite the relative abundance of phytosaur fossils compared to other Triassic vertebrates, there are not that many vertebrate palaeontologists that specialise in studying the Phytosauria.

Phylogenetic analysis positions this newly described species as the sister taxon to a clade comprising Mystriosuchus planirostris and Mystriosuchus westphali.  A study of the fossil bones indicates that the Austrian phytosaur specimens represent individuals that were at least eight years of age at the time of their death.  The palaeoenvironmental data recovered suggests that these archosaurian reptiles were living in a marine lagoon.  This provides strong evidence to support the idea that some phytosaurs may have adapted to living in saltwater as well as freshwater environments.

A Classic Triassic Diorama Depicting a Phytosaur

A phytosaur in a Triassic diorama.

A beautifully painted Triassic scene (Rudolph Zallinger).  A newly published scientific paper provides strong evidence for marine adaptations in the Phytosauria.

Picture Credit: Rudolph Zallinger

How Did They Die?

Everything Dinosaur contacted one of the authors of the scientific paper, Richard Butler (School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham), enquiring about the discovery of four individuals, all roughly the same age and the same size (approximately 4 metres in length), being found together.

Professor Butler commented:

“As to how these animals died and were buried together, your guess is as good as mine!  It’s a puzzle, and I don’t have an answer.  However, I think it’s very unlikely that they died together on land and were somehow washed out tens of kilometres and buried together.  I think it’s more likely that they were living in the lagoon and died near to where they were buried.  Interestingly, the fact that there are multiple individuals all of a similar size might suggest some social/group behaviour, although again it’s quite speculative.”

When asked to put into context the significance of this evidence supporting the idea of some members of the Phytosauria adapting to marine environments, Professor Butler explained that there have been a handful of occurrences of the species Mystriosuchus planirostris recorded in marine sediments in northern Italy, and the basal phytosaur Diandongosuchus was also found in a marine deposit.  These fossil discoveries have led to speculation that both these species were possibly marine animals.  However, they’ve all been isolated specimens, and in the northern Italian sequences, for example, there is evidence to indicate that fully terrestrial animals had been washed into these marine deposits.  So, in the case of these fossils,  it is plausible that rather than being examples of marine phytosaurs, these are terrestrial phytosaurs that died on land and were washed out to sea.  The Austrian phytosaur material ascribed to Mystriosuchus steinbergeri might not be the first evidence found to support a marine environment hypothesis but it does probably represent the strongest evidence found to date.

The professor concluded that if he and his fellow authors are correct, then the phytosaurs represent yet another group of tetrapods that independently invaded marine environments.

The scientific paper: “Description and Phylogenetic Placement of a New Marine Species of Phytosaur (Archosauriformes: Phytosauria) from the Late Triassic of Austria” by Richard J Butler, Andrew S Jones, Eric Buffetaut, Gerhard W Mandl, Torsten M Scheyer and Ortwin Schultz published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

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