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24 07, 2020

Irisosaurus yimenensis – New Species of “Core Prosauropod”

By | July 24th, 2020|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Irisosaurus yimenensis – New Species of “Core Prosauropod” from Southern China

Researchers writing in the open access journal Scientific Reports have described a new species of Early Jurassic herbivorous dinosaur from China.  The animal, named Irisosaurus yimenensis is known from fragmentary remains and demonstrates a suite of unusual anatomical features that suggests this genus is a member of the Sauropodiformes, between early-branching “core prosauropods” and the late-branching “sauropod-like” members of the non sauropodan sauropodomorphs.  The fossilised remains come from the Fengjiahe Formation close to the village of Zhanmatian in Yunnan province.

A Life Reconstruction of Irisosaurus yimenensis

Irisosaurus yimenensis illustration.

Irisosaurus yimenensis life reconstruction.  This herbivorous dinosaur is thought to have been bipedal, measuring approximately 5 metres in length and from the Early Jurassic of China (Pliensbachian faunal stage of the Early Jurassic).

Picture Credit: Ang Li

Fossil Material Found in 2018

The researchers which include Claire Peyre de Fabrègues of Yunnan University analysed the partial skeleton and concluded that Irisosaurus has a body plan close to that of the so-called “core prosauropods” in having, for instance, cervical vertebrae longer than most dorsal vertebrae, gracile forelimbs which are much shorter than the hindlimbs, a deltopectoral crest extending half of the total length of the humerus and a unique carpal-metacarpal complex.  The fossil material has been dated to approximately 185 million years ago (Pliensbachian faunal stage of the Early Jurassic), it was discovered in 2018.  A phylogenetic analysis confirmed that Irisosaurus belongs to non-sauropodan sauropodomorphs and places it as the sister taxon to Mussasaurus which lived more than thirty million years early in Argentina.

Phylogenetic Analysis places Irisosaurus as the Sister Taxon to the South American Mussaurus

Irisosaurus phylogeny.

Phylogenetic analysis places Irisosaurus as the sister taxon to the South American Mussaurus

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

On the Road to the Sauropoda

The Sauropodomorpha is defined as saurischian dinosaurs that incorporate the Sauropoda and the early diverging sauropodomorphs.  The earliest sauropodomorphs are known from the Late Triassic, with most of the described species from Gondwana.  The Laurasian record of these types of dinosaurs does consist of some Triassic forms, but the majority of the known species date from the Jurassic.  Among the fourteen Jurassic non-sauropodan sauropodomorphs from Laurasia described to date, eight are from China.  Nearly all of the non-sauropodan sauropodomorph genera currently known from China were first reported from the Lufeng Formation, which is also associated with the Yunnan province.  The Fengjiahe Formation is the southern equivalent of the Lufeng Formation, it has revealed a similar ancient dinosaur dominated biota.

Silhouette of Irisosaurus yimenensis with Some of the Fossil Material

Irisosaurus yimenensis outline and fossil material.

Silhouette of Irisosaurus yimenensis with some of the fossil material.  The most informative elements are figured; (a) Outline; (b) Tooth; (c) Left maxilla; (d) Middle cervical; (e) Posterior cervical; (f) Anterior dorsal; (g) Middle dorsal neural spine; (h) Right scapula; (i) Right humerus; (j) Right ulna; (k) Right manus.  Scale bars = 1 m (a);1 cm (b); 5 cm (c–g); 10 cm (h–k).

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

What’s in a Name (Etymology)?

The generic name refers to the famous iridescent clouds of Yunnan Province (彩云之南). The specific epithet refers to Yimen County, where the type locality is located

The scientific paper: “A new species of early-diverging Sauropodiformes from the Lower Jurassic Fengjiahe Formation of Yunnan Province, China” by Claire Peyre de Fabrègues, Shundong Bi, Hongqing Li, Gang Li, Lei Yang and Xing Xu published in Scientific Reports.

23 07, 2020

Scientific Paper on Hummingbird-sized Dinosaur Retracted

By | July 23rd, 2020|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Scientific Paper on Oculudentavis khaungraae Retracted

On March the 11th (2020), a scientific paper was published in the academic journal “Nature” highlighting another remarkable discovery found in an amber nodule from northern Myanmar.  The Cretaceous-aged amber had already provided some astonishing information on the forest biota close to a coastline from around 100 million years ago.  An ammonite shell entombed in the ancient tree resin for example, then there was the remains of a tiny baby snake (Xiaophis myanmarensis), fossilised frogs and a whole range of insects, plant and pollen fossils, not to mention preserved remains of enantiornithine birds and a partial feathered tail from a dinosaur.  Everything Dinosaur had covered these discoveries within this blog, but this new paper, written by Xing et al concerned something truly breath-taking… the title of the paper summed it up nicely – “Hummingbird-sized dinosaur from the Cretaceous period of Myanmar”.

