All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
31 08, 2015

Dinosaur Britain – Part 1

By | August 31st, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, TV Reviews|0 Comments

Dinosaur Britain – Part 1 – Quick Review

The Oxford University Museum of Natural History might not be the same again after one of its most famous items in the collection, the Megalosaurus bucklandii came to life and pursued a cyclist down the high street.  Just one of the scenarios acted out tonight in the very informative “Dinosaur Britain” which was aired on ITV1 this evening.  This was the first part in a two-part documentary made by Maverick TV which sets out to explore the rich dinosaur heritage of the British Isles.

Dinosaur Britain – Bank Holiday Family Entertainment

Bringing British dinosaurs to life!

Bringing British dinosaurs to life!

Picture credit: Maverick TV

Aimed very much at a family audience, the first programme sees presenter Ellie Harrison going on a tour of the United Kingdom to learn about some of the amazing dinosaurs that once roamed this part of the world.  Even today, we at Everything Dinosaur estimate that, one in twenty of all the dinosaurs known to science is represented by fossils found in the British Isles, that’s about one hundred different species and what an eclectic bunch they are.

Dinosaur Britain

Ellie is guided on her tour of Britain’s dinosaurs by our chum Dean Lomax, a palaeontologist who has recently written an excellent book entitled “Dinosaurs of the British Isles”, so he is ably qualified to assist Ms Harrison on her quest to learn about these amazing reptiles.

For further information on “Dinosaurs of the British Isles”: Siri Scientific Press.

After a close encounter with Baryonyx in the Natural History Museum, Ellie meets up with a Megalosaurus, which does look a little out of place scavenging a council bin for a quick snack.  After all, Oxfordshire has changed quite a bit in the 167 million years ago since Megalosaurus was around.

Megalosaurus on the Prowl

A new hazard for cyclists around the Oxford area.

A new hazard for cyclists around the Oxford area.

Picture credit: Maverick TV

Crystal Palace Dinosaurs

Then it’s to South London to view the Crystal Palace dinosaur sculptures and to hand feed an Iguanodon, the CGI permitting viewers to see for themselves how our interpretations of the Dinosauria have changed since the time of the Great Exhibition.  Britain’s own “raptor” Nuthetes destructor, the name means “destroyer monitor”, makes an appearance, strangely enough at Stonehenge, although the fossils were found on the Isle of Purbeck (Dorset), cue more running for Dean and Ellie.  Good to see feathers on our turkey-sized dromaeosaurids.

Perhaps, for us the best part of the programme concerned the Early Jurassic armoured dinosaur Scelidosaurus.  The fossil specimen, part of the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery collection is truly remarkable and who better to talk to about it than David Sole, the Dorset fossil collector who discovered the fossils back in 2000.  Professor Mike Benton is our guide at the Bristol Museum, he explains how this beautiful dinosaur fossil came to be preserved in such an amazing articulated state.

Scelidosaurus Model

Claim to fame for Everything Dinosaur, we supply the Scelidosaurus models for the Museum’s shop.

Scelidosaurus Model

A model of a Scelidosaurus.

A model of a Scelidosaurus.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

To read more about Scelidosaurus: Britain’s Most Complete Dinosaur Fossil Discovered to Date.

A Dedicated Television Series “Dinosaur Britain”

The programme blended dinosaur facts and entertainment quite well in our opinion.  The focus for part one was very much on English dinosaurs, expect other parts of the British Isles to get more of a look in with the second programme which is scheduled to be shown tomorrow at 8pm.

Our congratulations to the programme makers, it is good to see that “British dinosaurs” are getting a share of the limelight.

The Scelidosaurus model shown is part of the CollectA Deluxe model range: CollectA Deluxe Prehistoric World Models.

31 08, 2015

Will We Ever Know All the Dinosaurs?

By | August 31st, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

How Good is the Fossil Record of the Dinosaurs

With something like 1,200 different genera of dinosaur now described, our knowledge of the Dinosauria has increased a great deal, especially over the last twenty years or so.  Many different types of dinosaur have been discovered and we at Everything Dinosaur try to keep a database using this blog.  For example, since the beginning of July, we have written articles about a newly discovered, very bird-like oviraptorid from southern China (Huanansaurus ganzhouensis), North America’s latest ceratopsian discovery (Wendiceratops), the new dromaeosaurid from Liaoning Province (Zhenyuanlong suni) and most recently, the basal sauropod Pulanesaura from South Africa.

How Good is the Dinosaur Fossil Record?

Just over the weekend, we reported on a giant horned dinosaur skull from South Dakota that might well turn out to be a new species of ceratopsian, albeit, one that would be very closely related to Triceratops.

However, will palaeontologists ever be able to create a definitive list of all the dinosaurs?  What percentage of the Dinosauria will ever be known?  Scientists at Bristol University have set about trying to find out by assessing just how good the fossil record for the dinosaurs actually is.

So Many Different Types of Dinosaurs Described

So many different types of dinosaur.

So many different types of dinosaur.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Trying to Calculate How Good the Dinosaur Fossil Record Is

Professor Mike Benton of the University of Bristol, set out to assess how good the fossil record is for the Dinosauria and for early tetrapods in a bid to answer the question as to whether the fossil record adequately represents the patterns of diversity of animals through time.  A number of other authors have attempted to assess the quality of the fossil record and in this new study, published in the journal “Palaeontology”, the journal of the Palaeontological Association, Professor Benton set out to plot how the knowledge of dinosaurs has been accumulated since the first scientific description (Megalosaurus) back in 1824.

