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30 12, 2021

Favourite Blog Articles of 2021 (Part 1)

By | December 30th, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils, Press Releases|0 Comments

As 2021 draws to a close, it is time to reflect on some of the blog articles that we have produced over the last twelve months or so.  It has certainly been an incredible year for palaeontology with lots of new fossil discoveries although the impact of the global pandemic has continued to cause havoc when it comes to planning field expeditions. Many museums have been closed and research projects suspended or postponed. We have in our own small way tried to create a sense of normality by continuing to produce daily blog posts. Let us take a look at our favourite posts between January and June 2021 in the first of a two-part series.

In January 2021 we reported upon a study of early sauropodomorph brains, the role of plant-eating dinosaurs in seed dispersal, oviraptorid incubation, the world’s oldest cave art on the island of Sulawesi and how Ediacaran fossils were helping scientists to piece together the evolution of the first animals. Our favourite January post concerned the discovery of a three-toed dinosaur footprint discovered near the town of Barry in South Wales. Fossilised footprints are known from Mercia Mudstone Group exposures in the Vale of the Glamorgan, but not many dinosaur tracks are discovered by four-year-olds.

Grallator fossil track (South Wales).
Grallator track spotted by a 4-year-old girl at Bendrick Rock (South Wales). Picture credit: National Museum Wales.

Here is the blog post: Four-Year-Old Finds Dinosaur Footprint.

Mammoths and “Thunderbirds”

February saw team members admiring prehistoric animal drawings sent into us by customers, articles on why horned dinosaurs evolved elaborate frills, our work on information panels for a major exhibition, the breeding habits of Neanderthals and the confirmation of concentrated levels of iridium found at the Chicxulub impact site. Our favourite article was published on the 17th of February, scientists had recovered DNA from mammoth remains that were up to 1.2 million years old. This new data provided a fresh perspective on the evolution of prehistoric elephants.

Our mammoth DNA blog: Million-year-old DNA Sheds Light on Mammoth Evolution.

In March, team members blogged about the mystery surrounding why there were so few medium-sized theropod dinosaurs, provided confirmation of troodontid dinosaurs in Europe, the earliest titanosaur on record, discussed a scientific paper that proposed that cephalopods evolved 30 million years earlier than previously thought and examined the extinction threat to extant amphibians.

Our favourite post was put up on the last day of the month. It focused on a newly published paper that proposed that the giant flightless “Thunderbirds” of Australia were related to gamefowl: Studying the Brains of Australia’s “Thunderbirds”.

Dromornis stirtoni life reconstruction.
A life reconstruction of the giant Australian “Thunderbird” Dromornis stirtoni of the Late Miocene. Picture credit: Peter Trusler.

Yamatosaurus and Moroccan Marine Reptiles

In April we blogged about the origins of the Amazon Rainforest, a new abelisaurid from Argentina, the legs of trilobites, ancient mammals from southern Gondwana and a new species of pterosaur from China. Our favourite post took us to Japan as we wrote about Yamatosaurus izanagii, the second hadrosaur to be named from fossils found in the “land of the rising sun”.

Japan’s second duck-billed dinosaur: Japan’s Second Hadrosaur.

The early summer sunshine of May prompted us to write about crocodile conservation at Miami Zoo, billion-year-old microfossils from Scotland, Mongolian dromaeosaurids and dinosaur bones from the dry and parched Australian Outback. However, it was an article that described a new species of giant mosasaur from the Ouled Abdoun Basin of Morocco that ticked all the boxes for us: Giant Moroccan Mosasaur – Pluridens serpentis.

Jurassic June

“Jurassic June” involved discussions on the PNSO Allosaurus and Torvosaurus models, the necks of Early Jurassic plesiosaurs and exploring the “Jurassic Coast” of Dorset. We also wrote about stegosaurs from the Arctic Circle, the official scientific description of the Australian dinosaur nicknamed “Cooper” (Australotitan cooperensis) and looked at a paper that reinterpreted the famous Burgess Shale of British Columbia.

Australotitan cooperensis life reconstruction
A life reconstruction of the newly named Australotitan cooperensis, the largest known animal to have ever lived in Australia. Picture credit: Queensland Museum

Our favourite post concerned the discovery of a remarkable series of pterosaur tracks in China. The extensive trackway consists of over 100 individual prints and it was given the moniker the “pterosaur dance floor”.

