All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
31 08, 2016

Wiehenvenator albati – “The Monster of Minden”

By |2023-05-04T14:55:10+01:00August 31st, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

The “Monster of Minden” – Wiehenvenator albati

A new species of large, Middle Jurassic carnivorous dinosaur has been described.  Writing in the academic journal “Palaeontologica Electronica” the researchers, which include Dr Oliver Rauhut, (conservator at the Bavarian Collection for Palaeontology and Geology), identify this new theropod as a member of the Megalosauroidea.  Named Wiehenvenator albati, it could be a potential sister taxon to Torvosaurus and a dinosaur that might have been about the same size as Torvosaurus gurneyi, reaching an estimated length of around ten metres.

An Illustration of the Newly Described Middle Jurassic Theropod from Germany

New dinosaur from Germany (Wiehenvenator)

Scale bar = 1 m (an illustration of Wiehenvenator).

Picture credit: Palaeontologica Electronica (based on an illustration of Torvosaurus by Scott Hartman

The picture above shows the known fossil bones of Wiehenvenator.

Wiehenvenator albati – A German Dinosaur

Fragmentary fossils including elements from the skull and jaws, caudal vertebrae, ribs and bones from the lower legs and ankle were excavated from a disused quarry located in Northrhine-Westphalia (Germany) back in 1999.  The fossils were found by chance, it was a routine inspection, however, once the first bones had been discovered a field team was brought in to ensure all the fossil material present could be collected.

The strata in which the fossil material was found are Middle Callovian in age (around 163 to 165 million years old) and they represent marine sediments.  During this time, much of the land that was to form western Europe lay under a warm, shallow tropical sea.  A number of small islands existed and it seems that this archipelago was home to this hunter, a dinosaur that is estimated to have weighed more than two tonnes.

Skull and Elements of the Jaws in their Anatomical Position

The skull and jaws of Wiehenvenator.

The skull and jaw fossils located in their anatomical position (Wiehenvenator).

Picture credit: Palaeontologica Electronica

“The Monster of Minden” – Wiehenvenator albati

Nicknamed “The Monster of Minden”, due to the town’s close proximity to the fossil dig site, Wiehenvenator was probably the apex predator on the island archipelago.  The teeth associated with this dinosaur are strongly recurved with the root making up more than two thirds of the tooth length.  The largest teeth identified so far (from the maxilla), measure in excess of 13 centimetres long.

The Teeth of Wiehenvenator albati (Various Views)

The teeth of the "Monster of Minden"

The strongly recurved teeth of Wiehenvenator.

Picture credit: Palaeontologica Electronica

Fossil Teeth

The picture above shows various views of the fossil teeth associated with the jawbones or found as loose items at the dig site.  The scale bar for 1 and 2 is 1 centimetre, the scale bar in the other images represents 5 centimetres (except picture 9).  The dinosaur was named Wiehenvenator for the Wiehengebirge, a chain of hills south of the town of Minden, where the holotype specimen was found and venator, Latin for hunter.  The trivial name honours Friedrich Albat, who found the holotype specimen.

Commenting on the significance of the discovery, Dr Rauhut stated:

“Apparently there was in these islands a wide range of sometimes very large predators mainly from the group of Megalosauroidea as finds from France and England, as well as the new predators from Germany show.  The Megalosauroidea were the first giant predatory dinosaurs of Earth’s history.”

Differences in the Middle and Late Jurassic Theropod Fossil Records

The discovery of Wiehenvenator adds to the number of large theropods known from the Callovian faunal stage of the Jurassic.  The research team comments on the number of large theropods from the Middle Jurassic that are classified as megalosauroids and they suggest that a rapid radiation of megalosaurs is suggested between the Toarcian and the Bathonian faunal stage of the Jurassic (approximately 183 to 166 million years ago).

The scientists postulate that this radiation and increase in the number of megalosaurs was probably triggered by the Pliensbachian-Toarcian extinction event that took place around 183 million years ago.

They comment that this extinction event may have been more significant for theropod evolution than the larger end Triassic mass extinction.  The team then go on to review the changes in theropod genera that took place from the Middle Jurassic onwards.

Two Views of the Right Maxilla (Upper Jaw Bone) of Wiehenvenator

The right maxilla of Wiehenvenator.

Right maxilla of Wiehenvenator albati in lateral (1) and medial (2) views.

Picture credit: Palaeontologica Electronica

The picture above shows two views of the right maxilla of Wiehenvenator albati, top (1) lateral view and bottom (2) medial view.

Less Megalosaurs More Allosaurs

The fossil record indicates a faunal turnover from Megalosauroidea dominated Middle Jurassic to allosauroid/coelurosaur dominated Late Jurassic theropod faunas. The researchers plotted the number of different theropod fossils found globally between the Middle Jurassic to the Late Jurassic.  Although the paucity of the fossil record makes a complete analysis impossible, the team did infer that there was a change in the proportion of different types of theropod dinosaur represented as the Jurassic progressed.

The once dominant megalosaurs were replaced by coelurosaurs and allosaurs.

For models and replicas of a variety of theropod dinosaurs: PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Models.

Middle Jurassic Theropods Compared to Late Jurassic Theropods (Assessed by Clade)

Changing Theropod genera during the Jurassic.

A fossil record comparison of theropods (Middle Jurassic compared to Late Jurassic).

Picture credit: Palaeontologica Electronica

The Impact on Large Taxa (Apex Predators)

Theropod faunal turnover in the Jurassic.

Theropod faunal turnover (taxa estimated to be >250 kgs in size).

