All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
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News stories and articles that do not necessarily feature extinct animals.

28 12, 2019

Everything Dinosaur’s Top Ten Blog Posts of 2019 (Part 2)

By | December 28th, 2019|Adobe CS5, Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur’s Top Ten Blog Posts of 2019 (Part 2)

Today, we conclude our review of the top ten blog posts written by Everything Dinosaur team members in 2019.  We have produced a blog post for every day of the year and as a result we have covered a tremendous range of topics from new fossil discoveries, highlighting research, the introduction (and retirement) of prehistoric animal replicas, book reviews, artwork created by academic illustrators and scientific discoveries.

Here is our countdown of the top five.

5). Ngwevu intloko – New Dinosaur “Hiding in Plain Sight”

Over the summer, Everything Dinosaur published a wide range of articles.  A new bizarre, shovel-mouthed duck-billed dinosaur (Aquilarhinus), was reported and news of a fast-running Triassic theropod from Switzerland (Notatesseraptor) broke.  We had strange prehistoric parrots, an analysis of the cranial capacity of “parrot lizard” Psittacosaurus and herbivorous crocodylomorphs.  However, number five on our list concerns the discovery of a new type of Triassic herbivorous dinosaur that was found in a museum cabinet.

Fossils once thought to represent an unusual specimen of Massosopondylus (M. carinatus) in the collection of the University of Witwatersrand (South Africa), were assigned to their own genus. Student Kimberley Chapelle and colleagues identified a total of twenty-two characteristics that supported the establishment of a brand new dinosaur genus.  The new dinosaur was named Ngwevu intloko, this member of the Sauropodomorpha had been hiding in plain sight within the vertebrate fossil collection of the University for more than three decades.

Views of the Skull of Ngwevu intloko

Views of the skull of N. intloko.

Views of the skull of Ngwevu intloko.

Picture Credit: Kimberley Chapelle/University of Witwatersrand

4). Keresdrakon vilsoni – Toothless Pterosaur from an Ancient Desert Ecosystem

September and thirty days of blog posts covering stiff T. rex skulls and subsequently how the skull of T. rex may have helped it to keep cool, dinosaur model deliveries to hotels, the most complete dinosaur fossil from Japan (Kamuysaurus japonicus) and the Asian origins of Saurornitholestes, but our number four features a newly described species of pterosaur from Brazil.

Researchers, writing in the academic journal “Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências”, identified a new species of edentulous flying reptile that co-existed with the pterosaur Caiuajara and may have fed on its young.  Described as part of a non-tapejarid lineage of pterosaurs outside the Tapejaromorpha, Keresdrakon provides a new perspective on the paleoecology of a Cretaceous desert environment.

Keresdrakon Life Reconstruction It Feeds on the Carcase of a Contemporary Dinosaur (Vespersaurus) whilst a Second Keresdrakon is Mobbed by Juvenile Caiuajara

Keresdrakon life reconstruction.

Keresdrakon life reconstruction, feeding on the carcase of a Vespersaurus.

Picture Credit: Maurilio Oliveira

An honourable mention to Cryodraken boreas the first pterosaur to be described which is unique to Canada.

3). A Potential Terrestrial Tetrapod that May Not Have Gone onto Land

In October, Everything Dinosaur team members covered the amazing TetZooCon event in London, the naming of a new, basal carcharodontosaurian theropod from Thailand (Siamraptor suwati) and the reclassification of crocodiles in New Guinea.  A team of researchers, writing in “Nature” put forward an intriguing new hypothesis that some of the first vertebrates that were capable of terrestrial locomotion may have never left the water.  Parmastega aelidae was a sharp-eyed predator that may have ambushed invertebrates that ventured too close to the sea.

With eyes positioned towards the top of their heads, Parmastega was capable of observing life on land and potential prey without leaving the water.

Life in a Late Devonian Coastal Lagoon (Sosnogorsk, Russia)

Parmastega aelidae life reconstruction.

Sosnogorsk lagoon with Parmastega aelidae hunting behaviour.

Picture Credit: Mikhail Shekhanov for the Ukhta Local Museum

2).  Unusual Styracosaurus Skull Might Change the Way New Dinosaurs are Identified

The first fossil evidence of feathered polar dinosaurs, plans to map extra-terrestrial space objects in a bid to prevent Earth impact events, limited edition dinosaur models, a new predatory dinosaur from Brazil – Gnathovorax cabreirai, all featured in October.  A fossil ape from the Miocene of Germany, Poland’s first pliosaur, Rebor Komodo dragons, a new megaraptorid from “Down Under” and the discovery of a Styracosaurus skull that might just turn palaeontology on its head were also discussed.  “Hannah” an asymmetrical Styracosaurus skull named after the pet dog of palaeontologist Scott Persons has cranial imperfections that could alter the way that scientists identify new species of dinosaur.  Whoops, looks like there may have to be another revision of the Centrosaurinae.

Palaeontologist Scott Persons Poses with the Two “Hannahs” in His Life “Hannah” the pet dog and “Hannah” the Styracosaurus

Scott Persons with dog and "Hannah" the Styracosaurus.

