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/Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories

Fossil finds, new dinosaur discoveries, news and views from the world of palaeontology and other Earth sciences.

19 10, 2021

Giant Sea Scorpion from Southern China

By | October 19th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A team of scientists, including a researcher from the London Natural History Museum have named a new species of ancient sea scorpion (eurypterid), that at around one metre in length was probably a top predator in its marine environment. Named Terropterus xiushanensis, it has been assigned to the Mixopteridae family within the Eurypterida and as such, it is the oldest mixopterid described to date and the first to be associated with Gondwana.

Terropterus xiushanensis life reconstruction.
The newly described eurypterid from the Lower Silurian of southern China (Terropterus xiushanensis) was probably the top predator in the marine ecosystem. Here it is seen attempting to catch some jawless fish. Picture credit: Dinghua Yang.

Terropterus xiushanensis

Writing in the journal “Science Bulletin”, the research team describe this new marine arthropod based on several fossils mostly representing the spiny front appendages, excavated from the Lower Silurian (Llandovery) Xiushan Formation, Xiushan. Two incomplete, but much larger fossils from the roughly contemporaneous Fentou Formation of Wuhan in Hubei Province have also been assigned to the Terropterus genus.

Terropterus xiushanensis fossils
Terropterus xiushanensis fossils (c) close-up of appendage V. Joint 5 or 6 of appendage III, paratype, NIGP 174786 (d). Joint 5 or 6 of appendage III, paratype, NIGP 174787 (e). Coxae, the first segment of a limb, paratype, NIGP 174788 (f). Genital operculum and the genital appendage, paratype, NIGP 174789 (g). Scale bars = 5 mm for (d), (f), (g); 2 mm for (e); 1 mm for (c). Picture credit: Wang et al.

A Formidable Predator

With an estimated length of around 1 metre, (based on the Fentou Formation fossils), Terropterus was far larger than any vertebrate predator known from Lower Silurian strata. Their second, and especially the third, pair of prosomal limbs are enlarged and armed with sharp spines. These limbs were presumably used for capturing prey, trilobites and other invertebrates as well as primitive fish.

Terropterus xiushanensis line drawings.
A line drawing of Terropterus xiushanensis – left dorsal view and right ventral view. Picture credit: Wang et al with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur.

Mixopterids More Widespread than Previously Thought

Little is known about the evolution and distribution of the Mixopteridae. Only four species in two genera have been described previously and most of the research into these eurypterids took place in the early 20th century. Until the discovery of Terropterus all the mixopterids were associated with the ancient landmass of Laurussia. Terropterus extends the range of this family into marine environments associated with Gondwana.

Members of the Mixopteridae

  • Mixopterus simonsoni 1883 (Estonia).
  • Lanarkopterus dolichoschelus 1899 (Scotland).
  • Mixopterus multispinosus 1921 (New York).
  • Mixopterus kiaeri 1934 (Norway).

Phylogenetic assessment suggests that T. xiushanensis is a sister taxon to L. dolichoschelus.

The researchers note that mixopterids might share a common body plan with highly specialised anterior appendages armed with spines, which presumably played a role in attacking and holding prey, but there are marked differences between the known genera. This might indicate that some mixopterids attacked different kinds of prey.

Terropterus xiushanensis appendages
The holotype (NIGP 174785) appendages of Terropterus xiushanensis. Note scale bar = 5 mm. Picture credit: Wang et al.

The scientific paper: “First mixopterid eurypterids (Arthropoda: Chelicerata) from the Lower Silurian of South China” by Han Wang, Jason Dunlop, Zhikun Gai, Xiaojie Lei, Edmund A. Jarzembowski and Bo Wang published in Science Bulletin.

18 10, 2021

Scientists Find Remnants of Organic Molecules in the Cells of a Caudipteryx

By | October 18th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Key Stage 3/4, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

An almost perfectly preserved specimen of the very bird-like theropod Caudipteryx has provided researchers with evidence of organic molecule preservation at a cellular and nuclear level. Writing in “Communications Biology”, scientists from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with colleagues from the Shandong Tianyu Museum of Nature (Shandong Province, eastern China), report on a study of fossilised cells from cartilage associated with a Caudipteryx thigh bone that reveal exquisite molecular preservation.

Photograph and line drawing of Caudipteryx specimen number STM4-3
Photograph of the Caudipteryx specimen (A) with (B) a close-up of the femur showing the extracted fragment outlined in yellow. Illustrative line drawing (C). Picture credit: Xiaoting Zheng et al.

Fragments from a Femur

The specimen (number STM4-3), is in the Shandong Tianyu Museum of Nature vertebrate fossil collection, one of the largest collections of dinosaur fossils in the world. It was collected from the Yixian Formation near Chaoyang City, Dapingfang Town (Liaoning Province) and is almost complete and partially articulated. Gastroliths are preserved in the stomach cavity and the outline of some feathers can also be seen. A right femur, measuring 15 cm in length was examined, a fragment removed representing cartilage and divided into three portions to permit detailed scanning electron microscopy (SEM), histochemical staining, energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) along with chemical analysis.