The research does not provide a definitive answer with regards to how representative the vertebrate fossil record actually is, but this study does suggest caution needs to be taken when using some popular methods to try and remove bias from the known fossil record of the Dinosauria as well as the other Tetrapods included in the analysis.

Plotting the Number of New Species Named Against the Number of Newly Discovered Fossil Bearing Formations

Number of species against number of new fossil bearing formations.

Number of species against number of new fossil bearing formations.

Graph credit: Bristol University

Professor Benton Comments

Professor Benton explained:

“In the past ten years, many palaeontologists have tried to find the true pattern of evolution by using measures of sampling to estimate where the fossil record is well known or poorly known.  But it turns out that many of the popular methods are not doing what they are supposed to.”

The Bristol-based palaeontologist plotted the history of research into the Dinosauria from 1820 to the present day.  He logged the number of new species described and how the patterns of discovery match the patterns of discovery of new geological formations.  He noted that the patterns of discovery are closely linked, one or two new dinosaurs for each fossil-bearing geological formation that is newly explored.

More Fossil Bearing Geological Formations Discovered = More Dinosaurs Described

If there is a significant link between the number of dinosaurs described and the number of new geological formations discovered then how does this connection work?  This link can be explained in two ways:

  1. Rock formation discoveries drives dinosaur fossil finds
  2. Dinosaur fossil finds drives the discovery of new fossil-bearing formations

The usual view is that (1) is correct, that rocks drive fossil finds.  Palaeontologists are keen to find new dinosaur species, but the new species could only be found if they explored new rock formations around the world.  It could be argued that our ability to discover new types of dinosaurs (or any fossil group for that matter) is dependent on the availability of suitable rock formations to explore.

Plotting the Link between Early Tetrapod Discoveries and Rock Formations

Early Tetrapod discoveries 1820-2015.

Early tetrapod discoveries 1820-2015.

Graph credit: Bristol University

The graph above shows the same relationship in early tetrapod fossil discoveries from 1820 to the present day, but if there is a causal relationship between fossil finds and formations then how does this relationship work?

Fossil Record

The opposite view is that fossil discoveries drives the search for new rock formations.  Palaeontologists set out to look for new dinosaurs in a very focused and disciplined way.  When new dinosaurs are found they would often add a new dinosaur-bearing formation to the known list.  In this case, the limiting factor is not simply the availability of suitable rock formations to explore because scientists do not search systematically but they go straight to areas when they hear there are bones to be excavated.

Professor Benton added:

“I have been worried for a while that some of the popular correction methods actually make things worse.  By removing the numerical signal of the formations, localities or collections they were actually removing a huge amount of real information, and producing a resulting curve that is meaningless.  The fossil record is clearly incomplete, and it is clearly biased by many factors, but many of the supposedly “corrected” diversity curves we have seen recently may actually be further from the truth than the raw data.”

A New Analysis

This new analysis does not provide us with a definitive answer as to the diversity of the Dinosauria, or indeed, for any other fossil group of vertebrates.  However, we can infer from what we already have discovered that there are very probably a lot of weird and wonderful dinosaurs yet to be found.  It is not possible to state that we, after 195 years of research (1820 to 2015), have identified 10%, 50% or even 1% of all the types of dinosaurs that have ever existed, such statements by their very nature are likely to be invalid.

This new research does provide a clearer picture of why there is such a close correlation between dinosaur species numbers with formations, localities or collections.  The numbers of all four are connected because they are all telling much the same story, they are measuring the same history of life on Earth and our knowledge.  Professor Benton concludes that it is not possible to isolate one or other of these measures and then try to use it as an independent yardstick for sampling.

New Dinosaurs Will Be Discovered

There is one certainty, well, it’s almost a certainty.  New types of dinosaur will be discovered in the future and if the graph developed by Professor Benton is anything to go by, a lot of new dinosaurs (at least compared to the historical data), will be discovered in the next few years and Everything Dinosaur will do its best to blog about them.

For models and replicas of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals: Prehistoric Animals and Dinosaur Figures.

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

30 08, 2015

Stem Acrodontan Lizard – The First of Its Kind from South America

By | August 30th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Revising Lizard Evolution in Gondwana

The Squamata (lizards and snakes), might be the most diverse and specious of all the extant reptiles but their evolutionary history remains a mystery.  The preservation potential of these reptiles can vary dependent on the characteristics of the ancient ecosystems which they inhabited.  In addition, the small size of many of the early species of lizard and snake makes finding fossilised bones and other clues as to the history of this Order all the more difficult.

However, a team of scientists including Tiago R. Simões (Dept of Biological Science, University of Alberta), have published a paper in the journal “Nature Communications” that sheds light on the evolution of the iguanas and their near relatives.

Studying the Iguanians

The family of extant reptiles known as the iguanians (iguanas and agamids) are one of the most diverse and widespread type of lizard today.  However, like other types of lizard, their evolutionary origins are uncertain.  There are two main divisions within this family, firstly there is a sub-group called the acrodonts, these lizards have no root or socket to their teeth and the teeth are attached to the top of the jaw bones.  In the other sub-group, the pleurodonts they do not have roots on their teeth either, but instead the teeth attach to the inside portion of the jaw.

Acrodont iguanians are confined to the Old World, while pleurodont iguanians are found only in the Americas.  A newly described fossil however, breaks this pattern.  The international team of scientists have published a paper on a Late Cretaceous acrodont iguanian, the oldest known New World acrodont iguanian.

An Illustration of the First New World Acrodont Iguanian – G. sulamericana

The fossils date from around 80 million years ago.

The fossils date from around 80 million years ago.

