All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
31 05, 2017

Oldest Swinger in Town – Torrejonia wilsoni a Remarkable Primate Revealed by New Fossil Discoveries

By |2024-05-09T08:29:32+01:00May 31st, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|2 Comments

New Mexico’s Oldest Primate Torrejonia wilsoni

A partial fossilised skeleton of a very ancient ancestor of humans discovered in north-western New Mexico has revealed that the first primates lived in trees and that they were not obligate ground-dwellers.  More complete fossil material shows that the Palaeocene plesiadapiform known as Torrejonia wilsoni was adapted for a life in the trees.  The fossil discovery is important as most of the Palaeocene mammals associated with the first primates (Euprimates) are only known from a handful of bones and isolated teeth.

The Torrejonia wilsoni Fossil Material Indicates an Arboreal Existence

Torrejonia wilsoni fossil material (T. wilsoni).

A skeleton composite of Torrejonia wilsoni (NMMNH P-54500).

Picture credit: Royal Society Open Science

The picture shows illustrations of the fossil material of T. wilsoni (specimen number NMMNH P-54500), with the bones and teeth mapped onto a line drawing of the animal.  Scale bar equals 1 cm.

Box a = elements from the skull

b = parts of the jaws

c = arm bones

d = the shoulder blade (scapula- fragmentary)

e = elements from the astragalus (ankle)

Box f = leg bones

Getting into the Swing of Things Once the Dinosaurs Had Died Out

It may sound surprising, but one of the first groups of mammals to rapidly diversify and to become more specious after the extinction of the dinosaurs were the Euarchonta (tree shrews, colugos and primates).  These creatures have their origins in the Late Cretaceous and with the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs, within a few million years, a number of new Euarchonta families had evolved.  The sediments that form the Early Palaeocene Nacimiento Formation (San Juan Basin, New Mexico), are one of the most important lithological units for fossils of these small mammals.

A fragmentary skeleton of the plesiadapiform Torrejonia wilsoni found in Torrejonian-aged deposits (NALMA – North American Land Mammal Ages), dating to around 62 million-years-ago, indicates that this animal had an arboreal existence.  Previously, many researchers had proposed that the plesiadapiforms, an extinct group of primitive placental mammals, close to the ancestry of primates, had been terrestrial creatures.  However, unlike most of the fossils associated with this group of mammals, this specimen of T. wilsoni provided scientists with key insights into the animal’s limbs and joints and a subsequent analysis revealed that it would have been at home in the trees.

Illustrations of Typical Plesiadapiforms

Illustrations of plesiadapiforms.

Illustrations of plesiadapiforms Plesiadapis cookei (centre) and Carpolestes simpsoni (top right).

Picture credit: DMP (Princeton Field Guild to Prehistoric Mammals)

Torrejonia wilsoni

Dr Thomas Williamson (New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science), one of the authors of the academic paper published today in the on-line journals of the Royal Society Open Science found the fossil material with his twin sons Ryan and Taylor.  Teeth associated with the skeleton allowed the researchers to identify the fossil material as T. wilsoni, no easy task as the skeleton was found jumbled up and mixed in with two other mammals, a partial skeleton of Acmeodon secans and an almost complete skeleton of Mixodectes pungens.

Lead author of the study, Stephen Chester (University of New York) stated:

“This is the oldest partial skeleton of a plesiadapiform and it shows that they undoubtedly lived in trees.  We now have anatomical evidence from the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee and ankle joints that allows us to assess where these animals lived in a way that was impossible when we only had their teeth and jaws”.

In addition, the research team contend that all of the geologically oldest primates known from skeletal remains, encompassing several species, were tree-dwellers.  It seems that the plesiadapiforms, the last of which died out in the Late Eocene, had forward facing eyes and relied more on smell than living primates do.  Analysis of the skeleton of Torrejonia wilsoni places plesiadapiforms as a transitional group between other mammals and the true primates.

Visit the Everything Dinosaur website: Everything Dinosaur.

30 05, 2017

Digging It Up in the City

By |2023-07-23T08:41:45+01:00May 30th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Dinosaur Excavation Work Starts in Yanji City

Palaeontologists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), are used to working in all sorts of environments as they strive to excavate the wealth of dinosaur fossils to be found at key locations in China.  This week, a field team will be starting work at a new dig site, one with all the conveniences of a modern city, as the excavation work will be taking place in Yanji City, (Jilin Province, north-eastern China), with an approximate population of 400,000 people, the scientists will not be short of company.

Chinese Dinosaur Fossils

Field Team Members Begin Exploring the Cretaceous Strata

Yanji City dinosaur excavations.

Field team workers exploring the Cretaceous sediments in Yanji City.

Picture credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

In a press release from the CAS, it is stated that the dinosaur fossil excavation will cover an area of approximately ten square kilometres and this is the first excavation of its kind to be carried out in a modern urban area.  Although the strata in the Yanji Basin is known for its substantial plant fossil remains, including flowering plants (angiosperms), this is the first time that dinosaur fossils have been discovered in Yanji City.  Experts state that the different coloured bands of strata represent non-marine sediments that were laid down when this area was experiencing climate change.

