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23 12, 2018

Evidence That Sharks Fed on Pterosaurs

By | December 23rd, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Cretoxyrhina Tooth Embedded in the Neck of a Pteranodon

There has been quite a lot of media coverage this week, following the publication of a scientific paper that described the interaction between a shark from the Western Interior Seaway (Cretoxyrhina mantelli) and a pterosaur (Pteranodon).  A single tooth from the shark, was discovered wedged against the fourth cervical vertebra (fourth bone in the neck), of the flying reptile.  The association of the tooth and its proximity to the vertebra suggests that the preservation of bone and tooth together was more than mere coincidence.  The specimen is evidence of a Cretoxyrhina shark biting a Pteranodon.

Evidence for a Shark Bite on the Neck of a Pterosaur

Shark tooth found in association with pterosaur cervical vertebrae.

Evidence of a shark bite on the neck of a pterosaur.  The red arrow indicates the location of the shark tooth and its association with cervical vertebra IV.  Scale bar = 5 cm approximately.

Picture Credit: (A) Stephanie Abramowicz, courtesy Dinosaur Institute, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, (B) David Hone

The Pteranodon specimen is housed in a glass case at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, so the researchers, David Hone (University of London), Mark Witton (Portsmouth University) and Michael Habib (University of Southern California), had difficulty in obtaining direct access to the fossils.  However, undeterred they made measurements of the embedded fossil tooth and it is estimated to be 24 mm high (root plus crown) and its morphology suggests that it came from a well-known lamniform shark from the Western Interior Seaway – C. mantelli. 

Based on the tooth dimensions, the shark is estimated to have been around 2.5 metres long, big, but not as large as some Cretoxyrhina mantelli specimens, this species of Late Cretaceous shark is believed to have reached lengths of around seven metres, making it larger than the extant Great White (C. carcharias).

Identifying the Attacker

Teeth associated with lamniform sharks are particularly common in marine deposits associated with the Western Interior Seaway.  The morphology of the tooth suggests that this tooth came from Cretoxyrhina mantelli and this fossil specimen (LACM 50926), is the first documented occurrence of this large shark interacting with any type of flying reptile.

Typical Teeth Morphologies Associated with C. mantelli

Examples of Cretoxyrhina mantelli teeth from the front portion of the jaws.

Tracing of Cretoxyrhina mantelli anterior teeth.  The root of each tooth is shaded pale gray, whilst the crown is dark gray.  Tooth (a) is position 3 in the jaw, (b) represents a tooth from position 4, whilst (c) is a representation of the fossil tooth found in close association with the Pteranodon cervical vertebra.

Picture Credit: David Hone

Evidence of Cretoxyrhina biting Pteranodon

It is not possible to state categorically, whether the fossil specimen (LACM 50926), is evidence of predation or whether the shark took a bite out of a Pteranodon carcase.  Several examples of Cretoxyrhina spp. feeding traces are known on the fossilised remains of other vertebrates from the Western Interior Seaway.  In addition, there is evidence to suggest other types of fish, including sharks, consumed Pteranodon.  This is the first example of an interaction between Cretoxyrhina and “toothless wing”.

A Close-up View of the Neck Bone and the Shark Tooth

Cretoxyrhina tooth embedded in a pterosaur bone.

Shark tooth embedded in a Pteranodon neck bone.  Two views (a and b) of the tooth in association with the pterosaur vertebra and accompanying line drawings.

Picture Credit: David Hone

Spectacular Palaeoart

One of the co-authors of the paper, Mark Witton, is a highly respected palaeoartist, as well as an authority on the Pterosauria.  He has produced a stunning illustration of a Cretoxyrhina shark leaping out of the water as it bites the neck of a Pteranodon.

A Large Pteranodon Meets Its End in the Jaws of a Cretoxyrhina Shark

Cretoxyrhina shark attacks a flying reptile (Pteranodon).

A Cretoxyrhina shark leaps from the water as it attacks a Pteranodon.

Picture Credit: Mark Witton

Pteranodon is widely believed to have foraged for small fish and other aquatic prey by alighting on the water and dip-feeding.  Once on the surface of the sea, it would have been within the reach of predatory sharks, although whether the breaching Cretoxyrhina portrayed by Mark Witton accurately depicts an attack by the shark on a pterosaur is open to speculation.  However, the image is visually stunning and as marine seabirds today are actively predated by sharks, an example being Tiger sharks attacking fledgling albatross chicks, such a dramatic scene could have taken place on the waters of the Western Interior Seaway.  However, the tooth in association with the cervical vertebra could have resulted from the scavenging of a pterosaur carcase.

Not All That It Seems

The Pteranodon fossil in the display case is not all that it seems.  Like many museum specimens, it is a composite, it is made up of bones from several animals to help make the skeleton more complete.  Furthermore, part of the fossil display is genuine, but numerous elements have been reconstructed to replace absent parts.  The authors note that the preservation quality and size of the vertebrae correspond well to the other elements (including the forelimb bones) and this implies that LACM 50926 may represent much of a skeleton.  However, the absence of both anteriormost and posterior cervical vertebrae means no anatomical continuity links the 50926 vertebrae with the rest of the material and subsequently, their association to the rest of the skeleton cannot be stated confidently.

With all this said, LACM 50926 is the first palaeoecological link between a feeding Cretoxyrhina mantelli and a Pteranodon.  Such evidence of interactions like this are very rare in the fossil record.  Pteranodon seems to have been a relatively common flying reptile, it makes up some 97% of the Niobrara Formation pterosaur fossil finds.  Sharks feeding on large pterosaurs such as Pteranodon may have been a more frequent occurrence, but the hollow bones of these flying reptiles may have broken quite easily when subjected to the biteforce of a shark and so the likelihood of any fossil evidence being preserved would be diminished.  Chances are the evidence of such interactions just got consumed.

The scientific paper: “Evidence for the Cretaceous Shark Cretoxyrhina mantelli feeding on the pterosaur Pteranodon from the Niobrara Formation” by David W. E. Hone, Mark P. Witton and Michael B. Habib and published in the open access journal PeerJ.

