All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
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5 03, 2019

Designing Dinosaur Models

By | March 5th, 2019|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Product Reviews|0 Comments

Designing Dinosaur Models

Designing dinosaur and prehistoric animal models is a tricky business.  With the advent of three-dimensional printing technology and modelling software, things have got a little easier but there is still all the work involved in creating prototypes, mould building and so on.  Today, we feature the Kaiyodo Sofubi Toy Box T. rex figure, a dinosaur model that was developed to demonstrate how scientific thinking regarding the stance of Theropod dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex has changed over the last hundred years or so.

The Japanese model maker Kaiyodo has employed state-of-the-art modelling techniques to produce fantastic, highly collectable dinosaur models and figures.  The design team excelled themselves when developing a collectable figure with ten points of articulation.  Many models have an articulated lower jaw, but for the design team at Kaiyodo, doing the ordinary was out  of the question, in their limited edition T. rex Toy Box figures, they opted for an articulated upper jaw instead.

Demonstrating the Articulated Upper Jaw on the Kaiyodo Sofubi Toy Box T. rex Figure

Video credit: Everything Dinosaur

Articulated Dinosaur Models

There has been a trend in recent years for dinosaur models to have articulated jaws and front limbs.  One of the benefits of an articulated jaw for example, is this feature does permit collectors to be able to close the mouth of their figure.  Many Theropod dinosaur models tend to depict these animals with their mouth open, not a natural pose at all.  Most tetrapods don’t walk round all day with the jaws wide open.  It is the lower jaw that is articulated in the vast majority of these figures. However, in order to demonstrate their engineering credentials, the design team at Kaiyodo gave their Sofubi Toy Box T. rex an articulated upper jaw (premaxilla and maxilla), as demonstrated in this short forty-five second video.

The Kaiyodo Sofubi Toy Box T. rex in “Kangaroo” Pose

Kaiyodo Sofubi Toy Box T. rex

Kaiyodo Sofubi Toy Box T. rex in a “kangaroo” pose.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

From Kangaroo to a Balanced See-saw

When first scientifically described, Tyrannosaurus rex was illustrated as a biped whose tail dragged on the ground.  The articulated tail of the Sofubi Toy Box T. rex permits the model to displayed in this position, a pose described as a “kangaroo pose” or sometimes a “kangaroo stance”.  However, the ingenious engineering allows this figure to be displayed in what is thought to be a more anatomically accurate pose, with the centre of balance over the hips and the tail lifted off the ground – a sort of pose described as a “balanced see-saw”.

The Kaiyodo Sofubi T. rex Model in a “Balanced See-saw” Stance

The Kaiyodo Sofubi Toy Box articulated T. rex model.

The Kaiyodo Sofubi Toy Box articulated T. rex figure with the tail lifted off the ground.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

When it comes to the engineering behind the design of dinosaur models, you have to hand it to Kaiyodo…

A Handy Dinosaur Model

T. rex dinosaur model (Kaiyodo Sofubi Toy Box - T. rex A).

Kaiyodo Sofubi Toy Box T. rex dinosaur figure (T. rex A).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Kaiyodo Sofubi Toy Box T. rex figure is suitable for collectors from fifteen years and above and it can be found here: Kaiyodo Prehistoric Animal Models

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4 03, 2019

Feathered Theropod Models Triumph in Poll

By | March 4th, 2019|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Feathered or Scaly Theropod Dinosaur Models?  The Results are In

Recently, Everything Dinosaur team members set up a poll on the company’s Facebook site asking dinosaur fans and model enthusiasts which they preferred, feathered Theropod dinosaur models or models of Theropods with scaly skins?

The results are in and in this particular survey it is the feathered Theropod dinosaur models that have come out on top.  It’s a feather in the cap for feathered Theropod model designers.

Which Type of Theropod Model do you Prefer – Feathered or Scaly?

Feathered Theropod models preferred over scaly-skinned Theropod models.

In Everything Dinosaur’s survey of dinosaur model preferences with collectors it was the feathered Theropods that triumphed.  In this poll, 59% of respondents opted for the feathered dinosaur model option.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Reflecting Current Scientific Thinking

Step back ten years and virtually all the models of fearsome, carnivorous dinosaurs such as Allosaurus, Acrocanthosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex were entirely devoid of a feathery integument.  Many mainstream manufacturers still prefer to produce non-feathered figures, an example being Schleich of Germany.

Schleich Have Yet to Produce a Feathered T. rex Dinosaur Model

Schleich Tyrannosaurus rex models circa 2008 and circa 2017.

