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

12 05, 2021

Menefeeceratops – The Oldest Centrosaurine?

By | May 12th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Fossilised dinosaur remains found over twenty years ago have been re-examined and determined to represent a new species of horned dinosaur. Menefeeceratops (M. sealeyi) from the early Campanian of New Mexico, might just be the oldest centrosaurine described to date.

Menefeeceratops sealeyi life reconstruction.
Menefeeceratops sealeyi life reconstruction. Picture Credit: Sergey Krasovskiy. This horned dinosaur was contemporaneous with the tyrannosaur Dynamoterror (D. dynastes). This theropod can be seen in the background (right). Recent fossil discoveries are helping scientists to better understand the dinosaur dominated biota of southern Laramidia during the Campanian. The picture (above) also depicts a hadrosaur in the background (left), team members at Everything Dinosaur consider this to be a depiction of the saurolophine hadrosaur Ornatops (O. incantatus)

From the Menefee Formation of New Mexico

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in collaboration with a colleague from the State Museum of Pennsylvania, writing in the academic journal Paläontologische Zeitschrift, report on the reassessment of ceratopsian bones originally collected at a site near to Cuba, in New Mexico. The fossils, representing a partial skeleton of a single dinosaur were found by Paul Sealey, a research associate at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, whilst exploring the Allison Member of the Menefee Formation in 1996 and discussed in academic literature a year later but no genus name was proposed or other research conducted.

The fossils which consist of cranial and postcranial material remained within the collection of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, however, with dinosaurs being named and described from the Menefee Formation such as the tyrannosaur Dynamoterror dynastes and the nodosaurid Invictarx zephyri, both of which were named and described in 2018, interest in this specimen was reawakened. Further preparation revealed unique traits associated with the skull material that permitted the establishment of a new genus.

A skeletal reconstruction of Menefeeceratops showing known bones in blue.
Skeletal reconstruction of Menefeeceratops showing known bones in blue. Picture credit: Dalman et al.

Menefeeceratops sealeyi

Classified as a basal member of the Centrosaurinae, Menefeeceratops sealeyi helps palaeontologists to piece together the evolutionary history of the Ceratopsia. Estimated to have lived around 82 million years ago (Early Campanian), the authors of the scientific paper Sebastian Dalman, Spencer G. Lucas and Asher Lichtig (New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science), Steven Jasinski (State Museum of Pennsylvania) and Peter Dodson (University of Pennsylvania) postulate that Menefeeceratops represents the earliest member of the centrosaurine subfamily of horned dinosaurs known to science.

The distinctive shape of the squamosal (skull bone that formed part of the neck frill), permitted the scientists to erect a new genus. The name honours the Menefee Formation, whilst the trivial name recognises the work of Paul Sealey, not only for the original discovery but for his contribution to the study of the dinosaurs of New Mexico.

Views of the left squamosal bone of Menefeeceratops,
Views of the left squamosal bone of Menefeeceratops sealeyi (left lateral and right lateral views). Picture credit: Dalman et al. The squamosal, whilst less ornate than other ceratopsids has a distinctive shape which helped permit the erection of a new genus.

How Big was Menefeeceratops?

By comparing the bones of Menefeeceratops to more complete centrosaurine specimens, the research team were able to estimate the size of this dinosaur. They conclude that it was relatively small, when compared to later members of the Centrosaurinae such as Pachyrhinosaurus and Styracosaurus, at around 3.9 to 4.4 metres in length.

Commenting on the significance of the reassessment of the fossil material that led to the naming of Menefeeceratops, co-author of the scientific paper Spencer G. Lucas stated:

“Menefeeceratops shows us just how much we still have to learn about the horned dinosaurs of western North America. The oldest centrosaur, Menefeeceratops indicates that the southwest region of the United States was an important place in the evolution of the centrosaurs. The recognition of this new centrosaur adds to a growing diversity of centrosaurs, and thus provides impetus to further efforts to discover fossils of these kinds of dinosaurs.”

Authors involved in this study, also named and described the related but geologically much younger centrosaurine Crittendenceratops. To read about Crittendenceratops krzyzanowskii: A New Horned Dinosaur from Arizona.

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

The scientific paper: “The oldest centrosaurine: a new ceratopsid dinosaur (Dinosauria: Ceratopsidae) from the Allison Member of the Menefee Formation (Upper Cretaceous, early Campanian), north-western New Mexico, USA” by Sebastian G. Dalman, Spencer G. Lucas, Steven E. Jasinski, Asher J. Lichtig & Peter Dodson published in Paläontologische Zeitschrift.