22 12, 2018

New Giant Early Jurassic Predator from Italy

By | December 22nd, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Saltriovenator zanellai – One Tonne Giant and Oldest Ceratosaurian Described to Date

Scientists from Natural History Museum of Milan and the Geological Museum of Bologna (Museu di Storia Naturale di Milano and the Museo Geologico), have published a scientific paper on a new predatory dinosaur from the Lombardy region of northern Italy.  This new species was a giant, weighing around a tonne and measuring approximately 7.5 metres in length.  It lived some 25 million years before other known big predatory dinosaurs evolved and examination of the fossilised bones suggest that this dinosaur was still growing when it died.  The dinosaur has been named Saltriovenator zanellai and it is the largest Theropod described to date from the Early Jurassic (Sinemurian faunal stage).

A Life Reconstruction of the Newly Described Ceratosaurian Theropod Saltriovenator zanellai

Saltriovenator zanellai life reconstruction.

A life reconstruction of Saltriovenator from the Early Jurassic of Italy.

Picture Credit: Davide Bonadonna

A Chance Discovery

Saltriovenator was discovered by chance in the summer of 1996 by amateur fossil collector Angelo Zanella, whilst exploring fossil rich limestone layers associated with a marble quarry near the town of Saltrio (Varese Province, Lombardy).  The strata containing the fossilised remains represent marine deposits and explosives used in the quarrying process had broken up the fossil bearing layer into hundreds of pieces.  In total, 132 fossil pieces were excavated from the site, the remains of a single animal.

The bones show feeding traces from fish and borings from marine invertebrates.  The palaeontologists writing in the on-line academic journal “PeerJ” suggest that the carcase was washed out sea and stayed on the seabed for some time, permitting the scavenging to take place.

Fossil Elements Used to Confirm Ceratosaurian Affinity with a Skeletal Drawing

Fossil elements used to identify Saltriovenator as a Ceratosaur.

Selected fossils of Saltriovenator and a skeletal reconstruction. Sections coloured red indicate fossil material.

Picture Credit: G. Bindellini, C. Dal Sasso and M. Zilioli and M. Auditore

The picture above shows key fossils that helped to classify Saltriovenator as a member of the Ceratosauria clade, it is the oldest Ceratosaur described to date.

Key

A, B, C = views of the right humerus.

D = left scapula.

E = right scapular glenoid and coracoid.

F = furcula (wishbone).

G = single tooth from the anterior portion of the lower jaw.

I = partial left humerus, the circular depressions represent borings made by marine invertebrates feeding on the carcase.

J, L, N = views of the right second metacarpal (finger bone).

K, M, O, = views of the right second digit.

P-T = views of the right third digit.

U = distal tarsal IV.

V, X = third right metatarsal views.

W, Y = second right metatarsal views.

Z = reconstructed skeleton of Saltriovenator with identified fossil elements shaded red.

Scale bars: 10 cm in (A)–(E), (I), and (U)–(Y); two cm in (F), and (J)–(T); one cm in (G).

A Skeletal Reconstruction of Saltriovenator zanellai 

A reconstruction of the skeleton of Saltriovenator.

Saltriovenator skeletal reconstruction.  Colour key – right bones in red; counterlateral copies of the left bones in light red; bones from the medial side of the lower jaw in orange.  Note scale bar equals one metre.

Picture Credit: M. Auditore

The First Jurassic Dinosaur From Italy

Saltriovenator is the first dinosaur to be described from fossils found in the Italian Alps.  It is the first dinosaur from the Jurassic Period to have been found in Italy and the country’s second Theropod, the first being Scipionyx samniticus which lived during the Early Cretaceous and at just over two metres in length, was considerably smaller than S. zanellai.  A study of growth rings found in a cross-sectional analysis of the fossil bones indicates that the dinosaur was around twenty-four years of age when it died.  It was still growing, albeit slowly, so the maximum size of this predator is not known, although at an estimated 7.5 metres long, it was considerably bigger than any other Theropod from the Early Jurassic described to date.

A Mosaic of Basal and More Advanced Theropod Features

Saltriovenator exhibits a mosaic of features seen in four-fingered Theropods and basal Tetanuran dinosaurs.  The fossilised finger bones indicate that this dinosaur had a fully functioning four-fingered hand, well-adapted for grasping and coping with struggling prey.  Later Ceratosaurs had only three fingers on each hand.  Study of the finger bones will help scientists to understand better the evolutionary relationships between the four-fingered Dilophosaurs, Ceratosaurs and later types of Theropod such as the Allosaurs with their atrophied hands.

Views of the Pectoral Girdle and the Right Hand of Saltriovenator zanellai

Saltriovenator right hand and forelimb.

Saltriovenator pectoral girdle and forelimb with a line drawing of the right hand showing four fingers.  Preserved elements in white, reconstructed bone in light grey, exposed inner bone in grey, hidden bone in dotted lines.  Scale bar equals 10 cm in (A) and (B), five cm in (C).

Picture Credit: M. Auditore

Commenting on the importance of this fossil discovery, one of the authors of the scientific paper, Dr Andrea Cau (Museo Geologico), stated:

“The grasping hand of Saltriovenator zanellai fills a key gap in the Theropod evolutionary tree: predatory dinosaurs progressively lost the pinkie and ring fingers and acquired the three-fingered hand which is the precursor of the avian wing.”

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“The evolution of large, powerful predatory dinosaurs at the very beginning of the Jurassic, may have been a factor in the evolution of bigger and bigger herbivorous dinosaurs such as the Sauropods.  Think of it as an evolutionary arms race as carnivores got bigger, selection pressure was put on herbivores to become bigger and stronger themselves in order to avoid predation.”

21 12, 2018

The First Flowering Plants Originated in the Early Jurassic

By | December 21st, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Nanjinganthus dendrostyla – Putting Back Flowering Plants by 50 Million Years

When did flowering plants (Angiosperms) evolve?  That has been a puzzling question, one that has taxed the minds of leading scientists for more than 200 years.  Genetic studies indicate that the diverse and widespread Angiosperms have an ancient lineage, but the fossil record does not support this idea.  Fossils of delicate flowers are very rare and the oldest known, date from the Early Cretaceous.  Time for the fossil record to catch up with the announcement of the discovery of a plant that produced flowers some 174 million years ago, during the late Early Jurassic (Toarcian stage).

Specimens of the Newly Described Early Jurassic Flowering Plant Nanjinganthus dendrostyla

Nanjinganthus, a flowering plant from the Early Jurassic.

Views of individual specimens of Nanjinganthus, a flowering plant from the Early Jurassic.

