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21 09, 2020

Euparkeria Steps Out

By | September 21st, 2020|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Euparkeria Study Provides Important Step in Evolution of Archosaur Posture

Fossils of the stem-archosaur Euparkeria (pronounced Yoo-park-air-ree-ah), have been studied by scientists from the University of Bristol and the Royal Veterinary College in a bid to better understand the evolution of different gaits and locomotion within archosaurs.  Three-dimensional modelling based on high resolution CT scans of the hindlimb of the small, agile Euparkeria (E. capensis), has revealed that it had a “mosaic” of functions associated with locomotion.

Euparkeria, which roamed southern Africa around 245 million years ago, is believed to be a close relative of the last common ancestor of both crocodilians and the dinosaur/bird branch of the Archosauria family tree, as such, a study of its fossil bones can provide important insights into the evolution of the archosaurs.

A Life Reconstruction of Euparkeria capensis

Euparkeria life reconstruction

A life reconstruction of the basal archosauriform Euparkeria (E. capensis).  As the hindlimbs are longer than the front legs, many researchers believe that Euparkeria was capable of adopting a bipedal stance when it wanted to (facultative biped).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This little reptile, that was formerly named and described in 1913, has recently been at the centre of another study which examined skull fossil material originally reported upon in 1965, but with the advance of scanning technology, scientists were able to provide much more information about the structure of Euparkeria’s skull: Little Euparkeria Steps into the Spotlight.

Euparkeria Provides Insight

Birds have an upright, erect bipedal posture, whilst extant crocodilians are quadrupedal and have a sprawling gait.  The ancestor of the birds and crocodiles once shared a common mode of locomotion and Euparkeria can provide vital information helping scientists to work out how these differences came about.

Life Reconstruction of Euparkeria capensis

Euparkeria life reconstruction.

A life reconstruction of Euparkeria highlighting the hip and ankle that were the focus of the study.  Note in this illustration the archosaur has been given a more sprawling, quadrupedal posture when compared to the first illustration of Euparkeria on this post.

Picture Credit: Oliver Demuth

Writing in the academic journal “Scientific Reports”, the researchers which included John Hutchinson, Professor of Evolutionary Biomechanics at the Royal Veterinary College, explained how they reconstructed the hip structure of Euparkeria based on CT scans.  The complex and very detailed computer models these scans produced demonstrated that Euparkeria had a distinctive bony rim on the pelvis, called a supra-acetabular rim, covering the top of the hip joint.  This anatomical feature had only previously been found in later archosaurs on the crocodilian branch of the Archosauria.  As a result, a more erect posture had been inferred for these extinct crocodiles.  The supra-acetabular rim permitted the pelvis to cover the top of the femur (thigh bone) and support the body with the limbs in a more columnar arrangement – this type of joint is referred to as “pillar-erect”.

Identifying the Supra-acetabular Rim on the Hip Bone

Euparkeria hip bones.

The black arrow points to the supra-acetabular rim.  This projection of the hip bone above the hip joint permitted the tucking of the limbs under the body to support the body in a columnar arrangement.  This is so far the earliest occurrence of this structure in the archosaur family tree.

Picture Credit: Demuth et al (Scientific Reports)

Euparkeria is the oldest known reptile that possessed such a joint, this raises the intriguing question as to whether it had a more erect dinosaur/bird-like posture rather than the more sprawling posture as seen in modern crocodilians.

Testing How the Hindlimbs Could Move

Computer simulations were created to test the range of movement in the hindlimbs.  The team estimated how far the femur could have rotated until it collided with the hip bones.  The computer models also examined how the ankle joint functioned as well.  The simulations suggested that while the femur could have been held in an erect posture, the foot could not have been placed steadily on the ground due to the way the foot rotates around the ankle joint, implying a more sprawling posture.  However, the supra-acetabular rim covering the hip joint restricted the movement of the thigh bone in a way that is not seen in any living tetrapod with a sprawling gait, this indicates that Euparkeria had a more upright posture.

Examining Three-dimensional Models of the Euparkeria Ankle to Assess Function

Modelling the ankle structure of Euparkeria.

The oblique ankle joint did not allow Euparkeria to assume a fully upright posture as the foot also turns medially when the ankle joint is extended.  An ankle joint allowing a more upright posture evolved later independent from the hip structure.

Picture Credit: Demuth et al (Scientific Reports)

The researchers conclude that Euparkeria possessed a “mosaic” of locomotor functions.  It is the earliest reptile known with this peculiar hip anatomy and an ankle joint allowing a more erect posture did evolve in later Triassic archosaurs.

Professor Hutchinson stated:

“The mosaic of structures present in Euparkeria, then, can be seen as a central stepping-stone in the evolution of locomotion in archosaurs.”

The scientific paper: “3D hindlimb joint mobility of the stem-archosaur Euparkeria capensis with implications for the postural evolution within the Archosauria” by Oliver E. Demuth, Emily J. Rayfield and John R. Hutchinson published in Scientific Reports.