Zhang Lizhao, a researcher at the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (IVPP) commented:

“We can see that the geological layers show different colours including red, purplish red and light colours.  The geological layer with the colour of purplish red means that, when the layer was formed, the dinosaurs lived in a hot and humid climate.  The layers with the light colours were formed during periods with dry and cold weather. We are basically sure that the geologic body here was formed between the late Early Cretaceous and the very early Late Cretaceous.”

Dinosaur Fossil Discoveries

The rocks being explored are around 100 million years of age, they represent sediments laid down between the Albian faunal stage (the last faunal stage of the Lower Cretaceous) and the Cenomanian stage, the first faunal stage of the Upper Cretaceous, a time when global sea levels were extremely high and many terrestrial animal populations were consequently isolated.  Dinosaur fossils from the Lower Cretaceous to the Upper Cretaceous transition are relatively rare and these excavations could perhaps provide new information on the evolution of different types of dinosaur especially the Titanosauriformes, Ceratopsia and theropods.

The Very Distinct and Striking Bands of Strata at the Dig Site

Rock formations of Yanji City (north-eastern China).

Yanji City rock formations.

Picture credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

The picture above shows the clearly defined bands of strata.  Observers can see a defined fault line in the photograph.  Jilin Province is prone to earthquakes and other seismic activity.

A Large Dinosaur Dorsal Vertebra (right) Partial view of Articulated Caudal Vertebrae (left)

Yanji City dinosaur fossils (vertebrae).

Isolated dorsal vertebrae (potential titanosauriform) right with partial view of two articulated caudal vertebrae on the left.

Picture credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

The picture above shows some of the fossil found, the centrum of the dorsal vertebra has been labelled for identification purposes.  Everything Dinosaur team members have identified these bones as from probable titanosauriforms.

Fossil Material Uncovered at the Dig Site

Partial dinosaur limb bone.

Dinosaur limb bone (partial).

Picture credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Six Different Types of Dinosaur

Researchers have commented that at least six different types of dinosaur may have inhabited this part of China around 100 million years ago. They are confident that much more fossil material will be found helping palaeontologists to better understand the biota of this part of the world during a time of climate change.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“The fossils found at this extensive site in Yanji City, will add to our knowledge of terrestrial faunas during the Albian to Cenomanian transition.  It is likely that a number of new dinosaur species will be identified.”

The Everything Dinosaur website: Everything Dinosaur.

29 05, 2017

Key Stage 1 Children Design Beautiful Dinosaurs

By |2024-05-09T08:23:40+01:00May 29th, 2017|General Teaching, Key Stage 1/2|Comments Off on Key Stage 1 Children Design Beautiful Dinosaurs

Herbivore, Carnivore, Omnivore

One of the key topic areas covered in the Year 2 science curriculum (England), is that pupils should be taught to describe how animals obtain their food.  This permits the teaching team to introduce the concept of the development of simple food chains.  The national curriculum for England gives guidance on science programmes of study, but schools have flexibility in how these key concepts are taught in the classroom.  Dinosaurs and life in the past can provide a class with a highly enjoyable term topic that permits the teaching team to build in a wide range of cross-curricular learning activities.

An Everything Dinosaur Workshop

Designing a Herbivorous Dinosaur – Learning About Food Webs

Designing a dinosaur herbivore.

Our mailbag was full of lovely dinosaur cards.

Picture credit: Great Wood Primary School

Take for example, the term topic recently delivered by the teaching team at Great Wood Primary School (Lancashire), to their charges in Year 2.  Our dinosaur expert observed some excellent examples of non-fiction and fiction writing, along with evidence of non-chronological reporting during his visit to deliver a dinosaur themed workshop at the school.

For dinosaur themed toys and gifts: Prehistoric Animal Toys and Gifts.

A Dinosaur Food Chain

During an hour-long workshop with the Key Stage 1 children, our dinosaur expert introduced a series of extension ideas to help support the scheme of work that had been developed by the teaching team.  One of the topic areas touched upon was establishing the concept that different kinds of animals obtained food in different ways.  In addition, scientists used special terms to describe the diets of animals – herbivores, carnivores and omnivores.

We challenged the children to design their very own prehistoric animal, to label its body parts and to think about what food it might have eaten.  Could they come up with a name to describe their very own dinosaur?  By doing this, we were checking the children’s understanding of the key concepts.

Herbivores, Omnivores and Carnivores in the Dinosauria

Dinosaur illustration (Alice in Year 2)

A colourful dinosaur drawing from Alice in Year 2 at Greatwood Primary School).