The research team realised that some cells had been mineralised by silicification after the death of the animal. This silicification is most likely what permitted the excellent preservation of these cells.

A model of the theropod dinosaur Caudipteryx.

Li Zhiheng, an Associate Professor at the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology and a co-author of the study commented that the discovery of cellular preservation in the cartilage was not unexpected stating:

“Geological data has accumulated over the years and shown that fossil preservation in the Jehol Biota was exceptional due to fine volcanic ashes that entombed the carcasses and preserved them down to the cellular level”.

Healthy Cells and Unhealthy, Dying Cells

The researchers discovered two main types of cells, cells that were healthy at the time of fossilisation, along with unhealthy cells that were porous and fossilised while in the process of dying.

Co-author Alida Bailleul (Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology), explained:

“It is possible that these cells were already dying even before the animal died”.

Cell death is a process that occurs naturally throughout the lives of all organisms. But being able to identify a fossilised cell at a specific life stage within the cell cycle is quite new in palaeontology.

Staining the Nuclei of Dinosaur Cells

The team isolated some cells and stained them with a purple chemical used by biologists to identify nuclei material. This chemical, hematoxylin, is known to bind to the nuclei of cells. Cells from a chicken were also stained to provide an extant comparison. One dinosaur cell showed a purple nucleus with some darker purple threads. This provides strong evidence to support the idea that the 125-million-year-old dinosaur cell has a nucleus so well-preserved that it retains some original biomolecules and threads of chromatin.

Chromatin is found within the cells of all living organisms. It consists of tightly packed DNA molecules. The results of this study thus provide preliminary data suggesting that remnants of original dinosaur DNA may still be preserved.

Caudipteryx cells from the femur
Photographs of three cartilage cells from the femur of Caudipteryx. The purple chemical hematoxylin binds to the nuclei of cells. After the dinosaur cells were stained one cell showed a purple nucleus, this suggests that the 125-million-year-old fossil cell is so well preserved it has retained some original biomolecules and threads of chromatin. This cell replicated the reaction to hematoxylin expected from a cell of a living chicken. Picture credit: Alida Bailleul.

Much Further Work is Required

Whilst highlighting the significance of this study, after all discovering that 125-million-year-old dinosaur cells react to hematoxylin staining in the same way as living cells is remarkable, the researchers concede that a much more refined and precise approach will be required if dinosaur DNA is to be identified and recovered in any quantity.

The Jehol Biota.
The Jehol Biota approximately 125 million years ago. The corpse of the Caudipteryx lies on the lake shore whilst a pair of Psittacosaurus wander past and pterosaurs fly overhead. A Confuciusornis bird perches on a tree, undeterred by the erupting volcano nearby. Picture credit: Zheng Qiuyang.

In 2020, Everything Dinosaur reported upon the discovery of chromosome-like chromatin threads preserved in the fossilised cartilage of a 75-million-year-old hadrosaur (Hypacrosaurus stebingeri). This study identified nuclear and cellular preservation which was previously unknown in a Cretaceous fossil specimen. To read our article: Cartilage, Proteins and Potential Dinosaur DNA?

The scientific paper: “Nuclear preservation in the cartilage of the Jehol dinosaur Caudipteryx” by Xiaoting Zheng, Alida M. Bailleul, Zhiheng Li, Xiaoli Wang and Zhonghe Zhou published in Communications Biology.

13 10, 2021

Beipiaosaurus Revisited

By | October 13th, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Fans of the now retired Carnegie Collection series of prehistoric animal models, might remember a model of the therizinosaur Beipiaosaurus (B. inexpectus). The model, introduced in 2006 and withdrawn in 2014, might have given dinosaur fans the wrong impression when it comes to this Chinese theropod. Not that the replica made by Safari Ltd was highly inaccurate, but when the model was produced, only the skull of Beipiaosaurus had actually been studied in detail. Now, some twenty-two years after this small therizinosaur was named, scientists including Xing Xu who was one of the authors of the paper describing the skull, have revisited the fossil material and completed their analysis by focusing on the postcranial fossils.

Beipiaosaurus dinosaur model.
The Carnegie collection Beipiaosaurus dinosaur model which was retired in 2014. This model was produced at a time when only the skull of this dinosaur had been studied in detail.

Beipiaosaurus inexpectus

Named and described in 1999, from fossils found by a local farmer three years earlier, Beipiaosaurus heralds from the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation (Sihetun locality, near Beipiao), Liaoning Province, China. Described as a basal therizinosaur, it is thought to represent a key taxon in helping scientists to understand the evolution of the Therizinosauridae. Scientists writing in the on-line, open access journal PLOS One, provide an extensive description of the postcranial fossil material associated with the holotype specimen (IVPP V 11559). After Beipiaosaurus had been named, more bones associated with the holotype were found at the original fossil site and these fossils have helped palaeontologists to identity further unique, anatomical characteristics.