Picture Credit: (NIGPAS)

The newly described plant has been named Nanjinganthus dendrostyla and it comes from the South Xiangshan Formation (Nanjing, eastern China), which has been studied extensively since the turn of the century and is famous for its abundant plant fossils, which up until now had consisted of cycads, ferns, ginkgoes and horsetails.  Researchers from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS), have been able to identify the earliest known examples of a flowering plant, one that predates most of the Angiosperm fossil material by around 50 million years.

Catching Up with the Molecular Clock

Analysis of the genetic data contained in living plant taxa indicates that plants probably evolved earlier than previously thought.  In a study published in February, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences as well as Bristol University, mapped the genetic make-up of 644 types of plant and concluded, based on molecular dating, flowering plants (Angiosperms), probably evolved sometime between the Late Permian and the Late Jurassic.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article summarising this research: When Did Flowers Evolve?

Lots of Fossil Specimens to Study

The researchers studied a total of 264 specimens representing 198 individual flowers preserved on 34 slabs of stone.  The scientists had the luxury of working on so many examples of the same fossil organism.  They produced numerous high resolution images of the flowers allowing the features of N. dendrostyla to be revealed in great detail.  With so many fossil specimens, the scientists were able to exclude other plant types and confirm that the fossils do indeed represent an Angiosperm.

A Life Reconstruction of the Earliest Flowering Plant Described to Date

A life illustration of Nanjinganthus dendrostyla.

A life reconstruction of the flowering plant Nanjinganthus dendrostyla from the Early Jurassic of China.

Picture Credit: (NIGPAS)

Commenting on the significance of the study, one of the researchers Wang Xin (NIGPAS), stated:

“The origin of Angiosperms has long been an academic headache for many botanists.  Our discovery has moved the botany field forward and will allow a better understanding of Angiosperms.”

Identifying a Key Feature of Angiosperms

The scientists were able to identify the presence of fully enclosed ovules in the fossilised flowers.  These are the precursors of seeds before pollination.  The reconstructed flower was found to have a cup-form receptacle and ovarian roof that together enclosed the ovules/seeds.  This botanical feature confirms that Nanjinganthus dendrostyla is definitely an Angiosperm.

Numerous Examples of N. dendrostyla Preserved in Siltstone

A block containing evidence of the flowering plant Nanjinganthus.

One of the fossil blocks containing examples of Nanjinganthus (South Xiangshan Formation, China).

Picture Credit: (NIGPAS)

Discoveries of Angiosperm-like fossils have been reported from Jurassic rocks before.  In January (2018), Everything Dinosaur published an article on the remarkable discovery of fossilised wing scales from butterflies and moths that lived during the Late Triassic.  This discovery challenged the theory of co-evolution between flowering plants and pollinating insects such as members of the Lepidoptera.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article about this: Ancient Butterflies Flutter By

The morphological features of Nanjinganthus distinguish it from other specimens and suggest that it is a new Angiosperm genus.

The scientists hope to determine whether Angiosperms are monophyletic (all flowering plants share a common ancestor).  If this is the case and Nanjinganthus is one of the earliest of all the flowering plants, then these fossils represent a stem group giving rise to all later species.  Angiosperms could also be polyphyletic, (a group descended from more than one common ancestor), meaning Nanjinganthus represents an evolutionary dead end and subsequently, it did not give rise to later types of flowering plant.

20 12, 2018

Russian Scientists Announce Dinosaur Discovery

By | December 20th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Volgatitan simbirskiensis – Early Cretaceous Leviathan

A team of palaeontologists from Russia have announced the discovery a new genus of Titanosaur from fossil bones found on the western bank of the River Volga close to the village of Slantsevy Rudnik in Ulyanovsk Oblast (western Russia).  The dinosaur has been named Volgatitan simbirskiensis, it is one of a trio of Sauropods recently described from Russian deposits, the others being Tengrisaurus starkovi and Sibirotitan astrosacralis, both of these herbivorous, long-necked dinosaurs were named and described in 2017.

V. simbirskiensis has been named based on the study of seven tail bones (caudal vertebrae), the first of which were discovered following a rock fall on the Volga River back in 1982.

A Scale Drawing of Volgatitan simbirskiensis Showing the Anatomical Position of the Known Fossil Material

Volgatitan fossil tail bones shown in situ and scale drawing.

A reconstruction of Volgatitan simbirskiensis with a human being shown for scale.

Picture Credit: St Petersburg State University

Tell Tale Tail Bones

Fortunately, for the Sauropoda, vertebrae can be quite diagnostic when it comes to ascribing new genera.  Titanosaurs for example, have distinctive shaped caudal vertebrae, especially towards the base of the tail (proximal end close to the hips).  The proximal tail bones of Titanosaurs are procoelous (pronounced pro-see-lus), that is, the front face of the bone is concave and the opposite face, the bit that points in the direction of the tail, is bulbous (convex).

Views of the Holotype Caudal Vertebra of V. simbirskiensis

Volgatitan caudal vertebra (holotype).

Views of a Volgatitan caudal vertebra.

Picture Credit: Alexander Averianov and Vladimir Efimov

The photograph (above) shows the holotype caudal vertebra of Volgatitan simbirskiensis in right lateral (A), anterior (B), left lateral (C), posterior (D), dorsal (E) and ventral (F) views.

Nomenclature

The dinosaur’s genus honours the Volga River, whilst the trivial name is in honour of the old name for the city of Ulyanovsk (Simbirsk), after all, the fossils were found just three miles to the north of the city.  Aleksandr Averianov, one of the authors of a scientific paper describing this new Titanosaur, published in the journal “Biological Communications”, explained that the description of dinosaur taxa in recent years has become possible due to the progress in understanding the anatomy and phylogeny of the Dinosauria.  Furthermore, the recent Russian Sauropod discoveries have allowed scientists to learn more about how these species of lizard-hipped reptiles had lived and developed.

Based on comparisons with the fossilised bones of more complete Titanosaurs, Volgatitan is estimated to have been around 16 metres long.  Fully fused neural arches on the centrum from the most proximal of the caudal vertebrae indicate that the bones came from a fully, mature adult animal.

It had been thought that Titanosaurs evolved in the southern hemisphere, specifically South America, with some taxa migrating into North America, Asia and Europe later in the Cretaceous.  However, the formal description of Volgatitan coming so soon after the naming of Tengrisaurus from the Early Cretaceous of Transbaikal Region, suggests that Early Cretaceous Titanosaurs were more widely distributed.  It is possible to postulate that important stages in the evolution of this group of long-necked dinosaurs may have taken place in eastern Europe and Asia.