Picture credit: Great Wood Primary School

The children came up with some very creative and imaginative designs.  At the end of the topic, one of the teaching team members sent us examples of the children’s work.  These pictures were posted up onto our warehouse wall and they made a very colourful display.  Having children design their own prehistoric animals is a great way to test understanding and provides an interesting way of demonstrating the key components of food webs, as well as introducing ideas about how animals can adapt to different environments.

Visit Everything Dinosaur’s website: The Everything Dinosaur Website.

29 05, 2017

Rebor Replicas King and Queen Feature in Stunning Diorama

By |2024-05-09T08:24:16+01:00May 29th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Rebor King T. rex and Fallen Queen Diorama

A special thank you to Paleo Paul who sent into Everything Dinosaur some photographs of his spectacular dinosaur diorama featuring the Rebor 1:35 scale King T. rex and the Rebor Triceratops “Fallen Queen”.  This is a wonderful composition that shows these two well-crafted replicas against the backdrop of a skilfully made prehistoric landscape.

The Rebor King T. rex and the Rebor Fallen Queen – Dinosaur Diorama

Rebor King T. rex and Fallen Queen (Triceratops) dinosaur diorama.

A wonderfully composed dinosaur diorama featuring two Rebor replicas.

Picture credit: Paleo Paul

Rebor Prehistoric Animal Figures

The model maker has added a couple of personal touches to these models, for example the imposing Tyrannosaurus rex is posed with its huge jaws nearly fully open, as if the predator is roaring to stake its claim over the carcase of the Triceratops.  The Rebor replica 1:35 scale T. rex has an articulated jaw permitting model enthusiasts the choice as to how they want to show their own “Tyrant Lizard King”.  The base upon which the Triceratops corpse rests also looks to have been repainted, these types of quality figures provide plenty of scope for a bit of subtle customisation.

The Triceratops figure represents a T. horridus and we think this is the original version introduced by Rebor in late 2015.  Recently, Rebor has introduced a second version of the “Fallen Queen” sculpt, this version has a different wash and offers variations in the paint effects and a slightly different colour scheme.  Version two has been brought out this spring in anticipation of the third part in this Rebor series, the adult male Triceratops which we expect to have in our warehouse in time for Christmas.

To view the Rebor prehistoric animal model range: Rebor Prehistoric Animal Models and Figures.

It’s All About the Detail

Paleo Paul has evidently thought very carefully about this composition.  The background has been constructed in such a way as to draw the eye into the diorama, the use of natural materials gives the diorama a very realistic look and when considering the best angle to photograph from, the use of two ferns at the extreme left and right of the frame helps to provide depth of perception.  It is all about the details when it comes to creating a striking prehistoric landscape and much planning has gone into constructing this prehistoric scene.

Tyrannosaurus rex Claims His Prize

Rebor King T. rex and Fallent Queen Triceratops diorama.

Rebor King T. rex and the Rebor Fallen Queen (Triceratops).

Picture credit: Paleo Paul

Clever Use of Lighting

Having created your dinosaur themed diorama, you might want to share this with the world.  To do this requires a practical approach to photography.  In this composition, (see picture above), Paleo Paul has chosen to take an image from a low angle, as if the viewer is looking up, this helps to provide an impression of size and scale.  Clever use of lighting has allowed the various hues and colours of the models to be clearly defined against the backdrop.  A few minutes considering what sort of effect you wish to create can really pay dividends when it comes to displaying your work.

At Everything Dinosaur, we enjoy seeing the creative ways in which our customers display their prehistoric animal model collections.  Our congratulations to Paleo Paul for producing such a striking dinosaur diorama.

To view the range of models and prehistoric animal replicas available from Everything Dinosaur: Prehistoric Animal Models and Figures.

28 05, 2017

Year 2 Send Thank You Letters to Everything Dinosaur

By |2023-07-23T07:36:52+01:00May 28th, 2017|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Year 2 at Great Wood Primary School Say Thanks

Children in Year 2 at Great Wood Primary (Lancashire), had a workshop with Everything Dinosaur back in the spring term when the class was learning all about fossils, dinosaurs and life in the past.  We challenged the children to write to us at our offices, an opportunity for the budding young palaeontologists to practice their handwriting.  Once the term topic had been concluded, the class teacher very kindly sent us a set of letters that had been written by the children.

Year 2 Sent in Thank You Letters to Everything Dinosaur

Year two thank you letters.

Thank you letters sent into Everything Dinosaur (Year 2).

Picture credit: Year 2 (Great Wood Primary School)

Our team members carefully laid out the letters on the warehouse floor and took a photograph (see above), before we pinned them up onto our warehouse notice board.  The children had produced some excellent and very well written missives.  Our congratulations to all the children and a special “Iguanodon thumbs up” to those children who demonstrated such lovely cursive handwriting.

For dinosaur themed toys and games: Toys and Gifts from Everything Dinosaur.

Thank You Letters

One of the Thank You Letters from Great Wood Primary School (Year 2)

Key Stage 1 - thank you letters.