A Tiny Fossilised Skull – The Skull of a Maniraptoran?

Oculudentavis khaungraae skull in amber.

Tiny fossil skull preserved in amber (Oculudentavis khaungraae).

Picture Credit: Lida Xing et al

Something Tiny But Very Big

The research team, comprised of scientists from the China University of Geosciences, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (USA), the Royal Saskatchewan Museum (Canada) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, described an amazingly well-preserved tiny fossil skull with very bird-like features but miniscule teeth present in its jaws.  The tiny specimen, less than 1.5 cm long was thought to represent the smallest dinosaur known to science.  The animal was named Oculudentavis khaungraae, the genus name means “eye tooth bird” in recognition of its enormous eyes and unusual characteristic of having some of the upper teeth located directly under the eye socket.

Computer Generated Image of the Bird-like Skull (O. khaungraae)

Oculudentavis khaungraae computer generated image of the skull.

Oculudentavis khaungraae computer generated image of the skull (left lateral view).  The genus name translates as “eye tooth bird”, whilst the trivial name honours the person who donated the amber nodule to a museum (Hupoge Amber Museum).

Picture Credit: Xing et al (Nature)

Oculudentavis khaungraae was documented as representing the smallest dinosaur and compared to the smallest extant avian dinosaur Mellisuga helenae, the bee hummingbird.

However, in what we at Everything Dinosaur think is an unprecedented development, the scientific paper announcing this amazing discovery has, this week, been retracted.

A statement on the “Nature” website reads:

“We, the authors, are retracting this Article [the March 11th paper] to prevent inaccurate information from remaining in the literature.  Although the description of Oculudentavis khaungraae remains accurate, a new unpublished specimen casts doubts upon our hypothesis regarding the phylogenetic position of HPG-15-3.

The specimen number HPG-15-3, is the holotype cranial material currently in the collection of the Hupoge Amber Museum in China.

A Controversial Scientific Paper

Shortly after the scientific paper’s publication, a number of academics challenged the conclusions drawn and criticised the authors for their taxonomic assessment which relates to Oculudentavis khaungraae being classified as “bird-like” and placed within the Avialae, a clade that includes elements of the Maniraptora (some theropod dinosaurs and birds).  It was suggested that the phylogenetic assessment carried out was too biased towards resolving the placement of Oculudentavis as a bird or a very closely related dinosaur, rather than considering other data sets that might resolve its position elsewhere.  The “bird-like” skull is found in a number of lizards (examples of convergent evolution), several authors commented that the possibility of O. khaungraae being a lizard was discounted too quickly by the paper’s authors.

Everything Dinosaur reported these concerns and doubts in a follow up article to the original post about the scientific paper on March 15th (2020): Casting Doubt over Oculudentavis.

Can a Binomial Name be Obliterated?

It is rare for a scientific paper to be retracted, but occasionally this happens.  Papers can be retracted for any of a number of reasons, but normally a retraction occurs when serious questions surrounding its veracity are identified.  For example, a paper published in 1998 in the medical journal the “Lancet” by Wakefield et al reporting a link between the MMR vaccination and autism was retracted in 2012 following an extensive investigation.  The British Medical Journal (BMJ), put out a press release stating that following the investigation it had been concluded that the paper implying a link between the MMR jab and autism was an “an elaborate fraud.”

Dr Fiona Godlee, BMJ Editor in Chief stated at the time:

“The MMR scare was based not on bad science but on a deliberate fraud” and that such “clear evidence of falsification of data should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare.”

The scientific binomial name Oculudentavis khaungraae is now in limbo.  It is a matter of record that the taxon name exists, but with the withdrawal of the paper, we at Everything Dinosaur are not sure what will happen.  It probably falls within the remit of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN), to produce a ruling on how to treat this taxon.  This development does not undermine the astonishing fossil discoveries being made as researchers study amber from Myanmar, it might help to bring into focus some of the ethical issues associated with the commercial mining and use of funds, but scientific reporting is essentially built on trust.  Fossils have been frequently misidentified , as new evidence emerges so ideas, theories and hypotheses evolve and develop.  Normally, scientists correct their findings in subsequent papers, to have a scientific paper retracted is highly unusual.

Oculudentavis khaungraae – A Taxon in Limbo

Oculudentavis - is this an invalidated taxon?

The validity of the taxon is in limbo after scientific paper was retracted.

Picture Credit: Han Zhixin with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

We shall await developments…

22 07, 2020

PNSO “Wilson” T. rex Dinosaur Model Reviewed

By | July 22nd, 2020|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Everything Dinosaur videos, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Product Reviews|2 Comments

A Video Review of the new for 2020 PNSO “Wilson” T. rex Dinosaur Model

Everything Dinosaur team members have been busy in the studio producing a YouTube video review of the new for 2020 “Wilson” the Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur model from PNSO.  This new, free-standing replica replaces the original “Wilson” T. rex figure from PNSO and Everything Dinosaur took the opportunity to compare and contrast these two models.