19 09, 2020

Spinosaurus – Very Much at Home in the River

By | September 19th, 2020|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Spinosaurus A River Monster

An examination of more than a thousand fossil dinosaur teeth collected from an ancient Cretaceous-aged riverbed in Morocco suggests that the giant theropod Spinosaurus was very much at home in an aquatic environment.  This new study, conducted by researchers from the University of Portsmouth, lends further support to the idea that Spinosaurus spent a great deal of time in water, that this enormous theropod, arguably one of the largest of all the carnivorous dinosaurs was a “river monster”.

More Evidence Suggests that Spinosaurus was an Aquatic Animal

Swimming Spinosaurus (2020)

View of the crocodile-like snout of Spinosaurus and the new interpretation of the tail.  This new paper supports the earlier hypothesis that Spinosaurus aegyptiacus was an aquatic animal.

Picture Credit: Davide Bonadonna/National Geographic

This new study builds on a research paper published in the journal “Nature”, earlier this year, which also involved co-author Professor David Martill (University of Portsmouth).  The May (2020) paper focused on the examination of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus caudal vertebrae, it was concluded that Spinosaurus had a wide, flexible, fin-like tail, ideal for helping the dinosaur to propel itself through the water.

To read more about the Spinosaurus tail bones: Spinosaurus – The River Monster.

A Study of Fossil Teeth from the Kem Kem Formation

Writing in the academic journal “Cretaceous Research”, the scientists conclude that Spinosaurus was a water-dwelling dinosaur, a giant “river monster”.

A total of 1,200 broken teeth were collected from the site of an ancient riverbed in the Kem Kem Formation of Morocco.  Each tooth was carefully analysed and documented and it was discovered that Spinosaurus teeth made up the majority of the fossil specimens.

Professor David Martill, Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Portsmouth explained:

“From this research we are able to confirm this location as the place where this gigantic dinosaur not only lived but also died.  The results are fully consistent with the idea of a truly water-dwelling, “river monster”.”

Examples of Typical Fossils from the Kem Kem Formation (Morocco)

Fossil remains (Kem Kem beds).

Assorted vertebrate fossil remains from the Kem Kem beds of Morocco.  The elongated conical tooth (top left) and the large, slender conical tooth which is partially obscured (far left) are likely to be spinosaurid.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Around forty-five percent of all the teeth fossils were ascribed to Spinosaurus.

Professor Martill added:

“The huge number of teeth we collected in the prehistoric riverbed reveals that Spinosaurus was there in huge numbers, accounting for 45 per cent of the total dental remains.  We know of no other location where such a mass of dinosaur teeth have been found in bone-bearing rock.  The enhanced abundance of Spinosaurus teeth, relative to other dinosaurs, is a reflection of their aquatic lifestyle.  An animal living much of its life in water is much more likely to contribute teeth to the river deposit than those dinosaurs that perhaps only visited the river for drinking and feeding along its banks.”

Professor Martill worked alongside two students (Aaron Quigley and Thomas Beevor), studying for the Masters Degree in Palaeontology at the university.

Thomas Beevor commented:

“The Kem Kem riverbeds are an amazing source of Spinosaurus remains.  They also preserve the remains of many other Cretaceous creatures including sawfish, coelacanths, crocodiles, flying reptiles and other land-living dinosaurs.  With such an abundance of Spinosaurus teeth, it is highly likely that this animal was living mostly within the river rather than along its banks.”

Identifying Spinosaurus Teeth

Sorting fossil teeth can be quite a challenging process.  However, enough is known about the Kem Kem biota to enable most of the teeth remains to be assigned to a genus or at least at the family level.  Numerous theropod dinosaurs are known from this geological formation, but spinosaurid teeth are distinctive.  They are conical, lack serrations and are not recurved.  Aaron Quigley explained that the teeth of Spinosaurus have a distinct surface.  They have a smooth, round cross-section which glints when held up to the light.

A Model of Spinosaurus Introduced in 2019 (Papo Spinosaurus)

Papo Limited Edition Spinosaurus Model.

The Papo Limited Edition Spinosaurus dinosaur model (2019).  Depicting Spinosaurus as an aquatic animal with deep, fin-like tail.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Sigilmassasaurus Confusion

Whilst the prevalence of spinosaurid teeth in the sample might indicate that spinosaurids spent more time in close proximity to the ancient river than other dinosaurs, this research does not represent definitive proof that Spinosaurus was aquatic.  It lends weight to the idea.  A large amount of spinosaurid teeth associated with the site, could be a result of some form of depositional bias or general taphonomy.  In addition, the paucity of Spinosaurus remains from the Kem Kem Formation has led to controversy over the classification of fossil bones.  For example, in 1996 a second genus of spinosaurid was named and described from fossilised cervical vertebrae found close to the Tafilalt Oasis in eastern Morocco.  This dinosaur was named Sigilmassasaurus brevicollis (Russell), but its taxonomic validity remains in doubt.  Sigilmassasaurus may be a valid genus, if it is, then it was very closely related to Spinosaurus aegyptiacus.  Other scientists think that S. brevicollis is not a valid genus and a junior synonym of Spinosaurus.  It is possible that the teeth involved in this study could represent another type of spinosaurid, other than S. aegyptiacus.