Thank you letter from Year 2.

Picture credit: Maisie (Great Wood Primary School)

The picture above shows a thank you letter from Maisie.  Maisie’s letter demonstrates some excellent use of grammar and effective sentence construction.  We congratulate Maisie and her classmates on mastering cursive writing.

Dinosaur Term Topic with Key Stage 1

Learning about dinosaurs and other kinds of prehistoric life, provides the teaching team with the opportunity to build in all sorts of cross-curricular teaching activities into this term topic.  During the workshops that we deliver, our dinosaur experts make sure that they build in a number of follow-up and extension activities to support the scheme of work.

This term topic provides lots of opportunities for fiction and non-fiction writing.  The topic also provides plenty of touchstones to develop non-chronological reporting with the class.  A non-chronological report is focused on a single aspect of the wider topic.  It is a piece of writing that is not written in time order.

Non-chronological reports associated with a dinosaur term topic can include:

  • Creating fact sheets about prehistoric animals.
  • Producing information about famous scientists.
  • Writing about a visit to a museum or theme park.
  • Compiling information about the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs.
  • Building up a science poster that shows how fossils are excavated and prepared for display.

An Example of a Non-chronological Report on Brachiosaurus

Brachiosaurus non-chronological report.

An informative research poster on Brachiosaurus created by Asad.

Picture credit: Year 3 (Asad)

Everything Dinosaur Says Thanks

Once again, we at Everything Dinosaur say a very big thank you to the children at Great Wood Primary School and their teaching team.

For further information about Everything Dinosaur’s dinosaur and fossil themed outreach work: Contact Everything Dinosaur.

27 05, 2017

New Giant Piscivore Pliosaur Discovered

By |2024-05-09T08:28:31+01:00May 27th, 2017|General Teaching, Key Stage 3/4|Comments Off on New Giant Piscivore Pliosaur Discovered

Luskhan itilensis – Giant Pliosaurid from Russia

A team of international researchers have announced the discovery of a new species of giant marine reptile, a pliosaur that has been named Luskhan itilensis.  Writing in the academic journal “Current Biology”, the scientists state that the fossils, which represent a single animal, indicate that this Early Cretaceous reptile was huge.  The skull is estimated at 1.5 metres long, suggesting that L. itilensis might have reached lengths in excess of ten metres.

The New Giant Marine Reptile (Luskhan itilensis) Compared to a Frogman

Luskhan itilensis.

An illustration of the pliosaurid Luskhan itilensis from Russia.

Picture credit: Andrey Atuchin

Three-dimensional Fossil Skeleton (Luskhan itilensis)

The fossil material was excavated from a bank on the river Volga, close to the town of Ulyanovsk, in the Volga Federal District of Russia.  It is estimated to be around 130 million years old (Early Cretaceous).  Members of the family known as the Pliosauridae typically have very large skulls, strong, powerful jaws with big teeth.  These marine reptiles, distantly related to the plesiosaurs, “fly” through the water propelled by their large flippers.  Most of these animals are regarded as fearsome, apex predators.  Pliosaurs such as Kronosaurus, Pliosaurus and Liopleurodon represent the top predators within their ecosystems.

A Model of the Apex Predator Kronosaurus (K. queenslandicus)

Swimming into view the PNSO Kronosaurus marine reptile model (Jeff the Kronosaurus)

Swimming into view the PNSO Kronosaurus marine reptile model (Jeff the Kronosaurus).

The model (above) is a PNSO Kronosaurus.

To view the range of PNSO prehistoric animal figures in stock: PNSO Age of Dinosaurs.

A Specialised Fish-eater

Examination of the snout of this new pliosaurid, the rostrum, suggested to the scientists that this marine reptile may have filled a different niche in ancient marine ecosystems compared to other Pliosaurs.  The long jaws reminded the researchers of the snouts of gavials (gharials), a type of crocodile that is a specialist fish-eater.

A Photograph of a Gharial Skull (Gavial)

The skull of a gharial.

The skull of a gharial from the Grant Museum of Zoology (London).  Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

The research team postulate that Luskhan itilensis was not an apex predator but a specialist fish-eater (piscivore).  This suggests that over the long history of this marine reptile group, the pliosaurs evolved into different forms and occupied a variety of niches in Mesozoic marine ecosystems.

Teaching Extensions

Linking to adaptation and inheritance, ask students to look at pictures of various crocodilians, paying particular attention to the skull and jaws.  What similarities can the students identify?  What differences can the students detect?  A clue – look at jaw shape and teeth.  How does the shape of the jaws and the size of the teeth relate to diet?

For educational themed prehistoric animal toys and games: Educational Prehistoric Animal Toys and Games.

27 05, 2017

JurassicCollectables Reviews the Papo Polacanthus

By |2023-07-23T07:01:26+01:00May 27th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur videos, Main Page|0 Comments

Papo Polacanthus Video Review (JurassicCollectables)

JurassicCollectables have produced another very informative video of a Papo, new for 2017, prehistoric animal figure.  This time, the armoured Polacanthus takes centre stage and in this brief video review (duration 4:08), dinosaur model fans have the opportunity to take a really good look at this model.

