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

13 11, 2019

The Great Lizard – Megalosaurus

By | November 13th, 2019|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Megalosaurus bucklandii

Recalling a recent visit to the Oxford Museum of Natural History which houses the fossilised remains of the first dinosaur to be described by scientists – Megalosaurus (M. bucklandii).  The display case features actual fossil material and casts of this nine-metre-long giant theropod from the Jurassic of Oxfordshire.  The specimens on show include most of the fossil material that William Buckland, in collaboration with the renowned French anatomist Georges Cuvier, used to confirm that these were the remains of a giant reptile.

The Megalosaurus Display Case – Centre Court Area of the Oxford Museum of Natural History

Megalosaurus fossil material on display.

The Megalosaurus display case (Oxford Museum of Natural History).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In the bottom left corner of the photograph that iconic lower jawbone can be seen, the display case contains the majority of the fossil material officially ascribed to the Megalosaurus genus.  In the lower centre is a drawing of the partial portion of a thighbone (distal end of the femur), that was illustrated in Robert Plot’s book “Natural History of Oxfordshire”, that was originally published back in 1677.  This fossil, sadly lost, had been found in a limestone quarry north of the city of Oxford (Middle Jurassic Taynton Limestone).  The concept of animals becoming extinct was not accepted thinking in the 17th Century so Plot, aware that the bone could not belong to any animal living in Oxfordshire, claimed that this partial thigh bone came from an elephant that had been brought to Britain by the Romans.

Later this illustration was used by the author Ricard Brookes (1763), he coined the phrase “scrotum humanum” and considered this fossil to represent the remains of a giant man.  It was not until 1824 that Megalosaurus was formally described, the first dinosaur to be so, although the Dinosauria was not erected until the early 1840’s.

A Close-up View of the Skull and Jaw Material on Display

Megalosaurus bucklandii fossils.

A view of the skull and jaw material associated with the first dinosaur to be scientifically described (Megalosaurus).  The left premaxilla is a cast.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A sequence of Megalosaurus footprints can be seen on the lawn in front of the Museum. Visitors can literally “walk in the footsteps of a dinosaur”.  This sixty-metre long trackway is comprised of tridactyl print casts, copies of the dinosaur tracks discovered at the Ardley Quarry site (Oxfordshire), in 1997.

11 11, 2019

The First Unique Dinosaur Species from British Columbia

By | November 11th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Ferrisaurus sustutensis – Newest Member of the Leptoceratopsidae

This week has seen the announcement of a new species of horned dinosaur, a member of the Leptoceratopsidae and the first unique dinosaur species to be reported from the Canadian province of British Columbia.  The little dinosaur (estimated to be about 1.75 metres long and to have weighed around 150 kilograms), has been named Ferrisaurus sustutensis and it hints of an intriguing prehistoric fauna that roamed the more northerly and western portions of Laramidia around 67 million years ago.

A Life Reconstruction of the Newly Described Leptoceratopsid Ferrisaurus sustutensis 

Ferrisaurus sustutensis life reconstruction.

Ferrisaurus sustutensis illustrated.

Picture Credit: Raven Amos and courtesy of the Royal British Columbia Museum

First an Indeterminate Neornithischian

In 1971, construction workers building the now abandoned British Columbia Rail line close to the confluence of Birdflat Creek and the Sustut River in the Sustut Basin, discovered fragmentary bones in loose rubble.  At first the bones were thought to represent an indeterminate neornithischian dinosaur, but in this study undertaken by Dr Victoria Arbour (Royal BC Museum) and Dr David Evans (Royal Ontario Museum/University of Toronto), they have been assigned to the Leptoceratopsidae.  Leptoceratopsids were a family of hornless, parrot-beaked herbivores related to the Ceratopsidae, dinosaurs such as Triceratops and Styracosaurus.  These dinosaurs were restricted to the Late Cretaceous of the northern hemisphere, but there is some disputed fossil evidence to suggest a presence in Australia and in Europe too.

Dr Arbour Examining the Fossilised Remains of  Ferrisaurus sustutensis

Dr Arbour with the fossils of Ferrisaurus sustutensis.

Dr Victoria Arbour examines the fossilised remains of Ferrisaurus sustutensis.

Picture Credit: Brandy Yanchyk and courtesy of the Royal British Columbia Museum

Fossil remains include elements from the shoulder girdle, a complete left radius, a partial ulna along with hind limb bones, ankle bones and articulated toes from the right foot.  An as yet, unprepared block may also contain metatarsals from the left foot.  The researchers used the ulna (bone from the forearm) and compared it with other leptoceratopsids such as Leptoceratops (L. gracilis), Cerasinops (C. hodgskissi) and Montanaceratops (M. cerorhynchus).  They also examined the proportions of the toes and concluded, based on this assessment, that the fossilised remains represented a new genus, one that is phylogenetically firmly nested in the Leptoceratopsidae and probably quite closely related to Gryphoceratops morrisoni, which is known from the Dinosaur Provincial Park of southern Alberta.

Ferrisaurus sustutensis -What’s in a Name?

Ferrisaurus sustutensis (pronounced Fair-uh-sore-us suss-tut-en-sis), is the first unique dinosaur species reported from British Columbia and represents a western range extension for Laramidian leptoceratopsids.  The name translates as “the iron lizard from the Sustut River”, a reference to the location of the fossil discovery. When the fossil material was being prepared and studied the specimen was affectionately known as “Buster”.

