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

6 12, 2018

Stenopterygius Ichthyosaur Fossil Preserves Pliable Skin and Blubber

By | December 6th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Soft-tissue Evidence for Warm-blooded Ichthyosaurs

The fossilised remains of a beautifully-preserved Ichthyosaur fossil from the Lower Cretaceous of Germany has revealed that “fish lizards” had blubber just like many modern, mammalian marine animals.  In addition, the fossil is so well-preserved that some of the soft-tissue associated with the specimen have retained some of their original pliability.  The fossil is an example of Stenopterygius, (MH 432; Urweltmuseum Hauff, Holzmaden, Germany) and it demonstrates aspects of convergent evolution showing how Ichthyosaurs adapted to a marine environment in remarkably similar ways to what is seen in modern cetaceans.

Specimen Number MH 432 – The Partial Skeleton of a Stenopterygius Ichthyosaur with an Accompanying Line Drawing

Stenopterygius fossil with soft tissue preservation.

The fossilised remains of a Stenopterygius Ichthyosaur contains soft tissue preservation.  Fossil (top), with line drawing (bottom).  The fossil specimen is approximately 85 cm in length.

Picture Credit: Johan Lindgren

The marine reptile lived in what is southern Germany today, during the Jurassic Period approximately 180 million years ago.  At that time, the reptile, which was probably around two to three metres in length, swam in a vast, shallow ocean that was then covering large parts of present-day Europe.

Johan Lindgren, a senior lecturer in the Department of Geology (Lund University, Sweden), led the international collaboration that resulted in the most comprehensive and in-depth examination of a soft-tissue fossil ever undertaken.  Among other things, the study revealed that the soft parts had fossilised so rapidly that both the original cells and their internal contents were preserved.

The international research team identified blubber under the smooth skin that lacked scales.  Traces of internal organs were also analysed.

Dr Lindgren observed:

“You can clearly see both the body outline and remains of internal organs.  We can even distinguish the different cellular layers within the skin.”

Finding Evidence of Blubber Under the Skin

The researchers identified blubber underneath the skin.  To date, such specialised fat-laden tissue has only been found in modern marine mammals and adult individuals of the Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelyidae coriacea).  The discovery of blubber suggests that Ichthyosaurs had metabolic rates that were higher than those of typical extant reptiles.  It suggests a degree of homeothermy in the Ichthyosauria.  In essence, these reptiles were able to sustain an internal body temperature regardless of how cold the water was they were swimming in.

The results from this study could help to explain why the Ichthyosauria had such a large geographical range during the Mesozoic.  These creatures, that first evolved in the Triassic and died out some 80 million years ago, had an almost global distribution, even in cold waters.  Their layer of blubber would have helped them to dive very deep, perhaps diving to the deepest parts of the Epipelagic zone of the ocean or even into the Mesopelagic zone (diving down more than 220 metres).

Comparing Pressure and Heat Treated Porpoise Blubber to Ichthyosaur Fossil Blubber

Fossil blubber compared to heat and pressure treated porpoise blubber.

A comparison between artificially matured modern porpoise integument and fossil Ichthyosaur blubber.  A cross-section through porpoise skin and blubber before decay experiments (left).  In the centre, side (top) and internal (bottom) views of heat and pressure-treated porpoise integument (note severe reduction of the blubber layer).  Views, side (top) and internal (bottom) of fossilised ichthyosaur skin and blubber (right).

Picture Credit: Johan Lindgren and Martin Jarenmark

The team of international scientists also examined remains of the animal’s liver, which included part of the original biochemistry (eumelanin pigment and haemoglobin residues).

Dr Lindgren stated:

“It’s truly remarkable that the biomolecules we discovered so closely match the tissues that we could identify.”

In the study, the researchers also succeeded in showing that the fossil contains tissues that still retain some of their original pliability, even though 180 million years have passed since the animal died and sank to the bottom of the sea.  The team used chemicals to remove the mineral phase of the specimen, the inorganics that once turned the animal carcass into a petrified fossil.  Subsequent tests revealed that the soft tissues still retained a degree of elasticity.

Ichthyosaurs Had Counter Shading

A study of the melanophores and their distribution across the body indicates that Ichthyosaurs possessed countershading.  They were darker on top, but lighter underneath.  The upper part of the body was dark, this may have helped the animal to warm up rapidly at the surface after a deep dive.  The dark colouration would absorb more energy from the sun.  In addition, the dark upper part of the body would provide a degree of UV protection and the countershading would have provided effective camouflage.  Many, living large pelagic (actively swimming), animals exhibit countershading.

A Model of an Ichthyosaur Showing Countershading

Countershading in an Ichthyosaur.

An example of countershading in a member of the Ichthyosauria.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Identifying Pigment Cells (Melanophores) in Fossil Material

Close up pigment cells (melanophores) in the fossil.

180 million-year-old pigment cells (melanophores), (left), light micrograph of the branched melanophores.  Synchrotron-radiation X-ray tomographic microscopy (SRXTM) rendering of a melanophore with long dendritic processes (centre).  Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) image of a melanophore that contains melanosome organelles (right).

Picture Credit: Mats E. Eriksson, Federica Marone and Ola Gustafsson

Improving our Knowledge of Taphonomy

The research team conclude that this fossil has provided some remarkable insights into Ichthyosaur anatomy and biology.  The study also reveals how much more we have to learn about the process of fossilisation (taphonomy).  The beautifully-preserved Stenopterygius fossil demonstrates a number of adaptations that Ichthyosaurs share with other, living marine creatures such as the Leatherback turtle and toothed whales such as dolphins and porpoises.  Ever since the first outlines of preserved soft tissue were recognised in Ichthyosaurs, scientists have commented on their superficial resemblance to modern cetaceans.  Thanks to this new study, it seems that this resemblance goes a lot further than was previously thought.

A Close-up View of Fossilised Skin (Stenopterygius)

Evidence of soft tissue preseved in a Stenopterygius fossil.

Fossilised skin forming the trailing edge of the right pelvic fin on the specimen.