Scott Persons with “Hannah” the Styracosaurus and his dog.

Picture Credit: Scott Persons/University of Alberta

1). Asfaltovenator vialidadi – A New Basal Allosauroid from Argentina

Our blog articles this month have covered such varied topics as galloping crocodilians, 7,000 Facebook “likes”, the announcement of new for 2020 Papo prehistoric animal figures, dinosaur teeth replacement, how to distinguish teenage tyrannosaurs and Mimodactylus libanensis, a new toothy pterosaur from the Late Cretaceous of Lebanon.

However, since we started this top ten countdown with a fossil discovery from North America and despite the focus on asymmetrical dinosaurs, we shall conclude with a dinosaur from the opposite end of the Americas.

Asfaltovenator vialidadi from the Cañadón Asfalto Formation (Chubut Province, Patagonia) roamed South America perhaps as early as 170 million years ago.  Its discovery is important, as most Middle Jurassic theropods are only known from quite fragmentary material and this dinosaur, described as a basal allosauroid, has traits linking it to both the allosauroids and the megalosauroids.  The fossils suggest that the Allosauroidea and the Megalosauroidea evolved from a common ancestor.

A Life Reconstruction of the Newly Described Asfaltovenator vialidadi 

Asfaltovenator illustration.

Asfaltovenator life reconstruction.  The theropod dinosaur shows a mix of anatomical characteristics linking the Allosauroidea and the Megalosauroidea.

Picture Credit: Gabriel Lio/Conicet

Team members at Everything Dinosaur look forward to posting up more blog articles that help to work out taxonomic relationships within the Dinosauria and improve our understanding of ancient life still further in the coming months.

27 12, 2019

Everything Dinosaur’s Top Ten Blog Posts 2019 (Part 1)

By | December 27th, 2019|Adobe CS5, Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur’s Top Ten Blog Posts of 2019 (Part 1)

As this year draws to a close, it is time to reflect on all the work put into writing this web log by Everything Dinosaur team members.  It is also an opportunity to look back and reflect on some of the news stories and articles that we have published over the last twelve months.  Today, we start our look at the top ten articles that we have posted, the countdown from ten to number six.  This list has been compiled based on the total number of comments made, emails received requesting  further information, Facebook “likes” and comments, Pinterest shares and so forth.

So, without any further fuss, here is the first part of our top ten news stories for 2019.

10).  Prehistoric Shark Named After Video Game Character

In January, Everything Dinosaur covered a story about the naming of a new species of Late Cretaceous prehistoric shark.  Strange, unusually shaped shark’s teeth had been found preserved in some of the matrix associated with the famous “Sue” T. rex skeleton.  The tiny teeth reminded the research team of the shape of a spaceship from the 1980’s video game Galaga.  This was the inspiration behind the naming of this new species – Galagadon nordquistae.

Life Reconstruction of Galagadon nordquistae

Galagadon nordquistae life reconstruction.

A life reconstruction of the Late Cretaceous shark Galagadon nordquistae.

Picture Credit: Velizar Simeonovski (Field Museum)

9).  Bajadasaurus pronuspinax Rears its Head

Early February saw the announcement of the discovery of a new, bizarre dicraeosaurid from Neuquén Province, Argentina.  A single, cervical vertebra suggests that Bajadasaurus had a series of forward facing defensive spikes on its neck.  A sauropod that carried its own set of Victorian railings around with it.  Although, the fossil material is fragmentary, CollectA were quick of the mark and have created a stunning replica of this Early Cretaceous giant.  Everything Dinosaur expects to have the CollectA Bajadasaurus replica in stock early in 2020.

A Silhouette Showing a Reconstruction of the Neck Vertebrae of Bajadasaurus and the CollectA Bajadasaurus Dinosaur Model

CollectA Bajadasaurus model and an illustration of the strange cervical vertebrae.

The bizarre cervical vertebrae of Bajadasaurus.  In the silhouette illustration known fossil material is shown in white.

Picture Credit: Gallina et al published in Scientific Reports and Everything Dinosaur

8).  The Jurassic Mile

In March, a blog post was published recording the start of a huge collaboration between a number of European and American museums to explore and excavate an extraordinary, fossil-rich deposit located in the Badlands of Wyoming.  The site has been nicknamed the “Jurassic Mile” and these Morrison Formation deposits have already yielded a treasure trove of dinosaur bones, fossil plants and dinosaur trackways.

Everything Dinosaur will be providing more details of the fossil discoveries in blog articles over the coming twelve months, but the site is so vast that it could be decades before all the fossil material has been collected and studied.

Palaeontologist Phil Manning Sitting Next to a Diplodocid Femur from the “Jurassic Mile”

Professor Phil Manning and the diplodocid femur.

Professor Phil Manning (The University of Manchester) poses next to the diplodocid femur.