Picture credit: Palaeontologica Electronica

Allosaurs Replacing Megalosaurs – Theropod Faunal Turnover

When body mass is considered and theropod dinosaurs estimated to be less than 250 kilogrammes in weight are removed, the impact of the rise in the number of coelurosaurs is lost, suggesting that these dinosaurs did not rise to the apex predator niche during this period.  Large megalosaurids which dominated the apex predator niche globally during the Middle Jurassic had been substantially replaced by allosaurids by the end of the Jurassic.

The scientists are quick to point out that these figures are not conclusive, bias because of the large number of theropods from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation is discussed along with the difficulties of undertaking analysis of this sort due to the relatively poor fossil record of large meat-eating dinosaurs over the time period studied.

However, an analysis of environmental preferences of allosauroids and megalosauroids indicates that the former preferred inland environments, whereas the latter are more common in nearshore environments.

From this it could be inferred that megalosaurids preferred to “be beside the seaside”.

The publication: “A new theropod dinosaur megalosaurid from the late Middle Jurassic (Callovian) of north-western Germany: Implications for theropod evolution and faunal turnover in the Jurassic.  By: Oliver WM Rauhut, Tom Huebner, and Klaus-Peter Lanser. In: Palaeontologia Electronica 2016.

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30 08, 2016

“Lucy” Famous Fossil Hominin Died in a Fall

By |2023-05-06T20:53:02+01:00August 30th, 2016|General Teaching, Key Stage 3/4|Comments Off on “Lucy” Famous Fossil Hominin Died in a Fall

“Lucy” Australopithecus afarensis Died in a Fall

In 1974, in the Afar region of Ethiopia, the remarkably well-preserved and forty percent complete fossil of an ancient human-like animal was discovered.  The excavation team, which included American palaeoanthropologist Donald Carl Johanson, had been playing the track “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by the Beatles.

“Lucy” The Famous Fossil Hominin

The bones represented a female, which subsequently was nicknamed “Lucy”.  The fossils represented a new species of ancient hominin (an animal more closely related to us than to a chimpanzee), the species was named Australopithecus afarensis.  Thanks to some amazing new research, a team of Ethiopian and American scientists, including eminent anthropologist Professor John Kappelman (University of Texas),  have worked out how “Lucy” died – apparently she was fatally injured in a fall from a tree.

Professor John Kappelman Surrounded by Fossils and Casts of Early Hominins

Professor Kappelman (University of Texax)

Professor Kappelman examines casts of “Lucy” – A. afarensis.

Picture credit: University of Texas

Forty-Five Thousand CT Images

The team scanned the fossil bones of this female A. afarensis whilst the fossils were on a tour of the United States.  In total, some 45,000 highly detailed CT scans were produced.  The scans revealed that the extensive fractures on the bones were most likely caused perimortem (at death or shortly before death).  An analysis of the broken bones led the team to postulate that 3.2 million year old “Lucy” was fatally injured after a rapid vertical deceleration event, probably a fall from a tree.

For model and replicas of prehistoric animals including hominins: Wild Safari Prehistoric World Figures and Models.

The Demise of “Lucy” Australopithecus afarensis

Lucy (A. afarensis) sudden deceleration event.

A reconstruction explaining the fatal injuries to “Lucy” – A. afarensis after a fall from a tree.

Picture credit: University of Texas

Applying New Technologies to Learn More About Fossils

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented that this “cold case” showed how scientists can use a variety of techniques to learn more about the lives and behaviours of ancient animals from the fossil record.

This study is significant as anthropologists have long debated how much time A. afarensis spent in trees.  Being able climb into a tree would have helped keep these small hominins safe from many predators, however, evolutionary adaptations to bipedal walking may have compromised their climbing abilities.  Bad news for “Lucy”, but this new research published in the journal “Nature” has provided a fascinating new dimension into the behaviour of an ancient human-like creature.

Visit Everything Dinosaur: Everything Dinosaur.

30 08, 2016

Scientists Search for Anthropocene “Spike”

By |2023-05-06T20:40:04+01:00August 30th, 2016|Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

Anthropocene Epoch Recommended by Geologists

The idea that we are now living in such a changed world as a result of the actions of our species, that a new geological epoch should be declared, is one step closer to reality.  A report from leading geologists presented at the 35th International Geological Congress held in Cape Town (South Africa), has recommended that the Anthropocene Epoch be added to the official geological history of Earth.

The decision to end the current epoch (the Holocene) and introduce a new geological time segment has not been finalised yet, more work needs to be done, specifically to decide at what point in time does the Holocene end and the new epoch, the Anthropocene (the age of humans), begin.

The Anthropocene Work Group (AWG)

A panel of experts has been put together to explore the possibility of creating a new epoch, the thirty-five members of the Anthropocene Work Group (AWG), presented their initial findings at the International Geological Congress and now work has started to identify the best point in time for the Holocene to end and the Anthropocene to start.  Twenty-eight of the panellists believe that the Anthropocene should be recorded as having started sometime in the 1950s, the decade identified as being the start of intense human activity that increased the impact of our species.

Identifying a Suitable Marker in Time

The search is on to find a “golden spike”, to identify a suitable marker in the environment that epitomises the start of a new phase in our planet’s history.

Some of the panel members have argued that July 16th 1945 could be that marker.   On that day, the first test of a nuclear bomb took place in New Mexico (code name Trinity).  Plutonium fallout from nuclear bombs will be present in sediments laid down at the time and over thousands of years the sediments will eventually form strata and the layers with unnaturally high levels of plutonium could provide the long-term geological evidence to indicate the start of a new and distinct unit of deep time.  However, other geologists think that rocks that contain large amounts of plastic compounds would make a better starting point for the Anthropocene.