Picture Credit: Johan Lindgren

The scientific paper: “Soft-tissue Evidence for Homeothermy and Crypsis in a Jurassic Ichthyosaur” by Johan Lindgren, Peter Sjövall, Volker Thiel, Wenxia Zheng, Shosuke Ito, Kazumasa Wakamatsu, Rolf Hauff, Benjamin P. Kear, Anders Engdahl, Carl Alwmark, Mats E. Eriksson, Martin Jarenmark, Sven Sachs, Per E. Ahlberg, Federica Marone, Takeo Kuriyama, Ola Gustafsson, Per Malmberg, Aurélien Thomen, Irene Rodríguez-Meizoso, Per Uvdal, Makoto Ojika and Mary H. Schweitzer.  The paper is published in the journal Nature.

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

5 12, 2018

New Dinosaur Named from New South Wales

By | December 5th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Weewarrasaurus pobeni – Hints at Different Kinds of Dinosaur Communities

The fortuitous discovery of pieces from the lower jaw of a small, plant-eating dinosaur is helping scientists to discover more about the Cretaceous dinosaurs that once roamed Australia.  Writing in the academic journal “PeerJ”, the researchers provide evidence to support the idea that there were numerous small-bodied Ornithopods at high latitudes in south-eastern Australia, whilst further north, in what would have been slightly warmer environments, these types of dinosaurs co-existed with much bigger Ornithopods and Titanosaurs.

The dinosaur has been named Weewarrasaurus pobeni (pronounced wee-whah-rar-sore-us poe-ben-eye) and it is the first new dinosaur to be described from New South Wales for nearly 100 years.

A Life Reconstruction of the Newly Described Gondwanan Ornithopod Weewarrasaurus pobeni

Weewarrasaurus life reconstruction.

A life reconstruction of the small Ornithopod Weewarrasaurus.

Picture Credit: James Kuether

A Lucky Fossil Find

Adelaide-based opal buyer Mike Poben spotted the fossil pieces in a bucket of opal rubble from the Wee Warra opal field at Lightning Ridge (New South Wales, Australia).  The dinosaur was named in honour of the location and the trivial name recognises the contribution of Mr Poben who donated the specimens for research.

Numerous opalised dinosaur fossils are known from the Lightning Ridge area.  The material, including fragments of bones and isolated teeth come from the Griman Creek Formation.  Recent radiometric dating indicates that these deposits are around 100 to 96 million years old (Cenomanian stage of the Late Cretaceous), making these rocks some 10 million years younger than equivalent exposures containing dinosaur fossils found in northern Queensland.

The Fossil Jaw Fragments (Right Dentary) of Weewarrasaurus pobeni

W. pobeni fossil material (right dentary in medial view).

The right dentary of W. pobeni (medial view). The two pieces are part of the same lower jaw.

Picture Credit: PeerJ

Unfortunately, the underground mining process involves breaking up the rocks, so any specimens found tend to consist of isolated broken pieces, however the presence of a scalloped-shaped tooth in the object immediately caught the attention of Mr Poben, so he was able to quickly appreciate that this was part of a jawbone.  Lightning Ridge is the only place in the world where dinosaur bones and teeth routinely turn to opal.  Corresponding author of the scientific paper, Dr Philip Bell (University of New England), explained that researchers were now looking into acquiring more fossil material from opal mines.

Dr Bell stated:

“Unfortunately, the fossil remnants we see are almost always part of mining spoil… but on another hand, we would never get to see even those fragments if it wasn’t for mining.”

Opal Helps to Identify a Dinosaur

One of the benefits of the presence of opal in the fossil is that the distinctive banding pattern formed helped the scientists to identify that the two fossil pieces belonged to the same jawbone.

Views of the Jawbone Fossil (Weewarrasaurus pobeni)

Weewarrasaurus fossils.

Weewarrasaurus pobeni fossils (right dentary fragments in medial view).

Picture Credit: PeerJ/Dr Bell (University of New England)

The picture above shows three views of the fossils, (A), medial; (B), dorsal; and (C) lateral views.   The dashed black line shows the outline of the missing pieces that would have comprised a more substantial part of the dentary.  The dashed red lines indicate the distinctive banding pattern in the opal used to estimate the extent of the missing area.  Another jawbone fragment (LRF 766), representing a right dentary with teeth in situ from the nearby Three Mile opal field has also been assigned to this new dinosaur species.

Faunal Differences in Different Regions of Prehistoric Australia

The Griman Creek Formation fossils from Lightning Ridge indicate that there were numerous small Ornithopods living in this environment during the Cenomanian stage of the Late Cretaceous.  This research provides further evidence to support previous studies that favour a general abundance of small-bodied basal Ornithopods in high-latitude localities of south-eastern Australia.  These little dinosaurs, most of which were under two metres in length, inhabited a verdant flood plain, but this part of the Gondwana was at approximately 60 degrees south.  Today, Australia is much further north, the city of Sydney (New South Wales), is located at approximately 33.86 degrees south.  During the Cretaceous, the dinosaurs that inhabited the part of Australia we now call New South Wales, would have had to endure periods of darkness in the year when the sun dipped below the horizon, although the presence of ectothermic reptiles such as crocodyliforms and turtles indicate that average minimum temperatures may not have fallen below 5 degrees Celsius.  Even so, the climate may have been too extreme for Sauropods.  Cretaceous deposits in Queensland (Winton Formation), have revealed several Titanosaurs, but the colder temperatures experienced further south may have limited Sauropod distribution.

The researchers conclude that although future dinosaur fossil discoveries have the potential to alter these interpretations, it is suggested that the Griman Creek Formation at Lightning Ridge occupied a “meeting point” between more northern Sauropod-dominated faunas and the Ornithopod-dominated faunas that existed further south.

Computer Generated Images from Fossil Scans Helped to Identify Ornithopod Characteristics

Weewarrasaurus three-dimensional, computer generated images of the fossil material.

Three-dimensional renders of the posterior dentary fragment.

