All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
30 11, 2012

Papo Brachiosaurus is now in stock at Everything Dinosaur

By |2023-02-08T17:47:51+00:00November 30th, 2012|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

New Stocks of Papo Brachiosaurus arrive at Everything Dinosaur

A new shipment of Papo Brachiosaurus models has arrived at Everything Dinosaur, team members are working late into the night to unpack the models, check the inventory and contact those customers who have already reserved one for Christmas.

Papo Brachiosaurus Dinosaur Model

Just in time for Christmas – the Papo Brachiosaurus.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Papo Brachiosaurus Dinosaur Model

A spokesman for the UK-based dinosaur and prehistoric animal mail order company, staffed by teachers and dinosaur enthusiasts, stated that team members were working late into the night to ensure that all those people who had requested a model be put aside for them, were emailed.  Stocks of this particular dinosaur replica, one of the largest ever made by Papo are not huge, so the spokesperson suggested that prompt action to acquire this model should be taken.

To view the range of Papo prehistoric animal models: Papo Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animal Figures.

( Hint: Simply scroll through the Papo pages to find the Brachiosaurus replica).

The model measures an impressive forty centimetres long with a head height of approximately thirty-two centimetres.  Everything Dinosaur team members estimate that this model is approximately in 1:55 scale.

29 11, 2012

New Research Suggests “Big was Not Always Better” for Feathered Dinosaurs

By |2023-02-08T17:21:49+00:00November 29th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Palaeontological articles|2 Comments

American Researchers Study Changes in Body Size for Feathered Dinosaurs who were Facultative Herbivores

A team of researchers from the United States have challenged a theory regarding how the likes of the Oviraptors, ornithomimids and the therizinosaurs evolved over time.  Fossils of these types of dinosaur have been found in Upper Cretaceous aged rocks across the Northern Hemisphere.  Palaeontologists believe that these types of dinosaur, classified as theropods, adapted to a herbivorous diet, or at least became omnivorous, eating less meat.  Oviraptors, ornithomimids and the therizinosaurs were descended from dinosaurs that were carnivores.  However, over time they adapted to eating plants and some of these dinosaurs, those found in Maastrichtian or Campanian aged faunal strata (the very end of the Cretaceous), evolved into giants.

Giant Feathered Dinosaurs – Researching into “Big Birds”

Scale drawings of large members of the dinosaur families studied.

Picture credit: North Carolina State University, with additional annotations by Everything Dinosaur

Feathered Dinosaurs

One of the theories postulated about why some of these dinosaurs grew so big, states that large size was an advantage as this enabled herbivores to evolve larger guts and digestive tracts that would be needed to help them process tough, fibrous plant material efficiently so that nutrients could be extracted.  Some genera did grow big!  For example, the dinosaur known as Gigantoraptor (G. erlianensis), fossils of which were discovered in Inner Mongolia in 2005, was tall enough to look Tyrannosaurus rex in the eye.  This fossil specimen indicates an animal over five metres tall and eight metres long, weighing perhaps as much as one and a half metric tonnes.

To view replicas of feathered dinosaurs: CollectA Deluxe Models – Feathered Dinosaur Figures.

The Chinese scientists who made the discovery, have estimated that this individual was not fully grown so adult Gigantoraptors were probably much bigger.  Gigantoraptor has been classified as a member of the Oviraptoridae.  Most of the other members of the Oviraptor family were much smaller.

Examples of Gigantism

Similar examples of gigantism can be found in the ornithomimids and the therizinosaurids.  Therizinosaurus cheloniformis, also from Mongolia; may have been up to twelve metres in length, many times bigger than other therizinosaurs, or as they are sometimes called segnosaurs.  Amongst the Late Cretaceous members of the Ornithomimosauria, there were also giants.  A pair of 2.6 metre long arms discovered in the Nemegt Formation (Gobi desert of Mongolia) in 1965 have been ascribed to an enormous ornithomimid which was perhaps up to twelve metres in length.  This dinosaur was formally named and described in 1970, the world was introduced to Deinocheirus mirificus (terrible hand).  Despite its terrifying hands, this dinosaur is not thought to have been a carnivore.