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

14 09, 2020

Pachycephalosaur Squamosals

By | September 14th, 2020|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Pachycephalosaur Squamosals

As Everything Dinosaur team members prepare for the arrival of the new for 2020 Papo Stygimoloch dinosaur model, team members have been examining the scientific papers that led to the erection of this pachycephalosaur genus (Peter Galton and Hans-Dieter Sues in 1983).  An isolated fossil bone referred to as a left squamosal (a bone from the back part of the skull) was found in Hell Creek Formation deposits located in McCone County, eastern Montana.  This fossil bone was given the catalogue number UCMP 119433 and although its prominent horns and raised bony bumps were very distinctive, it was not formerly described until 1983.  This fossil bone became the holotype fossil for the new species of North American pachycephalosaur Stygimoloch spinifer.

Distinctive Squamosal Bones Attributed to S. spinifer

Squamosal Bones Associated with Stygimoloch spinifer

The holotype left squamosal (UCMP 119433) in (A) and a right squamosal (UCMP 131163) in (B) in posterior view.  Note scale bar equals 5 cm.

Picture Credit: Horner and Goodwin (published in PLOS One)

The picture (above), shows the holotype left squamosal (UCMP 119433) alongside a right squamosal which also comes from the Hell Creek Formation of Montana (UCMP 131163).   When first described, the flat-headed, narrow skull of Stygimoloch with its array of horns and bumps that were most prominent at the back of the skull, was thought to represent a different type of pachycephalosaur than the dome-skulled species such as Pachycephalosaurus wyomingensis.  Stygimoloch had been described from extremely scrappy fossil remains.  Although a more complete skull found in North Dakota was also assigned to this genus, Stygimoloch remained poorly known.

The New for 2020 Papo Stygimoloch Dinosaur Model

Papo Stygimoloch model.

A view of one of the production prototypes of the Papo Stygimoloch dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Stygimoloch is Probably a Subadult Pachycephalosaurus

A paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in 2007 challenged the validity of the Stygimoloch taxon.  Palaeontologists John (Jack) Horner of the Museum of the Rockies, Montana State University and Mark Goodwin of the Museum of Paleontology at the University of California, Berkeley published a paper in the on-line, peer reviewed journal PLOS One (2009), that proposed that both Dracorex hogwartsia and Stygimoloch spinifer represented younger individuals of the Pachycephalosaurus wyomingensis species.

More recent fossil discoveries from the Hell Creek Formation and further analysis of existing pachycephalosaur fossil material from North America supports the idea that Dracorex hogwartsia, Stygimoloch spinifer and Pachycephalosaurus wyomingensis are the same taxon.

Pachycephalosaur Ontogeny – Three Hell Creek Formation Taxa May Actually Represent Just One Taxon

Different skull shapes and ornamentation linked to different growth stages.

It has been proposed that the cranial ornamentation and skull shape of pachycephalosaurs changes as these animals grow and mature.  This can cause confusion when trying to identify species.

Picture Credit: Kari Scannella with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

When first described, (Galton and Sues), the suggested morphology of the skull of Stygimoloch (narrow and lacking a raised, thickened dome), led the researchers to propose that unlike other pachycephalosaurs Stygimoloch probably did not indulge in any head-butting behaviour.

To view the range of Papo figures in stock at Everything Dinosaur, including a Pachycephalosaurus figure (whilst stocks last): Papo Models and Figures.

The 2009 scientific paper: “Extreme Cranial Ontogeny in the Upper Cretaceous Dinosaur Pachycephalosaurus” by John R Horner and Mark B Goodwin published in PLOS One.

12 09, 2020

A Predator of Lisowicia – Smok wawelski

By | September 12th, 2020|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A Predator of Lisowicia – Smok wawelski

Prehistoric animal model collectors have been eager to get their hands on the new for 2020 CollectA Deluxe Lisowicia bojani, dicynodont model.  Everything Dinosaur team members are busy creating a short video review of the model entitled “Dynamic Dicynodonts”.  Our YouTube video aims to showcase the CollectA 1:20 scale figure and to discuss dicynodonts in general.  Ironically, in the Late Triassic there was a predator that the elephant-sized Lisowicia might have feared.  The bonebed in southern Poland has revealed the presence of a five-metre plus archosaurian carnivore.  A powerful animal scientifically described in 2011, the meat-eater has been named Smok wawelski and although a fully grown Lisowicia was probably invulnerable to attack, Smok would have been capable of bringing down juvenile or sick individuals, as Smok is the largest terrestrial predator known from the Late Triassic of central Europe.