Scientists Aim to Pinpoint in Strata the Starting Point for the Anthropocene Epoch

unstable cliffs.

Examining strata to highlight the beginning of an Epoch.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Colin Waters (British Geological Survey), the secretary of the AWG, presented the team’s initial findings at the Congress he explained:

“This is an update on where we are in our discussions, we’ve got to a point where we’ve listed what we think the Anthropocene means to us as a working group.  The majority of us think that it is real, that there is something happening, that there are clearly signals in the environment that are recognisable and make the Anthropocene a distinct unit and the majority of us think it would be justified to formally recognise it.”

A Changing World

Our planet has gone through huge changes since the time of its formation some 4.58 billion years ago.  Geologists have broken down this immense period of time into units, with each component of the official timeline of our planet marked by distinct boundaries, preserved in the rocks.  This timeline of our Earth’s history is referred to as the Chronostratigraphic Chart and any changes made to it need to be agreed by the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) and then be further ratified by the executive committee of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS).

The Anthropocene Working Group hope to present their findings within two years so that by 2019, a new geological epoch could be established.

The last time there was a major revision of the Chronostratigraphic Chart was in 2009, when, in a controversial move, scientists agreed to revise the date of the Quaternary Period: The Quaternary Just Gained 800,000 Years.

Although there is still debate as to the impact of our species on climate, most scientists and academics agree that we are entering a new phase of climate change.  Our world is getting warmer, the implications for a rapid and dramatic rise in global temperatures are frightening, hence the limits on temperature increases agreed at the recent Paris Conference (2015).

Creating a new geological epoch may seem like an exercise in semantics for some, but in reality, it would be an affirmation that our species H. sapiens is having such a profound effect on the planet that dramatic changes with far reaching consequences are now beginning to occur.  A new marker in the Chronostratigraphic Chart might help to drive change, providing a definitive rallying point for mankind to act collectively to put in place measures to help limit the impact we are having on the planet.

A related article on the global context of climate change: COP 21 – The Impact of Global Climate Change.

A study that shows climate change between the Pliocene and Pleistocene may help our understanding of current climate change issues: Pliocene/Pleistocene Climate Studies Supports Current Climate Change Models.

The Impact of Ice Age Mammals (mega-fauna) on the start of the Holocene: Calls for the Start of the Holocene Epoch to be Altered.

Dr Waters explained that in the past, climate change had taken place due to natural oscillations within our Earth’s ecosystems and environments, however: “in the last century we have had such a huge impact that we’re actually taking the planet away from that natural oscillation and changing the trend for global temperatures from what should have been a cooling trend to a warming trend.”

29 08, 2016

“Lucy” Died after Tree Fall

By |2023-05-06T18:52:16+01:00August 29th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

“Lucy” Most Likely Died after a Fall from a Tree

A team of researchers from Ethiopia and the United States have published a remarkable post-mortem on one of the most famous hominin fossils known to science.  It turns out that the 3.2-million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis known as “Lucy”, very probably died from injuries resulting from a fall from height, most likely a fall from a tree.

Computerised Tomography and “Lucy”

Computerised tomography was employed to study the fossilised bones whilst the specimen was on tour of America (Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia).  The high resolution scans helped the scientists to determine which of the many fractures in the bones related to injuries and which ones were as a result of more than three million years preserved in strata.

A Reconstruction of an Australopithecus afarensis Based on Fossil Material

Australopithecus afarensis "Lucy".

A reconstruction of “Lucy” A. afarensis.

Perimortem Fractures

Lead author of the scientific paper, which has just been published in the journal “Nature”, Professor John Kappelman (University of Texas) explained:

“These fractures have been known since she was discovered.  I’ve looked at this fossil for thirty years and I knew that these fractures were there.”

“Lucy” was discovered in the Afar region in 1974, ironically this hominin got her nickname as “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, the Beatles tune from the album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, had been played repeatedly by the research team at the dig site.

“Lucy” Killed in a Fall

It seems that a fall killed her and as since the fossils are associated with a flood plain with trees, it seems highly plausible that “Lucy” fell out of a tree.  This new study supports the idea that Australopithecus afarensis spent at least some of its time in the trees.  However, adaptations to a more terrestrial life, especially bipedal locomotion may have limited this species in terms of their ability to climb trees.  Being better adapted to walking upright meant a trade off between this and tree climbing ability.  In the case of “Lucy” this was to lead to fatal results.

The Fossilised Remains of “Lucy” A. afarensis

"Lucy" A. afarensis discovered in 1974.

The fossilised bones of Lucy (approximately 40% of the skeleton).

Picture credit:  The world’s most famous fossil, known as “Lucy,” went on display for the first time outside of Ethiopia in the world-premiere special exhibition Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia.

A Dramatic “Vertical Deceleration Event”

The scans revealed a number of perimortem injuries (pathology related to death or shortly before death), particularly a crushed shoulder joint, consistent with a person reaching out their arms to try and break their fall.  The scans also revealed traumatic injuries to the ankle, leg bones, the kneecap, pelvis, ribs, skull, jaws and backbone.  When the research team examined these injuries and compared them to orthopaedic literature in relation to fall victims, the team found striking similarities between the fractures.

Commenting on how certain the researchers were with regards to the fall from height (vertical deceleration event), Professor Kappelman stated that the team’s hypothesis:

“It’s tested every day in emergency rooms all around the planet.”