Everything Dinosaur’s Video Review of “Wilson” the PNSO T. rex Dinosaur Model

Video credit: Everything Dinosaur

PNSO T. rex Wilson Video Review

In Everything Dinosaur’s short video review (the YouTube video lasts 9:43), the new 2020 Tyrannosaurus rex model is introduced and the articulated jaw is demonstrated and commented upon.  The beautifully detailed head of the theropod dinosaur is discussed and the bony crests over the eyes highlighted.  These crests may have served a variety of functions, helping to protect the eyes during intraspecific combat or whilst attacking prey, shading the eyes and helping T. rex to see in bright, sunny conditions and the potential role in visual communication.  The video narrator provides further information and explains some of the science behind the interpretation of the tyrannosaur skull morphology.

A Closer View of the Head of the New for 2020 PNSO “Wilson” T. rex Dinosaur Model

Highlighting the eye crests in the new PNSO T. rex figure

The new for 2020 PNSO “Wilson” T. rex dinosaur model has prominent eye crests which reflect skull morphology seen in the fossils.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view “Wilson” and all the other PNSO prehistoric animal figures available from Everything Dinosaur: PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Models and Figures.

Looking at the Packaging and Artwork

The video examines the dinosaur model in detail, but also provides information on how the packaging and box contents between the first “Wilson” figure produced by PNSO and this new version has changed.  The 2020 figure is presented in a beautiful box adorned with the artwork of Zhao Chuang one of the co-founders of PNSO.  The video also looks at the product leaflet that accompanies the model and comments on the contribution of Yang Yang, the other co-founder of this Chinese company.

The Box Art is Commented Upon in the Video Review

PNSO "Wilson" box art.

The new for 2020 “Wilson” T. rex dinosaur model box art.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Comparing the 2020 “Wilson” with the Original PNSO Model

The video review also permits Everything Dinosaur team members to compare the new figure from PNSO with the earlier Tyrannosaurus rex “Wilson” model, the figure that was supplied with a base.  In the video, we demonstrate how to convert the new for 2020 model so that it can be displayed on the base which was provided with version 1.

Comparing Two PNSO “Wilson” T. rex Dinosaur Figures in the Video Review

Comparing T. rex dinosaur models.

Comparing the new for 2020 PNSO “Wilson” T. rex dinosaur model to the original figure.  The original figure can be seen on the right of this screen capture from the video review.  The new for 2020 PNSO “Wilson” is shown on the left.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Subscribe to Everything Dinosaur on YouTube

This video review of a Tyrannosaurus rex figure is one of a series of videos posted on Everything Dinosaur’s YouTube channel showcasing different replicas.  To view these videos check out our YouTube channel: Everything Dinosaur on YouTube.

We recommend that readers subscribe to Everything Dinosaur on YouTube.

21 07, 2020

Preparing for the New CollectA Invertebrates

By | July 21st, 2020|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Preparing for the New CollectA Invertebrates

Everything Dinosaur team members are busy making space in their warehouse for the arrival of the new for 2020 CollectA prehistoric animal models.  The new CollectA releases were exclusively revealed in a series of blog posts and YouTube videos in the autumn of 2019.  Unfortunately, the COVID-19 global pandemic has interrupted production plans and many new models and figures have been delayed.  In total, CollectA planned to introduce eighteen new replicas in 2020.  Everything Dinosaur was able to secure release and delivery of six figures earlier this year (1:6 scale Protoceratops, 1:40 scale Fukuisaurus, 1:40 scale Bajadasaurus, 1:6 scale Microraptor, Prehistoric Life Baryonyx and the rearing Diplodocus colour variant).

Six of the planned new figures are invertebrates, namely a nautilus, a horseshoe crab, a belemnite, an example of a straight-shelled nautiloid cephalopod – Orthoceras, an ammonite, specifically Pleuroceras and a replica of a large trilobite – Redlichia rex.  Everything Dinosaur team members are optimistic about having these superb figures in stock soon.

The New for 2020 CollectA Models (including Invertebrates) are on Their Way

CollectA Arthropods and Cephalopods new for 2020.

New CollectA Arthropods and Cephalopods.  Everything Dinosaur hopes to have in stock in the next few weeks (as of late July 2020), all six of the new for 2020 CollectA invertebrate figures.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Unfortunately, the planned release of many new for 2020 figures and replicas have been seriously compromised due to the global coronavirus pandemic.  The CollectA range has been affected too.  We are doing all we can to keep our customers informed and updated with regards to developments and we hope that these exciting figures, the remaining new prehistoric animals from CollectA, will be available from Everything Dinosaur in the very near future.”