Photographs of pelvic girdle elements of Beipiaosaurus.
Photographs of pelvic girdle elements of B. inexpectus (IVPP V 11559). Picture credit: Liao et al.

Additional Autapomorphies

Analysis of the hip socket (acetabulum) length provided a new autapomorphy helping to distinguish Beipiaosaurus from other therizinosaurs.

The shape of the ilium, specifically the pubic peduncle (marked as I.P.P in picture C, above), provides a second unique characteristic for this genus identified in this study.

The manual ungual (finger claw bone) in digit III is the longest one in B. inexpectus. In other therizinosaurs, it is the manual ungual of digit II that is the longest. This is the third additional autapomorphy identified in this research paper.

Photographs of right forelimb elements of B. inexpectus.
Photographs of right forelimb elements of B. inexpectus (IVPP V 11559). The long ungual associated with digit III is unique to this taxon amongst known therizinosaurs. Picture credit: Liao et al.

The authors of the scientific paper, provide a detailed description of the skeleton of Beipiaosaurus, including fossil bone associated with the holotype that have not been reported upon before. Their study has revised the diagnostic features associated with this dinosaur. For example, the researchers examined two dorsal vertebrae that had previously not been studied.

Photographs of B. inexpectus.
Photographs of the dorsal vertebrae of B. inexpectus (IVPP V 11559). This study examined in detail two dorsal vertebrae that had not been studied previously. Picture credit: Liao et al.

The new study into this feathered dinosaur that was named and described more than twenty years ago has helped palaeontologists to better understand the postcranial skeleton of Beipiaosaurus, helps distinguish it from other therizinosaurians and provides insights into therizinosaur evolution.

Furthermore, the researchers, who include Shiying Wang and Chun-Chi Liao (Chinese Academy of Sciences) and Lindsay Zanno (North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences) as well as Xing Xu, identified several new synapomorphies helping to clarify the evolutionary history of the Therizinosauridae family. A synapomorphy is a characteristic present in an ancestral species and shared exclusively (in a more or less modified form) by its evolutionary descendants.

The scientific paper: “Postcranial osteology of Beipiaosaurus inexpectus (Theropoda: Therizinosauria” by Chun-Chi Liao, Lindsay E. Zanno, Shiying Wang and Xing Xu published in PLOS One.

11 10, 2021

PNSO Tucson the Himalayasaurus

By | October 11th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

PNSO will add a replica of the giant, Late Triassic ichthyosaur Himalayasaurus to their mid-size model range. The replica called Tucson the Himalayasaurus is part of a shipment of PNSO prehistoric animal figures that are already heading towards our UK warehouse. We expect to have this exciting, new marine reptile model in stock in just a few weeks.

PNSO Tucson the Himalayasaurus (anterior view)
The PNSO Tucson the Himalayasaurus, a fantastic replica of a giant ichthyosaur.

Himalayasaurus tibetensis

Named and described by the highly influential Chinese palaeontologist Dong Zhiming in 1972, Himalayasaurus (H. tibetensis), is known from fragmentary remains. Its body size is uncertain, but comparisons with better-known members of the Ichthyosauria, specifically other large-bodied ichthyosaurs within the Shastosauridae family suggest that this marine reptile could have been more than 15 metres long and weighed in excess of 40 tonnes.

PNSO Himalayasaurus
The new for 2021 PNSO Tucson the Himalayasaurus model.

PNSO Himalayasaurus Model Measurements

The PNSO Himalayasaurus model measures 31 cm long. The actual model measures a total of 32.8 cm when the curvature of the replica is considered. The distance between the dorsal fin and the bottom lobe of the asymmetrical caudal fin is 7 cm.

PNSO do not publish a scale for their mid-size models. However, based on the curved length of the figure and the size estimate of Himalayasaurus postulated by palaeontologists, team members at Everything Dinosaur suggest that Tucson the Himalayasaurus is in approximately 1:45 scale.

PNSO Tucson the Himalayasaurus model measurements
The PNSO Tucson the Himalayasaurus measures 31 cm in length. The curved length of this marine reptile model is 32.8cm and the height 7 cm.

PNSO Tucson the Himalayasaurus

Everything Dinosaur team members are not sure why this particular marine reptile model has been named “Tucson”, what we are certain about is that this stunning figure will be supplied with two transparent support stands to help the model to be displayed.

Product packaging - PNSO Himalayasaurus
The product packaging for the PNSO Himalayasaurus marine reptile model. The figure is supplied with two transparent support stands to help the model to be displayed.