Comparing Schleich Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur models through time.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Other model manufacturers have chosen to reflect current scientific thinking and produce feathered Theropod replicas, including fuzzy T. rex dinosaur models.  Schleich has moved towards introducing feathered Theropods, a number of dromaeosaurids have been introduced into their range over the last few years with varying degrees of feathery integumentary covering.  A model of the Late Triassic, fast-running predator Tawa (T. hallae), which was introduced by Schleich in 2018, has a feathery crest on its head and a “tuft” of feathers on its tail.  The Schleich Psittacosaurus, a model of an Ornithischian dinosaur, which was also introduced by Schleich last year, had feathers, reflecting the current scientific thinking.  In addition, the Oviraptor and the Therizinosaurus, both examples of Theropod dinosaurs have feathers, perhaps it is just a matter of time before Schleich introduces a feathered Tyrannosaurus rex.

Schleich Prehistoric Animal Model Releases in 2018 – A Trend Towards More Feathers?

New Schleich prehistoric animals (2018).

New Schleich prehistoric animal models (2018).  The new Schleich models introduced last year showed examples of feathery integumentary coverings.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

59% versus 41%

In the Everything Dinosaur poll, 59% of respondents voted in favour of feathered Theropod dinosaur models, whilst 41% stated that they preferred scaly Theropod figures.  A big thank you to all those who participated.  We appreciate all the comments that were posted up and the “shares” of our Facebook post too.

The Everything Dinosaur Facebook page provides status updates, photos, links to news stories and blog posts as well as lots of prehistoric animal model features.

We believe customer service is the key to getting "likes".

Visit Everything Dinosaur on Facebook.

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3 03, 2019

Late Triassic Frogs of North America

By | March 3rd, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

The Earliest Equatorial Record of Frogs

Researchers including palaeontologists from the Department of Geosciences at Virginia Tech, have identified tiny fossil fragments collected from Upper Triassic deposits in Arizona that provide evidence of the oldest known frogs from North America.  Although, no new genus has been erected, the scientists are confident that further study of the microfossils at the location may yield skull and jaw bones which will result in the naming of new species.

A Little Chinle Frog Has a Close Encounter with a Phytosaur

A suggested encounter between a frog and a phytosaur.

A Chinle frog encounters a phytosaur. It is likely that phytosaurs would have fed on amphibians.

Picture Credit: Andrey Atuchin

The fossils are composed of several tiny pieces of hip bone, (from the ilium), they were collected last May from three separate locations within the famous Chinle Formation and they have been dated to between 223 and 213 million years ago.  The bones represent the earliest equatorial record of the Salientia, the group that includes stem and crown-frogs.  These tiny amphibians, little more than two centimetres in length, are not direct ancestors of modern frogs (Anura).

One of the authors of the scientific paper, published in the journal Biology Letters, Assistant Professor Michelle Stocker, stated that these fossils underscore the importance of microfossil collection, analysis and study as it helps palaeontologists to build up a more comprehensive picture of an ancient ecosystem.

Assistant Professor Stocker explained:

“This new find highlights just how much there is still to learn about the Late Triassic ecosystem and how much we can find when we just look a little closer.  We are familiar with the charismatic Archosaurs from the Chinle Formation, but we know that based on other ecosystems, they should make up a small percentage of the animals that lived together.  With this new focus, we are able to fill in a lot of those missing smaller components with new discoveries.”

Time-calibrated Stratigraphic and the Geographical Distribution Across Pangaea of Triassic and Jurassic Anurans

The stratigraphic and biogeographic distribution of Triassic and Jurassic fossil frogs.

Time-calibrated stratigraphic and biogeographic distribution of Triassic and Jurassic Period anuran specimens.

Picture Credit: Biology Letters

The image above shows (a) the stratigraphic sequence indicating the three fossil examples of Chinle frogs and their relationship to the Early Jurassic Prosalirus (MNA 291) from the Kayenta Formation (Arizona), whilst (b) shows the biogeographic distribution of fossil anurans from the Jurassic and Triassic.  Note, the proximity of the Late Triassic Chinle frogs to the equator.  Photograph (c) shows an eyelash sized fossil ilium whilst (d) and (e) are computerised scans of the same fossil material shown in lateral and medial views.  Scale bars equal 1 millimetre.

Long and Hollow Hip Bones

The fossil material gathered from extensive sieving  and screen washing of sediments in order to obtain microvertebrate fossils, consists of long, hollow hip bones with the hip socket offset rather than centred, anatomical traits that are characteristic of frogs and that help to support their hoping style of locomotion.  Stocker and her collaborators include fellow scientists from Virginia Tech, Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park, and the University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History.

The Chinle frogs share more features with living frogs and Prosalirus, a genus of Early Jurassic frog found in sediments from the present-day Navajo Nation (Arizona), than to Triadobatrachus, an Early Triassic frog discovered in Madagascar.

Stocker added:

“These are the oldest frogs from near the equator.  The oldest frogs overall are roughly 250 million years old from Poland [Czatkobatrachus] and Madagascar, but those specimens are from higher latitudes and are not equatorial.”

Comparing the Ilia of Stem Anurans

Comparing fossilised hip bones from stem anurans (frogs).

