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16 03, 2020

Coronavirus Fears Brings a Halt to Jurassic World Three

By | March 16th, 2020|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Movie Reviews and Movie News|0 Comments

Film Project Stopped as a Precaution

One of the consequences of the global coronavirus outbreak is that many film projects have been halted in their tracks.  It has been announced that filming on “Jurassic World: Dominion”, the third movie in the reprised “Jurassic Park/Jurassic World” film franchise has been postponed until further notice.  Everything Dinosaur understands that some filming had taken place in Canada and a set built at Pinewood Studios (London), but all filming has been stopped and a decision as to when production will start again will be taken in a few weeks.

Filming Halted on “Jurassic World: Dominion”

Stars to return in "Jurassic World 3".

Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum will reprise their roles in the forthcoming film.  However, Gennaro (pictured far left), played by Martin Ferrero, is not going to return in “Jurassic World: Dominion”, his part in the franchise was ended by a hungry T. rex in the 1993 film “Jurassic Park”.

Picture Credit: Getty Images

Filming Commenced on February 25th (2020)

Filming had started in Canada on February 25th (2020).  Director Colin Trevorrow confirmed this in a message on his Instagram account.  Over recent years, several science fiction/adventure films have been shot in Canada, dubbed “the Hollywood of the north” by some movie insiders.

Jurassic World 3 is just one of several major film and television projects that have had to be suspended due to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak.  The film was due to be released in the United States on June 11th 2021, with a release date in the UK of June 21st.  It is not known at this time, whether the postponements will result in a delay in the release in the film.

A Monster Hit!

When “Jurassic World” was released in June 2015, it become the first film in movie history to take more than $500 million USD in its opening weekend.  The film went onto gross a total of $1.6 billion USD in box office revenues across the world.  The second film in this trilogy “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”, released in 2018, was nearly as successful.  Although the film received mixed reviews, it went onto gross $1.3 billion USD in box office receipts.  Analysts are expecting the third film, which is expected to be the final instalment, “Jurassic World: Dominion”, to continue the financial success story, after all, as a team member from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“People just love dinosaurs”.

“Jurassic World: Dominion” sees a number of the original actors and actresses in the “Jurassic Park” film of 1993 reprising their roles.  Steven Spielberg is expected to continue his role as executive producer.  Dinosaur fans and movie goers may have to wait just a little bit longer to see the final film.

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15 03, 2020

Casting Doubt over Oculudentavis

By | March 15th, 2020|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Is Oculudentavis a Member of the Archosauria?

On the 11th March (2020), Everything Dinosaur posted up a blog article featuring the discovery of a remarkably well-preserved fossil skull that had been found in amber from northern Myanmar.

To read our blog post: Hummingbird-sized Dinosaur from Burmese Amber.

Following publication, a number of academics have questioned the conclusions made by Xing et al with regards to this fossil representing a member of the Maniraptora.  It is certainly true that the validity of the interpretation of the fossil skull as maniraptoran has subsequently been challenged post publication (Wang Wei et al).  They comment that the shape of the skull is not unique to archosaurs, many lizards for example, show similar characteristics, the phylogenetic analysis is questioned, along with the apparent absence of an antorbital fenestra (an opening in the skull of all known archosaurs between the orbit and the naris).

The Very Bird-like Skull of Oculudentavis khaungraae But Can Appearances be Deceptive?

Oculudentavis khaungraae computer generated image of the skull.

Oculudentavis khaungraae computer generated image of the skull (left lateral view).

Picture Credit: Xing et al (Nature)

It is suggested that the skull actually comes from a lizard and that the specimen is not from an archosaur at all.

The original publication noted that the spoon-shaped bones that make up the sclerotic ring were reminiscent of that seen in the eye sockets of lizards.  Scleral bones of this shape have never been found in a dinosaur or a bird, it is suggested that these bones support the idea that the fossil is that of a lizard and not a member of the Archosauria.

Trouble with the Teeth

The roots of the tiny teeth do not seem to be located in sockets in the jawbone (thecodont dentition).  This was a peculiar feature remarked upon by a number of academics once this paper had been widely circulated.  Teeth located in sockets is a characteristic of toothed-archosaurs such as crocodilians and the dinosaurs.  Other types of tetrapod also show this tooth morphology, but in Oculudentavis the teeth are not in sockets but either fused to the jaw (acrodont dentition) or located within grooves that can be found along the length of the jaw bones (pleurodont dentition).

The number of teeth in the jaw far exceeds that known for any type of ancient bird.  The tooth line extending under the eye-socket (orbit), is also highly unusual.  Such anatomical traits are associated with the Squamata (lizards and snakes), not with the Archosauria.