Scientists are confident that more vertebrate fossil material will be found in the Upper Cretaceous rocks of the Sustut Basin, but there are problems with accessing and exploring this area.  As much of British Columbia is mountainous and forested, finding exposures of sedimentary rock to explore is challenging.  In 2017, Dr Arbour led a field team to the site and found fossilised plants and a fragment of a Cretaceous turtle (Basilemys).

Leptoceratopsid fossil material is quite rare and when these types of dinosaurs are found, they usually only represent a very small part of the dinosaur biota.  It is more usual for Upper Cretaceous, dinosaur fossil bearing strata to be dominated by duck-billed dinosaurs, horned dinosaurs or even tyrannosaurids.  Scientists have documented a preservational bias against small-bodied dinosaurs such as Ferrisaurus.  The first dinosaur to be described from the Sustut Basin might represent a fauna that was relatively unique to that part of Laramidia, or to find a leptoceratopsid dinosaur first, could simply be down to serendipity.

A Diagram Showing the Known Preserved Remains of Ferrisaurus sustutensis

Preserved elements of Ferrisaurus sustutensis.

Preserved elements of Ferrisaurus sustutensis (bones shaded grey represent missing parts of incomplete bones)

Picture Credit: PeerJ/Royal British Columbia Museum

The scientific paper: “A new leptoceratopsid dinosaur from Maastrichtian-aged deposits of the Sustut Basin, northern British Columbia, Canada” by Victoria M. Arbour and David C. Evans published in the journal PeerJ.

10 11, 2019

Superb Dinosaur Fossil Sheds Light on Triassic Terrors

By | November 10th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Gnathovorax cabreirai – Triassic Terror Sheds Light on the Origins of Predatory Dinosaurs

A number of revisions to the Dinosauria have occurred in recent years.  Perhaps most famously, by the 2017 scientific paper published by Baron, Norman and Barrett, that redefined the dinosaurs along the lines of a model proposed by Henry Govier Seeley back in the late 1880’s*.  In this study, the enigmatic and quite poorly known herrerasaurids (Herrerasauridae), with their confusing array of dinosaur and non-dinosaur anatomical traits, were not classified as theropods, instead they are placed on the branch of the family tree associated with the Sauropodomorpha.  This paper, therefore, suggested that meat-eating actually evolved twice, once in the herrerasaurids and then again in the Theropoda.

This scientific paper has certainly opened up the taxonomic debate, however, the discovery of a remarkably-well preserved skeleton of a herrerasaurid from southern Brazil has helped scientists to get a much better idea of the Herrerasauridae and this, in turn, has provided a new insight into how these reptiles fit into the wider Dinosauria picture.

Location Map and Geological Setting Plus Skeletal Drawing of the Newly Described Herrerasaurid Gnathovorax cabreirai

Location map, geological setting and skeletal reconstruction (Gnathovorax).

Location map of fossil find (A), along with geological setting and key to the bones of other vertebrates found in situ (B).  Skeletal reconstruction of Gnathovorax (C), the white bones in the skeletal drawing represent known fossil material.

Picture Credit: PeerJ

Hardly Known Herrerasauridae

Fragmentary fossils associated with possible members of the Herrerasauridae have been found in North America and Europe, but the three species of herrerasaurids that most palaeontologists agree upon (Herrerasaurus, Staurikosaurus and Sanjuansaurus) all herald from the Late Triassic of South America.  Trouble is, as a dinosaur family there is not a lot of fossil material to study.  Writing in the academic journal PeerJ, a team of scientists have published a paper on a new and exquisitely-preserved herrerasaurid that has been named Gnathovorax cabreirai.

Preserved in mudstone, this dinosaur roamed southern Brazil some 233 million years ago (Carnian faunal stage of the Triassic), it was found in an almost articulated state, just some bones from the limbs were missing.  It lay alongside rhynchosaur and cynodont fossil remains, animals that this 3-metre-long dinosaur probably hunted.

The new specimen sheds light into poorly understood aspects of the herrerasaurid anatomy, even permitting the researchers, which included scientists from the Universidade Federal de Santa Maria in Santa Maria, (Brazil), to piece together the animal’s brain, inner ear and cranial nerves.

Photographs of the Skull of  Gnathovorax cabreirai and Interpretative Line Drawings

Views of the skull material and interpretative line drawing.

Photographs and a line drawing of the skull of Gnathovorax.

Picture Credit: PeerJ

Finding a Place for the Herrerasauridae on the Dinosaur Family Tree

The researchers conclude that Gnathovorax provides enough evidence about the suite of anatomical traits associated with the Herrerasauridae to enable them to be placed with more confidence on the lizard-hipped part of the dinosaur family tree.  Thanks to Gnathovorax, the best-preserved herrerasaurid found to date, palaeontologists can state with more certainty that these early predatory animals were indeed members of the Dinosauria, part of the Saurischia along with the sauropodomorphs and the theropods.  Importantly, the fossil material is not distorted very much, which has permitted the team to conduct a phylogenetic analysis with a great deal of confidence as to the outcome.  Strangely,  Gnathovorax cabreirai is nested more closely to the Argentinean taxa of Herrerasaurus ischigualastensis and Sanjuansaurus gordilloi than it is to the only other herrerasaurid known from Brazil (Staurikosaurus pricei).  It reinforces the idea that herrerasaurids were monophyletic, that is, that all the dinosaurs classified in this family shared a common ancestor.  Therefore, the Herrerasauridae are proposed to be part of the saurischian Order of dinosaurs, along with theropods and sauropodomorphs, but importantly, distinct from both groups.  This new paper supports the idea that meat-eating evolved twice in the Dinosauria (herrerasaurids and theropods), just like the Baron, Norman and Barrett 2017 paper proposed, but it differs from this earlier publication in that it concludes that the Herrerasauridae were indeed true dinosaurs.

