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Dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed articles, features and stories.

17 10, 2020

A News Species of Mosasaur from Morocco

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

Gavialimimus almaghribensis – Specialised Piscivore from Morocco

An international team of researchers including scientists from the University of Alberta, the University of Cincinnati (USA) and Flinders University (Adelaide, Australia), have identified a new species of marine reptile from fossil remains found in Upper Cretaceous rocks from Morocco.  The animal, a new species of mosasaur has been named Gavialimimus almaghribensis, its long, narrow snout and interlocking teeth suggest that it specialised in hunting fast-swimming, bony fish.

These adaptations suggest that this carnivore, distantly related to modern snakes and lizards, occupied a specific niche in the Moroccan marine ecosystem.  Around a dozen different species of mosasaur are known from the Upper Cretaceous of Morocco, many with different shaped jaws and teeth.  This suggests that these reptiles diversified rapidly during the Late Cretaceous and adapted to differing roles in the ecosystem to avoid direct competition with each other.  The researchers writing in the “Journal of Systematic Palaeontology” suggest that these are examples of niche partitioning in the ancient environment.

A Life Reconstruction of the Newly Described Gavialimimus almaghribensis

Life reconstruction of Gavialimimus almaghribensis.

A life reconstruction of the newly described Moroccan mosasaur Gavialimimus almaghribensis which is thought to have been a specialised piscivore (fish-eater).

Picture Credit: Tatsuya Shinmura

Corresponding author for the scientific paper, Catherine Strong (University of Alberta), stated:

“Its long snout reflects that this mosasaur was likely adapted to a specific form of predation, or niche partitioning, within this larger ecosystem.  For some species, these adaptations can be very prominent, such as the extremely long snout and the interlocking teeth in Gavialimimus, which we hypothesised as helping it to catch rapidly moving prey.”

Resembling a Gavial (Gavial Mimic)

The genus name means “Gavial mimic”, a reference to the similarity between the jaws and dentition of this mosasaur to that of the extant long-snouted gavial (gharial).  Whilst the trivial or species name is derived from the Romanised version of the Arabic term for Morocco (al-Maghrib) paired with the Latin suffix “ensis”, thus denoting the country of origin of the holotype.

The Skull of a Gharial (Gavial)

The skull of a gharial.

The skull of a gharial (gavial) from the Grant Museum of Zoology (London).  The long snout and teeth superficially resemble the jaws and teeth of the newly described mosasaur Gavialimimus almaghribensis.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

From the Oulad Abdoun Basin

The fossils, including a metre-long skull come from the upper Maastrichtian deposits of the Oulad Abdoun Basin of northern Morocco.  The phosphate mines in this region are a rich source of mosasaur fossils and occasionally a dinosaur or two: The Last Dinosaur from Africa.

These sediments have revealed new species of pterosaur too: Pterosaurs More Diverse at the End of the Cretaceous than Previously Thought.

The Fossilised Skull of the Newly Described Gavialimimus almaghribensis

Gavialimimus almaghribensis fossil skull.

The fossilised skull of the newly described mosasaur G. almaghribensis.

Picture Credit: Catherine Strong (University of Alberta)

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

The scientific paper: “A new species of longirostrine plioplatecarpine mosasaur (Squamata: Mosasauridae) from the Late Cretaceous of Morocco, with a re-evaluation of the problematic taxon ‘Platecarpus’ ptychodon” by Catherine R. C. Strong, Michael W. Caldwell, Takuya Konishi and Alessandro Palci published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

16 10, 2020

PNSO Tuojiangosaurus

By | October 16th, 2020|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

PNSO Tuojiangosaurus

Those dedicated and enthusiastic people at PNSO have been very busy over the summer months.  We are beginning to see the fruits of their labour, as over the next few weeks or so we will be sharing news about new model releases from this exciting company.  Gaoyuan, the iridescent Microraptor model is already on its way to us, we are expecting our next shipment of PNSO prehistoric animals to arrive at our warehouse next month and today, (October 16th, 2020), we can officially announce that we will be stocking a Tuojiangosaurus model.

The Latest Stegosaur Figure to Join the PNSO Range

PNSO Tuojiangosaurus model.

PNSO Tuojiangosaurus dinosaur model is part of what we refer to as the PNSO mid-size model range.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Tuojiangosaurus multispinus

This Late Jurassic herbivore was the first stegosaur to be discovered in China, it is wonderful to have a Chinese model manufacturer introducing some replicas of iconic Chinese dinosaurs.  The exact taxonomic position of Tuojiangosaurus within the stegosaur family tree has been controversial, but most palaeontologists recognise it to be a member (somewhat derived), of the Stegosauridae, the family named after Stegosaurus, one of the most instantly recognisable dinosaurs of them all!