Comparing the ilia of stem anurans and those of extant frogs (Ascaphus, Leiopelma, Alytes and Barbourula) scale bar = 1 mm.

Picture Credit: Biology Letters

Co-author Sterling Nesbitt (Virginia Tech), commented:

“Now we know that tiny frogs were present approximately 215 million years ago from North America, we may be able to find other members of the modern vertebrate communities in the Triassic Period.”

This is the first time that frog fossils have been found in sediments associated with phytosaurs and early members of the Dinosauria.

The research team hope that further work screening and washing sediments from the Chinle Formation sites, will yield more information about the tiny animals that lived alongside some of the first dinosaurs in North America.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“The sieving and screen washing methodology employed to discover the tiny hip bones and fossil material associated with Late Triassic frogs could also be used to help identify other small animals that lived in this ecosystem, animals such as salamanders, early squamates and even small mammals.”

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from the Virginia Tech College of Science in the compilation of this article.

The scientific paper: “The Earliest Equatorial Record of Frogs from the Late Triassic of Arizona” by Michelle R. Stocker, Sterling J. Nesbitt, Ben T. Kligman, Daniel J. Paluh, Adam D. Marsh, David C. Blackburn and William G. Parker published in Biology Letters.

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2 03, 2019

Beasts of the Mesozoic Atrociraptor

By | March 2nd, 2019|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Beasts of the Mesozoic Atrociraptor marshalli

Our thanks to dinosaur model fan and collector Caroline who sent us some beautiful photographs of her recently purchased Beasts of the Mesozoic Atrociraptor marshalli figure.  The taxonomic position of Atrociraptor within the Dromaeosauridae remains contentious, however, with a short, powerful jaw and oversized teeth this predator lives up to its scientific name meaning, that of “cruel or savage thief”.

Everything Dinosaur were sent some Photographs of the Atrociraptor Figure Outdoors

Atrociraptor marshalli (Beasts of the Mesozoic) a 1:6 scale dinosaur figure.

The Beasts of the Mesozoic Atrociraptor marshalli dinosaur model.  A beautifully composed photograph.

Picture Credit: Caroline

The outdoor location really brings out the colouration of the model, the exquisite way in which the bright red elements of the plumage have been blended in with the muted tones of brown and black.  The sun lit model highlights the texture and the individual feathers on the torso and the top of hips can be clearly seen in this well-composed photograph.

Atrociraptor marshalli

Named and described in 2004, some eighty years after the far better known Velociraptor (V. mongoliensis) was described, this dinosaur is estimated to have reached a length of approximately two metres and weighed around fifteen kilogrammes.  The fossil material associated with this genus comes from the famous Horseshoe Canyon Formation of southern Alberta, however, a single jaw fragment and some isolated teeth from the Two Medicine Formation of Montana may also represent Atrociraptor.

Everything Dinosaur’s Scale Drawing of Atrociraptor marshalli

Atrociraptor marshalli scale drawing.

A scale drawing of the dromaeosaurid Atrociraptor marshalli.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Fast Delivery of a Fast Member of the Dromaeosauridae

When sending her pictures to Everything Dinosaur Caroline commented:

“The order arrived not long ago.  Thank you for the fast delivery.  Please use the photos of the Beasts of the Mesozoic Atrociraptor marshalli if you wish.”

We are happy to post up Caroline’s excellent photographs, pictures of a fast running dinosaur, that was delivered quite fast as well.

The Beasts of the Mesozoic Atrociraptor marshalli Dinosaur Figure

A view of the Beasts of the Mesozoic Atrociraptor marshalli figure.

A close-up view of the distinctive short snout and the oversized teeth of the beautifully crafted Beasts of the Mesozoic Atrociraptor marshalli figure.

Picture Credit: Caroline

The photograph (above), shows a close-up view of the head of the Beasts of the Mesozoic model.  The characteristic short, robust snout and the oversized teeth that helped to define this genus can clearly be seen in this beautifully composed picture.

A spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur praised the images saying:

“We are always pleased to receive photographs of purchases from customers.  The Atrociraptor model looks fantastic in these outdoor shots.”

To view the Beasts of the Mesozoic Atrociraptor marshalli and the rest of the Beasts of the Mesozoic articulated “raptor” models available from Everything Dinosaur: Beasts of the Mesozoic Models

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1 03, 2019

Nemicolopterus or a Juvenile Sinopterus?

By | March 1st, 2019|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Nemicolopterus or a Juvenile Sinopterus?

As it is March 1st, team members at Everything Dinosaur, thought it appropriate that on St David’s Day, the patron saint of Wales, it might be a good idea to post up a picture of one of the welsh dinosaurs such as Pantydraco (P. caducus) or the recently described Dracoraptor (D. hanigani), but in the end we decided to post up a picture of a very tiny pterosaur instead.