In Stock at Everything Dinosaur

A spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur confirmed that the PNSO Tucson the Himalayasaurus would be in stock at Everything Dinosaur possibly as early as November (2021). The spokesperson added:

“We have known about this exciting model for a while. The Himalayasaurus and other new for 2021 PNSO figures are already on the water heading for a UK port. It is wonderful to see PNSO bringing out more prehistoric marine animals to add to their recently introduced Helicoprion, Dunkleosteus, Basilosaurus, Tylosaurus and Kronosaurus models”.

To view the range of PNSO prehistoric animal models currently in stock at Everything Dinosaur: PNSO Age of Dinosaurs.

9 10, 2021

Over a Hundred Theropod Tracks Studied

By | October 9th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Scientists writing in the on-line, open access, academic journal “PeerJ” have reported upon the discovery of over 100 dinosaur fossil footprints. The footprints represent theropod dinosaurs and they vary in size indicating that a variety of meat-eating dinosaurs co-existed in the late Early Jurassic of Yunnan Province, China.

Yunnan theropods life reconstruction.
A life reconstruction depicting the lakeside palaeoenvironment with a variety of different theropods visiting the location. Picture credit: Yu Chen.

Yunnan Province Dinosaurs

Yunnan Province in south-western China is famous for its dinosaur fossils, the majority of which are body fossils, but there have been several published papers detailing track sites and more trace fossils from this province are due to be reported upon. The theropod assemblage track site is located close to the village of Xiyang, Jinning County in central Yunnan. The strata in which the tracks are located come from the Lower Jurassic Fengjiahe Formation and represent a lakeside environment (lacustrine). The reddish mudstone deposits that contain the tracks also preserve mud cracks that suggest the area was subject to droughts. The palaeoenvironment is believed to have been humid and warm (sub-tropical to tropical).

The tracks have been known about for twenty years, but only recently has the site been extensively studied. Unfortunately, several prints had been lost to erosion prior to detailed analysis.

Yunnan theropod track site.
An overview of the track site with (A) an aerial photograph showing the track-bearing outcrop and (B) a line drawing showing the distribution of the theropod tracks. Morphotype A is highlighted in blue, morphotype B is highlighted in green and the single track of morphotype C is shown in red. Note scale bar equals 1 metre. Picture credit: Li et al.

Solitary Coelophysoid and Tetanuran Theropods

The Xiyang track site preserves 120 exposed footprints made by solitary theropod dinosaurs as they visited the lakeside. It is the largest theropod track site in terms of the total number of prints found, described to date from Yunnan. The prints have been assigned to three broad groups based on their size, they indicate that a variety of theropods were present in the ancient ecosystem including coelophysoid as well as larger tetanuran theropods. The largest print from the site (XIY-48) measures 39 cm long and 40 cm wide. Large claw marks are associated with each digit of this print. Fossils of the six-metre-long theropod Sinosaurus triassicus (formerly Dilophosaurus sinensis), are known from this area. Sinosaurus fossils from Lower Jurassic Fengjiahe Formation have been found around 500 metres away from the track site, it has been speculated that the largest print could represent a track made by a Sinosaurus, although as it is a footprint, it has been assigned to the ichnogenus Kayentapus.

Yunnan track site theropod footprints.
Photographs showing examples of the three different footprint morphotypes associated with the Yunnan track site. Not scale bar equals 10 cm. Picture credit: Li et al.

Classifying the Footprints

Although the size of any tracks left can be influenced by many factors, the research team conclude that at least three different kinds of theropods were visiting the site frequently. The three groups of prints that the tracks have been classified into are:

  1. Morphotype A (>8 cm to <21 cm) resembling the ichnogenus Grallator.
  2. Morphotype B (>27 cm to<30 cm) identified as the ichnospecies Kayentapus xiaohebaensis.
  3. Morphotype C (39 cm) an isolated print referred to the ichnogenus Kayentapus.
Line drawings comparing theropod footprints.
Line drawings comparing theropod tracks from the site with those from the Jurassic of China. XIY-053 is morphotype A (A), whilst (B) is XIY-108 morphotype B and (C) is morphotype C. Grallator yemiaoxiensis is shown (D), Kayentapus xiaohebaensis is (E) and (F) is Kayentapus hopii. Note scale bar = 10 cm. Picture credit: Li et al.

Large Predator Dinosaurs Rare in the Early Jurassic

In Yunnan, the majority of dinosaur fossils from Lower Jurassic rocks represent sauropodomorphs. Whilst the tracks of sauropodomorphs can be mistakenly identified as theropod prints, the researchers who include Hongqing Li of Yunnan University and Claire Peyre de Fabrègues (Department of Biology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA), as well as colleagues from Yuxi Museum (Yunnan Province) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences are confident that this site provides a useful record of the diversity of meat-eating dinosaurs present in this region during the late Early Jurassic. Large terrestrial predators (animals in excess of five metres in length), are rare in Early Jurassic ecosystems. Large tracks are scarce at this site, but not absent. Carnivorous dinosaurs of all sizes presumably co-existed in this palaeoenvironment and were regular visitors to the lakeside in search of food or potential prey.