To read about “dancing” pterosaurs: A Pterosaur Dance Floor from China.

Pteraichnus pterosaur tracksite
A photograph of the tracksite with an interpretative line drawing. The tracks have been assigned to the new pterosaur ichnospecies Pteraichnus wuerhoensis. Picture credit Wei Gao.

This concludes our look at blog posts produced in the first half of 2021. We shall post up part two of this short series looking at our favourite blogs from July to December 2021, in the very near future.

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29 12, 2021

Penarth Prints are Dinosaur Tracks

By | December 29th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A team of researchers writing in the journal “Geological Magazine”, have confirmed that the strange impressions exposed on the beach at Penarth (south Wales), are indeed dinosaur tracks. The site had been examined back in 2009, further evidence of tracks was revealed in 2020 after more of the bedding plane was laid bare by tidal erosion. The site some 800 metres south of Penarth pier, probably represents tracks made by different types of dinosaurs but they are too badly eroded for a more precise diagnosis other than to tentatively assign the largest, rounded tracks to the ichnogenus Eosauropus.

Dinosaur trackway from south Wales.
A part of the brushed and cleaned up trackway (left) with (right) a close-up view of a single print. Picture credit: NHM/Peter Falkingham

Carefully Mapped and Recorded

The tracks, some of which are more than 50 cm in diameter, are associated with the Upper Triassic Blue Anchor Formation. Although it is difficult to identify individual trackways, the high density of impressions suggests that the area was a trample ground that might have been visited by many individuals. Although the number of taxa making these impressions cannot be reliably inferred because of their poor preservation, based on their large size, round shape and digit impressions, the research team consider it likely that they were made by large sauropodomorph dinosaurs. As such, Late Triassic sauropodomorph tracks are exceptionally rare and the research team, which consisted of scientists from Liverpool John Moores University, the London Natural History Museum, Cardiff University, the University of Lyon and National Museum of Wales, conclude that these tracks provide additional information regarding the Late Triassic biota of the UK.

Penarth dinosaur tracks
Detail images of individual tracks. Individual D-shaped impression recorded in 2020, presented as photo-textured and height-mapped digital models (a). Two to three overlapping impressions recorded in 2020, with a displacement rim spanning the centre of the deepest areas, presented as photo-textured and height-mapped digital models (b). Individual tracks recorded during 2009 (c,d), but showing clearer morphology in the displacement rims that are interpreted as digit impressions (marked with *) (c). White scale bar = 10 cm. Picture credit: Falkingham et al.

Likely to be Eroded Away in Just a Few Years

The team highlight the rapidly eroding site, more than one metre of the exposed surface has been lost since the first examination made in 2009 and the detailed mapping carried out in 2020. The loss of the bedding surface highlights the transient and vulnerable nature of these fossils. The site has been extensively photographed and mapped digitally ensuring that a computer record of these trace fossils can be stored in perpetuity.

Dinosaur tracks Penarth Tracks
Possible trackways observed on the northern surface, photo-textured models and interpretive outlines; dashed lines indicate extent of displacement rims. Picture credit: Peter Falkingham et al.

Team members from Everything Dinosaur visited the area in 2019 and had planned to return the following year to help record the tracks, unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions prevented this. Still, this new study published this week confirms the presence of sauropodomorph tracks along the coastline and provides additional information on the Late Triassic biota of the British Isles.

The scientific paper: “Late Triassic dinosaur tracks from Penarth, south Wales” by Peter L. Falkingham, Susannah C. R. Maidment, Jens N. Lallensack, Jeremy E. Martin, Guillaume Suan, Lesley Cherns, Cindy Howells and Paul M. Barrett published in the journal Geological Magazine.

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28 12, 2021

Rebor Saurophaganax Notorious Big

By | December 28th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Those talented model makers at Rebor are to add a replica of the Late Jurassic theropod Saurophaganax to their range. This 1:35 scale dinosaur figure, which comes in three different colour versions should be in stock at Everything Dinosaur around March 2022.

These replicas of Saurophaganax maximus will be available in “Badlands”, “Jungle” and “Volcanic Cavern” colour schemes and each dinosaur model will have an articulated lower jaw and moveable arms.

Rebor Saurophaganax dinosaur model "Badlands"
REBOR 1:35 Saurophaganax maximus Museum Class Replica “Notorious Big” in the “Badlands” colour scheme.

