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12 07, 2019

New Theropod Dinosaur from the Late Triassic of Switzerland

By | July 12th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Notatesseraeraptor frickensis – A Mixture of Coelophysid and Dilophosaurid Characteristics

A new European theropod dinosaur from the Late Triassic of Switzerland has been named and described this week.  This is big news, as very little is known about Late Triassic theropods that roamed Europe more than 200 million years ago, only a handful have been described to date, just four species.  The dinosaur has been named Notatesseraeraptor frickensis (No-tah-tess-er-ray-rap-tor frick-ensis), the genus name derives from the Latin “nota” meaning feature and “tesserae”, a Latin term to describe tiles used to create a mosaic, a reference to the mixture of anatomical features (dilophosaurid and coelophysoid) identified in the fossil bones. The trivial name honours the Swiss town of Frick, where the fossils were found.

The Body Plan, Known Fossil Material and a Skeletal Reconstruction of N. frickensis

Skeletal anatomy of Notatesseraeraptor frickensis

The silhouette shows the body plan of Notatesseraeraptor, known fossil material and pictures of the blocks that make up the holotype specimen.

Picture Credit: Nature: Ecology and Evolution

Lizard-eating Dinosaur

The partially articulated specimen was collected in 2006 from the famous Gruhalde clay pit in the town of Frick (Aargau Canton, northern Switzerland).  This clay pit has yielded large numbers of Plateosaurus fossils, although Notatesseraeraptor layer is located above the classic Plateosaurus bone beds.  The strata are from the middle part of the Gruhalde Member of the Klettgau Formation and represents Late Triassic (end-Norian) sediments.  The fossils associated with N. frickensis include a nearly complete skull, articulated forelimbs, vertebrae, hip bones and ribs.  The body cavity revealed the remains of a Clevosaurus, a lizard-like rhynchocephalian, distantly related to the extant Tuatara of New Zealand.  It is likely that the Clevosaurus remains represent this dinosaur’s last meal.

The Skull of Notatesseraeraptor frickensis

Notatesseraeraptor frickensis cranial material.

A view of the skull and upper jaw (Notatesseraeraptor frickensis).  Around 90% of the cranial fossil material was recovered.

A Carnivorous Dinosaur Reported from Switzerland

Around 90% of the skull material was excavated, giving Notatesseraeraptor one of the most complete carnivorous dinosaur skulls known from before the Late Jurassic.   Although, our knowledge of early theropod dinosaurs has improved greatly since the turn of the century, thanks mainly to fossil discoveries from North and South America, very little is known about the evolution and radiation of Late Triassic/Early Jurassic European theropods, their fossil record is notably sparse.  This new theropod species is the first meat-eating dinosaur to be described from Switzerland.

Notatesseraeraptor displays a mix of characteristics typically seen either in coelophysids or in dilophosaurids.  A phylogenetic analysis suggests that it is a member of the Neotheropoda clade with affinities to Dilophosaurus of the Early Jurassic and that Notatesseraeraptor is a basal member of that line of theropods that led to the Averostra (a group, of carnivorous dinosaurs that includes the Ceratosaurs).

The Late Triassic/Early Jurassic European Theropods

The nearly complete skull will help palaeontologists to better understand the evolutionary relationships between different types of Late Triassic/Early Jurassic theropod dinosaur.  The fossil specimen suggests a sub-adult with a length of between 2.6 to 3 metres, but this is speculation based on comparative analysis with dinosaurs such as Coelophysis and Tawa as the length of the tail of Notatesseraeraptor is not known.

A Life Reconstruction of a Typical Coelophysid Dinosaur (Coelophysis bauri)

Coelophysis model.

A life reconstruction of Coelophysis bauri.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The three previously described species of Late Triassic European theropod are:

  • Liliensternus liliensterni – named in 1934 (von Huene) from the Middle and Late Norian of Germany
  • Procompsognathus triassicus – named in 1913 (Fraas) also from the Middle to Late Norian of Germany
  • Lophostropheus airelensis named in 1993 known from slightly younger rocks (Late Rhetian to Hettangian – Late Triassic to possibly Early Jurassic)

With the exception of a few scraps of bone associated with Liliensternus skull material and the recently described  Dracoraptor hanigani from south-Wales, no other skull material has been found relating to a neotheropod dinosaur from the Late Triassic/Early Jurassic  in the whole of Europe.