The JurassicCollectables Video Review of the Papo Polacanthus

Video credit: JurassicCollectables

The Papo Polacanthus Dinosaur Model

Polacanthus is one of those iconic dinosaurs, an animal that would be well-known to most dinosaur enthusiasts, but there have not been too many replicas of this armoured dinosaur produced.  Not need to worry, as Papo have gone a long way to making amends by producing a beautifully detailed sculpt, a model that although very much characteristic of Papo’s modelling style, provides enough accurate anatomical detail to keep even the most ardent dinosaur fan happy.

The narrator takes viewers on a guided tour of the Papo Polacanthus.  Exquisite details are highlighted such as the careful sculpting and painting around the beak and comments are made about the lovely folds of skin down the legs and the great variation in the body scales and osteoderms that that model has.

One of Everything Dinosaur’s First Looks at the New for 2017 Papo Polacanthus Replica

Papo Polacanthus replica.

Papo Polacanthus dinosaur model. Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

The YouTube channel of JurassicCollectables provides a comprehensive resource for prehistoric animal model reviews and dinosaur themed merchandise.  The videos are expertly shot and provide viewers with the chance to get a really close look at replicas.

Visit the YouTube channel of JurassicCollectables here: JurassicCollectables on YouTube , Everything Dinosaur recommends that prehistoric animal model fans subscribe to JurassicCollectables.

That Famous Sacral Shield

The dermal armour is very well described and JurassicCollectables chose a novel way of showing off that beautiful characteristic sacral shield – a thick, fused plate of armour over the hips.

Regular cast member “off-colour Alan” uses the Polacanthus sacral shield as a saddle, this is a first for Everything Dinosaur members, we had not considered the sacral shield as a saddle before!  Although, we would not recommend trying to ride a Polacanthus, these animals were certainly capable of carrying a person as indicated by their robust limb bones and wide hips, but in all likelihood, it would have been a very bumpy ride.  Some of our American palaeontologist chums refer to the sacral shield as “the buckler”, perhaps they have theorised about the potential to use these particular members of the Thyreophora as transport!

The Papo Polacanthus Dinosaur Model

Papo Polacanthus model.

Papo Polacanthus dinosaur model.

It’s great to see Papo making a model of Polacanthus, it is a very welcome addition to the Papo “Les Dinosaures” range and we look forward to seeing further video reviews from JurassicCollectables as more of the new for 2017 Papo models come into the JurassicCollectables spotlight.

To see the entire range of Papo prehistoric animal models at Everything Dinosaur: Papo Prehistoric Animal Models.

26 05, 2017

The Curious World of Pliosauridae Research

By |2023-07-23T06:52:12+01:00May 26th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Bucking the Trend – Luskhan itilensis

Writing in the academic journal “Current Biology”, a team of international scientists which includes Roger Benson and Valentin Fischer (Department of Earth Sciences, Oxford University), have published details of a new species of ancient marine reptile, a short-necked plesiosaur that bucks the trend for the Pliosauridae.  Instead of being an apex predator, roles traditionally applied to monstrous animals such as Kronosaurus, Liopleurodon, the recently described (2013), Megacephalosaurus and Pliosaurus, the first of these large-bodied, big-skulled reptiles to be scientifically described, this new species probably hunted an entirely different sort of prey.

An Illustration of the Newly Described Pliosaurid – Luskhan itilensis

Luskhan itilensis.

An illustration of the pliosaurid Luskhan itilensis from Russia.

Picture credit: Andrey Atuchin

Feeding on Squid and Small Fish?

The rostrum of the newly described, highly unusual pliosaurid, is very narrow and it resembles the jaws of extant fish-eaters today such as the rare Gharial and the almost equally endangered (or, in the case of the Yangtze River Dolphin functionally extinct*) River Dolphins.

The Yangtze River Dolphin (Baiji)

The skull of a gharial.

The skull of a gharial from the Grant Museum of Zoology (London).  Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

The long snout suggests that this newly described pliosaur, named Luskhan itilensis specialised in catching small fish and squid.  Many palaeontologists suggest that the Pliosauridae were not capable of diving to great depths and they were confined to the Epipelagic zone (from the ocean surface to a depth of approximately 200 metres), whereas Sperm Whales, the largest toothed predators today, are capable of diving to much greater depths in pursuit of squid and other prey.

“Master Spirit of the Volga”

The fossilised remains of the marine reptile were initially discovered in the autumn of 2002 by one of the co-authors of the scientific paper Gleb N. Uspensky (Natural Science Museum, Ulyanovsk State University, Ulyanovsk, Russia).  The material comes from the right bank of the Volga, near to the town of Ulyanovsk, the bedding plane from which the fossil material, including a 1.5-metre-long skull was excavated, dates from the Lower Cretaceous (Hauterivian faunal stage).

