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8 06, 2022

Australian Pterosaur Fossils Reveal Crocodiles Dined on Flying Reptiles

By | June 8th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Scientists have identified two partial pterosaur thigh bones that despite one being at least ten million years older than the other, have been identified as belonging to the same type of flying reptile (Anhangueria). Furthermore, one of the bones preserves a potential bite mark tentatively attributed to a crocodilian.

Pterosaur femur
Anhangueria indet. partial right femur from the Toolebuc Formation (NMV P231549): A, B, proximal; C, D, posterior; E, F, dorsal; G, H, anterior; I, J, ventral and K, distal views. A, C, E, G, I and K are photographs; B, D, F, H and J are 3-D renders derived from surface scan data. Scale bar = 2 cm. Picture credit: Pentland et al.

Two Rare Australian Pterosaur Fossils

The researchers who include famous Australian vertebrate palaeontologists Patricia Vickers-Rich and Thomas Rich report that the two bones although found over 200 miles apart, both come from pterosaurs from the same pterosaur clade (Anhangueria).

Specimen number NMV P231549 was collected in 1991 at Slashers Creek Station, southeast of the small town of Boulia (Queensland), from Toolebuc Formation deposits (middle to upper Albian) and is believed to be at least 100 million years old.

Specimen number AODF 2297 was found in 2004 at Belmont Station, around 35 miles northeast of the town of Winton in Queensland. It came from deposits associated with the “upper” Winton Formation (Cenomanian-lowermost Turonian stage of the Late Cretaceous). It is estimated to be around 10 million years younger.

Anhangueria femor from the Winton Formation.
Anhangueria indet. partial left femur from the Winton Formation (AODF 2297): A, B, posterior; C, D, dorsal; E, F, anterior; and G, H, ventral views. A, C, E and G are photographs; B, D, F and H are 3-D renders derived from surface scan data. Scale bar = 2 cm. Picture credit: Pentland et al.

Although pterosaur fossils are exceptionally rare in Australia and most specimens are extremely fragmentary, their three-dimensional preservation has enabled palaeontologists to learn a great deal about the type of pterosaurs that ranged over this part of Gondwana during the Cretaceous.

Lead author of the scientific paper describing these pterosaur bones, Adele Pentland (PhD student at Swinburne University, Melbourne, Victoria), was also the lead author of another scientific paper published in 2019 which described another anhanguerid pterosaur Ferrodraco lentoni.

To read more about F. lentoni: The Most Complete Pterosaur Specimen Found in Australia to Date.

Mojo Fun Tropeognathus.
A pair of typical anhanguerian pterosaurs based on the Mojo Fun Tropeognathus pterosaur model.

The Winton Formation fossil preserves a potential bite mark, that the researchers have tentatively proposed was made by a crocodylomorph. It is not known whether this feeding trace represents predation or post-mortem scavenging.

Comparing the two pterosaur femori.
Comparisons between greater trochanters of the Toolebuc Formation (NMV P231549) and Winton Formation (AODF 2297) pterosaur femora. AODF 2297 in A, B, dorsal view. NMV P231549 in C, D, dorsal view. A and C are photographs; B and D are 3-D renders derived from surface scan data. The bite marks associated with the Winton Formation fossil are highlighted. Scale bar = 1 cm. Picture credit: Pentland et al.

The scientists conclude that these new pterosaur fossils are a valuable addition to the meagre list of pterosaur specimens found in Australia and attest to the cosmopolitan distribution of anhanguerians during the Early and early Late Cretaceous.

The scientific paper: “New anhanguerian pterosaur remains from the Lower Cretaceous of Queensland, Australia” by Adele H. Pentland, Stephen F. Poropat, Matt A. White, Samantha L. Rigby, Patricia Vickers-Rich, Thomas H. Rich and David A. Elliott published in Alcheringa: An Australian Journal of Palaeontology.

7 06, 2022

PNSO Jennie the Centrosaurus Reviewed

By | June 7th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

The PNSO Jennie the Centrosaurus figure is proving popular amongst dinosaur fans and model collectors. This replica was introduced earlier this year (2022) one of several new horned dinosaur models introduced by PNSO into their mid-size, not-to-scale model series.

Jennie the Centrosaurus
The PNSO Jennie the Centrosaurus dinosaur model. Centrosaurus apertus is one of the best-known of all the Dinosauria with at least seventeen monodominant bonebeds ascribed to Centrosaurus.