For an article published in 2017 about the discovery of a new species of African Titanosaur: Shingopana songwensis from south-western Tanzania

To read about an Australian Titanosaur discovery made in 2017: Titanosaur “Judy” from the Outback

19 12, 2018

Dozens of Dinosaur Footprints Exposed at Hastings

By | December 19th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Dinosaur Footprints Exposed by Cliff Erosion

The seaside town of Hastings in East Sussex is steeped in history.  It is synonymous with the battle that began the Norman conquest back in 1066 but scientists have been aware for many years that the cliffs to the east of the town contain evidence of much older inhabitants – dinosaurs.  Researchers from the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge University have published a paper this week documenting dozens of Early Cretaceous dinosaur tracks and footprints that represent at least seven different kinds of dinosaur.

Two Iguanodontian Prints from the Lee Ness Sandstone (Ashdown Formation) Exposed at Hastings

Two iguanodontian footprints from the Lee Ness Sandstone.

Examples of two iguanodontian footprints from the Lee Ness Sandstone (Ashdown Formation).

Picture Credit: Neil Davies/University of Cambridge

A Rich and Diverse Dinosaur Fauna

The footprints and trackways were identified and mapped by a team of researchers from Cambridge University between 2014 and 2018, following periods of extensive coastal erosion along the cliffs to the east of Hastings.  The footprints range in size from 2 cm wide to over 60 cm across.   These prints and tracks record a rich and diverse dinosaur fauna from the Lower Cretaceous – Lee Ness Sandstones (Ashdown Formation), which date from approximately 140 million years ago (Berriasian faunal stage of the Cretaceous).

The exact age of the Lee Ness Sandstone strata is unknown, however, the Ashdown Formation is estimated to be around 145-133 million years old, based on relative dating of ostracod fossils.

The researchers, writing in the academic journal ” Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology”, report on more than 85 exceptionally well-preserved dinosaur footprints, comprising prints from at least seven different types of dinosaur (ichnogenera).  They document the trace fossils eroding out of cliffs and their work records the greatest diversity of dinosaurs in a single location in Cretaceous-aged rocks found in the UK.  In particular, a variety of armoured dinosaurs (Thyreophora) are represented.

One of the Many Different Types of Armoured Dinosaur Print Found

Armoured dinosaur footprint - Ashdown Formation (Hastings).

A footprint ascribed to an armoured dinosaur (Thyreophora) from the Lee Ness Sandstone (Ashdown Formation).  The print has been assigned to the Tetrapodosaurus ichnogenus.

Picture Credit: Neil Davies/University of Cambridge

Details of Skin, Scales and Claws are Visible

The trace fossils are preserved in remarkable detail.  Impressions of skin, scales and even toe claw impressions have been preserved.

A Close View of an Iguanodontian Print Showing a Distinct Claw Impression

Preserved iguanodontian claw impression.

A close view of an iguanodontian claw impression preserved within one of the dinosaur footprints.

Picture Credit: Neil Davies/University of Cambridge

An Iguanodontian Footprint with Preserved Skin Impressions

Iguanodontian footprint showing skin impressions.

Some of the tracks from recent rock falls show skin impressions.  This is the skin impression from the underside of an iguanodontian footprint.

Picture Credit: Neil Davies/University of Cambridge

The best preserved prints come from large blocks of stone that are mapped and photographed after recently falling from the cliff.  The tracks are quickly eroded with prolonged exposure to the elements and from damage caused by further rock falls.  When dealing with a rapidly eroding cliff, it is essential that any fresh rock falls are examined and any fossils contained within the blocks are mapped and measured.

Two Photographs (February 2017 and February 2016) Showing the Extent of the Trace Fossil Erosion

Weathering of the dinosaur tracks at Hastings.

The effect of weathering on the trace fossils.  Over 12 months the tracks are heavily eroded.

Picture Credit: Neil Davies/University of Cambridge

Wealden Group Trace Fossils

The Ashdown Formation is part of the Wealden Group of rock formations, the most important sequence of dinosaur fossil bearing strata in England.  Numerous fossilised footprints are associated with the Wealden Group and the first report of tracks was made in 1846 by the Reverend Tagart, who described a series of three-toed prints, which he thought had been made by giant birds.  Never before has such a diverse footprint assemblage been mapped and documented in the British Isles.

A Table Showing the Different Types of Dinosaur Footprint (Morphotypes) Mapped at the Location

Lee Ness Sandstone dinosaur footprint analysis.

A table showing the number and characteristics of the Hastings dinosaur footprint fossils.

Table Credit: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology with additional notation from Everything Dinosaur

One of the authors of the scientific paper, Anthony Shillito, a PhD student in Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences commented:

“Whole body fossils of dinosaurs are incredibly rare.  Usually you only get small pieces, which don’t tell you a lot about how that dinosaur may have lived.  A collection of footprints like this helps you fill in some of the gaps and infer things about which dinosaurs were living in the same place at the same time.”

Different Kinds of Theropod Dinosaurs

The footprints along with the various plant fossils and invertebrate trace fossils (burrows), are helping the scientists to put together a picture of life in this part of the world in the Early Cretaceous.  Dinosaurs dominated the biota, with several different types of meat-eating dinosaur (Theropods) identified, including a potential dromaeosaurid-like dinosaur, as two-toed prints (didactyl) have been found.

Different Types of Theropod Track Have Been Found

Different types of Theropod footprint. Scale bars = 5 cm.

Examples of different types of Theropod footprint (Lee Ness Sandstone – Ashdown Formation).

Picture Credit: Neil Davies/University of Cambridge

The picture above shows four different types of Theropod footprint identified at the Hastings site.  Picture (A) shows a large tridactyl (three-toed) cast with a long digit III and a faint heel impression.  The footprint in (B), is also large but the toes are narrower and elongated, maintaining a consistent width for their whole length.  The cast has no heel pad impression.  The Theropod morphotype (C), represents a much smaller animal with digit III being much longer than digits II and IV.  Intriguingly, the researchers have also logged potential two-toed prints (D), this suggests that this floodplain, braided environment might have been home to dromaeosaurid-like dinosaurs.

PhD student Shillito added,

“You can get some idea about which dinosaurs made them from the shape of the footprints, comparing them with what we know about dinosaur feet from other fossils lets you identify the important similarities.  When you also look at footprints from other locations you can start to piece together which species were the key players.”