Picture credit: Julius Csotonyi

Gueragama sulamericana

The fossils, including the holotype material, a partial lower jaw come from the Goio-Erê Formation, exposed near Cruzeiro do Oeste, in Paraná State, southern Brazil.  Fossils found in this locality represent an arid, very dry environment dominated by pterosaurs and large dinosaurs.  However, scurrying around the hot, desert-like environment was a short, rather stubby lizard.  It has been named Gueragama sulamericana, which translates from the local dialect and Portuguese as “ancient agama from South America”.

The discovery of these fossils of an ancient, New World acrodont means that in the distant past, lizards with the acrodont dentition had a worldwide distribution and were very probably widespread across the ancient landmass of Gondwana.

The Holotype Jaw Fossil (Various Views)

An ancient toothy lizard.

An ancient toothy lizard.

Picture credit: Universidade do Contestado, Santa Catarina, Brazil.

Scale bar in the picture = 2 mm.

Fossil Discovery Raises Questions

A number of questions have been raised with this discovery, for example, if only the pleurodont iguanians are found in the New World today, then what happened to the acrodonts that once lived in this part of the world too?

Lead author of the scientific paper, Tiago R. Simões stated:

“It becomes clear acrodontan iguanians migrated throughout the southern continents much earlier than previously thought (actually reaching regions where they do not inhabit today) by the order of tens of millions of years.”

This new research extends the fossil diversity of Late Cretaceous Brazil and suggests that the arid deserts of this part of the world may have supported a greater range of lizards than previously thought.  The scientists hope to find more lizard fossils, including material representing Gueragama so that they will be better able to understand the evolution and radiation of the stem acrodontans.

As for the date given to the G. sulamericana fossil material, we at Everything Dinosaur estimate these fossils to be more than 80 million years of age.  The strata which makes up this part of the Goio-Erê Formation is believed to date from the Turonian to the early Campanian faunal stages of the Late Cretaceous (90-80 million years ago, approximately).

Late Cretaceous South America

South America in the Late Cretaceous

South America in the Late Cretaceous

Picture credit: Nature Communications

Fossil Finds in South America

Between the Aptian/Albian faunal stages and the Campanian faunal stage of the Cretaceous, sphenodontians were thought to be the dominate animals filling the iguanian niche.  Sphenodontian fossils have been found in northern Patagonia, in the provinces of Chubut (Tres Cerros), Río Negro (Los Alamitos, Cerro Tortuga, Cerro Bonaparte and La Buitrera) and Neuquén (El Chocón), these discoveries are represented by black circles on the map above.

Lizards were present in the state of Ceará in north-eastern Brazil (Araripe Basin), as well as in the south-eastern/southern states of Minas Gerais (Peirópolis), São Paulo (Marília and Presidente Prudente) and Paraná (Cruzeiro do Oeste), and in the province of Río Negro (Cinco Saltos and La Buitrera), Argentina, represented by yellow stars on the map. The red star indicates the type locality of G. sulamericana in southern Brazil.

Recently, Everything Dinosaur reported on another Brazilian Squamata fossil discovery.  Spotted by chance on a tour of a German museum, scientists have identified the first example of a four-footed snake, an animal believed to be a transitional creature between limbed lizards and true snakes.

To read this article: Fossil Snake with Four Limbs Described.

29 08, 2015

Super-sized Ceratopsian Skull Might be New Species

By | August 29th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Horned Dinosaur Skull Found in South Dakota Might Be New Species

The small town in Buffalo in the north-west of South Dakota was so named as back in the 19th century vast herds of buffalo (American bison), roamed across this part of the world.  However, another type of horned animal has got local townsfolk excited, one that would have dwarfed even the largest of today’s hoofed giants, a very-well preserved partial skull and jaws of a huge horned dinosaur which might turn out to be a new species.

Acquired from a Fossil Collector

Fossil collector and dealer Alan Detrich purchased the dinosaur skull found in Harding County from another fossil collector John Carter back in 2012, but it has taken more than two and a half years to prepare the specimen ready for sale.  When the fossil skull and lower jaw were first excavated it was thought that the bones represented a very large specimen of Triceratops (T. horridus).  However, with the fossil completely exposed, Alan along with Neal Larson (Larson Paleontology Ltd) who was tasked with preparing the fossil, believe that this could be a brand new species of horned dinosaur.

Over the last fifteen years or so, a number of new North American horned dinosaurs have been named and described, however, if proved to represent a new species, this dinosaur skull could be heralded as one of the most spectacular dinosaur discoveries of all, the nasal horn alone measures nearly forty-five centimetres long and the skull itself is over 1.82 metres in length.

Ceratopsian Skull

Commenting on the unusually large nasal horn, Alan Detrich stated:

“They are [Triceratops nose horns] usually half that size and the skull is eight feet long, which would be a monster skull for a Triceratops.”

Neal Larson, the founder of Larson Paleontology Unlimited and a co-founder of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research with his brother Pete Larson, who coincidently is also working on a centrosaurine specimen at the moment, was given the task of trying to prepare the specimen.  It took over 1,000 pain-staking hours to carefully excavate the fossil from its iron siderite matrix.  The preparation work was extremely difficult, as despite the robust nature of the fossil bones, the matrix with its iron component (iron carbonate) was extremely hard.

A Ceratopsian Exhibit at a Museum (Triceratops)

Triceratops Fossil on Display

A cast of a Triceratops skeleton on display at the Naturmuseum Senckenberg (Natural History Museum – Frankfurt). On the left a wall mounted example of a Plateosaurus can be seen.  Is the Buffalo skull a new species?

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

For articulated models of ceratopsians and other dinosaurs: Beasts of the Mesozoic Articulated Dinosaur Models.