Centrosaurus apertus

Named and described in 1904 (Lawrence Lambe), Centrosaurus is arguably one of the best-known of all the Dinosauria with numerous monodominant bonebeds having been discovered in the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. PNSO has gained a strong reputation for the excellence of their dinosaur models and the Jennie the Centrosaurus figure has been praised for its stunning detail, particularly the head ornamentation, complete with that single, curved nose horn.

PNSO Jennie the Centrosaurus dinosaur model.
A close-up view of the head of Jennie the Centrosaurus.

Model Measurements

The PNSO Jennie the Centrosaurus figure is approximately 16.5 cm long and the model stands around 7.5 cm high. Centrosaurus apertus was not amongst the biggest of the Late Cretaceous ceratopsids. The Everything Dinosaur fact sheet that is supplied with sales of this dinosaur model suggests a body length of around 5.5 metres and proposes that a fully-grown adult Centrosaurus would have weighed about 2,000 kilograms.

Centrosaurus dinosaur model (PNSO).
PNSO Jennie the Centrosaurus (lateral view).

Poster and Booklet

This PNSO dinosaur model is supplied with a poster depicting Centrosaurus created by Zhao Chuang and a full-colour, 64-page booklet. A QR code on the packaging links to a short video presentation that explains how the model was designed and developed.

PNSO Centrosaurus poster
The PNSO model is supplied with a colour poster. The poster is an illustration of a Centrosaurus by world-renowned palaeoartist Zhao Chuang.

Available from Everything Dinosaur

To date, ten new prehistoric animal figures have been introduced by PNSO this year (including new colour versions and updated versions of previously introduced figures). The PNSO portfolio continues to grow and their reputation for the excellence of their figures remains a talking point amongst dinosaur fans and model collectors.

PNSO Centrosaurus model.
The beautifully detailed PNSO Centrosaurus dinosaur model in lateral view. An example of a prehistoric animal figure that is enhancing PNSO’s reputation.

To view the range of PNSO prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur: PNSO Age of Dinosaurs.

6 06, 2022

Defining the Pecora

By | June 6th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos|0 Comments

A few days ago (3rd of June, 2022), we published a blog post about a new species of ancestral giraffe (Discokeryx xiezhi) that had been described from fossils found in Miocene strata in the Junggar Basin in north-western China (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region).

Discokeryx xiezhi - two males fight.
The recently described Miocene Discokeryx xiezhi. Two males indulge in a head-butting contest. Picture credit: Wang Yu and Guo Xiaocong.

The researchers, writing in the academic journal “Science” had compared the prevalence of head ornamentation amongst giraffomorphs (those animals within the Giraffidae family and their ancestors) to other types of ruminant within the Pecora. They concluded that those animals on the branch of ruminants leading to the extant giraffes evolved more types of headgear than other pecoran groups. The driver for this evolution, was not selective browsing as previously thought, but the variety of headgear had, in part come about due to intensive sexual selection linked to various male combat styles – head-butting, neck banging etc.

Team members at Everything Dinosaur were not familiar with the Pecora and what types of ruminant within the Artiodactyla (even-toed, hoofed mammals) would be described as pecorans. So, we thought we would dedicate this blog post to providing a definition.

The Pecora – A Definition

The order Artiodactyla is the most diverse and abundant group of large mammals on planet Earth. The Artiodactyla consists of the Whippomorpha (hippos), pigs (Suidae), Tayassuidae (peccaries and their relatives), the whales (Cetacea), Tylopods (camels, llamas and their relatives) as well as all the ruminants.

The biggest component of the Artiodactyla is the Ruminantia which are characterised by their four-chambered stomachs. Over eighty-five percent of all the artiodactyls are ruminants. Molecular studies have helped scientists to better understand the evolutionary relationships between the many families that make up this very large and diverse group of mammals. Although the exact taxonomy of this group is still uncertain, attempts have been made to clarify the evolutionary relationships between the different types of ruminant – hence the creation of the infraorder Pecora.

A model of a cow.
Of the 280 species of artiodactyls today, around half of these species are bovines (Bovidae) – cattle, antelopes, sheep, goats and their close relatives.

Most scientists define the Pecora as artiodactyls with a ruminant digestive system. Specifically, those ruminants that possess cranial ornamentation either horns, antlers, bony structures (ossicones) or pronghorns, although Musk deer and their relatives lack cranial ornamentation but are still defined as pecorans.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s recent blog post about the discovery of Discokeryx xiezhi: What Drove the Giraffes to Evolve Long Necks?