Picture Credit: Manchester University

7). New Kid on the Block – Homo luzonensis

The discovery of fragmentary fossil remains of a diminutive hominin on the island of Luzon in the Philippines gave the human family tree a jolt in 2019.  The fossil material, dated to around 67,000 years ago, provides the earliest direct evidence of human inhabitation of the Philippines archipelago, but is Homo luzonensis, with its arboreal adaptations the descendant of a primitive African hominin that somehow migrated to south-eastern Asia or a more advanced hominin, perhaps related to Homo erectus that evolved and changed as it adapted to life on a heavily forested tropical island?

Professor Philip Piper – A Co-author of the Scientific Paper Published in April Holding a Cast of a Toe Bone

A cast of the toe bone of Homo luzonensis.

Professor Piper (Australian National University) holding a cast of a toe bone assigned to H. luzonensis.

Picture Credit: Lannon Harley (Australian National University)

6). A Terrifying Trilobite (Redlichia rex)

In the summer, Everything Dinosaur published an article about the largest trilobite to have been discovered in Australia.  A likely predator of other trilobites, this was a thirty-centimetre-long Cambrian terror. It was appropriately named Redlichia rex and was nicknamed “the king of the trilobites”.  The fossil material comes from an exceptional Lagerstätte known as the Emu Bay Shale on Kangaroo Island, South Australia.  Around fifty different species of trilobite have been identified from this location.  Intriguingly, the predatory and potentially cannibalistic Redlichia rex may also have been hunted, preserved coprolite and the injuries recorded on the exoskeleton of specimens hint at a much larger predator lurking in the shallow sea that once covered this part of Australia.

A Fossil Specimen and the New for 2020 CollectA Redlichia rex Trilobite Model

Redlichia rex fossil and model.

A Redlichia rex trilobite fossil and the new for 2020 CollectA model.

Picture Credit: University of Adelaide/Everything Dinosaur

The naming of a new Cambrian predator inspired the model makers at CollectA to create a replica of Redlichia rex, we expect this figure to make its debut on the Everything Dinosaur website around the middle of next year.  Prior to that event in 2020, we must first complete our chronicle of the top blog posts of 2019, we will conclude this feature tomorrow.

20 12, 2019

Crocodiles at the Gallop!

By | December 20th, 2019|Adobe CS5, Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Crocodiles can Gallop but Alligators Can’t

A study led by Royal Veterinary College staff has identified more species of crocodiles that can move quickly by adopting a galloping gait.  In contrast, the closely related alligator and caiman, cannot manage more than a trot.  Ironically, despite differences in locomotion, crocodiles and alligators can all move at approximately the same speed, which no more than around 11 miles per hour (4.9 metres per second).  The ability to gallop and to use an even more extreme gait called a bound, is likely down to the size and build of the member of the family Crocodylia in question.

The Locomotion Study of Crocodilians Revealed Different Gaits

Crocodile and Alligator comparison.

Crocodile (top) and Alligator (bottom).  Forty-two individuals representing 15 species from the Crocodylia family were involved in the study.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Studying Living Crocodiles Provides Information about Extinct Crocodilians

Members of the Crocodylia employ almost the full range of quadrupedal footfall patterns (gaits) used by mammals.  These forms of movement on land include asymmetrical gaits such as galloping and bounding.  Researchers at the Royal Veterinary College set up video tracking cameras at the St Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park in Florida (USA), in order to plot the movements of different crocodilians.  The St Augustine Alligator Farm houses a large number of different species and lots of different animals at various growth stages, it makes an ideal location at which to study crocodilian locomotion.  The Park has been involved in numerous studies, including one conducted by University of Ohio researchers that looked at ways in which archosaurs may have helped to keep their brains cool.  To read more about this research: T. rex had Air Conditioning.

In total the gaits and velocity of forty-two reptiles from fifteen species were studied.

The researchers found that, as expected, larger animals moved relatively more slowly, with athletic ability decreasing as size and bulk increases.  However, while many popular and scientific accounts previously assumed only a few species of crocodiles could gallop and bound, the scientists discovered that a further five species can in fact do so, including the critically endangered Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis).  This now means at least eight species in total can gallop and bound.

Professor John Hutchinson, (Royal Veterinary College), commented:

“We were really surprised at one major thing: despite the different gaits crocodiles and alligators use, they all can run about as fast.  So why do some crocodiles choose to gallop?  We suspect that bounding and galloping give small crocodiles better acceleration and manoeuvrability, especially useful for escaping from danger.  It seems like alligators and caiman stand their ground rather than run away with an extreme gait.”

John Brueggen, Director of St Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park, added:

“We have been witnessing these behaviours in many of our specimens over the years, but it was wonderful to finally formalise these observations in a scientific study.”

Triassic Origins?

The ancestors of today’s crocodilians tended to be small, much more terrestrial in habit and long-legged. Stem members of the Crocodylomorpha, such as Terrestrisuchus (illustrated below),  needed to be fast runners in order to catch their prey and to avoid being eaten by larger predators.  The researchers suggest that either that asymmetrical gaits are ancestral for Crocodylia and lost in the alligator lineage, or that asymmetrical gaits evolved within Crocodylia at the base of the crocodile branch of the family tree.

Terrestrisuchus – A Genus of Early Crocodylomorph from the Late Triassic

Late Triassic Terrestrisuchus.