Dangerous Company for Lisowicia bojaniSmok wawelski

Skeletal reconstruction of Smok wawelski

A skeletal reconstruction of Smok wawelski (known bones in white) along with views of key elements from the fossil remains.  Although originally believed to be a theropod dinosaur related to the Allosauroidea, Smok wawelski could be a member of the crocodile lineage of the Archosauria.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The CollectA Deluxe Lisowicia bojani Dicynodont Model

The CollectA Deluxe Lisowicia bojani model.

The ruler helps to show the size of the CollectA Lisowicia model.  The Lisowicia replica measures around 19 cm long and the model has an articulated lower jaw.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the CollectA Deluxe Lisowicia bojaniCollectA Deluxe Prehistoric Life Models.

The “Dragon of Lisowice”

Smok had a skull which was more than half a metre in length.  It was the apex predator of a diverse biota revealed by the clay pit fossils found close to the village of Lisowice in Silesia, southern Poland.  The first evidence of this large animal, consisting of cranial material was discovered in 2007, based on these fossils it was assigned to the Theropoda.  The braincase was similar to that seen in allosaurs, hence the classification.  However, more recent fossil discoveries have thrown doubts upon this taxonomic assessment.  It may not belong to the dinosaur/bird lineage of the Archosauria at all, Smok could be a member of the Rauisuchidae, a globally diverse family of archosaurs from the crocodile branch of the Archosauria.

Femur Bone Comparison Smok wawelski Compared to a Theropod (Liliensternus) and a Rauisuchid (Postosuchus)

Archosaur bone comparison (thigh bone comparison).

The femur of S. wawelski is compared to femori representing two other archosaurs, one from the Theropoda (Liliensternus) and a femur from the rauisuchid Postosuchus.  When first described Smok wawelski was thought to be a theropod but further fossil discoveries led to its placement within the Archosauria becoming more uncertain.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Once completed Everything Dinosaur’s video review of Lisowicia bojani and the information on Smok wawelski will be posted up on the company’s YouTube channel.  Click here to visit Everything Dinosaur on YouTube: Everything Dinosaur on YouTube.

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11 09, 2020

A Dinosaur “Begs” to Differ

By | September 11th, 2020|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A Neoceratopsian from Mongolia – Beg tse

A new species of basal neoceratopsian has been described from fossils found near the town of Barunnbayan in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia.  The little dinosaur, which was probably less than a metre long, has been named Beg tse in honour of the Himalayan deity Beg-tse.  In Mongolian culture, prior to the spread of Buddhism, Beg-tse was a god of war, often depicted as heavily armoured with large, roughened patches on its body.  The researchers studying the fossil material noted that, like other members of the Neoceratopsia, Beg had rugosities (roughened areas), on its skull, notably on the jugal and the surangular.

The Compressed Skull of Beg tse with an Accompanying Line Drawing

Beg tse skull and line drawing.

Lateral view of the holotype skull of Beg tse with line drawing.  The compressed skull measures 14 cm in length approximately.

Picture Credit: Yu et al (Nature)

The Most Basal Neoceratopsian Described to Date

The only known specimen of Beg tse (specimen reference: IGM 100/3652), was discovered by a joint American Museum of Nature/Mongolian Academy of Sciences expedition in 2015.  The fossils probably represent a single individual and consist of an articulated partial skull along with postcranial elements consisting of a fragmentary right ischium, a partial left scapula, one rib bone and numerous bone fragments.  A phylogenetic analysis conducted by the scientists, which included Dr Mark Norell (American Museum of Natural History),  indicates that Beg is the most basal neoceratopsian dinosaur known to date and is more derived than both the Psittacosauridae and Jurassic Chaoyangsauridae.

A Speculative Life Reconstruction of the Basal Neoceratopsian Beg tse

Beg tse life reconstruction.

A speculative life reconstruction of the basal neoceratopsian Beg tse.  The illustration has been based on the neoceratopsian Liaoceratops yanzigouensis from north-eastern China.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Proving Difficult to Date

It is difficult to estimate the date of the fossil bearing strata for many of the Gobi Desert dig sites due to the lack of detailed geological mapping and the limited number of sediments suitable for radiometric dating.  The sandstone dominated deposit has been dated to between 113 – 94 million years ago, with a most probable date of circa 100 million years ago.  As a result, the researchers conclude that Beg dates from the latest Early Cretaceous or the earliest Late Cretaceous.  The Ceratopsia may have originated around the Middle Jurassic, but the skull of Beg tse exhibits a combination of primitive and more derived traits which suggests that the basic ceratopsian bodyplan persisted until at least the Early-Late Cretaceous boundary.  Beg along with other Asian neoceratopsians such as Auroraceratops and Mosaiceratops represent transitional forms between basal ceratopsians and more derived forms.  With a wide geographical range from South Korea, China and Mongolia and a long time span from the Aptian to possibly the Campanian, the early evolutionary history of the horned dinosaurs is probably much more complex than previously thought.