11 07, 2019

Terrestrial Bird-like Dinosaur Oldest Known from North America

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Hesperornithoides miessleri – Helping to Map Out the Bird Family Tree

A joint team of British and American palaeontologists have announced the discovery of a new species of dinosaur that roamed the Late Jurassic of Wyoming.  The specimen consisting of both cranial and postcranial material lived around 150 million years ago and it has been tentatively placed within the troodontid branch of the Paraves part of the Theropoda.  It could help scientists to better understand the evolutionary relationships between feathered dinosaurs and true birds and it raises intriguing questions as to when powered flight evolved within the Dinosauria.

The little dinosaur, estimated to have measured less than a metre in length (single known specimen is either an adult or a sub-adult), has been named Hesperornithoides miessleri.

A Life Reconstruction of the Newly Described Dinosaur H. miessleri

Hesperornithoides miessleri - life reconstruction.

A life reconstruction of Hesperornithoides miessleri.

Picture Credit: Gabriel Ugueto

An Inhabitant of Wetlands

Writing in the academic journal PeerJ, the authors which include scientists from the University of Manchester, report the taphonomy of the fossil material suggests that this dinosaur was an inhabitant of wetland environments for at least a portion of its life history.  The fossil material was actually discovered back in 2001, whilst excavation work was being carried out on the fossil material associated with Supersaurus.  The fossil comes from Converse County (Wyoming), from strata making up the middle portion of the famous Morrison Formation.  The fossil-bearing strata from the “Jimbo Quarry” has been variously dated to the Oxfordian and Tithonian ages of the Jurassic.

Full Skeleton of Hesperornithoides miessleri

Known fossil material associated with Hesperornithoides miessleri.

Hesperornithoides fossil material “left” (A) and “right” (B) sides of the blocks after final preparation (B).  Scale bar = one cm.

Picture Credit: Levi Shinkle

A Resident of the Famous Morrison Formation

The Morrison Formation is famous for its vertebrate fossils, including many examples of dinosaurs, such as Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Diplodocus, Brontosaurus and Camarasaurus.  The carnivorous Hesperornithoides is the smallest dinosaur described to date from Wyoming.

Palaeontologist Bill Wahl  (Wyoming Dinosaur Centre), a co-author of the scientific paper, recalled how excited the field team were when they uncovered the block containing the partially articulated bones.

He stated:

“We were removing a ledge of overburden rock and found, unfortunately with a shovel, some tiny, delicate bones poking out.  We immediately stopped, collected as much of the bones as possible and spent the next few days frantically searching for more.  Only after some of the bones were cleaned did we realise that we had found something spectacular.”

In 2005, the fossil specimen was donated to the Big Horn Basin Foundation, a research and education-based not-for-profit organisation that was merged with the Wyoming Dinosaur Centre back in 2016.  This is how Hesperornithoides miessleri came into the Wyoming Dinosaur Centre’s fossil collection.  The fossil, now known as WYDICE-DML-001, was nicknamed “Lori”  and was examined by Dean Lomax (University of Manchester) and co-author of the study back in 2008, a successful crowdfunding campaign permitted extensive research to be undertaken.

Dean commented:

“I remember the first time I laid my eyes on this little dinosaur.  Even back then, I knew it was a significant discovery.  But, it wasn’t until 2015 when our dino team formed and we began to study ‘Lori’ in much more detail than ever before.”

Reconstructed Quarry Map of “Lori” (Hesperornithoides miessleri)

A quarry map of the fossil material asociated with Hesperornithoides.

Association of skeletal elements assembled from 3-D scans of specimen blocks prior to final mechanical preparation.

Picture Credit: PeerJ

Found on Private Land

The specimen was found on private land owned by the Miessler family.  The trivial name honours their help, support and assistance in bringing this little theropod to the attention of the scientific community.  The genus name is a combination of “Hesper”, referring to its discovery in the American West and “ornis” a nod to its very bird-like anatomy.

A Reconstruction of the Skeleton of Hesperornithoides miessleri

Hesperornithoides miessleri skeleton reconstruction.

Skeletal Reconstruction Hesperornithoides miessleri (scale bar = 25 cm).

Picture Credit: Scott Hartmann

A Key Conclusion of the Study

A key conclusion of the scientific paper relates to the origin of powered flight within the Dinosauria.  Hesperornithoides was very probably entirely terrestrial.  It could not fly, but it has a very bird-like body, suggesting that many features associated with an avian anatomy evolved in dinosaurs that lived out their lives on the ground.  It is the oldest dinosaur of this type, known from more than just teeth fossils from North America.  The terrestrial and flightless lifestyle is consistent with the base of Paraves, and with the base of paravian subclades, suggesting that avian flight evolved within the Avialae, most likely in the Late Jurassic or Early Cretaceous.