Picture Credit: PeerJ

To read a recent article about an opalised dinosaur toe bone found in South Australia: Lost Dinosaur Toe Bone Turns Up on the Internet

3 12, 2018

Lost Dinosaur Toe Bone Turns Up on the Internet

By | December 3rd, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Toe Bone Turns Up on the Internet

A rare dinosaur bone, one of only three dinosaur fossils known from the state of South Australia, is going on display at the South Australian Museum some forty-five years after it was lost to science.  The opalised bone, representing a single toe bone (phalanx), is believed to come from a type of Theropod dinosaur and although named Kakuru kujani, which was officially described from opalised remains representing lower leg bones back in 1980, very little is known about this Cretaceous dinosaur.

The toe bone was found in Andamooka in the far north of South Australia sometime in the early 1970’s.  It was spotted for sale in an opal shop in Hindley Street, Adelaide by Neville Pledge, the South Australian Museum’s then curator of fossils, in 1973.  Neville had the foresight to take several photographs, measurements and plaster casts of the toe bone.  However, shortly afterwards, the item was sold and it disappeared from the scientific community.

The Opalised Toe Bone on Display at the South Australian Museum

An opalised dinosaur toe bone on display (ventral view)

The five cm long opalised dinosaur toe bone from South Australia.

Picture Credit: Ashleigh Glynn

The Tale of a Toe Bone

In April 2018, the bone was spotted up for sale on the internet by Coober Pedy resident Joy Kloester, who purchased the bone and then offered it to the South Australian Museum.  The Museum’s Senior Collections Manager for Earth Sciences, Ben McHenry acted quickly to acquire the specimen for the vertebrate palaeontology department.

Mr McHenry commented:

“I couldn’t believe our luck in finding the same bone after forty-five years.”

Dinosaur bones from South Australia are extremely rare.  The only two other bones known to science found to date are also part of the vertebrate fossil collection of the South Australian Museum.  During the Early Cretaceous period (around 110 million years ago, Albian fauna stage), when dinosaurs roamed the land, most of South Australia was under water, being part of the ancient Eromanga Sea.  The sediments deposited on the floor of this ancient sea now form the rocks of the Great Artesian Basin and preserve the abundant remains of marine life that can be viewed in the Museum’s Opal Fossil gallery.  This special dinosaur toe bone will be on display in this gallery from today (December 3rd).  Neville Pledge is now an Honorary Researcher at the South Australia Museum, it seems his discovery from 45 years ago, has now joined him at this highly respected institution.

What Sort of Dinosaur was Kakuru kujani?

Kakuru kujani (pronounced: Kah-koo-roo koo-yan-eee), is believed to be about the size of a turkey.  Unfortunately, given the limited fossil material, it is not possible to identify its taxonomic position with the Theropoda.  K. kujani was described from fragmentary lower leg bones (tibia and possible fibula fragments), the toe bone may not belong to this genus at all, but given the lack of other candidates, the Museum has assigned the bone to Kakuru.  It has been postulated that this dinosaur was an oviraptorid, although some affinity to the Abelisauridae has also been proposed.  Its formal classification remains Theropoda incertae sedis, which means it has an uncertain placement within this Sub-order.

A Speculative Reconstruction of Kakuru kujani

A life reconstruction of Kakuru kujani.

A speculative reconstruction of the Theropod dinosaur Kakuru kujani from South Australia.  In this illustration, K. kujani is depicted as an oviraptorosaurian dinosaur.

Picture Credit: South Australian Museum

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

25 11, 2018

Newly Described Giant Dicynodont from the Late Triassic

By | November 25th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Lisowicia bojani Huge Dicynodont from the Late Triassic of Poland

The Late Triassic of southern Poland was home to a giant “mammal-like” reptile the size of an elephant and weighing some 9 tons.  Scientists from the Polish Academy of Sciences in collaboration with colleagues from Uppsala University (Sweden), have published details on the discovery of the fossilised remains of a huge therapsid, specifically a dicynodont, that has been named Lisowicia bojani.  This super-sized, distant ancestor of modern mammals is believed to have measured around 4. 5 metres in length and stood more than 2.6 metres tall.

A Life Reconstruction of the Newly Described Giant Dicynodont Lisowicia bojani

L. bojani illustrated.

A life reconstruction of the giant dicynodont Lisowicia bojani.

Picture Credit: Karolina Suchan-Okulska

More than 1,000 Bones Recovered from a Clay Pit

The first fossil remains were found by Polish geologists Robert Borzęcki and Piotr Menducki in 2005, when they were exploring a clay pit which represented a river deposit from the Upper Triassic.  The dig site is close to the village of Lisowice, numerous field teams have been despatched to the area and over the last few years, more than 1,000 bones and bone fragments have been collected, including the fossilised remains of a giant dicynodont.  At first the scientists thought they had discovered the fossils of a Sauropod, but soon it was realised that the large and robust bones represented a therapsid.

The genus name is in honour of the nearby village, whilst the trivial name honours the German comparative anatomist Ludwig Heinrich Bojanus.

Field Team Members Excavated Fossils from the Clay Pit (Silesia, southern Poland)

Field team members at work.

Field team members working in the clay pit looking for dicynodont fossils.

Picture Credit: Dr Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki (Uppsala University)

Defining Dicynodonts

Dicynodonts (die-sigh-no-donts), are a group of extinct, synapsids which evolved during the Permian period.  These quadrupeds were herbivorous and belong to the Order Therapsida, which includes modern mammals.  It had been thought that by the Late Triassic, these animals had died out, the discovery of L. bojani from strata estimated to be around 210-205 million years old indicates that they persisted into the Late Triassic in Europe.  The fossilised remains of Lisowicia are at least ten million years younger than any previously described dicynodont fossil material.

Commenting on the discovery, Dr Tomasz Sulej (Polish Academy of Sciences) and one of the researchers involved in this study, stated:

“The discovery of Lisowicia changes our ideas about the latest history of dicynodonts, mammal Triassic relatives. It also raises far more questions about what really make them and dinosaurs so large.”

The Massive and Very Robust Limb Bones of Lisowicia bojani

Excavating the giant limb bones of Lisowicia.

The huge fossil limb bones of Lisowicia.  The large bone above the compass is a humerus (upper arm bone), the bone by the feet is a scapula.