Terrestrisuchus – A genus of early crocodylomorph from the Late Triassic.  The gaits and forms of locomotion seen in extant crocodilians could be a throwback to stem crocodylomorphs.

Recently, Everything Dinosaur published an article that examined another piece of research conducted by the scientists at the Royal Veterinary College, the paper focused on the giant caiman Purussaurus (P. mirandai), from the Late Miocene of Venezuela.  This monstrous crocodilian evolved unique anatomical adaptations to help it move around on land.

Read the article about Purussaurus here: Ancient Crocodilian Evolved Unique Specialisations Due to its Size.

The scientific paper: “Divergent evolution of terrestrial locomotor abilities in extant Crocodylia” by John R. Hutchinson, Dean Felkler, Kati Houston, Yu-Mei Chang, John Brueggen, David Kledzik and Kent A. Vliet published in the journal scientific research.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from the Royal Veterinary College in the compilation of this article.

18 11, 2019

Surprise Unboxing – Everything Dinosaur

By | November 18th, 2019|Adobe CS5, Animal News Stories, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Everything Dinosaur videos, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Product Reviews|0 Comments

Surprise Unboxing – Everything Dinosaur

With the advent of the new Rebor GrabNGo range, team members at Everything Dinosaur thought it would be appropriate to send out some Komodo dragon models, the first model to be introduced into this range, to customers so that they could see for themselves the attention to detail and quality of manufacture.

Several unboxing videos and reviews are in the process of being posted up on social media, so today we thought we would feature one such unboxing video from the “Plastic Prehistorica” YouTube channel.

Plastic Prehistorica – Surprise Unboxing Everything Dinosaur

Video Credit: Plastic Prehistorica

The video itself lasts for a little under six and half minutes and it documents the unboxing of the new Rebor 1:6 scale GrabNGo Komodo dragon model.

Commissioning Cardboard

The narrator points out the Everything Dinosaur had to commission special cardboard packaging to accommodate this new figure.  The model measures nearly half a metre in length, so we worked with our packaging suppliers to create a bespoke box, one that was double-walled so that this beautiful varanid could be protected in transit.  After all, we don’t want our customers receiving a Komodo dragon that has been damaged in the post.  We do all we can to ensure that our customers receive parcels that are well packed and that the figures inside have plenty of protection.

As part of our environmental policy, all the cardboard boxes that we commission are made from 60-70% recycled material.  Only the outer face of our cardboard boxes is made from new wood pulp, this in turn is sourced from sustainable managed forests.  In the unboxing video, the narrator highlights the point that producing models of endangered animals helps to raise awareness about their plight.  Everything Dinosaur has ensured that the current conservation status of the Komodo dragon has been highlighted in the company’s promotional materials.  On the subject of materials, Everything Dinosaur is currently working towards 100% recycling of all waste paper and cardboard at the company.

The Komodo Dragon Model (1:6 Scale Replica)

Unboxing the Rebor Komodo dragon model.

A still from the video showing a close-up view of the Komodo dragon model.  The hand provides a scale.

Picture Credit: Plastic Prehistorica

A Megalania Model

In this informative video, the narrator comments that this figure could also represent Megalania, a giant, extinct varanid known from the Pleistocene of southern Australia.  The actual size of Megalania is disputed, however, size estimates based on fossilised vertebrae suggest a length of between five and seven metres for this lizard.  If this is the case, then the Rebor replica would represent a 1:12 scale model or thereabouts of Megalania.

A Close-up View Highlighting the Detailing on the Komodo Dragon Figure

Rebor GrabNGo 1:6 scale replica.

Holding the new Rebor GrabNGo Komodo dragon replica, the hand provides a scale.

Picture Credit: Plastic Prehistorica

The Plastic Prehistorica YouTube channel is full of informative and helpful prehistoric animal and dinosaur model reviews, to visit the channel: Plastic Prehistorica on YouTube.

To view the Rebor 1:6 scale Komodo dragon model and the rest of the figures in the Rebor range: Rebor Models and Replicas.

14 11, 2019

We Have Dragons! Komodo Dragon Model in Stock

By | November 14th, 2019|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Rebor Komodo Dragon Model in Stock

The Rebor GrabNGo Komodo dragon model is now in stock at Everything Dinosaur.  Yes, we have dragons!  Team members have been busy contacting all those customers on our reserve lists who asked us to set aside one (sometimes two), of these amazing replicas for them.  Model collectors have been excited about the Rebor GrabNGo range ever since this exciting development was announced and now they can get their hands on the first of the figures in this new range, a 1:6 scale replica of the largest living lizard.

Behold!  We have Dragons!  The Rebor GrabNGo Komodo Dragon Replica is in Stock at Everything Dinosaur

Rebor Komodo dragon 1:6 scale replica.

Rebor GrabNGo Komodo dragon model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To see the Rebor GrabNGo Komodo dragon and the rest of the Rebor replicas at Everything Dinosaur: Rebor Replicas and Figures.