A Large Centrosaurine Skull

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur exclaimed:

“It’s only when you see a person stood next to the beautifully preserved skull that you can really appreciate just how big the animal actually was.  This is certainly one of the largest centrosaurine skulls that we have seen.”

For Neal, who holds a degree in geology and has been excavating fossils for some forty years now, the ceratopsian skull represented a tough challenge given the hardness of the surrounding matrix.

He stated:

“I immediately had my suspicions this was something new because of the size and placement of the nasal horn.  They’re usually in the middle of the nose, not the front and it’s twice as large as most of them.  On top of that, the frill at the top of the skull curves upward. They usually lay back.”

Ceratopsian Skull Could Represent a New Species

The skull has a strange ridge under the jaw, something that is not seen in Triceratops skull material.  Mr Detrich is now trying to find a museum to house this specimen, preferably in the United States, potential buyers for this huge dinosaur skull are currently being contacted.

The Ceratopsians of North American seem to have evolved into a very diverse range of forms during the Late Cretaceous.  Some of the skulls of these herbivorous dinosaurs were truly immense.  As a clade, the ceratopsians are considered to have the largest skulls in proportion to the rest of their bodies of any known vertebrate.  A few years ago, Everything Dinosaur reported on the discovery of another enormous horned dinosaur skull, this time from Alberta, Canada, a dinosaur that was believed to be an ancestor of Triceratops.

To read about this fossil discovery: Enormous Skull of Eotriceratops Discovered.

28 08, 2015

CBBC Asks for Everything Dinosaur’s Help

By | August 28th, 2015|General Teaching|Comments Off on CBBC Asks for Everything Dinosaur’s Help

Want to be a Palaeontologist? Do you want to dig up Dinosaur Fossils?

CBBC (BBC children’s television), have been in touch with Everything Dinosaur asking our dinosaur experts and teachers for assistance.  Do you want to be a palaeontologist?  Are  you aged 8-13 years, or do you know someone of that age that wants to explore fossils?  CBBC are looking for applicants for a new TV show all about dream jobs and this branch of the BBC wants to encourage more children to consider a career in the sciences.

A Dream Job?

CBBC Aiming to Inspire the Next Generation of Scientists

Dinosaur models

So many different types of dinosaur.  So many different dinosaur models.  Playing with dinosaur models all day – is this a dream job?

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

So if your ambition in life is to be up to your neck in Diplodocus cervical vertebrae, or getting into a flap over feathered dinosaurs, now’s your chance to live the dream thanks to CBBC.

To visit Everything Dinosaur’s website: Visit Everything Dinosaur.

Application Criteria

To be involved in the dream jobs show you must:

  • be aged between 8 and 13 years old by 5th October 2015
  • complete an application form (on line forms can be found at the link above) and a parent/legal guardian must sign to verify their approval
  • not be employees of, or a close relative of BBC employees
  • resident in the UK
  • make sure you have permission from your parent/guardian before sending CBBC any personal details
  • please note all contact numbers must be for a parent/guardian aged 18 years or over

Could Digging Up Prehistoric Animals be your Idea of a Dream Job?

dinosaur fossils and dinosaur models with Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaurs and dinosaur fossils.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaur Fossils

Everything Dinosaur team members receive lots of enquiries from media companies, these can range from providing a comment for a dinosaur related news release, requests for interviews or advice and information on prehistoric animal themed programming.  It’s all in a day’s work for the staff.

A spokesperson for the Cheshire based company stated:

“There are so many exciting areas of research in palaeontology at the moment.  It’s great to hear about CBBC’s attempts to enthuse the next generation of scientists.”

Don’t hang about though, drop your geology hammers and get your application form in, the closing date for applications is 2nd September 2015.

28 08, 2015

The Colour of Dinosaurs?

By | August 28th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Fossilised Dinosaur Feathers Do Contain Evidence of Original Colours

Over the last five years or so, a number of scientists from around the world have been trying to crack a dinosaur-sized puzzle.  Could fossils preserve some evidence of the colouration of long dead animals?  Could palaeontologists and that talented body of palaeoartists that work with them, finally be able to depict a prehistoric animal as it would have looked like in real life?

A New Scientific Study

A new paper published in the academic journal “Scientific Reports” moves the debate forwards to some extent.  Researchers, led by Johan Lindgren (Lund University, southern Sweden), including graduate students from the aptly named Brown University (Rhode Island, U.S.A) have analysed the fossilised remains of a Middle Jurassic dinosaur and found that the melanosomes preserved within the fossil not only resemble animal pigment structures found today but they also have a very similar, almost identical chemical signature.

This study supports the hypothesis and indeed, strengthens it, that scientists can work out the colouration of long extinct animals including feathered dinosaurs.

The Specimen Used in the Study – Anchiornis Fossil

Feathers reveal chemical signatures that supports colour hypothesis.

Feathers reveal chemical signatures that supports colour hypothesis.

Picture credit: Thierry Hubin

Anchiornis huxleyi

Named and described back in 2009, from fossil material found in Liaoning Province (north-eastern China), this little dinosaur was covered in feathers.  It stood about twenty centimetres tall and it had long flight feathers on its forelimbs and hind legs.  Three specimens have been described in detail, but there are believed to be many more examples held in private collections.  The exact geological age of this very bird-like dinosaur remains controversial.

A Model of Anchiornis huxleyi (PNSO Age of Dinosaurs)

PNSO Luffy the Anchiornis Dinosaur Model

The PNSO Luffy the Anchiornis dinosaur model from the “Age of Dinosaurs” model range.  A replica of Anchiornis.

To view the PNSO Age of Dinosaurs model range: PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Model Range.