Saurophaganax maximus

Saurophaganax is regarded by many palaeontologists as the largest carnivorous dinosaur known from the Morrison Formation of the western United States. Size estimates vary, but it has been suggested that this huge predator could have reached a length of around 13-14 metres and weighed in excess of 3 tonnes. The original fossil material used to describe this genus was found in 1931 in Cimarron County (Oklahoma). The genus Saurophagus was erected in 1941, but it was later discovered that this scientific name was already occupied. The debate continues as to whether this dinosaur is a valid genus or examples of exceptionally large Allosaurus.

Rebor Saurophaganax maximus dinosaur model (jungle colour variant).
The Rebor Saurophaganax maximus Museum Class replica in the “Jungle” colour scheme. All three colour variants will be available from Everything Dinosaur.

The fossil material from the 1930’s was re-examined by palaeontologist Daniel Chure and in 1995 the genus Saurophaganax was established, although it is still regarded as “nomen dubium” by some scientists. Hopefully, fossil material recently found in New Mexico will confirm the taxonomic status of S. maximus. The genus name translates as “greatest lizard-eater” whilst the trivial or specific epithet reflects the huge size of this theropod.

Rebor Saurophaganax Model Measurements

All three of these stunning, new for 2022 dinosaur models are 41.5 cm long. The head height is around 13 cm. The declared scale for these figures is 1/35th so they will fit well with other Rebor theropod replicas. Based on size estimates of between 10.5 metres and 14 metres long, team members assess the approximate scale of this figure to be between 1:25 and 1:34. Given the variation in dinosaur size proposed by palaeontologists and the difficulties of assigning a maximum size to dinosaurs, team members consider the stated scale on the packaging to be reasonable when all factors are considered.

Rebor Saurophaganax volcanic cavern colour scheme
The impressive Rebor Saurophaganax maximus dinosaur model in the “Volcanic Cavern” colour scheme.

Confirming that the intention was to have these figures despatched from the factory before the start of the Chinese New Year holidays, a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented that they were looking forward to receiving all three colour variants and that they should be in stock sometime around March 2022.

To view the current range of Rebor dinosaurs and prehistoric animals available from Everything Dinosaur: Rebor Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models.

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27 12, 2021

Rebor Smilodon populator Stray Cat (Ice Age)

By | December 27th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Product Reviews|0 Comments

Team members at Everything Dinosaur have taken some photographs of the impressive Rebor Smilodon populator Stray Cat model in the Ice Age colour scheme. The figure is a colour variant on the Rebor Smilodon “plain” replica. The colouration would provide excellent camouflage for a predator in a snowy landscape, although there is very little fossil evidence to indicate whether Smilodon populator inhabited mountainous areas where snow might have fallen on a regular basis.

Rebor Smilodon Stray Cat (Ice Age colour scheme)
The Rebor Smilodon populator Stray Cat model in the Ice Age colour scheme. The model is shown in an oblique, lateral view and the figure has the mouth-closed head attachment.

Two Heads are Better than One

The Rebor Smilodon figures are supplied with two heads. One head depicts the mouth open, the other shows the mouth closed. The heads can be securely fixed into the body by a large peg on the back of the head. This peg fits into a socket in the neck and it cannot be seen (as demonstrated in the pictures on this post). The heads are interchangeable so collectors can display their figure with its mouth open or closed. How they choose to display the model is entirely a matter of personal choice. The use of interchangeable heads prevents the need for an articulated lower jaw, the large and obvious joint would have spoiled the look of this most impressive prehistoric cat model.

Rebor Smilodon populator Stray Cat Ice Age
The Rebor Smilodon populator 1:11 scale model. The figure is shown in lateral view with the open-mouth head attachment. The model measures approximately 26.5 cm long and stands around 13.5 cm tall.

Rebor Smilodon populator Model Measurements

Both the Rebor Smilodon populator Stray Cat models (plain and Ice Age colour variants) measure approximately 26.5 cm in length. The figures stand around 13.5 cm tall and the declared scale is 1:11. Since these figures arrived at Everything Dinosaur, they have received excellent reviews from model fans and collectors. The detail on these figures is extremely impressive, Rebor are to be congratulated for producing such beautiful Smilodon models.