The scientific paper: “A neoceratopsian dinosaur from the early Cretaceous of Mongolia and the early evolution of the ceratopsia” by Congyu Yu, Albert Prieto-Marquez, Tsogtbaatar Chinzorig, Zorigt Badamkhatan and Mark Norell published in Nature (Communications Biology).

8 09, 2020

Eternal Sleeping Dinosaur Discovery

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

Changmiania liaoningensis A New Basal Ornithopod from Liaoning Province

A new species of basal ornithopod dinosaur has been named and described from Liaoning Province in north-eastern China.  The dinosaur has been named Changmiania liaoningensis which translates from the Chinese as “eternal sleeper from Liaoning”.  The researchers which include Pascal Godefroit of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and Paul-Emile Dieudonné (Universidad Nacional de Río Negro, Argentina), in collaboration with colleagues from Jilin University and Shenyang Normal University (China), postulate that Changmiania lived in burrows.

The Holotype of Changmiania liaoningensis (PMOL AD00114) and a Life Reconstruction

Changmiania liaoningensis fossil material and life reconstruction.

The perfectly preserved holotype fossil of Changmiania liaoningensis with a life reconstruction.  The very nearly intact, articulated specimens suggest that the dinosaurs were entombed in their burrows during a volcanic eruption.

Picture Credit: Carine Ciselet

From the Lujiatun Beds of the Yixian Formation

The pair of beautifully preserved fossils, like so many vertebrate fossils from this part of the world were acquired from farmers.  Many locals supplement their incomes by finding and excavating specimens.  Whilst welcoming the opportunity to be able to study the material, palaeontologists are often frustrated by the lack of information available to them pertaining to the fossil’s location and how it was preserved (taphonomy).  However, it is thought that the fossils herald from the Lujiatun Beds (Yixian Formation) of western Liaoning Province.  These three-dimensional fossils were formed when these dinosaurs were entombed in pyroclastic material created by a volcanic eruption.  Numerous dinosaurs are known from the Lujiatun Beds including the dromaeosaurid Graciliraptor (G. lujiatunensis), the troodontid Mei long, the small tyrannosauroid Dilong paradoxus along with psittacosaurs, neoceratopsians and the ornithopod Jeholosaurus (J. shanyuensis).

Scientists have been able to accurately date the volcanic ash layer to approximately 123 million years ago, which means this diverse dinosaur biota lived during the early Aptian faunal stage of the Early Cretaceous.   The hot, volcanic debris that covered these two dinosaurs may have perfectly preserved most of the skeleton but any evidence of an integumentary covering such as feathers was destroyed as these animals met their fate whilst fast asleep in their burrows.  The resting dinosaurs having been caught up and consumed in a violent pyroclastic flow is the scenario tentatively proposed by the research team in the scientific paper published in PeerJ.

The Two Fossils of Changmiania liaoningensis

Views of the holotype and a referred specimen of Changmiania liaoningensis.

The holotype fossil (A) and a close view of the anterior portion of the holotype (B), with a second referred specimen of Changmiania liaoningensis (C).

Picture Credit: Yang et al (PeerJ)

A Basal Ornithopod

The little dinosaur measured approximately 1.2 metres long, the tail representing fifty percent of the animal’s total body length.  The extremely short neck, consisting of just six cervical vertebrae, the robust forelimbs and stocky shoulder blades suggest that this dinosaur might have dug burrows.  This idea is supported by the position of the fossil specimens and the morphology of the front of the skull, which may have assisted with shovelling dirt aside.  The long hindlimbs and tail indicate that Changmiania was a fast runner, able to avoid trouble whilst away from its underground den.

This is not the first time fossorial behaviour has been inferred for a dinosaur.  For example, in 2007 Everything Dinosaur wrote a short post about another potential burrowing ornithischian, another basal ornithopod that was named Oryctodromeus cubicularis, remains of which come from the sandstones of the Blackleaf Formation of Montana (USA): A Burrowing Dinosaur from Montana.

Changmiania lived at least 10 million years earlier than O. cubicularis.  A phylogenetic analysis places Changmiania liaoningensis as the most basal ornithopod dinosaur known to science.

The scientific paper: “A new basal ornithopod dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of China” by Yuqing Yang, Wenhao Wu, Paul-Emile Dieudonné and Pascal Godefroit​ published in PeerJ.

6 09, 2020

An Armoured Dinosaur from British Columbia

By | September 6th, 2020|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Body Fossils of an Ankylosaurian Dinosaur from British Columbia

A small sandstone block containing the back end of a single, fragmentary dorsal vertebra, a dorsal neural arch and two pieces of rib, probably fossils from one animal, have been identified as the fossilised bones of an armoured dinosaur.  This material, originally collected in 1930, is one of just a handful of dinosaur bones known from the early Late Cretaceous of Canada (Cenomanian faunal stage).  Although fossilised footprints associated with ankylosaurian dinosaurs are known from the area, these are the earliest reported body fossils from the Dunvegan Formation of British Columbia and as such these bones may provide palaeontologists with a new perspective on the transition of dinosaur biotas into the Late Cretaceous of North America.