A Very Realistic Model

The Komodo dragon figure is very realistic.  Team members have taken a number of photographs of this large model outside in various locations, when these images were shown to laypeople as well as herpetologists and other scientists, a few eyebrows were raised.  At first glance it looked like we had a live lizard wandering close to the warehouse!

The Rebor 1:6 Scale GrabNGo Komodo Dragon Model

Rebor GrabNGo Komodo dragon.

The new for 2019 Rebor GrabNGo Komodo dragon replica (1:6 scale model).  This picture provides an idea of the size of the figure, it measures nearly half a metre in length.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“The Komodo dragon model is the first figure in the GrabNGo range from Rebor.  Collectors have the chance to judge for themselves the quality of production and the attention to detail.  This really is a super replica of Varanus komodoensis, or perhaps we should refer to it as “biawak raksasa”, which we believe is one of the names for this lizard used on the Island of Komodo.”

The New Komodo Dragon Model Has Won Praise for its Attention to Detail

Rebor GrabNGo Komodo dragon model.

Rebor Komodo dragon 1:6 scale replica.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The first orders for this exciting new figure will be despatched later today.  Such is the size of this new Rebor model, that Everything Dinosaur has had to invest in bespoke cardboard packaging to accommodate it and to ensure it arrives at our customers safe and sound.  As in line with our environmental policy, these new boxes are constructed from recycled card.  Everything Dinosaur hopes to achieve 100% utilisation of recycled card and paper packaging materials in the very near future.  For the time being, we have been using this new Rebor replica to help raise awareness regarding the plight of the Komodo dragon, an animal which is currently listed as “Vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) database.

Quite an unusual conversation with our packaging suppliers – “hello, we need recycled, double-ply boxes so that we can post out a half-metre-long lizard”!

13 10, 2019

Rebor Komodo Dragon Preparations

By | October 13th, 2019|Adobe CS5, Animal News Stories, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Rebor GrabNGo Komodo Dragon Preparations

Team members at Everything Dinosaur are busy preparing for the arrival of the next new Rebor model, the GrabNGo Komodo dragon figure in 1/6th scale.  This model has created quite a lot of interest from herpetologists – those scientists and academics that specialise in the study of amphibians and reptiles.  We have it on good authority that this new Rebor figure has even been discussed at the prestigious Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP), annual meeting in Brisbane, a sizeable reservation list for this lizard replica has been built up over the last few weeks and Everything Dinosaur staff will be very busy contacting all these customers when the models arrive next month.

Rebor GrabNGo Komodo Dragon Models

Rebor GrabNGO Komodo dragon replicas.

A collection of Rebor GrabNGo Komodo dragon models.  We are not sure about the collective noun for a group of Komodo dragons, we have been informed that the collective noun is a “bank”, but there must be a better term for six of these fantastic figures together.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The 1:6 Scale Komodo Dragon Model

The picture (above), shows production samples ready to be sent out to zookeepers and specialists.  We are not sure what the collective noun for a group of Komodo dragons is called (we have been told it is a “bank of Komodos”), but who knows.  Rebor commented that when all the models were put together it reminded them of Billingsgate fish market, all we know is that the figures look splendid and we are looking forward to receiving our stock in just a few weeks’ time.

One of the models is being used to help us design a new cardboard box for use as packaging.  The model is so long (around 50 cm in length), that we are having to commission a special, double-walled cardboard box to accommodate this model and to provide protection when it is sent out to customers.

The CE Mark is Clearly Shown on the Underside of the Figure

The CE mark on the underside of the Rebor GrabNGo Komodo dragon replica.

Highlighting the CE mark on the underside of the Rebor GrabNGo Komodo dragon model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The production samples will be sent out to various specialists and researchers next week, in the meantime, team members will be working hard to ensure that all is ready in our warehouse for the arrival of the Komodo dragon figures.

To see the current range of Rebor models and figures in stock at Everything Dinosaur: Rebor Models, Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animal Replicas

6 10, 2019

New Species of Crocodile Honours Researcher

By | October 6th, 2019|Animal News Stories, Geology, Main Page, Photos|0 Comments

Crocodylus halli – A New Species of Crocodile is Announced

The crocodile family has undergone yet another revision.  It seems that the Crocodylidae are a more specious family than previously thought.  The New Guinea Crocodile (Crocodylus novaeguineae), is actually two species and not one and the second species has been named Crocodylus halli after Philip Hall, a University of Florida researcher who sadly, passed away before his work on these three-metre-long reptiles could be completed.

A New Crocodile Species has been Discovered – Hall’s Crocodile (Crocodylus halli)

New crocodile species discovered.

A new crocodile species has been discovered.  The picture (above), shows Jen Brueggen, Park social media manager, researchers Caleb McMahan, Christopher Murray and John Brueggen, Park director, with a specimen of Crocodylus halli, that seems rather reluctant to pose for a photograph.