Lead author of the paper and PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Scott Hartman stated:

“We wanted to expand the dataset used to test dinosaur-bird relationships, so we added hundreds of new species and tens of thousands of new characters.  We found that Lori is a primitive member of a group of dinosaurs that includes Troodon, but perhaps more importantly we discovered that the smaller details of the family tree of bird-like dinosaurs isn’t quite as resolved as some researchers would claim.”

Scott Hartman continued:

“For example, it only takes a few changes in the dataset for Hesperornithoides to be found as a closer relative of Velociraptor than of Troodon.  One robust finding we did come up with is that even as the interrelationships changed, the primitive members of all these groups were non-flying ground dwelling dinosaurs.  That means that some small relatives of Velociraptor such as Microraptor that looks like it could have glided evolved this separately from the modern bird family.”

Hesperornithoides Cranial Material

Fossil material and accompanying line drawings Hesperornithoides.

Hesperornithoides cranial material and interpretative line drawings.

Picture Credit: Levi Shinkle

The scientific paper: “A new paravian dinosaur from the Late Jurassic of North America supports a late acquisition of avian flight” by Hartman, S., Mortimer, M., Wahl, W. R., Lomax, D. R., Lippincott, J. and Lovelace, D. M and published in PeerJ.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of a media release from the University of Manchester in the compilation of this article.

10 07, 2019

Glyptodont Scutes

By | July 10th, 2019|Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Glyptodont Scutes

The bizarre xenarthrans are regarded as one of the most primitive types of placental mammals.  Anteaters, sloths and armadillos are extant members of the Xenarthra, this group seemingly confined just to the Americas, is not closely related to any other type of placental mammal alive today.  The earliest known fossil material dates from the Palaeocene of South America, but they could have originated in the Late Cretaceous.  This group certainly originated in South America and only late in their evolutionary history when Central and North America became united with South America did some of them migrate northwards.

Whilst at the National Museum of Wales (Cardiff), one of our team members spotted a fossil from a xenarthran.  A member of the armadillo branch, specifically the fossilised dermal scutes of a glyptodont.

Glyptodont Scutes on Display

Glyptodont scutes.

Some beautifully preserved Glyptodont scutes on display at the National Museum of Wales.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Armoured Xenarthrans

Superficially resembling giant armadillos, glyptodonts were covered in armour, consisting of a rigid shell of interlocking plates, often of a hexagonal (six-sided) shape.  Some species of glyptodont had this armour on the top of their short, deep skulls but not all species had armoured heads.  Some glyptodonts such as Doedicurus were giants, measuring over three metres in length and weighing more than a tonne.  Some types of glyptodont possessed heavy, armoured tails (such as Doedicurus below), that could have been as a club in intraspecific combat or in defence against an attack from predators such as sabre-toothed cats or phorusrhacids (giant flightless birds).

An Illustration of the Giant Glyptodont Doedicurus

An illustration of Doedicurus.

Bizarre armoured giant with a furry underside, a shell on top and a bony tail often with a club on the end.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

5 07, 2019

Repeated Evolution of Herbivorous Crocodyliforms

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

Fossil Teeth Suggests Lots of Different Types of Mesozoic Crocodiles

Researchers from the University of Utah have studied the teeth of extinct crocodyliforms and concluded that crocodiles occupied a large range of different ecological niches during the Age of Dinosaurs.  Furthermore, these geographically widespread and speciose reptiles adapted to a variety of diets and that herbivorous crocodyliforms evolved at least three times independently.  This suggests that plant-eating was a beneficial dietary strategy and not a unique occurrence.  Many of these crocodyliforms lived alongside omnivorous or herbivorous synapsids, illustrating an ecological partition that is not found today.

The Diets of Extinct Crocodyliforms were Diverse with Many Examples of Herbivory Identified

Extinct crocodyliforms had different shaped teeth.

Life reconstructions of extinct crocodyliforms. Differences in tooth shape are related to differences in diets.

Picture Credit: Jorge Gonzalez

Writing in the academic paper “Current Biology”, the researchers Keegan Melstrom and Randall Irmis at the Natural History Museum of Utah at the University of Utah, discovered that multiple ancient groups of crocodyliforms (the group including living and extinct relatives of crocodiles and alligators), were not all carnivorous.  Research has been conducted before on the various potential dietary niches of ancient crocodiles, but this new study proposes that vegetarianism arose at least three times within this group.

Commenting on the significance of this new study, doctoral student Keegan Melstrom stated:

“The most interesting thing we discovered was how frequently it seems extinct crocodyliforms ate plants.  Our study indicates that complexly shaped teeth, which we infer to indicate herbivory, appear in the extinct relatives of crocodiles at least three times and maybe as many as six.”