The PNSO Tuojiangosaurus Dinosaur Model

PNSO Tuojiangosaurus model.

PNSO Tuojiangosaurus in lateral view.  The model is a fraction under 20 cm in length.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Introduced to Chinese distributors a few hours ago, Everything Dinosaur team members are happy to post up official pictures of this Chinese armoured dinosaur, a member of the Stegosauridae that was officially named and described in 1977, exactly 100 years after the American palaeontologist Othniel Charles Marsh erected the Stegosaurus genus.  The Morrison Formation of the western United States might have been home to Stegosaurus (as well as other types of armoured dinosaur, even basal ankylosaurs), but many academics believe that the Stegosauria clade originated in Asia.

Tuojiangosaurus Model (PNSO) Product Packaging

Tuojiangosaurus packaging.

The distinctive packaging of the PNSO Tuojiangosaurus dinosaur figure.  This new PNSO stegosaur figure is a fraction longer than the “Bieber” Stegosaurus that was introduced in 2019.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Not the First Tuojiangosaurus Model

This is not the first Tuojiangosaurus figure that PNSO have produced.  Collectors may be aware of the PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Tuojiangosaurus model, which was one of the original figures in this series launched by the Chinese company.

The PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Tuojiangosaurus Model

PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Tuojiangosaurus figure.

The PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Tuojiangosaurus figure.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The smaller figures tend to be more brightly coloured, whereas the mid-size models such as the new T. multispinus replica tend to have more muted colour schemes.

Heading Towards Everything Dinosaur

Tuojiganogosaurus (PNSO) dinosaur model.

Tuojiangosaurus PNSO dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur will post up more news about new model introductions in the near future, in the meantime, to purchase a PNSO dinosaur or prehistoric animal model including the PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Tuojiangosaurus: PNSO Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals.

15 10, 2020

Catching Up with Ordosipterus planignathus

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

Ordosipterus planignathus – The First Pterosaur from the Ordos Region of Inner Mongolia

Time to catch up with developments in the world of the Pterosauria with a brief look at the recently described new dsungaripteroid pterosaur named Ordosipterus planignathus.  Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences have described a new species of flying reptile from a partial lower jawbone found in the Ordos region of Inner Mongolia.  This is the first confirmed pterosaur discovery from the Lower Cretaceous deposits associated with this region.  The Dsungaripteridae are both geographically and temporally widespread, with taxa known from South America, Asia, North America and Europe as well as China and Mongolia.  However, Ordosipterus enlarges the geographical distribution of this kind of pterosaur, from north-western China (with western Mongolia), to central northern China.

A Life Reconstruction of Ordosipterus planignathus

Life reconstruction - Ordosipterus planignathus.

A life reconstruction of Ordosipterus planignathus.

Picture Credit: Ji/China Geology

Probing in the Mud for Crustaceans or an Insect Eater

Palaeontologists are uncertain as the trophic habits of these pterosaurs.  That is, it is hard to say what these animals ate.  Dsungaripteroid skulls are characterised by their stoutness and their study bones.  The skulls seem to be reinforced and strengthened to cope with disproportionately large bite forces.  These reinforced skulls in combination with the robust teeth associated with this family suggest that these types of pterosaurs might have probed in soft-mud to find molluscs such as snails and bivalves.  They may also have fed on hard-shelled insects.  The jaws and teeth of dsungaripteroid pterosaurs seem particularly suited to a durophagus diet.

To read a recent Everything Dinosaur blog post that looked at the evidence for probe feeding amongst flying reptiles: The Sensitive Beaks of Pterosaurs.

Only one tooth crown was found in situ, it appears to be short and blunt, perhaps, further evidence of durophagy in this type of pterosaur.

The Holotype Material for O. planignathus with Accompanying Line Drawings

Ordosipterus planignathus (holotype IG V13-011) with line drawings.

The incomplete but articulated lower jaw bones of Ordosipterus planignathus (Holotype IG V13-011) with accompanying line drawings.  Note scale bar equals 2 cm.

Picture Credit: Ji/China Geology

The picture (above), shows the anterior portion of the lower jaws of the recently described flying reptile (a) dorsal view, (b) left lateral view and (c) ventral view.  The genus name honours the Ordos region, whilst the species or trivial name translates from the Greek and Latin as “flat-jawed”, in reference to the shape of the lower jaws.