Deinocheirus – “Terrible Hands”

“Big Bird” – Deinocheirus.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Closely Related to Modern Birds

Most species belonging to these three types of dinosaur family possessed a horny, toothless beak and relatively small heads in proportion to the size of their bodies.  A number of fossils found also indicate that these dinosaurs may have been covered in simple, proto-feathers, designed not for flight but to help insulate these active animals and keep them warm.  Palaeontologists think that creatures such as the Oviraptoridae were closely related to today’s modern birds.

The research team from North Carolina, aided by colleagues from the Field Museum in Chicago, mapped out the fossil evidence from these three different types of dinosaur and attempted to model whether as the animals evolved they tended to generally increase in body size.  Statistical analysis was employed to test whether the theory that later forms of these prehistoric animals were indeed larger than their ancestors.

The scientists discovered, that although there were giant forms, there was not a clear linear trend towards gigantism with these types of dinosaur.  The evolution for the trait that makes an animal bigger than its ancestors seems to have been a passive process, there may have been large forms, but at the same time many types of ornithomimids, members of the Oviraptoridae and therizinosaurs remained small.

Published in an Academic Journal

The academic paper detailing the results of this analysis have been published in the scientific journal, the Proceedings of the Royal Society – Biology.   The evidence suggests that just because a dinosaur adapts to a more herbivorous diet does not necessarily mean that they have to evolve into bigger forms to accommodate a larger gut.  The work of these scientists does not rule out diet as affecting the size of animals, but suggests that other factors such as stable environments, the lack of competition and the amount of resources within a habitat play a significant part.

Where resources were plentiful, such as the area that was to form the strata of the  Nemegt Formation of Mongolia, some types of therizinosaur for instance could grow into a giant form (T. cheloniformis), however, in other parts of the world, perhaps where there was more competition from other herbivorous dinosaurs gigantism did not occur.

The conclusions made by the researchers do challenge some of the accepted thinking about these dinosaurs.  There is a problem with this study, one that is acknowledged by the research team.  The fossil record for these prehistoric animals is far from complete and in their study, some uneven sampling of the fossil material may have taken place.  If it is assumed that smaller species tend to be more abundant in an environment than large species and if it is assumed that more specimens of smaller species will be preserved as fossils as a result, then the amount of small dinosaurs known from the fossil record may be an over representation of their actual numbers, whilst larger species the likes of Deinocheirus, Therizinosaurus and Gigantoraptor may be understated.

28 11, 2012

Artistic Pterosaur Fans Draw Pteranodon (Beautiful Drawings)

By |2024-04-24T20:15:49+01:00November 28th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings|0 Comments

A Pair of Flying Reptiles

At Everything Dinosaur we are always delighted to receive pictures of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.  Here is an example of a colourful pair of flying reptiles, (Pteranodons), members of the Order Pterosauria drawn by pterosaur fans.  With their mustard yellow bodies, bright blue wings and red faces these animals from the Late Cretaceous are certainly very colourful.

A Pair of Patrolling Pterosaurs

Pterosaurs taking to the wing!  A drawing of a pair of flying reptiles.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Pterosaur Fans

We think this picture is one from the Travel Dinosaur Colour and Go sets that can be found at the Everything Dinosaur website: Visit Everything Dinosaur’s Website.

If dinosaur fans want to send in pictures to us at Everything Dinosaur, they are most welcome to do so, simply send them to the contact address that can be found on the Everything Dinosaur website, or drop team members an email.

Drawings and illustrations of prehistoric animals and extinct creatures are always welcome.

27 11, 2012

Woolly Mammoth Blood Goes on Display in Canadian Museum

By |2023-02-08T16:51:51+00:00November 27th, 2012|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings|0 Comments

Blood from a Woolly Mammoth on Exhibit for the Very First Time

A small vial of deep red mammoth haemoglobin along with a portion of mammoth tusk recovered from Grunthal, Manitoba (Canada), are the latest additions to the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre and its first Ice Age exhibit allowing people an unprecedented opportunity to get up close and personal to an ancient creature which became extinct approximately 10,000 years ago.  With the possibility of geneticists being able to clone a Woolly Mammoth becoming closer, visitors to the museum have the opportunity to view some of the material, the like of which may play a role in the bringing back to life of an extinct species.

Woolly Mammoth Haemoglobin

The exhibit was made possible thanks to a donation of the haemoglobin from Winnipeg’s Kevin Campbell, a University of Manitoba professor of environmental and evolutionary physiology and vice-president of the board for the museum.