Rebor Smilodon model in the Ice Age colour scheme.
A close-up of the head of the Rebor Smilodon populator figure (mouth open head attachment). The exquisite detailing of the teeth and the inside of the mouth can be clearly seen. The model has a declared scale of 1:11.

To view the Rebor Smilodon populator Stray Cat model and the other figures in the Rebor range: Rebor Prehistoric Animal Models and Figures.

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26 12, 2021

The New for 2022 CollectA Triceratops Video Review

By | December 26th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Everything Dinosaur videos, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Product Reviews|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur has published regular updates on the company’s YouTube channel keeping dinosaur fans and model collectors informed about the new for 2022 CollectA prehistoric animal models. Our blog post today features the fourth and final video in this sort series. We provide a video review of the new, 1:40 scale CollectA Triceratops horridus model.

Everything Dinosaur looks at some of the science behind the new for 2022 CollectA Deluxe Triceratops horridus dinosaur model.

The CollectA Deluxe 1:40 Scale Triceratops horridus

Triceratops might be one of the most recognisable of all the dinosaurs, but scientists have learned a great deal about “three-horned face” over the last decade or so and the new for 2022 CollectA Triceratops (T. horridus) dinosaur model reflects some of the latest scientific thinking.

CollectA Deluxe Triceratops horridus
The new for 2022 CollectA Deluxe Triceratops dinosaur model.

The Shape of the Skull and Neck Frill

The CollectA model has been based on “Horridus”, an almost complete Triceratops horridus specimen excavated from Hell Creek Formation deposits exposed in Montana. This superbly preserved Triceratops skeleton has the most complete skull and neck frill of any Triceratops specimen described to date. It is more than 99% complete. The design team at CollectA have been able to use this skeleton to accurately depict the head and the neck frill on their dinosaur model.

A close-up view of the head of the new for 2022 Collect Deluxe Triceratops.
A close-up view of the head of the new for 2022 CollectA Deluxe Triceratops model.

Almost a Complete Tail

In total, around 87% of the entire skeleton of a single, individual animal has been recovered, including much of the tail apart from a few posterior caudal vertebrae. This has permitted palaeontologists to reconstruct the tail of this horned dinosaur. Its length, depth and relative proportions in relation to the rest of the body are reproduced in the new CollectA Triceratops figure.

Scale drawing T. horridus
Triceratops horridus scale drawing. The design team at CollectA have been able to use the Melbourne Museum specimen “Horridus” to accurately recreate the tail of a Triceratops. Picture credit: Museums Victoria.

Triceratops Video Contents

In this brief video, it lasts around ten minutes and thirty seconds, the narrator looks at the science behind this new dinosaur model, provides information on when it will be in stock and highlights the model’s measurements.

To subscribe to Everything Dinosaur on YouTube: Subscribe to Everything Dinosaur on YouTube.

The Video Contents

0:00 – A New Triceratops!
0:25 – Triceratops horridus.
1:25 – Subscribe!
1:34 – The Science Behind the Model!
2:57 – Melbourne Museum Specimen.
4:11 – Triceratops Tail Length!
4:40 – Skull and Neck Frill.
5:02 – Pattern of Scales!
6:22 – Model Measurements.
7:15 – In Stock 2022?
8:04 – Question of the Day!
8:58 – Links to Previous CollectA Videos.
9:21 – Everything Dinosaur Social Media.
9:32 – CollectA Product Range!
9:52 – Our Blog Post.

The question posed in the video is:

What Other Horned Dinosaur would you like CollectA to add to their Deluxe Model Series?”

To view the range of CollectA Deluxe prehistoric animal models in stock at Everything Dinosaur: CollectA Deluxe Prehistoric Life Models.

To see the range of CollectA Prehistoric Life models: CollectA Prehistoric Life.

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25 12, 2021

Merry Christmas from Everything Dinosaur

By | December 25th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Merry Christmas from Everything Dinosaur.

Just time to say on behalf of everyone at Everything Dinosaur, a very Merry Christmas to all our customers, readers and social media followers.  It has been a remarkably busy quarter four in the company, we have had the very great privilege of being able to supply a huge range of prehistoric animal themed gifts to our customers all over the world. We have worked with some super and very enthusiastic people too.  We hope that everyone has a very happy Christmas and we look forward to introducing even more prehistoric animal models and figures in 2022.

Time to show a picture of one of our festive Christmas decorations which is highly appropriate given the nature of our business.

