All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
30 09, 2021

“Dinopedia” by Darren Naish

By | September 30th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Book Reviews, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Renowned dinosaur expert Darren Naish has produced a pocket guide to all things dinosaur. Entitled “Dinopedia” it’s a reader-friendly compendium packed full of facts about the Dinosauria. It is a handy A-Z updating dinosaur fans and those with a general interest in natural history on the fascinating and ever-changing world of dinosaur research.

The book has the feel of a real labour of love, the author sharing his passion for palaeontology with the general reader. Even the horned dinosaur on the front cover seems to be smiling.

Dinopedia front cover illustration
The front cover of Dinopedia features a horned dinosaur. Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Princeton University Press

Published by Princeton University Press (UK release scheduled for October 5th, American release scheduled for November 30th, 2021), this is another in a long line of publications from this publisher with close links to the academic world. Darren himself is the author of many books, several on the bookshelves of Everything Dinosaur, but “Dinopedia” is a little different.

The hand-drawn illustrations give this compendium a very personal feel, as does the binding which is a figured cloth design, the binding decorated with embossed images and text. It takes the reader back to a simpler time, before the internet and cyberspace when textbooks were the only source of reference.

Subtitled “A Brief Compendium of Dinosaur Lore”, Darren gently guides the reader through the diverse and eclectic world of the Dinosauria. He outlines the different types of dinosaur focusing on the family or subfamily level of taxonomy with only a few specific genera such as Archaeopteryx and Deinonychus having specific entries. After all, these two theropods play an important role in helping to understand how our perceptions about dinosaurs have altered and this is a key theme of this book, the author providing an insight into how our understanding of dinosaur evolution has changed in recent times.

Drawing of a heterodontosaurid dinosaur
One of the illustrations by Darren Naish for his compendium of dinosaur-themed facts and figures “Dinopedia”. The hand-drawn figures give the book a very personal feel.

Dinosaurs and Popular Culture

As well as outlining the contribution made to palaeontology by a number of scientists, the author discusses the cultural impact of the Dinosauria. Sandwiched between a reprise on the ornithopod Iguanodon and an explanation of the K-Pg mass extinction event there is an entry dedicated to the film “Jurassic Park” which spawned a whole new generation of dinosaur fans.

The book is an ideal stocking filler for those obsessed with the “terrible lizards”, and we at Everything Dinosaur recommend it. “Dinopedia” would make a wonderful Christmas gift.

For more details about “Dinopedia” and to pre-order/purchase visit: Princeton University Press and search the website for “Dinopedia” or the author “Darren Naish”.

29 09, 2021

Two New Spinosaurids Described from the Isle of Wight

By | September 29th, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Spinosaurids are like buses, you wait for ages for one to come along and then two arrive together. Today, we can announce that two new members of the Baryonychinae have been named and described from fossil remains found on the Isle of Wight. Named Ceratosuchops inferodios and Riparovenator milnerae, their discovery supports the idea of a European origin for the Spinosauridae and suggests that different types of fish-eating dinosaur could happily co-exist in the same palaeoenvironments.

Two new Isle of Wight spinosaurs
Two new species of spinosaurids described from the Isle of Wight Ceratosuchops inferodios (foreground) challenges a Riparovenator milnerae (background) over the carcase of an iguanodont. Pterosaurs flee a forest fire, whilst the dinosaurs squabble. The plant debris beds at Chilton Chine are dominated by charcoal, indicating that this area suffered numerous forest fires. Picture credit: Anthony Hutchings.

Spinosaurs Had Been Expected

Palaeontologists had long suspected that there were more spinosaurid dinosaurs awaiting discovery in the Lower Cretaceous Wealden Supergroup of southern England. The strata were deposited over large flood plains during the late Barremian and early Aptian stages of the Early Cretaceous and fragmentary fossils, mostly isolated teeth representing spinosaurids have been found. These fossils were usually ascribed to Baryonyx, which was formally named and described in 1986 and provided scientists with the first significant evidence of the body plan and diet of these specialised theropods.

New Spinosaurids Fossil Material

The fossil material was collected by Brian Foster from Yorkshire and Jeremy Lockwood who lives on the Isle of Wight in collaboration with several other local collectors and fossil enthusiasts, from the beach at Chilton Chine from 2013 to 2017, the rapidly eroding cliffs exposed the fossils and it is thanks to this dedicated group of amateur fossil hunters that these important specimens were saved from being washed away by the sea. More than fifty fossil bones were recovered from the site, including a partial tail which was excavated by a field team from the Dinosaur Isle Museum.

The Location of the Spinosaurus fossils on the Isle of Wight
The location of the dinosaur fossil finds. Picture credit: Jeremy Lockwood.