What’s in a Name?

The fossil material comes from the Santa Maria Formation (Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil) and is dated to circa 233.23 +/- 0.73 million years.  The genus name is from the Greek and is translated as “jaw that is inclined to devour”, a reference to the recurved teeth and the bodyplan of Gnathovorax that resembles a theropod dinosaur.  The species name honours Dr. Sérgio Furtado Cabreira, the palaeontologist that found the specimen described in the scientific paper.

The scientific paper: “Gnathovorax cabreirai: a new early dinosaur and the origin and initial radiation of predatory dinosaurs” by Cristian Pacheco, Rodrigo T. Müller​, Max Langer, Flávio A. Pretto, Leonardo Kerber and Sérgio Dias da Silva published in PeerJ.

*For Everything Dinosaur’s article on the Baron, Norman and Barrett paper: Root and Branch Reform for the Dinosaur Family Tree

7 11, 2019

Remarkable Fossil Ape from the Miocene of Southern Germany

By | November 7th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Danuvius guggenmosi – Adapted for Walking and Climbing

A previously unknown primate that lived in the forests of southern Germany around 12 million years ago was capable of walking upright, just like us.  Palaeontologists have debated how the development of bipedalism amongst the great apes occurred and for that matter, where in the world did the first apes capable of upright walking evolve.  A remarkable fossil found in Bavaria suggests that upright posture may have originated in a common ancestor of humans and great apes that lived in Europe and not in Africa as previously supposed.

A Life Reconstruction of the Newly Described Miocene Ape Danuvius guggenmosi

Danuvius guggenmosi life reconstruction.

Danuvius life reconstruction.

Picture Credit: Velizar Simeonovski / University of Tübingen

Writing in the publication “Nature”, an international research team led by Professor Madelaine Böhme from the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment (University of Tübingen), report on the discovery of a previously unknown type of primate that once roamed the forests of Bavaria.  This ape named Danuvius guggenmosi, which lived 11.62 million years ago, shows anatomical adaptations suited to both walking upright as well as using all four limbs for climbing.  The ability to walk bipedally with a plantigrade foot is considered a key evolutionary stage on the road that would eventually lead to the evolution of hominins including our own species H. sapiens.

The Twenty-one Fossils that Comprise the Male Danuvius Specimen

The 21 bones of the most complete partial skeleton of a male Danuvius.

The 21 bones of the most complete partial skeleton of a male Danuvius (D. guggenmosi).

Picture Credit: Christoph Jäckle / University of Tübingen

A Fossil That Resets the Evolutionary Clock

The scientists conclude that Danuvius were able to walk on two legs nearly twelve million years ago.  This is around six million years earlier than previously thought.  Up until this discovery the oldest evidence of potential bipedalism had been reported from Late Miocene of Africa and remarkably, from the island of Crete in the Mediterranean.  Close to the village of Trachilos in western Crete, scientists uncovered a series of footprints, the preserved tracks of an upright walking ape-like animal.  These trace fossils are believed to be around 5.7 million years old.  To read about these strange fossil tracks: Has Human Evolution Tripped Us Up?

The German fossil material represent a significant step (no pun intended), in terms of human evolution.  Lead author Professor Böhme explained:

“The finds in southern Germany are a milestone in palaeoanthropology, because they raise fundamental questions about our previous understanding of the evolution of the great apes and humans.”

Piecing Together the Skeleton of Danuvius (White Elements Represent Plaster Reconstructions of Bones)

Part of the reconstructed skeleton of Danuvius.

Reconstructing the skeleton of Danuvius.

Picture Credit: Christoph Jäckle / University of Tübingen

Lead Author of the Scientific Paper Professor Madelaine Böhme

Professor Madelaine Böhme (University of Tübingen)

Professor Madelaine Böhme examining the fossil material.

Picture Credit: Christoph Jäckle / University of Tübingen

How Did Hommins Come to Walk on Two Legs?

In the “Origin of Species” written by Charles Darwin and first published in 1859, one of the great controversies that arose from this book was the implications regarding our own evolution.  Darwin, perhaps all too aware of the seismic nature of his theory, did not dwell on this aspect of natural selection in his ground-breaking volume.  Towards the end of the book, in the concluding remarks section, he merely stated “light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history”.  Most of us now believe that we are descended from apes, however, one of the key distinguishing features between ourselves and the Great Apes, now bracketed in the same taxonomic family – the Hominidae, is that we walk on our hind legs and are truly bipedal, but how did this come about?  Did our bipedalism evolve from forest-dwelling monkey-like apes which clambered around on all fours?  Did bipedalism first arise in brachiating apes such as gibbons and orangutans who mostly use their arms to climb, or did it arise first in knuckle-walking apes such as bonobos, chimpanzees and gorillas?