Teeth Variation within Crocodyliforms (Extinct and Extant)

Heterodonty in Crocodyliforms.

False colour 3-D images showing the range in shape of crocodyliform teeth.  Carnivores (left), such as the living Caiman, have simple teeth, whereas herbivores (right) have much more complex teeth.

Picture Credit: Keegan Melstrom (The Natural History Museum of Utah)

The Tip of the Crocodyliform Iceberg

The twenty plus species of crocodylians alive today possess a similar general body shape and ecology.  They are mainly generalist hypercarnivores and semi-aquatic, confined to lower latitudes.  Although, consuming fruit and vegetable matter has been observed in several extant species.  In 2013, Everything Dinosaur wrote an article about fruit consumption (frugivory), in crocodiles.

To read the article: New Study Suggests a Number of Different Types of Crocodylian Consume Fruit.

The crocodiles alive today, all have similar, simple conical teeth but the fossil record shows that extinct crocodyliforms were much more diverse.  Today’s crocodiles are just the remnants from a once much richer and more specious group of reptiles, consider the living crocodylians as the “tip of the crocodyliform iceberg”.

Living Crocodiles are Generalist Ambush Predators (Hypercarnivores)

Saltwater crocodile (Estuarine crocodile).

A Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), the largest living reptile which is an apex predator (hypercarnivore).

The researchers identified different teeth morphologies (heterodonty) and this suggests that in the past crocodile-like creatures had a variety of diets.

Melstrom added:

“Carnivores possess simple teeth whereas herbivores have much more complex teeth.  Omnivores, organisms that eat both plant and animal material, fall somewhere in between.  Part of my earlier research showed that this pattern holds in living reptiles that have teeth, such as crocodylians and lizards.  So, these results told us that the basic pattern between diet and teeth is found in both mammals and reptiles, despite very different tooth shapes, and is applicable to extinct reptiles.”

Keegan Melstrom (The Natural History Museum of Utah) with Some of the Casts Used in the Study

Examing three-dimensional prints of fossil jaws.

Keegan Melstrom, the study’s lead author, with the fossil jaw of Brachychampsa and 3-D prints of other extinct crocodyliforms (blue).

Picture Credit: The Natural History Museum of Utah

Comparing Tooth Complexity – Extinct versus Extant

To deduce what long dead crocodyliforms most likely consumed, Melstrom with the assistance of his graduate advisor ( Randall B. Irmis), compared the tooth complexity of extinct crocodyliforms to those of living animals using a research methodology originally designed to study mammalian heterodonty.  In total, 146 teeth from 16 different species of extinct crocodyliforms were incorporated into the study.

Using a combination of quantitative dental measurements and an assessment morphological features, the scientists reconstructed the diets of those extinct animals.  The results indicate that these animals had a wider range of dental complexities and presumed dietary ecologies than had been appreciated previously.  Quantitative analyses also revealed that some species with complex dentition were likely to be herbivorous.

The researchers conclude that plant-eating crocodyliforms appeared early in the group, perhaps shortly after the end-Triassic mass extinction event and herbivory persisted until the end of the Age of Dinosaurs.  The analysis suggests that herbivory arose independently a minimum of three times, and possibly six times, in Mesozoic crocodyliforms.

Melstrom stated:

“Our work demonstrates that extinct crocodyliforms had an incredibly varied diet.  Some were similar to living crocodylians and were primarily carnivorous, others were omnivores and still others likely specialised in eating plants.  The herbivores lived on different continents at different times, some alongside mammals and mammal relatives, and others did not.  This suggests that herbivorous crocodyliforms were successful in a variety of environments!”

As many of these herbivorous crocodyliforms co-existed with plant-eating synapsids including Mammaliaformes, some of which were the ancestors of today’s mammals, this was an ecological partition that is no longer found on our planet.

The scientific paper: “Repeated Evolution of Herbivorous Crocodyliforms during the Age of Dinosaurs” by Keegan M. Melstrom and Randall B. Irmis published in Current Biology.

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

28 06, 2019

The First Dinosaur from the Caiuá Group (Brazil)

By | June 28th, 2019|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Vespersaurus paranaensis – A Desert Dwelling Dinosaur

Roaming the Late Cretaceous of Brazil some 90 to 85 million years ago, was a little, fast-running, carnivorous dinosaur with a unique way of getting about.  The dinosaur has been named Vespersaurus paranaensis and at an estimated length of just over a metre (maximum length 1.6 metres), this was no giant, but its discovery will help scientists to work out the taxonomic relationships amongst an obscure group of theropods known mainly from Gondwana and provide new insight into theropod locomotion.