Picture Credit: Dr Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki (Uppsala University)

The discovery of Lisowicia provides the first evidence that mammal-like elephant sized dicynodonts were present at the same time as the more well-known long-necked Sauropodomorpha dinosaurs, contrary to previous belief.  Lisowicia fills a gap in the fossil record of dicynodonts and it shows that some anatomical features of limbs thought to characterize large mammals or dinosaurs evolved also in the non-mammalian synapsid.  Furthermore, these findings from Poland are the first substantial finds of dicynodonts from the Late Triassic in Europe.  Lisowicia is at least 40% bigger than any known dicynodont.

A Skeletal Drawing of Lisowicia bojani (Note Scale Bar)

A reconstruction of the skeleton of Lisowicia bojani.

Skeletal drawing of Lisowicia bojani.  Note the scale bar = 1 metre.

Picture Credit: Dr Tomasz Sulej (Polish Academy of Sciences)

Commenting on the significance of the fossil find, Dr Tomasz Sulej remarked:

“The discovery of such an important new species is a once in a lifetime discovery.”

22 11, 2018

How Did Some Dinosaur Get Their Long Necks?

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

Macrocollum itaquii – Oldest Long-necked Sauropodomorph is Described

A team of scientists based in Brazil have described the fossilised remains of three Triassic dinosaurs that lived some 225 million years ago that shed light on the evolution of long-necks in plant-eating dinosaurs.  The new species, a member of the Sauropodomorpha, has been named Macrocollum itaquii, the genus name comes from the Greek for “long neck”, an appropriate moniker for a prehistoric animal that is helping to unravel the developmental history of the long-necked dinosaurs bauplan.

Although Macrocollum is estimated to have measured about four metres in length and weighed approximately 100 kilograms, a lot smaller than later Sauropods, some of which were the largest terrestrial animals to have ever lived, it is considerably bigger than older dinosaur fossil specimens found in South America, some of the earliest dinosaurs known, that lived around ten million years earlier and represent some of the very first dinosaurs to evolve.

A Life Reconstruction of Macrocollum itaquii

Macrocollum life reconstruction.

A life reconstruction of the newly described Macrocollum itaquii from southern Brazil.

Picture Credit: SWNS

The Rise of the Sauropodomorpha

Despite a number of recent fossil discoveries, palaeontologists have a relatively poor understanding of the rise of the sauropodomorphs, a group that includes some of the most famous of all the dinosaurs, giants such as Diplodocus and Brachiosaurus.  The fossil material, representing three individuals, was collected from the upper portion of the  Candelária Sequence of the Paraná Basin, from a site in Agudo, Rio Grande do Sul (southern Brazil).  Nearby strata have been dated to the Norian faunal stage of the Late Triassic.  Writing in the academic journal “Biology Letters”, the researchers, which included biologist Rodrigo Müller from the Federal University of Santa Maria (Brazil), conclude that these three animals died together and therefore provide the oldest evidence of herding behaviour in sauropodomorphs described to date.

The proposal that the three individuals died together and as such, indicate gregarious behaviour, has been challenged by a number of academics.  It is possible that these three herbivores died at different times and the carcases just happened to be transported and ended up in association.

Commenting upon this, Rodrigo Müller explained:

“There are three articulated skeletons in five tons of rock.  This is unique.  It suggests these animals probably died together, as they share the same degree of disarticulation.  So, if they died together, these dinosaurs probably lived together.”

Long Necks and Long Thigh Bones

Two of the specimens include skull material, the holotype (CAPPA/UFSM (Centro de Apoio à Pesquisa Paleontológica da Quarta Colônia) 0001a), is virtually complete and articulated.  It is one of the best preserved Triassic dinosaur skeletons ever found.  With such exceptionally well-preserved specimens the scientists have been able to conduct an analysis looking at how the long-neck of these types of dinosaurs evolved and study the femur (thigh bone), length to give an indication in the change of body size since the first plant-eating dinosaurs evolved.  In addition, these fossils have shed light on how these animals adapted to a fully herbivorous diet.

Macrocollum Fossil Material Has Helped Shed Light on Important Evolutionary Developments within the Sauropodomorpha

Macrocollum itaquii phylogeny.

Mapping the phylogeny of Macrocollum itaquii.

Picture Credit: R T Müller et al in Biology Letters

The table above shows the phylogenetic position attributed to the newly described M. itaquii.  Based on this assessment it has been assigned to the Unaysauridae family, basal members of the Sauropoda, that are known from Triassic-aged rocks from the southern hemisphere (India and South America).  The discovery of Macrocollum has helped palaeontologists to gain a better understanding of the evolution of the long-neck of Sauropods.  The cervical vertebrae (neck bones) of M. itaquii are already much more elongated than seen in earlier representatives of the Sauropodomorpha known from around 233 million years ago.  The teeth are more spatulate in shape, indicating an adaptation to a plant-eating diet and over this 8 million year period (233-225 million years ago), femora measurements demonstrate that sauropodomorphs increased in size by 230%.

Views of Skull Material Associated with M. itaquii

View of skull material associated with Macrocollum itaquii.

(a) Skull in left lateral view (CAPPA/UFSM 0001a – holotype), (b) Skull in dorsal view (CAPPA/UFSM 0001a – holotype) and (c) part of a skull in ventral view (CAPPA/UFSM 0001b).

Picture Credit: R T Müller et al in Biology Letters

The typical long neck was also established,  becoming proportionally twice as long than those necks of basal taxa.  Indeed, the new dinosaur is the oldest-known sauropodomorph with such an elongated neck, suggesting that the ability to feed on high vegetation was a key trait achieved along the early Norian.

Skeletal Reconstruction and Significant Bones Including Elongated Cervical Vertebrae

Macrocollum itaquii - skeletal reconstruction.

Skeletal reconstruction of Macrocollum itaquii.  Known fossil material shaded white, scale bar = 5 cm.  The elongated neck bone is (d).

Picture Credit: R T Müller et al in Biology Letters

The species name honours Mr José Jerundino Machado Itaqui, one of the main drivers behind the creation of the Centro de Apoio à Pesquisa Paleontológica da Quarta Colônia and the Federal University of Santa Maria.