Reconstructing Cranial Elements of Danuvius guggenmosi

Piecing together the skull and jaws of Danuvius.

A reconstruction of part of the skull and the jaws of Danuvius (white plaster indicates reconstructed elements).

Picture Credit: Christoph Jäckle / University of Tübingen

Mapping an Ancient Vertebrate Fauna Preserved in a Bavarian Clay Pit

The Danuvius guggenmosi fossils were discovered between 2015 and 2018.  Working in the Hammerschmiede clay pit in the Allgäu region of Bavaria, Böhme and her team excavated more than 15,000 fossil vertebrate bones from the ancient humid and forested ecosystems that were abundant in southern Germany at that time.  The new primate fossils include the remains of at least four individuals.  The most complete skeleton, of a male Danuvius, has body proportions similar to modern-day bonobos.  Thanks to completely preserved limb bones, vertebrae, finger and toe bones, the researchers were able to reconstruct the way Danuvius moved about in its environment.

Professor Böhme stated:

“For the first time, we were able to investigate several functionally important joints, including the elbow, hip, knee and ankle, in a single fossil skeleton of this age.  It was astonishing for us to realise how similar certain bones are to humans, as opposed to great apes.”

The scientists conclude that Danuvius was capable of walking on two legs but could also climb like an ape.  The spine, for example, had an S-shaped curve similar to our own spine, it held the body upright when standing on two legs.  The ape’s build, posture, and the ways in which it moved are unique among known primates.

Co-author of the paper, Professor David Begun (University of Toronto), commented:

“Danuvius combines the hindlimb-dominated bipedality of humans with the forelimb-dominated climbing typical of living apes.”

The male Danuvius stood about a metre in height and weighed approximately 31 kilograms.  Females were smaller, reflecting the sexual dimorphism found in the extant members of the Hominidae today.  The research team estimate that females weighed around 18 kg, less than any great ape alive today.  The ribcage of these apes was broad and flat.  The lower back was elongated; this helped to position the centre of gravity over extended hips, knees and flat feet, as in bipeds.  Several key-features of human bipedality have been found on bones from the leg.

The Hand Bones of the Male Danuvius in their Storage Boxes

Hand bones from the male Danuvius.

Bones from the hand of the male Danuvius (manus).

Picture Credit: Christoph Jäckle / University of Tübingen

Despite these human-like anatomical adaptations, Danuvius would have been very much at home in the trees, fellow researcher, Professor Nikolai Spassov of the Bulgarian Academy of Science highlighted that:

“In contrast to later hominins, Danuvius had a powerful, opposable big toe, which enabled it to grasp large and small branches securely”.

This new study supports a previously published paper that analysed a fossilised ape hip bone that was around ten million years of age, that had been found in Hungary.  The Hungarian and the German fossil material indicate that the European ancestors of African apes and humans differed from extant gorillas and chimpanzees.

The researchers point out that the ancestors we share with living African apes were as unique as we are today.  These fossils may help palaeoanthropologists to map out where in deep time the African apes and human ancestors diverged, these remarkable fossils from southern Germany are certainly a step in the right direction.

The scientific paper: “A new Miocene ape and locomotion in the ancestor of great apes and humans” by Madelaine Böhme, Nikolai Spassov, Jochen Fuss, Adrian Tröscher, Andrew S. Deane, Jérôme Prieto, Uwe Kirscher, Thomas Lechner and David R. Begun published in the journal Nature.

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

5 11, 2019

Fossil Footprints Reflect Diverse Dinosaurs in South-western Alaska

By | November 5th, 2019|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Fossil Footprints Reflect Diverse Dinosaurs in South-western Alaska

Dinosaur fossils and their footprints have been found in Cretaceous-aged rocks in the American state of Alaska before.  Everything Dinosaur has produced a number of articles featuring fossil discoveries, many of which come from the Denali National Park area of the central part of the state.  However,  a new paper published in the journal PLOS One, provides an insight into the dinosaurs that roamed the south-western corner of the “Last Frontier” state.  The Late Cretaceous of the area of Alaska now known as the Aniakchak National Monument was dominated by duck-billed dinosaurs, but ankylosaurs, theropods and birds also lived in that part of the world.

A Digital Reconstruction of the Aniakchak National Monument in the Late Cretaceous

A landscape dominated by hadrosaurs but ankylosaurs were present too.

Numerous hadrosaur tracks have been found – both adults and juveniles.

Picture Credit: Karen Carr/PLOS One

The Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) Chignik Formation

The trackways, individual prints and other fossils, such as cycad leaves that indicate that around 70 million years ago, this part of Alaska was much warmer than it is today, provide palaeontologists with an insight into a high latitude, dinosaur dominated ecosystem.  These fossils may also provide some further evidence to help palaeontologists understand how dinosaurs migrated from Asia into the Americas.  Seventy-five new dinosaur footprints and trackways have been documented, more than ninety percent of which represent hadrosaurs.

Representative Hadrosaur Tracks

Hadrosaur tracks from Alaska.

Photographs of hadrosaur trackways including an overlapping track (A) with line drawing (B) and a photogrammatic contour map of a footprint (F).