A seasonal decoration with a dinosaur theme - a festive T. rex.
A seasonal decoration with a dinosaur theme. It’s a “Santaroarus”.

We wish all our blog readers, customers, fans and followers on social media a very happy Christmas.

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24 12, 2021

Red Spheres in Dinosaur Bone not Ancient Blood

By | December 24th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Scientists from Virginia Tech and Des Moines University in the USA have challenged the idea that spheres identified under high magnification in thin sections of fossilised dinosaur bone are preserved fragments of dinosaur blood. The reddish coloured circular structures might not be remnants of blood cells, but instead they could be sediments that have been altered physically, chemically or via biological action to provide misleading data.

That is the conclusion made by the authors of a scientific paper published recently in the peer-reviewed, open-access journal PeerJ.

Has dinosaur blood been found?
Photograph of sampled specimen (Beipiaosaurus inexpectus, IVPP V11559) (A) and transmitted light micrographs of representative thin sections (B–D). In the section images black arrows indicate spheres (putatively identified as red blood cells), white arrows indicate osteocyte lacunae and grey arrows indicate non-spherical vessel fills. The researchers suggest the spheres are not evidence of dinosaur blood. Picture credit: Korneisel et al.

Analysing the Holotype of Beipiaosaurus inexpectus

The researchers, who included Sterling J. Nesbitt (Department of Geosciences at Virginia Tech), analysed thin sections of bone from the holotype of the Chinese therizinosaur Beipiaosaurus inexpectus from the Jehol Lagerstätte. The fossil specimen (IVPP V11559) consists of both cranial and postcranial elements and it was found in sediments representing the Yixian Formation. This specimen was the subject of a paper earlier this year, remarkably when B. inexpectus was scientifically described only the skull elements were examined in detail. In October (2021), Everything Dinosaur published a blog post on the study of the postcranial material which provided more anatomical traits to help define this genus and clarify the evolution of the Therizinosauridae.

Our post can be found here: Beipiaosaurus Revisited.

In this study, the researchers employed a variety of sophisticated techniques including Ramon spectroscopy, X-ray spectrometry and Time of flight – secondary ion mass spectrometry to analyse thin sections of fossil bone from the Beipiaosaurus and compare them to similarly prepared thin sections of fossilised wood.

The team found that the bone had been dramatically altered by the fossilisation process (taphonomy). Vascular canals in the bone, once thought to contain preserved red blood cells, were filled with a mix of clay minerals and carbonaceous compounds. The spheres that were identified could not be analysed in isolation, but the researchers did not find any evidence of pyrite or haemoglobin fragments associated with a concentration of iron.

However, similar spheres were identified in the thin sections of fossilised wood which were found close to the Beipiaosaurus fossils and as such, had presumably been subjected to the same taphonomic processes.

Small spherical structures spotted in petrified wood
Transmitted light micrographs of fossil wood found near to the dinosaur fossil material seem to show similar, microscopic spherical structures. The blue arrows highlight small and large examples. At higher magnification (B) these spheres appear to consist of small crystals. Picture credit: Korneisel at al.

The researchers concluded that the reddish coloured spheres were not evidence of dinosaur blood, but more likely structures formed by diagenesis. Diagenesis is the process whereby sediments in sedimentary rocks are altered by the interaction of water, microbial activity or by physical and chemical processes.

This research suggests that further study of alleged red blood cells associated with fossil bone is required in order to confirm the assertions made in previous papers.

The scientific paper: “Putative fossil blood cells reinterpreted as diagenetic structures” by Dana E. Korneisel, Sterling J. Nesbitt, Sarah Werning and Shuhai Xiao published in PeerJ.

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23 12, 2021

Largest-ever Millipede Fossil Found

By | December 23rd, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A recently described, fossilised partial exoskeleton of a giant millipede proves that some of these invertebrates matched the giant sea scorpions (eurypterids) in size. The fossil, discovered by chance at Howick Bay in Northumberland some 40 miles north of the city of Newcastle, back in January 2018, indicates that some terrestrial arthropods could have reached a length in excess of 2.6 metres.