CollectA and Everything Dinosaur Previewed the Extensive Range of New Figures in Late 2019

What a collection? The new for 2020 CollectA prehistoric animals.

Some of the illustrations we used in our recent videos (autumn 2019), announcing the new for 2020 CollectA prehistoric animal models.  Some of the new models expected in 2020 from CollectA.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Preparing Fact Sheets for New Figures

As part of the company’s preparations as they anticipate the arrival of the new models, several new fact sheets have been added to the database.  In addition, scale drawing for a number of these new figures have been commissioned and completed.

An Orthocone/Orthoceras Scale Drawing an Early Design for the New Everything Dinosaur Fact Sheet

Orthocone/Orthoceras scale drawing.

An early scale drawing design for the Orthoceras/Orthocone fact sheet.  The straight-shelled nautiloids show an enormous variation in size with giants such as Cameraceras with a shell length of up to 10 metres and a total body length approaching 12 metres.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the range of CollectA Prehistoric Life figures available from Everything Dinosaur: CollectA Prehistoric Life Models and Figures.

To view the range of scale models (CollectA Deluxe range): CollectA Deluxe Scale Models of Prehistoric Animals.

20 07, 2020

Prehistoric Times Issue 134 Reviewed

By | July 20th, 2020|Dinosaur Fans, Magazine Reviews, Main Page, Photos|0 Comments

A Review of Prehistoric Times Magazine (Issue 134)

Summer is officially here at the Everything Dinosaur offices with the arrival of the summer edition of “Prehistoric Times”, issue number 134.  This is the magazine for dinosaur enthusiasts and fans of model collecting.  Published four times a year, “Prehistoric Times” provides a one-stop shop for all your prehistoric animal collecting needs.  Adorning the front cover is an illustration of Allosaurus by the highly influential Zdeněk Burian.  Inside the magazine John Lavas continues his comprehensive review of the famous Czech artist’s work, the summer edition starts the sequence of articles that will cover dinosaur illustrations produced by Burian and it is the theropods that take centre stage.

The Front Cover of Prehistoric Times (Summer 2020)

"Prehistoric Times" magazine, the front cover of issue 134.

The front cover of “Prehistoric Times” magazine (summer 2020).  Inside the magazine (page 11), the full illustration featuring a Stegosaurus is discussed.   This artwork was produced in 1950.

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks

Diplodocus and Kaprosuchus

Diplodocus and Kaprosuchus are featured and Phil Hore provides plenty of information including the story of “Dippy” the Diplodocus, not just the London Natural History Museum cast that occupied the famous Hintze hall from 1979 until 2017.  Reading the article was quite poignant for Everything Dinosaur team members, as they had been working with the Natural History Museum “Dippy” tour in the UK when the COVID-19 pandemic began to get really serious and such events were cancelled.  There are some wonderful Diplodocus themed illustrations included, look out for the skeleton reconstruction by John Sibbick and the “head on” view created by the talented Luis Rey.  There is a Diplodocus drawing submitted by Fabio Pastori and Mark Hallett, provides some illustrations too, along with an article discussing nostril placement in diplodocids.

Phil’s Kaprosuchus article includes plenty of “boar croc” artwork as well.   Cody Zaiser’s galloping crocodyliform is particularly impressive.

Kaprosuchus is One of the Featured Prehistoric Animals in Issue 134

The Papo "Boar Croc" model - Kaprosuchus.

The popular Papo Kaprosuchus model.  A replica of “boar croc”.  “Prehistoric Times” magazine includes a “short and sweet” feature on this genus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Collector Updates and Neanderthals

Randy Knol provides updates on some of the new releases, now expected towards the latter stages of 2020 (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and his notes on the models include some cleverly composed photographs of the figures.  Dr Andreas Forrer provides a guided tour of three locations in his native Switzerland that were once inhabited by Neanderthals.  As well as featuring lots of stunning scenery, the article includes plenty of facts about our near cousins including some information on the author’s own genotype, complete with a trace of Homo neanderthalensis DNA.

There’s also a very well written feature on how to draw Lambeosaurines, specifically Corythosaurus, penned by Tracy Lee Ford.  Editor Mike Fredericks, now happily much better after having had a spell in hospital (a troublesome gall bladder), contributes with his regular “Collector’s Corner” and book reviews in “Mesozoic Media”.  If creepy crawlies give you the creeps, then it might be best to avoid John Tuttle’s article that documents some of the giant arthropods that once scuttled or buzzed around ancient ecosystems.

One of the Stunning Theropod Illustrations by Zdeněk Burian that Feature in the Magazine

Burian depicts a Triassic landscape.

Beautiful and evocative artwork from Burian (Coelophysis bauri and Eupelor durus).