7 05, 2021

Nocturnal Dinosaurs Hunting in the Dark

By | May 7th, 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

Scientists have proposed that the bizarre, chicken-sized alvarezsaurid Shuvuuia (S. deserti) had amazing eyesight and owl-like hearing, adaptations for a nocturnal hunter in its Late Cretaceous desert environment.

The Mongolian alvarezsaurid hunting at night
Shuvuuia deserti artist’s life reconstruction. Picture credit: Viktor Radermacher.

A Very Bizarre, Tiny Theropod

Named and described in 1998 from fossil material associated with the famous Djadochta Formation (Campanian faunal stage), Shuvuuia has been assigned to the Alvarezsauridae family of theropods. It may have been small (around 60 cm in length), but its skeleton shows a range of bizarre anatomical adaptations. It had long legs, a long tail, short but powerful forelimbs that ended in hands with greatly reduced, vestigial digits except for the thumb which was massive and had a large claw. The skull was very bird-like with disproportionately large orbits.

Photograph of fossilised Shuvuuia deserti skeleton.
Photograph of fossilised Shuvuuia deserti skeleton. Picture credit: Mick Ellison (American Museum of Natural History).

Writing in the academic journal “Science” a team of scientists led by Professor Jonah Choiniere (University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa), used sophisticated computerised tomography to examine the skull of Shuvuuia and to map this dinosaur’s sensory abilities, as part of a wider study into non-avian dinosaur sensory abilities.

Shuvuuia deserti fossil skull
Photograph of fossilised Shuvuuia deserti skull. Picture credit: Mick Ellison (American Museum of Natural History).

The international team of researchers used CT scanning and detailed measurements to collect data on the relative size of the eyes and inner ears of nearly 100 living bird and extinct dinosaur species. There are more than 10,000 species of bird (avian dinosaurs) alive today, but only a few have evolved sensory abilities that enable them to track and hunt prey at night. Owls are probably the best known, but not all owls are nocturnal. Kiwis hunt at night using their long, sensitive beaks to probe in the leaf litter for worms, whilst another bird endemic to New Zealand, the large, flightless Kakapo (a member of the parrots – Order Psittaciformes), is also nocturnal. Other birds active at night include the globally widespread black-capped night heron and the Stone-curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) which is an occasional visitor to East Anglia in the UK.

To measure hearing ability, the team measured the length of the lagena, the organ that processes incoming sound information (known as the cochlea in mammals). The barn owl, which can hunt in complete darkness using hearing alone, has the proportionally longest lagena of any bird.

Barn owl skull CT scan showing lagena
Barn owl skull CT scan showing lagena. Picture credit: Jonah Choiniere/Wits University.

Assessing Vision

To examine vision, the team looked at the scleral ring, a series of bones surrounding the pupil, of each species. Like a camera lens, the larger the pupil can open, the more light can get in, enabling better vision at night. By measuring the diameter of the ring, the scientists could estimate how much light the eye can gather.

The researchers found that many carnivorous theropods such as large tyrannosaurs and the much smaller Dromaeosaurus had vision optimised for the daytime, and better-than-average hearing presumably to help them hunt. However, Shuvuuia, had both extraordinary hearing and night vision. The extremely large lagena of this species is almost identical in relative size to today’s barn owl, suggesting that Shuvuuia could have been a nocturnal hunter. With many predators sharing its Late Cretaceous desert environment, a night-time existence may have proved to be an effective strategy to avoid the attentions of much larger theropods.

Side by side comparison of the lagena of a Barn owl and Shuvuuia deserti
Side by side comparison of the lagena of a Barn owl (left) and Shuvuuia deserti (right). Picture credit: Jonah Choiniere/Wits University.

Commenting on the significance of this discovery, joint first author of the scientific paper, Dr James Neenan exclaimed:

“As I was digitally reconstructing the Shuvuuia skull, I couldn’t believe the lagena size. I called Professor Choiniere to have a look. We both thought it might be a mistake, so I processed the other ear – only then did we realise what a cool discovery we had on our hands!”

Extremely Large Eyes

The eyes of Shuvuuia were also remarkable. Skull measurements suggest that this little dinosaur had some of the proportionally largest pupils yet measured in birds or dinosaurs, suggesting that they could likely see very well at night.

Professor Jonah Choiniere holding a 3D Print of a Shuvuuia lagena
Professor Jonah Choiniere holding a 3D printed model of the lagena of Shuvuuia deserti. Picture credit: Jonah Choiniere/Wits University.

