All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
/Photos/Pictures of Fossils

Pictures of fossils, fossil hunting trips, fossil sites and photographs relating to fossil hunting and fossil finds.

18 01, 2022

Menucocelsior arriagadai – from Southern Argentina

By | January 18th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Scientists writing this month in the journal “Cretaceous Research” have formally described a new genus of Late Cretaceous titanosaur from Patagonia. The dinosaur has been named Menucocelsior arriagadai based on a series of tail bones (caudal vertebrae) and fragmentary limb bones including a right humerus and a left fibula, found in sediments associated with the Allen Formation (Maastrichtian stage of the Upper Cretaceous).

Views of Menucocelsior arriagadai tail bones.
Views of Menucocelsior arriagadai tail bones. Autapomorphies in the caudal vertebrae permitted the erection of a new titanosaur genus. Picture credit: Rolando et al.

A Titanosaur that “Jumped the Gun”

The announcement concerning the naming of a new titanosaur genus was made last year (2021), Menucocelsior was one of several new titanosaur genera named in 2021. However, the formal, scientific paper that erected the genus was published this month in the January edition of “Cretaceous Research”.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article from December 2021 that outlined the new titanosaurs named and described over the previous twelve months: New Titanosaur Species Described from South America – Arrudatitan.

Menucocelsior arriagadai scale drawing.
A scale drawing of M. arriagadai. Although only known from caudal vertebrae, a size estimate has been made based on more complete and better known South American titanosaurs. It is estimated that Menucocelsior measured around 8-10 metres in length.

A Late Cretaceous Titanosaur Paradise

Although only known from very incomplete and fragmentary material, the fossilised remains assigned to M. arriagadai do not demonstrate a close taxonomic relationship with any other, previously described titanosaur. The site where the fossils were found Salitral Ojo de Agua in Río Negro Province has also yielded the fossilised bones of at least three other species of titanosaurs and other contemporary fossil sites in the Allen Formation have provided evidence of numerous other titanosaurs along with hadrosaurs.

Researchers have concluded that the environment must have been extremely productive to support such a large number of mega herbivores. It has been proposed that the titanosaurs evolved different feeding strategies to avoid excessive competition for food resources (niche partitioning). Perhaps these animals were selective browsers, specialising in feeding from the branches of trees, whilst the hadrosaurs were bulk-feeders, targeting ground vegetation.

The genus name is derived from the indigenous Mapuche language for a large watering hole, which describes the fossil site. The specific or trivial name honours the Arriagada family, the owners of the land where the fossils were found.

The scientific paper: “The sauropod record of Salitral Ojo del Agua: An Upper Cretaceous (Allen Formation) fossiliferous locality from northern Patagonia, Argentina” by Mauro Aranciaga Rolando, Jordi A. García Marsà, Federico L. Agnolín, Matías J. Motta, Sebastián Rozadilla, and Fernando E. Novas published in Cretaceous Research.

11 01, 2022

A Tooth from a Pterosaur

By | January 11th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Our thanks to Robert, a customer of Everything Dinosaur, who sent into our offices a fossil of a pterosaur tooth from the Kem Kem Formation of Morocco. The large tooth is slightly curved and lacks any serrations (denticles), it is a typical example of a flying reptile tooth from the early Late Cretaceous Kem Kem deposits. Although we are unable to identify the genus, we suspect that the tooth comes from an ornithocheirid pterosaur.

Fossil pterosaur tooth
The pterosaur fossil sent into Everything Dinosaur by one of our Scottish customers. The tooth, which measures approximately 5 cm long most likely comes from an ornithocheirid pterosaur. Picture credit: Robert

Fossil Pterosaur Tooth

When taking a picture of a fossil, or indeed, taking a photograph of an object that you think might be a fossil but need help with identification, it is a good idea to provide some scale in the picture. A coin could be placed next to the item to provide a scale reference. At Everything Dinosaur, we tend to use one of our brightly coloured geological rulers but as we did not have one of these in the office, an ordinary ruler was pressed into service. Viewers of the photograph can instantly get an idea of the size of the object. In this case, the fossil tooth measures approximately 5 cm in length.

New pterosaur genera described from the Kem Kem Beds of Morocco.
In 2020, a number of new flying reptile species were named and described from fossil material found in the Kem Kem Beds of Morocco. The only toothed forms known to science include members of the Ornithocheiroidea such as ornithocheirids or as pictured (above) an anhanguerid. The pterosaur Anhanguera soars over the skies of North Africa with Coloborhynchus and Ornithocheirus to keep it company. Picture credit: Megan Jacobs (Baylor University).

Kem Kem Beds

The Kem Kem Formation, actually consists of two Formations, lower Gara Sbaa Formation and the geologically younger Douira Formation. Technically, the Kem Kem Formation should be referred to as the Kem Kem Group, these strata are exposed across a large part of the Algerian/Moroccan border and are famous for dinosaur remains.