5 06, 2022

A New Short-snouted Troodontid – Papiliovenator

By | June 5th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A new species of short-snouted troodontid has been named and described based on fossils found in the Upper Cretaceous Wulansuhai Formation at Bayan Manduhu, Inner Mongolia. This little dinosaur has been named Papiliovenator neimengguensis.

Everything Dinosaur team members have been busy updating readers about new dinosaurs named and described this year (see below*), the formal scientific paper announcing this new troodontid was published earlier in the spring, but information about the fossils attributed as the holotype material had been circulating for some time.

Papiliovenator neimengguensis Skull
The short-snouted skull of Papiliovenator neimengguensis in lateral view. Picture credit: Pei et al.

Named From Strangely Shaped Dorsal Vertebrae

Known from a nearly complete skull and fragmentary, semi-articulated postcranial material thought to represent a single, individual animal, Papiliovenator means “butterfly hunter”. This little carnivore, which was less than a metre long, might well have hunted butterflies and other members of the Lepidoptera, but the derivation of the genus name does not reflect this dinosaur’s diet. Instead, it was the unusual shape of the neural arches associated with the two dorsal vertebrae closest to the neck of this dinosaur that inspired the genus name. When viewed from above (dorsal view), these neural arches are butterfly-shaped.

Papiliovenator neimengguensis fossil bones.
Papiliovenator neimengguensis fossil bones. A view of the articulated dorsal vertebrae with the distinctive butterfly-shaped, broad neural arches of the anteriormost dorsal vertebrae when viewed from the top down (dorsal view). The neural arch has been outlined in red. Picture credit: Pei et al with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur.

Unusual for a Late Cretaceous Troodontid

The researchers report that Papiliovenator was unusual among Late Cretaceous troodontids in having a fairly deep, short-snouted skull. This skull shape is seen in geologically older troodontids known from the Early Cretaceous. Most other Late Cretaceous troodontids have long, low snouts, except for the smaller Almas ukhaa from the Campanian-aged Djadochta Formation of Mongolia. Coincidently, Rui Pei of the Chinese Academy of Sciences was the lead author of the scientific paper naming and describing A. ukhaa (Pei et al, 2017). Rui Pei is the lead author of the paper describing Papiliovenator.

*To read about a new basal iguanodontian from southern China: Napaisaurus guangxiensis.

*A new alvarezsaurid taxon from Uzbekistan: Dzharaonyx eski Old Dzharakuduk Claw.

*A new therizinosaur from the Japanese island of Hokkaido: Paralitherizinosaurus japonicus.

The fossils are thought to represent a sub-adult animal. The discovery of Papiliovenator neimengguensis allows for an improved understanding of troodontid anatomy, as well as helping to highlight the regional variation of troodontids from the Upper Cretaceous of the Gobi Basin.

The scientific paper: “A new troodontid from the Upper Cretaceous Gobi Basin of inner Mongolia, China” by Rui Pei, Yuying Qin, Aishu Wen, Qi Zhao, Zhe Wang, Zhanmin Liu, Weilesi Guo, Po Liu, Weiming Ye, Lanyun Wang, Zhigang Yin, Ruiming Dai and Xing Xu published in Cretaceous Research.

4 06, 2022

Mary Anning and the “Sea Dragon”

By | June 4th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Famous Figures, Main Page, Movie Reviews and Movie News, Photos|0 Comments

The 2022 Cheltenham Science Festival is due to begin on Tuesday, 7th June (2022) and the award-winning director James Morgan’s film “Sea Dragon” will be featured. This delightful short tells the story of Mary Anning’s ground-breaking fossil discovery that challenged the worldview of 19th century England.

The film will be shown as part of Dr Dean Lomax’s presentation entitled “Mary Anning and the Sea Dragons” which is taking place at the Helix Auditorium on the evening of the 8th of June (2022).

Sea Dragon - a natural history heist.
“Sea Dragon” – a natural history heist. The film is directed by James Morgan and produced by Terhi Kylliainen. Starring Kiara Holley-Paliano as Mary Anning, Harvey Dean as Joseph Anning and Nathaniel Parker as Mr Fairfax it tells the story of a fossil discovery in the cliffs along the Dorset coast and the ideological battle that commences when its significance is brought to light. Picture credit: Becklow Films, design by Matt Needle.

A Changing World – A Changing Society

Set in 1812, on the stunningly beautiful Dorset coast, young fossil hunter Mary Anning (played by Kiara Holley-Paliano) finds herself locked in an ideological battle with a devious auctioneer (Nathanial Parker) over the fate of an ichthyosaur fossil specimen.