These arguments (along with others, such as the absence of feathers), have led some scientists to question the conclusions made in the original Nature publication.  Oculudentavis might not be a bird or a dinosaur, it might represent the preserved remains of a lizard.

An Anolis Lizard (A. equestris) Displaying its Throat Sac

Is the skull that of a lizard?

An Anolis lizard, note the long snout, large eyes and the jaw that extends under the orbit.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The scramble to publish can sometimes lead to a lack of peer review opportunities and a foreshortening of pre-publication correspondence amongst academics.  When the “Nature” paper was published it certainly created a great deal of interest in the wider media.  Sadly, we suspect that any challenge to the original paper’s conclusions or subsequent revision will not attract anywhere near as much publicity.

We shall await developments.

Perhaps, in future we could refer to such controversies as “Oculudentavism”

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14 03, 2020

March Model Madness

By | March 14th, 2020|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Newsletters, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Newsletter – March Model Madness

It is March model madness, with a new edition to the Everything Dinosaur model range plus the return of some old favourites.  Newsletter subscribers will have received this week our latest missive and it provides details of the new Wild Past Protoceratops, plus Rebor replicas and a “heads up” that the mighty 1:20 scale CollectA Deluxe Elasmotherium is back in stock!

The brand Wild Past has only recently been launched, but the first of the models in this exciting range is already in stock at Everything Dinosaur, but be warned, the 1:35 scale Protoceratops andrewsi complete with a nest of dinosaur eggs has had a very limited production run, so stock of this particular member of the Protoceratopsidae is likely to sell out fast.

Headlining the Everything Dinosaur Newsletter – The Wild Past Protoceratops Model

Wild Past Protoceratops dinosaur model makes headlines.

The Wild Past Protoceratops dinosaur model makes headlines.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Return of Rebor Replicas

Good news for fans of Rebor replicas.  Although the extended Chinese New Year led to disruption in international delivery networks, Everything Dinosaur had been able to arrange the shipment of the popular Rebor “Raptor” replica called “Sweeney” and the 1:6 scale Compsognathus model “Sentry”.  Newsletter readers were the first to receive an update letting them know that both these Rebor figures were once again available.

The Rebor “Raptor” 1:18 Scale Velociraptor “Sweeney” and the 1:6 Scale Compsognathus “Sentry” are Back in Stock

Rebor "Sweeney" and "Sentry".

The Rebor 1:18 scale Velociraptor replica called “Sweeney” and the Rebor 1:6 scale Compsognathus model “Sentry” are back in stock at Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Fascinating Foetus and a Charging 1:20 scale Elasmotherium

In addition, the Rebor Oddities Velociraptor foetus wet specimen with light up base is also available.  This fascinating model of an embryonic dinosaur was first introduced in the late summer of last year.  Standing around 22 centimetres high, the figure makes a striking centrepiece to any prehistoric animal model collection.  Joining the Velociraptor is the CollectA Deluxe 1:20 scale Elasmotherium, this replica too is also now available.

Rebor and Rhinos (Elasmotherium) Available from Everything Dinosaur

Rebor Oddities Velociraptor and CollectA Deluxe Elasmotherium.

The Rebor Oddities Velociraptor foetus with light up base and the CollectA Deluxe 1:20 scale Elasmotherium model are in stock at Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

There may be a number of issues surrounding international logistics with the continuing coronavirus outbreak but there are lots of prehistoric animal models in stock at Everything Dinosaur including the Wild Past Protoceratops, Rebor replicas and the CollectA Deluxe Elasmotherium.

Subscribe to Everything Dinosaur’s Newsletters

Subscribing to Everything Dinosaur’s newsletters is easy, to get updates, information about new releases, dinosaur discoveries and fossil news, just drop us an email.

To request to join the Everything Dinosaur newsletter subscribers list just send us an email: Email Everything Dinosaur.

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13 03, 2020

Telling the Time in the Late Cretaceous

By | March 13th, 2020|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Fossil Clam Helps Scientists to Tell the Time

Researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the University of Ghent have used 70 million-year-old fossil bivalves to gain information about day length and seasonal variations during the Late Cretaceous.  Tyrannosaurids and duck-billed dinosaurs had days that were approximately 30 minutes shorter than ours, as a consequence of this their year was about a week longer.

Writing in the academic journal Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, the researchers conducted a series of tests on the fossilised shells of a type of bivalve (Torreites sanchezi).  The fossil was found on a mountainside in Oman, but back in the Campanian stage of the Late Cretaceous, this area was a shallow, subtropical sea.

Daily Growth Rings Preserved in Fossil Bivalves Can Provide Scientists with Data About Ancient Planetary Systems

Fossil bivalves can help scientists understand planetary systems.