Fossils associated with the Kem Kem Beds are often highly fragmentary and although several pterosaur genera have been described from fossil discoveries associated with these deposits, their remains are relatively rare and often difficult to interpret.

To read an article describing a new species of toothless pterosaur from Morocco: A Fourth New Moroccan pterosaur – Afrotapejara.

Our thanks to Robert for sending into Everything Dinosaur, this excellent example of a pterosaur tooth.

10 01, 2022

The Rutland Ichthyosaur

By | January 10th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

The discovery of the remarkable Rutland ichthyosaur has featured in many news channels and media outlets. It is a stunning fossil specimen, demonstrating that even in a country like Britain, arguably the birthplace of geology and the science of palaeontology, a part of the world that has been extensively mapped, documented and studied, that there are still amazing fossils to be found.

This story highlights the many largely unsung individuals that bring to the attention of scientists, strange phenomena that they spot, often in the unlikeliest of places. In this case it was Joe Davis (Conservation Team Leader for Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust at the Rutland reservoir), who along with his colleague Paul Trevor spotted strange circular objects jutting out of the exposed Jurassic clay as they routinely inspected part of a drained lagoon back in February 2021.

These objects turned out to be bones from the spinal column, fortunately, Joe a career conservationist, was familiar with the skeletons of whales and dolphins and he had an inkling that these objects were organic in origin. The local council was called and asked whether they had a “dinosaur department” that could investigate further. Thus, was set in motion a series of events that led to award-winning ichthyosaur specialist Dr Dean Lomax setting up an exploratory dig at the site, the results of which led to a full-scale excavation over the summer.

Dr Dean Lomax dwarfed by the giant ichthyosaur skeleton.
Dr Dean Lomax provides the scale for an aerial shot of the Rutland ichthyosaur specimen. Picture credit: Anglian Water/Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust/Matthew Power Photography.

An Extraordinary Marine Reptile Fossil

The ichthyosaur fossil is the largest and most complete ichthyosaur to have been found in the UK. It measures around 10.5 metres in length. As has been repeatedly stated in the plethora of media releases concerning this Jurassic monster, ichthyosaurs are not dinosaurs. Ichthyosaurs are aquatic reptiles that evolved from terrestrial ancestors. Their evolutionary origins remain obscure, but their fossil record covers most of the Mesozoic and the Rutland ichthyosaur happens to be the most complete skeleton of a large prehistoric reptile ever found in the UK.

This spectacular fossil discovery stands out well compared to the scrappy and fragmentary remains of Britain’s dinosaurs.

Some of the team members responsible for the Rutland Sea Dragon excavation
Some of the Rutland “Sea Dragon” excavation team. Left to right – Dr Emma Nicholls (Senior Curator of Natural Sciences at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, London), David Savory (Peterborough Geological and Palaeontological Group), Nigel Larkin (palaeontological conservator), Dr Dean Lomax (palaeontologist), Mick Beeson (Peterborough Geological and Palaeontological Group), Dr Mark Evans (palaeontologist at the University of Leicester), Emily Swaby (PhD student the Open University), and Darren Withers (Peterborough Museum). Picture credit: Anglian Water.

A “Rosetta Stone” for the Temnodontosaurus Genus

The fossil specimen has been tentatively assigned to the species Temnodontosaurus trigonodon. If this proves to be the case, the identification will be confirmed when the fossils are fully cleaned and prepared, then this is the first T. trigonodon known from the British Isles.

The species Temnodontosaurus trigonodon was erected in 1843. Its fossils have been found in Germany and France, if the Rutland specimen proves to be this species it will extend the palaeogeographical range of T. trigonodon. In addition, the almost complete, articulated Rutland ichthyosaur will provide an extremely useful comparator when assessing Temnodontosaurus fossils. It will help to identify other large, but much less complete, ichthyosaur specimens housed in museums, acting as a “Rosetta Stone” for the genus.

A life reconstruction of the Rutland Ichthyosaur
The ichthyosaur specimen has been tentatively assigned to the species Temnodontosaurus trigonodon. T. trigonodon was an apex predator and it probably hunted other smaller ichthyosaurs. Picture credit: Bob Nicholls.

A Huge Fossil but It’s Also the Little Details

These fossilised remains are not the first ichthyosaur fossils to have been found at Rutland Water, smaller, fragmentary material representing other species were found during construction of the reservoir. Once excavated and wrapped in plaster jackets the Rutland ichthyosaur was taken to a research facility where the job of preparing and restoring it will take place under the watchful supervision of conservator Nigel Larkin.

The bones and teeth may have been removed but the site can still provide a great deal of data. For example, the clay-rich rocks that contained the specimen represent deposits from the Whitby Mudstone Formation and analysis of microfossils preserved in the sediment have enabled researchers at the University of Birmingham to reliably date the Rutland ichthyosaur to 181.5 to 182 million years ago (Toarcian faunal stage of the Jurassic).