Evidence of a Unique Biota in Northern China/Mongolia during the Early Cretaceous

The finding of a new species of Early Cretaceous (Aptian faunal stage), pterosaur unique to this area of Asia further strengthens the idea that two distinct terrestrial faunas existed.  It has been suggested that during the Early Cretaceous, two separate dinosaur/pterosaur dominated biotas could be identified in China and Mongolia.  The northern fauna was characterised by the presence of Psittacosaurus and a number of pterosaur genera (including Ordosipterus), whilst the southern fauna was distinguished by an absence of psittacosaurs.

The scientific paper: “First record of Early Cretaceous pterosaur from the Ordos Region, Inner Mongolia, China” by Shu-an Ji published in China Geology.

14 10, 2020

PNSO Gaoyuan the Microraptor Model

By | October 14th, 2020|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

PNSO Gaoyuan the Microraptor Model

Everything Dinosaur will be stocking the beautiful PNSO Gaoyuan Microraptor model.  This excellent dinosaur figure with its iridescent feathers will be in stock in a few weeks, around the middle of November (2020).  This is the first, of what will be a series of new prehistoric animals introduced by PNSO over the next few weeks and months.

The PNSO Gaoyuan the Microraptor Model Will Be in Stock at Everything Dinosaur in a Few Weeks

PNSO Gaoyuan the Microraptor model.

The PNSO Gaoyuan the Microraptor model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A Spectacular Model of a Feathered Dinosaur

In 2019, PNSO introduced their first version of this feathered, flying (most probably) dinosaur.  The original Gaoyuan the Microraptor from PNSO is smaller than the new version, it measures a little under eleven centimetres long, whilst the 2020 Gaoyuan is around twenty centimetres in length.

Gaoyuan the Microraptor (2020) A Feathered Dinosaur Model from PNSO

PNSO Gaoyuan the Microraptor.

The PNSO Microraptor figure, new for 2020 swoops into view.  This is one of the official images sent to Everything Dinosaur by the Chinese company.  The new for 2020 PNSO Microraptor figure is around twice as long as the 2019 PNSO Microraptor model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This figure is slightly longer than the CollectA Deluxe 1:6 scale Microraptor that came into stock at Everything Dinosaur earlier this year.  Both the CollectA Deluxe Microraptor and this new version from PNSO have a twelve centimetre wingspan.  Therefore, although the mid-size models from PNSO do not have a declared scale, it could be suggested that the PNSO Gaoyuan Microraptor model is also around 1/6th scale.

Showing the Back of the Figure to Highlight the Feather Details and the Iridescence of the Plumage

Gaoyuan the Microraptor (posterior view).

The beautifully crafted iridescent feathers on the back of the PNSO Microraptor figure (Gaoyuan the Microraptor).  The view of the back of the model with its outstretched wings showing the amazing feather details and that spectacular iridescence.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Iridescent Plumage

An analysis of Microraptor fossil feathers undertaken by a joint Chinese and American team in 2012 revealed that this small dromaeosaurid dinosaur had glossy, iridescent feathers, like that of a modern crow (Corvidae).  The study also demonstrated that the narrow tail was adorned with a pair of streamer feathers, suggesting feathers originally evolved for display, rather than flight.  This is the earliest record of iridescence in feathers.

The PNSO Gaoyuan the Microraptor figure reflects the very latest research into this enigmatic member of the Dromaeosauridae.

The PNSO Microraptor Reflects the Very Latest Research into this Dromaeosaurid

PNSO Gaoyuan Microraptor model.

The beautiful PNSO Gaoyuan Microraptor model.  The model reflects the very latest research on the Microraptor genus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Recently, a scientific paper was published postulating that Microraptor moulted, shedding and replacing its feathers in a very similar fashion to a modern bird.

To read an article about the evidence for sequential moulting in Microraptor (M. gui): Microraptor Moulted Just Like a Modern Bird.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We know that the enthusiastic team at PNSO are working on a number of new dinosaur and prehistoric animal figures at the moment.  With this new Microraptor figure, model collectors have the opportunity to add to their feathered dinosaur model collection.”

This model will be in stock at Everything Dinosaur around the middle of November (2020).

Everything Dinosaur stocks a huge range of PNSO figures, to view the models and to see the first PNSO Microraptor: PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Models and Figures.

13 10, 2020

A New Basal Abelisaurid is Described “Ghost Hunter”

By | October 13th, 2020|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A New Basal Abelisaurid – Spectrovenator ragei

Researchers from the Universidade de São Paulo (Brazil), in collaboration with colleagues from the Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio (Argentina), have described a new species of basal abelisaurid from the Early Cretaceous of Brazil.  The theropod has been named Spectrovenator ragei, the genus name translates from the Latin as “Ghost Hunter” as the fossilised remains were found unexpectedly underneath the holotype of the titanosaur Tapuiasaurus macedoi when the fossils of this dinosaur were being partially prepared by the field team.