An Opportunity to Get Close to Woolly Mammoths

Sample of Mammoth haemoglobin on display at Canadian museum.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Campbell, whose research was instrumental in the resurrection of the haemoglobin, explained how recent advances in biotechnology enabled him to not only re-create functional genes from extinct animals, but also to faithfully assemble and study the proteins the genes once encoded. By doing so they were able to determine some remarkable ‘living’ characteristics of Woolly Mammoths.

For models of prehistoric elephants and other extinct creatures: Prehistoric Elephants and Prehistoric Animal Figures (Eofauna Models).

Professor Campbell explained:

“For instance, resurrecting this red blood cell protein haemoglobin from a Woolly Mammoth has shown that the normally temperature sensitive protein evolved novel adaptations that, unlike living (tropical) elephants, enabled it to do its job of delivering oxygen to body tissues in the cold conditions these beasts faced.”

He went onto add:

“Prior to these new techniques we had no way to deduce, let alone test for, these kinds of attributes from fossilised remains.  Being able to re-create and study authentic genetic material from extinct species is a whole new frontier in palaeo-biology and research into ancient life.”

The last time of species, H. sapiens got this close to a Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) was something like 10,000 years ago.  The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre’s acting executive director, Peter Cantelon exclaimed:

“We are thrilled to be able to be at the forefront of palaeo-biology with this one-of-a-kind display.  If you were to go back in time with a syringe, remove Mammoth blood and separate out the haemoglobin, this is exactly what you would have.”

Cloning Extinct Species

The cloning of extinct species such as the Quagga, the Woolly Rhino and of course the Woolly Mammoth is now a possibility thanks to developments in the extraction, storage and study of ancient DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).  However, this aspect of science is extremely controversial.  There seems to be an almost daily stream of reports related to the study of  “Ancient DNA”, for example, team members at Everything Dinosaur recently had their attention drawn to a scientific paper (yet to be peer reviewed) that discussed the DNA evidence for the existence of “Big Foot” and where it might fit on the hominin family tree.

To read an article on the possibility of bringing extinct animals back: Resurrecting Prehistoric Animals.

When working with Year 6 pupils yesterday, at a school in the Lake District (North-west England), the moral implications for bringing back a long dead animal such as a Woolly Mammoth was discussed.

Does because we can, does this mean we should?

26 11, 2012

Everything Dinosaur Posts Up its 2,000th Blog Article

By |2023-02-08T14:59:38+00:00November 26th, 2012|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Press Releases|0 Comments

Two Thousand Not Out – Blog Publishes Article Number 2,000

Team members at Everything Dinosaur are celebrating the publication of their 2,000th web log article.  Ever since late May in 2007, the UK based team of dinosaur enthusiasts and teachers have written a prehistoric animal article every day.  The first of these articles introduced the company and its team members and then the second feature focused on the extinct Dodo.

Everything Dinosaur

The web log has covered new dinosaur discoveries, fossil finds, animal news stories and updates on what the company is doing and new products the team are introducing.

Celebrating 2,000 Blog Articles with Everything Dinosaur

Blog celebrates its 2,000th article.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Team members have kept an index of the naming and scientific descriptions of new dinosaur genera and species.  They estimate that a new dinosaur species is named and described every 20 to 30 days.  This means that since the blog started, something like forty new dinosaurs have been named.

We will continue to put up articles every day focusing on palaeontology, geology and all things prehistoric plus one or two features on extant animals such as crocodiles.

Everything Dinosaur staff also have a Facebook page that features lots of photographs, illustrations and other “snippets” that don’t necessarily get to feature on the web log.

Find Everything Dinosaur on Facebook: Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook Page.

If you are on Facebook, feel free to look us up and give us a “like”

The Banner Celebrating the 2,000 Web Log Article

All things prehistoric and Dinosauria covered.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

For dinosaur models, toys, prehistoric plush and games visit Everything Dinosaur’s top-rated website: Our Website – Everything Dinosaur.

25 11, 2012

Everything Dinosaur Exclusive Christmas Newsletter 2012

By |2024-04-24T19:21:05+01:00November 25th, 2012|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Newsletters|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Sends Christmas Newsletter to Mail List

Subscribers to Everything Dinosaur’s mailing list received an update from the company this week, providing readers with information on the team’s social media work as well as information about new products available and Christmas gift ideas.