“Greenstick Fractures”

A number of the perimortem fractures identified were “greenstick” breaks.  The bone had bent and snapped like a branch of a tree, something that only happens to healthy, living bones.  The scientists concluded that these traumatic injuries occurred when Lucy was alive, as they show no signs of healing and as the injuries were so catastrophic, they very probably all occurred at the same time, a consequence of a fatal accident.

The fatal fall also fits with the fact that Lucy’s tiny first rib is broken.  This small bone is heavily protected by the chest, if this is broken in an accident, as Professor Kappelman explains: “you’re having a bad day.”

A Shattered Shoulder Joint and Other Injuries

When the shattered shoulder joint was examined the team concluded (after reviewing the evidence with orthopaedic surgeons), that Lucy had tried to break her fall by reaching out her arms, as Professor Kappelman explained: “if our hypothesis stands up… it tells us that Lucy was conscious when she reached out her arms to break her fall.”

The Postulated Demise of “Lucy” – A Fall from a Tree

Lucy (A. afarensis) sudden deceleration event.

A reconstruction explaining the fatal injuries to “Lucy” – A. afarensis after a fall from a tree.

Picture credit: University of Texas

A Severe Impact

In a remarkable analysis the researchers plot the demise of Lucy and comment when each of her injuries was likely to have occurred.  The impact would have been so severe as to cause concomitant fractures usually such a fall would also damage internal organs; together, these injuries are hypothesised to have caused her death.

When fossils of Australopithecines are examined they appear to have been capable of both terrestrial and arboreal locomotion.  The authors suggest that the adaptations that facilitated bipedal, terrestrial locomotion compromised the ability of individuals to climb safely and efficiently in the trees.  This combination of features may have predisposed these hominins to more frequent falls from height.

Looking for Signs of Injury

Close inspection of other fossils for signs of injury has the potential to offer important insights about hominin lifestyle, through an understanding of the trauma that they suffered and the mechanisms by which they died.

With the cooperation of the Ethiopian Government a series of data files have been produced and made freely available to other researchers.  In addition, as a result of the 45,000 scans taken by the team, a number of bones from Lucy have been reconstructed, these too will provide valuable learning resources.

Professor Kappelman in His Anthropology Laboratory with Casts of “Lucy’s” Bones

Professor Kappelman (University of Texax)

Professor Kappelman examines casts of “Lucy” – A. afarensis.

Picture credit: University of Texas

“Lucy” and her kind the Australopithecus afarensis have been at the centre of a vigorous debate amongst palaeoanthropologists.  How much time did these hominins spend in the trees?  It is ironic therefore, to hypothesis that “Lucy” died as a result from a fall, probably out of a tree.  The fractured bones providing evidence of arborealism within this species.  This is one very “cold case” that may have been cracked.

One further question to ask, did “Lucy” fall or was she pushed?

To read an additional article on bipedalism in early hominins: Early Hominins Walked Upright so they could Carry more Food.

28 08, 2016

An Excellent CollectA Thylacine Video Review

By |2023-05-06T18:39:30+01:00August 28th, 2016|Everything Dinosaur Products, Everything Dinosaur videos, Product Reviews|0 Comments

CollectA Thylacine Video Review

Everything Dinosaur customer Matthew (the Dinosaur King), has produced another excellent video review of one of his recent model purchases.  Talented and knowledgeable Matthew, has created a short video showcasing the rather excellent CollectA Thylacine model.  The Thylacine was a marsupial predator, the last known surviving member of the Thylacinidae, a once diverse family of predatory marsupials which were common throughout Australia and New Guinea.

The CollectA Thylacine Figure Reviewed

Video credit: Matthew – The Dinosaur King

A Brief Video Review

In Matthew’s carefully scripted video, the viewer is treated to a detailed look at this new for 2016 replica.  The video itself lasts a little over five minutes in duration.  In this time, Matthew is able to get over just what an excellent replica the Thylacine figure is.  With the model out of its protective packaging, the narrator uses his hand to provide a scale for the Thylacine and the commentary includes a close up look at those gaping jaws and individually painted teeth.

Although, scientists know that the Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus – the name translates to “dog headed pouched one”), could open its jaws very wide, it very probably preyed on animals much smaller than itself.  The Thylacine was hunted to extinction (it is probably extinct), as it was thought that this nocturnal hunter attacked sheep and other domestic animals.  Matthew discusses the demise of the Thylacine in the video, he also speculates on whether or not some small numbers may still survive in the remotest parts of Tasmania or within the wild outback of the Australian mainland.

The Remarkable and Highly Detailed Female Thylacine Model by CollectA

The CollectA Thylacine replica.

The CollectA Thylacine model.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

A Female Thylacine

The model represents a female of the species, there is a sizeable joey in the pouch.  The tail of the juvenile can be seen sticking out.  The design team at CollectA certainly seem to have studied very carefully the few old photographs that show a Thylacine with a distended pouch.

To view the CollectA range of prehistoric animal models including the female Thylacine replica: CollectA Age of Dinosaurs Popular Models.

CollectA Thylacine

The video gives discerning model collectors the chance to view the model in detail.  The narrator comments on how accurate and life-like the figure is.  The video shows a close up of the black eyes of the Thylacine, a feature noted in the description of the Thylacine written in 1806 by Tasmania’s Deputy Surveyor-General George Harris.

Harris stated:

“The length of the animal from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail is 5 feet 10 inches, of which the tail is about 2 feet…Head very large, bearing a near resemblance to the wolf or hyena.  Eyes large and full, black with a nictant membrane, which gives the animal a savage and malicious appearance.”