Writing in the academic journal “Scientific Reports”, the researchers suggest that Vespersaurus supported its weight on just one digit (metatarsal III and toe III), it may have been essentially monodactyl i.e. it had one main, central weight-bearing toe.  The other toes associated with support and weight bearing in the Theropoda (digits II and IV), were very much smaller and may even have been held off the ground.

A Life Reconstruction of the Newly Described Brazilian Theropod Vespersaurus paranaensis

Vespersaurus life reconstruction.

A life reconstruction of the Brazilian dinosaur Vespersaurus.

Picture Credit: Rodolfo Nogueira

Affinities with the Abelisauroidea

Analysis of the fossil material, which includes vertebrae, elements from the pelvis and limbs along with fragmentary skull bones suggests that this little dinosaur is a member of the Abelisauroidea, specifically the Noasaurinae, an enigmatic subfamily collectively known from sparse fossil material mostly from southern latitudes.  For example, Vespersaurus has the reduced forelimbs which are characteristic of the abelisaurids and it is hoped that these fossils will help palaeontologists to better understand the phylogeny of these Late Cretaceous predators.  Although only about 40% of the skeleton is known, these fossils represent one of the best examples of a member of the Noasauridae family found to date and the most complete dinosaur specimen from the whole of the Bauru Sub-basin.  It is also the first dinosaur to be described from rocks that constitute part of this basin, the Caiuá Group.

Frontal (Skull Bone) and Views of an Isolated Tooth (Vespersaurus paranaensis)

A skull bone and an isolated tooth (Vespersaurus paranaensis).

Cranial and dental remains of Vespersaurus paranaensis, an isolated frontal and an isolated broken tooth.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports (Langer et al)

A Late Cretaceous Desert Environment

The majority of the strata making up the Caiuá Group represent sandstones that were deposited by the action of wind (aeolian deposits).  During the Late Cretaceous, this region of Gondwana was an extensive desert.  The fossil record is particularly sparse with only a handful of animals recorded from what probably would have been oases.  Arguably, the most famous fossils from this part of the world represent a pterosaur monodominant bonebed (Caiuajara dobruskii).  Other than Caiuajara and this new dinosaur, the only other vertebrate fossils known from this area represent a lizard and a turtle.

Pectoral Elements and Limb Bones (V. paranaensis)

Front limb bones and elements from the pectoral girdle (Vespersaurus paranaensis).

Pectoral girdle and limb elements of Vespersaurus paranaensis.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports (Langer et al)

To read about Caiuajara: New Species of Flying Reptile Identified from Pterosaur Graveyard

Strange Footprints

Examination of the foot bones and toes suggests that this dinosaur supported its weight on just a single, central digit.  Such an anatomical adaptation (a monodactyl stance), has not been recorded in the Archosauria before, but such a form of locomotion had been inferred by palaeontologists as numerous footprints indicating an enlarged weight-bearing toe in a theropod dinosaur have been found in rocks of the same age as the sediments that yielded the fossils of Vespersaurus.

A Close Up of the Foot Showing the Weight-bearing Toe

The foot of Vespersaurus

A close-up view of the foot of Vespersaurus showing the weight-bearing central toe.  Footprints suggesting a monodactyl stance have been found in the same stratigraphic unit that yielded the new dinosaur.

Video image credit: Universidade de Sáo Paulo et al

Helping to Classify the Noasaurinae

The Noasaurinae are a branch of the Abelisauroidea consisting of small, predatory theropods known from Upper Cretaceous strata mostly associated with Gondwana (southern latitudes).  Perhaps the best known noasaurid is Masiakasaurus knopfleri, from the latest Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) of Madagascar, but two other taxa from Argentina described from relatively fragmentary fossil material have been assigned to the Noasaurinae (Noasaurus leali and Velocisaurus unicus).  Other dinosaurs from outside South America have also been tentatively assigned such as an as yet, unnamed specimen from India, Deltadromeus agilis from Morocco and Genusaurus sisteronis from France.  It is hoped that this more complete fossil specimen will permit palaeontologists to better understand taxonomic relationships within the Noasaurinae and their wider placement within the Abelisauroidea.

Building a Family Tree of the Abelisauroidea

Classifying Vespersaurus.