The Alvarezsauridae remain one of the most unusual of all the types of non-avian dinosaur known to science. Their place within the ecosystems of the Late Cretaceous remains controversial. Geographically widespread, a recently described alvarezsaurid from China Qiupanykus zhangi may have been a specialised ovivore (egg-eater), whilst other palaeontologists have postulated that these theropods used their strong forelimbs and large thumb claws to break into termite mounds. Perhaps, these small (most probably feathered), dinosaurs occupied a number of niches within Late Cretaceous ecosystems – including that of a nocturnal hunter of small vertebrates and insects.

Shuvuuia deserti artist's reconstruction.
Shuvuuia deserti artist’s reconstruction. Picture credit: Viktor Radermacher.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s blog article about Qiupanykus zhangi and the evidence behind the egg-eating theory: Did Alvarezsaurids Eat Eggs?

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

The scientific paper: “Evolution of vision and hearing modalities in theropod dinosaurs” by Jonah N. Choiniere, James M. Neenan, Lars Schmitz, David P. Ford, Kimberley E. J. Chapelle, Amy M. Balanoff, Justin S. Sipla, Justin A. Georgi, Stig A. Walsh, Mark A. Norell, Xing Xu, James M. Clark and Roger B. J. Benson published in the journal Science.

30 04, 2021

Japan’s Second Hadrosaur

By | April 30th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Scientists from the Hokkaido University Museum in collaboration with colleagues from the Okayama University of Science have named a second hadrosaurid from the Late Cretaceous of Japan. Described from a partial skeleton, Yamatosaurus izanagii lived at the same time as the first duck-billed dinosaur named from Japan (Kamuysaurus japonicus), but these two dinosaurs probably did not co-exist, instead Kamuysaurus may have been restricted to more northern coastal environments whilst the newly described Yamatosaurus may have been confined to more southerly habitats.

Yamatosaurus izanagii Life Reconstruction with more Advance Forms of Duck-billed Dinosaur in the Background
Yamatosaurus izanagii life reconstruction (centre), with a Lambeosaurinae representative (right) and a representative of the Saurolophinae (left), the dentition and shoulder bones suggest that Yamatosaurus is a basal member of the Hadrosauridae family and its discovery supports the idea that hadrosaurs evolved in Asia. Picture Credit: Masato Hattori.

Did the Hadrosauridae Originate in Asia or North America?

The researchers, who included Yoshitsugu Kobayashi, Ryuji Takasaki and Anthony R. Fiorillo (who wrote the scientific paper describing Kamuysaurus in 2019), plus Katsuhiro Kubota (Hokkaido University Museum), conducted a phylogenetic analysis suggesting that Yamatosaurus was a primitive member of the hadrosaur family. Intriguingly, the team also undertook a biogeographical analysis (plotting age of ornithopod fossil finds against geographical location). They conclude that basal hadrosaurids were widely distributed in both Asia and Appalachia (the landmass representing eastern North America). In addition, the scientists postulate that the discovery of Yamatosaurus supports the theory that the sub-families of more derived duck-billed dinosaurs the Lambeosaurinae and the Saurolophinae originated in Asia and that towards the end of the Cretaceous, basal hadrosaurids such as Plesiohadros djadokhtaensis (Mongolia), Tanius sinensis (C‌hina) and Yamatosaurus (Japan) continued to thrive in eastern Asia but were extinct elsewhere.

Data Suggests an Asian Origin for Hadrosaurs
A biogeographical analysis indicates that the Hadrosauridae may have originated in Asia. The discovery of Yamatosaurus izanagii in Japan supports the idea of an Asian original for that line of ornithopods that evolved into hadrosaurs.

Discovered in Marine Sediments

Amateur fossil collector Mr. Shingo Kishimoto discovered the fossilised remains in 2004, whilst exploring exposures of the Kita-ama Formation on the island of Awaji (Hyogo Prefecture). The fossil material consists of a dentary (lower jawbone), along with the surangular, neck bones, bones from the tail, cervical ribs and a coracoid plus some isolated teeth. Although hadrosaur fossils have been found in several locations in Japan (all four main islands – Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu), they are, with the exception of the Kamuysaurus material, highly fragmentary consisting of teeth, portions of the limbs and vertebrae, this is only the second time that a new genus of duck-billed dinosaur has been erected from Japanese fossils.

The stratum from which the Yamatosaurus material was collected consists of marine mudstones of approximately the same age (early Maastrichtian), as the sediments in which Kamuysaurus was found.

Various views of the right dentary of Yamatosaurus
Right dentary of Yamatosaurus izanagii gen. et sp. nov. in lateral (a), medial (b), dorsal (c), ventral (d), and anterior (e) views.