Our thanks to Matthew for sharing this video with us.

Visit Everything Dinosaur’s website: Everything Dinosaur.

27 08, 2016

Not All End Cretaceous Pterosaurs were Giants

By |2023-05-06T18:32:58+01:00August 27th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

A Small Azhdarchoid Pterosaur from Late Cretaceous British Columbia

As the Cretaceous progressed, so the once diverse and dominant Pterosauria began to be replaced by the rapidly evolving and radiating Aves (birds).  When it came to aeronautics, feathers were better than flaps of skin.  The last of the flying reptiles, those that survived into the very Late Cretaceous were giants, huge animals some as tall as a giraffe, even the smallest of these pterosaurs, creatures like Montanazhdarcho minor and Eurazhdarcho langendorfensis had wingspans comparable to the largest volant birds today.  It seemed that the last of the pterosaurs, most of which belong to a single family, the Azhdarchidae, were all big.

British Columbia Pterosaur Flies Against Conventional Thinking

Late Cretaceous small-bodied Pterosaur from British Columbia.

The small azhdarchoid pterosaur from Hornby Island (British Columbia).

Picture credit: Mark Witton

Studying Pterosaurs

The consensus went something like this, smaller pterosaurs were gradually out competed by and replaced by birds.  However, a newly described pterosaur fossil from British Columbia, the first of its kind from western North America has challenged this thinking.  It seems that smaller pterosaurs did survive into the Late Cretaceous and their lack of presence in the fossil record probably has more to do with preservation basis than with an inability to compete with birds.

The fossilised remains of a small-bodied pterosaur, an animal that probably had a wingspan of around 1.5 metres, that’s roughly the size of an adult European Herring Gull wingspan (Larus argentatus), were found on Hornby Island, a small body of land on the east coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia back in 2009.  The fragmentary fossils, were located in carbonate nodules and date from approximately 77 million years ago (Campanian faunal stage of the Cretaceous), the finder, a volunteer with the Royal British Columbia Museum, donated the specimen to the Museum.

For models and replicas of pterosaurs and other prehistoric animals: CollectA Deluxe Scale Models and Figures.

Studying a Pterosaur Fossil Specimen

At the time, the fossil material was given to Victoria Arbour, a then PhD student and dinosaur expert at the University of Alberta.  Victoria, as a postdoctoral researcher at North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, then contacted Elizabeth Martin-Silverstone, a palaeobiology PhD student (University of Southampton) and the Royal British Columbia Museum sent the specimen for analysis in collaboration with Dr Mark Witton, a pterosaur expert at the University of Portsmouth.

The Pterosaur Fossilised Bones can be Identified in the Carbonate Nodules

Azhdarchoid fossils from British Columbia.

The unprepared fossil material in the carbonate nodules.

Picture credit: Sandy McLachlan

Adding to our Knowledge Base About Late Cretaceous Pterosaurs

The fossils comprising a partial humerus (upper arm bone), vertebrae and other bone fragments show characteristics that led them to be classified as azhdarchoid pterosaur material.  Previous studies suggest that the Late Cretaceous skies were only occupied by much larger pterosaur species and birds, but this new finding, which is reported in the Royal Society journal “Open Science”, provides crucial information about the diversity and success of Late Cretaceous pterosaurs.

Lead author, PhD student Elizabeth Martin-Silverstone, explained the significance of this British Columbian discovery:

“This new pterosaur is exciting because it suggests that small pterosaurs were present all the way until the end of the Cretaceous, and weren’t out competed by birds.  The hollow bones of pterosaurs are notoriously poorly preserved, and larger animals seem to be preferentially preserved in similarly aged Late Cretaceous ecosystems of North America.  This suggests that a small pterosaur would very rarely be preserved, but not necessarily that they didn’t exist.”

Photographs and Line Drawings of the Azhdarchoid Humerus

Azhdarchoid Humerus Fossil

Line drawings and photographs of the prepared humerus (RBCM.EH.2009.019.0001).

Picture credit: Royal Society Open Science

An Azhdarchoid Humerus

The picture above shows photographs and interpretative line drawings of the fossilised left humerus (a, b) dorsal view, (c, d) ventral view, (e, f) proximal and (g, h) distal view.  The shading denotes preserved bone cortex (white), weathered bone (light grey) and matrix infill (dark grey).  The scale bar in the picture equals ten millimetres, indicating a cat-sized Pterosaur.

Late Cretaceous Pterosaur No Bigger Than a Domestic Cat

Azhdarchoid Pterosaur the size of a cat.

Late Cretaceous pterosaur that was cat-sized.

Picture credit: Mark Witton

Dr Witton commented:

“The specimen is far from the prettiest or most complete  pterosaur fossil you’ll ever see, but it’s still an exciting and significant find.  It’s rare to find pterosaur fossils at all because their skeletons were lightweight and easily damaged once they died, and the small ones are the rarest of all.  But luck was on our side and several bones of this animal survived the preservation process.

Happily, enough of the specimen was recovered to determine the approximate age of the pterosaur at the time of its death.  By examining its internal bone structure and the fusion of its vertebrae we could see that, despite its small size, the animal was almost fully grown.  The specimen thus seems to be a genuinely small species, and not just a baby or juvenile of a larger pterosaur type.”