To read about the recent discovery of an Early Jurassic Sauropod from China (Yizhousaurus sunae), that is helping palaeontologists to learn more about how some types of dinosaur were able to evolve into giants: Helping to Give Sauropod Evolution a Head Start

To read about a giant Late Triassic sauropodomorph (Ingentia prima): Triassic Dinosaur Just Got a Lot Bigger

The scientific paper: “An Exceptionally Preserved Association of Complete Dinosaur Skeletons Reveals the Oldest Long-necked Sauropodomorphs” by Rodrigo Temp Müller, Max Cardoso Langer and Sérgio Dias-da-Silva published in Biology Letters.

18 11, 2018

Very Rare Dinosaur Fossil Find in Oregon

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

An Oregon Ornithopod

There may be many famous dinosaurs known from the United States of America, after all, when it comes to naming dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex, Stegosaurus and Triceratops tend to trip off the tongue, but America’s dinosaur fossil heritage is not uniform across the whole country.  Several parts of the U.S. have no record of dinosaur discoveries, and numerous others have a very fragmentary record when it comes to the preserved remains of Dinosauria.  Oregon, the ninth largest State in terms of area, has a very poor dinosaur fossil record, however, a newly described fossil discovery made in the eastern part of the “Beaver State”, has got palaeontologists quite excited about the prospect of more dinosaur fossil finds being made.

The Toe Bone from a Dinosaur (Ornithopoda)

Writing in the “Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology”, scientists from the University of Oregon in collaboration with the University of Calgary (Canada), have published a paper on the discovery of a single toe bone from a plant-eating dinosaur – an extremely rare find considering that this part of north-western North America was underwater throughout most of the Mesozoic Era.

Various Views of the Single Dinosaur Toe Bone (Pedal Phalanx)

Indeterminate pedal phalanx (Oregon dinosaur).

Views of the single dinosaur toe bone discovered in eastern Oregon.

Picture Credit: University of Oregon

The fossil bone was found by University of Oregon Earth Sciences Professor Greg Retallack during field work in 2015, near the town of Mitchell (Wheeler County, eastern Oregon).  The single bone was spotted amongst mollusc fossils exposed on a slope consisting of marine shale.  The fossil dates from the Albian fauna stage of the Cretaceous and is the first ever Oregon dinosaur fossil to be the subject of a paper in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.  Furthermore, it represents the first dinosaur fossil find from Oregon from strata not regarded as Upper Cretaceous.

Oregon might be bigger than the whole of the United Kingdom, but the Mesozoic-aged exposures represent marine sediments, that harbour very few remains of ancient terrestrial animals.

Greg Retallack stated:

“Oregon landscapes are rich with Cretaceous rocks, but they rarely contain the kinds of dinosaur remains we see elsewhere in the United States.  The rocks here are the right age but are mostly from under the sea where dinosaurs did not live or from swamps where dinosaur bones are seldom preserved.”

Not Able to Assign a Genus

Although, identified as a dinosaur bone (pedal phalanx), it is not possible to assign it to a specific species or genus, although the research team are confident that it came from a plant-eating Ornithopod dinosaur.

An Illustration of a Typical Ornithopod Dinosaur

Burianosaurus augustai illustrated.

An illustration of a typical member of the Ornithopoda – the basal Ornithopod from the Czech Republic – Burianosaurus augustai.

Picture Credit: Edyta Felcyn

Co-author of the paper, Edward Davis (University of Oregon), explained that the remains of a terrestrial animal ended up in the mollusc bed, after having been swept out to sea.

He explained:

“It’s a phenomenon we sometimes call “bloat and float”.  That is, the animal died on shore in its terrestrial habitat, then was washed out to sea, where it floated while bloated with decomposition gasses.  Eventually it burst, and only this toe bone was entombed and became a fossil.”

A Sizeable Plant-eating Dinosaur

Although very little taxonomic information can be gained from a single, isolated toe bone, a size comparison with much more complete and better known Cretaceous Ornithopods such as Tenontosaurus, suggests that this dinosaur may have been about six to seven metres long and weighed around a tonne.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Although such a fossil find in marine sediments is exceptionally rare, it just goes to show that dinosaurs fossils can be found and if there is one, then there may be more. Many of the Mesozoic-aged rocks in this part of Oregon represent near coastal marine deposits.  Given that dinosaurs would have roamed the land close to the sea for millions of years it is possible that more dinosaur remains might be found.”

To read an article published by Everything Dinosaur in 2015, which looks at which part of the United States are not associated with dinosaur fossils: Washington State the 37th U.S. State with a Dinosaur.

14 11, 2018

Fossil Bird from Late Cretaceous Utah – Deepens a Mystery

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

Mirarce eatoni – Deepens the Mystery Over Late Cretaceous Avian Extinctions

All living birds from Albatrosses to Zebra finches belong to one group of avians – the Neornithes.  Our feathered friends share a number of key anatomical traits that defines them as a group from the smallest such as the Bee Hummingbird to the largest living bird, the Ostrich.  However, back in the Cretaceous, things were very different.  There were several different taxa of birds including the very diverse and highly successful Enantiornithines that shared the skies with early members of the Neornithines, but only the ancestors of today’s extant birds survived the end-Cretaceous extinction event and that’s a puzzle for palaeontologists.

The puzzle has just become a little more complex with the publication of a scientific paper in the on-line, open access journal “PeerJ”.  This paper describes the fossilised remains of an Enantiornithine that lived around 75 million years ago, in Utah (USA).  This prehistoric bird, about the size of a Raven, has been named Mirarce eatoni and its fossils show that it was probably a match for most modern birds in terms of its aerial abilities.

Perched on the Horns of a Utahceratops (Mirarce eatoni)

Mirarce eatoni - life reconstruction.

An illustration of the Late Cretaceous enantiornithine Mirarce eatoni.

Picture Credit: Brian Engh

This leads to one very intriguing question, if Enantiornithines like Mirarce were so advanced, then why after the Cretaceous-Palaeogene mass extinction event did only one group of birds survive?