It has proved very difficult to date the lake environment deposits where these fossils have been found.  Some palaeontologists have suggested that Anchiornis could be as young as 150 million years old, other scientists have proposed that the fossils date from around ten million years earlier.

To read about the scientific description of Anchiornis (A. huxleyi): Older than Archaeopteryx?

Fossilised Dinosaur Feathers

Colour analysis on the very well preserved second specimen (see picture above), has been carried out before, but this time, as well as finding melanosome structures, the researchers conducted two different kinds of chemical analysis to see if animal eumelanin pigment could be detected.  Melanin is a natural pigment found in most animals, there are three main sub-components of melanin, the most common form is the pigment eumelanin.

The researchers conducted an ion mass spectrometry test and also an infrared reflectance spectroscopy analysis to discern the chemical signatures of the rod-like structures that have been observed in the fossilised feathers of the dinosaur once the fossil had been subjected to electron microscopy.  The team then compared the molecular signatures of the fossil sample to the signature of melanin in living animals.  The observed signatures were almost identical.  The only small difference in the chemical make-up was attributed to the presence of sulphur in the fossil material.

Electron Microscopy Shows Tiny Structures in the Fossil Feathers

Structures identified under extreme magnification.

Structures identified under extreme magnification.

Picture credit: Lund University (Johan Lindgren)

A Palaeontological “Hot Potato”

The hypothesis that the structures which produce the melanin pigmentation, the melanosomes could be preserved in fossils is controversial.  Electron microscope studies of a number of feathered dinosaur fossils has revealed strange structures which have been interpreted as melanosomes by some scientists.

The shape of these structures providing clues to the colouration of the animal.  For example, in the case of Anchiornis, the rod-like, sausage-shaped structures, if they are melanosomes, indicate that this little Chinese dinosaur was mostly covered in dark, probably black feathers.

Controversial Conclusions Regarding Fossilised Dinosaur Feathers

Such conclusions have been hotly debated.  Some opponents have argued that the structures observed could be other types of organic residue such as the fossilised remains of microbes.  Other scientists have argued that there is a “fossilisation bias” when it comes to the colour spectrum and that melanosomes that give dark pigments may be more likely to survive the fossilisation process than other types, so there is a strong, black bias when it comes to interpreting the colour palette of a long, extinct animal.

Rod-Like Structures the Melanosomes

Sausage-shapes - potential melanosomes.

Sausage-shapes – potential melanosomes.

Picture credit: Lund University (Johan Lindgren)

Commenting on this latest research, Ryan Carney (Brown University) stated:

“We have integrated structural and molecular evidence that demonstrates that melanosomes do persist in the fossil record.  The evidence of animal-specific melanin in fossil feathers is the final nail in the coffin that shows that these microbodies are indeed melanosomes and not microbes.”

In essence, what this team has done is to move on the debate.  Morphological evidence (structures that look like melanosomes), are no longer the only evidence being put forward to suggest the colour of feathered dinosaurs.  There is now chemical evidence to support the theory that melanosomes can be preserved in fossils.

Dinosaur Colours

In order to help rule out a misinterpretation of the data, the team also analysed the observed spectral signatures of the melanins produced by microbes.  The closest match the team achieved was between the fossil material and the signature from extant animal melanin.

Student Carney, went onto add:

“This is animal melanin, not microbial melanin and it is associated with these melanosome-like structures in the fossil feathers.”

To read other articles published by Everything Dinosaur which relate to the colour of extinct animals:

Melanosomes in feathered dinosaurs: Melanosomes Provide Further Evidence for Feathered Dinosaurs.

Working out the colour, a problem: Working Out the Colour of Prehistoric Animals just got Harder.

Marine Reptiles and colour: Marine Reptiles Dressed in “Little Black Numbers”.

27 08, 2015

“Lucky Find” Puts Welsh Theropod Discovery on a Firm Footing

By | August 27th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Fossilised Dinosaur Foot Bones Found on Welsh Beach

Serendipity and palaeontology are often strange bedfellows, but luck does play a part especially when you consider the difficulties in finding very rare and exceptional items such as Early Jurassic dinosaur bones.  Take the example of palaeontology student Sam Davis who has been lucky enough to have been in the right spot at the right time to find the fossilised foot bones of the first meat-eating dinosaur known from Wales.  These bones belong to an, as yet, not scientifically described species of theropod dinosaur found by brothers Nick and Rob Hanigan in 2014.  The bones come from the Lower Jurassic strata exposed at Lavernock beach (Vale of Glamorgan).

Lower Jurassic Dinosaur Fossils

An Illustration of the Newly Discovered Welsh Dinosaur

Significant dinosaur discovery.

Significant dinosaur discovery.

Picture credit: National Museum of Wales/Bob Nicholls

To read more about the 2014 dinosaur discovery: Welsh Dinosaurs – New Early Jurassic Theropod Discovered.

Fossilised Dinosaur Foot Bones

A significant proportion of the skeleton, including skull material, was found by the brothers after spring storms revealed the specimen last year.  However, student Sam Davies decided to visit the beach to explore the fossil location after his tutor explained to him about the geology of the area and the nature of the fossils likely to be found eroding out of the steep cliffs.  Sam duly arrived at Lavernock Point just a few hours after a rock fall had exposed the fossil.  Had he decided to visit the site just a few days later, the fossil specimen would very likely have been washed away by the tide and lost to science forever.

The Foot Bones of the Welsh Theropod Dinosaur

The bones are located on a 20cm slab of rock.

The bones are located on a 20 cm slab of rock.