Everything Dinosaur

Over the years, Everything Dinosaur has built up a huge and loyal following of mums, dads, dinosaur fans, model collectors, teachers and not forgetting all the grandparents too.  We do our best to provide advice about gift ideas as well as free learning resources and information about new dinosaur discoveries and fossil finds.  Every now and then the team members send out a e-news to their mailing list and we really appreciate all the kind words and comments we receive from our fan base.

Christmas 2012 Newsletter from Everything Dinosaur

Updating our followers, fans etc.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Visit Everything Dinosaur’s highly-rated and award-winning website: Our Highly-rated Website (Everything Dinosaur).

The newsletter featured some of the new products available from Everything Dinosaur, including new prehistoric animal models, many of them exclusive to Everything Dinosaur, along with an update on the growing number of dinosaur books offered by the company.

To request a subscription to Everything Dinosaur’s mailing list so that you to can receive the newsletter and product updates: Contact Everything Dinosaur by Email.

24 11, 2012

Diatryma was Herbivorous Suggest Researchers

By |2023-02-08T14:52:48+00:00November 24th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Palaeogene Diatryma a Vegetarian

With the extinction of the Dinosauria at the end of the Cretaceous there were a huge number of ecological niches vacated by the likes of the ornithopods and the theropods.  For example, with the demise of the dromaeosaurs, abelisaurids and the tyrannosaurids there were no large, entirely terrestrial predators left on Earth.  Many scientists have accepted the theory that flightless birds evolved into apex predators, replacing the meat-eating dinosaurs.  One such flightless bird, was the giant Gastornis (sometimes referred to as Diatryma).

Standing over 1.75 metres tall, (some scientists suggest that some specimens were over 2.2 metres high), this heavily built bird was believed to be a predator, specialising in ambushing small mammals and other creatures despatching them with its massively powerful beak.  However, a team of Washington based scientists have proposed that these giant birds were actually gentle herbivores.

An Illustration of Diatryma/Gastornis

Diatryma, not a meat-eater but vegetarian?

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

An examination of three-toed footprints uncovered after a landslide in 2009, that are believed to have been made by a Diatryma-like flightless bird, show that this huge bird did not possess raptor-like claws.  The lack of sharp claws could mean that the the huge beak of these birds may not have been the bone-crunching, mammal eating weapon thought of previously, but the sturdy beaks could simply have evolved to crush nuts and fruit.  The American scientists propose that these bipeds may have been entirely vegetarian.

Bird Footprints

The bird footprints, were found in sandstone strata of the Chuckanut Formation of Whatcom County (north-western Washington).  The tracks were uncovered after a landslide and the strata in this formation dates to the Palaeogene geological period (Lower Eocene around fifty million years ago).  The environment was a sub-tropical, flood plain, criss-crossed by many large rivers.  The footprints were made by a large, flightless bird as it walked along a riverbank.  There were crocodiles and many different types of turtles as well as other species of birds and many small mammals in this environment.

Researchers from Western Washington University, (Bellingham, Washington State), examined the tridactyl prints (three-toed) and have ascribed them to the ichnogenus Rivavipes giganteus, placed in the family of Gastornithidae.  An ichnogenus is a genus which is established after the study of fossilised footprints or tracks.

Footprints show no Trace of Talons

No signs of talons on the feet.

Picture credit: D. Tucker/Western Washington University

Giant Birds

Fossils of giant birds dating from the Palaeocene and Eocene Epochs have been found in Europe and the United States.  The shape of the beak and the sturdy, muscular body led palaeontologists in the 19th Century to describe these birds as predators, the first of the “Terror Birds”.  However, researchers at the American Museum of Natural History (New York), at the end of the 20th century proposed that creatures such as Gastornis and Diatryma may have lunched on fruit and seeds.

This theory was based on the shape of the beak, which they interpreted as being well suited to crushing nuts and other tough plant matter rather than for the tearing of meat.  Unlike many predatory birds of today, the beak did not have a curved downward pointing tip.  Although the beak was very strong, it did not have the same morphology as those of meat-eating, extant birds such as eagles and ospreys.  This contradicted an earlier paper, published in 1991 by American palaeontologists Lawrence Witmer and Kenneth Rose which focused on the biomechanics of the bill of Diatyrma.  Witmer and Rose postulated that the powerful jaw muscles and thick bill could only have evolved to crush bone.