The scientific paper: “The largest theropod track site in Yunnan, China: a footprint assemblage from the Lower Jurassic Fengjiahe Formation” by Hongqing Li, Claire Peyre de Fabrègues, Shundong Bi, Yi Wang and Xing Xu published in PeerJ.

7 10, 2021

Pendraig milnerae – “Chief Dragon”

By | October 7th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Scientists have described the oldest theropod dinosaur from the UK. The dinosaur has been named Pendraig milnerae, the scientific name honours the dinosaur’s Welsh roots and recognises the contribution of Dr Angela Milner, who sadly passed away last August.

Everything Dinosaur recently blogged about the naming of two spinosaurids described from fragmentary fossils found on the Isle of Wight. The trivial name of one of these theropods, Riparovenator milnerae, also honours Dr Milner.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s recent blog post about the two newly described spinosaurids: Two New Spinosaurids from the Isle of Wight.

Ironically, the remains of Pendraig were already ancient fossils when the Isle of Wight spinosaurids roamed. The Pendraig fossils come from limestone fissure fills of the Pant-y-ffynnon Quarry in the Vale of Glamorgan (Wales). This infilled material, deposited in Carboniferous limestone is difficult to date, but it is thought that these fossils are between 215 and 201 million years old (late Norian, latest occurrence possibly late Rhaetian).

Pendraig milnerae life reconstruction.
A life reconstruction of Pendraig milnerae among the fissures of Pant-y-ffynnon with three individuals of the rhynchocephalian lepidosaur Clevosaurus cambrica for company (Late Triassic). Picture credit: James Robbins.

Misplaced Theropod Fossils

Writing in Royal Society Open Science, the researchers from the London Natural History Museum, the University of Birmingham and National Museums Scotland describe Pendraig milnerae based on an articulated pelvic girdle, sacrum and posterior dorsal vertebrae, and an associated left femur and by two referred specimens, comprising an isolated dorsal vertebra and a partial left ischium.

Co-author of the paper, Dr Susannah Maidment (London Natural History Museum), explained that the fossil material had been stored in a draw that contained crocodylomorphs. It was Dr Milner who was able to find the fossils within the vast Natural History Museum collection and to retrieve an unpublished PhD paper that had referred to them as part of a wider review of archosaurian remains associated with South Wales.

Pendraig milnerae pelvis and vertebrae.
Holotype fossil of Pendraig milnerae (NHMUK PV R 37591) the articulated pelvis and vertebrae (a) left lateral view and (b) right lateral view. Picture credit: Spiekman et al.

Welsh Dinosaurs

A phylogenetic analysis indicates that was a P. milnerae non-coelophysid coelophysoid and it represents the first-named, unambiguous theropod from the Triassic of the UK. The genus name translates from Middle Welsh as “chief dragon”. During the Late Triassic, the dinosaurs were not the dominant terrestrial animals that they were later to become. Discoveries of Triassic-aged theropods can help palaeontologists to better understand the evolution of these important tetrapods, the dinosaur lineage that led directly to modern birds.

Wales might be associated with dragons, but dinosaur discoveries are extremely rare in this part of the UK. Previously, only two dinosaur genera have been named – Pantydraco (P. cauducus) a basal sauropodomorph from a limestone fissure infill from the Pant-y-ffynnon Quarry and the coelophysoid Dracoraptor (D. hanigani) which was named and described in 2016 from fossils found near the Welsh town of Penarth.

Dracoraptor hanigani.
An illustration of the coelophysoid theropod dinosaur from Wales Dracoraptor hanigani. Picture credit: Bob Nicholls.

An Insular Dwarf

The palaeoenvironment in which Pendraig lived was most likely an archipelago and species that live on small islands with limited resources can become smaller than their mainland relatives due to a phenomenon known as insular dwarfism.

Measuring around 75 cm to a metre in length P. milnerae was indeed small, a characteristic that it shares with a number of other vertebrates known from the same deposits.

Lead author of the paper, Dr Stephan Spiekman (London Natural History Museum), explained:

“Because the fossil reptiles from this area, including Pendraig, are all quite small-sized, we used statistical analyses to investigate whether Pendraig might have been an insular dwarf. The results indicate that Pendraig is indeed small, even for a theropod of that time period, but not uniquely so”.

Analysis of the fossil bones, indicate that the material does not represent a juvenile or very young animal. However, the fossils do represent an animal that was probably not fully grown when it died.

Views of the left femur of Pendraig.
Various views of the holotype femur of Pendraig milnerae from the Late Triassic of Wales. Picture credit: Spiekman et al.

The researchers conclude that Pendraig may have been a dwarf form but as some other coelophysoid taxa also show a similar size reduction (based on femur bone length comparisons), it is not possible to say with certainty that this little Welsh, Triassic dinosaur was indeed an insular dwarf.