The composition of these microfossils indicates that this large predator lived in a tropical, marine environment with a rich and diverse ecosystem. Temnodontosaurus is thought to have lived far out to sea and away from the coast. It is hoped that further analysis of the matrix surrounding the fossil will provide more details of this animal’s palaeoenvironment.

The Rutland sea dragon excavation
The summer 2021 excavation of the Rutland ichthyosaur. The ventral elements of the skull can be seen in the foreground. This photograph was taken before prior to plaster encasement of the specimen and it being removed from the site. Picture credit: Anglian Water/Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust.

Locked in Time

Palaeontologist Dr Dean Lomax who led the excavation, has recently published a book in collaboration with Bob Nicholls the artist that provided the Temnodontosaurus illustration.

It provides a fascinating analysis of fifty extraordinary fossils and what these discoveries can tell scientists about life in the past.

The book is available from Columbia University Press: Columbia University Press just search for Dean Lomax on this site.

Locked in Time by Dean Lomax and illustrated by Bob Nicholls
Published by Columbia University Press “Locked in Time” examines 50 extraordinary fossils that provide a remarkable glimpse into the lives and behaviours of long extinct animals. Picture credit: The University of Manchester.
7 01, 2022

Research into Fossils Affected by a Significant Colonial Bias

By | January 7th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

The study of fossils, the science of documenting the history of life on our planet, is heavily biased by influences such as colonialism, history and global economics. That is the conclusion from new research conducted by palaeontologists from the University of Birmingham in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (Germany), Rhodes University (South Africa), Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (Brazil), Cambridge University and IISER Pune, Department of Earth and Climate Science (India).

Excavating dinosaur fossils in Lesotho (circa 1955).
A photograph from The National Archives showing a dinosaur fossil excavation in Lesotho. The research team concluded that a global power imbalance persists in palaeontology, with researchers in high or upper-middle-income countries holding a monopoly over palaeontological knowledge production by contributing to 97% of fossil data. Picture credit: Alwyn Bisschoff/The National Archives (catalogue reference Part of CO 1069/209)

Distorting Estimates of Past Biodiversity

The research team discovered that sampling biases in the fossil record distort estimates of past biodiversity. However, these biases not only reflect the geological and spatial aspects of the fossil record, but also the historical and current collation of fossil data. These findings have significance across the field of palaeontology, but also for the ways in which researchers are able to use our knowledge of ancient fossil records to gain clearer, long-term perspectives on Earth’s biodiversity.

Writing in the journal “Nature Ecology & Evolution”, the researchers investigated the influence and extent of these biases within the Paleobiology Database, a vast, widely-used and publicly-accessible resource which forms the foundation for analytical studies in the field.

They found significant bias in areas such as knowledge production, with researchers in high or upper-middle-income countries contributing to 97 per cent of fossil data. This means that wealthy countries, primarily located in the Global North control the majority of the palaeontological research power.

 Percentage contribution of the top 15 countries to the total fossil data analysed in this study.
Percentage contribution of the top 15 countries to the total fossil data analysed in this study. The colour of each bar represents whether the authors of each country conducted their research domestically (that is, in the same country), in a foreign country, or in a foreign country without collaboration with local palaeontologists. Picture credit: Raja et al.

Lack of Involvement for Local Researchers

The team also found the top countries contributing to palaeontological research, carried out a disproportionate amount of work abroad, more than half of which did not involve any local researchers (researchers based in the country where the fossils are being collected).

There are many famous examples of colonial, political and economic biases across the natural sciences and humanities. During the 19th century and for most of the 20th century, specimens uncovered following exploratory expeditions were shipped back to respective imperial capitals to be housed in museums, where many are still used for scientific research today.

In a press release from Birmingham University the plight of the Parthenon sculptures, sometimes referred to as the Elgin Marbles was provided as an example. The Greek government has repeatedly requested that they be returned since they were taken from Athens in the early 19th century and transported to Britain.

There are also many other examples, such as the fossil excavations undertaken in Egypt by the German palaeontologist Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach or the removal of many Cretaceous-aged dinosaur fossils by French field teams from the island of Madagascar.

The huge neural spines associated with Spinosaurus
A picture of Spinosaurus fossils taken from Egypt to Germany.

The researchers postulate that these biases affect the way in which palaeontologists conduct their research and can lead to unethical practices in the most extreme cases.

Co-lead author Dr Emma Dunne (University of Birmingham) stated:

“Although we know there are these irregularities and gaps in our knowledge of the fossil record, the historical, social and economic factors which influence these gaps are not well understood. Many of the research practices that are informed by these biases still persist today and we ought to be taking action to address them.”

Dr Dunne added:

We are familiar, for example, with ‘scientific colonialism, or ‘parachute science’, in which researchers, generally from higher income countries drop in to other countries to conduct research, and then leave without any engagement with local communities and local expertise. But this issue goes further than that – the expertise of local researchers is devalued, and laws are often violated, hindering domestic scientific development and leading to mistrust between researchers.”