Picture Credit: Southeastern Louisiana University

Crocodile Nesting Behaviour Hinted at Different Species

The late scientist Philip Hall, noticed subtle differences in osteoderm patterns on the backs of crocodiles and in the nesting behaviours of crocodile populations in the north and the south of the island of New Guinea.  He speculated that there could be two species living on New Guinea, but unfortunately, he died before his research could be completed.  Southeastern Louisiana University Assistant Professor of Biology Christopher Murray and his co-author Caleb McMahan (Field Museum, Chicago), were inspired to continue this research and they have published their findings in the academic journal “Copeia”, the journal of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists.

A chain of high hills and mountains known as the Central Highlands divides the island of New Guinea.  It is thought this geological feature was formed in the last 8 million years or so.  Geographically isolated crocodile populations, each living on different drainage basins that came about as a result of the uplift, have been identified as different species.

The Island of New Guinea 

Distribution of crocodile populations on New Guinea.

The Central Highlands of New Guinea permits two distinct drainage basins to form. This geographical barrier has led to the evolution of two distinct species of crocodile.

Picture Credit: Copeia/Murray and McMahan with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The illustration of the island of New Guinea (above), shows the location of the Central Highlands and the red dots south of the mountain chain denote sampling areas for C. halli in the study, whilst the brown dots north of the chain indicate sampling sites for C. novaeguineae.

Careful analysis of museum specimens along with a study of the crocodiles kept in captivity at the St Augustine Alligator Zoological Park (Florida), confirmed the hypothesis.  Subtle differences in the shape of bones and the observed behaviour differences indicates the presence of two distinct species on the island.  This has been confirmed by molecular analysis.

Difference in the Shape of the Skull and Jaws

Comparing Crocodile Skulls from Papua New Guinea.

Dorsal view of skulls from  New Guinea crocodiles.  Crocodylus novaeguineae (left) with its extended maxilla and proportionately reduced postcranial elements compared with two examples of Crocodylus halli (middle and right).  In contrast, the C. halli skulls show much shorter maxillae and proportionately enlarged postcranial elements.

Picture Credit: Copeia/Murray and McMahan

The Importance of Museum Specimens

The researchers comment that this new insight into the Crocodylidae would not have been possible without access to the collections from numerous museums.  The museums involved in this research included The Field Museum (Chicago), the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, the American Museum of Natural History (New York), Queensland Museum, Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science and the Florida Museum of Natural History.  The careful curation and collection of a large number of specimens permitted the scientists to build up a substantial database on crocodilian skull morphology that allowed them to tease out the subtle differences between the two species.

Crocodylus halli – Hall’s Crocodile

Newly described crocodile species from New Guinea Crocodylus halli.

One of the residents at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park – Crocodylus halli.

Picture Credit: Copeia/Murray and McMahan

Implications for Crocodile Conservation

Identifying a separate species has important implications for the conservation of both populations of crocodile.

Commenting on the significance of this discovery, Caleb McMahan stated:

“Now that we know the evolutionary history of these species, we need to re-inform the conservation status of them given that the distribution has changed and conservation threats are different in different areas.”

5 07, 2019

Repeated Evolution of Herbivorous Crocodyliforms

By | July 5th, 2019|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Fossil Teeth Suggests Lots of Different Types of Mesozoic Crocodiles

Researchers from the University of Utah have studied the teeth of extinct crocodyliforms and concluded that crocodiles occupied a large range of different ecological niches during the Age of Dinosaurs.  Furthermore, these geographically widespread and speciose reptiles adapted to a variety of diets and that herbivorous crocodyliforms evolved at least three times independently.  This suggests that plant-eating was a beneficial dietary strategy and not a unique occurrence.  Many of these crocodyliforms lived alongside omnivorous or herbivorous synapsids, illustrating an ecological partition that is not found today.

The Diets of Extinct Crocodyliforms were Diverse with Many Examples of Herbivory Identified

Extinct crocodyliforms had different shaped teeth.

Life reconstructions of extinct crocodyliforms. Differences in tooth shape are related to differences in diets.

Picture Credit: Jorge Gonzalez

Writing in the academic paper “Current Biology”, the researchers Keegan Melstrom and Randall Irmis at the Natural History Museum of Utah at the University of Utah, discovered that multiple ancient groups of crocodyliforms (the group including living and extinct relatives of crocodiles and alligators), were not all carnivorous.  Research has been conducted before on the various potential dietary niches of ancient crocodiles, but this new study proposes that vegetarianism arose at least three times within this group.

Commenting on the significance of this new study, doctoral student Keegan Melstrom stated:

“The most interesting thing we discovered was how frequently it seems extinct crocodyliforms ate plants.  Our study indicates that complexly shaped teeth, which we infer to indicate herbivory, appear in the extinct relatives of crocodiles at least three times and maybe as many as six.”

Teeth Variation within Crocodyliforms (Extinct and Extant)

Heterodonty in Crocodyliforms.

False colour 3-D images showing the range in shape of crocodyliform teeth.  Carnivores (left), such as the living Caiman, have simple teeth, whereas herbivores (right) have much more complex teeth.