The growth rings laid down by rudist bivalves can help scientists to better understand ancient planetary systems.  An example of a bivalve fossil (Spondylus) from the Cretaceous.  This type of bivalve evolved in the Early Jurassic and can still be found today in tropical seas.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Laser Used to Bore a Hole in the Shell

Many types of molluscs grow quickly and they lay down discernible growth rings on their shells every day.  Scientists can conduct a series of tests on these markers and identify useful information about the climate and the environment in which the mollusc lived.  For example, using the growth rings, the researchers were able to determine that the fossil specimen died when it was around nine years of age.

A laser was used to bore a series of tiny holes in the shell, samples were taken and analysed for trace elements.  Using this information, the scientists were able to gain information on the temperature and the chemistry in the sea water in the reef environment where the mollusc lived.  The marine temperatures fluctuated between summer and winter, with a peak of around 40 ˚ Celsius in summer and 30 ˚ Celsius in winter.  The average annual sea temperatures were warmer than previously thought.

The Rings on the Bivalve Shell Can Provide a Lot of Information

Fossil Bivalves provide dating data.

Microscopic analysis of the fossil shell can help scientists work out day length and seasonal variations in the past.

Picture Credit: Niels de Winter et al

In addition, the scientists determined that the bivalve grew much faster during the day than it did at night.  This phenomenon is not uncommon with bivalves today, some species form symbiotic relationships with algae, it is thought that the Cretaceous species was in a similar relationship.  A combination of counting layers, spectral analysis of chemical cyclicity and chemical layer counting shows that the mollusc laid down 372 daily laminae per year, demonstrating that length of day has increased since the Late Cretaceous, as predicted by numerous astronomical models and previous studies of fossil molluscs.  However, this study represents the most accurate assessment of seasonal growth, day length and annual environmental changes recorded in a fossil from the Late Cretaceous.

The Earth’s orbit around the sun does not alter that much, the extra 7 days recorded in a year, are not really a record of the Earth taking longer to make its orbit, but a reflection of the fact that the Earth was spinning faster on its axis 70 million years ago.  With the Earth turning faster, a day was slightly shorter compared to what we experience in the 21st century.  A day in the Cretaceous would have lasted approximately 23 1/2 hours.

An Explanation – Why is the Rotation of the Earth Slowing Down?

The Earth’s orbit around the sun does not change a great deal, but the length of a day on Earth has been steadily increasing since our planet and its moon were formed.  The moon’s gravity is acting on our planet, it creates friction from ocean tides and this is gradually slowing the Earth’s rotation.  At the same time, Earth’s own gravity is having an effect on the moon.  The pull of the tides accelerates the moon, so the satellite is being pushed away from our planet.  When the Torreites sanchezi bivalve was alive, a dinosaur on the beach at night would have seen a moon that looks bigger than the one we see today, it was several thousand metres closer to Earth.

The research team conclude that as bivalve shell calcite preserves quite well, this study permits further work using other fossils to determine seasonality, marine temperatures and day length.  This should help to document environmental change in warming ecosystems and widen our understanding of the magnitude of short‐term changes during greenhouse climates.

The scientific paper: “Subdaily-Scale Chemical Variability in a Torreites sanchezi Rudist Shell: Implications for Rudist Paleobiology and the Cretaceous Day-Night Cycle” by Niels J. de Winter, Steven Goderis, Stijn J.M. Van Malderen, Matthias Sinnesael, Stef Vansteenberge, Christophe Snoeck, Joke Belza, Frank Vanhaecke, and Philippe Claeys published in Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology.

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12 03, 2020

Scottish Stegosaurs

By | March 12th, 2020|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Scottish Island – A Dinosaur Stomping Ground Complete with Stegosaurs

Scientists led by researchers from Edinburgh University have reported the discovery of dozens of dinosaur footprints preserved in exposed mudstones at two locations on the Isle of Skye.  The trace fossils preserve evidence of a variety of different types of dinosaurs, which helps palaeontologists to gain a better understanding of dinosaur distribution and diversity during the Middle Jurassic.

The tracks indicate a variety of dinosaur trackmakers, including bipedal theropods of various sizes, possible ornithopods and a quadrupedal ornithischian dinosaur, the tracks of which show a resemblance to the ichnotaxon Deltapodus, which is believed to represent a stegosaur.  If these prints do represent a member of the Stegosauria, then this is the first time that evidence for this type of armoured dinosaur has been discovered on the Isle of Skye.

Dinosaurs Congregating Around Mudflats on the Isle of Skye (Middle Jurassic)

Dinosaurs on a mudflat (Isle of Skye).