Small Pterosaurs in the Late Cretaceous

Although the scientists cannot be sure what this pterosaur actually looked like, it has been given the typical skull and toothless beak of an azhdarchid, although in reality little can be deduced from the fragmentary fossil as to the appearance of this Late Cretaceous flying reptile.  However, the British Columbian fossil discovery is extremely important, as Elizabeth Martin-Silverstone added:

“The absence of small juveniles of large species – which must have existed – in the fossil record is evidence of a preservational bias against small pterosaurs in the Late Cretaceous.  It adds to a growing set of evidence that the Late Cretaceous period was not dominated by large or giant species, and that smaller pterosaurs may have been well represented in this time.  As with other evidence of smaller pterosaurs, the fossil specimen is fragmentary and poorly preserved: researchers should check collections more carefully for misidentified or ignored pterosaur material, which may enhance our picture of pterosaur diversity and disparity at this time.”

The study, which also involved researchers from the University of Portsmouth, North Carolina State University, and the University of Alberta, was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Dr Mark Witton, as well has having a remarkable knowledge of the Pterosauria and fantastic drawing skills, has authored a number of books on the subject of flying reptiles.  In 2013, his marvellous book “Pterosaurs, Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy” was published by Princeton University Press.  We at Everything Dinosaur recommend this book, not only for those with an academic interest but also for the general reader.

To read a review of “Pterosaurs” by Dr Mark Witton: “Pterosaurs” – A Book Review.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help and support of the University of Southampton in the compilation of this article.

Visit Everything Dinosaur’s website: Everything Dinosaur.

26 08, 2016

Attenborough’s New Kitty

By |2023-05-06T18:20:20+01:00August 26th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Microleo attenboroughi – Pocket Marsupial Lion Honours Naturalist

Naturalist Sir David Attenborough has had yet another prehistoric critter named in his honour.  This time, it’s a kitten-sized marsupial lion, a member of the fearsome Thylacoleonidae family.  Sir David has been a long time supporter of the Riversleigh World Heritage site of north-western Queensland (Australia), and it is from these freshwater limestone deposits that fossils representing a new type of marsupial lion were excavated.

Microleo attenboroughi – A Fearsome “Kitty”

Newly described species of pygmy Marsupial Lion (Microleo attenboroughi)

Microleo attenboroughi – a tiny, arboreal Marsupial Lion.

Picture credit: Peter Schouten

Microleo attenboroughi

Microleo attenboroughi (Attenborough’s tiny lion) was very probably arboreal and it shared the lush, tropical forests of the Miocene of Australia with a number of other types of marsupial lion.  None of them were anywhere near as big as Thylacoleo carnifex of the Pleistocene and despite the extremely fossiliferous nature of the site, only one specimen, represented by some skull fragments and parts of the jaw, of Microleo has been found to date.  Microleo is the smallest member of the Thylacoleonidae known to science.

Commenting on the discovery, Dr Anna Gillespie of the University of New South Wales stated:

“Microleo attenboroughi would have been more like the cute but still feisty kitten of the family.  It was not lion-size or even bob-cat-size.  Weighing only about 600 grams, it was more like a ringtail possum in size.”

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented that the newly described marsupial lion would have weighed less than an average pet guinea pig.

University of New South Wales Field Team Members Looking for Fossils

University of New South Wales field team members explore Riversleigh deposits.

The fossil rich part of the Riversleigh deposits where the Marsupial Lion fossil discovery was made.

Picture credit: University of New South Wales

Visiting Neville’s Garden

The fossil was found in a location at Riversleigh known as Neville’s Garden, which has become renowned for its rich diversity of animals.  The new species has been described in the academic journal “Palaeontologia Electronica”.  Although only fragmentary fossils were found, the maxilla contain an enlarged, shearing premolar tooth in front of the other molars, a specialised feature characteristic of the marsupial lion family.  The fossils are believed to be between 18-19 million years old.

The Teeth of M. attenboroughi Compared to Thylacoleo carnifex

Comparing teeth rows in Marsupial Lions.

The relatively tiny tooth row of Microleo attenboroughi (top), compared with the tooth row of its Pleistocene relative, the lion-sized Thylacoleo carnifex.

Picture credit: University of New South Wales

The Famous Riversleigh Site

The diversity of marsupial lion fossils from Riversleigh is unparalleled anywhere else in Australia.  Despite its small size M. attenboroughi was one of the larger mammalian carnivores known from the limestone deposits.  The ancient rainforest environment was certainly extremely rich, although very little evidence regarding the flora has been preserved, the Riversleigh deposits have revealed fossils of tiny koalas, toothed platypuses, possums, kangaroos, reptiles, bats and all sorts of different birds including Australia’s earliest known parrot.

For models and replicas of prehistoric animals: CollectA Deluxe Prehistoric Animal Figures.

Commenting on the diversity of species present, Dr Gillespie said:

“Microleo shared these northern Miocene rainforests with two larger species of marsupial lion, one cat-sized and the other dog-sized.  Although it is possible they competed with one other, the size differences probably means they each specialised on a different size range of prey.  It’s likely that Microleo scampered amongst the tree-tops, gobbling insects as well as small vertebrates such as lizards and birds while simultaneously trying to avoid becoming a prey item for its larger relatives.”

The Holotype Fossils of Microleo attenboroughi

The fossilised teeth and maxilla of Microleo attenboroughi.

The right maxilla and the left maxilla of Microleo attenboroughi with line drawing illustrations (occlusal views).

Picture credit: University of New South Wales

Analysing the Fossil Teeth and Jaws

The picture above shows (1) a dorsal view of the right maxilla and a dorsal view of the left maxilla (2).  When examining dentition the dorsal view is often referred to as the occlusal view (the view from the top looking down at the biting surface of the teeth).  The two line drawings (3) and (4) are illustrations of the right and left maxillas respectively.    Picture (5) is a view of molar 3.