Picture Credit: Zdeněk Burian as featured in Prehistoric Times

Subscribe to “Prehistoric Times” Magazine

Issue 134 (summer 2020), is packed full of fascinating articles, great artwork and well-written features.  Everything Dinosaur recommends this excellent magazine for dinosaur model fans.

For further information about Prehistoric Times and to subscribe: Prehistoric Times Magazine.

19 07, 2020

Cretaceous Africa Diorama

By | July 19th, 2020|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Cretaceous Africa Diorama

An enthusiastic dinosaur model collector has sent Everything Dinosaur some photos of their Cretaceous diorama inspired by the finding of a sawfish model.  Robert, a long-time customer of Everything Dinosaur, has created a super-sized prehistoric animal diorama, he wanted to depict prehistoric north Africa and the domain of the fearsome theropod Spinosaurus (Albian to Turonian faunal stages of the Cretaceous).

The 1:40 Scale CollectA Deluxe Spinosaurus Dinosaur Model has Captured an Onchopristis 

Spinosaurus feeding on an Onchopristis.

Spinosaurus has caught an Onchopristis.  Onchopristis may have resembled an extant sawfish but it was not closely related to today’s sawfish.  The saw-like rostrum was up to two metres long and this fish was a member of the cartilaginous Chondrichthyes.  Although, size estimates for this fish vary, many palaeontologists state it reached lengths of between five and eight metres.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

Dinosaur model enthusiast Robert commented:

“While searching through my model prehistoric sea creature collection, I discovered a small sawfish model which makes an ideal Onchopristis for the Middle Cretaceous African dinosaur Spinosaurus to catch and feast upon.  So, I took some more pictures for you to download.”

The Fish Model has been Carefully Placed in the Articulated Jaws of the Spinosaurus Model

Spinosaurus feeding on an Onchopristis.

Spinosaurus with its catch.  There is quite a lot of evidence to suggest that Spinosaurus was a piscivore and as fossilised vertebrae assigned to Onchopristis have been found in association with Spinosaurus remains, it is known that these two species were contemporaneous.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

An Extensive Prehistoric Landscape

Robert has constructed an extensive prehistoric landscape complete with watering hole, dinosaur nesting sites and footprints.  He has used this landscape to create various prehistoric scenes depicting dinosaur biota associated with famous fossil sites and locations.  Over the years, Robert has sent into Everything Dinosaur images depicting the Early Cretaceous of Europe, Triassic prehistoric animals, dinosaurs from North America and several other compilations including a dinosaurs of South America themed Cretaceous diorama.

A Close View of the CollectA Deluxe Spinosaurus with its Prey

Spinosaurus with its catch.

Spinosaurus with its catch (Onchopristis).

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

Other Theropods Depicted Too

Although the finding of a sawfish replica was the inspiration behind this diorama, a depiction of the potential predator/prey relationship.  Robert has also chosen to depict other theropods within his extensive prehistoric landscape.

A Suchomimus Spotted by the Waterhole with a Sawfish

Suchomimus feeds on Onchopristis.

A Suchomimus has caught an Onchopristis.  Lots of prehistoric animal action depicted along the shores of the realistic watering hole in the dinosaur diorama.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

Our thanks to dinosaur model collector Robert for sending in these pictures to us.

Two Feeding Sauropods also Featured in the Dinosaur Diorama

Two feeding sauropods.

Nigersaurus and Malawisaurus feeding.

Picture Credit: Robert Townsend

18 07, 2020

Celebrating the Start of National Dragonfly Week

By | July 18th, 2020|Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos|0 Comments

National Dragonfly Week (Saturday 18th – Sunday 26th July) 2020

Today, Saturday 18th 2020, is the start of Dragonfly Week, an annual celebration of these amazing members of the Odonata organised by the British Dragonfly Society. It is wonderful to see these magnificent creatures emerging from the office pond and we know how important small ponds are to many temperate species as in recent years, great tracts of wetland habitat have been lost.

Recently Emerged from the Office Pond – A Hawker Dragonfly

Dragonfly spotted around the office pond.

A dragonfly that has just emerged from Everything Dinosaur’s office pond.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We are not experts, but we think the majority of dragonflies that we see are Southern Hawkers (Aeshna cyanea), a relatively large and inquisitive species that is widespread in the UK and Europe.  These insects have a long fossil record with the first winged forms evolving around 325-330 million years ago (Carboniferous).  They may have been around for a very long time, but it is always exciting to see them leave the office pond and very occasionally we can spot them in the warehouse yard.

A Fossil of a Dragonfly (Brazil – Crato Formation)

Dragonfly fossil (Cretaceous).

The first animals to take to the air.  Dragonflies are believed to be amongst the very first animals to evolve powered flight.  The insects had the sky largely to themselves until the first members of the Pterosauria evolved.

