Gold miners working at Eureka Creek in the Klondike Region of Yukon Province in Canada have discovered the frozen remains of a baby woolly mammoth. The calf, which is female is estimated to have lived around 30,000 years ago and it represents the best-preserved woolly mammoth specimen ever found in North America.
“Big Baby Animal”
The discovery was made on June 21st, the Northern Hemisphere solstice and also appropriately, Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day. The Klondike gold fields lie within the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin Traditional Territory. Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin elders have named the mammoth calf Nun cho ga, meaning “big baby animal” in the indigenous people’s (Hän) language.
Ice Age animal remains are quite commonly found in the Yukon area as they erode out of thawing permafrost, however, mummified remains complete with skin and hair are exceptionally rare.
Minister for Tourism and Culture, Ranj Pillai of the Yukon Territory Administration commented:
“The Yukon has always been an internationally renowned leader for ice age and Beringia research. We are thrilled about this significant discovery of a mummified woolly mammoth calf: Nun cho ga. Without strong partnerships between placer miners, Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin, and the Yukon government, discoveries like this could not happen.”
Vertebrate palaeontologist Dr Grant Zazula added:
“As an ice age palaeontologist, it has been one of my lifelong dreams to come face to face with a real woolly mammoth. That dream came true today. Nun cho ga is beautiful and one of the most incredible mummified ice age animals ever discovered in the world. I am excited to get to know her more.”
Comparisons with Lyuba
The discovery of the superbly preserved corpse will provide scientists with an opportunity to compare Nun cho ga with Lyuba, a mammoth calf discovered in Siberia back in 2007. Lyuba lived a few thousand years earlier than the Yukon mammoth (circa 41,800 years), researchers will have the opportunity to compare the genetic health of the mammoth population and plot any changes between the older Lyuba and Nun cho ga which lived, around 12,000 years later.
The discovery of Nun cho ga is not the first woolly mammoth calf found in North America. In 1948, a partial mammoth calf, nicknamed Effie, was found at a gold mine in Alaska.
“Jurassic World Dominion” was released in UK cinemas on June 10th (2022), Everything Dinosaur team members were able to take time away from their busy schedule to watch the film yesterday (June 22nd). The film reunites many of the characters from the original “Jurassic Park” movie and there are several new prehistoric animals, recreated by a combination of animatronics and computer-generated images (CGI).
The film’s release had been delayed due to the global pandemic, but dinosaur aficionados and fans of the earlier movies have had the chance to see, what has been billed as the final instalment of the franchise.
Pyroraptor, Giganotosaurus, Quetzalcoatlus and Therizinosaurus
Lots of new prehistoric animals are featured, dinosaurs such as Giganotosaurus, Dreadnoughtus, Therizinosaurus, Atrociraptor and Pyroraptor. Some of these dinosaurs have been given feathers, perhaps a nod to criticisms of the integuments of the “raptors” seen in early incarnations of the franchise.
Without giving away too many spoilers, the giant pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus and the sail-finned synapsid Dimetrodon also appear.
The film has garnered mix reviews from the critics, but movie-goes have been more generous with their praise. The film is currently showing a rating of 77% on the Rotten Tomatoes website. “Jurassic World Dominion” has certainly done very well at the box office. Earlier this week, global ticket sales passed the $600 million USD mark.
Paying Tribute to Earlier Films
“Jurassic World Dominion” might be a bit of chimera of a movie (reminiscent of the prehistoric animals with their genomes sourced from a variety of creatures). There are scenes that parody James Bond, Indiana Jones and “Taken” and whilst regarded by many as a “light, enjoyable romp”, fans of the franchise will have noted the numerous tributes paid to earlier films in this series.
Our particular favourite was when the character Ellie Sattler, played by Laura Dern, takes off her sunglasses in astonishment at what she is seeing, reflecting a similar scene from “Jurassic Park” that marks the first time the scientists see a dinosaur.
Is the Film Franchise Extinct?
With a running time of 2 hours and 27 minutes, this is the longest film in the “Jurassic Park/Jurassic World” franchise. Despite being billed as the final instalment and supposed to bring closure, team members at Everything Dinosaur suspect that, with it having made four times its estimated budget in ticket sales thus far, the commercial appeal of dinosaurs might result in a resurrection.