The first step towards conducting research that is more equitable and ethical, argue the researchers, is to address the power relations driving the production of scientific research. This means properly involving and acknowledging local expertise.

One project which strives to do this is a research project involving researchers from both European and African universities, based in a remote area of Western Cape in South Africa. Here palaeontologists from University of Witwatersrand and the University of Johannesburg are at the forefront of the research and are working with local education specialists Play Africa to create interactive materials that can be toured around schools in the region.

The scientific paper: “Colonial history and global economics distort our understanding of deep-time biodiversity” by Nussaïbah B. Raja, Emma M. Dunne, Aviwe Matiwane, Tasnuva Ming Khan, Paulina S. Nätscher, Aline M. Ghilardi and Devapriya Chattopadhyay published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

4 01, 2022

Aiding an Ammonite

By | January 4th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Team members at Everything Dinosaur, try their best to help their customers. Our knowledgeable staff can provide lots of information and advice when it comes to prehistoric animals, but our contacts and connections are not just confined to models and model collecting.

For example, when a customer enquired about getting a fossil ammonite that he had found prepared and cleaned, we were able to provide assistance.

Fossil ammonite (geological hammer provides scale).
Large ammonites preserved on the beach. Everything Dinosaur team members get asked all sorts of questions related to dinosaurs and fossils. They can even point customers in the direction of professional fossil preparators.

A Mollusc Fossil from the Midlands

The Everything Dinosaur customer explained that they had found an ammonite fossil when visiting a large construction site in the midlands (UK). The mollusc fossil dates from the Jurassic and they wanted to have it cleaned and conserved, with the iron pyrites elements that did not constitute the fossil removed.

We were able to text them with the contact details of a talented nearby preparator who was very experienced in cleaning and preparing ammonites and had probably worked on a few examples from the same location.

An ammonite fossil find.
An ammonite partially eroded out of a nodule. We think this is an example of Dactylioceras commune. A professional fossil preparator can turn this specimen into a stunning display piece.

We are happy to help with customer’s enquiries and do our best to put them in touch with professionals who can assist them with their fossil collections.

31 12, 2021

Favourite Blog Articles of 2021 (Part 2)

By | December 31st, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils, Press Releases|0 Comments

Recently, team members at Everything Dinosaur posted about their favourite blog articles from the first six months of 2021. Today, we conclude our look at the 360 posts or so produced in 2021 by listing our favourite articles that went up from July to December.

To read part one of this series: Favourite Blog Articles of 2021 (Part 1)

July – Lots of New Dinosaur Discoveries

In July, team members announced two dinosaurs described from fossils found in Spain. We wrote about the enigmatic Late Cretaceous hadrosauroid Fylax thyrakolasus “Keeper of the Gates of Hell”, a sister taxon to Tethyshadros (more about Tethyshadros later). We also produced articles on prehistoric crocodiles from Chile, how straight shelled ammonites avoided predators, miniature alvarezsauroids, changes to European Union law that affects parcel deliveries and the first T. rex fossils to be exhibited in England for a hundred years. Other posts highlighted the evidence that some dinosaurs nested in the high Arctic and examined the respiration of Heterodontosaurus.

Our favourite article in July took a more scatological approach. A new genus of Triassic beetle was described after its fossil remains were found in ancestral dinosaur dung: Beetle Described from Fossil Poo.

Images of the Triassic beetle Triamyxa coprolithica
Images of the newly described Triassic beetle Triamyxa coprolithica, the first insect to be named and described from a coprolite. Picture credit: Qvarnström et al.

Perfect Paraceratherium Figures

August saw Everything Dinosaur team members going on their only fossil hunt of the year, off to Wales to look for ancient corals. We marked the sad passing of Dr Angela Milner, a highly influential British palaeontologist who along with her colleague Alan Charig described Baryonyx in 1986. Our blog featured articles on two new Lower Cretaceous sauropods from China, revealed the part of space where the dinosaur killing extraterrestrial bolide came from and looked at the skull of the early bird Ichthyornis.

However, our favourite article documented the arrival of the eagerly awaited, super-sized Paraceratherium model from ITOY Studio. ITOY Studio are underrated, but they produce stunning prehistoric animal figures: ITOY Studio Paraceratherium Models Arrive.

The ITOY Studio Paraceratherium.
A view of the eagerly anticipated ITOY Studio Paraceratherium model from ITOY Studio which came into stock in August (2021).

Spinosaurids and a Giant Late Cambrian Armoured Radiodont

In September two new spinosaurids from the Isle of Wight were announced, details of the first rhamphorhynchid pterosaur from Gondwana was published, research into the evolution of snakes demonstrated that they evolved from a handful of species and scientists got under the skin of a Carnotaurus as well as providing information on the earliest ankylosaur known to science and the first from Africa. The first Late Cretaceous carcharodontosaurian from Central Asia was described (Ulughbegsaurus uzbekistanensis) and a paper about yet another new species of abelisaurid was published.