Picture Credit: PLOS One

Co-author of the study, Dr Yoshitsugu Kobayashi (Hokkaido University Museum, Japan), stated:

“This study provides us a better understanding of the high-latitude dinosaur ecosystems of Alaska.  Such an understanding will help us address important questions such as did the dinosaurs survive the winters there and, if so, how did they survive?”

A Map Highlighting the Position of the Fossil Discoveries

Aniakchak National Park location and fossil sites.

A, Alaska.  Red star is location of Aniakchak National Park and Preserve.  Blue circles show location of dinosaur bonebeds on North Slope.  B, Drawing of Aniakchak National Park and Preserve.  The outcrop pattern for the Chignik Formation is shown in light green. Red rectangle outlines this study area.  C, Close-up diagram of study area showing Chignik Formation exposures in light green, restricted to shoreline.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

Ankylosaurs Present Too

Two tracks have been identified as having been made by armoured dinosaurs (ichnotaxon Tetrapodosaurus), both these tracks were found in fallen blocks and the largest of the footprints measures around 35 centimetres wide.  The impression of five digits in each of the tracks indicate that these prints represent tracks made by the forelimbs, not the four-toed back legs of armoured dinosaurs.

A Potential Ankylosaur Track – Aniakchak National Monument

Potentail Alaskan armoured dinosaur track.

Armoured dinosaur track (ichnotaxon Tetrapodosaurus).

Picture Credit: PLOS One with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

Avian and Non-Avian Theropods

The research team also identified a number of different sized tridactyl (three-toed), prints.  Two different types of bird track were identified in the study, along with a much larger single print that the scientists estimate was made by a theropod dinosaur around five to six metres in length.  The fossil print has been assigned to the ichnogenus Grallator.  The track suggests a large, predatory dinosaur and the team comment that the footprint is roughly around the track size that would have been made by the pygmy tyrannosaurid Nanuqusaurus hoglandi, which was named and described in 2014, from material found in the far north of Alaska (Prince Creek Formation).

A Large Three-toed Theropod Dinosaur Print (Aniakchak National Monument)

Large theropod track from south-western Alaska.

Large tridactyl track attributed to the ichnogenus Grallator from the Aniakchak National Monument location.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The scientific paper: “Dinosaur ichnology and sedimentology of the Chignik Formation (Upper Cretaceous), Aniakchak National Monument, south-western Alaska; Further insights on habitat preferences of high-latitude hadrosaurs)” by Anthony R. Fiorillo, Yoshitsugu Kobayashi, Paul J. McCarthy, Tomonori Tanaka, Ronald S. Tykoski, Yuong-Nam Lee, Ryuji Takasaki and Junki Yoshida published in the journal PLOS One.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in the compilation of this article.

4 11, 2019

The First Pliosaur from Poland

By | November 4th, 2019|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Polish Giant Marine Reptile Found in Cornfield

A pair of Polish palaeontologists have published a scientific paper describing the discovery of a large, Late Jurassic pliosaur from a site located in a cornfield in the north-eastern part of the Holy Cross Mountains close to the village of Krzyżanowice in southern Poland.  This is the first pliosaur to have been found in Poland.  Scientists are puzzled with regards to the vertebrate fauna identified at the site, the pliosaur fossils are very similar to pliosaur remains associated with the Late Jurassic Boreal/Sub-Boreal localities of the Kimmeridge Clay in England and the Svalbard Archipelago in the Arctic.  However, the fossils of turtles and marine crocodiles found at this location have more in common with the fauna associated with ecosystems found much further to the south.

Teeth and a Partially Preserved Jaw of the Polish Pliosaur

Teeth and a partial jaw of the Polish pliosaur.

A photograph show a partial preserved jaw of the Polish pliosaur and fossil teeth.

Picture Credit: Polish Academy of Sciences

Fearsome Pliosaurs

The Pliosauridae are a family of marine reptiles within the clade Plesiosauria.  They are often referred to as the “short-necked plesiosaurs”, as unlike plesiosaurs, these reptiles evolved massive skulls on short, powerful necks.  Pliosaurs were geographically widespread throughout the Jurassic and Cretaceous with fossil discoveries having been made in Europe, including the UK, Australia, and the Americas.  It is believed they originated in the Early Jurassic and survived into the Late Cretaceous.

A Typical Pliosaur – Pliosaurus

CollectA Deluxe 1:40 scale Pliosaurus marine reptile diorama.

The CollectA Deluxe 1:40 scale Pliosaurus marine reptile model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A Ten-metre-long Giant

The fossilised remains, although fragmentary, suggest an animal around ten metres in length.  The presence of such a large, apex predator indicates that the ecosystem was particularly rich and diverse.  The pliosaur has yet to be scientifically described but it is very likely a new genus.  It swam in the warm, tropical sea in the central portion of the European archipelago, as during the Late Jurassic, sea levels were much higher and western Europe consisted of a series of large islands surrounded by a shallow sea.

Examining the Fossilised Bones and Teeth

Examining the pliosaur fossils.

Palaeontologist Dr Daniel Tyborowski (from the Museum of the Earth of the Polish Academy of Sciences) in Warsaw and co-author of the scientific paper examines the fossil remains.

Picture Credit: Polish Academy of Sciences

Identifying a Late Jurassic Faunal Boundary

The unusual mix of vertebrate fossils, some similar to animals that lived further north, whilst others resemble marine animals that lived in more southerly palaeolatitudes, has led the researchers to suggest that the fossils preserved in this part of Poland represent an ancient faunal boundary.  A faunal boundary is an area of demarcation between two ecosystems that are similar but contain different members.