Picture credit: National Museum of Wales

A Lucky Discovery

Third year student Sam, had visited the beach hoping for inspiration for his third year project as part of his studies at the University of Portsmouth, it looks like he has hit the jackpot with his lucky discovery.  We suspect that Welsh theropods are going to feature in his individual research project this semester.

Commenting on his lucky fossil find, Sam stated:

“It was pure luck that I found it.  The fossil was just sitting on top of a slab of rock.  It was obvious the fossil was fingers or toes, because there were three in a row, but the first thing that came to mind was that it was some sort of plesiosaur [marine reptile fossils are occasionally found in this area].”

Donated to the National Museum of Wales

The fossil has been donated to the National Museum of Wales, joining the rest of the theropod material.  Sam’s tutor is renowned vertebrate palaeontologist Dr David Martill, he has been tasked with the job of studying the Welsh fossils and producing a scientific paper on the 200-million-year-old dinosaur.  Everything Dinosaur expects the paper, along with a name for this three-metre-long, meat-eater to be published next year.

Sam admits to “jumping up and down like a little boy” when he realised the significance of his discovery.

Dr Caroline Butler, (Head of Palaeontology, National Museum of Wales) exclaimed:

“The dinosaur found by Nick and Rob Hanigan is the first skeleton of a theropod found in Wales.  Sam’s find adds to its significance because we can learn more about the animal and how it is related to the dinosaurs that eventually evolved into birds.”

The fossil was actually found some weeks ago, but the announcement of this latest discovery coincides nicely with a television documentary being aired on ITV1 on Monday 31st August with part two the following evening.  The documentary entitled “Dinosaur Britain” explores the rich dinosaur heritage of the British Isles and the Welsh theropod is featured in the second programme of this two-part documentary.

For information on “Dinosaur Britain”: Dinosaur Britain Scheduled for Bank Holiday Monday.

Everything Dinosaur Comments

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur explained:

“The first dinosaurs to be scientifically studied, were described from fossils found in the British Isles, but even today something like one in twenty of all the known dinosaurs is represented by fossil material discovered in this part of the world.  The finding of the additional Welsh theropod bones was extremely serendipitous and we wish Sam every success with his studies.”

Here’s one palaeontology student who has helped to put Welsh theropods on a firmer footing.

Everything Dinosaur stocks a wide range of models of British theropod dinosaurs: Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Replicas.

26 08, 2015

Cave in the Urals Reveals Haul of Cave Lion Bones

By | August 26th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Imanai Cave – Strange Significance to Stone Age People

A team of Russian archaeologists have been putting on display some of the huge collection of prehistoric cave lion bones and other artefacts recovered from a cave in the Russian republic of Bashkiria close to the Ural mountains.  The small cave has yielded some five hundred cave lion bones so far, plus a number of flint spearheads and a cave bear skull that shows evidence of having been pierced by a spear.  The cave, known locally as the Imanai cave, shows no signs of sustained hominin habitation and it has been suggested that prehistoric people considered part of the cave to have some special, perhaps even religious significance and these items were brought into the cave deliberately.

Five Hundred Cave Lion Bones

Scientists Show some of the Flint Tools and Cave Lion Skulls

Imanai cave lion skulls on display.

Imanai cave lion skulls on display.

Picture credit: Pavel Kosintsev

A Unique Concentration

Such a concentration of cave lion bones in the cave is unique, nowhere else in the world has such a mass concentration of cave lion bones been discovered.  The bone assemblage probably represents six individual animals.

Pavel Kosintsev, a senior researcher at the regional Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology (Urals Branch of the Russian Academy of Science) stated:

“We found about five hundred bones and fragments of bones of the giant cave lion, but there could be more, after we finish with sorting the collection.  Such a large quantity of giant cave lion bones at one site is really unique, the only one in the world so far discovered.”

Giant Cave Lions

The cave lion (Panthera leo) shares the same scientific name of the modern African lion of the savannah.  Although some scientists believe that it is sufficiently different from its African relative to be classified as a sub-species (P. leo spelaea) It may be classified as the same species, by many academics, but the cave lion looked very different from its modern African counterpart.  Panthero (leo) spelaea was around 15-20% bigger and it had longer legs.

It also possessed a thick, shaggy coat which during the winter months, when snow covered a large part of this animal’s range, that coat might well have turned white to help camouflage this large predator.  It seems that in the past, the lion as we know it today lived over a much wider area of the Northern Hemisphere.  Its range extended out of Africa and into Europe, indeed cave lion fossils have been found in the UK, most notably Kents Cavern near Torquay (Devon).

Despite their name, cave lions were not adapted to a life in caves, they were creatures of the open tundra, forests and plains.  Their bones may have been washed into caves or brought into cave dens by scavenging animals and as a result, since the bones of these large cats are associated with caves and rock overhangs the term cave lion was adopted to distinguish them from extant species.

An Illustration of a Cave Lion (note the light coloured coat)

An illustration of a cave lion.

An illustration of a cave lion.

Picture Credit: Russian Academy of Science/Pavel Kosintsev

Cave Lion Bones

Earlier excavations had found isolated bones deep inside the caves, but these were interpreted as having been sick or injured lions, or lost cubs.  The researchers believe that the cave may have been an ancient sanctuary and that these sick and injured animals could have been brought to the cave by ancient people.  This suggests that the Imanai cave had some significance to the ancient humans that inhabited this part of the Urals, perhaps it was a place of worship.  A number of other such sites were bone deposits have been made are known, the scientists hope to compare their cave data with similar sites from Austria and the Czech Republic.

The human relics found include ten stone spearheads, identified as being from the Mousterian culture, previously only two such spearheads had been found in the entire Urals region of Russia.