Our favourite post whisked readers back to the Cambrian, to the famous Burgess Shale deposits of British Columbia. One of the biggest animals from the Cambrian was scientifically described. The giant, armoured radiodont Titanokorys gainesi took centre stage: Titanokorys gainesi a Giant Cambrian Radiodont.

Views of the Cambrian radiodont Titanokorys gainesi
Life reconstruction of Titanokorys gainesi (a) dorsal view, (b) ventral view, (c) lateral view and (d) anterior view. Picture credit: Lars Fields/Royal Ontario Museum.

Giant Penguins and a Dinosaur from Greenland

October blog posts included an assessment of organic molecules found in the cells of a Caudipteryx, a re-examination of another feathered Chinese theropod Beipiaosaurus, giant sea scorpions, a new species of horned dinosaur from New Mexico and Pendraig milnerae, a new species of dinosaur from Wales, named in honour of the recently passed Dr Angela Milner. Fossils found by school children on a field trip to a beach in New Zealand turned out to have come from a giant penguin, at 1.4 metres tall, Kairuku waewaeroa was a most impressive bird: A New Giant Penguin from New Zealand.

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.

Customer model reviews and drawings by young palaeoartists featured in November, along with new Isle of Wight iguanodonts, headless pterosaurs, Permian beetles and toothless Brazilian theropods. Everything Dinosaur produced articles and videos on the new for 2022 CollectA models and the Early Cretaceous ornithomimosaur Pelecanimimus came under the spotlight.

Our favourite post featured Issi saaneq, a sauropodomorph that roamed Greenland during the Late Triassic. It is the first non-avian dinosaur to be named from fossils found in Greenland: Issi saaneq “Cold Bones” from Greenland.

Computer generated models of skulls and a life reconstruction of Issi saaneq.
Digital interpretative reconstruction of the skulls NHMD 164741 and NHMD 164758 and living representation of Issi saaneq. (A) Digital interpretative reconstruction of the skull NHMD 164741 in left lateral view (A). Digital interpretative reconstruction of the smaller skull NHMD 164758 in left lateral view (B). Digital interpretative reconstruction of skull NHMD 164741 in dorsal view (C). Living representation of Issi saaneq (D). Scale bar = 50 mm.

December Yet More Dinosaurs and Upscaling Tethyshadros

As we entered the final month of 2021, we reported upon Stegouros elengassen, a new armoured dinosaur from Chile, research surrounding the KPg extinction event that postulated the extraterrestrial impact took place in the Northern Hemisphere late spring/summer and we helped a young dinosaur fan get reunited with a favourite dinosaur soft toy. Yet another dinosaur from the Isle of Wight was announced – Vectiraptor greeni, the largest fossilised remains of the giant millipede Arthropleura were discussed and palaeontologists got very excited about an exquisitely preserved dinosaur embryo inside a fossilised egg.

In December, we returned once again to the Late Cretaceous hadrosauriform Tethyshadros. A description of a second, much larger specimen was published and it refutes the idea that this dinosaur was a pygmy form – that Tethyshadros was an example of insular dwarfism: Sizing Up Tethyshadros.

Tethyshadros Fossils
The new skeleton of Tethyshadros insularis “Bruno” (a) preserving details of its cranial anatomy such as the nearly complete skull (b) exposing its braincase (c) adding important information for the anatomy and systematic of this taxon. Elements in black are reconstructed. Picture credit: Chiarenza et al.

This completes are our run through of the blog posts of 2021. We look forward to writing about new dinosaur discoveries, fossil finds and palaeontology related news stories over the next 12 months.

30 12, 2021

Favourite Blog Articles of 2021 (Part 1)

By | December 30th, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils, Press Releases|0 Comments

As 2021 draws to a close, it is time to reflect on some of the blog articles that we have produced over the last twelve months or so.  It has certainly been an incredible year for palaeontology with lots of new fossil discoveries although the impact of the global pandemic has continued to cause havoc when it comes to planning field expeditions. Many museums have been closed and research projects suspended or postponed. We have in our own small way tried to create a sense of normality by continuing to produce daily blog posts. Let us take a look at our favourite posts between January and June 2021 in the first of a two-part series.

In January 2021 we reported upon a study of early sauropodomorph brains, the role of plant-eating dinosaurs in seed dispersal, oviraptorid incubation, the world’s oldest cave art on the island of Sulawesi and how Ediacaran fossils were helping scientists to piece together the evolution of the first animals. Our favourite January post concerned the discovery of a three-toed dinosaur footprint discovered near the town of Barry in South Wales. Fossilised footprints are known from Mercia Mudstone Group exposures in the Vale of the Glamorgan, but not many dinosaur tracks are discovered by four-year-olds.

Grallator fossil track (South Wales).
Grallator track spotted by a 4-year-old girl at Bendrick Rock (South Wales). Picture credit: National Museum Wales.