The unique composition of the Krzyżanowice-site vertebrate fauna demonstrates that, during the Late Jurassic this new locality was located in the transitional palaeobiogeographic line referred to in the scientific paper as the “Matyja-Wierzbowski Line”.  The fossils represent the boundary between two ecosystems, an area where some faunal mixing between the two ecosystems occurred.

Identifying the “Matyja-Wierzbowski Line” in the Upper Jurassic Marine Deposits of Europe

Identifying the Identifying the “Matyja-Wierzbowski Line” - a faunal boundary.

Identifying the “Matyja-Wierzbowski Line”.  The black line plots the boundary between the two marine ecosystems.

Picture Credit: Polish Academy of Sciences with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

For a more in-depth explanation of faunal boundary, please refer to this article that discusses “The Wallace Line”, a faunal boundary in south-east Asia proposed by the English biologist Alfred Russel Wallace: New Species of Rat Discovered in Sulawesi.

The scientific paper: “New marine reptile fossils from the Late Jurassic of Poland with implications for vertebrate faunas palaeobiogeography” by Daniel Tyborowski and Błażej Błażejowski published in the Proceedings of the Geologist’s Association.

3 11, 2019

New Megaraptorid Dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of Australia

By | November 3rd, 2019|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Fossil Bones Unearthed in Victoria Resemble Australovenator

Scientists have announced the discovery of several isolated theropod dinosaur bones, including a vicious 20 centimetre long hand claw discovered on the Otway Coast of Victoria (Australia).  The fossil material is reminiscent of Australovenator wintonensis, a megaraptorid dinosaur known from the Winton Formation of Queensland.  The finding of these new meat-eating dinosaur fossils in Victoria suggests that the Megaraptoridae were both geographically and temporally widespread in Australia.

The Fossilised Hand Claw of a Megaraptorid Dinosaur

Dinosaur hand claw from Victoria.

Ungual phalanx ascribed to a megaraptorid dinosaur from Victoria (Australia).

Picture Credit: Stephen Poropat (Museums Victoria)

Fossils from the Eumeralla Formation

Writing in the academic “Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology”, the researchers, which included scientists from Museum Victoria, the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Natural History Museum and Swinburne University (Victoria), report the discovery of two teeth, two manual unguals, and a right astragalus that are almost identical to the corresponding elements in Australovenator.  The fossils come from the Eric the Red West (ETRW), site on Cape Otway, some fifty miles to the west of Port Phillip Bay.  The strata at this location is part of the Eumeralla Formation and dates from the lower Albian of the Early Cretaceous.  This suggests that the dinosaur that possessed that formidable hand claw roamed southern Australia around 107 million years ago.

In contrast, Australovenator wintonensis is known from the Winton Formation of Queensland (Cenomanian–lowermost Turonian faunal stages of the Cretaceous), as such, Australovenator roamed more than a thousand miles further north and lived at least ten million years later.

A Scale Drawing of Australovenator wintonensis

Drawing of Australovenator

Vicious dinosaur from “Down Under” – megaraptorid theropod dinosaurs from Australia including Australovenator wintonensis.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The new Victorian specimens were discovered between 2011 and 2017, by volunteers working on annual Dinosaur Dreaming team’s excavations.  These digs are held each February and are coordinated by husband and wife palaeontologists, Swinburne’s Professor Patricia Vickers-Rich and Dr Thomas Rich from Museums Victoria, who are both co-authors of this new scientific paper.

Implications for “Australian Spinosaurs”

In this newly published paper, the researchers also reappraise the single neck bone (cervical vertebra), found along this coast and described as a possible spinosaurid bone.  In the light of this very much older (than previously known from Australia), megaraptorid fossil material, the researchers conclude that the neck bone described in 2011 as potentially Australia’s first member of the Spinosauridae, also probably represents Megaraptoridae fossil material.

To read about this neck bone: Is this Fossil Evidence of Australia’s First Spinosaurid?

Hunting Ornithopods

The Otway Coast area of Victoria has revealed evidence of the presence of many different types of ornithopods.  For example, last year we reported on the naming of Diluvicursor pickeringi.  It can be speculated that megaraptorid dinosaurs may have specialised in hunting the many different kinds of fast-running, herbivorous dinosaur that shared the rift valley that was opening up between Antarctica and Australia.

Prey for Megaraptorid Dinosaurs?

Diluvicursor pickeringi illustrated.

A pair of Diluvicursor dinosaurs feeding next to a fast running river in the Antarctica/Australia rift valley 113 million years ago.

Picture Credit: P. Trusler

The new theropod fossils were found isolated rather than as part of a single skeleton.  This is because they were carried some distance from where the theropods died by ancient, deep, fast-flowing rivers.  These rivers snaked through the then-narrow rift valley (now called the Bass Strait), that opened up as the supercontinent Gondwana gradually broke apart and separated.

Lead author of the study Dr Stephen Poropat (Swinburne Museum), commented:

“The similarities between the Victorian megaraptorid remains and Australovenator are striking.  If we had found these theropod bones in Queensland, we would probably have called them Australovenator wintonensis.  But they’re from Victoria, which prompts the question: Could one dinosaur species exist for more than ten million years, across eastern Australia?  Maybe.”