Just like the avian dinosaurs, this film franchise might not be extinct…
Palaeontologists in New Zealand have started a consultation process in a bid to appoint a fossil emblem for New Zealand. Everything Dinosaur has come across media reports that palaeontologists at the University of Otago (South Island, New Zealand), are beginning a project to identify a fossil emblem for the country. Once a shortlist of candidate fossils has been compiled, the winner will be decided by a public vote.
Many Australian states, have fossil emblems, for example, back in January (2022), team members at Everything Dinosaur covered the announcement that the giant amphibian Koolasuchus (K. cleelandi) had been appointed the fossil emblem of Victoria. Now it seems that New Zealand wants to have a fossil emblem too.
Penguins, Plesiosaurs, Trilobites, Dolphins and Giant Prehistoric Birds
New Zealand might not be the first country one thinks about when considering the fossil record. However, several important and unique fossil discoveries have been made on Aotearoa (the Māori name for the country).
The campaign is being led by Dr Nic Rawlence (University of Otago palaeogenetics laboratory), he has suggested some of the country’s giant penguins (Kairuku waewaeroa, Kumimanu biceae, Crossvallia waiparensis), or perhaps one of the early cetaceans or an example of a primitive pinniped (Eomonachus belegaerensis), fossils of which come from the western side of North Island (Taranaki area).
In 2002, the Late Cretaceous plesiosaur Kaiwhekea katiki was formally named and described. The seven-metre-long specimen was excavated from a single, large concretion found at Shag Point, Otago (Katiki Formation). It is one of the most complete plesiosaur specimens known from the Southern Hemisphere.
There are also more recent inhabitants of New Zealand to consider, such as the giant South Island Moa Dinornis robustus, as well as many important invertebrate fossils that date from the Palaeozoic but, our personal choice would be the enormous Haast’s eagle (Hieraaetus moorei), the largest eagle known to science. This huge predator occupied the niche filled by mammalian carnivores in other ecosystems. With a body weight in excess of 15 kilograms and a wingspan of around 3 metres, Haast’s eagle was a formidable and terrifying predator.
Only Recently Extinct
Unlike the trilobites, plesiosaurs, penguins and ancient marine mammals, Haast’s eagle died out relatively recently, not long after the first Māori settlers came to New Zealand.
It has not been decided yet whether a single fossil specimen should become the national emblem, or whether there would be two emblems designated, one for South Island and one for North Island.
A shortlist is due to be announced in the near future and then a public vote will decide on the winner(s).
If New Zealand appoints a fossil emblem, then perhaps the UK or the countries that make up the United Kingdom could consider having fossil emblems too.
A cross-sectional analysis of a pterosaur wing bone has helped palaeontologists to work out the ages and growth stages of flying reptiles from the Early Cretaceous Jiufotang Formation of China. This research suggests that the Jehol tapejarid biota represents a migratory area for these pterosaurs.
Writing in the academic journal “Scientific Reports”, researchers from Shandong University of Science and Technology (China) in collaboration with the University of Birmingham, took a tiny cross section of bone from the left forelimb of a pterosaur specimen assigned to the genus Sinopterus. Detailed analysis of the bone structure revealed that the fossil came from an immature individual at a late juvenile stage prior to reaching sexual maturity. This is the first time that histological data about the growth stages of Jehol tapejarids has been undertaken and based on this study, the largest skeletally immature tapejarid individuals recorded from the Jiufotang Formation might have reached sexual maturity.
At Least a Year Old
Microscopic analysis of the internal structure of the bone revealed the presence of one line of arrested growth (LAG) suggesting that this specimen was over a year old when it died. Palaeontologists have proposed that pterosaurs had a remarkably fast growth rate in their first three years and the postulated size of the pterosaur based on SDUST-V1014 fits with this hypothesis.
The Jehol biota relating to the Pterosauria is dominated by immature individuals and skeletally mature adults are exceptionally rare. The researchers postulate that this ecosystem was not home to the adults, that they may have lived apart from juveniles and immature animals. Perhaps this part of northern China was on a migratory route for these types of flying reptiles.