Unique Traits and Basal Characteristics

Study of the nearly complete right dentary helped the researchers to erect a new, basal hadrosaur genus. Unlike other hadrosaurs Yamatosaurus had just one functional tooth in several battery positions and no branched ridges on the chewing surfaces. This suggests that Yamatosaurus evolved to feed differently compared to other duck-billed dinosaurs. Furthermore, the coracoid (that with the scapula would have formed the shoulder joint), shows traits linked to the movement away from a bipedal gait to becoming quadrupedal. This bone shows transitional characteristics that in later, more derived hadrosaurs, were more fully developed permitting these animals to become facultative bipeds (adopting a quadrupedal gait but able to run on their hind legs if required to do so).

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article from 2019 about the formal description of the first hadrosaur named from Japan (Kamuysaurus japonicus): Japan’s Greatest Fossil Dinosaur Gets a Name.

The scientific paper: “A new basal hadrosaurid (Dinosauria: Ornithischia) from the latest Cretaceous Kita-ama Formation in Japan implies the origin of hadrosaurids” by Yoshitsugu Kobayashi, Ryuji Takasaki, Katsuhiro Kubota and Anthony R. Fiorillo published in Scientific Reports.

29 04, 2021

T. rex Exhibition to Open in the UK

By | April 29th, 2021|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils, Press Releases|0 Comments

Wollaton Hall Natural History Museum (Nottingham) is to play host to a T. rex exhibition that sets out to dispel some of the myths surrounding this apex Late Cretaceous predator. Thanks to the latest research and the discovery of a T. rex specimen in the Badlands of Montana in 2018, the exhibition depicts the “King of the Tyrant Lizards” as a real animal, a highly successful predator and possibly a social hunter too.

Wollaton Hall Natural History Museum T rex exhibition
A T. rex exhibition is coming to Wollaton Hall Natural History Museum in the summer of 2021.

“Titus: T. rex is King”

The exhibition entitled “Titus: T. rex is King” opens on Sunday 4th July 2021 and will run until August 2022, giving visitors the opportunity to view a real Tyrannosaurus rex specimen, the actual fossilised bones and teeth of arguably, the most famous dinosaur of all.

Digital and Immersive Displays

The fossilised remains of “Titus” – the nickname given to this particular specimen, will be revealed for the first time at Wollaton Hall, the venue that hosted the extremely successful “Dinosaurs of China” exhibition in 2017.

Visitors will have the opportunity to explore its life and environment using digital and interactive virtual media displays that tell the tale of the dinosaur’s discovery, subsequent excavation and the painstaking process of piecing together the life story of an iconic dinosaur.

Tyrannosaurus rex cast skeleton on display
Most museum exhibits are actually casts (replicas) of dinosaur fossil bones. This is a cast of BHI3033, the Tyrannosaurus rex specimen known as “Stan”.

A Rare Opportunity to See Actual T. rex Fossil Bones

The “Titus: T. rex is King” exhibition provides a rare opportunity to see real T. rex fossil bones up close. The media release sent to Everything Dinosaur states that this is the first real Tyrannosaurus rex fossil skeleton to be exhibited in England for over a century. We are not entirely sure how valid that claim is, as some of the original Barnum Brown T. rex fossils may have been on display at the British Museum (later the Natural History Museum), at some time over the last 100 years.

T. rex fossils have been exhibited in Scotland recently. In 2019, specimen number RGM 792.000, the Tyrannosaurus rex known as “Trix” was put on temporary display in Glasgow. Nevertheless, the Wollaton Hall exhibition all 4,000 square feet of it, will permit visitors to investigate and to try and solve some of the mysteries surrounding this fearsome dinosaur.

T. rex replica outside the Frankfurt museum.
A well-known Frankfurt landmark. The T. rex outside the Naturmuseum Senckenberg . Tyrannosaurus rex attracts attention wherever it goes. The T. rex exhibition that went to Scotland featured a specimen that was awaiting the building of a new gallery at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center (Leiden, Netherlands).

Feathers or Scales?

Commenting on the significance of “Titus: T. rex is King”, renowned palaeontologist Dr David Hone (Senior Lecturer in Zoology at Queen Mary, University of London) and member of the scientific team tasked with bringing “Titus” back to life stated:

“Visitors will be able to explore the world of Titus and take a closer look at his particular features – his crushing bite, incredible eyesight and keen sense of smell, air-filled bones, weight, size and speed. And then look more closely at his make-up of muscle and tissue, with 3D scans of his bones to examine and handle – and try to decide if in fact he was covered in scales or feathers or both.”

Rebor King T. rex Data Sheet
Tyrannosaurus rex has fascinated people since it was first scientifically described in 1905 (Osborn), visitors to Wollaton Hall from July 4th will have the rare chance to view actual T. rex fossil bones and to review some of the latest research on this iconic dinosaur.