The auctioneer considers the fossil skull to be from a crocodile, but Mary thinks differently, and our feisty protagonist sets out with her brother Joseph to rescue the specimen. This is the story of a young girl with the courage to challenge convention. A person not prepared to accept the doctrine of the time but to consider the evidence of her own eyes and in a beautifully conceived scene set in a Georgian drawing room, to confront the accepted view of the world.

Mary Anning "Sea Dragon""
Kiara Holley-Paliano as Mary Anning portrayed in the film “Sea Dragon” directed by James Morgan. Picture credit: Becklow Films.

Exploring New Worlds

At its heart, “Sea Dragon” is an archetypal story of how an individual can force society to change. Directed by James Morgan, an award-winning director of film and television, this short film explores new worlds both social and palaeontological. Mary Anning, who rarely received any credit for her discoveries during her lifetime, helped to erode established beliefs about how the world was ordered. She challenged Georgian society. Her contribution to the nascent sciences of palaeontology and geology eroded long held and established views as surely as the Dorset cliffs with their fossil treasures crumble into the sea.

Sea Dragon Movie Poster
Sea Dragon (short, 2021). A young fossil hunter Mary Anning makes a ground-breaking discovery, challenging the worldview of 19th century England. Picture credit: Becklow Films, design by rathbleedart.

Commenting on the significance of this short, Director James Morgan stated:

“I hope the film does justice to the spirit of Mary Anning, and also poses questions about the
assumptions that still lay buried in our own foundations. As the ground continues to move
beneath our feet – we can only hope that we have learnt to listen to the small voice in the
corner of the room. Because small voices with the courage to see things differently are the most
powerful catalysts of positive change.”

Film director James Morgan.
James Morgan the director of the short film “Sea Dragon”. Championing the small voice in the corner of the room. Picture credit: Ben Sadd.

Our thanks to producer Terhi Kylliainen for her assistance in the compilation of this article.

“Sea Dragon” will be shown as part of Dr Dean Lomax’s presentation entitled “Mary Anning and Sea Dragons” at the Cheltenham Science Festival 2022 (Helix Auditorium, 5pm on the 8th of June).

The film website: The Film “Sea Dragon”.

The website of the director: James Morgan Film Director and Photographer.

3 06, 2022

What Drove the Giraffes to Evolve Long Necks?

By | June 3rd, 2022|Adobe CS5, Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

The long neck of the giraffe has often been cited as a classic example of adaptive evolution. Long necks evolved to permit them to access food that other animals could not reach. However, a newly described early giraffe with a toughened skull adapted for head-butting contests suggests that intensive sexual competition may have led to the extremely long neck found in modern giraffes.

Intra-specific combat in giraffoids.
Intraspecific combat in giraffoids. Foreground two male Discokeryx xiezhi indulge in a head-butting context whilst in the background two male extant giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) fight each other by banging necks. Picture credit: Wang Yu and Guo Xiaocong.

Discokeryx xiezhi from the Early Miocene (Junggar Basin)

Scientists led by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have described a new species of ancient giraffe from the northern margins of the Junggar Basin in north-western China (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region). The early giraffoid named Discokeryx xiezhi did not have a very long neck, instead, based on the analysis of an almost complete skull and four cervical vertebrae, this herbivore had a neck and head adapted to absorbing the immense stresses of head-butting combat.

Writing in the academic journal “Science”, the researchers conclude that the neck bones of Discokeryx xiezhi were extremely stout and had the most complex joints between the head and the neck and between the cervical vertebrae of any mammal. The team demonstrated that the complex articulations between the skull and cervical vertebrae of Discokeryx xiezhi were particularly adapted to high-speed head-to-head impact. They found this structure was far more effective than that of extant animals, such as musk oxen, that are adapted for head butting intraspecific combat. The scientists postulate that D. xiezhi may have been the vertebrate best adapted to head impact known to science.

Lead author of the study, Shi-qi Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences explained:

“Both living giraffes and Discokeryx xiezhi belong to the Giraffoidea, a superfamily. Although their skull and neck morphologies differ greatly, both are associated with male courtship struggles and both have evolved in an extreme direction.”