Picture Credit: Manchester University

17 07, 2020

Schleitheimia Fills a Sauropod-sized Gap in Dinosaur Evolution

By | July 17th, 2020|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Schleitheimia schutzi – Oldest Known Transitional Sauropodomorph

The biggest dinosaurs of all were the sauropods.  Famous giants such as Diplodocus and Brachiosaurus, exhibits of which adorn numerous main galleries of natural history museums around the world.  However, how these giant quadrupeds evolved from their much smaller sauropodomorph ancestors is poorly understood.  A team of scientists from Munich, Utrecht and Zürich have been able to identify a new ancestor of the long-necked dinosaurs (true Sauropoda),  from strata in the Swiss Canton of Schaffhausen.  The dinosaur named Schleitheimia schutzi is the oldest transitional form between the Sauropodomorpha and the Sauropoda described to date.

A Life Reconstruction of Schleitheimia schutzi

Schleitheimia schutzi life reconstruction.

An illustration of the giant, newly described Sauropodomorpha Schleitheimia schutzi.   A Plateosaurus is in the background and a predatory pseudosuchian can be seen in the foreground.

Picture Credit: Beat Scheffold (Naturforschende Gesellschaft Schaffhausen)

Hidden Amongst the Substantial Plateosaurus Remains

Although there are several substantial bonebeds in Switzerland that represent the Plateosaurus genus, (a sauropodomorph) and our knowledge regarding the global distribution of this group has certainly improved over the last five years or so, the diversity of the Sauropodomorpha and its composition remains controversial.  The researchers which include Professor Oliver Rauhut from the Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie, (Munich), Femke Holwerda currently at the Royal Tyrrell Museum (Alberta, Canada) and Heinz Furrer from Zürich University re-examined a series of fragmentary fossils recovered from three different locations associated with Plateosaurus bonebeds.  They concluded that the material represents the remains of two different, very big and robust sauropodomorphs.  One of these is described as a new taxon – Schleitheimia schutzi.

A Partial Femur Assigned to Schleitheimia schutzi

Partial femur assigned to Schleitheimia.

Distal end of left humerus of Schleitheimia schutzi n. gen., n. sp., PIMUZ A/III 549. a anterior view; b lateral view; c posterior view; d medial view; e distal view; f, proximal view of proximal break.  Scale bar = 5 cm.

Picture Credit: Rauhut et al (Swiss Journal of Geosciences)

The fossils had been thought to represent large examples of Plateosaurus.  Some of the material had been collected decades ago and given the huge size of the bonebeds and their monodominant nature little further thought had been given to the over-sized bones associated with the sites.

Professor Rauhut explained:

“Although Schleitheimia schutzi probably looked quite similar to Plateosaurus, this dinosaur with an estimated 9 to 10 metres body length is already significantly larger than the latter.  The new species [S. schutzi] was apparently very robust and like its gigantic descendants, probably moved on all fours, while Plateosaurus mostly walked on its hind legs.”

The genus name honours the type locality at Schleitheim, Canton Schaffhausen, Switzerland, whilst the species name honours Emil Schutz (1916-1974) who collected the type material.

Special in Two Ways

Schleitheimia roamed central Europe around 210 million years ago (late Norian faunal stage of the Triassic).  This makes Schleitheimia a lot older than other known transitional types of dinosaur between sauropodomorphs and sauropods.  Secondly, it is the first transitional form known from the continent of Europe.  Phylogenetic assessment suggests that this dinosaur is a derived basal sauropodiform and possibly very close to the evolutionary line that led to the Sauropoda.  Its discovery highlights the diversity of sauropodomorphs in the Late Triassic and suggests that many types of sauropodomorph survived the end-Triassic extinction event and flourished in the early Jurassic.

Views of a Cervical Vertebra (Schleitheimia schutzi)

Neck bones (cervical vertebrae) attributed to Schleithimia.

Posterior cervical vertebra of Schleitheimia schutzi n. gen., n. sp., PIMUZ A/III 538. a, b left and right lateral views; c dorsal view; d anterior view; e posterior view; f ventral view. Scale bar = 5 cm.

Picture Credit: Rauhut et al (Swiss Journal of Geosciences)

The scientific paper: “A derived sauropodiform dinosaur and other sauropodomorph material from the Late Triassic of Canton Schaffhausen, Switzerland” by Oliver W. M. Rauhut, Femke M. Holwerda and Heinz Furrer published in the Swiss Journal of Geosciences.