Luskhan itilensis

Pliosaurids (Pliosauridae) are a family within the Order Plesiosauria.  They typically have large skulls, powerful jaws, a rigid body and propelled themselves through the water using their four flippers, although recent studies have shown that only the front pair of flippers were involved in propulsion.  The flight of the Plesiosauria: The Plesiosauria, Penguins and Underwater Flight.  The Plesiosauria swam in a unique way, not found in other vertebrates and now it seems that one group, the Pliosauridae, adapted to a wider range of ecological niches than previously thought.

Luskhan itilensis (the name means “Master Spirit of the Volga”), very probably did not specialise in hunting other marine reptiles, it filled a different role in the marine ecosystem of the Early Cretaceous.

Commenting on the significance of the discovery, Dr Valentin Fischer (Oxford University and lecturer at the University of Liège), the lead author of the study, stated that the specialised jaw:

“Is the most striking feature, which suggests that Pliosaurs had colonised a much wider range of ecological niches than previously thought.”

Not All Pliosaurs were Apex Predators

"Deadly Doris" pliosaur replica.

A close-up view of the pliosaur that is suspended above the ground floor at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery (Bristol, England). The life-size replica was nicknamed “Deadly Doris”. Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Postcranial Plasticity (Repeatedly Evolving Long and Short-Necked Body Plans)

Of all the types of marine reptiles that evolved during the Mesozoic, the Plesiosauria was one of the most successful, having a fossil record of some 140 million years or so.  During their long evolutionary history, plesiosaurs repeatedly evolved long and short-necked body plans.

In general terms, the Plesiosauria can be split into two sub-groups, the short-necked Pliosauridae and the longer-necked plesiosaurs, although this is an over simplification.  The discovery of Luskhan, further muddies the evolutionary waters somewhat, as its skull shows affinities to the very distantly related Polcotylidae.  A family of plesiosaurs, on the long-necked lineage side of the family tree, which evolved into fast-swimming fish hunters.

Study of the skull of L. itilensis indicates an evolutionary convergence of the cranial structure of typical polycotylids such as Dolichorhynchops.  Distantly related animals evolve and ultimately resemble one another because they occupy similar ecological niches, such as the same hunting and feeding strategies.

The researchers conclude that the discovery of Luskhan itilensis demonstrates the ecological diversity of the Pliosauridae and reveals that these marine reptiles had a more complicated evolutionary history than their simple depiction as apex predators suggests.

CollectA Models Help Demonstrate Cladistic Relationships Within the Plesiosauria

Plesiosauria cladistics.

Cladistic relationships in the Plesiosauria (simplified and not to scale).

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur with the utilisation of an illustration by Andrey Atuchin

The picture above shows a simplified view of the taxonomic relationships between members of the Plesiosauria.  The length of the lines do not relate to geological age and the images of the animals are not to scale.

CollectA Prehistoric Life and Deluxe replicas have been used to illustrate the cladogram.  To view the range of marine reptile models available from Everything Dinosaur: CollectA Deluxe Prehistoric Life Models.

CollectA Age of Dinosaurs Popular models: CollectA Prehistoric Life Figures.

The researchers conclude that the apex predator niche associated with the Pliosauridae does not necessarily reflect the diversity of this marine reptile family and that the pliosaurs repeatedly evolved long-jawed, specialist fish and squid catchers during their extensive evolutionary history.

* Functionally extinct – so few animals that there is no viable breeding population.

The Scientific Paper: “Plasticity and Convergence in the Evolution of Short-Necked Plesiosaurs” by Valentin Fischer, Roger B.J. Benson, Nikolay G. Zverkov, Laura C. Soul, Maxim S. Arkhangelsky, Olivier Lambert, Ilya M. Stenshin, Gleb N. Uspensky, Patrick S. Druckenmiller.

Visit the award-winning Everything Dinosaur website: Everything Dinosaur.

25 05, 2017

Amazing Ceratopsid Tooth Paper Published (Part 2)

By |2024-05-09T08:26:02+01:00May 25th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Owl Creek Ceratopsid Tooth and Palaeoenvironment Implications

Yesterday, team members at Everything Dinosaur published an article on the discovery of a single fossil ceratopsid tooth. It had been found in Union County (Mississippi).  This discovery, the first evidence of a dinosaur from the Owl Creek Formation, has implications for the way in which palaeontologists perceive the ecosystems that existed on the ancient landmasses of Laramidia and Appalachia.

Museum Specimen 7969- The Ceratopsid Tooth

Fossil tooth of a dinosaur from Mississippi.

Horned dinosaur tooth discovered in Mississippi.

Picture credit:  Mississippi Museum of Natural Science (MDWFP)

To read yesterday’s article: Ceratopsid Tooth Paper Published (Part 1).

Why So Few Horned Dinosaur Fossils Found in Marine Sediments?