Fossil Material Identified as Ankylosaurian

Photographs and line drawings of ankylosaurian fossil material.

Sandstone block containing portions of two ankylosaurian dorsal vertebrae and two probable ribs.  Photograph (a) and line drawing (b) lateral view.  Photograph (c) reserve side of block showing two probable ribs and parts of the vertebrae with (d) line drawing.

Picture Credit: Arbour et al (Fossil Record)

Bones Collected in 1930

The specimen was collected by the Canadian geologist Merton Yarwood Williams in 1930 during a geological survey of the area of the “Peace River district”.  Charles M. Sternberg later identified the fossil material as representing an ornithischian dinosaur resembling Camptosaurus.  It was loaned to the Royal Ontario Museum for preparation and study and as part of the research, several members of the scientific team visited the area where the fossil was discovered in an attempt to relocate the original site.  Unfortunately, high river levels prevented an extensive search of the steep sided riverbanks.  The team did find a number of plant fossils and a natural cast of a dinosaur footprint – Tetrapodosaurus, an ichnogenus believed to represent an ankylosaurian.  Dinosaur footprint fossils are associated with this area, many of these tracks are thought to represent armoured dinosaurs.

Details of the Ankylosaurian Vertebrae (British Columbia)

Details of the Ankylosaurian vertebrae (British Columbia).

Right lateral view of isolated neural arch (a), with (b) axial view of the isolated centrum, broken at its approximate mid-length and showing strong constriction, inferring an hour-glass shape for the bone.  Ventral view of the transverse process of the isolated neural arch (c).

Picture Credit: Arbour et al (Fossil Record)

The Dunvegan Formation outcrops in both northern Alberta and British Columbia, it is primarily composed of marine strata and deposits laid down in a near-shore delta environment.  Vertebrate fossils are rare but shark and teleosts (bony fish), fossils have been found, including one remarkable discovery of a bony fish found in a 75 mm diameter oil drill core – Tycheroichthys dunveganensis.

To read about this serendipitous fossil fish discovery: Amazing Fossil Fish Found in Canadian Oil Drill Core.

These fragmentary remains (CMN 59667), are the only body fossils of an ankylosaurian known from British Columbia, although a few dermal scales and ossicles from an outcrop of the Dunvegan Formation in Alberta have been ascribed to an armoured dinosaur.  It is difficult to date the sediments accurately, but the fossils are approximately 99-96 million years old.

What Sort of Ankylosaurian Was It?

CMN 59667 has been identified as ankylosaur material based on a number of traits and characteristics observed in the vertebrae.  Although ankylosaur fossils are known from roughly contemporaneous strata in the United States, these types of dinosaurs are not common components of the associated dinosaur fauna.  The body fossils are too fragmentary to confidently assign them to either a nodosaurid or an ankylosaurid ankylosaur.  The fossils are still highly significant, terrestrial Cenomanian assemblages are rare in North America but those fossils that have been found provide evidence of an important time in our planet’s history when there was a considerable faunal turnover between the end of the Early Cretaceous and the earliest Late Cretaceous.

A Scale Drawing of the Roughly Contemporaneous Animantarx from the Cedar Mountain Formation of Utah (USA)

Animantarx Scale Drawing.

A scale drawing of the armoured dinosaur from Utah – Animantarx ramaljonesi.  This dinosaur speculatively assigned to the Nodosauridae, is roughly contemporaneous with the ankylosaurian from the Dunvegan Formation of British Columbia.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The discovery of skeletal fossils from the Pine River demonstrates the potential for the Dunvegan Formation to produce terrestrial vertebrate fossils that may provide important new data on this significant transitional period during the Cretaceous.  The researchers hope that the discovery of more body fossils from this location will help them to make a more specific identification as to what sort of ankylosaurian dinosaur roamed this part of British Columbia.

To read about the discovery of a leptoceratopsid, the first unique dinosaur from British Columbia, that was named and described by two authors of the ankylosaurian scientific paper: A New Leptoceratopsid Ferrisaurus sustutensis from British Columbia.

The scientific paper: “An ankylosaurian dinosaur from the Cenomanian Dunvegan Formation of northeastern British Columbia, Canada” by Victoria M. Arbour, Derek Larson, Matthew Vavrek, Lisa Buckley and David Evans published in the Fossil Record, an open-access journal of the Museum für Naturkunde

4 09, 2020

A New Armoured Dinosaur from China

By | September 4th, 2020|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Sinankylosaurus zhuchengensis – Late Cretaceous Chinese Ankylosaur

Chinese scientists have described a new species of armoured dinosaur based on a single fossilised bone found at a dig site in the city of Zhucheng in Shandong Province (eastern China).  The fossil, a right ilium, has been identified as typical of the Ankylosauria clade and represents the first evidence found to date of ankylosaurs being present in the Late Cretaceous of that part of eastern China.  The dinosaur has been appropriately named Sinankylosaurus zhuchengensis which translates as “Chinese Ankylosaurus from Zhucheng”.