Here is the blog post: Four-Year-Old Finds Dinosaur Footprint.

Mammoths and “Thunderbirds”

February saw team members admiring prehistoric animal drawings sent into us by customers, articles on why horned dinosaurs evolved elaborate frills, our work on information panels for a major exhibition, the breeding habits of Neanderthals and the confirmation of concentrated levels of iridium found at the Chicxulub impact site. Our favourite article was published on the 17th of February, scientists had recovered DNA from mammoth remains that were up to 1.2 million years old. This new data provided a fresh perspective on the evolution of prehistoric elephants.

Our mammoth DNA blog: Million-year-old DNA Sheds Light on Mammoth Evolution.

In March, team members blogged about the mystery surrounding why there were so few medium-sized theropod dinosaurs, provided confirmation of troodontid dinosaurs in Europe, the earliest titanosaur on record, discussed a scientific paper that proposed that cephalopods evolved 30 million years earlier than previously thought and examined the extinction threat to extant amphibians.

Our favourite post was put up on the last day of the month. It focused on a newly published paper that proposed that the giant flightless “Thunderbirds” of Australia were related to gamefowl: Studying the Brains of Australia’s “Thunderbirds”.

Dromornis stirtoni life reconstruction.
A life reconstruction of the giant Australian “Thunderbird” Dromornis stirtoni of the Late Miocene. Picture credit: Peter Trusler.

Yamatosaurus and Moroccan Marine Reptiles

In April we blogged about the origins of the Amazon Rainforest, a new abelisaurid from Argentina, the legs of trilobites, ancient mammals from southern Gondwana and a new species of pterosaur from China. Our favourite post took us to Japan as we wrote about Yamatosaurus izanagii, the second hadrosaur to be named from fossils found in the “land of the rising sun”.

Japan’s second duck-billed dinosaur: Japan’s Second Hadrosaur.

The early summer sunshine of May prompted us to write about crocodile conservation at Miami Zoo, billion-year-old microfossils from Scotland, Mongolian dromaeosaurids and dinosaur bones from the dry and parched Australian Outback. However, it was an article that described a new species of giant mosasaur from the Ouled Abdoun Basin of Morocco that ticked all the boxes for us: Giant Moroccan Mosasaur – Pluridens serpentis.

Jurassic June

“Jurassic June” involved discussions on the PNSO Allosaurus and Torvosaurus models, the necks of Early Jurassic plesiosaurs and exploring the “Jurassic Coast” of Dorset. We also wrote about stegosaurs from the Arctic Circle, the official scientific description of the Australian dinosaur nicknamed “Cooper” (Australotitan cooperensis) and looked at a paper that reinterpreted the famous Burgess Shale of British Columbia.

Australotitan cooperensis life reconstruction
A life reconstruction of the newly named Australotitan cooperensis, the largest known animal to have ever lived in Australia. Picture credit: Queensland Museum

Our favourite post concerned the discovery of a remarkable series of pterosaur tracks in China. The extensive trackway consists of over 100 individual prints and it was given the moniker the “pterosaur dance floor”.

To read about “dancing” pterosaurs: A Pterosaur Dance Floor from China.

Pteraichnus pterosaur tracksite
A photograph of the tracksite with an interpretative line drawing. The tracks have been assigned to the new pterosaur ichnospecies Pteraichnus wuerhoensis. Picture credit Wei Gao.

This concludes our look at blog posts produced in the first half of 2021. We shall post up part two of this short series looking at our favourite blogs from July to December 2021, in the very near future.

29 12, 2021

Penarth Prints are Dinosaur Tracks

By | December 29th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A team of researchers writing in the journal “Geological Magazine”, have confirmed that the strange impressions exposed on the beach at Penarth (south Wales), are indeed dinosaur tracks. The site had been examined back in 2009, further evidence of tracks was revealed in 2020 after more of the bedding plane was laid bare by tidal erosion. The site some 800 metres south of Penarth pier, probably represents tracks made by different types of dinosaurs but they are too badly eroded for a more precise diagnosis other than to tentatively assign the largest, rounded tracks to the ichnogenus Eosauropus.

Dinosaur trackway from south Wales.
A part of the brushed and cleaned up trackway (left) with (right) a close-up view of a single print. Picture credit: NHM/Peter Falkingham

Carefully Mapped and Recorded

The tracks, some of which are more than 50 cm in diameter, are associated with the Upper Triassic Blue Anchor Formation. Although it is difficult to identify individual trackways, the high density of impressions suggests that the area was a trample ground that might have been visited by many individuals. Although the number of taxa making these impressions cannot be reliably inferred because of their poor preservation, based on their large size, round shape and digit impressions, the research team consider it likely that they were made by large sauropodomorph dinosaurs. As such, Late Triassic sauropodomorph tracks are exceptionally rare and the research team, which consisted of scientists from Liverpool John Moores University, the London Natural History Museum, Cardiff University, the University of Lyon and National Museum of Wales, conclude that these tracks provide additional information regarding the Late Triassic biota of the UK.