One of the authors of the scientific paper describing the footprints, that has just been published in the academic journal “Palaeontology”, George Mustoe stated:

“Let’s be honest, scary, fierce meat-eaters attract a lot more attention than gentle herbivores”.

Studying the Tracks

The tracks show that the bird that made these prints did not have long talons.  Such short claws do not seem suited to catching and subduing prey.  Carnivorous birds all have sharp, pointed long talons.  The short leg bones of Diatryma/Gastornis suggest that this heavy creature, that could have weighed in excess of 400 kilogrammes, would not have been a fast runner.  It had been thought that it was a specialist ambush predator, but perhaps it did not need to move very quickly, simply browsing on the plentiful fruit and nuts to be found in the forest.

Washington State around Fifty Million Years Ago – Grazing Giant Birds

Not such a terrible “Terror Bird”.

Picture credit: Marlin Peterson

The lack of sharp claws on the feet adds to the theory that flightless birds such as Diatryma may have been entirely herbivorous and not the “Terror Birds” as previously thought.   According to the Western Washington University scientists, the assumption that Gastornis/Diatryma was a meat-eater, relates to anatomical similarities seen in the later phorusrhacids from South America.

There have been a number of “Terror Bird” models made in recent years, perhaps the most famous is the Bullyland Diatryma/Gastornis, but Safari Ltd will be bringing out a Gastornis replica in 2013, a new addition to their “Prehistoric Life” model series.

New Gastornis Replica Available in 2013

A peaceful herbivore?

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of prehistoric animal models including replicas of Kelenken and Diatryma: CollectA Deluxe/Supreme Prehistoric Animal Replicas.

If the likes of Diatryma/Gastornis were not carnivorous, then this leads us to an interesting conundrum – what type of creatures were the apex predators during the Palaeogene?

23 11, 2012

Picking up a Rare Prehistoric Penguin

By |2024-04-24T17:23:30+01:00November 23rd, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|1 Comment

Researchers Discover Fossils of Giant Penguin in Antarctica

A team of researchers from the Natural Sciences Museum of La Plata Province (Argentina), have uncovered the fossilised remains of a giant penguin at the start of a summer expedition to Antarctica.  The fossils indicate that this particular type of flightless bird stood around 6 feet 5 inches tall (nearly two metres high), making it the largest penguin known to science.

Giant Penguin Fossils

Researcher Carolina Acosta, compared this new fossil find to the largest extant penguin species, the Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteriwhich can weigh up to forty-five kilogrammes and stands around four feet (1.2 metres) high.

She stated:

“This is the largest penguin known to date in terms of height and body mass.”

Earlier this year, scientists from the Ashoro Museum of Palaeontology (Japan) uncovered the fossils of two new species of prehistoric penguin from the Waitaki region of New Zealand.  One of these species Kairuku grebneffi, was estimated to have stood nearly five feet tall (1.5 metres) and may have weighed as much as 130 lbs (60 kilogrammes).  At the time of this discovery, this species was declared the largest known in the fossil record, but this new discovery from Antarctica indicates an even larger prehistoric flightless bird.

Fossil Discovery in Antarctica

Giant penguin fossil discovery.

Picture credit: Natural Sciences Museum of La Plata Province

A More Intensive and Complex Study of Modern Penguins

Head of Collections at the Natural Sciences Museum of La Plata, Dr Marcelo Reguero, when asked to comment on the new fossil discovery stated that the work of the research team:

“will allow for a more intensive and complex study of the ancestors of modern penguins”.

There are plans to re-visit the location next summer when the weather in Antarctica would be more conducive to a scientific expedition.  The fossils date to around thirty-four million years ago (Oligocene Epoch), at this time the world was warmer than it is today, however, changes were occurring in the Southern Ocean.  The continent of Antarctica had finally split away from other landmasses that once made up the super-continent known as Gondwanaland.  Antarctica was now roughly in the position it occupies today, sitting on the southern pole of the planet.

Surrounded by water and with sun for little over half a year, the continent began to undergo a transformation and for the first time in hundreds of millions of years, ice sheets began to form and permanent ice could be found at the South Pole.