16 07, 2020

Ancient Mega Tsunamis Devastated Doggerland

By | July 16th, 2020|Geology, Main Page, Photos|0 Comments

Massive Tsunamis Devastated Ancient Britain

Scientists led by the University of Bradford have made a major breakthrough in the hunt for confirmation of a historic mega tsunami that is thought to have raged across the North Sea some 8,150 years ago.  Evidence of the catastrophic event has already been found in onshore sediments in Western Scandinavia, the Faroe Isles, north-eastern Britain, Greenland and Denmark but now for the first time, confirmation of the event has been identified on the UK’s southern coasts.

Map Showing the Location of the Storegga Slide

Map outlining the Storegga Slide and subsequent tsunami events.

Map showing location of Storegga Slide in 6,200 BC.

Picture Credit: University of Bradford

The giant tsunami, known as the Storegga Slide, was caused when an area of seabed the size of Scotland (measuring some 80,000 square kilometres and around 3,200 cubic kilometres), shifted suddenly off the coast of Norway.  This triggered huge waves that would have brought devastation to an inhabited ancient land bridge, which once existed between ancient Britain and mainland Europe, a region known as Doggerland, that is now submerged beneath the North Sea.

Professor Vince Gaffney (University of Bradford) explained:

“Exploring Doggerland, the lost landscape underneath the North Sea, is one of the last great archaeological challenges in Europe.  This work demonstrates that an interdisciplinary team of archaeologists and scientists can bring this landscape back to life and even throw new light on one of prehistory’s great natural disasters, the Storegga Tsunami”.

The professor from the University’s School of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences in the Faculty of Life Sciences went onto add:

“The events leading up to the Storegga tsunami have many similarities to those of today.  Climate is changing and this impacts on many aspects of society, especially in coastal locations.”

Finding Traces of the Natural Disaster in the Southern North Sea

It is thought the tsunami, the largest to hit Northern Europe since the end of the last ice age, happened following a period of global climate change.  Until now no clear trace of the tsunami had been found across the southern North Sea and importantly no trace had been found on Doggerland, which was gradually swallowed by rising sea levels after the end of the last glacial maximum.  Indeed, scientists now think the tsunami may even have led to the final inundation of Doggerland.  Cores from an area south of a marine trough named the Outer Dowsing Deep provided nearly half a metre of tsunami-like deposits, stones and broken shells sandwiched between laminated estuarine sediments.  Dating indicated they were contemporary with the Storegga event, while analysis including geochemical, sedimentological, palaeomagnetic, isotopic, palaeobotany and “sedaDNA” (sedentary DNA), techniques showed the deposits could be readily interpreted as resulting from a tsunami.

Area of Ancient Tsunami Research off the Norfolk Coast

Tsumani research area off the Norfolk coast.

Area of research off the Norfolk coast.

Picture Credit: University of Bradford

The study was led by the University of Bradford and collaborators from the University of Warwick, St Andrews University and a number of other academic institutions including the Washington Smithsonian and the London Natural History Museum.

Differentiating a Tsunami Event from Periodic Storm Activity

Evidence for a tsunami event is often difficult to discern from sediment deposition that results from periodic storm activity.  Key to understanding the sequence of events was the interpretation of geochemical signatures of three major waves hitting and retreating from the land.  In a part of the research instigated by the University of Warwick team, the scientists were able to examine how biomass changes with large natural events.

Professor Robin Allaby (University of Warwick) stated:

“This study represents an exciting milestone for sedimentary ancient DNA studies establishing a number of breakthrough methods to reconstruct an 8,150 year old environmental catastrophe in the lands that existed before the North Sea flooded them away into history.”

At the time the tsunami hit Doggerland, a Mesolithic hunter-gather people could have been using the remaining archipelago and for those unfortunate enough to be caught within the tsunami runup zone, it would have been devastating.  However, the palaeo-topography and environmental modelling suggest that much of the landscape may have survived reasonably intact to rapidly return to pre-tsunami conditions.  The longer term fate of these lands was to be submerged as sea level rose to those of the present day.

Professor Vince Gaffney (University of Bradford)

Professor Vince Gaffney (University of Bradford).

Professor Vince Gaffney, 50th Anniversary Chair at the School of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences in the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Bradford.

Picture Credit: University of Bradford

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release from the University of Bradford in the compilation of this article.

The scientific paper: “Multi-Proxy Characterisation of the Storegga Tsunami and Its Impact on the Early Holocene Landscapes of the Southern North Sea” by Vincent Gaffney, Simon Fitch, Martin Bates, Roselyn L. Ware, Tim Kinnaird, Benjamin Gearey, Tom Hill, Richard Telford, Cathy Batt, Ben Stern, John Whittaker, Sarah Davies, Mohammed Ben Sharada, Rosie Everett, Rebecca Cribdon, Logan Kistler, Sam Harris, Kevin Kearney, James Walker, Merle Muru, Derek Hamilton, Matthew Law, Alex Finlay, Richard Bates and Robin G. Allaby and published in the journal Geosciences.