An Illustration of Spectrovenator ragei with Key Fossils Highlighted that Help to Define the Dinosaur’s Taxonomy

Spectrovenator key fossils.

Key fossil bones that helped to define Spectrovenator taxonomically.  Known fossil material shaded blue.

Picture Credit: Zaher et al

The species or trivial name honours the late Dr Jean-Claude Rage, an eminent French researcher who made a significant contribution to the study of South American Mesozoic vertebrates.

Described from a partially articulated skeleton including a virtually complete skull, the dinosaur is thought to have measured around 2.2 metres in length and it is the first Early Cretaceous abelisaurid known with an almost complete skull.  The cranial material has helped the researchers to demonstrate the evolution of abelisaurid skulls from the earliest, most basal Eoabelisaurus to the abelisaurids that existed in Gondwana during the later stages of the Cretaceous.

Views of the Skull with Accompanying Line Drawings

The Skull of Spectovenator (lateral view with line drawings).

The skull of Spectrovenator ragei (MZSP-PV 833) in (a) right lateral view with (b) line drawing and (c) left lateral view and accompanying line drawing (d).  Scale bar equals 5 cm.

Picture Credit: Zaher et al

With a beautifully preserved skull to study, the scientists have been able to compare the function of the skull and jaws of Spectrovenator with more derived members of the Abelisauridae.  The Early Cretaceous Spectrovenator (Barremian-Aptian), lacks the specialisations, such as a high occipital region and highly flexible jaw joints linked to a modified feeding strategy suggested for much later abelisaurids.  For example, some scientists, think that large-bodied abelisaurids such as Carnotaurus (C. sastrei) specialised in hunting titanosaurs (large prey).  The lack of these specialisations in the skull of Spectrovenator suggests this modified feeding strategy may be restricted to Late Cretaceous abelisaurids and linked to an increase in body size by this type of predatory dinosaur which occurred during the Cenomanian and through to the Maastrichtian.

Phylogenetic relationships of Spectrovenator within the Ceratosauria

Phylogenetic relationships of Spectrovenator within the Ceratosauria.

Phylogenetic relationships of Spectrovenator within the Ceratosauria with a geographical and temporal break down of fossil material.  Spectrovenator is regarded as a basal member of the Abelisauridae.

Picture Credit: Zaher et al

The discovery of Spectrovenator helps to fill a sizeable gap in the evolutionary history of the Abelisauridae.  The earliest member of the Abelisauridae described to date Eoabelisaurus (E. mefi), is known from the Middle Jurassic of Argentina (around 166 million years ago), whilst other abelisaurids such as Rugops and Skorpiovenator are known from Upper Cretaceous sediments (100 million years ago approximately).  Whereas Spectrovenator was found in strata that is approximately 120 million years old.

The scientific paper: “An Early Cretaceous theropod dinosaur from Brazil sheds light on the cranial evolution of the Abelisauridae” by Hussam Zaher, Diego Pol, Bruno Albert Navarro, Rafael Delcourt and Alberto Barbosa Carvalho published in Comptes Rendus Palevol.

12 10, 2020

Marine Reptile Soft Toys

By | October 12th, 2020|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Ichthyosaurus and Plesiosaurus Soft Toys

Everything Dinosaur stocks a large range of prehistoric animal soft toys.  We like to refer to all these soft and cuddly creatures as our “prehistoric plush”.  Joining our portfolio of prehistoric animals are a pair of marine reptile soft toys.  Everything Dinosaur has added another Plesiosaurus soft toy and we have also been able to bring in a special Ichthyosaurus as well.  Two wonderful examples of Mesozoic themed soft toys and they are super-sized too!

The Natural History Museum Ichthyosaurus Soft Toy

Natural History Museum Ichthyosaurus soft toy.

Mary Anning would have been proud!  A soft toy Ichthyosaurus – a fine example of “prehistoric plush”!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Beautifully Textured Soft Toys

Team members at Everything Dinosaur have been asked to comment on the scales visible on the image above.  We have been emailed several times about this subject and we can confirm that although the fossil record suggests that ichthyosaurs had streamlined bodies that lacked large scales, the texture of the soft toy does show lots of different sized scales.  There are also subtle hues of greys and browns within the fabric.  This is one very tactile example of prehistoric plush!

The Actual Ichthyosaurus Soft Toy as Photographed in the Everything Dinosaur Studio

Natural History Museum Ichthyosaurus soft toy.