Although, the majority of the footprints have been ascribed to Ornithopods, and several are referred to as iguanodontian, none of these prints were made by a member of the Iguanodon genus.  Iguanodon (I. bernissartensis), lived many millions of years after these prints were formed.  There have been many different types of iguanodont described, it is possible that the larger prints were made by an animal such as Barilium dawsoni.  The slightly smaller prints could have been created by the iguanodontid Hypselospinus (H. fittoni).

The Three-toed Tracks of a Small Ornithopod Dinosaur

Small Ornithopod trackway (Ashdown Formation).

Trackway assigned to a small, Ornithopod dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Neil Davies/University of Cambridge

Dinosaurs Helping to Shape the Environment

Anthony Shillito is focusing on the role played by dinosaurs in terms of shaping their environment, how dinosaurs behave as zoogeomorphic agents.  Large animals today, such as elephants and hippos can alter their habitats as they interact with their environment.  Hippos for example, can create river channels and divert the course of water flow.  Dinosaurs very probably did the same, with larger dinosaurs having a bigger impact than smaller dinosaurs.

The student commented:

“Given the sheer size of many dinosaurs, it’s highly likely that they affected rivers in a similar way, but it’s difficult to find a ‘smoking gun’, since most footprints would have just washed away.  However, we do see some smaller-scale evidence of their impact; in some of the deeper footprints you can see thickets of plants that were growing.  We also found evidence of footprints along the banks of river channels, so it’s possible that dinosaurs played a role in creating those channels.”

Evidence of Sauropods?

Footprint evidence indicating the largest dinosaurs of all, the presence of Sauropods is virtually absent from the site.  Three poorly preserved trace fossils have been tentatively ascribed to the Sauropoda, although they are very indistinct and could represent under traces representing the tracks of other ichnogenera.

It is very likely that there are many more dinosaur footprints hidden within the eroding sandstone cliffs of East Sussex, but the construction of sea defences in the area to slow or prevent the process of coastal erosion may mean that they remain locked away within the rocks.

The scientific paper: “Dinosaur-landscape Interactions at a Diverse Early Cretaceous Tracksite (Lee Ness Sandstone, Ashdown Formation, southern England)” by Anthony P. Shillito and Neil S. Davies published in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

18 12, 2018

Zuul Goes on Display at the Royal Ontario Museum

By | December 18th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Amazing Armoured Dinosaur Zuul Goes on Display

The ankylosaurid named Zuul (Z. crurivastator), is the centrepiece of a new exhibition that opened this week at the Royal Ontario Museum, (Canada).  The exhibition is entitled “ZUUL: Life of an Armoured Dinosaur” and it tells the tale of how this beautifully-preserved dinosaur fossil was discovered and what it can tell us about life in the Late Cretaceous some 76 million years ago.

Zuul – Destroyer of Shins

Zuul crurivastator exhibit opens at the Royal Ontario Museum.

A life reconstruction of the giant armoured dinosaur from Montana Zuul crurivastator.

Picture Credit: Royal Ontario Museum

Commenting on this new addition to the Museum’s galleries, Royal Ontario Museum Director and CEO Josh Basseches stated:

“We are thrilled to be introducing Toronto and the world to an extraordinary new dinosaur.  The acquisition of Zuul represents a significant new addition to our globally renowned collection of dinosaurs and fauna.  With the generous support of presenting sponsor Sinking Ship Entertainment, and our team of renowned palaeontologists and exhibition developers, we look forward to presenting a truly unique exhibition that will inspire and delight visitors of all ages.”

Cutting Edge Technology to Showcase Ancient Armoured Giant

The exhibition uses a combination of engaging video games, digital images and animations along with full-sized murals that recreates northern Montana/southern Alberta during the Campanian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous.

This is the first time that the fossilised remains of Zuul have been put on display anywhere in the world.  Touchscreens will let visitors rotate 3-D views of Zuul’s original fossil pieces, while life-size touchable bronze models of Zuul’s skull, armour, skin, and tail club will permit visitors to feel what it would have been like to touch the living dinosaur.  An animal named after a monster from the 1984 film “Ghostbusters” , Zuul was named in honour of the horned, demi-god Zuul, the Gatekeeper of Gozer from the movie.

A Replica of the Zuul Fossil Material Being Attacked by a Gorgosaurus

Zuul being attacked by a Gorgosaurus.

A replica of the Zuul fossil material being attacked by a tyrannosaurid (Gorgosaurus).

Picture Credit: Royal Ontario Museum

Dr David Evans, the exhibition’s lead curator and one of the palaeontologists that formally named and described this Ankylosaur, commented:

“In this multi-faceted exhibition, visitors will see the breath-taking Zuul fossil up close and through a treasure trove of incredible fossils found alongside the skeleton, learn more about Zuul’s diverse ancient world.  Zuul: Life of an Armoured Dinosaur will spark curiosity about our distant past and the evolution of life over time.”

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article on the discovery of this remarkably complete (95% of the skeleton has been preserved), armoured dinosaur: Zuul – The Destroyer of Shins

The Beautiful and Fantastically-well Preserved Skull of Zuul crurivastator will be on Display as Part of the Exhibit

The very nearly complete skul of Zuul crurivastator.

The beautifully-preserved skull of Zuul crurivastator will be on display as part of the exhibit.

Picture Credit: Royal Ontario Museum

From the Judith River Formation of Montana

Heralding from the famous Judith River Formation, Zuul crurivastator is one of the most complete Ankylosaur fossils ever found.  It has a complete skull and tail club as well as preserved skin and other soft tissues that will provide a rare and exciting opportunity for new, cutting-edge scientific research.  Zuul was acquired by the ROM in 2016 through the generous support of the Louise Hawley Stone Charitable Trust.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from the Royal Ontario Museum in the compilation of this article.

17 12, 2018

Are the Feathers About to Fly in the Pterosauria?

By | December 17th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Study Finds Four Types of Feather-like Structures in Pterosaur Fossils

Most palaeontologists have accepted that it is likely that pterosaurs (flying reptiles), were covered in a sort of hairy fuzz, technically referred to as pycnofibres, that helped insulate their bodies and keep them warm.  However, an international team of scientists from Hong Kong University, Nanjing University (China), University College Cork, University College Dublin (Ireland), the Foundation for Scientific Advancement, (Arizona, USA), the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Bristol University (UK) have published a scientific paper that describes four kinds of feather-like structures associated with the fossilised remains pterosaurs.  If these structures are feathers, then this suggests that either the Pterosauria evolved feathers as a form of convergent evolution, or, that feathers evolved many millions of years earlier than previously thought – in a common ancestor of the Dinosauria and the Pterosauria.