Analysis of Bones Undertaken by the University of Southampton

Analysis of the bones carried out at the University of Southampton and published this week in the journal “Scientific Reports” has led to the establishment of two new species of spinosaurids, which have been named Ceratosuchops inferodios and Riparovenator milnerae. Although related to Baryonyx (B. walkeri), these two new theropods might be more closely related to Suchomimus from Africa.

Scientists estimate that Ceratosuchops and Riparovenator were around 9 metres in length and their crocodilian-like skulls were about a metre long.

Isle of Wight spinosaurids skeletal drawings
Known material referred to the baryonychines Ceratosuchops inferodios (rear) and Riparovenator milnerae (front) recovered at Chilton Chine (Isle of Wight). White bones represent recovered elements. Note scale bar = 1 metre. Picture credit: Barker et al.

Phylogenetic and Bayesian statistical analysis suggests that Ceratosuchops and Riparovenator are sister taxa and more closely related to Suchomimus than they are to Baryonyx but work on the taxonomy of the Spinosauridae is hampered by a lack of fossil material permitting direct comparison between genera. Most palaeontologists split the Spinosauridae into two separate clades, the Spinosaurinae which includes taxa such as Spinosaurus, Ichthyovenator and Irritator and the Baryonychinae. Ceratosuchops inferodios and Riparovenator milnerae have been classified as baryonychids along with Baryonyx, Suchomimus and an as yet unnamed taxon from Portugal (ML 1190).

University of Southampton PhD student, Chris Barker, the lead author of the study commented:

“We found the skulls to differ not only from Baryonyx, but also one another, suggesting the UK housed a greater diversity of spinosaurids than previously thought.”

Ceratosuchops skull fossils and illustrative drawing
Ceratosuchops skull fossils and illustrative drawing with location of Chilton Chine on the Isle of Wight highlighted. Picture credit: Chris Barker and Dan Folkes.

Ceratosuchops inferodios

The first specimen has been named Ceratosuchops inferodios, which translates from the Latin as the “horned crocodile-faced hell heron”. With a series of low horns and bumps ornamenting the brow region the name also refers to the predator’s likely hunting style, which would be similar to that of a (terrifying) heron. Herons famously catch aquatic prey around the margins of waterways but their diet is far more flexible than is generally appreciated and can include terrestrial prey too.

Ceratosuchops premaxillae (lateral view)
Ceratosuchops premaxillae. Picture credit: Chris Barker.

Riparovenator milnerae

The second new species to be named Riparovenator milnerae, translates from the Latin as “Milner’s riverbank hunter”, the species name honours the highly influential British palaeontologist Angela Milner who sadly, passed away in August. Angela, along with her colleague Alan Charig, studied and named Baryonyx (B. walkeri) and her work at the London Natural History Museum has done much to improve our understanding of theropod dinosaurs. It seems a fitting tribute to Dr Milner, for someone who was so involved in helping us to understand Baryonychids that a member of the Baryonychinae should be named in her honour.

Riparovenator braincase and premaxilla
The braincase and the premaxilla of Riparovenator with skull drawing showing placement of the fossil bones. Picture credit: Chris Barker and Dan Folkes.

Many Large Predators in the Ecosystem

When looking at modern food webs, the number of large predators is normally limited by the available range of prey items and other resources such as space for territories and suitable breeding sites. Whilst there are many predators on the African plains, the apex predatory position tends to be occupied by just one species – Panthera leo (lion). In the forests of India, it is another big cat that occupies the apex predator position Panthera tigris (tigers). In several dinosaur dominated ecosystems another picture emerges, where at least two, equally sized and contemporaneous large theropods seem to occupy the apex predator role. Major dinosaur-fossil-bearing geological formations have revealed that several different types of large, carnivorous dinosaur co-existed.

Examples of Multiple Types of Theropod Dinosaur Predator from a Single Geological Formation

  • Dinosaur Park Formation (Canada – Upper Cretaceous) – Daspletosaurus and Gorgosaurus.
  • Morrison Formation (Western United States – Upper Jurassic) – Torvosaurus, Allosaurus, Saurophaganax, Ceratosaurus, Marshosaurus etc.
  • Lourinhã Formation (Portugal – Upper Jurassic) – Lourinhanosaurus, Torvosaurus, Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, plus possible megalosauroids and abelisaurids.
  • Huincul Formation (Argentina – early Upper Cretaceous) – Mapusaurus, Gualicho, Skorpiovenator etc.
  • Shaximiao Formation (China – Middle to Upper Jurassic) – Sinraptor, Yangchuanosaurus, Gasosaurus, along with megalosauroids and other metriacanthosaurids.

Commenting on this phenomenon co-author of the scientific paper Dr David Hone (Queen Mary University) stated:

“It might sound odd to have two similar and closely related carnivores in an ecosystem, but this is actually very common for both dinosaurs and numerous living ecosystems.”