Key: aabc, accessory anterobuccal cusp; ac, anterior cusp; lb, longitudinal blade; mcl, metaconule; mcus, medial cusp; me, metacone; pa, paracone; pc, posterior cusp; pr, protocone.

The researchers hope that more fossil material of Microleo can be found.  This would help them work out more about the anatomy of this tiny predator, such as whether or not Microleo possessed an enlarged “killing thumb claw”, like its relative Thylacoleo.

To read a recently published article examining how Thylacoleo carnifex may have hunted: How the Marsupial Lion Got To Grips With Its Prey.

25 08, 2016

JurassicCollectables Reviews “Winston” Rebor Velociraptor Replica

By |2023-05-06T18:07:49+01:00August 25th, 2016|Everything Dinosaur Products, Everything Dinosaur videos, Main Page|0 Comments

A Video Review of the Rebor “Winston” Velociraptor Replica

JurassicCollectables have produced a video review of the Rebor 1:18 scale, coloured Velociraptor called  “Winston” and what a wonderful opportunity to view this new Rebor model close up it is.  The Velociraptor figure has been introduced to pay tribute to Stan Winston, the special effects wizard behind the dinosaurs in the first three “Jurassic Park” films.

It is these films that really cemented the “raptor” amongst dinosaur fans as one of the most dangerous dinosaurs of all.  The Velociraptors in the movies may have been depicted much larger than they would have been back in the Late Cretaceous, but since “Jurassic Park” came out (1993), palaeontologists have identified a number of large dromaeosaurids, links to articles about some of these discoveries are provided at the end of the article, but without further ado, let’s look at the video.

The “Winston” Velociraptor Unboxing Video Review by Jurassic Collectables

Video credit: Jurassic Collectables

Velociraptor Replica Reviewed

In the brief video, (it lasts a little over six and a half minutes), the narrator guides the viewer through the details that can be seen on this carefully sculpted model.  The replica stays true to the non-feathered principles of the first “Jurassic Park” offerings and the viewer is guided around the dinosaur with a special focus on the beautifully crafted, articulated lower jaw.  A comparison is made between this figure and the Scout series Velociraptor “Stan” introduced by Rebor earlier this year.  The “Stan” and “Winston” figures are united in a special, limited edition (1,000 made), bronze effect replica set, JurassicCollectables will be reviewing this figure once Everything Dinosaur has sent out a set to them.

JurassicCollectables have a brilliant YouTube channel “ram packed” full of dinosaur model reviews and other very informative videos.

Visit the YouTube channel of Jurassic Collectables here: JurassicCollectables on YouTube , don’t forget to subscribe to the JurassicCollectables channel.

The Rebor Velociraptor Figure “Winston”

The Rebor Winston replica.

The Rebor Winston Velociraptor dinosaur model.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows the Rebor Velociraptor dinosaur model “Winston” as it comes out of the box, it is worth noting that the forelimbs are articulated too, one of several points made by the narrator in the highly informative JurassicCollectables video review.

To purchase “Winston” the spectacular Velociraptor model by Rebor and the rest of the Rebor range at Everything Dinosaur: Rebor Replicas and Figures.

JurassicCollectables conclude that this is an exquisite “raptor” figure, one that would fit in well with any dinosaur model collection.

We can’t wait to report on the bronze effect, limited edition “Winston” and “Stan” replica set once the talented folks at JurassicCollectables have published their video review.

As Promised, Dromaeosaurid Related Articles

Below are some articles from this blog site that provide further information on recent “raptor” discoveries.

The fearsome Dakotaraptor: Dakotaraptor A Giant Raptor.

Dakotaraptor compared to Utahraptor: Dakotaraptor and Utahraptor Compared.

One big rock and potentially six plus Utahraptors: A Nine Tonne Block and the Utahraptor Fossils It Contains.

New species of Velociraptor-like dinosaur described: Boreonykus certekorum A New Type of “Raptor” from the Far North

JurassicCollectables Video Review of the Rebor Scout Series “Stan”: A Review of the Rebor Scout Series Baby Velociraptor Model.

24 08, 2016

The Oldest Archaeopteryx in Town

By |2023-05-06T18:02:28+01:00August 24th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

New Specimen of Archaeopteryx Goes on Display

In February 2014, it was announced that a twelfth specimen of the iconic Late Jurassic “dino-bird” Archaeopteryx had been discovered.  A private fossil collector was exploring a quarry near the Schamhaupten district of southern Germany (Bavaria), when a slab containing the bones of a vertebrate were unearthed.  The specimen was spread over several, fragmented pieces but its significance was quickly realised and experts brought in to prepare the fossil with professionalism and care.  This week, after several years of preparation the specimen has gone on display.

The Newest (and Oldest) Archaeopteryx Fossil

Twelfth Archaeopteryx specimen.

About to go on display the oldest Archaeopteryx specimen known.

Picture credit: Associated Press

The fossil finder did everything correctly, filing the discovery at the district office that manages the quarry.  With the specimen logged, palaeontologists were able to set about preparing the delicate fossils (which were softer than the surrounding finely grained limestone), so that the all the details that had been preserved could be revealed.

The Twelfth Archaeopteryx Specimen

Although all the fossils of this iconic Late Jurassic animal derive from the Solnhofen area of southern Germany, the twelfth specimen, the newest, is also the oldest.  The strata in which this fossil was found is at least 200,000 years, possibly as much as 300,000 years, older than the rocks in which other Archaeopteryx remains have been found.