The fossil has been identified as part of the moulted exoskeleton (an exuvium), of the colossal millipede Arthropleura, the preserved portion of the exoskeleton is around 75 cm in size, from this the total length of this huge arthropod is inferred. Intriguingly, the fossil was found in an ancient river channel, part of a delta that was surrounded by open woodland. Previously, it had been thought that Arthropleura inhabited swamps. This fossil discovery supports the hypothesis that Arthropleura preferred open, woody habitats.

Arthropleura fossil from Northumberland
Specimen of partial remains of a giant Arthropleura (anterior 12–14 tergites) after excavation from the Serpukhovian Stainmore Formation, Howick Bay, Northumberland, England (CAMSM X.50355). Slab A and slab B are not true part and counterpart, but rather a split through the middle of a three-dimensional dorsal exoskeleton. Note scale bar = 25 cm. Picture credit: Davies et al.

A Chance Discovery

The fossil was discovered by chance. A large sandstone block (approximately 2 m × 3 m × 8 m) fell from the cliffs at Howick Bay. It cracked exposing the fossil and it was spotted by a former PhD student at the University of Cambridge who happened to be visiting the beach. As this area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) permission was sought from Natural England and the Howick Estate to extract the fossil and this work was undertaken in May 2018.

The block comes from the Stainmore Formation, which was laid down in the late Mississippian of the Carboniferous (Serpukhovian stage). The fossil is estimated to be around 323 million years old and it represents the earliest evidence for gigantism in Arthropleura. The specimen comes from the same regional sedimentary succession as the ichnotaxon Diplichnites cuithensis, the name given to the trace fossils of parallel tracks, some of which are half a metre wide, which have been interpreted as representing Arthropleura trackways.

The research team, consisting of scientists from Cambridge University, the University of Manchester and the Technical University Bergakademie Freiberg (Germany), published their study in the “Journal of the Geological Society”. The Northumberland specimen was compared to the two other known Arthropleura specimens, both of which were found in Germany and represent much smaller animals.

The Howick Arthropleura specimen compared to other articulated Arthropleura fossil remains.
Comparing the Howick Arthropleura specimen to other articulated giant specimens (preserved remains highlighted in pink) and the largest Diplichnites cuithensis trackways known from each Carboniferous-Permian stage. Picture credit: Davies et al.

What Did Arthropleura Eat?

Fossilised remains of the head have never been found. If it was a carnivore, with strong mouthparts these robust structures would have had a high likelihood of fossil preservation, as seen in the very distantly related marine, ancestral arthropod Anomalocaris from the Cambrian, where the disc-like mouth plates have been preserved. It has been speculated that, despite its huge size, Arthropleura may have been herbivorous.

Lead author of the scientific paper, Dr Neil Davies from Cambridge University’s Department of Earth Sciences commented:

“While we can’t know for sure what they ate, there were plenty of nutritious nuts and seeds available in the leaf litter at the time, and they may even have been predators that fed off other invertebrates and even small vertebrates such as amphibians”.

Where did Arthropleura Live?

The fossil has also provided additional information on the sort of habitat that may have been preferred by Arthropleura, previously, Arthropleura was thought to have inhabited swampy environments. The Northumberland fossil was found in an ancient river channel, which was part of a delta. This was not a swampy habitat, but an area that was quite open with sparse woodland.

Arthropleura life reconstruction
A life reconstruction of the Northumberland Arthropleura specimen. This invertebrate inhabited a delta floodplain with closely associated open woodland rather than a swampy environment. Picture credit: Davies et al.

Arthropleura is typically depicted as an inhabitant of swamps. It may have been limited to equatorial regions (the UK was close to the Equator for much of the Carboniferous), but this fossil suggests that it did not live in areas with standing water and saturated soils.

Arthropleura in a swamp habitat.
It had been suggested that Arthropleura inhabited swampy environments. Whilst it was probably limited to equatorial regions, this study suggests it preferred open woodland. Picture credit: National Museum of Wales.

The scientific paper: “The largest arthropod in Earth history: insights from newly discovered Arthropleura remains (Serpukhovian Stainmore Formation, Northumberland, England)” by Neil S. Davies, Russell J. Garwood, William J. McMahon, Joerg W. Schneider and Anthony P. Shillito published in Journal of the Geological Society.

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22 12, 2021

Exquisitely Preserved Dinosaur Embryo Found Inside Fossilised Egg

By | December 22nd, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils, Teaching|0 Comments

An exquisite dinosaur embryo from southern China has shed new light on the evolutionary link between the Dinosauria and modern birds. The beautifully preserved embryo of an oviraptorosaur has a posture inside the egg reminiscent of a late-stage modern bird embryo. This pre-hatching behaviour, previously considered unique to the Aves (birds), originated in the Theropoda.