A Life Reconstruction of the Chinese Anurognathid Pterosaur

A life reconstruction of a "feathered" anurognathid pterosaur.

Daohugou pterosaur life reconstruction.  Fossil evidence indicates that pterosaurs may have had at least four types of feathers.

Picture Credit: Yuan Zhang

Two Anurognathid Pterosaur Specimens Studied

Writing in the academic journal “Nature Ecology and Evolution”, the scientists report how high-resolution microscopy revealed evidence of different kinds of pycnofibres on two pterosaur fossils  (representing anurognathids), from the Daohugou Formation in Inner Mongolia.  Although, when the rocks that make up the Daohugou Formation were deposited has been debated and the relative dating of these sediments in relation to other Chinese Jurassic/Early Cretaceous formations has proved controversial, it is suggested that the pterosaurs, one of which represents a new species, lived approximately 160 million years ago.

Four feather-like structures were identified:

  • simple filaments (hairs)
  • bundles of filaments
  • filaments with a tuft halfway down the shaft
  • down feathers

The Scientists Identified Four Types of Feather-like Structures in the Fossils

Different types of filaments associated with pterosaur fossils.

Close-up views of different types of feather-like filaments identified in pterosaur fossils.

Picture Credit: Yang, Jiang, McNamara et al

An Amazing Discovery

One of the paper’s authors, Dr Maria McNamara (University College Cork), stated that some critics have suggested that there is only one simple hair-like type of pycnofibre, but this study shows different structures that we also see in dinosaurs, in essence real feathers.  Furthermore, the team identified melanosomes that indicate that some flying reptiles may have been coloured a sort of reddish brown.

Dr McNamara explained:

“We focused on areas where the feathers did not overlap and where we could see their structure more clearly.  They even show fine details of pigment granules, which may have given the fluffy feathers a ginger colour.  This discovery has amazing implications for our understanding of the origin of feathers, but also for a major time of revolution of life on land.  When feathers arose, about 250 million years ago, life was recovering from the devastating end-Permian mass extinction.”

The Enigmatic Anurognathidae

Only a handful of anurognathid fossils are known and only a few species have been assigned to this pterosaur family.  Although, the first anurognathids were described from Upper Jurassic deposits of Bavaria (Solnhofen limestone), the best preserved and most complete specimens came from the Daohugou Beds of Inner Mongolia.  Since these types of small, short-faced flying reptiles are known from Europe, South Korea, China and potentially North America, they seem to have been geographically widespread.  Although very rare, the Daohugou Bed fossil specimens have some soft tissue and muscle outline preservation and have provided palaeontologists with a lot of information on pterosaur anatomy.

An Anurognathid Pterosaur from the Daohugou Beds – Jeholopterus ninchengensis 

Jeholopterus pterosaur fossil.

Pterosaur material from the Daohugou Beds.  This is a fossil specimen of the anurognathid pterosaur Jeholopterus ninchengensis.

Picture Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences/Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology

Re-writing the History of the Evolution of Feathers

Feathers are essentially highly modified scales; this new research could potentially re-write the evolutionary history of feathers.  One of the authors, Professor Mike Benton (Bristol University), explained:

“We ran some evolutionary analyses and they showed clearly that the pterosaur pycnofibres are feathers, just like those seen in modern birds and across various dinosaur groups.  Despite careful searching, we couldn’t find any anatomical evidence that the four pycnofibre types are in any way different from the feathers of birds and dinosaurs.  Therefore, because they are the same, they must share an evolutionary origin, and that was about 250 million years ago, long before the origin of birds.”

Birds have two types of advanced feathers used in flight and for body smoothing, the contour feathers with a hollow quill and barbs down both sides.  These types of feathers are found only in birds and the Theropod dinosaurs close to the evolutionary origins of the Aves (birds).  However, the other feather types of modern birds include monofilaments and down feathers, and these are seen much more widely across dinosaurs and pterosaurs.

The armoured dinosaurs and the giant Sauropods probably did not have feathers, but they were likely suppressed, meaning they were prevented from growing, at least in the adults, just as hair is suppressed in large-bodied animals today such as cetaceans, hippos and elephants.

High Resolution Microscopy Revealed Different Types of Feather-like Structures

High resolution microscopy identified different types of integumentary filamentous structures in pterosaur fossils.

Different types of integumentary filamentous structures identified in specimen number CAGS-Z070.

Picture Credit: Yang, Jiang, McNamara et al

Professor Benton added:

“This discovery has amazing implications for our understanding of the origin of feathers, but also for a major time of revolution of life on land.  When feathers arose, about 250 million years ago, life was recovering from the devasting end-Permian mass extinction.  Independent evidence shows that land vertebrates, including the ancestors of mammals and dinosaurs, had switched gait from sprawling to upright, had acquired different degrees of warm-bloodedness, and were generally living life at a faster pace.  The mammal ancestors by then had hair, so likely the pterosaurs, dinosaurs and relatives had also acquired feathers to help insulate them.  The hunt for feathers in fossils is heating up and finding their functions in such early forms is imperative.  It can rewrite our understanding of a major revolution in life on Earth during the Triassic, and also our understanding of the genomic regulation of feathers, scales, and hairs in the skin.”

Different Kinds of Pycnofibres – Different Functions?

Pterosaurs were the first back-boned animals to evolve powered flight.  However, following their extinction at the end of the Cretaceous, they left no living close relatives, nor indeed any near related analogues for scientists to study.  Whilst the presence of pycnofibres on the bodies of these flying reptiles is quite well accepted by the scientific community, their functions are not fully understood.  If different types of feather-like structures have been identified in two anurognathid pterosaur specimens, it is likely that other types of pterosaur had them too.

These different feather-like structures probably served a variety of functions, perhaps the first “pterosaur fuzz” evolved to provide insulation and then other types evolved perhaps to aid tactile sensing, visual communication and to assist with flight.