For much of the Late Jurassic, western Europe was covered by a shallow tropical sea.  Small islands formed an archipelago which stretched from Portugal to France and into Germany and where the land met the water there were extensive lagoons.  Some of these lagoons became cut off from the sea and also from terrestrial runoff.  They remained relatively still bodies of water that gradually became more saline and anoxic (low in oxygen).  These conditions meant that there were few large organisms around to scavenge any carcases should they end up in the water.

The lack of current enabled the bodies of organisms to gently become covered by the soft carbonate mud.  This led to the fantastic degree of preservation seen in many of the Solnhofen fossils found today.

A Closer View of the Archaeopteryx Specimen (Note the Ammonite Fossil)

Archaeopteryx fossil from Bavaria.

Pointing out the details on the Archaeopteryx fossil.

Picture credit: Associated Press

The Oldest Archaeopteryx Specimen

The picture above shows a close up view of the twelfth Archaeopteryx fossil specimen after it has been prepared.  The finger in the photograph is hovering just above the long tail.  Over the skull of the Archaeopteryx, the flattened fossilised remains of an ammonite can be clearly seen.  The ammonite fossil has helped to date the specimen to around 153 million years ago.  Palaeontologists have proposed that the presence of the ammonite suggests that the Archaeopteryx was washed out into the lagoon, perhaps in a storm, after which, it and the corpses of other animals unfortunate to have been caught out in the bad weather came to rest.

An Illustration of Archaeopteryx (A. lithographica)

Wild Safari Dinos Archaeopteryx.

At Everything Dinosaur an Archaeopteryx model.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows an interpretation of Archaeopteryx, a model made by Safari Ltd and introduced in 2015, this replica is part of the Wild Safari Dinos collection, to view the models: Wild Safari Prehistoric World Figures.

The model has been given a coat of black feathers, this reflects some of the latest research into the colouration of Archaeopteryx lithographic published at the time.

To read an article that discusses the potential colour of the feathers of Archaeopteryx: Archaeopteryx “Black in Black”.

This twelfth Archaeopteryx specimen will be put on display at the new Dinosaurier-Freiluftmuseum Altmühltal in Germany.

Everything Dinosaur supplies prehistoric animal and dinosaur toys.  Visit Everything Dinosaur’s user-friendly website: Everything Dinosaur.

23 08, 2016

New Rebor “Raptors” in Stock

By |2023-05-06T17:55:08+01:00August 23rd, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Press Releases, Product Reviews|0 Comments

Rebor Winston and “Father and Son” Replicas in Stock

The Rebor Winston Velociraptor replica and the beautiful, limited edition, bronze effect “Father and Son” Velociraptor set are in stock at Everything Dinosaur.  The latest additions to the Rebor scale model range arrived a few hours ago and we have had time to admire these skilfully crafted dinosaur models.  Inspired by Stan Winston, the special effects pioneer who worked on the first three films in the “Jurassic Park” franchise, the models depict Velociraptors as they were envisaged in the famous movies.  Hence the names “Winston” and “Stan”

The Delightful Rebor Velociraptor Replica “Winston”

The Rebor Winston replica.

The Rebor Winston Velociraptor dinosaur model.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows the coloured version of “Winston”.  It is beautifully painted and if you compare it with the picture below, you should be able to note another feature of this particular Rebor replica, one that is shared by the bronze effect “Winston” in the “Father and Son” Velociraptor model set.

Straight Out of the Box – The Rebor “Winston” Velociraptor Dinosaur Model

A 1:18 scale Velociraptor dinosaur model (Rebor Winston).

Straight out of the box! A Rebor Velociraptor model (1:18 scale model).

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Can You Spot the Difference?

The two pictures above show the Velociraptor replica, they have been taken with the ties still on the model but there is a difference between the two photographs, can you spot it?  Yes, that’s right the forelimbs in the pictures are in different positions.  Both the “Winston” and the “Father” replicas have articulated arms.  This enables collectors to position their “raptors” in different poses.  The lower jaws in both models are also articulated.

To view the Rebor models and figures: Rebor Models and Figures.

Pins to Secure and Support the Model

Rebor have striven to give the new Velociraptor replicas a dynamic pose and the design team have certainly achieved a wonderful effect.  Discreet pins in the base fit securely into sockets under the feet, this helps to stabilise the model as it balances on those delicately crafted Velociraptor toes.

Little Pins in the Base of the Model

Rebor replica "Winston" a Velociraptor model

The red arrow points to the discrete pin that helps to secure the Velociraptor model.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

When the model is secured to the base the pins cannot be seen.

The Rebor “Winston and Stan” Limited Edition Model Set

The bronze effect, limited edition Velociraptor model set, nick-named “Father and Son”, consists of a “Winston” accompanied by “Stan”, the baby Velociraptor introduced recently into the Rebor “Scout” model series.  The adult dinosaur in this set also has articulated front limbs and an articulated lower jaw.

The bronze effect paint work has been very well done and the models have an almost pewter-like quality to them.

The Rebor “Father and Son” Limited Edition Velociraptor Model Set

The bronze effect Velociraptor replicas from Rebor.

The bronze effect Velociraptor dinosaur model.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

To purchase the limited edition Velociraptor model set (whilst stocks last), check out Everything Dinosaur’s Rebor model section: Rebor Replicas and Prehistoric Animal Figures.

Only one thousand of these bronze effect sets have been made, those collectors lucky to get hold of one will have something really special to add to their dinosaur model collection.

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