Inside the Cave (Imanai Cave Ural Mountains)

Going down to the bone deposit site.

Going down to the bone deposit site.

Picture credit: Pavel Kosintsev

The Mousterian Culture

The Mousterian culture is defined by the style of stone tools associated with European hominins.  It relates to the Old Stone Age and dates from around 600,000 years ago with the youngest tools associated with this culture dating to around 30-40 thousand years ago.  This technology has been found in sites across southern Europe, Turkey and parts of the Middle East.  Mousterian flint tools have been discovered as far west as Wales and the Imanai cave represents one of the eastern margins for this stone tool culture.  During the Mousterian, Europe was populated by a range of hominin species, including Homo heidelbergensis, Homo neanderthalensis and latterly our own species which migrated into this part of the world from Africa – H. sapiens.

Spearheads the Only Sign of Human Activity

The spearheads and the cave bear skull with its spear hole are the only signs of human activity.  If ancient hominins had lived in this cave, even for a short period, the archaeologists would have expected to find a lot more evidence of human habitation.  For example, signs of fire having been used, animal bones with cut marks from being butchered and other stone tools.  The lack of other human artefacts supports the hypothesis that this site might have been a sanctuary of some sort or perhaps a shrine.

The latest finds have not been dated, but the upper layers of the cave floor mapped during an earlier reconnaissance are believed to be around 30,000 years old.  The lower layers are much older, how much older will have a significant bearing on the study, as the scientists cannot be sure what species of people (indeed, the cave could have been an important location to more than one type of hominin) they are dealing with.  Preliminary estimates place the lower, bone yielding layers at around 60,0000 years ago, so this site could be very significant in terms of Neanderthal research.

Different Populations of Humans

However, different populations of humans occupied different parts of Europe as the climate swung dramatically from very cold periods to much warmer inter-glacial periods during this part of the Pleistocene Epoch.  Further dating of material is currently being undertaken by scientists from the University of St Petersburg.

Archaeologists Working in the Cave at the Bone Deposit Site

Scientists carefully examining in situ evidence.

Scientists carefully examining in situ evidence.

Picture credit: Pavel Kosintsev

Explaining the team’s future plans Pavel stated:

“We plan to continue the excavations next year, but the amount of finds we made this year is very large.  There are about twenty sacks with ground and small fragments and about twenty to twenty-five boxes with bones.  We need to examine all this and I think that some significant updates may appear as soon as this year.”

All the bone and tool finds come from an area of just six square metres in the cave, which has been excavated to a depth of around sixty centimetres.  The research team are excited at the prospect of exploring other parts of the cave and finding many more artefacts.  The greater the number of artefacts, then more information can be obtained which should help the scientists to understand more about the cave, its occupants and how it fitted into ancient human cultures.

Everything Dinosaur stocks a wide range of prehistoric mammal figures and models: Models of Prehistoric Mammals.

25 08, 2015

Everything Dinosaur Invited to Talk Dinosaurs

By | August 25th, 2015|General Teaching|Comments Off on Everything Dinosaur Invited to Talk Dinosaurs

Everything Dinosaur Included in “Talking Science” Programme (Daresbury Events)

A team member from Everything Dinosaur has been invited to talk about dinosaurs as part of a series of prestigious science events being organised by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (Daresbury Events).  Joining the likes of professors discussing space travel, leading academics introducing the latest advances in stem cell research and scientists explaining the Big Bang theory, Mike Walley (Everything Dinosaur) has been asked to present an update on dinosaur discoveries.

Daresbury Events

“Dinosaurs from Top to Bottom” with Everything Dinosaur

Daresbury events and Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur presents “Dinosaurs from top to bottom” Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

A Monthly Series of Lectures

The monthly series of lectures take place at the world famous Daresbury Laboratories (Cheshire), a centre for scientific research and engineering. Everything Dinosaur’s presentation, entitled “Dinosaurs from Top to Bottom” has been booked for the key Easter holiday lecture.  The presentation will take place on the 6th April 2016.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council organise a number of outreach events each year with the aim of engaging the public in scientific debate.  Everything Dinosaur’s family orientated science lecture featuring the likes of Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops is bound to be a firm favourite.

Everything Dinosaur

Commenting on Everything Dinosaur’s participation in the Talking Science lecture programme, Mike Walley stated:

“It’s an honour to be invited to take part in such a highly respected programme.  We are already working on the script and our aim will be to inform, educate and amuse a family orientated audience.”

To learn more about Everything Dinosaur’s outreach work: Contact Everything Dinosaur.

With a strong reputation for providing dinosaur themed workshops in school, Everything Dinosaur undertakes a lot of outreach activities and public engagement as part of a wider brief to help young people understand what fossils can tell scientists about life in the past.

Visit Everything Dinosaur’s website: Everything Dinosaur.

25 08, 2015

Dinosaur Britain Scheduled for Bank Holiday Monday

By | August 25th, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, TV Reviews|0 Comments

Dinosaurs Come to ITV – “Dinosaur Britain”

When asked to think about dinosaurs, most people might imagine scientists searching for giant bones and teeth in the more remote parts of the world, places like the intriguingly named “Hell Creek” of Montana or the “Badlands” of South Dakota.  What might surprise most members of the public, is, that once upon a time, dinosaurs roamed over the British Isles.  Not only that but dear old “blighty”, plus Wales and Scotland, can lay claim to having one of the best dinosaur fossil records of anywhere in the world.

A New Television Documentary Series

Putting British dinosaur discoveries in the spotlight is the aim of a new, two-part television documentary that is being shown on ITV1 next week.  Presenter Ellie Harrison accompanies palaeontologist Dean Lomax on a whistle stop tour of dinosaurs of the British Isles and thanks to some super-duper CGI, viewers will be able to see some examples of these amazing prehistoric animals wandering around the UK.