Vespersaurus is assigned to the Noasaurinae, a sub-family of the Abelisauroidea clade of theropods.  The suggested position of Vespersaurus is shown by the red dinosaur silhouette.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports (Langer et al)

Etymology of Vespersaurus

The generic name derives from the words “vesper” (Latin for evening/west) and “sauros” (Greek for lizard/saurian), in reference to the name of the town Cruzeiro do Oeste (Western Cross), where the fossils were found.  The specific epithet refers to the Paraná state, the authors report that V. paranaensis represents the first non-avian dinosaur from that area of Brazil.

The scientific paper: “A new desert-dwelling dinosaur (Theropoda, Noasaurinae) from the Cretaceous of south Brazil” by Max Cardoso Langer, Neurides de Oliveira Martins, Paulo César Manzig, Gabriel de Souza Ferreira, Júlio César de Almeida Marsola, Edison Fortes, Rosana Lima, Lucas Cesar Frediani Sant’ana, Luciano da Silva Vidal, Rosangela Honório da Silva Lorençato and Martín Daniel Ezcurra published in the journal Scientific Reports.

22 06, 2019

Spotting an Archaeopteryx

By | June 22nd, 2019|Adobe CS5, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Spotting an Archaeopteryx

Whilst on a brief visit to the National Museum of Wales (Cardiff), an Everything Dinosaur team member spotted a model of the famous “first bird” Archaeopteryx.  One of the unusual features of many museums is the lack of lighting in the galleries.  Try as we might, we could not get a good photograph of this Archaeopteryx (A. lithographica) replica.  We have posted up the best image that we could get of this important animal, fossils of which have been subject to scientific scrutiny for over 150 years.

The Archaeopteryx Model Spotted in the National Museum of Wales

Archaeopteryx in a museum exhibit.

An Archaeopteryx (A. lithographica) model on display.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Behind the carefully crafted and approximately life-sized model, there is a representation of a typical Archaeopteryx fossil specimen from the Solnhofen limestone.  We suspect that the fossil replica is a representation of the famous “Berlin specimen”, which remains one of the most complete fossil specimens of the “Urvogel” known to science.

21 06, 2019

A New Species of Australian Prehistoric Crocodile is Announced

By | June 21st, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Isisfordia molnari – A New Species of Australian Crocodile from the Cretaceous

Researchers from the University of New England (New South Wales), Queensland University and the Australian Opal Centre have described a new species of prehistoric crocodile.  The Cretaceous-aged croc has been named Isisfordia molnari, it is the second species described within the Isisfordia genus, both are known from Australia, although I. duncani, which was named in 2006, heralds from the Winton Formation of Queensland, whilst the new species I. molnari, comes from the geologically younger Griman Creek Formation of New South Wales.

A Life Reconstruction of the Newly Described Prehistoric Crocodile Isisfordia molnari

Isisfordia life reconstruction.

Isisfordia molnari life reconstruction.  A wading Sauropod has nothing to fear from I. molnari.

Picture Credit: José Vitor Silva

Honouring Ralph Molnar

The trivial name honours vertebrate palaeontologist Ralph Molnar, in recognition of his contribution to the research on crocodylomorphs from Gondwana.  Molnar was one of the researchers responsible for the naming of Isisfordia duncani back in 2006.  The new species has been erected based on a partial braincase and a fragment of jawbone (maxilla).  Both fossils have been opalised and come from the Lightning Ridge area, but their exact provenance remains uncertain.  The fossil jaw fragment had previously been designated as the holotype of Crocodylus (Bottosaurus) selaslophensis, but has, following a review, been assigned to this new species.  This piece of jawbone complete with six teeth in situ had been donated to the Australian Museum in 1914.  The partial braincase is probably a much more recent find, it was purchased by the Australian Museum in the early part of this century.

Photographs and Line Drawings of the Braincase of Isisfordia molnari

Isisfordia molnari braincase.

Photographs and line drawings of the braincase of Isisfordia molnari.  (A, B) dorsal, (C, D) ventral, (E, F) caudal, (G, H) rostral, (I, J) right lateral and (K, L) left lateral views.

Picture Credit: PeerJ

The Fragment of Upper Jawbone Assigned to the Newly Erected Species (I. molnari)

Jaw fragment (Isisfordia molnari).

A fragment of jawbone now assigned to Isisfordia molnari.  Arrows indicate rostral end ((A) medial, (B) lateral, (C) palatal views).

Picture Credit: PeerJ

The scientific paper: “Isisfordia molnari sp. nov., a new basal eusuchian from the mid-Cretaceous of Lightning Ridge, Australia” by Lachlan J. Hart, Phil R. Bell, Elizabeth T. Smith and Steven W. Salisbury published in PeerJ.