A Complete Anatomical Description

The fossil material consists of several neck bones (cervical vertebrae), back bones (dorsal vertebrae), the fused caudal vertebrae making up the pygostyle, elements from the limbs, parts of the hips, a partial scapula, coracoid, the furcula (wishbone) and several other fragmentary elements including the radius and ulna.  This represents a veritable treasure trove of North American Enantiornithine fossils for palaeontologists to study, most North American members of this taxon are known from very scrappy fossil remains, mostly consisting of isolated fused leg bones and toes.  All in all, about 30% of the total skeleton is known and crucially, unlike most of the more complete Enantiornithine specimens from the Lower Cretaceous deposits of China, this specimen, is preserved in three-dimensions, it has not been crushed as flat as a pancake.  The excellent state of preservation and the number of fossil bones has permitted the researchers to undertake a complete anatomical description.

A Skeletal Reconstruction of the Newly Described North American Enantiornithine Mirarce eatoni

Mirarce eatoni skeletal reconstruction.

A skeletal reconstruction of the Enantiornithine Mirarce eatoni from Late Cretaceous Utah.  The bones shaded white represent known fossil material.  Note, cranial material is not known.

Picture Credit: Scott Hartman

The “Kaiparowits Avisaurid”

The specimen was originally discovered back in 1992, by University of California, Berkeley palaeontologist Howard Hutchinson, whilst he was exploring Kaiparowits Formation deposits for evidence of turtles.  It was quickly identified as an Enantiornithine and ascribed to the Avisauridae family, a family of prehistoric birds known from South America, North America, parts of Europe, Siberia and the Middle East (Lebanon).  The partial skeleton (UCMP 139500), was nicknamed the “Kaiparowits avisaurid”.   Although, its significance was noted, after all, the fossils represent the most complete example of an Enantiornithine ever found in North America, it remained undescribed.  All that changed when PhD student Jessie Atterholt (University of California, Berkeley), was given the opportunity to provide a formal scientific description.

Research Suggests that Mirarce eatoni was a Strong Flier and Well-Adapted to Life in the Late Cretaceous

Mirarce eatoni - life reconstruction.

A close-up view of the newly described Late Cretaceous bird Mirarce eatoni (colouration and plumage speculative).

Picture Credit: Brian Engh

A Strong and Capable Flier

In collaboration with her colleague Howard Hutchinson and with the support of Jingmai O’Connor, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and an authority on Cretaceous fossil birds, a complete analysis of the fossil bones was undertaken.  This study revealed that M. eatoni possessed several of the same physical adaptations for highly refined powered flight that modern birds (Neornithines) have.

Fossils of Enantiornithines from the Lower Cretaceous of China, birds such as Confuciusornis sanctus show a mix of basal and more advanced anatomical traits.  For example, the breast bone (sternum), of C. sanctus, is relatively small.  Modern birds have a deeply keeled sternum, this allows the attachment of large muscles to aid powered flight.  The wishbone (furcula) of Confuciusornis and most other Early Cretaceous Enantiornithines, is little more than a curved bar.  However, the furcula of M. eatoni is shaped much more like the “V-shaped” wishbones of modern birds.  The furcula of Mirarce would have been able to flex and to store energy released during the flapping of the wings.

Commenting on the significance of these anatomical characteristics, Atterholt stated:

“We know that birds in the early Cretaceous, about 115 to 130 million years ago, were capable of flight but probably not as well adapted for it as modern birds.  What this new fossil shows is that Enantiornithines, though totally separate from modern birds, evolved some of the same adaptations for highly refined, advanced flight styles.”

The Furcula (Wishbone) of Mirarce eatoni

The furcula of Mirarce eatoni.

Two views of the wishbone (furcula) of Mirarce eatoni (A) dorsal and (B) ventral with line drawings.  Scale bar = 1 cm.

Picture Credit: PeerJ

Quill Knobs?

A close examination of the right ulna (lower arm bone), revealed evidence of two roughened patches preserved on the shaft of the bone.  These rough patches were interpreted as being attachment sites for quill knobs, that anchor the wing feathers to the skeleton and to help strengthen the wings for use in active, prolonged, powered flight.  Quill knobs are found in living birds.  This is the first time that such a feature has been seen in an Enantiornithine and indicates that Mirarce was, very probably, a strong flier.

Potential Quill Knobs Identified in an Enantiornithine (M. eatoni)

Quill knobs on an Enantiornithine.

Roughed structures on the ulna of Mirarce compared to the quill knobs found on the ulna of a Pelican.

Picture Credit: PeerJ

If these structures are quill knobs, then this suggests that this anatomical trait evolved in parallel with members of the Dinosauria (dromaeosaurids and other maniraptorans along with the ornithomimids) and in parallel with a number of types of prehistoric bird.

How Did Mirarce Get Its Name?

The genus name reflects that fantastic state of preservation of the fossil material (Latin “mirus” for wonderful) and after Arce, the winged messenger of the Titans in Greek mythology.  The trivial name honours Dr Jeffrey Eaton, in recognition of his work studying the vertebrates of the Kaiparowits Formation.  A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented that this prehistoric bird’s name was pronounced “mere-ark-ee ee-tow-eye”.

But Why Did These Advanced Enantiornithines Die Out?

If Late Cretaceous Enantiornithines were just as advanced as modern birds, then, why did they die out with the non-avian dinosaurs while the ancestors of modern birds survived the extinction event?

Atterholt, who has moved onto a position of Assistant Professor and human anatomy instructor at the Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona (California), added:

“This particular bird is about 75 million years old, about 10 million years before the die-off.  One of the really interesting and mysterious things about Enantiornithines is that we find them throughout the Cretaceous, for roughly 100 million years of existence and they were very successful.  We find their fossils on every continent, all over the world, and their fossils are very, very common, in a lot of areas more common than the group that led to modern birds.  Yet modern birds survived the extinction while Enantiornithines go extinct.”

Forest Dwellers Versus Seed Eaters

A number of ideas have been put forward to help explain why some types of birds survived the end-Cretaceous mass extinction event whilst others did not.  For example, one hypothesis proposes that Enantiornithines were forest dwellers and when the asteroid strike/volcanism resulted in a dramatic loss of woodland habitats, these types of birds suffered more than other birds that lived in different environments.

The absence of cranial material prevents the researchers from investigating what Mirarce might have eaten.  Most known members of the Enantiornithes had teeth in their beaks and Mirarce supports the idea that these types of birds gradually got larger over time, but what this bird ate remains a mystery.  If it had been a predator of small vertebrates and insects, any major disruption to the food chain could have led to extinction.  However, a paper published in 2016 proposed that birds with toothless beaks such as the early Neornithines could have survived the extinction event by eating seeds that persisted in the soil.