The scientific paper: “New megaraptorid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) remains from the Lower Cretaceous Eumeralla Formation of Cape Otway, Victoria, Australia” by Stephen F. Poropat, Matt A. White, Patricia Vickers-Rich and Thomas H. Rich published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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

28 10, 2019

The Rise of the Mammals – Remarkably Quickly

By | October 28th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Remarkable Fossil Treasure Trove Plots Recovery after Dinosaur Demise

Corral Bluffs, a dry and somewhat dusty region some sixty miles south of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science did not look all that promising when visited by Ian Miller and Tyler Lyson on one of their many field trips out from the Museum when they visited the site back in 2014.  The strata associated with this part of central Colorado, just to the east of the city of Colorado Springs, represents and almost uninterrupted depositional sequence from the Maastrichtian faunal stage of the Cretaceous to the Danian of the Palaeocene, a time of great faunal and floral turnover on our planet with the End-Cretaceous mass extinction event.

A View of the Corral Bluffs (Central Colorado)

Corral Bluffs - Colorado.

Corral Bluffs – Colorado and important site for Palaeocene mammal fossils.

Picture Credit: Denver Museum of Nature and Science/HHMI Tangled Bank Studios

Given the age of the sedimentary rocks, this site should yield important information on how terrestrial life recovered after the Chicxulub impact event, however, fossils proved elusive until the field team members literally hit upon the idea of cracking open the various, small, hard concretions associated with the site.  Many of the concretions contained fossils, including the preserved skulls of numerous mammals.  The subsequent treasure trove of plant and animal fossils excavated from the site have provided palaeontologists with a detailed chronology of how plant and mammalian life recovered from the mass extinction event.

Many Hard Nodules (Concretions) Contain Fossil Remains

Cracking a Corral Bluffs concretion.

Cracking open a concretion from the Corral Bluffs site.

Picture Credit: Denver Museum of Nature and Science/HHMI Tangled Bank Studios

One or two firm blows with a sturdy geological hammer and the concretion will reveal its treasure, more than a dozen genera of prehistoric mammal have been recorded from the site.

Once Open the Contents of the Concretion are Revealed

A concretion that has been cracked open.

A concretion is opened (Corral Bluffs site).

Picture Credit: Denver Museum of Nature and Science/HHMI Tangled Bank Studios

In addition to the academic paper published in the journal “Science”, a television documentary programme is being broadcast in America on the 30th October – “Rise of the Mammals” streaming on PBS).  A special exhibition entitled “After the Asteroid: Earth’s Comeback Story” has already opened at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, visitors will be able to view some of the thousands of plant fossils that have been found.  These fossils document how flora recovered after the bolide impact that saw the demise of the Dinosauria.

The Exhibition will Include Many of the Plant Fossils Found at the Site

Plant fossils from Corral Bluffs - Colorado.

Thousands of plant fossils have been found.

Picture Credit: Denver Museum of Nature and Science/HHMI Tangled Bank Studios

After an initial “fern spike”, the scientists were able to plot the rise of forests dominated by palms, then the emergence of legumes with the introduction of a wider variety of trees over hundreds of thousands of years.  Pollen grain analysis, analysis of mineral radiometric decay from two volcanic ash deposits associated with the site, along with data from magnetostratigraphy enabled the researchers to date quite accurately the age of the layers that contained fossil material.

At first mammals were no bigger than rats, with the largest specimens estimated to weigh around 600 grammes.  However, within three-quarters of a million years many more species of mammal had evolved, the largest of which would have weighed around 50 kilograms.

George Sparks the President and CEO of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, commented:

“Thanks to the expertise, vision and grit of the scientific team, we are gaining a clear understanding of how our modern world of mammals arose from the ashes of the dinosaurs”.

Numerous Mammal Skulls Have Been Found at the Corral Bluffs Location

Dozens of skull fossils from ancient mammals.

Many different types of prehistoric mammal have been identified from fossil skulls.

Picture Credit: Denver Museum of Nature and Science/HHMI Tangled Bank Studios

The Corral Bluffs Location Maps the Change in Flora and the Increase in Size of Palaeocene Mammals

Corral Bluffs timescale.

A timescale showing the change in flora and body size of Palaeocene mammals.

Picture Credit: Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in the compilation of this article.

27 10, 2019

A Guide to Fossil Collecting on the South Dorset Coast

By | October 27th, 2019|Book Reviews, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A Guide to Fossil Collecting on the South Dorset Coast – Fossil Collecting Guide Due Out in Early 2020

Exciting news for fossil collectors and fans of the “Jurassic Coast”, authors and fossil hunters extraordinaire Craig Chivers and Steve Snowball will publish another book on fossil collecting on the south coast of England in early 2020.  Entitled “A Guide to Fossil Collecting on the South Dorset Coast”, this new publication takes the reader further east, exploring the fossil treasure trove of the Weymouth area and the Purbeck limestone, strata that is associated with a plethora of invertebrate fossils, as well as marine reptiles and of course, the Dinosauria!

Due Out in Early 2020 – “A Guide to Fossil Collecting on the South Dorset Coast

"Fossil Collecting on the South Dorset Coast"

Fossil Collecting on the South Dorset Coast by Steve Snowball and Craig Chivers.