Climate Change Driving Morphological Changes

Tooth isotope analysis of fossil teeth indicate that Discokeryx lived in a dry, grassland environment. The habitat was more barren and less rich than forest environments and this may have resulted in increased stress on animal populations and greater competition within species for limited resources. Around 7 million years ago, the environment on the East African Plateau was broadly similar with forests being replaced by savannah. The direct ancestors of extant giraffes had to adapt and it is possible that during this period mating males developed a way of attacking their competitors by swinging their necks and heads. This extreme struggle, supported by sexual selection, thus led to the rapid elongation of the giraffe’s neck over a period of two million years to become the extant genus, Giraffa.

Mammalian Fauna of the Junggar Basin (Miocene)
Typical large vertebrate fauna associated with the early Miocene of the Junggar Basin approximately 17 mya. Forests were replaced by barren, open grasslands and this may have been a driver for intraspecific competition amongst early giraffes which led to the evolution of a range of specialist heads and necks and resulted in the extremely long neck associated with extant species. Picture credit: Guo Xiaocong.

Comparing Horn Morphology

The research team compared the horn morphology of several groups of ruminants, including giraffoids, cattle, sheep, deer and pronghorns. They found that horn diversity in giraffes is much greater than in other groups, with a tendency toward extreme differences in morphology. This suggests that courtship struggles (intraspecific combat) are more intense and diverse in giraffes than in other ruminants.

The evolution of complex head ornamentation in giraffomorphs.
The accumulative number of headgears in various pecoran groups during their evolution. Note that giraffomorphs had evolved more types of headgear than other pecoran groups, which may be partly attributable to their various combat styles. Picture credit: Wang Yu and Guo Xiaocong.

The research team conclude that the primary driving force for extreme body shape in giraffes was not the benefit of being able to browse on parts of the canopy other herbivores could not reach, but it was the intensive sexual competition that fostered extreme morphologies.

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

The scientific paper: “Sexual selection promotes giraffoid head-neck evolution and ecological adaptation” by Shi-qi Wang, Jie Ye, Jin Meng, Chunxiao Li, Loic Costeur, Bastien Mennecart, Chi Zhang, Ji Zhang, Manuela Aiglstorfer, Yang Wang, Yan Wu, Wen-yu Wu and Tao Deng published in the journal Science.

1 06, 2022

Have we Got Evolutionary Trees All Wrong?

By | June 1st, 2022|Adobe CS5, Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

A study led by scientists at the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath suggests that a fundamental cornerstone of evolutionary biology could be misrepresenting taxonomic relationships.

It is usual practice for biologists to establish evolutionary trees that set out the relationships between organisms. New research published in the academic journal “Communications Biology”, suggests that most of the evolutionary trees that have been constructed could be inaccurate and that convergent evolution is much more common than previously thought.

Mammal tree of life.
The mammalian tree of life. New research indicates that trees constructed using genetic data (where available) will be more accurate than trees built using anatomical comparisons. Picture credit: Mario dos Reis Barros and Sandra Alvarez-Carretero.

These trees are constructed by comparing anatomical characteristics, but this research suggests evolutionary trees based on the analysis of genetic sequences may be more reliable.

Overturning Centuries of Scholarly Work

Since Charles Darwin erected a “tree of life” in the 19th century, biologists have been trying to develop “family trees” of organisms by carefully examining differences in their anatomy and morphology.

With the development of rapid genetic sequencing techniques, scientists are now able to use genetic (molecular) data to compile evolutionary relationships very quickly and cheaply.

This genetic approach has led to substantial revisions in our understanding. Organisms once thought to be closely related have been demonstrated to belong to very different branches of the evolutionary tree.

Comparing the Two Methods of Building Evolutionary Trees

Scientists at the University of Bath compared evolutionary trees based on a traditional analysis of anatomy/morphology with those created using molecular data. The researchers discovered that the animals grouped together by molecular trees lived more closely together geographically than the animals grouped using the morphological trees, which implies that genetic themed evolutionary trees are more accurate.

Commenting on the significance of this study, one of the co-authors, Matthew Wills, Professor of Evolutionary Paleobiology at the Milner Centre for Evolution (University of Bath) explained:

“It turns out that we’ve got lots of our evolutionary trees wrong. For over a hundred years, we’ve been classifying organisms according to how they look and are put together anatomically, but molecular data often tells us a rather different story. Our study proves statistically that if you build an evolutionary tree of animals based on their molecular data, it often fits much better with their geographical distribution.”