15 07, 2020

Deadly Dolphin Predator of the Oligocene Epoch

By | July 15th, 2020|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Well-preserved Skeleton Provides Information on Evolution of Toothed Whales

The well-preserved fossilised remains of a large cetacean from the coastal low country of South Carolina is helping palaeontologists to better understand the evolution of rapid locomotion in toothed whales.  The specimen, which is nearly complete (cranial material, plus most of the spine and the remains of one flipper), was found in the early 1990’s by Mark Havenstein, a commercial palaeontologist and a former student at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.  The skeleton was later acquired by a private fossil collector before being donated to the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History at the College.

Writing in the academic journal “Current Biology”, a team of researchers led by Robert W. Boessenecker (Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, College of Charleston), have identified it as a large, predatory dolphin which shows adaptations within its skeleton to permit fast swimming.

Palaeontologist Robert W. Boessenecker Poses with the Fossil Material

Palaeontologist Robert W. Boessenecker poses with the fossil material

Robert W. Boessenecker (Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, College of Charleston), poses with the Ankylorhiza fossil material.

Picture Credit: College of Charleston/Robert Boessenecker

Extant cetaceans are superbly adapted to a marine existence, with tail flukes a key evolutionary innovation in propulsion, an adaptation shared by all living species.  Some dolphins, for example, have been recorded swimming at speeds in excess of 50 km/h (27 knots).  These fast speeds and bursts of acceleration are attributed to the thrust provided by the powerful tail fluke with flippers providing steering.  These movements are enabled by a sturdy and powerful body with a relatively rigid torso consisting of numerous compacted vertebrae and movement in the water is adjusted by varying the angle of the flippers.  Eocene-aged cetaceans reveal a transition from a semi-aquatic lifestyle to a fully aquatic one with adaptations to permit a nektonic habit.  However, the rarity of Oligocene whale skeletons has hampered the efforts of palaeontologists to understand how the evolution of tail fluke-powered, but forelimb-controlled locomotion came about.  The newly named Ankylorhiza tiedemani, which had previously only been known from a partial rostrum, represents a transitional form in terms of its forelimb shape and structure.   Its forelimb is intermediate in morphology between stem cetaceans and living whales, whereas its axial skeleton displays incipient rigidity at the base of the tail with a flexible lumbar region.

Ankylorhiza tiedemani Probably Occupied an Apex Predator Niche

Ankylorhiza tiedemani life reconstruction.

A pod of Ankylorhiza tiedemani prehistoric dolphins attacking seabirds.

Picture Credit: Robert Boessenecker

Commenting on the importance of the South Carolina specimen, lead author Robert Boessenecker explained that the discovery was one of the first skeletons found of a very early member of the toothed whales (Odontoceti), shortly after they diverged around 35-36 million years ago from baleen whales (Mysticeti).

He added:

“What makes that important is its evolutionary position as a very early branching dolphin.  Most early dolphins are known only from skulls, so having a skeleton with flippers and most of the vertebrae gives us an unprecedented look into the evolution of swimming adaptations.  That unprecedented window surprisingly told us that baleen whales and dolphins have many similarities owing to convergent evolution since their evolutionary split 35 million years ago.”

“Fused Roots”

The scientists estimate that Ankylorhiza grew to about 4.8 metres in length and probably occupied a similar predatory role in marine environments as modern orcas do today.  The genus name means “fused roots” and refers to the strongly fused tooth roots.  A phylogenetic assessment places Ankylorhiza near to the base of the toothed whale radiation and if this is the case, than it implies that several adaptations to aid locomotion such as a shortened humerus and a narrow but powerful peduncle (the end of the body that is adjacent to the fluke), evolved independently in both the Odontoceti and the Mysticeti.  In essence, that there is evidence to support the theory of convergent evolution in locomotor features between toothed and baleen whales.

The Fossil Material and a Skeletal Outline of Ankylorhiza tiedemani

Ankylorhiza fossil material.

Ankylorhiza fossils and skeletal outline.  Items in white are known fossils.

Picture Credit: Boessenecker et al (Current Biology)

Ankylorhiza’s skeleton shows a combination of more derived as well as primitive features, thus helping to cement it as a basal member of the toothed whale lineage.

Robert Boessenecker stated:

“These primitive features are surprising because palaeontologists and biologists long assumed that many of the adaptations for rapid swimming in baleen whales and toothed whales were ancient adaptations shared thanks to their common heritage over the past 35 million years.”

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press article from the College of Charleston in the compilation of this article.

The scientific paper: “Convergent Evolution of Swimming Adaptations in Modern Whales Revealed by a Large Macrophagous Dolphin from the Oligocene of South Carolina” by Robert W. Boessenecker, Morgan Churchill, Emily A. Buchholtz, Brian L. Beatty and Jonathan H. Geisler published in Current Biology.

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