Life reconstruction of the Isle of Skye mudflat.  Note no sauropod tracks have been identified to date at the two sites described in the newly published scientific paper.

Picture Credit: Jon Hoad

Globally Important Fossil Discovery

During the Middle Jurassic the Dinosauria rapidly diversified and many new types evolved.  Unfortunately, the fossil record for terrestrial vertebrates from the Middle Jurassic is particularly poor.  The abundant trace fossils associated with the Isle of Skye are globally important, providing scientists with an opportunity to plot which types of dinosaurs are associated with this location.  Since the first dinosaur footprint in Scotland was found in the 1980’s numerous tracksites representing several ichnotaxa have been recorded.

Writing in the academic journal PLOS One, the researchers describe two new tracksites from Rubha nam Brathairean (Brothers Point).  The sites are referred to as BP1 and BP3, site BP2, which revealed sauropod and theropod prints has already been reported upon: Isle of Skye Steps into the Jurassic Spotlight (2018).

An Aerial View and Line Drawing of BP1 Showing the Distribution of the Dinosaur Tracks

BP1 site of dinosaur tracks (

Isle of Skye dinosaur tracks (BP1).  All three sites BP1, BP2 and BP3 were discovered between 2015 and 2017.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

An Insight into the Fauna Around a Subtropical Coastal Area

The trace fossils at both BP1 and BP3 were formed when mudflats were exposed and dinosaurs walked over them.  Today, the mudstones comprise part of the Lealt Shale Formation of the Great Estuarine Group.  The dinosaurs inhabited a coastal environment in what was a subtropical climate.  The fossil bearing rocks might be exposed on the coast today, but the climate on the Isle of Skye today is very different to what it was like around 170 million years ago.  The notorious Scottish weather prevented the researchers from using drones on several occasions in their attempts to photograph and map the sites.

An Aerial View of BP3 and Accompanying Line Drawing Showing the Various Dinosaur Tracks

Isle of Skye dinosaur tracks (BP3).

Skye dinosaur tracks (BP3).

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The tracks at both sites are preserved as impressions (concave epirelief) and the signs of mud cracks associated with the trace fossils suggest that the surfaces of both sites were briefly exposed before being quickly reclaimed by the return of brackish water.  Whilst the dinosaur tracks at BP3 were being mapped, an articulated pterosaur skeleton was found in the overlying limestone layer.  The state of the bones (largely unfractured) and the articulated skeleton suggest that the overlying limestone was deposited in a relatively low energy environment.  The pterosaur is currently being studied and will be covered in a future scientific paper.

Evidence of a Stegosaur

One of the tracks at location BP1 (BP1_Twy-01) shows a series of prints made by a quadrupedal dinosaur.  Although the tracks are a little distorted, distinctions between the pes (rear foot) and the manus (front foot) can be made.  The researchers conclude that these prints and other, single prints from this site are similar to the ichnotaxon Deltapodus.  Evidence of a potential armoured dinosaur from the Isle of Skye adds to the diversity of dinosaur types known from this location.

Mapping the Ornithischian Tracks (Potential Stegosaur – Ichnotaxon Deltapodus)

The quadrupedal trackway (BP1_Twy_01).

Potential Stegosaur tracks from the Isle of Skye.  The photograph (above) shows (a) an aerial overview of the site, (b) a line drawing showing the position of the tracks and (c), a false colour rendering of the tracks showing topography.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

Together these two new tracksites demonstrate the wide variety of different types of dinosaur present in the area and will help palaeontologists gain more data on the early evolution and radiation of the Dinosauria.  As the researchers conclude, essentially BP1 and BP3 provide a snapshot of a “day in the life” of a Middle Jurassic ecosystem.

A Palaeontological Puzzle

No sauropod tracks have been described to date from BP1 or BP3, although they have been found at BP2.  The absence of sauropod evidence could be coincidental or perhaps an indication that during the time the mudflats were exposed, these large herbivores were not present in the area.  Environmental factors could help to explain the absence of sauropods.  Site BP2 represents a shallow lagoon, whilst BP1 and BP3 represent mudflats.  The sauropods may have preferred to occupy the lagoons.

The scientific paper: “Novel track morphotypes from new tracksites indicate increased Middle Jurassic dinosaur diversity on the Isle of Skye, Scotland” by Paige E. dePolo, Stephen L. Brusatte, Thomas J. Challands, Davide Foffa, Mark Wilkinson, Neil D. L. Clark, Jon Hoad, Paulo Victor Luiz Gomes da Costa Pereira, Dugald A. Ross and Thomas J. Wade published in the journal PLOS One.