Improving Our Knowledge of Tapejarid Anatomy
Although crushed, the forelimb bones reveal helpful morphological information clarifying the anatomy of Jehol tapejarids and the researchers suggest that this improved understanding could lead to a revision of the taxa associated with the Jiufotang Formation.
In addition, this histological analysis permits comparison with other pterosaur growth rates and the researchers conclude that the size gap between sexual and skeletal maturity in tapejarids was very similar to that observed in the not very closely related Pteranodon genus (Ornithocheiroidea).
The scientific paper: “A new wing skeleton of the Jehol tapejarid Sinopterus and its implications for ontogeny and paleoecology of the Tapejaridae” by Chang-Fu Zhou, Dongxiang Yu, Ziheng Zhu and Brian Andres published in scientific reports.
The discovery of a titanosaurid egg, preserved inside another titanosaur egg (ovum-in-ovo) adds weight to the theory that dinosaurs had a reproduction strategy very similar to birds. This discovery opens up the possibility that dinosaurs laid their eggs sequentially like birds, whereas other reptiles tend to lay eggs simultaneously as a clutch.
The researchers from the University of Delhi in collaboration with a colleague from the Higher Secondary School (Dhar District, Madhya Pradesh), documented the contents of a titanosaur nest discovered in Upper Cretaceous deposits (Maastrichtian stage) from the Lameta Formation exposed in the lower Narmada valley. The Lameta Formation is famous for its titanosaur nest fossils, hundreds of individual nests have been recorded. The titanosaur nest which records a rare example of an abnormal egg is known as P7, it is one of fifty-two titanosaur nests that have been mapped around the village of Padlya.
Titanosaur Nest P7
The titanosaur nest P7 preserves eleven large, round eggs which are placed in a circular arrangement entombed within a block of sandy limestone. Not all the eggs are entire, some of the eggshell is missing. They could represent broken shells after the eggs hatched or the missing shell elements may have been eroded away.
One egg (egg C) records unusual pathology. Two partially broken, circular eggshell outlines are preserved, with a prominent crescent-shaped gap between the two eggshells present in the top right corner (see line drawing). Egg C has been interpreted as an example of an abnormal egg, one egg containing another egg within it. This type of egg pathology is termed ovum-in-ovo and this is the first time this has been reported in a dinosaur. Ovum-in-ovo eggs are found in birds but no such egg pathology has been reported in a reptile (living or extinct). This discovery suggests that titanosaurids had a reproductive system similar to that of birds.
Different Types of Egg Pathology
Abnormal egg formation has been documented in many types of amniote (undergoing foetal or embryonic development within a protective membrane, the amnion), such as turtles, dinosaurs and birds. Two main examples of egg pathology are known. There is a condition where one egg forms within another egg (ovum-in-ovo) and a second condition in which multi-shelled eggs are formed, essentially the formation of a second eggshell layer beside the primary eggshell.
If Egg C represents an example of ovum-in-ovo egg laying in a dinosaur, then this egg deformity will only have been recorded in the Dinosauria and birds, suggesting similar reproductive biology. In birds, when an egg is fully formed it is pushed into the cloaca to be laid one-by-one. Eggs are not laid as clutch, but egg laying can take place sequentially over several days. In birds such as hens (Galliformes), egg laying can be suspended if conditions are unfavourable. However, crocodiles and turtles tend to lay all their eggs at the same time, as a single clutch. Both turtles and crocodiles have two oviducts, but crocodiles are more derived than turtles possessing a segmented oviduct and share this derived trait with the birds.
The structure of the oviduct dictates the sort of egg abnormalities that can occur. The ovum-in-ovo pathology as observed in the titanosaur eggs has led the researchers to hypothesise that titanosaurs possessed a segmented oviduct similar to birds and crocodiles, but unlike crocodilians they were capable of laying eggs sequentially.
Building up a Picture of Titanosaurid Reproductive Strategy
Turtles, crocodiles, dinosaurs and birds all share the common trait of having multi-shelled eggs. Both turtles and crocodiles have two oviducts, but crocodiles are more derived than turtles in that they possess a segmented oviduct, a characteristic that they share with birds.