To read more about this paper: Seed Eating May Have Helped the Birds Survive

The scientific paper: “The Most Complete Enantiornithine from North America and a Phylogenetic Analysis of the Avisauridae” by Jessie Atterholt, J. Howard Hutchinson and Jingmai K. O’Connor published in PeerJ.

4 11, 2018

A New Species of Rebbachisaurid is Named

By | November 4th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|2 Comments

Lavocatisaurus agrioensis – A New Long-Necked Dinosaur from Argentina

A team of palaeontologists from Argentina and Spain have announced the discovery of a new species of long-necked dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of Argentina.  The dinosaur, represented by a set of bones that indicate the remains of at least three individuals, has been named Lavocatisaurus agrioensis and it will help to shed more light on a rare and enigmatic group of Sauropods known as the rebbachisaurids.

A Skeletal Reconstruction and Photographs of Key Fossils from L. agrioensis

Skeletal reconstruction and fossil bones attributed to Lavocatisaurus agrioensis.

Skeletal reconstruction based on the holotype and paratype specimens of Lavocatisaurus agrioensis.  Scale bars = 10 cm.

Picture Credit: AFP/Agencia CTYS

The picture above shows the skeletal drawing of the adult dinosaur with illustrations of key bones from the excavation.  Most of the neck and the skull has been recovered.  Cranial fossils associated with the Rebbachisauridae are rare, the discovery of these specimens from Agrio del Medio (Neuquén Province, Argentina) will help scientists to better understand taxonomic relationships amongst members of this Sauropod family, largely associated with Gondwanaland fossil deposits.

Fossils of a Family Group?

Writing in the journal “Acta Palaeontologica Polonica”, the scientists report the discovery of one large, presumably adult animal with two smaller sub-adults found in association.  The fossil material come from terrestrial sandstone deposits laid down around 110 million years ago (Aptian to Albian faunal stage of the Early Cretaceous), in an arid environment with isolated oasis and other water sources (Rayoso Formation).

One of the authors of the scientific paper, José Luis Carballido, of the Egidio Feruglio Museum (Argentina), stated:

“We found most of the cranial bones: the snout, the jaws, a lot of teeth, also the bones that define the eye sockets for example and in that way, we were able to create an almost complete reconstruction.  Not only is this the discovery of a new species in an area where you wouldn’t expect to find fossils, but the skull is almost complete.”

The fossils represent one large dinosaur estimated to be around twelve metres in length and two smaller animals around six to seven metres in length.  The research team postulate that this could represent a family group that lived together and perished together, perhaps unable to find a water source in a time of drought.

Preparing to Move Some of the Fossil Material (Lavocatisaurus)

Fossils of Lavocatisaurus are prepared for removal.

The jacketed remains of one of the Lavocatisaurus specimens is prepared for transport away from the dig site.

Picture Credit: AFP/Agencia CTYS

Lead author of the paper, José Ignacio Canudo (Zaragoza University, Spain) added:

“This discovery of an adult and two juveniles also signifies the first record of a group displacement among the Rebbachisaurus dinosaurs.”

The Rebbachisauridae Family

The Rebbachisauridae family of Sauropods are a group of basal members of the Diplodocimorpha clade that includes more famous Late Jurassic dinosaurs such as Diplodocus, Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus.  The rebbachisaurids are known from both Lower Cretaceous and Upper Cretaceous strata and had a wide geographical distribution throughout Gondwana and southern Laurasia with fossils reported from north and central Africa as well as South America and Europe (Spain).

An Illustration of a Typical Rebbachisaurid Dinosaur (R. garasbae)

Rebbachisaurus scale drawing.

Scale drawing of Rebbachisaurus (R. garasbae)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

3 11, 2018

Elaborate Plumage in Confuciusornis

By | November 3rd, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Patterns on the Feathers of Confuciusornis as Complex as Modern Birds

A team of international scientists, including researchers from the China University of Geosciences (Beijing), the University of Ghent (Belgium) and the University of Texas at Austin (United States), have discovered that the patterns on the feathers of an Early Cretaceous bird may have been very similar to and as complex as the patterns seen on the feathers of extant Aves.  Writing in the academic, on-line journal “PeerJ”, the researchers conclude that the patterning of Confuciusornis feathers probably performed similar functions to the patterning on modern bird’s feathery coats, that is, they provided camouflage and also played a role in display.

Confuciusornis Integumentary Covering – Elaborate Plumage

Study suggests Confuciusornis had elaborate plumage.

Reconstruction of the plumage of Confuciusornis (specimen number CUGB P140).

Picture Credit: Li et al (PeerJ)

Complex Patterning Detected by Sophisticated Chemical Analysis

The specimen studied consists of a slab and counter slab of a single, individual bird from Early Cretaceous deposits in Fengning County, Hebei Province (north-central China).  The fossils are from the vertebrate collection of the China University of Geosciences and represent an example of Confuciusornis sanctus.  The research team identified exceptional feather preservation but poor preservation of the bones, the unusual state of preservation permitted the scientists to identify melanin signals in the fossilised feathers indicating a complex patterning of spots on the wings, throat and on the tuft of feathers at the back of the head forming a small crest.  The shape of the structures that form these patterns in conjunction with chemical analysis confirmed the diagnosis of the pigment melanin.  However, specific colouration associated with the patterns could not be discerned.

The Slab and Counter Slab or a C. sanctus Specimen Reveals Complex Patterning on the Plumage

Evidence of Confuciusornis plumage.

Evidence of plumage diversity in the Confuciusornithidae from the new specimen (CUGB P1401).

Picture Credit: Li et al (PeerJ)

The photograph (above) shows various views of the main slab of the fossil specimen showing details of the plumage.  The dots in (A) indicate places that were subjected to sampling, whereas B and C reveal the crest located on the back of the head.  Parts D and E show elements of the integumentary covering in close detail.