Picture Credit: Keegan Melstrom (The Natural History Museum of Utah)

The Tip of the Crocodyliform Iceberg

The twenty plus species of crocodylians alive today possess a similar general body shape and ecology.  They are mainly generalist hypercarnivores and semi-aquatic, confined to lower latitudes.  Although, consuming fruit and vegetable matter has been observed in several extant species.  In 2013, Everything Dinosaur wrote an article about fruit consumption (frugivory), in crocodiles.

To read the article: New Study Suggests a Number of Different Types of Crocodylian Consume Fruit.

The crocodiles alive today, all have similar, simple conical teeth but the fossil record shows that extinct crocodyliforms were much more diverse.  Today’s crocodiles are just the remnants from a once much richer and more specious group of reptiles, consider the living crocodylians as the “tip of the crocodyliform iceberg”.

Living Crocodiles are Generalist Ambush Predators (Hypercarnivores)

Saltwater crocodile (Estuarine crocodile).

A Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), the largest living reptile which is an apex predator (hypercarnivore).

The researchers identified different teeth morphologies (heterodonty) and this suggests that in the past crocodile-like creatures had a variety of diets.

Melstrom added:

“Carnivores possess simple teeth whereas herbivores have much more complex teeth.  Omnivores, organisms that eat both plant and animal material, fall somewhere in between.  Part of my earlier research showed that this pattern holds in living reptiles that have teeth, such as crocodylians and lizards.  So, these results told us that the basic pattern between diet and teeth is found in both mammals and reptiles, despite very different tooth shapes, and is applicable to extinct reptiles.”

Keegan Melstrom (The Natural History Museum of Utah) with Some of the Casts Used in the Study

Examing three-dimensional prints of fossil jaws.

Keegan Melstrom, the study’s lead author, with the fossil jaw of Brachychampsa and 3-D prints of other extinct crocodyliforms (blue).

Picture Credit: The Natural History Museum of Utah

Comparing Tooth Complexity – Extinct versus Extant

To deduce what long dead crocodyliforms most likely consumed, Melstrom with the assistance of his graduate advisor ( Randall B. Irmis), compared the tooth complexity of extinct crocodyliforms to those of living animals using a research methodology originally designed to study mammalian heterodonty.  In total, 146 teeth from 16 different species of extinct crocodyliforms were incorporated into the study.

Using a combination of quantitative dental measurements and an assessment morphological features, the scientists reconstructed the diets of those extinct animals.  The results indicate that these animals had a wider range of dental complexities and presumed dietary ecologies than had been appreciated previously.  Quantitative analyses also revealed that some species with complex dentition were likely to be herbivorous.

The researchers conclude that plant-eating crocodyliforms appeared early in the group, perhaps shortly after the end-Triassic mass extinction event and herbivory persisted until the end of the Age of Dinosaurs.  The analysis suggests that herbivory arose independently a minimum of three times, and possibly six times, in Mesozoic crocodyliforms.

Melstrom stated:

“Our work demonstrates that extinct crocodyliforms had an incredibly varied diet.  Some were similar to living crocodylians and were primarily carnivorous, others were omnivores and still others likely specialised in eating plants.  The herbivores lived on different continents at different times, some alongside mammals and mammal relatives, and others did not.  This suggests that herbivorous crocodyliforms were successful in a variety of environments!”

As many of these herbivorous crocodyliforms co-existed with plant-eating synapsids including Mammaliaformes, some of which were the ancestors of today’s mammals, this was an ecological partition that is no longer found on our planet.

The scientific paper: “Repeated Evolution of Herbivorous Crocodyliforms during the Age of Dinosaurs” by Keegan M. Melstrom and Randall B. Irmis published in Current Biology.

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

27 06, 2019

Noise Pollution Hampers Living Theropods

By | June 27th, 2019|Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Bird Communication Hampered by Noise Pollution

Extant theropods (birds) are having a rough time communicating with each other as man-made noise pollution is getting in the way.  That is the conclusion from new research from Queen’s University (Belfast).  Both urban and rural bird populations could decline as noise pollution prevents effective communication during the mating season.

New Study Suggests Bird Song Badly Affected by Noise Pollution

A robin in full voice.

New study looks at the impact of noise pollution on bird song and behaviour.

Picture Credit: Queen’s University (Belfast)

In the spring, birds use song to show aggressiveness and to attain territory for nesting and breeding, but this is becoming much harder for them due to noisy conditions created by our own species.  Dr Gareth Arnott, (Senior Lecturer and Researcher from the Institute for Global Food Security), at Queen’s University, studied bird song in detail and found that background noise can mask crucial information.  The scientific paper has been published this week in the academic journal “Biology Letters”.

Commenting on the significance of his study for British ornithology, Dr Arnott stated:

“Sound is a great form of bird communication because it can carry beyond where birds can see.  Singing is one of the most common ways birds advertise that a territory belongs to them, and birds will perch near the edge of their territory to broadcast their claim to the maximum range.  A strong, vibrant song will help defend a territory from intruders and attract a mate.”

The Impact of Noise Pollution

However, Dr Arnott and his colleagues have identified that man-made noise is disrupting birds from being able to hear and understand each other clearly.  In effect, thanks to us, birds are losing the ability to communicate orally with each other, this could have dire consequences in terms of breeding success and subsequent population numbers.