As we prepare for the arrival of the new for 2019 PNSO models, we have been busy researching and writing fact sheets to accompany sales of these figures.  One of these new PNSO models is a replica of Nemicolopterus, which if it is a valid genus, represents the smallest member of the Pterosauria described to date.

Everything Dinosaur’s Scale Drawing of the Tiny Chinese Pterosaur Nemicolopterus crypticus

Nemicolopterus crypticus scale drawing.

A scale drawing of the tiny pterosaur named Nemicolopterus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Tiny Chinese Pterosaur

With a wingspan not much bigger than a garden robin (Erithacus rubecula), Nemicolopterus probably weighed less than 100 grams.  Assigned to the Tapejaridae family, this little flying reptile, known from a single fossil specimen, has attracted quite a lot of controversy since it was named and described in 2008.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s 2008 article about the discovery of Nemicolopterus: New Species of Tiny Pterosaur from China.

The unfused bones and body proportions are very typical of a juvenile pterosaur.  It has been suggested that the fossil specimen might not represent a tiny species, but the juvenile stage of a much larger pterosaur.  For example, a number of academics have compared the Nemicolopterus fossil to juvenile specimens of the tapejarid Sinopterus, which is also known from China.

The New for 2019 PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Nemicolopterus Model

PNSO Nemicolopterus model.

The PNSO Nemicolopterus pterosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The PNSO Nemicolopterus (or whatever genus the figure should represent), is coming into stock at Everything Dinosaur in the next few weeks.

It has been suggested that Nemicolopterus may not be a valid genus.  It has been proposed that the fossil material should be re-assigned to the genus Sinopterus.  Whatever the outcome, on March 1st, in honour of a Welsh national symbol and with a nod towards the orient and the legends of dragons from the Far East, we thought it appropriate to post up some images of a tiny flying reptile.

Happy St David’s Day.

 

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28 02, 2019

Rare Fossils of a North Lincolnshire Pliosaur Go on Display

By | February 28th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Geology, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

The “Scunthorpe Pliosaur”

This week has seen the formal unveiling of the fossilised remains of a pliosaur at North Lincolnshire Museum in Scunthorpe.  The fossils, consisting of a single tooth, a series of vertebrae, elements from the ribs, the tip of the snout and a single humerus, suggest an animal of around eight metres in length.  It would have been one of the apex predators of the Late Jurassic marine environment.

The “Scunthorpe Pliosaur” on Display

Rose Nicholson, Richard Forrest and Darren Withers with the Scunthorpe Pliosaur.

Rose Nicholson (North Lincolnshire Museum), palaeontologist Richard Forrest and Darren Withers (Stamford and District Geological Society), showing where the fossil bones are located on a pliosaur skeleton.

Picture Credit: North Lincolnshire Museum

A Memorable Geology Field Trip

The first evidence of the remains of a marine reptile, were discovered by Darren Withers of the Stamford and District Geological Society during a field trip to a north Lincolnshire quarry in October 2017.  The Society had visited the quarry previously and were aware that the Kimmeridge Clay deposits (dating from 157 to 152 million years ago), contained numerous fossils, but marine reptile bones, especially several pieces from an individual skeleton are exceptionally rare.

After spending some time looking at the quarry floor, Darren decided to investigate some of the stepped banks in the quarry side.  He followed a trail of small Rasenia cymodoce ammonites until they petered out after about thirty metres, but he decided to explore further and then a surprising discovery was made:

Darren commented:

“I’m so glad I did [explore a little further] because the next thing I was looking down at was a large vertebra.”

CEMEX, the quarry owners, granted further access to the site and over the next twelve months or so more of the pliosaur remains were found.  In total, the haul consists of twenty-eight vertebrae, a single tooth, fourteen rib elements, a bone from the upper arm (humerus) and some fragments from the front portion of the upper jaw (premaxilla).  It has been estimated that the specimen is around 155 million-years-old.

Excavating the Pliosaur Specimen

Extracting the fossilised remains of a pliosaur.

Extracting fossils at the north Lincolnshire quarry (CEMEX).

Picture Credit: North Lincolnshire Museum

Pliosaurs were marine reptiles, part of the Plesiosauria Order, specifically, the short-necked plesiosaurs, the Suborder Pliosauroidea.  They were the apex predators in most Late Jurassic marine ecosystems.  Pliosaurs had an enormously powerful bite, perhaps the most powerful bite of any vertebrate, a complex system of sensory organs in their snouts, superb eyesight and the ability to taste water as they swam to help them locate prey.

A Model of a Typical Pliosaur

Martin Garratt's customised CollectA Deluxe Pliosaurus.

The customised CollectA Deluxe Pliosaurus model.  The model helps to portray what the “Scunthorpe Pliosaur” might have looked like.