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11 03, 2020

Hummingbird-sized Dinosaur from Burmese Amber

By | March 11th, 2020|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Oculudentavis khaungraae – Tiny Fossil Skull Could Represent the Smallest Dinosaur

Team members at Everything Dinosaur had been aware that something big was brewing amongst those members of the academia with an interest in vertebrate palaeontology.  An academic paper published in the journal “Nature”, describes the beautifully preserved but very small skull of a theropod dinosaur preserved in Cretaceous amber from northern Myanmar (Burma).  The fossil might just represent the smallest dinosaur known to science.

The fossil might be tiny but this wonderful discovery could have very big implications when it comes to understanding how miniaturisation occurs within vertebrates.  It also provides yet another remarkable insight into the types of creatures that shared the Late Cretaceous with non-avian dinosaurs and pterosaurs.  Named Oculudentavis khaungraae it probably weighed about as much as the smallest living bird, the Bee Hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae), which weighs about two grammes, that is about half the weight of a single sheet of A4 paper.

The Polished Amber Nodule Reveals a Bounty of Preserved Material Including the Tiny Skull of Oculudentavis khaungraae

Oculudentavis khaungraae skull in amber.

Tiny fossil skull preserved in amber (Oculudentavis khaungraae).

Picture Credit: Lida Xing et al

When we Say Tiny we Mean Tiny!

The amber nodule containing the beautifully preserved skull, complete with the tongue, measures a little over three centimetres in length.  The skull, with its tiny jaws, lined with miniscule but pointed teeth, measures less than 1.5 cm long.  It is estimated that Oculudentavis had a total body length including tail of about 9 cm.  Palaeontologists have speculated that “microsaurs” – tiny dinosaurs co-existed with the giants, just as African spiny mice (genus Acomys), can be found today in the same habitats as the largest, terrestrial animals – elephants (Loxodonta).

Tantalising fossil footprints had been found that hinted at the possible existence of “microsaurs” or “tinysaurs” if you will – assuming of course that these trace fossils were not made by very young animals, with a lot of growing to do.

To read about the smallest dinosaur tracks: Smallest Dinosaur Tracks Known to Science Discovered.

A Life Reconstruction of the Tiny Oculudentavis khaungraae

Life reconstruction of Oculudentavis.

A life reconstruction of Oculudentavis.  It may have been small but the numerous teeth (23 teeth in the upper jaw alone), indicate that it was a predator probably hunting insects.

Picture Credit: Han Zhixin

A Possible Member of the Enantiornithes Clade

Where Oculudentavis sits on the Dinosauria family tree is uncertain.  Whilst the cranial material has provided the authors, which include researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, with a wealth of data, interpreting the taxonomy is somewhat troublesome.  If it is a member of the Maniraptora, this large clade includes dinosaurs as well as true birds (avians).  Just how closely related to the birds or whether it is a highly specialised dinosaur remains open to debate.  Oculudentavis could be an enantiornithine bird, an extinct lineage of avians that were the most common birds of the Cretaceous, or it might be more closely related to the dinosaur end of the Maniraptora spectrum.

It may be small, but the specimen does not represent a juvenile or young animal, the skull bones are sufficiently fused for scientists to confidently state that the tiny creature is an adult or at least a sub-adult.

Eye Tooth Bird

Oculudentavis demonstrates a suite of unusual anatomical characteristics.  The eyes for example, are located on the side of the head, helpful for providing all round vision but not capable of delivering stereoscopic vision to aid in the capture of small prey.  The orbits are huge, the eyes would have bulged out of the head somewhat and the bones that make up the sclerotic ring (the circle of bones in the orbit) are spoon shaped, which is a morphology previously only known in lizards.  These scleral ossicles form a cone, similar to the bones in the eyes of owls, so it can be deduced that just like owls, Oculudentavis had exceptional vision.  What is a little more surprising is that the opening at the centre of the ossicles is narrow and restricted.  This would have limited the amount of light coming into the eye, so unlike most owls this little Cretaceous creature probably operated in bright, sunny conditions – it was most likely diurnal.

A Computer Generated Image of the Skull of O. khaungraae

Oculudentavis khaungraae computer generated image of the skull.

Oculudentavis khaungraae computer generated image of the skull (left lateral view).  Note the huge size of the orbits, the small teeth in the jaws and the scale bar denoting the size of the specimen.

Picture Credit: Xing et al (Nature)

Such is the size and extent of the eye socket, that they extend over the jaws and some of the upper jaw teeth are located directly under the orbit.  It is this characteristic and those large eyes, that gives Oculudentavis its name, from the Latin for eye “oculus”, “dentes” teeth and “avis” for bird.  The species name honours Khaung Ra who donated the specimen to the Hupoge Amber Museum.