Looking for More Fossil Evidence

In its next expedition to Antarctica, during the region’s summer, the team will seek additional fossils of the newly discovered species, as well as information about its anatomy and how the giant penguin might have moved.  The palaeontologists are confident that this species had a similar diet to that of modern penguins, spearing fish and cephalopods with its seven inch long (18 centimetre) sharp beak.

Previous finds from prehistoric penguins indicated they did not sport the iconic black and white feathers the birds are known for today, but had reddish-brown and grey plumage.

For models and replicas of prehistoric animals including theropod dinosaurs: Prehistoric Animal Models and Replicas (PNSO).

22 11, 2012

In a Flap over Dinosaurs, Feathers and Flight

By |2023-02-08T14:36:53+00:00November 22nd, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Archaeopteryx – Mainly a Glider say Research Team

A team of international researchers, scientists from the University of Bristol, the United States and the Beijing Museum of Natural History (China), have concluded that Archaeopteryx (A. lithographica) was more of a glider than a flapping flier, able to take-off from the ground.  An analysis of the structure and composition of the wings of this Late Jurassic animal suggests that the wings although covered in feathers, were very different when compared to the modern wing of an extant bird, a member of the Neornithes.


This new research, published in the academic journal “Current Biology”, proposes that the earliest forms of creature, evolving towards the Aves (birds) had layers of rigid feathers on their wings that made up an aerofoil surface which provided lift.  In the past, palaeontologists had assumed that the composition of the wing of Archaeopteryx was the same as modern birds, that wings were essentially modified forelimbs that were covered in a single layer of long, asymmetrical flight feathers with shorter, covert feathers on top.  Modern birds are able to use their wings to obtain lift, thrust and to manoeuvre by separating their feathers and rotating them.  This new study suggests that primitive, transitional birds such as Archaeopteryx may have been effective gliders, rather than creatures capable of true, powered flight.

Archaeopteryx fossils must be some of the most closely studied objects known to science.  Recently, there have been a number of exciting, scientific papers published about this enigmatic creature, for example, palaeontologists have been able to work out what this animal may actually have looked like.

To read an article about the colour of Archaeopteryx:  sets: Archaeopteryx – The World’s Oldest Black Bird?

Named and Described in 1861

The crow-sized Archaeopteryx was named and described by the German palaeontologist Hermann von Meyer in 1861.  The first fossil evidence of Archaeopteryx that came to the attention of science was a single, fossilised feather that was found in 1860.  A second fossil showing much of the skeleton and the fossilised impressions of feathers around the wings and tail was uncovered in 1861.  This specimen was purchased by Sir Richard Owen (the founder of the Natural History Museum in London); he paid £700 for it – a huge sum of money in those days.  This fossil has become known as the London specimen.  In total only a handful of Archaeopteryx fossils have been found (seven specimens and one fossil feather).  The first Archaeopteryx fossil was found in 1855, but at the time it was wrongly classified as a pterodactyl (flying reptile), it was finally classified as a fossil of Archaeopteryx in 1970.  In 1859, Darwin published his theory of evolution “The Origin of Species”, he argued that species gradually evolved and changed in response to their environments and other factors and that this led to new speciation.  The discovery of a feathered creature with wings like a bird but teeth and a tail like a reptile, was taken as evidence to support Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

Fossils of Archaeopteryx Provide Vital Clues to the Evolution of Powered Flight in Vertebrates

Left wing of Archaeopteryx with accompanying line drawings.

The left wing of Archaeopteryx with accompanying line drawings.

Picture credit: Longrich et al Current Biology.

Studying Archaeopteryx Specimens

The research team studied a number of Archaeopteryx specimens, including the famous “Berlin” specimen.  These fossils were compared and contrasted with the remains of a feathered, ground-dwelling, cursorial dinosaur known as Anchiornis (A. huxleyi).  Anchiornis was a crow-sized dinosaur that lived in north-eastern China approximately 160 million years ago, a few million years before Archaeopteryx evolved.  A number of specimens are known, all of which have come from the famous Liaoning Province of China.  This little reptile was covered in feathers.  It had long feathers on its arms and legs making a sort of fore and hind wing arrangement similar to that seen in another Chinese dinosaur Microraptor (Microraptor gui).  The research team conclude that feathers first evolved for insulation, thus supporting the theory that many dinosaurs were warm-blooded (endothermic).  Some feathers became display structures for courtship and other purposes and only later, around 130 million years ago did the modern wing structure evolve.