Arts Council England Funding

The Arts Council England provided the initial funding of £250,000 to secure the exhibition for Nottingham and the UK, allowing Wollaton Hall Natural History Museum to assemble a unique, expert team of palaeontologists, conservationists, and digital display specialists to tell the story of T. rex and the ancient landscape of North America 66 million years ago.

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

“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.”

Tickets on Sale Now (April 2021)

Tickets for “TITUS T. REX IS KING” are on sale now, set at £12.00 for an adult, £8.00 for a child (under 16 years), students and concessions, £32.00 for a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children under 16 years) and under 3s and carers have no entry fees to pay. Booking fees and car parking charges apply. With COVID-19 safety measures in place, booking in advance is essential.

To book tickets and for more information, visit the website: Wollaton Hall “Titus: T. rex is King“.

26 04, 2021

Trilobites from Salem

By | April 26th, 2021|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

The global COVID-19 pandemic has affected lots of people in lots of ways. Times are tough and very challenging but spare a thought for those hard-working and dedicated fossil enthusiasts who rely on tourism for the bulk of their income.

One such person is Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook friend Salem Merdani. Living in Morocco, Salem has built up quite a successful business finding and preparing trilobites for tourists and fossil collectors.

Trilobite specimen (Phacops)
A carefully prepared trilobite specimen. One of the trilobite fossils collected and prepared by Salem Merdani.

Hard Times

With a young family to support Salem has found the last two years extremely difficult. The collapse of tourism in Morocco has put many fossil-selling companies into financial difficulties. Salem continues to work in his fossil preparation studio, but as the pandemic continues he wonders how long he will be able to keep going.

A stunning Moroccan trilobite (Paralejurus rehamnanus)
A beautifully prepared Moroccan trilobite (Paralejurus rehamnanus).
Trilobite specimen (Phacops speculator)
A Moroccan trilobite specimen (Phacops speculator).

Show Your Support

Salem sells his beautiful fossils via his WhatsApp group he can be contacted on – +212621149904.

If you have been thinking of making a fossil purchase, then why not pick up a piece of Palaeozoic treasure? Salem has his own Facebook page here: Moroccan Trilobites and Salem Merdani on Facebook.

24 04, 2021

Preparing for Pachycephalosaurus

By | April 24th, 2021|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Photos/Pictures of Fossils, Press Releases|0 Comments

As part of our commitment to education and science outreach activities, team members at Everything Dinosaur have been busy amending and updating information boards for a UK-based exhibitions company.

One of the many dinosaurs that we have been working on is Pachycephalosaurus (P. wyomingensis).

PNSO Pachycephalosaurus dinosaur model.
Austin the Pachycephalosaurus (P. wyomingensis). Everything Dinosaur’s work on the Pachycephalosaurus display boards coincided with the announcement from PNSO of a new for 2021 Pachycephalosaurus dinosaur model.

Austin the Pachycephalosaurus

The recently announced Austin the Pachycephalosaurus (PNSO), is due to be in stock at Everything Dinosaur later this year. The display boards we have been working on have to be finished in just a few days so they can be produced in time for outdoor events that are due to start in the UK next month (late May 2021).

A replica skull of Pachycephalosaurus wyomingensis.
Pachycephalosaurus wyomingensis replica skull. Everything Dinosaur team members took this photograph of a replica the skull of the North American member of the Pachycephalosauridae on a visit to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

Focusing on the Cranium and Taxonomy

The information we have provided to the exhibitions company focuses on the story of this dinosaur’s discovery and looks at some of the theories that have been proposed to explain the very thick skull bones, which in some specimens are more than 25 cm thick.

We have also provided information on Dracorex and Stygimoloch in a bid to explain that many palaeontologists do not think that these genera are valid. It is thought that Dracorex and Stygimoloch may represent juvenile specimens of P. wyomingensis.

22 04, 2021

Studying Spinosaurus

By | April 22nd, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Team members at Everything Dinosaur have been asked to cast their expert eyes over a display board that focusses on Spinosaurus (Spinosaurus aegyptiacus). Spinosaurus has become an increasingly popular dinosaur with children since it featured as the main protagonist in the third of the “Jurassic Park” films – “Jurassic Park III” that was released in 2001.

The public profile of this dinosaur was also boosted when it was featured in the first episode of the six-part BBC documentary series “Planet Dinosaur” that first aired ten years ago (2011).

Spinosaurus
From paddler to swimming the “evolving” image of Spinosaurus. The image (above) is from the BBC television series “Planet Dinosaur” that first aired in 2011. Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/BBC.