The presence of two or more spinosaurid taxa in the same geological unit (Wessex Formation) is therefore not without precedent and may in fact be typical. Furthermore, the Wessex Formation has revealed several other completely unrelated theropods that shared the environment with the spinosaurids, Eotyrannus (tyrannosauroid), the allosauroid Neovenator and at least one other, as yet unnamed large tetanuran.

Early spinosaurids may have been more generalist hunters, eating a varied diet, including fish and terrestrial prey. Only later did more specialised taxa adapted to underwater pursuit predation evolve, such as Spinosaurus. However, the degree of specialisation to an aquatic life in spinosaurids remains hotly debated and the evolutionary sequence by which aquatic adaptations came about remains unknown.

Swimming Spinosaurus 2020
A pair of spinosaurids (Spinosaurus aegyptiacus) hunting the giant, prehistoric sawfish Onchopristis. Spinosaurus aegyptiacus is one of the geologically youngest known spinosaurid. It may be untypical of the Spinosauridae, it having evolved to fill a specialised underwater pursuit predatory niche. Picture credit: Davide Bonadonna/National Geographic.

A European Origin for the Spinosauridae?

The discovery of these two new members of the Spinosauridae family and the subsequent analysis conducted by the research team supports the theory of a European origin for this family of theropods. They postulate that spinosaurs first evolved in Europe and dispersed into Asia and Western Gondwana (northern Africa and Brazil) during the first half of the Early Cretaceous. The range over which these types of dinosaurs roamed then begins to contract, by the Cenomanian faunal stage, spinosaurids are only present in north Africa.

Evolution of the Spinosauridae
A chart showing the temporal and geographic distribution of the Spinosauridae. Picture credit: Barker et al.

New fossil discoveries might change our understanding of the origins and eventual extinction of these enigmatic carnivorous dinosaurs, but based on the current fossil record, rising sea levels during the Cenomanian may have reduced the number of suitable habitats available. This may have contributed to the extinction of the Spinosauridae.

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

The scientific paper: “New spinosaurids from the Wessex Formation (Early Cretaceous, UK) and the European origins of Spinosauridae” by Chris T. Barker, David W. E. Hone, Darren Naish, Andrea Cau, Jeremy A. F. Lockwood, Brian Foster, Claire E. Clarkin, Philipp Schneider and Neil J. Gostling published in Scientific Reports.

Visit the Everything Dinosaur website: Everything Dinosaur.

28 09, 2021

Caldey’s Horned Dinosaur Illustration

By | September 28th, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Our thanks to dinosaur model fan and artist Caldey who sent into Everything Dinosaur a very colourful and striking illustration of a horned dinosaur. Caldey has been inspired by the paint schemes of several of the Beasts of the Mesozoic ceratopsians and we think that Caldey’s most recent artwork has been influenced by the Styracosaurus albertensis in this range.

Caldey's horned dinosaur drawing.
The very colourful horned dinosaur illustration produced by Caldey. Team members at Everything Dinosaur think that the centrosaurine illustrated is Styracosaurus. Picture credit: Caldey.

The skin covering the fenestrae in the fill have been coloured crimson and their colour almost matches the vivid tree depicted in the background.

An Impressive Horned Dinosaur Drawing

As crocodilians and birds which are the closest living relatives to the Dinosauria, have colour vision, most scientists are confident in the assertion that dinosaurs had colour vision too. The bold patterns and colours chosen by the illustrator would certainly make this horned dinosaur conspicuous, but if you want to attract a mate, or to obtain high social status within a herd, having a striking appearance is one way to go about it. Caldey’s colour scheme is bold with the white flashes on the flanks in stark contrast to the russet tones and greys of the rest of the body.

The dinosaur also sports a tuft of bristles from the end of the ribs running towards the base of the tail, a nod to the integumentary covering associated with the distantly related Psittacosaurus which Caldey has also illustrated (see below).

A drrawing of Psittacosaurus.
Caldey’s illustration of the early member of the Ceratopsia – Psittacosaurus. Picture credit: Caldey.

When commenting upon Caldey’s latest, colourful ceratopsian a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“It is always a pleasure to receive illustrations and drawings from dinosaur fans. We have been very impressed with the artwork that we have been sent by Caldey. We have received artwork featuring several horned dinosaurs including Triceratops and Diabloceratops. We know that she has been inspired previously by the Beasts of the Mesozoic models, so we think her latest drawing was influenced by the Beasts of the Mesozoic Styracosaurus figure.”

To view the Beasts of the Mesozoic model range: Beasts of the Mesozoic Models.

Beasts of the Mesozoic Styracosaurus model illustration
The back cover illustration of the Beasts of the Mesozoic Styracosaurus dinosaur model (S. albertensis). Did this colour scheme inspire the young artist?

Our thanks once again to Caldey for sending into Everything Dinosaur her prehistoric animal drawing.