Palaeontologists know that during the latter stages of the Cretaceous, there were many different types of horned dinosaur (ceratopsian).  Lots of fossil evidence has been discovered in western North America and a myriad of different forms have been described, particularly over the last ten years or so.  The likes of Triceratops may have first been described back in the late 1880s but so many different horned dinosaur genera have been established in recently times, that numerous vertebrate palaeontologists refer to the last decade as the “Golden Age of Horned Dinosaur Discoveries”.

New Ceratopsian Faces Since 2007

So many different horned dinosaurs.

Illustrations of different horned dinosaurs that have been named since 2006.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur with artwork from Julius Csotonyi, Danielle Dufault and the Canadian Museum of Natural History/Andrey Atuchin

Despite all these horned dinosaur fossil discoveries, the Owl Creek Formation tooth, is one of only a handful of North American ceratopsian fossils which have been found associated with marine strata.  The question is why?

Duck-billed Dinosaur Fossils in Marine Sediments

Compared to other types of Late Cretaceous dinosaur – ceratopsids, theropods, ankylosaurids, et al, hadrosaur fossils are the most common dinosaur fossils to be found in marine rocks laid down towards the end of the Cretaceous.  Duck-billed dinosaur fossils in marine sediments, are hardly what you would call abundant, but in relation to other large, obviously terrestrial dinosaurs, hadrosaur fossils are more numerous in those rocks associated with having been laid down under the sea.

Although the fossil record shows a degree of bias, dinosaurs such as some of the smaller theropods and the Pachycephalosaurs may be under-represented for example, this still does not explain why, compared to the hadrosaurs, the almost equally specious and abundant horned dinosaurs don’t show up in marine deposits.  Ceratopsians may have preferred slightly different habitats than the hadrosaurs.  Research undertaken in 2010 (Eberth), suggested that most of the horned dinosaur fossil remains were associated with lake, alluvial or coastal plain habitats, at least amongst the Ceratopsidae family.

Ceratopsians Such as Triceratops May Have Preferred Different Habitats Compared to Hadrosaurs

Ceratopsian habitats highlighted by the CollectA Deluxe Triceratops horridus.

Ceratopsian habitats highlighted by the CollectA Deluxe Triceratops horridus.

The picture (above) shows at CollectA Deluxe Triceratops model.

To view the CollectA Deluxe range: CollectA Deluxe/Supreme Figures.

The alluvial, low-lying wetland areas are strongly associated with river channels and these specific areas can be divided into two distinct parts.

  1. The riparian influenced part – the river and the river/channel margins.
  2. The floodplain – areas not adjacent to the river or the channel margins but flooded by the river when the river burst its banks.

Horned Dinosaurs Associated with Floodplains

Put into simple terms, dinosaurs such as Triceratops have left fossils associated with floodplain (muddy) deposits, whereas, duck-billed dinosaurs such as Edmontosaurus fossils are more associated with fluviatile (sandy) deposits.

If transport along river channels are the most common cause of “bloat and float” carcases, then, the lack of horned dinosaur fossils in marine sediments could be explained by ceratopsids, preferring to live on those parts of the floodplain, not very near to the river.  They may have had a preference for habitats outside of the riparian zones.

A Hadrosaur Corpse Floating Out to Sea (Bloat and Float Scenario)

Dinosaur corpse washed out to sea.

An artist’s illustration of the duck-billed dinosaur carcase washed out to sea.

Picture credit: Masato Hattori

Visit the website of Everything Dinosaur: Everything Dinosaur.

24 05, 2017

Amazing Ceratopsid Tooth Paper Published (Part 1)

By |2024-05-09T08:26:25+01:00May 24th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Paper on the First Reported Horned Dinosaur Tooth from Eastern North America Published

In July 2016, Everything Dinosaur team members reported the discovery of a single tooth from a horned dinosaur in North America.  Given the dental batteries that these herbivorous dinosaurs possessed, that teeth, being extremely hard, stand up well to the fossilisation process and given the number of new North American ceratopsid species named in the last decade, this fossil find might not sound that surprising.

It’s not really about what was found, but where it was found, as the fossil tooth is the first horned dinosaur tooth to come to the attention of the scientific community from the eastern part of the United States.  To a palaeontologist this is a big deal, a very big deal indeed!

Views and Accompanying Computer Generated Images of the Single Tooth

Ceratopsid tooth from eastern North America.

Various views of the horned dinosaur tooth (Own Formation, northern Mississippi).

Picture credit: PeerJ

To read Everything Dinosaur’s earlier article about the ceratopsid tooth fossil find: Horned Dinosaur Tooth Discovered in Northern Mississippi.

North America in the Late Cretaceous – A Tale of Two Landmasses

A variety of different types of horned dinosaur evolved in the western part of North America during the Late Cretaceous (Campanian faunal stage through to the Maastrichtian faunal stage).  However, during this period in Earth’s history, the landmass we now know as North America looked very different.  The continent was split into two parts, by a large, shallow sea (Western Interior Seaway).  At its fullest extent, this shallow sea stretched from the Gulf of Mexico, through the United States and Canada to the Arctic circle.