The Fossil Specimen (HPG-15-3) with Computer Generated Images and Accompanying Line Drawings

Oculudentavis images.

Photograph, computed tomography scans and interpretive drawings of the HPG-15-3 holotype of O. khaungraae.  Scale bar size equals 5 millimetres.

Picture Credit: Xing et al (Nature)

The photograph (above), shows the amber piece (a), a scan of the skull (b) with line drawing (c).  Images d, f and h represent other views of the scans, whilst images e, g and h represent the associated line drawings.  The amber specimen comes from the Angbamo site, close to the township of Tanai (Myitkyina district, Hukawng valley, Kachin province) in northern Myanmar.  The strata are believed to represent the Cenomanian stage of the Late Cretaceous, the fossil therefore is approximately 99 million years old.

Living on an Island?

The fossil discovery represents the smallest known dinosaur of the Mesozoic and it highlights the importance of amber as a means of permitting scientists to gain an insight into the ecology of a habitat thanks to the preservation of small animals and other material that would not necessarily have been preserved under other taphonomic processes.  Specimens preserved in amber are rapidly emerging as an exceptional way to study tiny vertebrates from the Late Cretaceous.

Miniaturisation in animals is commonly associated with living in isolated environments where resources are limited.  The tiny Oculudentavis lends weight to the idea that the amber deposits in northern Myanmar were produced in forests that existed on islands.  In addition, the size and morphology of this species suggest a previously unknown bauplan and a previously undetected ecology.

To read more articles about amazing fossil discoveries made in Burmese amber:

Ammonite shell discovery: Ammonite Shell Found in Amber Nodule.

Baby snake found in amber: Baby Prehistoric Snake – Xiaophis myanmarensis Preserved in Amber.

Ancient lice feeding on feathers: Lice Feeding on Feathers Entombed in Amber.

Tiny frogs preserved in Cretaceous amber: Tiny Frogs Trapped in Cretaceous Amber.

Post Publication Doubts?

Following publication, a number of academics have questioned the conclusions made by Xing et al with regards to this fossil representing a member of the Maniraptora.  It is certainly true that the validity of the interpretation of the fossil skull as maniraptoran has subsequently been challenged post publication (Wang Wei et al).  They comment that the shape of the skull is not unique to archosaurs, many lizards for example, show similar characteristics, the phylogenetic analysis is questioned, along with the apparent absence of an antorbital fenestra (an opening in the skull of all known archosaurs between the orbit and the naris).

It is suggested that the skull actually comes from a lizard and that the specimen is not from an archosaur at all.

The original publication noted that the spoon-shaped bones that make up the sclerotic ring were reminiscent of that seen in the eye sockets of lizards.  Scleral bones of this shape have never been found in a dinosaur or a bird, it is suggested that these bones support the idea that the fossil is that of a lizard and not a member of the Archosauria.

The roots of the tiny teeth do not seem to be located in sockets in the jawbone (thecodont dentition).  This was a peculiar feature remarked upon by a number of academics once this paper had been widely circulated.  Teeth located in sockets is a characteristic of toothed-archosaurs such as crocodilians and the dinosaurs.  Other types of tetrapod also show this tooth morphology, but in Oculudentavis the teeth are not in sockets but either fused to the jaw (acrodont dentition) or located within grooves that can be found along the length of the jaw bones (pleurodont dentition).

The number of teeth in the jaw far exceeds that known for any type of ancient bird.  The tooth line extending under the eye-socket (orbit), is also highly unusual.  Such anatomical traits are associated with the Squamata not with the Archosauria.

These arguments (along with others, such as the absence of feathers), have led some scientists to question the conclusions made in the original Nature publication.  Oculudentavis might not be a bird or a dinosaur, it might represent the preserved remains of a lizard.

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10 03, 2020

Luchibang xingzhe – Long-legged Chinese Pterosaur Described

By | March 10th, 2020|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Luchibang xingzhe – Long-legged Chinese Pterosaur Described

A team of international scientists including Dr David Hone (Queen Mary University of London) and colleagues from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the China University of Geosciences and the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (Beijing), have published a paper describing a new species of long-legged pterosaur that once flew over the skies of what is now Inner Mongolia.  The new flying reptile has been named Luchibang xingzhe (pronounced Loo-chee-bang shing-hey).

The Nearly Complete Holotype Specimen of Luchibang xingzhe

The holotype specimen of Luchibang xingzhe (ELDM 1000).

The holotype specimen of Luchibang xingzhe.  Note scale bar equals 10 cm.  The skull is at the top, the elongated jaws are facing to the left.