Visit the Everything Dinosaur website: Everything Dinosaur.

27 09, 2021

Volcanoes Helped to Power the Rise of the Dinosaurs

By | September 27th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

The rise of the dinosaurs which led them to dominate terrestrial ecosystems for more than 150 million years was driven by environmental change caused by intense volcanism over 230 million years ago. That is the conclusion in a new study published today in the ” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” (PNAS).

The Late Triassic Carnian Pluvial Episode (CPE) led to a huge rise in global temperature and humidity. This dramatic change had a significant impact on the development of animal and plant life, which was still recovering from the greatest mass extinction event known in the fossil record which had occurred at the end of the Permian, some 20 million years earlier.

The rise of the dinosaurs was powered by intense volcanic activity.
Ecological changes following intense volcanic activity during the Carnian Pluvial Episode 230 million years ago paved the way for dinosaurs to become the dominant terrestrial fauna. Picture credit: University of Birmingham.

The Evolution of Modern Conifers

The researchers, including experts from the University of Birmingham, discovered four distinct pulses of volcanic activity during this time in the Late Triassic. The most likely source of this volcanism being the Wrangellia Large Igneous Province, remnants of which can still be seen in Alaska, British Columbia and the Yukon (western North America).

Jason Hilton (Professor of Palaeobotany and Palaeoenvironments at the University of Birmingham’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences), a co-author of the study, explained:

“Within the space of two million years the world’s animal and plant life underwent major changes including selective extinctions in the marine realm and diversification of plant and animal groups on land. These events coincide with a remarkable interval of intense rainfall known as the Carnian Pluvial Episode.”

One of the major groups of plants to benefit from the dramatic climate change were cone-bearing seed plants (conifers). Ferns also benefitted and show an increase in numbers, range and species. Other archosaurs such as crocodyliforms show an increase in diversity and mammaliaforms, insects and turtles seem to have thrived as a result of this climate change.

Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels Driving Climate Change

Professor Hilton added:

“Our research shows, in a detailed record from a lake in North China, that this period can actually be resolved into four distinct events, each one driven by discrete pulses of powerful volcanic activity associated with enormous releases of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These triggered an increase in global temperature and humidity.”

The scientists discovered that each phase of volcanic activity coincided with widescale disruption to the global carbon cycle. The higher levels of carbon dioxide produced led to major climate changes with a hotter, wetter climates predominating. The ancient lake deposits reveal that it became deeper but oxygen levels in the lake reduced and stifled animal life.

Geological events from a similar timeframe in Europe, Argentina, eastern Greenland, Morocco and North America, among other locations indicate that increased rainfall resulted in widespread expansion of drainage basins converging into lakes or swamps, rather than rivers or oceans.

Co-author of the paper, Dr Sarah Greene (Senior Lecturer in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham) added:

“Our results show that large volcanic eruptions can occur in multiple, discrete pulses demonstrating their powerful ability to alter the global carbon cycle, cause climate and hydrological disruption and drive evolutionary processes.”

Pollen spores and algae from the Carnian Pluvial Episode (China)
Example pollen, spores and algae from the Carnian Pluvial Episode in China that record climate and environmental change following massive volcanism. Individual specimens range from 20 to 120 μm in size. Picture credit: University of Birmingham.

The research team investigated terrestrial sediments from the ZJ-1 borehole in the Jiyuan Basin of North China. They used uranium-lead zircon dating, high-resolution chemostratigraphy, palynological and sedimentological data to correlate terrestrial conditions in the region with synchronous large-scale volcanic activity in North America.

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

The scientific paper: “Volcanically-driven lacustrine ecosystem changes during the Carnian Pluvial Episode (Late Triassic)” by Jing Lu, Peixin Zhang, Jacopo Dal Corso, Minfang Yang, Paul B. Wignall, Sarah E. Greene, Longyi Shao, Dan Lyu and Jason Hilton published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Visit the Everything Dinosaur website: Everything Dinosaur.

26 09, 2021

William Updates his Allosaurus Review

By | September 26th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Product Reviews|0 Comments

Earlier on this year (summer 2021), knowledgeable dinosaur model fan and collector William sent into Everything Dinosaur his review of the recently introduced PNSO Allosaurus dinosaur replica (Paul the Allosaurus). William emailed to let us know that he wanted to add some additional comments about this new for 2021 theropod figure.

As always, Everything Dinosaur team members do their best to help and support their customers so we have published his Allosaurus themed comments on our blog.

PNSO Paul the Allosaurus dinosaur model
The stunning PNSO Paul the Allosaurus (anterior view). This PNSO theropod figure has proved to be very popular with dinosaur fans and model collectors and it has attracted rave reviews.