An Illustration of Archaeopteryx (Museum Exhibit)

Archaeopteryx in a museum exhibit.

An Archaeopteryx (A. lithographica) model on display.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view replicas of Archaeopteryx and other types of theropod dinosaur: PNSO Dinosaur and Theropod Models.

The wing function of Archaeopteryx may represent a transition from a cursorial lifestyle to that of a modern flying bird, the layers of feathers being a sort of early evolutionary experiment in wing design.  Although the individual feathers of Archaeopteryx may have been quite weak (indicated by the thin rachis (feather shaft)), the layered effect of the wing would have provided a relatively efficient aerofoil structure for the animal to use when gliding from tree to tree.  Not being able to separate feathers as birds can do today, would have limited Archaeopteryx’s flying skills.  Taking off from the ground and flapping vigorously at low speeds may have proved very difficult for this little creature.

Dr Jakob Vinther, of the University of Bristol (School of Biological and Earth Sciences), commented:

“We are starting to get an intricate picture of how feathers and birds evolved from within the dinosaurs.  We now seem to see that feathers evolved initially for insulation.  Later in evolution, more complex vaned or pinnate feathers evolved for display.

“These display feathers turned out to be excellent membranes that could have been utilised for aerial locomotion, which only very late in bird evolution became what we consider flapping flight.  This new research is shedding light not just on how birds came to fly, but more specifically on how feathers came to be the way they are today – one of the most amazing and highly specialised structures in nature.”

Early Birds

One of the authors of the research paper, Dr Nicholas Longrich of Yale University added that as a result of carefully studying these Middle and Upper Jurassic fossils, scientists are able to conclude that early birds had more primitive wings than their modern counterparts.  Over the next thirty million years or so, the wing structure gradually evolved and become a more efficient organ of flight.  The wings of birds from sediments deposited 130 million years ago are essentially identical to those of modern, extant Aves.

To read an article about the discovery of Anchiornis: Is Archaeopteryx about to be Knocked off its Perch?

Although, the wings of early, transitional creatures such as Archaeopteryx may have lacked the range of functions seen in Neornithes today, it is interesting to note that there is one type of bird today that has a similar, layered structure of feathers on its wing – the Penguin.  Penguins, originally descended from birds that could fly, but they have lost their ability to take to the air, and the layers of feathers are used to insulate their bodies from the cold.  Thus the feathers found on extant Penguins perform a very similar function to those seen on the Middle Jurassic dinosaur Anchiornis, they are primarily used for insulation.

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

The scientific paper: “Primitive Wing Feather Arrangement in Archaeopteryx lithographica and Anchiornis huxleyi” by Nicholas R. Longrich, Jakob Vinther, Qingjin Meng, Quangguo Li and Anthony P. Russell published in Current Biology.

21 11, 2012

Beautiful Prehistoric Animal Themed Artwork from Young Palaeontologists

By |2024-04-24T17:23:52+01:00November 21st, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings|0 Comments

A Pair of Pterosaurs Take to the Air

A colourful pair of Pteranodon’s soaring across the sky in this clever piece of prehistoric artwork from a young dinosaur (or should that be pterosaur) fan.

An Impression of Pterosaurs in Flight

Pteranodon takes to the air!  A colourful illustration of a pair of Late Cretaceous pterosaurs in flight.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Prehistoric Artwork

We like the way some extra vegetation has been added to the drawing.  The illustration itself comes from the Dinosaur Colour and Go Travel set that proved a big hit with our testers.  These large pterosaurs lived at the end of the Cretaceous, the species depicted here (Pteranodon longiceps) is best known from fossil material found in the United States.  The wingspans of some specimens are in excess of nine metres, making these creatures some of the largest flying creatures ever to exist.

To see the range of educational toys and games available from Everything Dinosaur: Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Toys and Gifts.

Nobody knows exactly what colour these flying reptiles were, although they did probably have colour vision.  We love the blue and purple wings and the flash of red in these reptile’s mouths.

At Everything Dinosaur we are always pleased to see drawings and pictures of prehistoric animals done by young dinosaur fans, just send any images (jpg files etc.): Contact Everything Dinosaur by Email.

You never know, your drawing could be published on line in our blog or on our social media pages such as Facebook.

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