Size estimates vary, but it has been suggested (U.S. Geological Survey), that at its maximum, the sea was between 1,900 and 3,000 miles long between 600 to 1,000 miles in diameter.  Bordering the sea in the west was the long, narrow strip of land – Laramidia, whilst to the east, the landmass called Appalachia could be found.  Sea levels rose and fell over this period, eventually the Western Interior Seaway contracted, retreating south as plate movements pushed up the landmasses.  At the time of the dinosaur extinction, this once great area of tropical sea was reduced to a strip of water around the Gulf of Mexico, covering parts of the south-western USA.

Horned Dinosaurs Migrated from Laramidia to Appalachia

The dinosaur tooth, a single fossil specimen from the right side of the lower jaw (right dentary), was discovered by George Phillips, (curator of Palaeontology at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science), as he explored a stream bed in Union County (Mississippi), that is known to yield marine fossils that date from the very end of the age of dinosaurs (Maastrichtian faunal stage).

The tooth was found in association with a mosasaur tooth, ammonite remains, brachiopods and other fossils.  Based on the stratigraphic evidence and the fossil assemblage associated with the tooth, the authors of the scientific paper, published in PeerJ, conclude that this tooth provides evidence that at some time during the very Late Cretaceous horned dinosaurs were able to migrate from Laramidia to Appalachia over a land bridge.

George commented:

“A land bridge before the end of the Cretaceous could have allowed horned dinosaurs to migrate or disperse through Texas or Arkansas, right before they were all killed in the calamity [a reference to the K/Pg impact event].”

Chasmosaurines Went East

Migrating Chasmosaurine dinosaurs into eastern North America.

A potential horned dinosaur migration route into eastern North America.

Picture credit: PeerJ with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The picture shows two views of North America in the Late Cretaceous (A) around 73.5 million years ago (mya) and (B) around 68 million years ago (mya).  The authors suggest that horned dinosaurs were able to migrate eastwards from Laramidia into the Mississippi Embayment (Miss Emb), area of Appalachia.  Only Chasmosaurine horned dinosaurs are shown migrating into Appalachia (B).  The identity of the horned dinosaur to which the tooth belonged, is unknown, but if the land bridge existed towards the very end of the Cretaceous, then by this date centrosaurine dinosaurs may well have become extinct in North America.  No fossils of ceratopsids assigned to the Centrosaurinae clade have been found in rocks dating from the Late Maastrichtian.

A Typical Ceratopsian Tooth

Tooth of a Triceratops.

A typical tooth of a ceratopsian with its two distinct dental roots. Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows a typical ceratopsian tooth, from the Chasmosaurine Triceratops.  The fossil tooth from the Owl Creek Formation is the first evidence of dinosaurs to have been found in this formation, (the tooth is the first large, terrestrial animal fossil to have been found in the very well-known and thoroughly explored Owl Creek Formation).  It shows the typical ceratopsid tooth features, including the double root, and a prominent, blade-like carina (serrated edge).

The specimen (MMNS VP-7969), shows little sign of wear so it is unlikely that this fossil had been transported a great distance from where it was found.  It is tantalising to think, that perhaps, a little further upstream more horned dinosaur fossils are awaiting discovery, yet to be exposed by erosion.

Not Reworked and No Floating Carcase from Laramidia

The researchers reject the idea that the tooth has ended up in the stream bed having been eroded out of other rocks and re-deposited in the Owl Creek Formation.  The tooth is too pristine and therefore reworking from notably older Cretaceous-aged rocks is rejected.  In addition, the authors of the paper, Dr Andrew Farke (Raymond M. Alf Museum of Palaeontology, Claremont, California) and George Phillips, discount the idea that the tooth came from a carcase of a horned dinosaur that floated across from Laramidia.

The tooth, they postulate, provides evidence of a land bridge and that at least one kind of dinosaur migrated eastwards to populate the other half of the North American landmass.

A Model of the Late Cretaceous Horned Dinosaur Triceratops (T. horridus)

Nanmu Studio Heavy Lance Triceratops

The Nanmu Studio Heavy Lance Triceratops (tricolor version) dinosaur model (in lateral view).

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the range of ceratopsian figures in stock at Everything Dinosaur, as well as other dinosaur models: Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models.

The scientific paper: “The First Reported Ceratopsid Dinosaur from eastern North America (Owl Creek Formation, Upper Cretaceous, Mississippi, USA) by Andrew A. Farke and George E. Phillips published in the journal “PeerJ”.

This fossil discovery provides an intriguing insight into Late Cretaceous palaeoenvironments and the types of dinosaurs that inhabited them, more about this in a follow-up article.

Visit the Everything Dinosaur website: Everything Dinosaur.

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