Dinosaur embryo close-to-hatching.
Life reconstruction of a close-to-hatching oviraptorosaur dinosaur embryo, based on the new specimen “Baby Yingliang”. Picture credit: Lida Xing.

“Baby Yingliang”

Writing in the journal “iScience”, the researchers who include Professor Lida Xing from the China University of Geosciences (Beijing), Professor Steve Brusatte (University of Edinburgh) and PhD student Fion Waisum Ma (University of Birmingham), describe the dinosaur embryo, nicknamed “Baby Yingliang”. Study of the fossilised remains preserved inside the egg (in-ovo), demonstrates that the head of the baby dinosaur lies ventral to the body, with the feet on either side and the back is curled along the blunt end of the egg. This posture had not been recorded in dinosaur embryos before. In modern birds, this posture is referred to as “tucking” – a behaviour controlled by the central nervous system and critical for hatching success.

The oviraptorosaur embryo known as "Baby Yingliang"
The oviraptorosaur embryo known as “Baby Yingliang”, one of the best-preserved dinosaur embryos ever reported. Picture credit: Xing et al.

An Oviraptorosaur Embryo

The fossil comes from Upper Cretaceous deposits from Ganzhou Province (southern China). It is believed to be between 72 and 66 million years old. Lead author of the study, Professor Lida Xing explained that the fossil was acquired by the director of Yingliang Group, Mr Liang Liu, during the construction of Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum.

The embryo is articulated in its life position without much disruption from fossilisation. It has been identified as an oviraptorosaur, a toothless theropod dinosaur and a member of the Maniraptora, so it was closely related to the dinosaur lineage that led to modern birds. The elongatoolithid egg measures 17 cm in length and the embryo inside measures 27 cm long.

Joint first author of the scientific paper, Fion Waisum Ma stated:

“Dinosaur embryos are some of the rarest fossils and most of them are incomplete with the bones dislocated. We are very excited about the discovery of ‘Baby Yingliang’. It is preserved in a great condition and helps us answer a lot of questions about dinosaur growth and reproduction. It is interesting to see this dinosaur embryo and a chicken embryo pose in a similar way inside the egg, which possibly indicates similar prehatching behaviours.”

Oviraptorosaur embryo line drawing.
A line drawing of the oviraptorosaur embryo known as “Baby Yingliang”. Picture credit: Xing et al.

Plotting the Evolution of “Tucking” Behaviours

Birds develop this tucking posture, prior to hatching. Embryos that fail to adopt this posture have a higher chance of dying during the hatching process. By comparing this oviraptorosaur embryo with the embryos of other theropods, long-necked sauropod dinosaurs and birds, the researchers postulate that tucking behaviour, which was considered unique to birds, first evolved in theropod dinosaurs. Pinning down just when in geological time this behaviour evolved is dependent on the discovery of more dinosaur embryo fossils.

Co-author of the study, Steve Brusatte commented:

“This dinosaur embryo inside its egg is one of the most beautiful fossils I have ever seen. This little prenatal dinosaur looks just like a baby bird curled in its egg, which is yet more evidence that many features characteristic of today’s birds first evolved in their dinosaur ancestors.”

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

The scientific paper: “An exquisitely preserved in-ovo theropod dinosaur embryo sheds light on avian-like prehatching postures” by Lida Xing, Kecheng Niu, Waisum Ma, Darla K. Zelenitsky, Tzu-Ruei Yang, Stephen L. Brusatte published in iScience.

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21 12, 2021

Ancient Relative of Velociraptor from the Isle of Wight

By | December 21st, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Researchers from the University of Bath and the University of Portsmouth have identified a new species of Early Cretaceous dromaeosaurid from fragmentary fossils found on the Isle of Wight. The new dinosaur, a distant relative of Velociraptor has been named Vectiraptor greeni and it is estimated to have been around 2.5 to 3 metres in length, powerfully built and although not the largest theropod associated with the Wessex Formation it would have been a formidable predator.

Vectiraptor greeni life reconstruction.
A life reconstruction of the newly described dromaeosaurid Vectiraptor greeni. This powerfully built predator may have been able to climb trees. Picture credit: Gabriel Ugueto.