The scientific paper: “Pterosaur Integumentary Structures with Complex Feather-like Branching” by Z. Yang, B. Jiang, M. McNamara, S. Kearns, M. Pittman, T. Kaye, P. Orr, X. Xu and M. Benton and published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

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

14 12, 2018

A New Horned Dinosaur Species from Late Cretaceous Arizona

By | December 14th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Crittendenceratops krzyzanowskii – A New Horned Dinosaur from Arizona

Many scientists and observers have described the last two decades as the “Golden Age” of dinosaur discoveries.  Since the turn of the century, there have been some astonishing fossil finds and many new species of dinosaur have been discovered and described.  None more so than with the horned dinosaurs and their relatives (Marginocephalia).  Over the last few years, we have reported on numerous new types of Ceratopsian, many of these new horned dinosaurs having been discovered in strata laid down in the United States, for example, Medusaceratops, Aquilops, Kosmoceratops and Utahceratops.  Surprisingly, there had been no new horned dinosaurs named in 2018, that is no longer the case with a scientific paper published describing a new Centrosaurine dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of Arizona – Crittendenceratops krzyzanowskii.

A Life Reconstruction of the Newly Described Ceratopsian Crittendenceratops krzyzanowskii

Crittendenceratops krzyzanowskii illustrated.

A life reconstruction of the newly described Ceratopsian Crittendenceratops (2018).

Picture Credit: Sergey Krasovskiy

Only a Few Dinosaurs Named from Arizona

Writing in the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin, the researchers, Sebastian G. Dalman and Asher Lichtig, both Research Associates at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, in collaboration with John-Paul Hodnett from the Maryland-National Capital Parks Commission and Spencer G. Lucas (a curator at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science), describe Crittendenceratops and assign it the Centrosaurinae subfamily of horned dinosaurs and specifically to the Nasutoceratopsini tribe.

There have been so many new horned dinosaurs from North America named and described in the last twenty years or so, that this has led to a revision of Ceratopsian taxonomy.  For example, the Nasutoceratopsini was erected recently (2016).

To read an article that summarises this revision: Redefining the Horned Dinosaurs

Despite the wealth of dinosaur fossil material associated with the western United States, Crittendenceratops is one of only a handful of dinosaurs named from Arizona.

A Reconstruction of the Parietosquamosal Frill of C. krzyzanowskii

A reconstruction of the parietal frill of Crittendenceratops krzyzanowskii.

A line drawing showing a reconstruction of the parietosquamosal frill of Crittendenceratops krzyzanowskii.

Picture Credit: New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

From the Fort Crittenden Formation

This new herbivore has been described from fragmentary fossil material, including skull elements from the shale member of the Fort Crittenden Formation.  Two individual animals are represented by the fossils.  Crittendenceratops is estimated to have been around 3.5 metres in length and would have weighed about 750 kilograms.  It lived 73 million years ago (Campanian stage of the Cretaceous) and the rocks that yielded the bones were deposited along the margins of a large lake that was present in an area southeast of Tucson, Arizona.

The Nearly Complete Left Squamosal (Skull Bone) of Crittendenceratops

Near complete left squamosal bone of Crittendenceratops (NMMNH P-34906) dorsal view.

Left squamosal bone of Crittendenceratops (NMMNH P-34906) dorsal view.

Picture Credit: New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

Honouring Stan Krzyzanowski

The new species was named by Sebastian G. Dalman, John-Paul Hodnett, Asher Lichtig and Spencer G. Lucas.  The genus name reflects the rock formation where the fossils were found (Fort Crittenden Formation), whereas the trivial name honours the late Stan Krzyzanowski, a Research Associate from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, who discovered the first bones to be ascribed to this new dinosaur in the Adobe Canyon area eighteen years ago.  Crittendenceratops can be distinguished from other members of the Centrosaurinae subfamily by the unique shape of the bones in its frill.

The scientific paper: “A New Ceratopsid Dinosaur (Centrosaurinae Nasutoceratopsini) from the Fort Crittenden Formation Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) of Arizona” by Spencer G. Lucas, Sebastian Dalman, Asher Lichtig and John-Paul Michael Hodnett published in the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in the compilation of this article.

12 12, 2018

Mosasaur Attack 66 Million Years Ago

By | December 12th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Fossil Sea Urchin Preserves Evidence of an Attack from a Mosasaur

Sixty-six million years ago, in a shallow sea in what is now Denmark, a sea urchin lay partially submerged on the seabed, when a keen-eyed mosasaur spotted it and went in for the kill.  The marine reptile grabbed the sea urchin and bit it, but for some reason, the attack was aborted, the invertebrate was dropped and the little sea urchin survived the encounter with the apex predator.  How do we know all this?  A remarkable fossil has been discovered by amateur geologist Peter Bennicke at Stevns Klint, a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the few places in the world where rock layers mark the Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary providing evidence to support the extra-terrestrial impact event that contributed to the demise of the Dinosauria.

Fossil Provides Evidence of a Mosasaur Attack

Sea urchin fossils reveals evidence of an attack by a mosasaur.

Fossil evidence of predator/prey interaction – mosasaur attacks sea urchin.  The image above shows an illustration of a typical hypercarnivorous mosasaur and an example of the fossilised test of a sea urchin.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Preserving Evidence of Predator/Prey Interactions

The stretch of chalk cliffs at Stevns Klint on the Danish island of Zealand (Sjaelland), was granted World Heritage Site status by UNESCO in 2014.  The chalk deposits record the K/T boundary and the cliffs provide a record of the faunal turnover from the very end of the Cretaceous (Maastrichtian faunal stage), through to the earliest stage of the Palaeogene Period (Danian faunal stage).  Sea urchin fossils are relatively common at this location, but the specimen found by Mr Bennicke is very special as it records evidence of predator/prey interaction.

The curator at the nearby Geomuseum Faxe, Jesper Milàn stated:

“It’s really an exciting find this, not only is there an exciting story to tell about it, but it also provides important information about how the animals in the Cretaceous sea lived and who ate who.  It is such a find that helps put meat and blood on the otherwise dry fossils, when you can suddenly see such a small everyday drama caught in the stone.”

The Echinocorys Specimen Showing Evidence of a Mosasaur Attack

Echinocorys fossil showing teeth marks (mosasaur attack).

Echinocorys (sea urchin) fossil showing pathlogy (teeth marks from a mosasaur).

Picture Credit: Jesper Milàn

What Type of Mosasaur Attacked the Sea Urchin?

The round tooth marks are located near the top of the Echinocorys specimen, suggesting that the attack came from above and it is likely that the sea urchin was partially exposed out of the sediment on the sea floor when the attack occurred.  An examination of the morphology of the tooth marks and their spacing indicates that the attacker had slender teeth, that were circular in cross-section and that these teeth were spaced relatively far apart in the jaw.  Two types of hypercarnivorous mosasaurids are known from Denmark – Mosasaurus hoffmanni and Plioplatecarpus spp.  It could be speculated that one of these types of mosasaur was responsible for the attack.