The textured skin of this Ichthyosaurus soft toy is evident.  This is a soft toy of a marine reptile.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Taking a Close Look at the Ichthyosaurus Soft Toy

A soft toy Ichthyosaurus

Natural History Museum soft toy Ichthyosaurus.  The soft toy measures around 50 cm in length.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Natural History Museum Plesiosaurus Soft Toy

In addition to the “fish lizard” Everything Dinosaur have added a Natural History Museum Plesiosaurus soft toy.  Both these marine reptile soft toys are quite large, measuring around 50 cm in length.

The Natural History Museum Plesiosaurus Soft Toy

Natural History Museum Plesiosaurus soft toy.

A Natural History Museum Plesiosaurus soft toy.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We are delighted to be able to add this pair of prehistoric plush to our prehistoric animal soft toy range.  It is great to be able to offer such a wide variety of prehistoric animal soft toys, they will be fine additions to our plush range which tends to be dominated by the dinosaurs.”

We Think the Plesiosaurus is Smiling!

Soft Toy Plesiosaurus.

The soft toy Plesiosaurus gives the impression that it is smiling.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To purchase the Natural History Museum Ichthyosaurus soft toy and/or the Natural History Museum soft toy Plesiosaurus: Large Soft Toys from Everything Dinosaur.

11 10, 2020

Papo in Perspective – YouTube Video

By | October 11th, 2020|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Everything Dinosaur videos, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Presents “Papo in Perspective”

The next YouTube video that Everything Dinosaur has planned is a perspective on how Everything Dinosaur works with the French model and figure manufacturer Papo.  Everything Dinosaur’s YouTube channel might have over 180 videos on it, but we have never before discussed in detail a single model making company in one of our videos.  Normally we focus on model and replica reviews and over the years we have posted dozens of videos dedicated to one Papo model or another.  However, let’s do something different and provide a perspective on some of their new for 2020 additions, consider potential retirements as well as revealing a sure-fire way to identify a legitimate Papo model supplier.

Everything Dinosaur on YouTube

Everything Dinosaur, putting Papo in perspective

Everything Dinosaur’s next YouTube review will focus on one model manufacturer rather than one prehistoric animal model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Providing Educational Video Reviews

At Everything Dinosaur, we hope to educate and inform when it comes to our video contents.  There are lots of model reviews to be found on YouTube, however, we are the only company of our kind with a very real insight into the model making industry as well as the palaeontology behind fossil finds.  You could say that Everything Dinosaur is uniquely placed to comment upon the science behind the design of prehistoric animal figures.  Our YouTube channel contains lots of helpful videos about prehistoric animal models and figures.  To visit our YouTube channel and to subscribe: Everything Dinosaur on YouTube.

To see the range of Papo prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur: Papo Prehistoric Animal Models.

The Papo Giganotosaurus Dinosaur Model will Feature in Everything Dinosaur’s YouTube Video

The Papo Giganotosaurus dinosaur model.

Stepping into the spotlight the Papo Giganotosaurus dinosaur model.  It will feature in Everything Dinosaur’s latest video (mid-October 2020).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Question of the Day

In addition, to looking at Papo’s current crop of prehistoric animal figures, we know that model collectors will be eagerly anticipating new figures for 2021.  Manufacturers have the plans well advanced, but just for a bit of fun, we shall challenge our YouTube subscribers and video reviewers to come up with suggestions as to what replicas Papo ought to consider making in 2022.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

” We always like to include a question or two in our video reviews and with our strong working relationship with Papo we thought it would be fun to challenge viewers to suggest what sort of figures Papo ought to make in 2022.  There are more than fifty models in the Papo Les Dinosaures range, although not all of them are dinosaurs.  There are certainly enough figures and replicas to inspire model collectors.  We look forward to reviewing the suggestions and to passing them onto our pals at Papo.”

10 10, 2020

Prehistoric Times – Preview

By | October 10th, 2020|Dinosaur Fans, Magazine Reviews, Main Page, Photos, Prehistoric Times|0 Comments

Prehistoric Times – Preview

This might be a very strange and distressing year for many people (2020), we might be yearning for a sense of normality or normalcy as they say across the pond.  Mike Fredericks and his team responsible for “Prehistoric Times”, the quarterly magazine for prehistoric animal enthusiasts, palaeoartists and collectors of dinosaur figures and related merchandise have produced another amazing issue and it will soon be in the post.

The artwork that adorns the front cover is a dramatic Pleistocene-inspired scene created by the extremely talented American palaeoartist Mark Hallet.  The artwork depicting a cave bear defending her calf, certainly has impact!