Biogeography – A Reliable Guide to Evolutionary Relationships

Where organisms live, their biogeography, is regarded as an important source of evolutionary evidence that was familiar to 19th century scientists such as Darwin, Owen and Huxley. Genetic studies of animals that bear little similarity to each other such as aardvarks, elephants, golden moles, manatees and elephant shrews demonstrate that they originated from the same branch of the mammalian family tree. Molecular studies place these mammals into a single group called the Afrotheria, so-named because these animals seem to have originated from Africa, so the molecular data matches the biogeography.

An African elephant model.
An African elephant (Loxodonta). Molecular analysis has constructed trees showing that elephants, golden moles, elephant shrews and swimming manatees have all originated from the same branch of the mammalian family tree, although they look very different to each other and occupy different roles in the ecosystem.

Convergent Evolution More Prevalent

The study also found that convergent evolution was more prevalent than previously thought. Convergent evolution occurs when a trait or characteristic evolves separately in two genetically unrelated groups of organisms such as the evolution of tail flukes in cetaceans and the entirely unrelated ichthyosaurs.

Professor Wills added:

“We already have lots of famous examples of convergent evolution, such as flight evolving separately in birds, bats and insects, or complex camera eyes evolving separately in squid and humans. But now with molecular data, we can see that convergent evolution happens all the time, things we thought were closely related often turn out to be far apart on the tree of life.”

Ichthyosaur compared to a cetacean.
An example of convergent evolution. Although unrelated, ichthyosaurs and cetaceans are similar in their appearance.

The Professor explained that people who make a living as celebrity doubles or lookalikes are not usually related to the person that they are impersonating. Individuals in a family do not always look the same, it is the same for evolutionary trees.

Professor Wills stated:

“It proves that evolution just keeps on re-inventing things, coming up with a similar solution each time the problem is encountered in a different branch of the evolutionary tree. It means that convergent evolution has been fooling us, even the cleverest evolutionary biologists and anatomists for over a hundred years!”

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

The scientific paper: “Molecular phylogenies map to biogeography better than morphological ones” by Jack W. Oyston, Mark Wilkinson, Marcello Ruta and Matthew A. Wills published in Communications Biology.

31 05, 2022

The Extinction of Megalodon

By | May 31st, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

The extinction of Megalodon more appropriately termed Otodus megalodon, regarded as the largest hypercarnivorous shark that has ever existed has been the subject of numerous scientific papers. Newly published research suggests that competition for food and space with the Great White Shark (C. carcharias) and possibly other large taxa such as hypercarnivorous toothed whales could have played a role in the giant fish’s extinction.

Brilliant artwork on the PNSO Megalodon model cover sleeve.
The amazing, colourful sleeve artwork on the PNSO Megalodon figure. Several scientific papers have explored the potential reasons for the demise and extinction of Otodus megalodon – regarded as the largest hypercarnivorous shark known to science.

Zinc Isotope Analysis from Teeth

The diet of extinct animals can hold clues to their lifestyle, behaviour, evolution and ultimately their extinction. However, studying an animal’s diet after millions of years is difficult due to the poor preservation of chemical dietary indicators in organic material. An international team of scientists led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig, Germany), used a new technique, analysing zinc isotopes preserved in the mineralised tooth enamel to assess how far up the food chain Otodus megalodon was placed in comparison to the extant Great White Shark.

Tooth comparison Megalodon and Great White Shark
A tooth from the extinct early Pliocene Otodus megalodon (left) compared with a tooth (right) from a modern Great White Shark (C. carcharias). Picture credit: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

More Reliable than Nitrogen Isotope Analysis of Tooth Collagen

Nitrogen analysis of tooth collagen, a protein-based component of tooth dentine, has been used to establish the degree of animal matter consumed in a diet. However, in fossils collagen is generally not preserved so an analysis of zinc isotopes associated with the highly mineralised tooth enameloid may prove to be a more reliable indicator of the diet of long extinct animals.

Lead author of the study, published in “Nature Communications”, Dr Jeremy McCormack (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology) stated:

“On the timescales we investigate, collagen is not preserved, and traditional nitrogen isotope analysis is therefore not possible.”

The isotope ratios in O. megalodon teeth from the Pliocene were studied along with earlier Miocene “megatooth” taxa such as Otodus chubutensis. Modern contemporaneous shark species such as C. carcharias were analysed to provide a comparison. The researchers identified similar zinc isotope signatures in extinct as well as their modern analogous taxa.

Megalodon Occupied the Same Niche as Great White Sharks

The researchers concluded that super-sized sharks such as Otodus megalodon occupied the same niche in the ecosystem as the extant Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias). This suggests that when these two taxa were contemporaneous, they would have competed for the same resources.