This new study suggests that at least one type of dinosaur (titanosaurids) had an oviduct anatomy and biology similar to modern birds. Titanosaurs may have been capable of laying eggs sequentially, just like birds.
Palaeontologists are building up a detailed picture of titanosaur reproductive behaviour. These sauropods had favoured nesting sites, which they returned to, they nested in colonies, excavated nests and covered the nests to incubate the eggs and they may have laid their eggs not as a single clutch but sequentially over several days.
The scientific report: “First ovum-in-ovo pathological titanosaurid egg throws light on the reproductive biology of sauropod dinosaurs” by Harsha Dhiman, Vishal Verma & Guntupalli V. R. Prasad published in Scientific Reports.
Last week, the discovery of the fossilised bones of a huge spinosaurid from the Isle of Wight was reported*. This giant theropod, with an estimated length of around ten metres, could be the biggest meat-eating dinosaur described from European fossils, but the largest theropod known to science is thought to be Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, which was first reported from the Bahariya Formation of Egypt.
Spinosaurus had plenty of company, several large theropods have been named and described from fossils from the Upper Cretaceous (Cenomanian), Bahariya Oasis, Western Desert of Egypt and a newly published paper confirms the presence of abelisaurids in this ancient ecosystem too.
Cervical Vertebra Fossil Discovery
A 2016 expedition led by researchers from the Mansoura University Vertebrate Palaeontology Centre, (Mansoura, Egypt), unearthed a single neck bone (10th cervical vertebra), a formal description of this specimen (MUVP 477) has been published in Royal Society Open Science.
Similar to the Cervical Vertebrae of Majungasaurus and Carnotaurus
The neckbone is strikingly similar to the cervical vertebrae of Majungasaurus from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar and the cervical vertebrae of Carnotaurus, fossils of which are associated with Upper Cretaceous deposits of Argentina. Phylogenetic analysis places the Bahariya Formation specimen within the Abelisauridae, but the absence of any further fossil material has restricted the taxonomic classification to the family level (a similar taxonomic position to that of the “White Rock spinosaurid” described from fragmentary bones found on the Isle of Wight).
Based on measurements of the cervical vertebra the Bahariya Formation abelisaurid is estimated to have had a body length of between 5.3 and 6.3 metres, indicating that this fossil represents a mid-sized member of the Abelisauridae with a body size similar to Rugops, Majungasaurus, Viavenator and Xenotarsosaurus bonapartei.
The First Definitive Proof of Abelisaurids and the Oldest from North-eastern Africa
Specimen number MUVP 477 is not only the first definitive proof of the presence of abelisaurids with the Bahariya Formation biota, but with an estimated age of approximately 98 million years, this fossil is also the oldest record of the Abelisauria clade in Egypt and north-eastern Africa generally.
Providing a Key for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History Life Reconstruction
The stunning prehistoric scene (Andrew McAfee/Carnegie Museum of Natural History) shows, the mid-sized abelisaurid (far right) confronting the giant theropod Spinosaurus aegyptiacus which is holding a dipnoan (lungfish) Retodus tuberculatus in its jaws.
The large carcharodontosaurid Carcharodontosaurus saharicus can be seen in the centre background. Two stomatosuchid crocodyliforms (Stomatosuchus inermis) can be seen on the far left, whilst in the background a trio of Paralititan stromeri walk by. A pair of bahariasaurids are located just behind the tail of the abelisaurid whilst a flock of pterosaurs soar overhead. The vegetation is dominated by the mangrove-like tree fern Weichselia reticulata.
The presence of so many large predators in the biota suggests that the Bahariya Formation ecosystem was extremely rich, even so, it is likely that the different types of theropod exhibited niche-partitioning, with coeval genera exploiting different resources.
The scientific paper: “First definitive record of Abelisauridae (Theropoda: Ceratosauria) from the Cretaceous Bahariya Formation, Bahariya Oasis, Western Desert of Egypt” by Belal S. Salem, Matthew C. Lamanna, Patrick M. O’Connor, Gamal M. El-Qot, Fatma Shaker, Wael A. Thabet, Sanaa El-Sayed and Hesham M. Sallam published by Royal Society Open Science.