The Front Cover of “Prehistoric Times” Magazine (Issue 135)

Prehistoric Times magazine front cover (issue 135)

The front cover of “Prehistoric Times” magazine issue 135 (autumn 2020).

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks

Front Cover Artwork by Mark Hallett

Inspired by a previous generation of great artists such as Charles R. Knight, Mark has worked with a large number of prestigious publications, museums and other institutions including National Geographic, the Smithsonian and the American Museum of Natural History as well as working with the likes of Steven Spielberg on the Jurassic Park franchise.

A passionate supporter of conservation, Mark continues to create beautiful and dramatic artwork depicting prehistoric scenes and dioramas helping to excite and inspire the next generation of scientists by encouraging them develop a fascination for the natural world.  Inside this edition of the magazine readers will discover two articles penned by the Texas-based artist along with more examples of his exquisite artwork.

The autumn edition of “Prehistoric Times” (issue 135), also features an article written by the American researcher, illustrator and author Gregory S. Paul along with the second part of the perspective on theropod dinosaur artwork of the famous Czech artist Zdeněk Burian in a long-running series researched and written by John Lavas.  Stegosaurus is the featured dinosaur and look out for an article on that survivor of the Permian mass extinction, the herbivorous, heavily-built Lystrosaurus.   It’s great to see a member of the Dicynodontia showcased in the magazine.

In these troubling times, “Prehistoric Times” helps to bring together the prehistoric animal model collecting community.  We are looking forward to receiving the next issue, it should be with us very soon.

Want to subscribe to “Prehistoric Times”?   Click this link for more details: Subscribe to Prehistoric Times.

9 10, 2020

The Sensitive Beaks of Pterosaurs

By | October 9th, 2020|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Sensitive Probe Feeding Pterosaurs

Whilst it is not always sensible to compare the Pterosauria to birds, they do have a number of things in common.  As vertebrates they may not be very closely related but both birds and pterosaurs share some common anatomical characteristics that have helped them to conquer the sky.  Their skeletons show special adaptations to assist with powered flight and if we focus on modern birds for a moment, we can see that many forms have evolved to occupy different niches in ecosystems.  For example, some birds such as vultures and condors are primarily scavengers, whilst others are active predators (eagles, hawks and falcons).  Yet more are omnivores and some such as flamingos (filter feeders), swifts (aerial insect hunters) and hummingbirds (nectar feeders) occupy very specialist roles within food chains.

Although the known fossil record of the Pterosauria probably grossly under-represents these flying reptiles, palaeontologists are becoming increasingly aware of the diversity of this enigmatic clade.  Around 130 genera have been described, probably only a fraction of the total number of genera that evolved during their long history and recently a combination of fossil finds from Morocco in conjunction with a re-examination of fossils from a chalk pit near Maidstone in Kent (England), has led researchers to propose yet another environmental niche for pterosaurs.  Some pterosaurs evolved sensitive beaks that allowed them to probe sediments to help them find food just like many types of modern wading birds and members of the Aves such as the kiwi.

A Life Reconstruction of the Lonchodectid Lonchodraco giganteus Probing in the Mud to Find Food

Lonchodraco (pterosaur) probing mud for food.

A life reconstruction of a lonchodectid pterosaur using its sensitive beak to find food.

Picture Credit: Megan Jacobs (The University of Portsmouth)

Unusual Foramina in a Fossil Specimen

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth in collaboration with Dr Nicholas Longrich (University of Bath), took a close look at the fragmentary remains of the anterior of the rostrum (front of the jaws), of the pterosaur Lonchodraco giganteus (formerly referred to as Lonchodectes giganteus).  These fossils had been found in a chalk pit, close to the village of Burham, near Maidstone, Kent.  They were originally described as a species of Pterodactylus by the British naturalist James Scott Bowerbank in 1846.

Lonchodraco giganteus Holotype Jaws

Lonchodraco giganteus holotype rostrum and mandible.

Holotype rostrum and mandible of Lonchodraco giganteus (NHMUK 39412) in (a) left lateral and (b) right lateral views.  Scale bar = 1 cm.

Picture Credit: Martill et al (Cretaceous Research)

Like many pterosaur fossils from southern England, the fossilised remains are extremely scrappy, more recent studies have assigned these remains to the little-known lonchodectid pterosaurs (Lonchodectidae family).  These types of pterosaurs are united by having low profile jaws, raised teeth sockets and uniformly small teeth.  In a study of the holotype rostrum and mandible of L. giganteus, dozens of tiny holes (foramina) were discovered in the beak tip.  These are thought to represent sensory areas on the beak, where nerves pass through the bone and make contact with the beak’s surface.  Although foramina have been observed in the Pterosauria before, the pattern identified on the tip of the rostrum of Lonchodraco is unique.