This competition may have played a role in the demise and eventual extinction of Megalodon.

CollectA Deluxe Megalodon shark model.
The CollectA 1:40 scale Megalodon shark model. The extinction of Otodus megalodon could have been caused by multiple, compounding environmental and ecological factors including climate change and thermal limitations, the collapse of prey populations and resource competition with Carcharodon carcharias.

The extinction of Otodus megalodon could have had multiple causes. For example, environmental and ecological factors including climate change and dramatic cooling of the seas resulting in a restriction of the habitat of O. megalodon. In addition, the collapse of prey populations along with resource competition from Carcharodon carcharias could have put the Megalodon population under increasing pressure.

This study did not examine the potential impact on O. megalodon through competition from toothed whales (carnivorous odontocetes). If zinc isotope analysis proves to be a reliable methodology for analysing the diets of long extinct creatures, then this technique could be used to examine the impact of toothed whales on Megalodon populations.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in the compilation of this article.

The scientific paper: “Trophic position of Otodus megalodon and great white sharks through time revealed by zinc isotopes” by Jeremy McCormack, Michael L. Griffiths, Sora L. Kim, Kenshu Shimada, Molly Karnes, Harry Maisch, Sarah Pederzani, Nicolas Bourgon, Klervia Jaouen, Martin A. Becker, Niels Jöns, Guy Sisma-Ventura, Nicolas Straube, Jürgen Pollerspöck, Jean-Jacques Hublin, Robert A. Eagle and Thomas Tütken published in Nature Communications.

30 05, 2022

PNSO Sinraptor Model – Join Waitlist

By | May 30th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Xinchuan the PNSO Sinraptor model will be in stock at Everything Dinosaur next month (June 2022). There is no need to pre-order this figure, simply join the Everything Dinosaur waitlist for this dinosaur replica and you will receive a priority notification email when this figure is in stock.

PNSO Xinchuan the Sinraptor figure.
Sinraptor dongi was formally named and described in 1994. The species name is in honour of the eminent Professor Dong Zhiming, one of China’s most celebrated palaeontologists. This exciting new for 2022 dinosaur model in the PNSO mid-size model range will be in stock at Everything Dinosaur in June 2022. There is no need to pre-order this figure, no need to pay upfront and there is no need for a deposit, just join the Everything Dinosaur waitlist for this figure or email Everything Dinosaur to receive a no obligation, priority email alert when the dinosaur model is in stock.

The Everything Dinosaur PNSO Xinchuan the Sinraptor Waitlist

This fascinating and eagerly anticipated, new for 2022 dinosaur model in the PNSO mid-size model range will be in stock at Everything Dinosaur in June 2022. There is no need to pre-order this figure, no need to pay upfront and there is no need for a deposit, just join the Everything Dinosaur waitlist for this figure or email Everything Dinosaur to receive a no obligation, priority email alert when the dinosaur model is in stock.

To join Everything Dinosaur’s priority notification list for Xinchuan the PNSO Sinraptor: Email Everything Dinosaur to Join Priority Notification List for PNSO Sinraptor Model.

Sinraptor dongi

Sinraptor dongi was formally named and described in 1994 from fossil material associated with the Shishugou Formation located in north-western China. The Shishugou Formation has yielded numerous dinosaur and pterosaur remains and the strata is believed to have been deposited between 165 to 155 million years ago (Middle to Late Jurassic). A second species assigned to the Sinraptor genus has been named (S. hepingensis from Gao [1992]), although the exact taxonomy of this second species remains controversial as it was originally named by Gao Yangchuanosaurus hepingensis. Yanchuanosaurus and Sinraptor are closely related genera, yet their phylogeny and taxonomy has yet to be fully resolved.

PNSO Sinraptor dinosaur model
The PNSO Xinchuan Sinraptor dinosaur model in lateral view. The figure has all the appropriate test certificates and it will be in stock at Everything Dinosaur next month (June 2022).

To join the priority waitlist, simply visit Everything Dinosaur’s PNSO Age of Dinosaurs section of its website and if you are an account holder you can join the waitlist on the PNSO Xinchuan the Sinraptor product page.

To view the range of PNSO models and replicas in stock at Everything Dinosaur and to find the PNSO Xinchuan the Sinraptor product page: PNSO Age of Dinosaurs.