The Holotype Fossilised Right Ilium (Sinankylosaurus zhuchengensis)

Sinoankylosaurus ilium in (a) ventral and (b) dorsal views. Scale bar = 10 cm.

The fossil ilium bone (holotype specimen) of Sinankylosaurus.  Sinankylosaurus ilium in (a) ventral and (b) dorsal views.  Scale bar = 10 cm.

Picture Credit: China Geological Bulletin

A Significant Hip Bone

The ilium is a broad, plate-like bone located at the top of the hip girdle.  Its shape and size varies considerably depending on the dinosaur genus.  These bones and the placement of the hips can be very helpful to palaeontologists when it comes to identifying different members of the Dinosauria.  For example, most theropods have narrow hips so the distance between the left and right ilia (plural for ilium), is relatively short.  However, there are exceptions, the mainly herbivorous theropods the therizinosaurids have much wider hips.  Numerous sauropods and all thyreophorans (armoured dinosaurs), have very wide hips in relation to their body proportions.  In armoured dinosaurs the distance between the left and right ilia is substantial and in Cretaceous ankylosaurs this bone is very distinctive as it exhibits lateral flaring, providing anchor points for large muscles.

The configuration of the ilium in association with the other hip bones, the ischium and pubis, led to the establishment of two main dinosaur Orders – Saurischia and Ornithischia as proposed by the British palaeontologist Harry Govier Seeley in 1887.  These three bones form the “hip socket” into which the head of the femur (thigh bone) is located.

Classifying Dinosaurs Based on Hip Structure

The shape of the hip bones help to classify the Dinosauria.

Classifying dinosaurs by the shape of their hip bones.  The configuration and orientation of the hip bones led to the establishment to two main groups of dinosaurs in the 19th Century.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

From the Xingezhuang Formation

The ilium was found about a decade ago.  It comes from the Xingezhuang Formation of the Upper Cretaceous Wangshi Group.  The strata have proved difficult to date but most palaeontologists suggest that this formation is between 77 to 73 million years old (middle to late Campanian faunal stage).  With so very little fossil material to go on, the scientists have used the roughly contemporaneous ankylosaurid Pinacosaurus (P. grangeri) which heralds from the Djadokhta Formation of Mongolia, as a reference and to permit a life reconstruction of an ankylosaurid to be used in media releases.

A Life Reconstruction of Pinacosaurus – Sinankylosaurus May Have Been Similar

Life reconstruction Pinacosaurus grangeri.

Pinacosaurus life reconstruction.  Sinankylosaurus zhuchengensis may have been similar.

Picture Credit: Zhao Chuang (PNSO)

Sinankylosaurus is estimated to have measured around 5 metres in length and it may have weighed around 2 tonnes.

East Meets West

The discovery of a new dinosaur species adds to the diversity of dinosaurs associated with the Upper Cretaceous deposits of the Wangshi Group and also demonstrates the similarity between the dinosaurian faunas of eastern Asia and western North America in the Late Cretaceous.

For example, dinosaur fossils from the Xingezhuang Formation include hadrosaurs such as Shantungosaurus, ceratopsids such as Sinoceratops, tyrannosaurs and now an ankylosaurid.  This biota is similar to the dinosaur fauna associated with Campanian-aged deposits found in southern Canada and the USA.

3 09, 2020

Calculating the Size of Megalodon

By | September 3rd, 2020|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Measuring Megalodon

Researchers from the University of Bristol in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Swansea have undertaken a detailed analysis using mathematical models and comparisons with extant shark species to provide an answer to the question – just how big was “megalodon”?  Writing in the academic journal “Scientific Reports”, the scientists set about trying to calculate the overall size and the body part dimensions of the giant prehistoric shark, an animal that is believed to be the largest macropredatory shark that has ever existed.

As a shark and therefore with a skeleton made from cartilage and not bone, body fossils are limited to the triangular teeth and to rare calcified vertebrae.  In the absence of extensive fossil material, it is very difficult for scientists to estimate just how big this predator was.  The problem is compounded when an extinct animal is considerably larger than the largest living macropredatory shark, the Great White (Carcharodon carcharias).

A Set of Jaws – This Prehistoric Shark is Known Mainly From Fossilised Teeth

Megalodon jaws.

A set of jaws from a “megalodon”  The lack of body fossils limits the ability of scientists to estimate body size.

Referencing O. megalodon

The research team which includes Professor Michael Benton (School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol), use the species moniker Otodus megalodon in the scientific paper.  Readers of this blog may note, that “megalodon” is listed as Carcharocles megalodon in many of our articles and indeed elsewhere in other scientific literature.  When it comes to this iconic fish, a creature which recently starred in its own movie, “The Meg”, which was released in 2018 and grossed more than $500 million dollars in cinemas, it is not only it size and body proportions that cause debate.  Its taxonomic placement is also controversial.  Most scientists consider “megalodon” to be a member of the Lamniformes Order – the mackerel sharks, furthermore, part of the Otodontidae family, the “megatoothed sharks”, but the phylogeny of the species remains uncertain.