Presenter Ellie Harrison Encounters a Theropod Dinosaur

Presenter Ellie Harrison confronts a Theropod dinosaur.

Presenter Ellie Harrison confronts a theropod dinosaur.

Picture credit: ITV

The first part of this documentary, “Dinosaur  Britain” created by production company Maverick TV, will be shown on Bank Holiday Monday, 31st August at 9pm.  In this episode,  Ellie, who confesses to having an interest in dinosaurs ever since she first heard about them as a child, explores the very first scientifically described dinosaur (Megalosaurus) as well as learning all about the fearsome Baryonyx, whose fossils were found in a Surrey clay pit.

Dean Lomax

Helping Ellie to piece together the clues about Britain’s ancient past is talented palaeontologist and British dinosaur aficionado, Dean Lomax.  Dean explains what fossils can tell scientists about prehistory and accompanies the naturalist and journalist on a journey around the British Isles exploring the country’s amazing dinosaur heritage.

Our Tour Guides to “Dinosaur Britain”  Ellie Harrison and Palaeontologist Dean Lomax

Dean guides Ellie through a dinosaur dominated Britain.

Dean guides Ellie through a dinosaur dominated Britain.

Picture credit: ITV

Brave Ellie is likely to get chased by a few of the more dangerous dinosaurs to have once roamed our countryside, and we expect the camera crew to entice her into hand-feeding the occasional iguanodontid or two, but this documentary will also inform viewers about some members of the Dinosauria, whose fossils are unique to Britain.  For example, travel to the beautiful Dorset coast and visit the location where amateur fossil hunter David Sole discovered the remarkable fossilised bones of one of the first armoured dinosaurs.

The dinosaur discovered by David, now resides in Bristol Museum, it is a Scelidosaurus and there is no record of it being found anywhere else in the world, it’s the “Jurassic Coasts” very own dinosaur.

Episode Two – (Isle of Skye, Isle of Wight and an Early Tyrannosaur)

Part two of “Dinosaur Britain” is due to be shown on the following evening (8pm ITV1).  The intrepid duo travel to the Isle of Skye to learn about some of the biggest terrestrial animals ever to roam Europe.  Some of the giant, herbivorous sauropods that thundered across our ancient landscape were as long as two London buses.  Dean explains to Ellie how dinosaur footprints are important trace fossils, fossils which actually show behaviour of long extinct creatures.

Huge Sauropod Dinosaurs Once Roamed the British Isles

Ellie Harrison says hello to a Sauropod.

Ellie Harrison says hello to a sauropod.

Picture credit: ITV

Not all of Britain’s dinosaurs were enormous beasts.  Some of the world’s smallest dinosaurs lived here too.  Dean reveals a tiny footprint found on Skye, the smallest in the Western world, probably just twenty centimetres in length and a tiny meat‐eater.  Next it’s a swift journey to the opposite end of the British Isles, to our very own “Dinosaur Isle”, the Isle of Wight, to learn all about predator/prey interactions.  Vertebrate palaeontologist, Darren Naish (University of Southampton and Tetrapod Zoology fame), shows fossils of the herbivorous dinosaur called Mantellisaurus, a dinosaur named in honour of Englishman Gideon Mantell (1790-1852) who named Iguanodon, the second dinosaur to be scientifically described.


The Mantellisaurus fossil material shows signs of an attack from or at least feeding by a carnivorous dinosaur.  The likely culprit is the ferocious Neovenator which Dr Naish describes as being “quite a nasty, efficient predator.”

Dinosaur Britain

Dean and Ellie continue their journey around Britain, with a trip to Ellie’s home county of Gloucestershire, where in 1910, an ancient tyrannosaur fossil was found during the excavation of a reservoir.  This beautifully preserved fossil, consisting of a nearly complete skull and jaws was named Proceratosaurus bradleyi.  It may not have been as big as the more famous Tyrannosaurus rex but this fossil does prove that early tyrannosaurs roamed across Britain during the Bathonian faunal stage of the Middle Jurassic.  Indeed, Proceratosaurus was not the only member of the tyrannosaur family known from the British Isles, two more are described in Dean’s fantastic book “Dinosaurs of the British Isles” published by Siri Scientific Press

Dinosaurs of the British Isles by Dean Lomax and Nobumichi Tamura

Dinosaur Britain - Dinosaurs of the British Isles.

A comprehensive guide to British dinosaurs over 400 pages.

Picture credit: Siri Scientific Press

To learn more about dinosaurs from Britain and to purchase this brilliant book: Siri Scientific Press.

160 Million Years of British History

Concluding their journey through 160 million years of British history, the documentary ends with a visit to Cardiff to view one of the most recently discovered dinosaurs.  There were once real dragons in Wales, albeit little ones but the fossils of a theropod dinosaur discovered by brothers Nick and Rob Hanigan might turn out to represent the earliest dinosaur known from Jurassic aged rocks.  Everything Dinosaur produced a short article announcing this discovery including pictures of the fossilised bones back in June.

To read more about this Welsh dinosaur: New Early Jurassic Theropod Dinosaur.

Looks like, thanks to Ellie Harrison and Dean Lomax (plus Darren Naish et al), British dinosaurs are going to be well and truly put on the map!

Everything Dinosaur stocks a range of dinosaur models fossils of which are known from the British Isles, dinosaurs such as Iguanodon, Megalosaurus and Proceratosaurus.

To view this range: CollectA Prehistoric World Figures.

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