29 05, 2022

Fires Started by “Raptors”

By | May 29th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Key Stage 3/4, Main Page, Photos, Teaching, TV Reviews|0 Comments

In episode four (Ice Worlds) of the acclaimed television series “Prehistoric Planet”, a troodontid dinosaur is depicted deliberately spreading a forest fire. Is this behaviour plausible? This Apple TV+ series has been praised for depicting prehistoric animals not as movie monsters but as animals capable of complex behaviours as seen in living relatives. The behaviour of many of the dinosaurs in the documentary series reflects behaviour observed and documented in birds.

The clever troodontid from the television series "Prehistoric Planet"
The feathered troodontid, regarded as one of the cleverest non-avian dinosaurs to have evolved, searches for a smouldering ember in order to start a fire elsewhere in the forest. Picture credit: Apple TV Plus.

Lead scientific consultant for the five-part, nature documentary series, vertebrate palaeontologist and author Darren Naish has used his extensive knowledge of the living world to create realistic scenarios illustrating behaviours of long extinct creatures.

For example, the troodontid is depicted carefully selecting a burning ember and carrying it to another, as yet unburnt, part of the forest in order to deliberately start a fire. Fire starting is a behaviour that has been observed in some species of birds.

Troodontid on the prowl (Prehistoric Planet Apple TV Plus)
A troodontid patrols the edge of a forest fire in a northern, Late Cretaceous forest. Small animals fleeing the flames would make an easy target for this hunter, but did it deliberately carry smouldering embers to create further fires as part of its hunting strategy? Picture credit: Apple TV Plus.

Forest Fires Provide an Opportunity for Hunters

Flames and smoke from a forest fire, presumably started by lightning would cause animals to flee and a hunter like a troodontid could patrol the fringes of the fire and ambush any small mammal, lizards or birds that had been panicked and were attempting to avoid the flames.

In the scene which features the troodontid, this clever little dinosaur (troodontids having relatively large brains in proportion to their body size), chooses an ember and deliberately carries it to another part of the forest to in order to spread the fire.

A troodontid carries a smouldering stick.
In the television episode the troodontid is shown carrying an ember from the forest fire. It drops the ember in a part of the forest not yet ablaze in a bid to flush out more potential prey. Picture credit: Apple TV Plus.

Australian Fire Hawks

Indigenous Australians have reported that certain types of bird intentionally spread fires in order to exploit feeding opportunities. People in northern Australia have considered the black kite (Milvus migrans), the whistling kite (Haliastur sphenurus) and the brown falcon (Falco berigora) to be “fire hawks” picking up smouldering debris moving it some distance and then dropping it in a bid to spread the conflagration. Some of the observations and anecdotes were reported in a scientific paper published in the “Journal of Ethnobiology”.

The paper attempted to document evidence supporting the theory that many birds of prey used fires to help them find food, making easy meals out of insects and other small animals attempting to avoid the blaze.

A successful hunt for a troodontid
A successful hunt. The intelligent and resourceful troodontid claims its prize. Picture credit: Apple TV Plus.

Co-author of the scientific paper, which was published in 2017, Mark Bonta (Pennsylvania State University), commented:

“We’re not discovering anything. Most of the data that we’ve worked with is collaborative with Aboriginal peoples. They’ve known this for probably 40,000 years or more.”

Other Scientists are Sceptical

Some experts have expressed scepticism, whether these birds were intentionally spreading fires or were seen to pick up sticks as a consequence of darting down to capture prey but missing their intended target.

Anthony Molyneux of the Alice Springs Desert Park commented:

“If [hawks] have missed the prey and perhaps grabbed a stick, they will drop that stick or rock. If the stick is smouldering or on fire, then it will start another fire.”

In a 2016 interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Bob Gosford, an Australian indigenous-rights lawyer and ornithologist explained that these raptors thrive in areas where wildfires are common.

In the interview he stated:

“It’s a feeding frenzy, because out of these grasslands come small birds, lizards, insects, everything fleeing the front of the fire.”

There have been many first-hand accounts of hawks and other birds of prey picking up burning sticks in their claws and dropping them in a fresh area of dry grass several hundred metres away to start another fire.

No one can ever know whether troodontids or other theropod dinosaurs indulged in this fire-spreading behaviour, but research is on-going to determine whether their close relatives (birds) deliberately spread fires.

It certainly made an intriguing and thought-provoking segment in the documentary series.

The scientific paper: “Intentional Fire-Spreading by “Firehawk” Raptors in Northern Australia” by Mark Bonta, Robert Gosford, Dick Eussen, Nathan Ferguson, Erana Loveless, Maxwell Witwer published in the Journal of Ethnobiology.

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