Picture Credit: Siri Scientific Press with kind permission by Steve Snowball and Craig Chivers

In Collaboration with Siri Scientific Press

This is the second book that the pair of produced, once again, it will be published by Siri Scientific Press and available via the company’s website.  The first book – “A Guide to Fossil Collecting on the West Dorset Coast”, focused on the Blue Lias Formation along with the Charmouth Mudstone and took the reader to the West Bay area culminating in an exploration of the Bridport Sands Formation.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s review of this book: A Guide to Fossil Collecting on the West Dorset Coast – A Review.

The second volume in this series follows a very similar format to the first.  Purchasers can expect fantastic full-colour photographs of the coastal landscape plus beautiful images of many of the fossils to be found in the vicinitiy.  Hints and tips about successful hunting abound and at 224 pages long, this is going to make a fabulous companion guide to this part of the UNESCO World Heritage site.  As with the previous publication, all author profits will be donated to the Charmouth Coast Heritage Centre, who do so much to promote the safe collection of fossils from the area and run a great educational programme too.

In Search of Dinosaurs

Whilst Lyme Regis and the surrounding environs are associated with ichthyosaurs and other marine reptiles, when moving east towards the Purbeck peninsula, it is possible to find terrestrial vertebrate fossils including dinosaurs and pterosaurs, many of which are unique to this part of the world.

Author Steve Snowball commented:

” The Middle to Late Jurassic was an important time in the evolution of both dinosaurs and plant life, which flourished under the favourable climatic conditions.  The area that became Britain was a crucial land bridge for creatures moving between North America and Eurasia, this has given our paleoartist, Andreas Kurpisz, a great opportunity to provide, once again, some superb reconstructions of prehistoric life, which have been exclusively produced for this book.”

Southern Britain in the Late Jurassic (Tithonian Stage- Kimmeridge Clay Formation)

"Fossil Collecting on the South Dorset Coast" - illustration.

An illustration from “Fossil Collecting on the South Dorset Coast” by Steve Snowball and Craig Chivers.

Picture Credit: Andreas Kurpisz

The image above shows the tyrannosauroid theropod Juratyrant (J. langhami), stalking a large herd of sauropods, whilst various pterosaurs circle overhead.  Titanosauriformes such as Duriatitan are associated with the Lower Kimmeridge Clay Formation of Dorset, whilst the southern Dorset coast is synonymus with a variety of different types of flying reptile.  In the image (above), the dsungaripteroid Germandactylus, the tentative wukongopterid Cuspicephalus scarfi and rhamphorhynchids all feature.

To visit the Siri Scientific Press website: Siri Scientific Press.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“This is exciting news, we look forward to reviewing this new fossil collecting guide when it comes out in early 2020.”

20 10, 2019

Trilobite Fossils From Morocco Reveal Collective Behaviour

By | October 20th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Linear Clusters of Trilobites (Ampyx priscus)

Collective behaviour is seen in all kinds of animals today.  Birds migrating, plagues of locusts, turtle nesting behaviour, social insects and such like, but when and how such complex collective behaviour in the animal kingdom evolved remains a mystery.  A team of scientists writing in the academic journal “Scientific Reports”, have published a paper on a series of fossils from south-eastern Morocco, that have been interpreted as showing collective, social behaviour amongst a group of 480-million-year-old trilobites.

Trilobite Fossils from the Lower Ordovician – Possible Collective Behaviour

Trilobite collective behaviour.

The raphiophorid trilobite Ampyx priscus from the Lower Ordovician, Fezouta Shale of Morocco – collective behaviour.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

Trilobites Travelling in Columns

Social behaviour is seen in many arthropods and other types of invertebrate today.  Termites and ants living in colonies, communities of bees and wasps and many types of crustacean migrate in cohorts gaining protection against predators by their sheer weight of numbers.  For example, hundreds of spiny lobsters line up for their annual migration through the blue waters of the Caribbean.  Each lobster maintains contact with the one in front with its antennules and the anterior legs.  Thus, even at night the migration can continue without disruption.  The scientists have interpreted a series of fossils showing linear clusters of Ampyx trilobites as collective behaviour.  The fossils come from the Fezouta Shale (upper Tremadocian-Floian stage) and consequently are dated to around 480 million years ago.

Passive transport of the corpses of these ancient arthropods has been discounted by the researchers, instead, they conclude that this trilobite was probably migrating in groups and using its long spines to maintain a single-row formation.  Physical contact might have been reinforced with chemical communication, which is known to occur in some types of arthropods today.

This group behaviour may have been a response to environmental stress due to periodic storms shown by sedimentological evidence associated with the fossil deposits, or perhaps these animals were migrating together to reach favoured spawning grounds.

This record of linear clustering in early euarthropods suggests that intraspecific group-level patterns comparable to those of modern animals already existed 480 million years ago in the early stages of the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event.

Interpretative Line Drawings of Trilobite Linear Clusters

Trilobite linear clusters.

Line drawings of trilobite linear clusters indicating collective behaviour.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The scientific paper: “Collective behaviour in 480-million-year-old trilobite arthropods from Morocco” by Jean Vannier, Muriel Vidal, Robin Marchant, Khadija El Hariri, Khaoula Kouraiss, Bernard Pittet, Abderrazak El Albani, Arnaud Mazurier and Emmanuel Martin published in Scientific Reports.

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