Picture Credit: Palaeontologia Electronica

Described from a single, near complete, articulated specimen (ELDM 1000), this pterosaur has been assigned to the Istiodactylidae family, members of the Suborder Pterodactyloidea, known for their short-tails, long toe bones and very thin walls to their bones.  Istiodactylid pterosaurs were geographically widespread, fossils having been found in Lower Cretaceous sediments located in North America, the Isle of Wight (southern England) and northern China.

Although the animal was immature when it died, it already had a wingspan estimated at around two metres.  The fossil skeleton indicates that it was already much bigger than most other istiodactylids, suggesting a large wingspan (perhaps around five metres), as an adult.  Luchibang had proportionately long hindlimbs and these, plus the teeth, suggest that this flying reptile hunted fish, perhaps stalking them in the same way as a modern heron.  The pterosaur has been named in honour of Lü Junchang, (Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences), in recognition of his research work on Chinese members of the Pterosauria and from the Mandarin word for “heron”.

Robust and Elongated Hindlimbs

The fossil specimen is the most complete istiodactylid specimen described to date.  The completeness of the skeleton was one of the factors that led to allegations that the fossil had been faked.  Sadly, many fossils from China are “enhanced” to make them more valuable, however, after extensive analysis the specimen has been proved to be genuine, but this issue along with a debate with regards to phylogeny led to delays in publication.  It is to the credit of the research team that they persevered and that the scientific paper has now been published.  Intriguingly, the fossilised remains of two small fish (probably Lycoptera), are preserved in association with Luchibang.  One fish resides between the jaws (see photograph below), whilst the second is inside the rib cage and may represent the remains of this flying reptile’s last meal.  If the second fish fossil does represent gut contents, then this reinforces the idea that Luchibang was a piscivore (fish-eater).

A Close View of the Partial Skull and the Jaws of Luchibang xingzhe With Fish Remains in Association

A close view of the jaws of Luchibang showing the fish fossil.

A close view of the jaws of Luchibang showing the fish fossil in association.  The scale bar equals 5 cm and the black arrow points to the fossil fish.

Picture Credit: Palaeontologia Electronica

The scientific paper: “An unusual new genus of istiodactylid pterosaur from China based on a complete specimen” by David W. E. Hone, Adam J. Fitch, Feimin Ma and Xing Xu published in Palaeontologia Electronica.

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9 03, 2020

Wild Past Protoceratops Video Showcase

By | March 9th, 2020|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Everything Dinosaur videos, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Wild Past Protoceratops Video Showcase

With the arrival of the first model in the new Wild Past prehistoric animal range, a 1:35 scale replica of Protoceratops andrewsi, Everything Dinosaur team members celebrated by creating a short video featuring this dinosaur model.

Taking a Turn on the Turntable the 1/35 Scale Protoceratops andrewsi Dinosaur Model

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Wild Past Protoceratops Dinosaur Model (P. andrewsi)

The video lasts just under 90 seconds, but the use of the turntable enables dinosaur model fans to get a really good look at this exciting new figure.

The Protoceratops is the first figure to be introduced in this range and the dinosaur replica comes complete with a little model of a nest of dinosaur eggs.  The addition of the dinosaur eggs is very appropriate, as the discovery of nests of eggs in association with the fossilised remains of Protoceratops andrewsi demonstrated that at least some of the members of the Dinosauria laid eggs.  The dinosaur model measures around 6.5 cm in length and the tip of that bristle tail is approximately 3 cm high.

A Geology Ruler Helps to Show the Size and Scale of the Wild Past Protoceratops Model

The Wild Past Protoceratops model measures around 6.5 cm long.

The Wild Past Protoceratops (P. andrewsi) next to a geology ruler to show scale.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“The turntable we used in this short video, enables viewers to get a really good look at the figure.  We hope to make more videos like this and to post them up regularly.  In the meantime, dinosaur model fans should note that this Wild Past figure has had a limited production run, only 500 models have been made.”

The Wild Past Protoceratops (P. andrewsi) is Available from Everything Dinosaur

The Wild Past Protoceratops dinosaur model is available from Everything Dinosaur.

Protoceratops andrewsi model available from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Available from Everything Dinosaur

The dinosaur model comes complete with its own box, the beautiful box art was provided by renowned Joseph Fells.  The artist gets a brief mention in our Wild Past Protoceratops video.  There are plans to add more prehistoric animal figures to the Wild Past range and Everything Dinosaur will be able to publish news of forthcoming models in the near future.

In the meantime, to purchase the Wild Past Protoceratops: Wild Past Prehistoric Animal Models.