Lonchodraco giganteus Holotype (Anterior View)

Lonchodraco giganteus holotype (anterior view).

Lonchodraco giganteus (NHMUK 39412).  Two views of anterior rostrum and mandible.  Photograph ( a) showing anterior margin of mandible with small, triangular symphysial process and (b), anterior view of rostrum showing the rounded termination of the beak and the fine perforations of the dental borders.  Black arrows indicate symphysial process/odontoid.  Scale bar = 1 cm.

Picture Credit: Martill et al (Cretaceous Research)

These types of nerve clusters are reminiscent to those found in living birds such as kiwis, sandpapers, spoonbills, geese, ducks and snipes.  These birds rely on their sense of touch when finding and catching food.  Typically, they either probe in water, mud, sand or soil to locate and catch prey.  This research, in combination with a second paper that also postulates on probe-feeding behaviour in the Pterosauria, suggests that just like modern birds, the pterosaurs were capable of evolving into a myriad of forms to exploit different food sources.

Concentration of Foramina at the Jaw Tips (Lonchodraco giganteus)

Lonchodraco line drawing showing concentration of foramina at the jaw tips

Hypothetical restoration of the jaw tips of Lonchodraco giganteus.  The black dots represent sensory areas (foramina).

Picture Credit: Martill et al (Cretaceous Research)

The scientific paper: “Evidence for tactile foraging in pterosaurs: a sensitive tip to the beak of Lonchodraco giganteus (Pterosauria, Lonchodectidae) from the Upper Cretaceous of southern England” by David M. Martill, Roy E. Smith, Nicholas Longrich and James Brown published in Cretaceous Research.

A Second Example of Probe Feeding

Recently, Professor David Martill, along with colleagues from Portsmouth University, pterosaur expert Samir Zouhri (Université Hassan II, Casablanca, Morocco) and Nicholas Longrich (University of Bath), published a paper in Cretaceous Research describing a new species of long-jawed pterosaur from Morocco that also could have been a probe feeder.  The flying reptile was described as having exceptionally long jaws for its body size, which terminated in a flattened beak with thickened bony walls.  The shape of these jaws superficially resembled the beaks of probing birds such as kiwis, ibises and curlews.  The research team hypothesised that like these living birds, this pterosaur probed in soft sediments in search of invertebrates.  The age of the fossils is not certain, although an Albian to Cenomanian age was postulated.  This pterosaur was tentatively assigned to the azhdarchoids, but if it is a member of the Azhdarchoidea, then it represents an extremely atypical form.

The scientists conclude that this Moroccan pterosaur adds to the remarkable diversity of the Pterosauria known from the Cretaceous.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of media releases from the University of Portsmouth and the University of Bath in compilation of this article.

The scientific paper: “A long-billed, possible probe-feeding pterosaur (Pterodactyloidea: ?Azhdarchoidea) from the mid-Cretaceous of Morocco, North Africa” by Roy E. Smith, David M. Martill, Alexander Kao, Samir Zouhri, and Nicholas Longrich published in Cretaceous Research.

8 10, 2020

Two-fingered Oviraptosaur Sheds Light on the Success of the “Egg Thiefs”

By | October 8th, 2020|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Oksoko avarsan – New Species of Oviraptorosaur with Two Fingers

That inappropriately named clade of “Egg Thief Lizards”, the Oviraptorosauria has a new member.  Standing around one metre high at the hips, the newly described Oksoko avarsan (Oak-soak-oh), which had just two digits on each hand, instead of the default Oviraptor setting of three, is helping palaeontologists to understand the radiation and success of these feathered dinosaurs.

A Life Reconstruction of the Newly Described Oksoko avarsan

Oksoko avarsan life reconstruction.

A trio of oviraptors – a life reconstruction of Oksoko avarsan.

Picture Credit: Michael Skrepnick

The First Evidence of Digit Loss in the Oviraptorosaurs

Over the last forty years or so, lots of new oviraptorosaur theropods have been named and described, principally from fossil finds made in China and Mongolia.   These feathered dinosaurs were highly successful and although their origins are uncertain, this type of dinosaur probably evolved in the Early Cretaceous of northern China and by the Late Cretaceous they had spread across much of Asia and into North America.