Most studies of “megalodon” rely on comparisons with Carcharodon carcharias as the teeth morphology is similar, but in this research, the scientists estimated the body size and proportions of the extinct animal by comparing it to Great Whites and four other types of mackerel shark – namely:

  • The Porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) which is present in British waters.
  • The Salmon shark (Lamna ditropis) from the North Pacific.
  • The Shortfin Mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) which has a global distribution including British waters but it is increasingly rare.
  • The Longfin Mako (Isurus paucus) which is found in both temperate and tropical waters and like the closely related Shortfin Mako it is becoming increasingly rare.

This study marks the first quantitative estimate of O. megalodon specific body-part dimensions, beyond its overall body size.

Measuring the “Megalodon”

Measuring megalodon.

Silhouette models visualising Otodus megalodon body dimensions based on the extrapolations at different total lengths.  Silhouette (a)  ~ 16 m, (b)  ~ 3 m and (c)  ~ 8 m.  Life reconstruction of O. megalodon with 1.65 metre tall diver for scale.

Picture Credit: Cooper et al (Scientific Reports)

A Giant Prehistoric Shark

The Hollywood “megalodon” was around twenty-three metres in length.  The scientific paper does not suggest that this shark was that big, but their results suggest that a sixteen-metre-long animal had a head around 4.65 metres in length, that’s about the length of a Range Rover Discovery 4×4 vehicle.  The tail fin was estimated to have been approximately 3.85 metres high and this study suggests that the dorsal fin was around 1.62 metres tall.

This research is not likely to influence movie makers and film directors as they plan a sequel to the 2018 release, but the reconstruction of this giant fish,  represents a significant step towards a better understanding of the physiology of this monster.  In addition, having a better understanding of its body proportions and overall size will allow scientists to infer how much food these animals had to consume and other factors that may have facilitated its ultimate demise and extinction.

The Hollywood Movie was Based on the Novel by Steve Alten

"Meg" front cover image.

Exciting and thrilling adventure story based on “Megalodon”.  This research suggests that this giant prehistoric shark would have dwarfed a surfer.

The scientific paper: Paper: “Body dimensions of the extinct giant shark Otodus megalodon: a 2D reconstruction” by J. A. Cooper, C. Pimiento, H. G. Ferrón, and M. J. Benton published in Scientific Reports.

31 08, 2020

Hunting Ammonites

By | August 31st, 2020|Educational Activities, Geology, Photos, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Hunting Ammonites

For a few hours team members at Everything Dinosaur were able to take a break from their duties and to visit the Yorkshire coast on a hunt for ammonites and other fossil remains.  It was an early start to take advantage of collecting on a low tide and to make the best of the fine weather that had been forecast.  For many fossil hunters, the hunt is almost as rewarding as the finds.  With all the problems with travel at the moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it made a pleasant change to be able to participate in a fossil hunting expedition, albeit only for a few hours.

The Spectacular and Very Beautiful Yorkshire Coast

A trip to the coast to collect fossils.

A visit to the North Yorkshire coast on fossil collecting expedition.  The beginning of the day, fine weather is forecast and the early start permitted the team to collect fossils on a falling tide.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Avoiding Cliffs

The recent heavy rains had saturated the cliffs, making the risk of rockfalls even greater.  During the team’s visit to the beach, several small rockfalls were observed, however, team members stayed away from the cliffs and were content to scour the foreshore looking for fossils.  As this location on the North Yorkshire coast is a SSSI (site of special scientific interest), hammering rocks out of the cliffs is not permitted.  There were plenty of ammonites to see, including quite large ones, preserved at numerous locations at beach level.

Large Ammonite Fossils Could be Observed on the Beach

Fossil ammonite (geological hammer provides scale).

Large ammonites preserved on the beach.  The geology hammer provides a scale.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The cliffs at this location are very dangerous and there is a steep and hazardous descent to the beach from the cliff top, this location is not for the faint hearted and not suitable for family groups.

Searching for Fossils on the Foreshore – Some Interesting Finds

Fossil hunting on the foreshore.

A Dactylioceras ammonite negative exposed in a broken “cannonball” and some brachiopod pieces collected from the foreshore.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Lower Jurassic Fossils

The strata dates from the Lower Jurassic and there were plenty of small fragments of ammonites to collect in addition to the occasional gryphaea fossil along with various bivalves and brachiopods.  Some of the large specimens were kept as when we visit schools or conduct outreach science activities, we like to give away fossils to help provide resources to the teaching team and to encourage young people to take up fossil collecting as a hobby.

An Ammonite Fossil Found on the Beach

An ammonite fossil find.

An ammonite partially eroded out of a nodule. We think this is an example of Dactylioceras commune.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

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