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8 03, 2020

Little Bird Plugs 15 Million-year Fossil Gap

By | March 8th, 2020|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Tiny Partial Shoulder Girdle Bone Fills 15 Million-year Fossil Gap

A tiny, partial bone from the left shoulder girdle of an ancient bird discovered in Utah, has helped fill a gap in the fossil record of the early relatives of chickens and turkeys (Galliformes).  In addition, the fossil specimen named UMNH.VP.30891, from the Eocene Uinta Formation shares a number of anatomical traits with fossils found in Uzbekistan and Namibia which suggests the ancestors of chickens, turkeys, quail, pheasants and guineafowl, were widespread.  This fossil bird has been assigned to the Paraortygidae, an extinct group of birds that were the ancestors of modern game birds.  The tiny fossil fits in a nearly 15 million-year gap in the fossil record of the galliform lineage in North America.

The Tiny Fossil Bone from the Left Shoulder Girdle of an Unnamed Member of the Paraortygidae

Tiny shoulder bone fills 15 million year fossil gap.

The coracoid of the newly described Uintan paraortygid.

Picture Credit: Patricia Holroyd (University of California)

Writing in the academic journal Diversity, the researchers, which included scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences along with colleagues from Midwestern University (Arizona) and the Museum of Paleontology (University of California), describe the tiny fossil bone which was found in 44-million-year-old fluvial deposits in north-eastern Utah.

Commenting on the importance of this tiny fossil, which measures less than one centimetre in length, one of the co-authors of the paper, Dr Beth Townsend (Midwestern University), stated:

“The new Uinta bird fills not only a time gap, but also helps us better understand the animal community at this time.  The Uinta Basin is important for understanding ecosystems during times of global warm temperatures, when forests, primates and early horses were spread across an area that is now desert.”

A Life Reconstruction of the Uinta Bird

Life reconstruction of the Uintan paraortygid.

Newly described Uintan paraortygid life reconstruction.

Picture Credit: Thomas Stidham (Chinese Academy of Sciences)

The fossil coracoid represents a new species, but it has yet to be named.  It has been informally termed the “Uintan paraortygid”.  This quail-sized bird from Utah is the oldest known member of the Paraortygidae.  It is approximately the same body size and shape of other early paraortygids and given their widespread distribution in the fossil record (Namibia, Uzbekistan and the United States), it suggests that these little birds were confident, capable fliers.  In addition, it seems likely that these birds had a flexible biology or diet that allowed them to occupy a diversity of habitats from forests and coasts to semi-arid savannahs.

The scientific paper: “Evidence for Wide Dispersal in a Stem Galliform Clade from a New Small-sized Middle Eocene Pangalliform (Aves: Paraortygidae) from the Uinta Basin of Utah (USA)” by Thomas A. Stidham, K. E. Beth Townsend, and Patricia A. Holroyd published in Diversity.

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7 03, 2020

Happy Birthday Zhao Chuang

By | March 7th, 2020|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Famous Figures, Main Page|0 Comments

Happy Birthday Zhao Chuang

Today, we celebrate the birthday of renowned Chinese palaeoartist Zhao Chuang, one of the leading lights behind scientific illustrations in Chinese scientific literature.  Fans of dinosaur and prehistoric animal models will also be aware of his work through the PNSO product line and their range of museum quality figures.

Celebrating the Contribution to Scientific Illustration of Zhao Chuang

Compsognathus illustration by Chuang Zhao.

A beautiful feathered Compsognathus catches its lunch (artwork by Zhao Chuang).

Picture Credit: Zhao Chuang/Everything Dinosaur

Illustrating Many Scientific Papers

This palaeoartist has been tasked with illustrating a number of scientific papers and press releases.  Interpreting scientific data and helping to depict a long extinct animal, place it within the context of the fossil discovery and in essence, to bring the animal back to life.  The picture (above), illustrates a Compsognathus.  It is shown as a brightly coloured, feathered dinosaur.  The artist is helping to promote the idea that far from being slow, sluggish animals, many dinosaurs were very bird-like.

Illustrating Ancient Landscapes and Ecosystems

The Late Cretaceous of northern China

Northern China in the Late Cretaceous.  A dromaeosaurid (left) takes evasive action as a herd of hadrosaurs approach the waterhole.  An armoured dinosaur (Pinacosaurus grangeri), has nothing to fear from the duck-billed dinosaurs or the small theropod but decides it is time to leave as well.

Picture Credit: Zhao Chuang

It was Zhao Chuang who created all the spectacular prehistoric artwork that was put on display as part of the “Dinosaurs of China – Ground Shakers to Feathered Flyers” exhibition in Nottingham (England).  As a palaeoartist at the Peking Natural Science-Art Organisation (PNSO), Zhao Chuang has worked with numerous members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and he has also collaborated with dozens of leading scientists from other research institutions around the world.  His work has been published in many academic publications.

Many happy returns.

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