Dr Spiekman added:

“With this in mind, we need more evidence from more species to investigate the potential for island dwarfism in this area during that time, but if we could prove it, it would be the earliest known occurrence of this evolutionary phenomenon”.

The scientific paper: “Pendraig milnerae, a new small-sized coelophysoid theropod from the Late Triassic of Wales” by Stephan N. F. Spiekman, Martín D. Ezcurra, Richard J. Butler, Nicholas C. Fraser and Susannah C. R. Maidment published in Royal Society Open Science.

6 10, 2021

Public Artwork Pays Tribute to Popular “Southsea Dinosaur”

By | October 6th, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|2 Comments

A new piece of public art has been unveiled within the direct sightline of a huge dinosaur sculpture that was destroyed by fire on Southsea Common ten years ago this week.

Luna Park dinosaur statue
The Luna Park dinosaur statue erected on Southsea Common. Picture credit: Strong Island. Courtesy: Aspex, 2021.

The installation consists of a bronze statue of the original “Southsea Dinosaur” sitting atop a plinth made from highly fossiliferous Portland Stone. In addition to key information about the work, a plaque on the sculpture’s plinth features a QR code which when scanned with a smartphone connects to an Augmented Reality experience, showing a digital rendering of the original, 22-metre-long dinosaur artwork seemingly in front of the user, on Southsea Common accompanied by the sounds of Portsmouth City Band, who attended the original launch. Viewers will also be able to visit Aspex’s website to visit a digital archive of memories contributed by the general public in honour of the original artwork including a video of the 2010 opening ceremony.

The Luna Park Dinosaur

In the summer of 2010, Everything Dinosaur team members reported upon the installation of a giant sculpture of a plant-eating dinosaur named Luna Park being erected on Southsea Common (Portsmouth, England). The massive statue, created by Studio Morison, stood 16 metres tall. It was so large that it could be seen from the Isle of Wight. Unfortunately, a fire in October 2010 completely destroyed this local landmark.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s blog post about the fire: Giant Dinosaur Statue on Southsea Common Destroyed by Fire.

The art project was commissioned by Aspex, Portsmouth’s contemporary art gallery, currently celebrating its 40-year anniversary with a programme of contemporary art activities: “Aspex (life begins) at 40” at the gallery and on-line. The sculpture is the centrepiece of the gallery’s anniversary celebrations.

Scanning the QR code on the Southsea Common dinosaur statue
The QR code (quick response code) on the plinth can be scanned by a mobile phone and this provides more information about this installation and the Luna Park dinosaur. Picture credit: Strong Island. Courtesy: Aspex, 2021.

Commenting on the unveiling of the artwork to commemorate the original Southsea dinosaur, Joanne Bushell (Director of Aspex), stated:

“We are thrilled to be able to share this work – over a decade after the original Luna Park was installed on Southsea Common. The artwork is firmly and fondly lodged in the memories of local people and lives on through younger generations as a kind of myth or local legend. I stand for language. I speak for truth. I shout for history is part of Portsmouth’s heritage and we are delighted to be unveiling it this Autumn. It is hoped that the piece will generate new memories for people who live here and those visiting Portsmouth”.

5 10, 2021

New Species of Horned Dinosaur from New Mexico

By | October 5th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A new species of horned dinosaur has been named and described from fossils found in New Mexico. The dinosaur has been named Sierraceratops turneri and it was distantly related to Triceratops.

The new horned dinosaur classified as a member of the Chasmosaurinae, roamed New Mexico approximately 72 million years ago (latest Campanian–Maastrichtian). Sierraceratops adds to the diversity and disparity of the Chasmosaurinae in the Late Cretaceous. This discovery provides supporting evidence for the hypothesis of Laramidian endemism – the idea that species were restricted to specific regions. Together with Sierraceratops, the Hall Lake Formation dinosaur fauna suggests that the latest Cretaceous of southern Laramidia was characterised by endemic clades and distinct dinosaur communities.

Sierraceratops turneri life reconstruction
A life reconstruction of the newly described chasmosaurine Sierraceratops turneri. If you look carefully, just above the tail you can see a tyrannosaur approaching in the background. Picture credit: Sergey Krasovskiy.

From Sierra County, New Mexico

The first fossil material associated with this new horned dinosaur, was discovered in 1997 by Greg H. Mack of New Mexico State University whilst undertaking a geological survey. Most of the fossils were collected from the surface, having already weathered out of the surrounding rock, but a field team from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History was despatched and additional fossils were found. The remainder of the fossil material that led to the naming of Sierraceratops was excavated between 2014-2016 by other field teams sent out to the site by the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. The fossils include elements from the skull and jaws, along with two neckbones (cervicals), two dorsal vertebrae, the sacrum, scapulocoracoid, the ilium and limb bones. The genus name honours Sierra County where the fossils were found, whilst the species name is a tribute to Mr Ted Turner, the founder of the Cable News Network (CNN) who owned the land where the fossils were collected.