Penarth dinosaur tracks
Detail images of individual tracks. Individual D-shaped impression recorded in 2020, presented as photo-textured and height-mapped digital models (a). Two to three overlapping impressions recorded in 2020, with a displacement rim spanning the centre of the deepest areas, presented as photo-textured and height-mapped digital models (b). Individual tracks recorded during 2009 (c,d), but showing clearer morphology in the displacement rims that are interpreted as digit impressions (marked with *) (c). White scale bar = 10 cm. Picture credit: Falkingham et al.

Likely to be Eroded Away in Just a Few Years

The team highlight the rapidly eroding site, more than one metre of the exposed surface has been lost since the first examination made in 2009 and the detailed mapping carried out in 2020. The loss of the bedding surface highlights the transient and vulnerable nature of these fossils. The site has been extensively photographed and mapped digitally ensuring that a computer record of these trace fossils can be stored in perpetuity.

Dinosaur tracks Penarth Tracks
Possible trackways observed on the northern surface, photo-textured models and interpretive outlines; dashed lines indicate extent of displacement rims. Picture credit: Peter Falkingham et al.

Team members from Everything Dinosaur visited the area in 2019 and had planned to return the following year to help record the tracks, unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions prevented this. Still, this new study published this week confirms the presence of sauropodomorph tracks along the coastline and provides additional information on the Late Triassic biota of the British Isles.

The scientific paper: “Late Triassic dinosaur tracks from Penarth, south Wales” by Peter L. Falkingham, Susannah C. R. Maidment, Jens N. Lallensack, Jeremy E. Martin, Guillaume Suan, Lesley Cherns, Cindy Howells and Paul M. Barrett published in the journal Geological Magazine.

24 12, 2021

Red Spheres in Dinosaur Bone not Ancient Blood

By | December 24th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Scientists from Virginia Tech and Des Moines University in the USA have challenged the idea that spheres identified under high magnification in thin sections of fossilised dinosaur bone are preserved fragments of dinosaur blood. The reddish coloured circular structures might not be remnants of blood cells, but instead they could be sediments that have been altered physically, chemically or via biological action to provide misleading data.

That is the conclusion made by the authors of a scientific paper published recently in the peer-reviewed, open-access journal PeerJ.

Has dinosaur blood been found?
Photograph of sampled specimen (Beipiaosaurus inexpectus, IVPP V11559) (A) and transmitted light micrographs of representative thin sections (B–D). In the section images black arrows indicate spheres (putatively identified as red blood cells), white arrows indicate osteocyte lacunae and grey arrows indicate non-spherical vessel fills. The researchers suggest the spheres are not evidence of dinosaur blood. Picture credit: Korneisel et al.

Analysing the Holotype of Beipiaosaurus inexpectus

The researchers, who included Sterling J. Nesbitt (Department of Geosciences at Virginia Tech), analysed thin sections of bone from the holotype of the Chinese therizinosaur Beipiaosaurus inexpectus from the Jehol Lagerstätte. The fossil specimen (IVPP V11559) consists of both cranial and postcranial elements and it was found in sediments representing the Yixian Formation. This specimen was the subject of a paper earlier this year, remarkably when B. inexpectus was scientifically described only the skull elements were examined in detail. In October (2021), Everything Dinosaur published a blog post on the study of the postcranial material which provided more anatomical traits to help define this genus and clarify the evolution of the Therizinosauridae.

Our post can be found here: Beipiaosaurus Revisited.

In this study, the researchers employed a variety of sophisticated techniques including Ramon spectroscopy, X-ray spectrometry and Time of flight – secondary ion mass spectrometry to analyse thin sections of fossil bone from the Beipiaosaurus and compare them to similarly prepared thin sections of fossilised wood.

The team found that the bone had been dramatically altered by the fossilisation process (taphonomy). Vascular canals in the bone, once thought to contain preserved red blood cells, were filled with a mix of clay minerals and carbonaceous compounds. The spheres that were identified could not be analysed in isolation, but the researchers did not find any evidence of pyrite or haemoglobin fragments associated with a concentration of iron.

However, similar spheres were identified in the thin sections of fossilised wood which were found close to the Beipiaosaurus fossils and as such, had presumably been subjected to the same taphonomic processes.

Small spherical structures spotted in petrified wood
Transmitted light micrographs of fossil wood found near to the dinosaur fossil material seem to show similar, microscopic spherical structures. The blue arrows highlight small and large examples. At higher magnification (B) these spheres appear to consist of small crystals. Picture credit: Korneisel at al.

The researchers concluded that the reddish coloured spheres were not evidence of dinosaur blood, but more likely structures formed by diagenesis. Diagenesis is the process whereby sediments in sedimentary rocks are altered by the interaction of water, microbial activity or by physical and chemical processes.

This research suggests that further study of alleged red blood cells associated with fossil bone is required in order to confirm the assertions made in previous papers.