Picture Credit: Martin Garratt/Everything Dinosaur

Explaining the significance of the “Scunthorpe Pliosaur”, Richard Forrest, a vertebrate palaeontologist with an extensive knowledge of the Plesiosauria stated:

“Although the specimen is not complete it tells a fascinating story of how the carcase was broken down by scavenging and decay in the ancient Kimmeridge Clay seas.  Because top predators are much less common than their prey, this is indeed a rare find.  We have hundreds of specimens of other marine reptiles, but only a handful of Pliosaurs.”

The “Scunthorpe Pliosaur” Goes on Display

The fossils will be on display at the North Lincolnshire Museum in a temporary exhibit, however, there are plans to give this exceptionally rare fossil find from eastern England a permanent home at the Museum.

Richard Forrest Examines the Pliosaur Vertebrae

Richard Forrest (vertebrate palaeontologist) examines a Pliosaur vertebra.

Richard Forrest laying out one of the vertebrae in the correct anatomical position.

Picture Credit: North Lincolnshire Museum

Councillor Elaine Marper, responsible for the North Lincolnshire Museum added:

“We are over the moon to be able to have this prehistoric sea monster on display at North Lincolnshire Museum.  This is a rare find and to have the fossilised remains stay in North Lincolnshire and go on display for the public is a real feat.  Thank you to CEMEX for making this possible.”

Richard Forrest at the Quarry Holding the Pliosaur Tooth Discovered at the Site

The pliosaur tooth examined by Richard Forrest.

Richard Forrest holding a pliosaur tooth.

Picture Credit: North Lincolnshire Museum

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from North Lincolnshire Council in the compilation of this article.

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27 02, 2019

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World T. rex Dinosaur Model (2019)

By | February 27th, 2019|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Product Reviews|0 Comments

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World T. rex Dinosaur Model (2019)

Tyrannosaurus rex may have been formally named and described more than 100 years ago, but this iconic dinosaur has certainly not lost any of its appeal since Henry Fairfield Osborn’s scientific paper (1905).  The “tyrant lizard king” remains as popular as ever with casts of skeletons adorning many natural history museums and no dinosaur movie seems complete without an appearance or two of a T. rex.

Tyrannosaurus rex on the Front Cover of the First Edition of the Novel “Jurassic Park”

The front cover of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

The first edition of Jurassic Park, featured on the front cover a silhouette of a T. rex skeleton, albeit with a few anatomical discrepancies.

The Enduring Popularity of Tyrannosaurus rex

For dinosaur fans and prehistoric animal model collectors, there are a plethora of T. rex figures to collect and most manufacturers carry at least one replica of this, perhaps the most famous of all the dinosaurs, within their ranges.  Today, we take a look at just one recently introduced figure, that of the 2019 Wild Safari Prehistoric World T. rex made by Safari Ltd.

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World T. rex Dinosaur Model (2019)

T.rex Dinosaur Model

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World T. rex dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A lot of print space has been devoted to trying to explain this carnivores’ enduring popularity.  In the 2019 Safari Ltd catalogue there are no less than five Tyrannosaurus rex models within the Wild Safari Prehistoric World range and that does not include the baby dinosaurs in eggs.  The most recent figure was introduced a few weeks ago (see picture above), this has led to some speculation that a number of the older figures in this range will be withdrawn.  Measuring around seventeen centimetres in length and with that powerful head standing some eleven centimetres off the ground, this is not the largest T. rex figure available, but as with all the models in the Safari Ltd portfolio, it is well painted and has lots of fine detail.  The figure has already attracted a 5-star review on the Everything Dinosaur website.

Safari Ltd have taken some beautiful photographs highlighting the exquisite details on their prehistoric animal models.  We intend to post these pictures up onto our social media platforms as they permit model collectors the opportunity to see more than just the standard figure studio shots.  Perhaps the photographs will inspire collectors to take their own pictures showcasing their very own “Jurassic Park”

An Outward Bound Tyrannosaurus rex 

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World T. rex dinosaur model.

The new for 2019 Wild Safari Prehistoric World Tyrannosaurus rex figure.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the range of Wild Safari Prehistoric World figures available from Everything Dinosaur including the new for 2019 Tyrannosaurus rexWild Safari Prehistoric World

Admiring the Details – The Skin Folds and a Beautifully Painted Eye

T. rex (Wild Safari Prehistoric World)

A closer look at the new for 2019 Tyrannosaurus rex figure.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

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26 02, 2019

Middle Cambrian Worm – Amiskwia Finds a Home

By | February 26th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Weird Prehistoric Worm Finally Gets Classified

Ever since Charles Doolittle Walcott, discovered the now famous Burgess Shale deposits of Cambrian-aged fossils in British Columbia, palaeontologists have marvelled at the amazing snapshot of ancient marine life the fossils represent.  One of the enduring mysteries surrounding many of the preserved remains is how to classify the more than 500-million-year-old-fossil specimens.  One such Burgess Shale creature, a prehistoric worm with jaws – Amiskwia sagittiformis and its equally ancient cousin A. sinica from the roughly contemporaneous Maotianshan shales of Yunnan Province, China have finally found a home on the Tree of Life.