William’s PNSO Allosaurus Comments

William wanted to add:

“Paul’s head crest is the best of the best of any present-day Allosaurus model. Paul’s articulated jaw opens into a nice wide maw displaying his highly detailed mouth with tongue, teeth and nasal passages. The texture and execution of the skin folds around each of his glacier blue eyes makes each stand out even more in a great way.”

PNSO Allosaurus and Carcharodontosaurus dinosaur models
PNSO theropod models (top) Paul the Allosaurus and (bottom) Gamba the Carcharodontosaurus. William has reviewed a number of recent PNSO model introductions including Paul the Allosaurus and Gamba the Carcharodontosaurus.

To read William’s earlier review of the PNSO Allosaurus model: PNSO Paul the Allosaurus Reviewed.

Dinosaur Replica Attracts Rave Reviews

William is not the only Everything Dinosaur customer to have raved about the PNSO Allosaurus figure. For example, collectors @carlandhelen51 praised this figure commenting:

“I`ve been waiting for an accurate Allosaurus to compliment my 1/35th scale dinosaurs for a few years now, and wow, does this PSNO Allosaurus tick all the boxes! It is exceptional. I am so pleased with this model I can`t tell you! This is my eighth PSNO model and certainly won`t be my last. PSNO are definitely leading the way in creating accurate scale models so far.”

Everything Dinosaur has received several reviews from customers, all logged and verified by the independent ratings company Feefo.

PNSO the Allosaurus dinosaur model Feefo reviews
The PNSO Paul the Allosaurus dinosaur model has received 5-star customer reviews.

Full of praise for the PNSO figure, collector William added:

“In truth, this the first Allosaurus model that I really wished to add to my little collection, yes Paul is that great example of the Allosaurus family.”

Customers praise the PNSO Allosaurus dinosaur model
Some of the typical Feefo customer reviews for the PNSO Allosaurus dinosaur model. This new for 2021 theropod model has attracted high praise.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur thanked William and all the Allosaurus review contributors and exclaimed:

“PNSO have produced lots of exciting new models and figures this year. The great news for collectors is that we have still to announce all the new PNSO figures for 2021. We hope to update fans of the PNSO prehistoric animal model range in the very near future.”

To view the current range of PNSO prehistoric animal models and figures in stock at Everything Dinosaur: PNSO Age of Dinosaurs.

Visit the award-winning Everything Dinosaur: Everything Dinosaur.

25 09, 2021

Prehistoric Times Magazine Issue 139

By | September 25th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Magazine Reviews, Main Page|0 Comments

Time to take a sneak peek at the front cover of the forthcoming edition of the quarterly magazine “Prehistoric Times”. It features a close-up view of the head of the African spinosaurid Suchomimus on the front cover.

Team members at Everything Dinosaur are grateful to magazine editor Mike Fredericks for sending us an image of the front cover of the next edition (issue 139) of this popular magazine.

Prehistoric Times magazine (issue 139)
The front cover of the next issue of “Prehistoric Times” magazine (issue 139) features a close-up view of the head of the spinosaurid Suchomimus. Picture credit: Mike Fredericks.

Issue 139 (Fall/Autumn 2021)

As well as Phil Hore’s articles on Suchomimus and placodonts (Henodus), we can look forward to the next instalment of Jon Lavas’s long-running series highlighting the work of the influential Czech artist Zdeněk Burian. In issue 139, the focus will be on Burian’s illustrations of Stegosaurus.

Stegosaurus stenops threatened by a pair of Antrodemus valens.
The classic depiction of a Late Jurassic scene by Burian (1950). Everything Dinosaur team members wonder whether this iconic image of the armoured dinosaur Stegosaurus will feature in issue 139 (fall/autumn 2021)? Picture credit: Zdeněk Burian.

The front cover text hints at an article by the talented polymath Tracy Lee Ford on dinosaur feathers. At this time, team members at Everything Dinosaur do not know whether dinosaur feathers are the subject of his regular “how to draw dinosaurs” feature of if this is an especially commissioned piece focusing on the various integumentary coverings associated with the Dinosauria. The article is bound to be most informative and we look forward to issue 139 dropping through our letter box sometime in the next few weeks.

To learn more about “Prehistoric Times” magazine and to subscribe: “Prehistoric Times” magazine.

24 09, 2021

The Earliest Ankylosaur and Africa’s First

By | September 24th, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Scientists including researchers from the Natural History Museum in London, have published a scientific paper announcing the discovery of the first fossils assigned to the Ankylosauria from Africa. This is the first ankylosaur to have been named from fossil material found in Africa and also the oldest known member of this group of armoured dinosaurs described to date. The dinosaur has been named Spicomellus afer. The scientific name translates from the Latin as “spiked collar from Africa”.

The holotype fossil of Spicomellus afer
The holotype fossil (NHMUK PV R37412). The protective, bony spikes are actually fused to the rib, this anatomical feature has not been seen in a vertebrate before. Picture credit: London Natural History Museum.