Using a range of analytical techniques including scanning electron microscopy and ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) the researchers concluded that the elaborate spotting on this specimen exceeds that found in exceptionally-preserved troodontids and compsognathids and rivals that in modern birds, suggesting that plumage patterns evolved greater complexity through avian evolution.

The exact age of the strata is uncertain, although it is believed that the deposits from Fengning County are approximately equivalent in age with the Dawangzhangzi Member of the Yixian Formation, around 122-123 million years old (Aptian faunal stage of the Early Cretaceous).  The data from this study suggests that Confuciusornis had more complex patterning than the patterning identified in Achiornis or in the stripes of the compsognathid Sinosauropteryx.  The research team conclude that this specimen of a primitive bird provides evidence to support the idea that complex patterning of feathers evolved at a relatively early stage in avian evolution.

The Link to Barn Owls

Integumentary patterns and colours play a variety of roles in living birds.  Such patterning in fossil specimens probably performed the same sort of functions and in addition, they can help to inform on the habitat in which the extinct creature lived.  In some modern bird groups, barn owls for example (Strigiformes), it has been observed that the size and placement of the spots on the feathers play a role in mate selection.  Male barn owls tend to prefer females with larger spots.  The patterning identified on this C. sanctus specimen leads to the intriguing idea that for confuciusornithids, just like barn owls, the location and the size of the spots on the plumage played a role in choosing a mate.

The scientific paper: “Elaborate Plumage Patterning in a Cretaceous Bird” by Quango Li, Julia A. Clarke, Ke-Qin Gao, Jennifer A. Peteya and Matthew D. Shawkey published in PeerJ.

30 10, 2018

A New Azhdarchid Pterosaur from France

By | October 30th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Mistralazhdarcho maggii – From the Upper Cretaceous of France

A team of scientists based in France and Belgium have announced the discovery of a new species of pterosaur from Upper Cretaceous rocks in south-eastern France (Bouches-du-Rhône).  The fragmentary bones have been assigned to the Azhdarchidae family of pterosaurs, one of the last groups of flying reptiles to exist and a family that contains giants such as Quetzalcoatlus and Hatzegopteryx.  With a wingspan estimated to be around 4.5 metres, the specimen, believed to be a juvenile, provides evidence of a third azhdarchid pterosaur size class from the cluster of islands that represented continental Europe towards the end of the Mesozoic.

The pterosaur has been named Mistralazhdarcho maggii pronounced (miss-tral-ads-dar-cho may-gee).

A Life Reconstruction of the Newly Described French Azhdarchid Pterosaur – Mistralazhdarcho maggii

Life reconstruction of the pterosaur Mistralazhdarcho maggii.

An illustration of the newly described (2018) azhdarchid pterosaur from France Mistralazhdarcho maggii.

Picture Credit: Pierre Lavaud

One of the Most Complete Pterosaur Fossils Known from Late Cretaceous Europe

Writing in the academic publication the “Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology”, the researchers describe the finding of part of a lower jaw, a neck bone and several other postcranial bones in 2009.  The bones were found in association with each other and therefore, probably represent the fossilised remains of a single pterosaur.  The material comes from the excavation site of Velaux, near Aix-en-Provence and from strata that dates to the Campanian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous.

Views of the Fossil Material Ascribed to the New Pterosaur Mistralazhdarcho maggii

Mistralazhdarcho maggii fossil material.

Fossil material associated with the newly described French pterosaur Mistralazhdarcho maggii.

Picture Credit: Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

The photograph (above), shows a part mandible (a) with a distinctive ridge (mandibular symphysis).  A cervical vertebra (b), left humerus (c), left radius (d) and two bones from the hand – metacarpal IV (e) and a finger bone (f).

Although the fossil material is fragmentary, such is the poor fossil record of Late Cretaceous pterosaurs from Europe that these few bones make Mistralazhdarcho one of the most complete European azhdarchids described to date.  In addition, Mistralazhdarcho is the first partial skeleton of a flying reptile excavated from Upper Cretaceous deposits of western Europe.

Related to a North African Pterosaur?

The scientists, which included researchers from the University of Rennes, the Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences and Poitiers University, conclude that Mistralazhdarcho was related to an earlier pterosaur called Alanqa (A. saharica), which lived in North Africa around 95 million years ago.  When Alanqa was first described, back in 2010, it was assigned to the Azhdarchidae, but more recent studies incorporating skull material discovered in 2015, have cast doubt on the taxonomic position of Alanqa.

To read about the discovery of Alanqa saharicaDublin Team Announce the Discovery of a New Pterosaur

An Adult Probably Had a Wingspan of Around 5-6 metres

Examination of the fossil bones suggest that they were not fully ossified and that this was a sub-adult.  The researchers speculate that a fully-grown Mistralazhdarcho would have had a wingspan of around 5 to 6 metres, possibly even bigger.  This size estimate is in between the size estimates given for the two azhdarchids from the Maastrichtian of Romania (Hateg Formation), which also represents the European Late Cretaceous archipelago environment.

A Size Comparison of European Azhdarchid Pterosaurs

European azhdarchid pterosaur comparison.

A comparison of European azhdarchid pterosaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Mistralazhdarcho is estimated to be intermediate in size between the medium-sized genus Eurazhdarcho (wingspan of 3 metres) and the enormous Hatzegopteryx (estimated wingspan of 10 metres or more), the two other azhdarchids associated with the island ecosystem of the latest Cretaceous European archipelago.  The different sized pterosaurs might reflect a form of niche partitioning, whereby, different sized animals did not directly compete with each other for resources.

The flying reptile’s genus name is from the “mistral”, a strong, north-westerly wind associated with southern France.  The species name honours the former mayor of Velaux, Jean-Pierre Maggi, without whom, the excavation of the fossil material would not have been possible.

Field Team Members Working at the Velaux Excavation Site

Looking for pterosaur fossils (south-eastern France).

Fossil excavation work at one of the dig sites at Velaux (south-eastern France).

Picture Credit: Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

The scientific paper: “Mistralazhdarcho maggii, gen. et sp. nov., a New Azhdarchid Pterosaur from the Upper Cretaceous of south-eastern France” by Romain Vullo, Géraldine Garcia, Pascal Godefroit, Aude Cincotta and Xavier Valentin published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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