“Spiny or Thorn Lizard”

Known from the Late Cretaceous of North Africa (Cenomanian faunal stage), Spinosaurus (S. aegyptiacus) is regarded by many palaeontologists as the largest theropod dinosaur known to science. Its exact size remains controversial with various size estimates and assessments of body mass having been made. Several studies have indicated that this carnivore could have reached lengths in excess of 15 metres and perhaps weighed as much as 20 tonnes.

The huge neural spines associated with Spinosaurus
A picture of those extended neural processes that may have supported a sail-like structure or perhaps a fleshy hump. Picture Credit: Washington University in St. Louis

A Dinosaur that Behaved Like a Crocodile

Much of what we know about Spinosaurus comes from research carried out over the last twenty-five years. Although it was named and scientifically described over a hundred years ago.

Spinosaurus (S. aegyptiacus), was described in 1915 by the famous German palaeontologist Ernst Stromer von Reichenbach based on fragmentary fossils found in series of expeditions to the Bahariya depression in the Western Desert of Egypt. Much of the fossil material collected during these expeditions was destroyed by allied bombing raids in World War II.

Everything Dinosaur team members have updated the information panel for the exhibition. The panel provides readers with details of some of the most recent research that suggests that Spinosaurus was quadrupedal and semi-aquatic.

Swimming Spinosaurus 2020
A pair of spinosaurids hunting the giant, prehistoric sawfish Onchopristis. Picture Credit: Davide Bonadonna/National Geographic.

The function of the enormous sail remains a mystery. This structure was formed by elongated spines that were extensions of the back vertebrae. The sail may have played a role in helping this large dinosaur keep cool (thermoregulation). It also may have played a role in visual communication between spinosaurs. The spines could even have supported a fleshy hump that stored reserves of fat. The display panel we have helped to prepare will help to tell the story of how our perceptions regarding “Spiny or Thorn Lizard” has changed over the years.

20 04, 2021

New Species of Titanosaur Described

By | April 20th, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A new species of titanosaur has been named and described this week based on a partial skeleton unearthed in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The dinosaur has been named Arackar licanantay which translates as “Atacama bones” in the indigenous Kunza language.

Life Reconstruction Arackar licanantay
A life reconstruction of the newly described Late Cretaceous titanosaur Arackar licanantay from the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Picture Credit: Museo Nacional de Historia Naturala Santiago (Chile).

The Second Titanosaur from Chile to be Named

As far as Everything Dinosaur team members are aware, this is the second titanosaur to be named and described from fossil remains found in Chile. The first was Atacamatitan chilensis, fossils of which were discovered at the beginning of this century. Although Atacamatitan is only known from fragmentary remains, the alignment, shape and skeletal position of the femur in relation to the hips are very similar to that of Arackar, so, Atacamatitan was probably closely related to Arackar licanantay, although its fossilised remains were found many hundreds of miles to the north.

Three Chilean Dinosaurs to Date

In total, three non-avian dinosaurs have been described from fossil remains discovered in Chile. The other dinosaur making up this trio is the peculiar Chilesaurus (Chilesaurus diegosuarezi), which is know from Jurassic deposits in the Aysén region of southern Chile. To read about the discovery of Chilesaurus: Chilesaurus – Shaking the Dinosaur Family Tree.

Chilesaurus scale drawing.
A scale drawing of the bizarre Late Jurassic dinosaur Chilesaurus. Chilesaurus is one of just three non-avian dinosaurs known from Chile (April 2021). Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur.

Arackar licanantay – “Atacameño Bones”

Writing in the journal “Cretaceous Research”, scientists from the National Museum of Natural History (Chile), the Palaeontological Network of the University of Chile and the Dinosaur Laboratory of the National University of Cuyo describe a partial skeleton from the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian–Maastrichtian) beds of the Hornitos Formation, Atacama Region, of northern Chile. The holotype material consists of cervical and dorsal vertebrae along with limb bones and the ischium. The dinosaur’s name translates as “Atacameño bones” in the language of the indigenous Kunza people.

Arackar licanantay fossil material being excavated
Identifying a limb bone from the new species of titanosaur (Arackar licanantay). Picture credit: Universidad de Chile.

A Sub-adult Specimen

The fossils were found in the 1990s by national geologist Carlos Arévalo (National Geology and Mining Service), at a site around 45 miles south of the city of Copiapó, (Atacama Region). The bones represent a sub-adult individual estimated to have been around 6.3 metres in length. Although the adult size of Arackar is not known, it has been suggested that when fully grown, this herbivorous dinosaur would have been around 8-9 metres long, relatively small for a titanosaur.