Acquired from a Fossil Dealer

The fossil was acquired from a UK-based commercial fossil dealer by the London Natural History Museum in 2019. At first the strange fossil, a rib bone with four bony spikes directly attached to it, was thought to be a forgery, but CT analysis proved the fossil to be genuine. It comes from the third subunit of the El Mers Group from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The fossil is estimated to be between 168 and 163 million years old (Bathonian to Callovian stages of the Middle Jurassic).

In recent times, Morocco has provided some tantalising glimpses into the potential wealth of armoured dinosaurs that await discovery. The Ankylosauria and Stegosauria form a clade within the bird-hipped dinosaurs (Ornithischia), the Eurypoda, which has been defined to include famous armoured dinosaurs Ankylosaurus, Stegosaurus and their most recent, common ancestor and all its descendants. Eurypoda fossils are mostly confined to Laurasia, fossils from the continents that made up Gondwana (essentially Africa, South America, Antarctica, India, Madagascar and Australia), are rare.

In 2019, Everything Dinosaur reported upon the discovery of the oldest stegosaur known from northern Africa, the dinosaur named Adratiklit boulahfa is also the oldest stegosaur described to date and it was roughly contemporaneous with Spicomellus.

To read our blog post on Adratiklit boulahfa: North Africa’s First Stegosaur.

The research team behind the paper on Adratiklit boulahfa were also responsible for much of the work behind the analysis of the rib bone fossil (specimen number NHMUK PV R37412), that led to the naming and scientific description of Spicomellus.

Identifying a Fossil as an Ankylosaur Fossil

Once the fossil had been established as genuine, the research team including Dr Susannah Maidment (London Natural History Museum), who specialises in studying ornithischian dinosaurs, were able to confirm that the specimen represented a rib bone from a stegosaur or an ankylosaur. Rib bones in most armoured dinosaurs tend to show a distinctive “t-shape” in cross section. Histological analysis of the composition of the bone matrix of the spikes demonstrated that their structure was reminiscent of an ankylosaur and therefore the scientists were able to confidently assign this specimen to the Ankylosauria.

"T-shaped" Rib of Spicomellus
The rib bone in cross-section shows a “t-shape” which is distinctive to the Stegosauria and the Ankylosauria. Histological study of the bone structure in the spikes identified that this bone was typical of an ankylosaur, allowing the research team to confidently assign the fossil to an ankylosaur. Picture credit: London Natural History Museum.

As for what Spicomellus might have looked like, any life reconstructions will have to be highly speculative, although based on comparisons with the ribs of more complete ankylosaur specimens the research team estimate that this individual Spicomellus was around three metres in length.

No Fossil Like This Ever Found Before

The rib with spiked, dermal armour fused to its top surface is unique. Nothing like this has ever been found before. This anatomical trait is not found in living or extinct vertebrates. Ankylosaurs tend to have their armour embedded into their skin and not directly attached to their bones. Spicomellus would have been less mobile and flexible as a result of its unique anatomy. Palaeontologists hope to return to northern Morocco and find more fossils to help them build up a better picture of this bizarre, armoured dinosaur.

Described as a basal ankylosaur, Spicomellus may represent an evolutionary experiment as armoured dinosaurs evolved probably as a result of predation pressure (megalosaurids are also known from the El Mers Group). How long these armour-attached-to-bone ankylosaurs persisted and how successful this group was remains unknown.

Implications for Armoured Dinosaur Evolution and Stegosaur Extinction

The discovery of Spicomellus suggests that we have a lot more to learn about the Eurypoda and that there probably are many more important but unknown fossil specimens of armoured dinosaurs awaiting discovery in the continents that made up Gondwana.

Spicomellus helps to fill a gap in the evolution of the Ankylosauria (Nodosauridae and Ankylosauridae). In addition, its discovery challenges current thinking about the demise of the Stegosauria. Stegosaur fossils are more common in Jurassic rocks than ankylosaur fossils are.

The Earliest Ankylosaur

In Cretaceous sediments, stegosaur specimens become increasingly rare. It had been thought that the rise of the Ankylosauria played a role in the eventual demise and extinction of the Stegosauria. However, with the discovery of Spicomellus, palaeontologists now know that stegosaurs and ankylosaurs co-existed for around 20 million years. The extinction of the Stegosauria remains a mystery, Spicomellus suggests that the evolution of different types of armoured dinosaur may only have played a limited role in their extinction.

The basal ankylosaur Spicomellus changes views on the evolutionary history of the Ankylosauria
The discovery of Spicomellus afer changes dramatically the temporal phylogeny of the Ankylosauria. Picture credit: Zheng et al with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur.