Distinct Dinosaur Regional Communities

Phylogenetic analysis suggests that Sierraceratops is a sister taxon to Bravoceratops and Coahuilaceratops, forming part of a clade endemic to the southwestern United States and Mexico. Sierraceratops adds to the diversity and disparity of the Chasmosaurinae in the Late Cretaceous and provides supporting evidence for the hypothesis of Laramidian endemism. Dinosaur fossils from the Hall Lake Formation suggest that the dinosaur biota of southern Laramida was characterised by distinct dinosaur communities. Similar types of dinosaurs could be found in other areas, but the genera were distinctive.

Ceratopsian distribution in Laramidia.
The discovery of Sierraceratops supports the theory that there were distinct dinosaur communities in Laramidia during the Late Cretaceous. Sierraceratops fossil location is marked by the white star and the red horned dinosaur image. It is shown in context with other ceratopsid fossil discoveries. Picture credit; University of Bath with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur.

Recent Discoveries of Horned Dinosaurs from New Mexico

New Mexico has proved to be a happy hunting ground for new ceratopsid discoveries in recent years. For example, some of the authors of the Sierraceratops paper also worked on the publication describing Menefeeceratops (M. sealeyi), from the Menefee Formation. Menefeeceratops roamed New Mexico some 10 million years before Sierraceratops evolved. As Menefeeceratops has been classified as a member of the Centrosaurinae and Sierraceratops is regarded as a chasmosaurine, these two horned dinosaurs were only distantly related.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article about Menefeeceratops: Menefeeceratops – the Oldest Centrosaurine.

Sierraceratops turneri – Tyrannosaurs and Titanosaurs

Based on a comparison with better-known chasmosaurine fossil specimens, Sierraceratops is estimated to have measured around five metres in length. Its skull would have been around 1.5 metres long. The scientists behind this research, including Dr Nicholas Longrich (senior lecturer in the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Bath), predict that several more new dinosaurs will be described from Laramidia.

Sierraceratops shared its lush, floodplain and swamp environment with other dinosaurs including giant titanosaurs and predatory tyrannosaurids. It also highly likely that Sierraceratops was contemporaneous with other plant-eating dinosaurs such as hadrosaurids and ankylosaurids. Fossil evidence for both armoured dinosaurs and duck-billed dinosaurs have been found in other Hall Lake Formation sediments but their stratigraphical relationship to the Sierraceratops material remains undetermined.

Sierraceratops compared in size to other dinosaurs from New Mexico
Size comparison of typical dinosaur fauna associated with southern Laramidia. Note scale bar = 1 metre. Picture credit: Dalman et al.

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

The scientific paper: “Sierraceratops turneri, a new chasmosaurine ceratopsid from the Hall Lake Formation (Upper Cretaceous) of south-central New Mexico” by Sebastian G. Dalman, Spencer G Lucas, Steven E. Jasinski and Nicholas R. Longrich published in Cretaceous Research.

2 10, 2021

T. rex Joins in Halloween Fun

By | October 2nd, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Main Page|0 Comments

All Hallows Eve is fast approaching. Halloween a time of spooky stories, murderous monsters and scary skeletons, all harmless fun but 66 million years ago real monsters roamed our planet and one of the most frightening of them all was Tyrannosaurus rex, a giant carnivorous dinosaur that could have swallowed a small child in one gulp!

Visitors to Wollaton Park in Nottinghamshire will get the chance to experience the fearsome T. rex up close as “Titus the T. rex is King” exhibit will be open this October half-term. Staff members have laid on a separate spooky skeleton trail in the grounds and the Deer Park, as the stunning Grade I listed mansion gets ready for the bewitching hours.

Titus the T. rex Halloween fun at Wollaton Hall
This Halloween take time out to take in a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton at Wollaton Hall.

“Titus the T. rex is King” Exhibition

Covering some 4,000 square feet across four exhibition galleries, visitors to the “Titus the T. rex is King” exhibit will get the chance to view a skeleton of the “tyrant lizard king”, complete with its terrifying, bone-crushing teeth. Experience the excavation, fossil study and preparation, examination and the rebuilding of one of the largest, land predators of all time. Some monsters might be imaginary, but this cleverly constructed exhibition tells the story of a living animal and the actual T. rex fossil bones incorporated within the display provide an insight into the life of an apex predator, a giant reptile, the last of its kind, the result of over 100 million years of evolution which resulted in a 7-tonne dinosaur with super senses tuned to hunting and killing.

Titus the T.rex exhibit
The spectacular Titus the T. rex exhibit at Wollaton Hall.

A Bone-chilling Journey of Discovery

Set to excite and engage all ages with digital and interactive virtual media displays, the exhibition allows visitors to dig for dinosaur bones, unpack the skeleton anatomically and re-create Titus. To further prepare young visitors for perhaps encountering a terrifying T. rex one day, Wollaton Hall’s Learning & Education team are running a series of dinosaur themed Family Workshops which will be available during the October half-term.