A Fossil of Amiskwia sagittiformis (Burgess Shale)

Amiskwia sagittiformis from the Burgess Shale.

The fossil, Amiskwia sagittiformis from the Burgess Shale (508 million years old), preserving bilateral jaw elements inside its head.

Picture Credit: Luke Alexander Parry/University of Bristol – Yale University

Analysis of Fossils from the Smithsonian Institute

Researchers from Bristol University in collaboration with a former colleague now based at the University of Yale, have identified that this soft-bodied creature is a stem lineage to arrow worms that possesses the jaw apparatus seen in microscopic gnathiferan worms.  This new analysis of ancient fossils helps to link recent DNA studies on the bristle-jawed arrow worms (Chaetognatha), indicating that these worms are related to the Gnathifera, tiny, unsegmented worms with primitive jaws that like the chaetognaths, are found in marine environments.

The scientists conclude that the soft-bodied taxon Amiskwia possesses characters intermediate between chaetognaths and gnathiferans.

A Close View of the Head of an Extant Arrow Worm

A photograph of the head of an arrow worm.

The head of the arrow worm, Parasagitta elegans.  This group of animals (Chaetognatha), are the closest living relatives to the Amiskwia genus.

Picture Credit: Rafael Martin Ledo/Consejería de Educación de Cantabría

Originally Described by Walcott

Like many of the Burgess Shale animals, an original description of Amiskwia was published by Walcott (1911).  Walcott made the connection with extant arrow worms (chaetognaths).  These unsegmented worms are predators and they use the spines on their head for catching prey.  Despite the remarkable degree of preservation of Burgess Shale specimens, fossils of Amiskwia are very rare when compared to other Burgess Shale Middle Cambrian biota.  Fossils of Amiskwia sinica are also very rare in the Chinese Maotianshan shales.  These types of creatures may have comprised a scarce component of the Middle Cambrian marine fauna, or perhaps, there is a fossil preservation bias.

With few fossils to study, there was widespread debate amongst scientists with regards to Walcott’s conclusions regarding the taxonomy of Amiskwia.  The renowned American palaeontologist, Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002), re-ignited the controversy by speculating that these little, soft-bodied, squished fossils represented an organism that had no modern relatives.  Gould proposed that Amiskwia was an experiment in evolution that ultimately failed leaving an extinct lineage and no modern-day descendants.

The problem with Walcott’s idea that Amiskwia was related to arrow worms was that scientists were unable to find evidence of any grasping spines at the anterior end of the animal in any of the fossils.  Instead, many researchers proposed that Amiskwia was a representative of another group of worms the ribbon worms (Nemertea).

When Dr Jakob Vinther from the University of Bristol’s Schools of Earth Sciences and Biological Sciences and Luke Parry (Yale University), studied specimens of Amiskwia, kept at the Smithsonian Institute, they found something that had been overlooked by the previous researchers.

Dr Vinther explained:

“I coated the specimen with ammonium chloride smoke to make the relief of the fossil stand out and then I could see that in the head was a pair of robust elements.”

A Set of Jaws

Interpreting these structures as a set of jaws, their resemblance led the scientists to the conclusion that there was a link between these fossils and the Gnathifera.  In essence, the Amiskwia fossil material represents a sort of half-way stage between two important groups of invertebrates.  Amiskwia had the jaw apparatus of a gnathiferan, but the body plan of an arrow worm.

A Microscopic Member of the Gnathifera – the gnathostomulid Rastrognathia macrostoma

The gnathostomulid Rastrognathia macrostoma.

The gnathostomulid Rastrognathia macrostoma, these microscopic animals have a jaw apparatus similar to Amiskwia, which scientists now propose are amongst the closest living relatives of living arrow worms.

Picture Credit: Martin Vinther Sørensen/SNM Denmark

This study in conjunction with the recent DNA analysis, confirms that Amiskwia is the fossil link between the Gnathifera and arrow worms, the Chaetognatha.  This research was originally conducted some years, ago but was not published as the paper’s conclusions lacked supporting evidence from other studies.

Dr Vinther added:

“The bizarre combination of anatomy seemed altogether alien back in 2012.  Some people have proposed that there could be a relationship between arrow worms and gnathiferans based on their shared possession of a jaw apparatus, both made of a substance called chitin.  However, there was little other evidence to suggest a relationship, such as evidence from phylogenetic analyses of DNA.”

Co-author of the scientific paper, Luke Parry stated:

“It altogether seemed like heresy to propose that gnathiferans and arrow worms may be related back then so we held off publishing our intriguing results out of fear of criticism from our peers.  However, new DNA studies have since emerged that found arrow worms to be more and more closely affiliated to the Gnathifera in the Tree of Life.  In particular, some researchers found that arrow worms share a duplication of the important Hox genes with a gnathiferan, the rotifers.  We suddenly felt no more in a deadlock situation.”