The scientific paper: “Bizarre dermal armour suggests the first African ankylosaur” by Susannah C. R. Maidment, Sarah J. Strachan, Driss Ouarhache, Torsten M. Scheyer, Emily E. Brown, Vincent Fernandez, Zerina Johanson, Thomas J. Raven and Paul M. Barrett published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

23 09, 2021

PNSO Chuanzi the Tarbosaurus Reviewed

By | September 23rd, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Product Reviews|0 Comments

Dinosaur model fan and collector William sent into Everything Dinosaur his review of the PNSO “Chuanzi” the Tarbosaurus dinosaur model that he had recently purchased.

PNSO Chuanzi the Tarbosaurus product packaging
The product packaging for the new PNSO Tarbosaurus dinosaur replica.

PNSO Tarbosaurus Dinosaur Model Reviewed

Our thanks to William for providing us with such a detailed and comprehensive dinosaur model review.

Here is William’s review of “Chuanzi” the Tarbosaurus:

PNSO 2021 Tarbosaurus bataar “Chuanzi”.
1/32 -1/38 Scale Model.
Length: 12 inches.
Height: 3.5 inches.
Box: Standard white PNSO issue with the acrylic stand and a beautiful booklet.

PNSO Chuanzi the Tarbosaurus dinosaur model (view of the head)
A close-up view of the head of the new for 2021 PNSO “Chuanzi” the Tarbosaurus dinosaur model.

Examining the Head and Jaws of the Tarbosaurus Figure

William begins his review by focusing on the head and the articulated jaws. He comments that although the model sports a typical Tyrannosaurinae head, the sculpt is no clone of a Tyrannosaurus rex model. Instead, the Tarbosaurus has a longer snout and the skull is more elongated. William approves of this commenting:

“He’s his own Tarbo not a Rexy and I like him.”

The detailed scaling on the head especially around the orbital fenestrae and the nasal ridge is praised. The reviewer states that no shrink wrapping of the skull is to be found and the articulated jaws have been sculpted to the high standards expected of the manufacturer (PNSO). William explains that the inside of the mouth has been well-painted and compliments the near white teeth for showing some staining on their lower portions, speculating that this represents dried blood.

PNSO Chuanzi the Tarbosaurus dinosaur model
The PNSO “Chuanzi” the Tarbosaurus dinosaur model has an articulated lower jaw.

Leading on to the Limbs

William comments that “Chuanzi” has the smallest forelimbs of all the Tyrannosaurinae and postulates that they may have played a role in courtship and bonding between individuals. The perfectly sculpted shoulder muscles are highlighted and the fine detail of the two-fingered hands commented upon.

William stated:

“High hips with very powerful hip muscles – just marvellous.”

Model collectors and other reviewers have commented upon the robust and heavy-set appearance of this model, perhaps a nod towards the Asian affinity of this super-sized theropod from a Chinese manufacturer, but for William, whilst he comments on the heft and girth of the figure he saves his highest praise for the limbs, stating:

“In my humble opinion, the greatest set of upper and lower limbs that I have ever seen on any model.”

That Big, Bold Body

The bulky appearance of the Tarbosaurus replica is praised. William exclaims that this was one carnivorous dinosaur that did not diet. He suggests the figure gives the impression that this theropod has had a very good meal, perhaps it has recently dined upon a Nemegtosaurus, a titanosaur which was contemporaneous with Tarbosaurus.

PNSO Chuanzi the Tarbosaurus in anterior view
PNSO Prehistoric Dinosaur Models: 51 “Chuanzi” the Tarbosaurus

Commenting on the Paint Scheme and Colouration

William begins his review of the paint scheme by pointing out the black wash that runs from the tip of the snout and along both the upper and lower jaws. It contrasts with the yellow nasal crests and the pale-yellow sclera of the eyes. The upper portions of the body are painted grey, reminiscent of today’s large terrestrial land mammals such as elephants and rhinos. The underside of the body and the throat area are more muted with faded browns and dun colours whilst the claws are black.

William added:

“He [Tarbosaurus] may not be striped or dappled but his paint app gives him the air of a true apex predator.”

Discovery and History

In common with earlier reviews, William concludes his comments on the PNSO figure by providing some information about Tarbosaurus.

Temporal range: Late Cretaceous (Campanian-Maastrichtian) 70 million years ago.
Tarbosaurus bataar “Awesome Lizard”
Estimates of 33 to 39 feet in length and weighing 4 to 5 tons.

A combined Soviet-Mongolian expedition in 1946 was mounted into the Gobi Desert in the Province of Ömnögovi. Skull material and some vertebrae were recovered. It was not until 1955 that Russian palaeontologist Evgeny Maleev first described and named the holotype of Tyrannosaurus bataar believing this Asian theropod to be closely related to Tyrannosaurus rex. Fossils from the Nemegt Formation were assigned to a number of theropods by Maleev, for example Tarbosaurus efremovi, Gorgosaurus lancinator and Gorgosaurus novojilovi, although these are now thought to represent different growth stages of T. bataar (from A. K. Rozhdestvensky, 1965).