Nottingham City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture, Cllr Eunice Campbell-Clark, commented:

“We are thrilled that the exhibition Titus: T. rex is King enables families to experience a real life skeleton of a T. rex, and discover and explore Natural History, evolution and the environment. It has been enjoyed by local residents and visitors from far afield, and if you haven’t visited already, what better time to see the skeleton of a giant dinosaur than at Halloween!”

Halloween Fun at Wollaton Hall

Wollaton Park will also see the return of the Traditional Rides fair with a Halloween twist and fair food, including mushy peas, burgers, hot dogs, bonfire marshmallow milkshakes and pumpkin spiced lattes in the café kiosk for a variety of Halloween fun this October half-term.

Rachael Evans, Museums Development Manager at Nottingham City Museums added:

“Coming face to face with an actual T. rex is an experience very few in the world can claim. Even in skeleton form, Titus’ power and presence is unmistakable – we have had to dedicate the largest room at Wollaton Hall just to him alone. Titus T. rex is King will take you on a truly unique journey discovering all there is to know about this dinosaur – the largest predator in its ecosystem. The sheer size and scale of the skeleton takes your breath away. It is a truly an amazing discovery and an absolute must-see.”

Can you spot the prehistoric animals? Can you find “Titus the T. rex”?

Tickets and Details

Tickets for “Titus T. rex is King” are on sale now (October 2021). Priced at £13 for an adult, £8.75 for a child (under 16 years), students and concessions, £34 for a family ticket (two adults and two children under 16 years) and under 3s and carers have no entry fees to pay. (Includes booking fee).

Family Workshops tickets vary based on the activity. The ‘skeleton’ outdoor trail is available in Wollaton Hall’s shops & cafés for £2.

For further information and for ticket details: Wollaton Hall “Titus T. rex is King” Exhibition.

1 10, 2021

New Giant Penguin from New Zealand

By | October 1st, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Fossils discovered on a beach by a group of school children on a field trip have been identified as a new species of giant, prehistoric penguin. The 1.4-metre-tall bird has been named Kairuku waewaeroa and it hunted fish in the waters off New Zealand’s North Island some 30 million years ago.

The ancestors of today’s penguins ( Sphenisciformes), probably lived alongside those other famous archosaurs – the Dinosauria Penguins Probably Lived Alongside Dinosaurs. Fossils of penguins are known from the Palaeocene and over the last few years, palaeontologists have been able to build up arguably, the most complete and continuous fossil record of any type of bird. The new giant penguin K. waewaeroa comes from the Glen Massey Formation and the fossils found by the school children on a Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club (JUNATS) field trip to Kawhia Harbour, North Island in 2006, represents one of the most complete prehistoric penguin specimens found to date.

Giant penguin from New Zealand Kairuku waewaeroa
The Kawhia giant penguin Kairuku waewaeroa from the Oligocene of North Island (New Zealand). Picture credit: Simone Giovanardi.

CT Scans Used to Create Three-dimensional Models

The partially articulated fossil material consisting of limb bones, cervical vertebrae and the pelvis preserved in a single block was presented to Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand in 2017. The research team studying the fossil bones, who included Simone Giovanardi and Daniel Thomas (Massey University, Auckland) and Daniel Ksepka (Connecticut, USA), used CT scans to create three-dimensional computer models. These computer models could then be used to make a 3D-printed replica which was presented to the Hamilton Junior Naturalists.

Kairuku waewaeroa line drawing, holotype fossil and scale comparison with an Emperor penguin.
The holotype specimen of Kairuku waewaeroa (WM 2006/1/1). Line drawing of specimen (A), photograph of the holotype in ventral view (B) and (C) scale comparison with the largest extant penguin species the Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri), known bones shown in white. Note scale bar for (B) equals 4 cm. Picture credit: Giovanardi et al.

Giant Penguin with Long Legs

Co-author of the scientific paper, published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Dr Daniel Thomas (School of Natural and Computational Sciences at Massey University), stated the fossil dates from between 27.3 and 34.6 million years ago, a time when much of this area of North Island was underwater.

The Senior Lecturer in Zoology added:

“The penguin is similar to the Kairuku giant penguins first described from Otago but has much longer legs, which the researchers used to name the penguin waewaeroa – Te reo Māori for “long legs”. These longer legs would have made the penguin much taller than other Kairuku while it was walking on land, perhaps around 1.4 metres tall and may have influenced how fast it could swim or how deep it could dive.”

To read our article on a monster Palaeocene penguin from New Zealand: Monster Palaeocene Penguin from New Zealand.

The scientific paper: “A giant Oligocene fossil penguin from the North Island of New Zealand” by Simone Giovanardi, Daniel T. Ksepka and Daniel B. Thomas published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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