Now the authors have published their findings in the journal Current Biology. The study follows a new phylogenetic study, which finds robust support for arrow worms forming an evolutionary group with gnathiferans.

The Inferred Phylogeny of Amiskwia and its Position in Relation to the Gnathifera and the Chaetognatha

Amiskwia inferred phylogeny.

Inferred phylogeny. Thumbnails at the bottom of the figure show reconstructions of relevant extant and extinct gnathiferan and chaetognath taxa.

Picture Credit: Current Biology

Scientists have pieced together a little bit of the enigmatic Burgess Shale and the Chinese Maotianshan biotas and linked them to modern organisms.  Amiskwia has been found a place on the Tree of Life.  It is a stem lineage to arrow worms that possess the jaw apparatus seen in gnathiferan worms.

This jaw evolved into the fearsome grasping spines in living arrow worms, which play an important role in  marine ecosystems.

The scientific paper: “Bilateral Jaw Elements in Amiskwia sagittiformis Bridge the Morphological Gap between Gnathiferans and Chaetognaths” by Jakob Vinther and Luke A. Parry published in Current Biology.

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

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25 02, 2019

A Beautiful Dinosaur Themed Pencil Drawing

By | February 25th, 2019|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

A Beautiful Dinosaur Themed Pencil Drawing

Our thanks to Caroline for sending into Everything Dinosaur, a beautiful, hand-drawn dinosaur themed card.  Caroline had wanted to purchase one of the limited edition, Rebor hatching Baryonyx figures, but she was unable to make the purchase when these figures first came into stock.  We received her request to reserve a Rebor “Hurricane”, one of just 1,000 replicas made.  Our team members were happy to set a Baryonyx aside and a few weeks later Caroline was able to make her purchase.

As a thank you, we received this splendid illustration of a swimming Spinosaurus.  The Onchopristis (an extinct sawfish), swimming closeby and better watch out!  Spinosaurus is believed to have been a piscivore.

Spinosaurus Going for a Swim

A swimming Spinosaurus.

Spinosaurus going for a swim.

Picture Credit: Caroline Smalley

Caroline included a message with her card.  She thanked us for holding onto the Rebor Hatching Baryonyx “Hurricane” figure and congratulated us on our customer service.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“It is always a pleasure to receive illustrations such as the swimming Spinosaurus from our customers.  There are so many incredibly talented people out there and to be able to reconstruct a long extinct animal and place it within an environmental context is a real skill.  We even noted the small Theropod dinosaur illustrated on the inside of the card.  We are happy to know that the limited edition Rebor Hatching Baryonyx figure has found a good home.”

Even the Rebor Hatching Baryonyx “Hurricane” Looks Impressed!

Rebor Hatching Baryonyx "Hurricane".

The limited edition hatching Baryonyx figure “Hurricane” by Rebor.  Even the Rebor figure looks awestruck at seeing the Spinosaurus illustration, after all, these two Theropods belong to the same family (Spinosauridae), although Baryonyx (B. walkeri) lived tens of millions of years earlier than Spinosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Our thanks once again to Caroline for sending in her wonderful dinosaur themed thank you card.

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24 02, 2019

Mini Marsupial Lived Amongst Arctic Dinosaurs

By | February 24th, 2019|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

Unnuakomys hutchisoni – Late Cretaceous of Alaska

Researchers have discovered a new species of ancient marsupial that lived deep in the Arctic Circle approximately 69 million years ago (lower Maastrichtian faunal stage).  The new mammal has been named Unnuakomys hutchisoni, not much bigger than a house mouse (Mus musculus), it is likely that this little creature was nocturnal and may have retreated to burrows to protect itself from periods of extreme cold.  Known from more than sixty fossil specimens, the vast majority being tiny teeth but two dentaries (lower jaw bones ) were found along with a fragment of upper jaw (maxilla), this little mammal helps to flesh out the rich, diverse and unique Late Cretaceous biota of Alaska.

Little Mammals Such as the Marsupial  Unnuakomys hutchisoni Lived in the Shadow of Dinosaurs

Alaska in the Late Cretaceous (inset shows tiny mammal).

Hadrosaurs (Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis) under the northern lights in the Late Cretaceous of Alaska – inset shows tiny mammal.  See note at the bottom of this article.

Picture Credit: James Havens

Fossils from the Pediomys Point Locality 

For several years now, researchers have been exploring the Upper Cretaceous strata that is exposed along the steep banks of the Colville River.  The researchers, which include lead author of the paper on Unnuakomys hutchisoni, Jaelyn Eberle (University of Colorado) and her collaborator Patrick Druckenmiller (University of Fairbanks Alaska), have uncovered evidence of a unique assemblage of dinosaurs and the discovery of this little marsupial represents the most northern of this type of mammal known to science.  The climate during the Late Cretaceous in this part of the world was not as severe as it is today, but the animals living this far north would have had to endure around four months of complete darkness each year and the temperatures would frequently drop below freezing.  The fossil material representing U. hutchisoni was collected during the sieving of sediments from the Pediomys Point Locality of the Prince Creek Formation exposed along the Colville River on the North Slope of Alaska.