Arackar was certainly no giant unlike other titanosaurs such as Dreadnoughtus, Notocolossus or Argentinosaurus which lived millions of years earlier. The discovery of this dinosaur helps to support the idea that towards the end of the Cretaceous (Campanian to Maastrichtian stages), these types of dinosaurs got smaller, perhaps in response to climate change.

Bone Dry

The fossil site might be located in one of the driest parts of the world, but when Arackar roamed (sometime between 80 and 66 million years ago, the age of the Hornitos Formation is uncertain), the climate was much more humid with the lush vegetation consisting of many types of flowering plant (angiosperms), conifers such as araucarias and podocarpaceae as well as ferns and cycads.

Chile may have only three non-avian dinosaurs described to date, but the scientists are confident that many more genera will be named. For example, close to the Arackar fossils, the remains of a second, as yet undescribed titanosaur were discovered.

Titanosaur fossil material (Arackar licanantay)
Fossil remains at the dig site, the preserved remains of limb bone. Another titanosaur specimen that has yet to be described was found close by. Picture Credit: Universidad de Chile.

Commenting on the significance of this discovery, Consuelo Valdés, the Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage stated:

“This finding is a relevant opportunity to learn about and disseminate the value of our country’s palaeontological heritage, which is unique in the world. But, at the same time, we hope to motivate curiosity and interest in research in children and young people. Chile in the extreme north and south has palaeontological treasures still hidden in layers many millions of years old. These bones can tell the story of the animals and plants that have lived in our country long before the first human groups arrived here.”

South America – Home to the Titanosaurs

The scientific description of Arackar licanantay may have important implications for the taxonomy and phylogeny of the clade of derived and advanced titanosaurs known as the Lithostrotia. Of the eighty or so genera of titanosaurs named and described so far, fifty-five come from South America but most have been found to the east of the Andes in Brazil and Argentina.

Unique autapomorphies (traits) in the skeleton such as the shape of the dorsal vertebrae that would have given this dinosaur a very straight withers and back indicate that A. licanantay is not only closely related to Chile’s other titanosaur – Atacamatitan chilensis, but also to Rapetosaurus from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar and Isisaurus (from India).

Titanosaur Taxonomic Relationships
The taxonomy of South American titanosaurs over time and geographical distribution. The red star represents the approximate placement of Arackar licanantay. Picture credit: Hechenleitner et al (Communications Biology) with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur.

Co-author of the paper, Alexander Vargas (Palaeontological Network of the University of Chile), commented that it would be helpful if palaeontologists could understand the biogeographical distribution that allowed related titanosaurs to be so widespread.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release from the Universidad de Chile in the compilation of this article.

The scientific paper: “Arackar licanantay gen. et sp. nov. a new lithostrotian (Dinosauria, Sauropoda) from the Upper Cretaceous of the Atacama Region, northern Chile” by David Rubilar-Rogers, Alexander O. Vargas, Bernardo González Riga, Sergio Soto-Acuña, Jhonatan Alarcón-Muñoz, José Iriarte-Díaz, Carlos Arévalo and Carolina S. Gutstein published in Cretaceous Research.

12 04, 2021

New Jurassic Pterosaur Reveals the Oldest Opposed Thumb

By | April 12th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|1 Comment

An opposable thumb gives us apes a huge advantage, just ask a dog to hold a spoon for you, however, opposable thumbs are not just limited to gorillas, chimps, orangutans and our own genus Homo. Other apes have them too, as do some marsupials and tree frogs. In reality, opposed thumbs are rare in the Kingdom Animalia, but an international team of scientists including researchers from the University of Birmingham, have just described a new species of flying reptile and it’s the earliest example known to science of a vertebrate with an opposed thumb.

Kunpengopterus life reconstruction
Life reconstruction of K. antipollicatus. The opposed pollex could have been used for grasping food items, as well as clinging and hanging to trees. Picture credit: Zhao Chuang.

Kunpengopterus antipollicatus

The new Jurassic pterosaur has been named Kunpengopterus antipollicatus, it was discovered in the Tiaojishan Formation of Liaoning, China.

It is a small-bodied darwinopteran pterosaur, with an estimated wingspan of 85 cm. Most importantly, the specimen was preserved with an opposed pollex (“thumb”) on both hands. The species name “antipollicatus” means “opposite thumbed” in ancient Greek, in light of the opposed thumb of the new species. This is the first discovery of a pterosaur with an opposed thumb. It also represents the earliest record of a true opposed thumb in the fossil record.

Kunpengopterus antipollicatus fossil and line drawing
Fossil of Kunpengopterus antipollicatus, discovered in the Tiaojishan Formation of China. It is housed in the Beipiao Pterosaur Museum of China. Image credit: Zhou et al., 2021.