Fossil Teeth Hinted at the Presence of Dromaeosaurids

Fossil teeth found on the Isle of Wight hinted at the presence of a large dromaeosaurid, but no large dromaeosaur bones had been discovered. The only dromaeosaur known from the Isle of Wight is the much smaller Ornithodesmus (O. cluniculus), which was once thought to represent a primitive bird but has been assigned to the Dromaeosauridae.

Local amateur fossil collector Mick Green discovered the bones on the foreshore of Compton Bay on the south coast of the island back in 2004. They had been washed out of the cliffs and they remained entombed in their matrix until in 2012 Mick gave up fossil collecting due to ill health and decided to spend more time cleaning and preparing the fossils that he had found.

They were shown to palaeontologists Megan Jacobs (University of Portsmouth) and Dr Nick Longrich (University of Bath) and this led to the material, which consists of three dorsal vertebrae and a partial sacrum, being taken away for further analysis. The genus name translates from the Latin as “Isle of Wight thief” and the species name honours Mick Green.

Vectiraptor fossils.
Although fragmentary and eroded the vertebrae demonstrate a combination of features found only in the Dromaeosauridae, including relatively short and massive vertebrae, tall neural spines, and facets for the ribs set on long stalks. Picture credit: University of Bath.

Early Cretaceous Predator

Bigger theropods have been discovered such as the tyrannosauroid Eotyrannus and the carcharodontosaurid Neovenator. Recently, two large spinosaurids were reported: Two New Spinosaurids Described from the Isle of Wight.

Vectiraptor may have roamed the forests and avoided large open areas where other, larger predators lurked. With strong arms and talons, it may have climbed trees like modern leopards. The heavy bones suggest an animal that relied less on speed and more on strength, and perhaps ambushes, to tackle its prey.

Lead author of the paper, Dr Nick Longrich (University of Bath) stated:

“This was a large, and very heavily constructed animal. The bones are thick-walled and massive. It clearly didn’t hunt small prey, but animals as large or larger than itself.”

Velociraptor fossil site.
Wessex Formation outcrops at Compton Bay on the Isle of Wight where the Vectiraptor fossils were discovered. Picture credit: University of Bath.

Dinosaur Dispersal

Vectiraptor resembles Early Cretaceous eudromaeosaurs from North America such as Deinonychus, suggesting a faunal exchange between Europe and North America. The diverse Early Cretaceous dinosaur assemblage found in England and Europe resulted from dispersal from North America, Asia, and West Gondwana, likely involving both land bridges and oceanic dispersal. Europe likely served as a biotic crossroads in the Early Cretaceous, allowing faunal interchange between landmasses.

Vectiraptor dorsal vertebra.
The eroded, partial dorsal vertebra of Vectiraptor. Picture credit: Nick Longrich.

Dr Longrich added:

“It’s a tantalising hint at the diversity of dinosaurs in England at this time. There’s an extraordinary diversity of dinosaurs known in England in the Cretaceous and even after more than a century of study, we continue to find new species.”

Eudromaeosauria stratigraphy and geography.
Dromaeosaurids closely related to Vectiraptor have been found in North America and Asia suggesting that during the Early Cretaceous southern England was an important dispersal route for dinosaurs. Picture credit: Bath University.

The First Large Dromaeosaur Known from the UK

This is the first time a large raptor has been found in the UK. Co-author of the study, Megan Jacobs (University of Portsmouth), commented:

This dinosaur is incredibly exciting, adding to the huge diversity of dinosaurs here on the Isle of Wight, and helping to build a bigger picture of the Early Cretaceous world. This little dinosaur also serves as an excellent example of the importance of amateur fossil collectors, and how working with them can produce important scientific research, which would otherwise not be possible.”

Without the dedication of Mick Green and others like him, Vectiraptor would have been lost to the sea.

To read a recent Everything Dinosaur blog post about the discovery of a new species of ornithopod dinosaur from the Isle of Wight: New iguanodontid from the Isle of Wight.

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

The scientific paper: “A new dromaeosaurid dinosaur from the Wessex Formation (Lower Cretaceous, Barremian) of the Isle of Wight, and implications for European palaeobiogeography” by Nicholas R. Longrich, David M. Martill and Megan L. Jacobs published in Cretaceous Research.

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