The scientific paper: “Putative fossil blood cells reinterpreted as diagenetic structures” by Dana E. Korneisel, Sterling J. Nesbitt, Sarah Werning and Shuhai Xiao published in PeerJ.

23 12, 2021

Largest-ever Millipede Fossil Found

By | December 23rd, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A recently described, fossilised partial exoskeleton of a giant millipede proves that some of these invertebrates matched the giant sea scorpions (eurypterids) in size. The fossil, discovered by chance at Howick Bay in Northumberland some 40 miles north of the city of Newcastle, back in January 2018, indicates that some terrestrial arthropods could have reached a length in excess of 2.6 metres.

The fossil has been identified as part of the moulted exoskeleton (an exuvium), of the colossal millipede Arthropleura, the preserved portion of the exoskeleton is around 75 cm in size, from this the total length of this huge arthropod is inferred. Intriguingly, the fossil was found in an ancient river channel, part of a delta that was surrounded by open woodland. Previously, it had been thought that Arthropleura inhabited swamps. This fossil discovery supports the hypothesis that Arthropleura preferred open, woody habitats.

Arthropleura fossil from Northumberland
Specimen of partial remains of a giant Arthropleura (anterior 12–14 tergites) after excavation from the Serpukhovian Stainmore Formation, Howick Bay, Northumberland, England (CAMSM X.50355). Slab A and slab B are not true part and counterpart, but rather a split through the middle of a three-dimensional dorsal exoskeleton. Note scale bar = 25 cm. Picture credit: Davies et al.

A Chance Discovery

The fossil was discovered by chance. A large sandstone block (approximately 2 m × 3 m × 8 m) fell from the cliffs at Howick Bay. It cracked exposing the fossil and it was spotted by a former PhD student at the University of Cambridge who happened to be visiting the beach. As this area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) permission was sought from Natural England and the Howick Estate to extract the fossil and this work was undertaken in May 2018.

The block comes from the Stainmore Formation, which was laid down in the late Mississippian of the Carboniferous (Serpukhovian stage). The fossil is estimated to be around 323 million years old and it represents the earliest evidence for gigantism in Arthropleura. The specimen comes from the same regional sedimentary succession as the ichnotaxon Diplichnites cuithensis, the name given to the trace fossils of parallel tracks, some of which are half a metre wide, which have been interpreted as representing Arthropleura trackways.

The research team, consisting of scientists from Cambridge University, the University of Manchester and the Technical University Bergakademie Freiberg (Germany), published their study in the “Journal of the Geological Society”. The Northumberland specimen was compared to the two other known Arthropleura specimens, both of which were found in Germany and represent much smaller animals.

The Howick Arthropleura specimen compared to other articulated Arthropleura fossil remains.
Comparing the Howick Arthropleura specimen to other articulated giant specimens (preserved remains highlighted in pink) and the largest Diplichnites cuithensis trackways known from each Carboniferous-Permian stage. Picture credit: Davies et al.

What Did Arthropleura Eat?

Fossilised remains of the head have never been found. If it was a carnivore, with strong mouthparts these robust structures would have had a high likelihood of fossil preservation, as seen in the very distantly related marine, ancestral arthropod Anomalocaris from the Cambrian, where the disc-like mouth plates have been preserved. It has been speculated that, despite its huge size, Arthropleura may have been herbivorous.

Lead author of the scientific paper, Dr Neil Davies from Cambridge University’s Department of Earth Sciences commented:

“While we can’t know for sure what they ate, there were plenty of nutritious nuts and seeds available in the leaf litter at the time, and they may even have been predators that fed off other invertebrates and even small vertebrates such as amphibians”.

Where did Arthropleura Live?

The fossil has also provided additional information on the sort of habitat that may have been preferred by Arthropleura, previously, Arthropleura was thought to have inhabited swampy environments. The Northumberland fossil was found in an ancient river channel, which was part of a delta. This was not a swampy habitat, but an area that was quite open with sparse woodland.

Arthropleura life reconstruction
A life reconstruction of the Northumberland Arthropleura specimen. This invertebrate inhabited a delta floodplain with closely associated open woodland rather than a swampy environment. Picture credit: Davies et al.

Arthropleura is typically depicted as an inhabitant of swamps. It may have been limited to equatorial regions (the UK was close to the Equator for much of the Carboniferous), but this fossil suggests that it did not live in areas with standing water and saturated soils.

Arthropleura in a swamp habitat.
It had been suggested that Arthropleura inhabited swampy environments. Whilst it was probably limited to equatorial regions, this study suggests it preferred open woodland. Picture credit: National Museum of Wales.

The scientific paper: “The largest arthropod in Earth history: insights from newly discovered Arthropleura remains (Serpukhovian Stainmore Formation, Northumberland, England)” by Neil S. Davies, Russell J. Garwood, William J. McMahon, Joerg W. Schneider and Anthony P. Shillito published in Journal of the Geological Society.

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