Field Team Members Pose Next to Buckets of Sediment Ready for Sieving

Researchers pose next to buckets of sediments that will be sieved for microfossils.

Field team members pose for a photograph next to buckets of sediment that they will sift through to search for tiny mammalian teeth.

Picture Credit: Jaelyn Eberle

A Diverse Faunal Assemblage

This part of Alaska was some 80 degrees north around 69 million years ago.  It was once thought that these high latitudes were virtually devoid of life, but that view has gradually changed as more fossil discoveries have been made.  Teeth of U. hutchisoni greatly outnumber those recovered from other mammals at Pediomys Point, this could be down to sampling, or it could have arisen due to a preservation bias, perhaps the remains of this tiny mammal were more likely to be preserved than other mammal bones and teeth, although this is unlikely.  The abundance of Unnuakomys fossils in relation to other mammals could indicate that this tiny animal thrived in an environment well above the Arctic Circle whose climatic extremes may have acted as a biogeographical barrier preventing the encroachment of other types of Late Cretaceous mammal.

Field Team Members Working on a Steeply Sloping Riverbank

Unnuakomys hutchisoni - looking for fossils on a steep Alaskan riverbank.

Looking for fossils on a steep riverbank.

Picture Credit: Patrick Druckenmiller

Patrick Druckenmiller stated:

“Northern Alaska was not only inhabited by a wide variety of dinosaurs, but in fact we’re finding there were also new species of mammals that helped to fill out the ecology.  With every new species, we paint a new picture of this ancient polar landscape.”

“Night Mouse”

In a reflection of the likely ecology of this miniature marsupial, that of an animal well-adapted to living in the dark, Eberle and her colleagues gave the new mammal the genus name Unnuakomys, a mixture of Greek and the indigenous Iñupiaq language that means “night mouse.”  The trivial name honours the palaeontologist J. Howard Hutchison, who was the first person to identify and explore this fossil assemblage.

The research team, whose project was funded with a National Science Foundation grant, identified the new marsupial using a painstaking process.  With the help of numerous graduate and undergraduate students, they collected, washed and screened ancient river sediment collected on the North Slope and then carefully inspected it under a microscope.  Over many years, they were able to locate numerous fossilised teeth, most of which were no bigger than a grain of sand.

Co-author of the paper, Gregory Erickson (Florida State University), explained:

“I liken it to searching for proverbial needles in haystacks, more rocks than fossils.”

Find the Teeth – Identify the Mammal

By far the most durable part of most mammal skeletons are the teeth, thanks to their coating of hard enamel.  It is the shape of the teeth and their wear pattern, particularly the shape of the molars that allow palaeontologists to identify the type of mammal they have found simply by examining the teeth.  Mammalian teeth have unique cusps on the crown that differ from species to species and they, as a result, are highly diagnostic.  The triangular cusps on the teeth of U. hutchisoni are reminiscent of the triangular blades associated with pinking shears and are typical of an insectivore.

A Computer Generated Image Showing the Lower Jaw (Dentary) of Unnuakomys hutchisoni

Unnuakomys hutchisoni dentary.

Unnuakomys hutchisoni lower jaw bone with teeth.

Picture Credit: University of Colorado Boulder

Other co-authors of the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology paper include William Clemens (University of California), Paul McCarthy (University of Alaska Fairbanks) and Anthony Fiorillo of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

Recycling a Scientific Illustration

In 2015, Everything Dinosaur reported upon the discovery of a unique species of Alaskan Hadrosaur (Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis), James Havens produced an exquisite piece of art showing a herd of these duck-billed dinosaurs moving through the Late Cretaceous, Alaskan landscape.  To illustrate the likely position of U. hutchisoni in this ecosystem, the original artwork was carefully photoshopped to permit the inclusion of the little mammal (see inset above).  As our understanding of the fauna and flora of Late Cretaceous Alaska evolves, the artwork may have to be altered again, in the meantime, we have an excuse to show the original illustration once more.

The Original Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis Life Reconstruction (2015)

Ugrunaalik life reconstruction.

The original Ugrunaaluk illustration without the inclusion of a little marsupial.

Picture Credit: James Havens

To read our article about U. kuukpikensisLatest Dinosaur Discovery from Alaska

The scientific paper: “Northernmost record of the Metatheria: A New Late Cretaceous Pediomyid from the North Slope of Alaska” by Jaelyn J. Eberle, William A. Clemens, Paul J. McCarthy, Anthony R. Fiorillo, Gregory M. Erickson and Patrick S. Druckenmiller published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology

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

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