Whilst most palaeontologists confronted with the wealth of fossil material would concede that these theropods were geographically widespread, little research has been undertaken to ascertain the reasons for their evolutionary success.  The discovery of Oksoko with its reduced forelimb with only two functional digits suggests that this group could alter their diets, behaviours and habits which enabled them to diversify and multiply.  In essence, variation in forelimb length and hand morphology provides another example of niche partitioning in oviraptorosaurs, which may have contributed to their incredible diversity in the latest Cretaceous of Asia.

The Holotype Block Containing Three Specimens of O. avarsan

The holotype block consisting of three individuals (Oksoko avarsan).

The holotype block of Oksoko avarsan MPC-D 102/110 with an explanatory line drawing.  The holotype fossil is individual A coloured blue.

Picture Credit: Funston et al (Royal Society Open Science)

Gregarious Behaviour in Oviraptorids

Oksoko is known from four specimens, a group of three (see picture above) and a fourth specimen found in the same crouched position that is believed to come from the same location.  All the fossil material was confiscated from poachers so the exact discovery site of these fossils remains unknown.  However, the researchers have confidently assigned them to the Nemegt Formation of the Gobi Desert and the material is estimated to be around 68 million years old.  It had long been suspected that oviraptorosaurs were gregarious social animals.  The finding of three individuals preserved together represents the first, definitive evidence that these animals probably lived in groups and that they were gregarious.  The fossil bones of all four individuals have provided the researchers with an almost complete skeleton of this two-metre-long dinosaur to study.

Key Fossils Representing the Anatomy of Oksoko avarsan

Key fossils associated with Oksoko avarsan.

Skeletal anatomy of Oksoko avarsan with key fossils including skull in lateral view (b) with line drawing (c).

Picture Credit: Funston et al (Royal Society Open Science)

A Three-headed Eagle

The scientists which included Dr Gregory Funston (Edinburgh University) and Phil Currie (University of Alberta), named this dinosaur after the three-headed eagle of Altaic mythology, a reference to the holotype block which contains the skulls of three individuals.  The species or trivial name is from a Mongolian word for “rescued”, it alludes to the fact that these fossils were recovered from poachers.

The remarkably well-preserved fossil material provides the first documented evidence of digit loss in the usually three-fingered Oviraptorosauria.  The holotype block material represents the remains of three dinosaurs that were approximately the same size and bone histology reveals that these animals died when they were around a year old.  The fourth specimen is believed to represent an older animal that died around the age of five.

Commenting on the discovery, Dr Funston remarked:

“Oksoko avarsan is interesting because the skeletons are very complete and the way they were preserved resting together shows that juveniles roamed together in groups.  But more importantly, its two-fingered hand prompted us to look at the way the hand and forelimb changed throughout the evolution of oviraptors — which hadn’t been studied before.  This revealed some unexpected trends that are a key piece in the puzzle of why oviraptors were so diverse before the extinction that killed the dinosaurs.”

Finger Loss in a Dinosaur Family

Oksoko is the sixth genus of the Oviraptoridae family to be named from fossils associated with the Nemegt Formation.  This demonstrates the diversity of these types of dinosaurs in the Late Cretaceous of China.

The other five oviraptorids known from the Nemegt Formation of Mongolia as stated by Everything Dinosaur team members are:

  • Rinchenia mongoliensis
  • Nomingia gobiensis
  • Nemegtomaia barsboldi
  • Gobiraptor minutus
  • Conchoraptor gracilis

In addition, a number of closely related dinosaurs are known from the Nemegt Formation including the caenagnathid Elmisaurus rarus

The scientists produced a phylogeny of the Oviraptorosauria based in a reduction in size and eventual loss of digit III as shown in the most derived form described to date (O. avarsan) and a corresponding increase in size and robustness of digit I.  They concluded that the arms and hands of these dinosaurs changed radically in conjunction with migrations into new geographical areas and presumably different habitats – specifically to what is now North America and the Gobi Desert.

Plotting the Change in Hand Morphology and the Radiation of the Oviraptorosauria

Phylogeny, biogeography and digit reduction in Oviraptorosauria.

Phylogeny, biogeography and digit reduction in Oviraptorosauria.  The map (top left) shows the distribution of oviraptorids during the Late Cretaceous of Asia.

Picture Credit: Funston et al (Royal Society Open Science)

To read a related article that considered the holotype block as evidence for communal roosting in oviraptorids: Three Theropods Preserved in a Resting Pose.

The scientific paper: “A new two-fingered dinosaur sheds light on the radiation of Oviraptorosauria” by Gregory F. Funston, Tsogtbaatar Chinzorig, Khishigjav Tsogtbaatar, Yoshitsugu Kobayashi, Corwin Sullivan and Philip J. Currie published in Royal Society Open Science.

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