Dr Arnott added:

“We found that bird song structure can communicate aggressive intent, enabling birds to assess their opponent, but human-made noise can disrupt this crucial information passed between them by masking the complexity of their songs used for acquiring resources, such as territory and space for nesting.  As a result, the birds receive incomplete information on their opponent’s intent and do not appropriately adjust their response.”

Testing the Responses of the Humble Garden Robin

To test how noise pollution might be disrupting avian communication, the researchers used recordings of robins (Erithacus rubecula) to stimulate responses from birds that held territory.  Both simple and more complex types of bird song were tested with and without the addition of man-made noise.  The behaviour and responses of the subject birds were then assessed.

The scientists discovered that song complexity was used as a signal of aggressive intent, with birds demonstrating higher aggressive intent towards complex versus simple song, reflecting the level of threat perceived by the signal.  However, importantly, this assessment process was disrupted by the presence of noise pollution.  The team’s findings raise concerns about the ability of birds to cope with a modern, ever more complex human society.

The study also demonstrated that bird song is crucial to the survival and reproduction of birds and there are important implications to consider around noise pollution and the protection of wildlife.  This research may have implications regarding how other extinct types of theropod may have behaved including maniraptoran dinosaurs.

Did Extinct Theropods Vocalise to Proclaim Territories and to Attract a Mate?

Dinosaur dawn chorus.

Vocalisation in theropod dinosaurs (Maniraptora).

Picture Credit: Nicole Fuller/Sayo Art for University of Texas at Austin

Dr Arnott concluded:

“The study is evidence that human-made noise pollution impacts animal habitats and directly influences their ability to communicate properly, which may have implications for survival and population numbers for birds.”

The research team believe that further investigation is required in order to help to find the best way to protect avian biodiversity.

The scientific paper: “Signal complexity communicates aggressive intent during contests, but the process is disrupted by noise” by Kyriacos Kareklas, James Wilson, Hansjoerg P. Kunc and Gareth Arnott published in Biology Letters.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from Queen’s University Belfast in the preparation of this article.

24 03, 2019

Alligator Study Provides Insight into Dinosaur Hearing

By | March 24th, 2019|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Alligator Hearing Study Provides Insight into Dinosaur Hearing

New research published in the “Journal of Neuroscience” identifies that living Archosaurs – birds and crocodiles make a mental map of sounds in the same way.  This suggests that this auditory strategy existed in their common ancestor which has implications for dinosaur research.

Animal brains determine where a sound is coming from, by analysing the minute difference in time it takes audio waves to reach each ear—a cue known as interaural time difference.  What happens to the cue once the signals get to the brain depends on what kind of animal is doing the hearing.

An American Alligator – New Research Suggests that Birds and Crocodilians Hear in the Same Way

An American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis).

A photograph of an American alligator.

Picture Credit: Ruth Elsey Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Scientists have known that birds are exceptionally good at creating neural maps to chart the location of sounds, and that the strategy differs in mammals.  Little was known, however, about how alligators process interaural time difference.

A new study of American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis), found that the reptiles form neural maps of sound in the same way birds do.  The research by Catherine Carr, a Distinguished University Professor of Biology at the University of Maryland and her colleague Lutz Kettler from the Technische Universität München, was published this week in the “Journal of Neuroscience”.

Most research into how animals analyse interaural time difference has focused on physical features such as skull size and shape, but Carr and Kettler believed it was important to look at evolutionary relationships.

Birds have very small head sizes compared with alligators, but the two groups share a common ancestor, as both Aves (birds) and crocodilians are members of the Archosauria.   Archosaurs began to emerge around 246 million years ago and split into two lineages; one that led to alligators and one that led to dinosaurs (and birds).  Although most dinosaurs died out during the mass extinction event 66 million years ago, some types of dinosaur survived and we see their descendants all around us today, these are the modern birds.

Carr and Kettler’s findings indicate that the hearing strategy birds and alligators share may have less to do with head size and more to do with common ancestry.

Carr commented:

“Our research strongly suggests that this particular hearing strategy first evolved in their common ancestor.  The other option, that they independently evolved the same complex strategy, seems very unlikely.”

Sedated American Alligators were Fitted with Earphones

An American alligator.

A photograph of an American alligator.

Picture Credit:  Ruth Elsey Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

To study how alligators identify where sound comes from, the researchers anesthetised forty American Alligators and fitted them with earphones.  They played tones for the sleepy reptiles and measured the response of a structure in their brain stems called the nucleus laminaris.  This structure is the seat of auditory signal processing.  Their results showed that alligators create neural maps very similar to those previously measured in barn owls and chickens.  The same maps have not been recorded in the equivalent structure in mammal brains.

The Distinguished Professor added:

“We know so little about dinosaurs.  Comparative studies such as this one, which identify common traits extending back through evolutionary time add to our understanding of their biology.”

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

The scientific paper: “Neural Maps of Interaural Time Difference in the American Alligator: A Stable Feature in Modern Archosaurs” by Lutz Kettler and Catherine Carr and published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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