“Monkeydactyl”

Kunpengopterus lived in a forested environment approximately 160 million years ago. It was nicknamed “monkeydactyl” as a true opposed thumb (pollex) is extremely rare amongst extant reptiles, only chameleons possess opposed thumbs. They use their thumbs to help them climb, the researchers writing in the academic publication “Current Biology”, also suggest that Kunpengopterus evolved such dexterity to help it to climb.

In order to test the arboreal interpretation, the team analysed K. antipollicatus and other pterosaurs using a set of anatomical characters related to arboreal adaptation. The results support K. antipollicatus as an arboreal species, but not the other pterosaurs from the same ecosystem. This suggests niche-partitioning among these pterosaurs and provides the first quantitative evidence supporting the theory that at least some darwinopteran pterosaurs were arboreal.

Minimising Competition Amongst Pterosaurs

Lead author Xuanyu Zhou (China University of Geosciences) commented:

“Tiaojishan palaeoforest is home to many organisms, including three genera of darwinopteran pterosaurs. Our results show that K. antipollicatus has occupied a different niche from Darwinopterus and Wukongopterus, which has likely minimised competition among these pterosaurs.”

Photo and digital model of the left hand of K. antipollicatus, showing the opposed thumb.
Photo and digital model of the left hand of K. antipollicatus, showing the opposed thumb. Image credit: Zhou et al., 2021.

Micro-CT Imaging Assists in Discovery

Fion Waisum Ma, co-author of the study and PhD researcher (University of Birmingham) explained:

“The fingers of “Monkeydactyl” are tiny and partly embedded in the slab. Thanks to micro-CT scanning, we could see through the rocks, create digital models and tell how the opposed thumb articulates with the other finger bones. This is an interesting discovery. It provides the earliest evidence of a true opposed thumb, and it is from a pterosaur – which wasn’t known for having an opposed thumb”.

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

The scientific paper: “A new darwinopteran pterosaur reveals arborealism and an opposed thumb” by Xuanyu Zhou, Rodrigo V. Pêgas, Waisum Ma, Xuefang Wei, Caizhi Shen and Shu’an Ji published in Current Biology.

9 04, 2021

A New Species of Ancient Mammal from Southern Chile

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

A new species of Late Cretaceous South American mammal has been named and described. The omnivorous Orretherium tzen is only the second mammal from the Mesozoic known from Chile. The newly described O. tzen joins Magallanodon baikashkenke which was named in 2020. Orretherium has been described from a partial lower jawbone, which had 5 teeth in situ and a single isolated tooth found just a few metres away from the jaw fragment. It is thought to have been about the size of a modern skunk, although it was only distantly related to modern mammals.

Orretherium Life Reconstruction
Orretherium lived some 74-72 million years ago in South America. It shared its habitat with numerous dinosaurs including titanosaurs (seen in the background).

The Mammal Quarry

The fossils were found in exposures of the Dorotea Formation (late Campanian to early Maastrichtian faunal stages of the Late Cretaceous), on a small hill nicknamed “the mammal quarry”, reflecting the significance of the site in terms of Late Cretaceous mammalian fossil finds. Although the isolated tooth that helped describe this species was found close to the jaw fragment, the researchers cannot unambiguously refer this tooth to the same individual animal although it is highly probable taking in account their compatible size, wear and close proximity.

Orretherium fossil study.
Map (inset) showing the fossil find location, a reconstruction of the head of Orretherium along with a photograph of the jawbone and a computer enhanced image of the fossil.

Classified as a member of the Meridiolestida

Orretherium has been classified as a member of the Meridiolestida, an extinct group of mammals known from South America and Antarctica.

Co-author of the research paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, Sergio Soto-Acuña (University of Chile), commented:

“This mammal is a primitive lineage of the group of meridiolestids, very successful at the end of the Age of dinosaurs in South America. The jaw found has five teeth in place that indicate omnivorous habits, it probably fed on plants and insects”.

Looking for Late Cretaceous Mammals
Field work being carried out at “the mammal quarry” as scientists from the University of Chile in collaboration with researchers from Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil), Museo de La Plata (Argentina) and other South American academic institutions collaborated to produce the scientific paper describing Orretherium.

The scientific paper: “New cladotherian mammal from southern Chile and the evolution of mesungulatid meridiolestidans at the dusk of the Mesozoic era” by Agustín G. Martinelli, Sergio Soto-Acuña, Francisco J. Goin, Jonatan Kaluza, J. Enrique Bostelmann, Pedro H. M. Fonseca, Marcelo A. Reguero, Marcelo Leppe and Alexander O. Vargas published in Scientific Reports.

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