A Mosasaurid Specimen is Used to Demonstrate the Sea Urchin Attack

Mosasaurid Attacks a Sea Urchin.

Demonstrating how the mosasaurid attacked the sea urchin.

Picture Credit: TV OST

Lucky Escape for the Sea Urchin

Although a mosasaurid grabbed the sea urchin, it apparently abandoned the attack.  Hypercarnivores such as M. hoffmanni and Plioplatecarpus probably preyed on a variety of vertebrates and invertebrates, but their teeth are not really suited to crushing the shell of an Echinocorys.  Recently, Jesper Milàn in collaboration with other scientists, reported the discovery of a single broken tooth of a mosasaur called Carinodens minalmamar.  The tooth crown was found in the uppermost Maastrichtian chalk strata at Stevns Klint,  indicating that this Mosasaur probably lived around 50,000 years before the deposition of the iridium rich K/Pg boundary material.  The shed tooth is reported to have come from the 11th or 13th position in the jaw.  The tooth represents the northernmost occurrence of the genus Carinodens found to date.  Carinodens minalmamar, was a very different type of predator compared to Mosasaurus hoffmanni and Plioplatecarpus, it was a specialist shell-eater (durophagus).  The short, thick and rounded teeth  of this type of mosasaur would have made quick work of the test of an Echinocorys.

Examples of the Teeth of Carinodens spp.

Teeth from the mosasaurid Carinodens.

Examples of the teeth of the durophagus mosasaurid Carinodens.

Picture Credit: Holwerda and Jagt

The sea urchin may count itself fortunate to have been attacked by a mosasaur more used to catching fish, sea birds and other marine reptiles.  If a mosasaur such as Carinodens had grabbed the Echinocorys, then it is likely that the sea urchin would not have survived.

An exhibit telling the story of the sea urchin and who tried to eat it will open at the Geomuseum Faxe in February 2019.

To read an article about Stevns Klint being granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status: Famous KT Boundary gets UNESCO World Heritage Site Status

9 12, 2018

“A Guide to Fossil Collecting on the West Dorset Coast”

By | December 9th, 2018|Book Reviews, Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils, Press Releases|0 Comments

“A Guide to Fossil Collecting on the West Dorset Coast” – Book Review

At a conference in a rather chilly Helsinki held seventeen years ago this week, delegates of the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), confirmed that World Heritage Site status would be conferred upon a 95-mile stretch of the coastline of southern England covering the east Devon and Dorset coast.

In the minutes of the conference, the reason for this award was recorded:

“The Dorset and East Devon Coast provides an almost continuous sequence of Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous rock formations spanning the Mesozoic Era, documenting approximately 185 million years of Earth history.  It also includes a range of internationally important fossil localities – vertebrate and invertebrate, marine and terrestrial – which have produced well-preserved and diverse evidence of life during Mesozoic times.”

However, this description does not convey the true majesty of this location, nor does it provide a sense of awe that this part of the British Isles inspires in so many people.  Neither does it do justice to the simple pleasure of finding a fossil, gazing at it and realising that you are the first living creature in 180 million years to set eyes upon the petrified remains of what was once another inhabitant of our planet.

Then a book is published, a book that provides a sense of the stunning natural landscape, a book that transports the reader back in time, a book that conveys the sense of excitement and achievement associated with fossil collecting – “A Guide to Fossil Collecting on the West Dorset Coast” – does all this and more.

The Front Cover of “A Guide To Fossil Collecting on the West Dorset Coast”

"A Guide to Fossil Collecting on the West Dorset Coast" published by Siri Scientific Press

A beautifully illustrated guide to fossil hunting on the West Dorset coast.  RRP of £18.95 – highly recommended.

Picture Credit: Siri Scientific Press

Conveying a Sense of Beauty, Conveying a Sense of Wonder

Authors Craig Chivers and Steve Snowball focus on one part of the “Jurassic Coast”, that beautiful coastline that runs east from Lyme Regis to the foreboding cliffs of Burton Bradstock.  First the scene is set.  There is a brief description of the geological setting and an outline of the contribution to science of arguably Dorset’s most famous former resident, Mary Anning, and then the reader is taken in Mary’s footsteps through a series of guided walks travelling eastwards along the coast and forwards in time to explore the geology and remarkable fossil heritage of this unique sequence of sedimentary strata.

The Book is Filled with Stunning Photographs of Fossil Discoveries

Prepared specimen of Becheiceras gallicum.

A Lower Jurassic ammonite (Becheiceras gallicum) from the Green Ammonite Member (Seatown, Dorset).

Picture Credit: Siri Scientific Press (fossil found and prepared by Lizzie Hingley)

A Reference for All Collectors and Fossil Enthusiasts

Drawing on their detailed knowledge of fossil collecting, Craig and Steve describe what to look for and where to find an array of fossil specimens along this part of the “Jurassic Coast”.  The landscape is vividly portrayed and the book provides a handy, rucksack-sized reference for fossil collectors, whether seasoned professionals or first time visitors to Dorset.  We commend the authors for including copious amounts of helpful information on responsible fossil collecting and for publishing in full the West Dorset Fossil Collecting Code.

Breath-taking Views of the Natural Beauty of the Coastline

Fossil hunting around Seatown.

Golden Cap – excursions around Seatown.  Majestic views of the “Jurassic Coast”.

Picture Credit: Siri Scientific Press

Recreating Ancient Environments

Talented palaeoartist Andreas Kurpisz provides readers with digital reconstructions of ancient environments and brings to life the fossil specimens, showing them as living creatures interacting with other prehistoric animals in a series of Jurassic landscapes and seascapes.  These reconstructions help to document the changing environments that are now preserved within the imposing cliffs of this remarkable part of the British coastline.

Crinoids (Sea Lilies) from the West Dorset Coast

Crinoids from the "Jurassic Coast".

The book contains stunning photographs of fossils from the “Jurassic Coast”.

Picture Credit: Siri Scientific Press

Spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur, Mike Walley commented:

“This guide manages to capture the beauty and the fascination of this part of the “Jurassic Coast”.  It is a “must have” for all fossil collectors and if ever the delegates at that UNESCO conference needed to reaffirm their decision to grant this stunning part of the British coastline World Heritage Site status, this book provides ample evidence to justify their original decision.”

For further information and to order this exquisite guide book: Order “A Guide to Fossil Collecting on the West Dorset Coast”

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