17 06, 2019

Dinosaur “Fossil Wall” Discovered in South-western China

By | June 17th, 2019|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Treasure Trove of Dinosaur Fossils Discovered

Reports have been circulating from a number of Chinese media outlets concerning the discovery of an extensive fossil bed containing the remains of numerous dinosaurs in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality.  The fossil site has been known about for several years but there have been a number of reports this week circulating, hinting at the extent of the fossil discovery and indeed, suggesting that it is very likely that as a result of excavation work, new species of dinosaur will be named and described.

An Extensive Dinosaur Bonebed

Mapping and excavating a fossil site.

Excavating an extensive fossil deposit.

Picture Credit: VCG

The photograph (above), shows a Chinese field team member working on the “wall of dinosaur fossils”.  The site of the fossil find is described as a location close to Laojun village, Pu’an town, in Yunyang county.

New Dinosaur Species

The press reports state that scientists have identified different types of dinosaurs including theropods and basal ornithopods.  The disarticulated remains represent a bone accumulation and the strata is reported to be around 174 million years old (Aalenian faunal stage of the Middle Jurassic).  Commentators have described these fossil beds as very significant and likely to lead to the naming of new dinosaur species.

An Illustration of a Typical Basal Ornithopod

A typical ornithopod.

A typical example of a basal ornithopod.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Four Thousand Individual Fossil Pieces

The mixed fossil assemblage has already provided researchers with around 4,000 pieces of dinosaur bone to study, since the site was first explored and mapped in 2017.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“The site has been described as exceeding 150 metres in length with at least 17 distinct assemblages of fossils within it.  Not much is known about the dinosaur biota from the earliest stages of the Middle Jurassic.  Once all the bones have been removed, prepared and studied it is very likely that several new species of dinosaur will be announced.  These dinosaurs will help palaeontologists to map the radiation and dispersal of several key groups of dinosaurs that were to dominate terrestrial ecosystems for the remainder of the Jurassic.”

The Famous Dinosaur Monument (Utah)

The famous Dinosaur Monument (Utah).

The Dinosaur Monument (Utah).

The extensive fossil material could become China’s equivalent of America’s Dinosaur Monument in Utah.  The Dinosaur Monument represents a congregation of dinosaur fossils that accumulated in a river deposit.  Whilst similarities can be drawn between the two sites, the Chongqing Municipality deposits are approximately 25 million years older.

Perhaps, this could be China’s second “Great Wall”.

14 06, 2019

“King of the Trilobites” Discovered in South Australia

By | June 14th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Redlichia rex – Fearsome Predator of Trilobites

A team of scientists have described a new species of trilobite and at around thirty centimetres in length, this new species is the largest member of the Trilobita from Australia to have been described to date.  Writing in the academic publication, the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, the team consisting of researchers from the University of Adelaide, South Australian Museum and the University of New England describe Redlichia rex and suggest that it probably specialised in attacking and eating smaller trilobites.  It might even have been a cannibal!

Lead author of the research, James Holmes, a PhD student at the University of Adelaide commented:

“We decided to name this new species of trilobite Redlichia rex (similar to Tyrannosaurus rex) because of its giant size, as well as its formidable legs with spines used for crushing and shredding food, which may have been other trilobites.”

A Life Reconstruction of the Newly Described Trilobite Species Redlichia rex

Redlichia rex life reconstruction.

A life reconstruction of the newly described Redlichia rex trilobite.

Picture Credit: Katrina Kenny

Exceptional State of Preservation

The fossil material comes from an exceptional Lagerstätte known as the Emu Bay Shale on Kangaroo Island, South Australia, these sediments represents shallow sea deposits laid down in the  Early Cambrian.  Around fifty different species of trilobite have been described from this location.  Well-preserved, fully articulated specimens from this deposit are known to reach lengths in excess of 25 centimetres, representing one of the largest known Cambrian trilobites.  Until now, all Redlichia specimens from the Emu Bay Shale have been referred to as Redlichia takooensis.

Previous studies recognised considerable differences in exoskeletal shape and morphology among specimens of varying sizes, which were thought to represent different growth stages of the same species (ontogeny).  However, close examination of a large collection of recently acquired specimens shows that this variation actually represents two distinct morphs, interpreted by the researchers as representing a distinct and larger species – Redlichia rex.

PhD Student James Holmes with a Fossil of R. rex

Redlichia rex fossil.

PhD student James Holmes and a fossil specimen of Redlichia rex.

Picture Credit: University of Adelaide

Many of the fossils demonstrated an exceptional state of preservation with soft parts such as the antennae and the legs preserved.  At around 30 centimetres in length, Redlichia rex is almost twice as big as most other Australian trilobites recorded from Cambrian-aged rocks.