A newly published scientific paper has described the fragmentary remains of a super-sized theropod dinosaur unearthed on the Isle of Wight. With an estimated length exceeding 10 metres, the fossils could represent the largest carnivorous dinosaur found in Europe.
The fragmentary nature of the fossilised bones means that a more precise identification and the establishment of a new genus is not currently possible, although the fossils do probably represent a new taxon.
Europe’s Largest Land Predator – A Member of the Spinosauridae
Based on anatomical traits identified from these weathered and damaged bones (they may have been trampled by other dinosaurs), the researchers are not able at this time to assign this specimen to a specific branch of the spinosaurid family tree, instead the material is classified at the family level of taxonomy and assigned to the Spinosauridae.
Commenting on the significance of this discovery, PhD student and lead author of the scientific paper Chris Barker (University of Southampton) stated:
“This was a huge animal, exceeding ten metres in length and probably several tonnes in weight. Judging from some of the dimensions, it appears to represent one of the largest predatory dinosaur ever found in Europe – maybe even the biggest yet known. It’s a shame it’s only known from a small amount of material, but these are enough to show it was an immense creature.”
Not “Europe’s Largest Ever Land Dinosaur”
Although massive and the largest theropod currently known from the Wealden Supergroup and based on bone measurements, potentially the largest theropod dinosaur found in Europe to date, Everything Dinosaur team members have noted inaccuracies in news articles. Some media outlets have declared that these fossils represent “Europe’s largest ever land dinosaur”. This is not true, fossils assigned to the Sauropoda, including several specimens from the Isle of Wight indicate, that there were many, much larger dinosaurs present in the Early Cretaceous of Europe when spinosaurids roamed.
The “White Rock Spinosaurid”
Nicknamed the “White Rock spinosaurid” after the geological layer in which it was found (the basal unit [the White Rock Sandstone equivalent] of the Vectis Formation near Compton Chine, on the southwest coast of the Isle of Wight), the fossils are around 125 million years of age (Barremian stage of the Lower Cretaceous).
It represents the first documented spinosaurid from the Vectis Formation of the Isle of Wight, extending the temporal span of the clade in the British fossil record to the late Barremian.
Dr Neil Gostling (University of Southampton), commented:
“Unusually, this specimen eroded out of the Vectis Formation, which is notoriously poor in dinosaur fossils. It’s likely to be the youngest spinosaur material yet known from the UK.”
Dinosaur remains are generally very rarely found in the Vectis Formation, although these deposits represent sandflats and lagoonal environments where dinosaurs roamed and spinosaurid fossils have been found in other strata laid down in similar palaeoenvironments.
Vertebrate palaeontologist and co-author of the scientific paper Darren Naish commented:
“Because it’s only known from fragments at the moment, we haven’t given it a formal scientific name. We hope that additional remains will turn up in time. This new animal bolsters our previous argument – published last year – that spinosaurid dinosaurs originated and diversified in western Europe before becoming more widespread.”
The researchers hope to cut thin sections in some of the fossil remains to look at the microscopic internal properties of the bones. This may provide information about the growth rate of this dinosaur, its age and maturity.
Marks on the bone also showed how, even after death, the body of this giant probably supported a range of scavengers and decomposers.
Co-author and PhD student Jeremy Lockwood (University of Portsmouth and the London Natural History Museum), added:
“Most of these amazing fossils were found by Nick Chase, one of Britain’s most skilled dinosaur hunters, who sadly died just before the Covid epidemic. I was searching for remains of this dinosaur with Nick and found a lump of pelvis with tunnels bored into it, each about the size of my index finger. We think they were caused by bone eating larvae of a type of scavenging beetle. It’s an interesting thought that this giant killer wound up becoming a meal for a host of insects.”
The Youngest Spinosaurid Known from the UK
The fossils also represent the youngest spinosaurid known from the UK and it is most likely a new taxon but a lack of convincing autapomorphies in the fossil material found to date has prevented a more precise taxonomic classification.
Southampton University researchers were prominent in a 2021 study that described two other spinosaurs Riparovenator milnerae and Ceratosuchops inferodios, from the Isle of Wight. Both these dinosaurs come from the older Wessex Formation that underlies the Vectis Formation, so they would have been alive several million years before the “White Rock spinosaurid” evolved.
Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release from the University of Southampton in the compilation of this article.
The scientific paper: “A European giant: a large spinosaurid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Vectis Formation (Wealden Group, Early Cretaceous)” by Chris T. Barker, Jeremy A. F. Lockwood, Darren Naish, Sophie Brown, Amy Hart, Ethan Tulloch and Neil J. Gostling published in PeerJ.
The recently aired television documentary series “Prehistoric Planet” depicted giant azhdarchid pterosaurs such as Quetzalcoatlus and Hatzegopteryx as competent aeronauts extremely proficient at flight and capable of travelling huge distances without ever having the need to land. This idea has been challenged in newly published research that suggests Quetzalcoatlus was more suited to short-range flights.
The Largest Known Flying Animals
A number of vertebrates are volant (capable of powered flight). Amongst this diverse and eclectic group consisting of bats, birds and pterosaurs are some giants. For example, Pelagornis sandersi*, a pelagornithid bird from the Late Oligocene of Southern Carolina had an estimated wingspan of about 7 metres. Argentavis magnificens was an enormous condor from the Late Miocene of Argentina. It had a wingspan in excess of 6 metres and it was very much larger than its extant, distant relative the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus). During the Late Cretaceous enormous pterosaurs dominated the skies. Pteranodon was thought to be one of the biggest, but over the last fifty years or so, evidence has emerged of the Azhdarchidae – a family of Late Cretaceous flying reptiles, some members of which such as Hatzegopteryx, Quetzalcoatlus, Arambourgiania and the recently described Thanatosdrakon* were the largest flying animals known to science.
Comparing Today’s Large Birds with Ancient Flyers
A new study, led by Dr Yusuke Goto from Nagoya University (Japan), along with researchers from the Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé (France) and the University of Tokyo (Japan), calculated and compared the ability of some of these ancient flyers to the capabilities of large, extant birds such as the Wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans), the California condor, the Magnificent frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) and the Kori bustard (Ardeotis kori). The Kori bustard has a bodyweight in the region of 10-18 kilograms, it is the heaviest flying bird alive today.
The team set out to quantify the soaring performance of these animals using a combination of potential speed of flight, soaring efficiency and the wind speed and conditions required to sustain aerial activity.
They analysed two types of soaring behaviour:
Thermal soaring – which uses updrafts arising from the land or ocean to ascend and glide. A method of flight observed in eagles and frigatebirds.
Dynamic soaring – which uses wind gradients over the ocean, as demonstrated by albatrosses and petrels.
The Soaring Abilities of Pteranodon
The scientists concluded that Pteranodon, fossils of which are associated with marine environments, was probably an ocean dweller, excelling at soaring flight using updrafts over the sea. The predicted flying style of Pteranodon was similar to that seen in extant, ocean-going frigatebirds.
Challenging Perceptions About Quetzalcoatlus
This analysis challenges perceptions about the flight capabilities of Quetzalcoatlus. The team concluded that this azhdarchid was not well adapted for soaring flight, even when wind speeds and atmospheric conditions were favourable.
Previous studies had proposed that Quetzalcoatlus was capable of travelling hundreds if not thousands of miles without having the need to land, this study showed that its thermal soaring abilities were much lower than that seen in living birds.
The idea that large azhdarchids were terrestrial hunters has been proposed previously, but the research team go further suggesting that Quetzalcoatlus and other giants were short-range flyers and did spend most of their time on land. The Kori bustard is proposed as a modern-day analogue for the biggest members of the Azhdarchidae. It is largely terrestrial and only flies relatively short distances.
The research team’s results corroborated the findings of previous studies examining the flying abilities of Argentavis magnificens. They found that it was well suited to thermal soaring. In contrast, the team found that Pelagornis sandersi was better suited to thermal soaring, although earlier studies had proposed dynamic soaring.
The scientific paper: “How did extinct giant birds and pterosaurs fly? A comprehensive modeling approach to evaluate soaring performance” by Yusuke Goto, Ken Yoda, Henri Weimerskirch and Katsufumi Sato published in the PNAS Nexus.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.