Co-study author, Diego García-Bellido, from the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Museum added:

“Interestingly, trilobite specimens from the Emu Bay Shale, including Redlichia rex, exhibit injuries that were caused by shell-crushing predators.  There are also large specimens of fossilised poo (coprolites), containing trilobite fragments in this fossil deposit.  The large size of injured Redlichia rex specimens and the associated coprolites suggests that either much bigger predators were targeting Redlichia rex, such as Anomalocaris – an even larger shrimp-like creature – or that the new species had cannibalistic tendencies.”

Evidence of an Evolutionary Arms Race

The naming of this new species demonstrates the diversity of the marine biota within this ancient sea environment and supports the idea that one of the principle drivers of the “Cambrian explosion” was the evolutionary “arms race” between predators and prey species.  As predators became larger and more efficient hunters, so primary producers and secondary predators developed more effective defences, this in turn led to the evolution of more deadly predator species.

A Fossil Specimen (Redlichia rex)

Redlichia rex trilobite fossil.

A near complete specimen of the large Cambrian trilobite Redlichia rex.

Picture Credit: University of Adelaide

James Holmes commented:

“The overall size and crushing legs of Redlichia rex are a likely consequence of the arms race that occurred at this time.  This giant trilobite was likely the terror of smaller creatures on the Cambrian seafloor.”

Fossils of the amazing Cambrian marine biota including specimens of Redlichia rex are currently on display at the South Australian Museum (Adelaide).

The scientific paper: “The trilobite Redlichia from the lower Cambrian Emu Bay Shale Konservat-Lagerstätte of South Australia: systematics, ontogeny and soft-part anatomy” by James D. Holmes, John R. Paterson and Diego C. García-Bellido published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

9 06, 2019

Ammonites Separating the Boys from the Girls

By | June 9th, 2019|Main Page, Photos, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Male and Female Ammonites

The weather might be most unpleasant for much of the British Isles at the moment, but soon it will be the summer holidays and many of the beaches of Britain will be crowded by fossil hunters keen to add to their fossil collections.  At numerous sites, fossils of ammonites can be found.  The shells of these widespread, diverse and specious cephalopods adorn many amateur fossil collections.  Here at Everything Dinosaur, we have hundreds and hundreds of specimens.  Although, lots of people find ammonite fossils, in our experience few are aware of the amazing sexual dimorphism exhibited by the Subclass Ammonoidea.

Female Ammonites were Larger than Male Ammonites

Sexual dimorphism in ammonites.

Two ammonites from the same species but believed to represent a female (left) and the smaller male (right).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Macroconch and the Microconch

The fossilised shells of ammonites often preserve remarkable detail, but the size of the specimen found can also help to tell the boys from the girls.  It is believed that shell size can help scientists determine male and female specimens in some species of ammonite.  As far as we at Everything Dinosaur are aware, ammonites exhibited sexual dimorphism, that is, the females of a species grew to be much bigger than the males (see picture of ammonite fossil shells above).

The microconch (male) is smaller and wider, whilst the macroconch, believed to represent the female of the species is much larger, an adaptation to accommodate egg production.  This dimorphism is found to today in the close relative of ammonites – the nautilus.

Ammonite Fossil (Male)

Ammonite fossil - believed to be male.

A close view of what is believed to be a male ammonite.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Some male and female ammonites of the same species had different sized and different shaped shells.  There is evidence to suggest that the in some species, the microconch, representing the male had long projections from the forward edge of the body chamber.  This could have helped to protect the animal, but they may have signalled maturity and fitness for breeding.  Perhaps these projections were used in intraspecific conflict over mate selection.

Most ammonite fossils found in the UK represent creatures that lived during the Jurassic, although a number of sites, particularly in southern England, such as the beaches around Folkestone in Kent, yield evidence of Cretaceous ammonites.  Most ammonite fossils found are relatively small with only a few specimens exceeding 25 centimetres in diameter, but fragments of the shells of much larger animals can still be found.

Ammonite Specimens on Display

Male and female ammonites.

A display from the National Museum of Wales (Cardiff) looking at male and female ammonites.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Dangerous Cliffs

The recent heavy rain has led to a number of cliffs becoming unstable.  Everything Dinosaur has posted up helpful information and advice warning prospective fossil hunters to stay clear of cliffs.  Many cliffs have become saturated with water and the risk of substantial rock falls and landslides is high in many coastal locations.  Whether looking for ammonites, or indeed any other fossil for that matter, please take care, heed local warnings and don’t stray too close to cliffs, there are plenty of fossils to be found on the foreshore.

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