William explained that “Chuanzi” would have stalked and hunted a varied array of herbivorous dinosaurs. Palaeontologists have speculated that this large theropod would have also scavenged carcases.

Summarising his review William added:

“Chuanzi is the only Tarbosaurus out there that is not just a standard T. rex renamed. Regarding purchasing him, I never thought twice about buying the “Incredible Bulk”, he is more than great, he’s awesome. If you miss out on him you know you will regret it later, so strengthen your shelves and own him.”

Everything Dinosaur would like to thank William for his PNSO model reviews.

To view the range of PNSO prehistoric animals in stock at Everything Dinosaur: PNSO Age of Dinosaurs.

22 09, 2021

Papo the Megalodon Model

By | September 22nd, 2021|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Product Reviews|0 Comments

The new for 2021 Papo Megalodon model has arrived at Everything Dinosaur. This is the first new prehistoric animal model to be added to the Papo “Les Dinosaures” range this year. Like many model manufacturers, Papo have found it difficult to introduce new figures due to the global pandemic and issues with logistics, but this splendid prehistoric shark replica has been well worth the wait.

Papo Megalodon model (lateral view)
The new for 2021 Papo Megalodon model, one of just two replicas to be introduced by the French model and figure manufacturer this year.

Classifying Megalodon

Regarded by many researchers as the biggest shark known to science and indeed, one of the largest fish to have ever existed “Megalodon” certainly has iconic status. Models of this apex predator, adult animals are believed to have fed on whales, have always been popular and in August 2018 the film “The Meg” premiered. The plot for the movie considered the possibility that these prehistoric sharks are not extinct and inhabit the deepest parts of the ocean. The film was a huge box office success and grossed over $530 million USD in box office sales. Although sightings of really large sharks have been made, most scientists believe that Otodus megalodon became extinct more than 2.5 million years ago.

Known mainly from fossilised teeth, the taxonomic position of “Megalodon” remains controversial. The famous Swiss zoologist Louis Agassiz published a scientific description in 1843 and erected the name Carcharodon megalodon as he believed that this prehistoric shark was closely related to the extant Great White (Carcharodon carcharias). This idea has fallen out of favour and it is now thought that Otodus megalodon was a member of the extinct shark family the Otodontidae, which diverged from those sharks that eventually led to the evolution of the modern Great White during the Cretaceous. It is likely that the ancestors of the Great White and Otodus were contemporaneous and the lineages may have competed against each other for resources (interspecific competition).

Papo Otodus megalodon model
The Papo Otodus megalodon model (lateral view).

Model Measurements

The Papo Megalodon model measures around 20.5 cm in length and that impressive dorsal fin is around 5.5 cm off the ground. The model is supplied with a transparent support stand which also serves to protect the broad, wide pectoral fins during shipping.

Papo Megalodon model
The Papo Otodus megalodon model in anterior view.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented that they were delighted to be able to get this excellent shark figure into stock and that the published image from Papo for this model did not do it justice. They also stated that team members had taken the decision to update their “Megalodon” fact sheet that is sent out with sales of this figure. It was thought appropriate to amend the classification as stated in the fact sheet from Carcharocles megalodon to Otodus megalodon to reflect the latest scientific thinking, although the spokesperson did also comment that the taxonomic classification of this iconic prehistoric fish remained uncertain.

To view the range of Papo prehistoric animal models and figures in stock at Everything Dinosaur: Papo Dinosaurs and Papo Prehistoric Animal Models.

21 09, 2021

The First Record of a Rhamphorhynchid Pterosaur from Gondwana

By | September 21st, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Fragmentary fossils collected from a location in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile have been assigned to a long-tailed pterosaur, specifically a rhamphorhynchid, this is the first time that evidence for this type of flying reptile has been found in Gondwana and the fossils, which are around 160 million years old, makes this specimen the oldest known pterosaur from Chile.

Rhamphorhynchid from Chile
A life reconstruction of the rhamphorhynchid pterosaur from northern Chile. Several types of marine reptile have also been recorded from these deposits. Picture credit: Universidad de Chile.

The Cerro Campamento Formation

The fossil material, consisting of a left humerus (thigh bone), parts of the wing finger and a possible dorsal vertebra, was collected in 2009 from the fossil-bearing Cerro Campamento Formation near the locality of Cerritos Bayos in northern Chile. The bones were all found in the same block and their relative size has led the researchers to believe that all the bones came from a single individual.

The strata in this area have yielded abundant ammonite remains as well as the fossils of numerous marine reptiles and prehistoric fish. Based on the associated ammonite specimens found at this location, the research team are confident that that the pterosaur remains date from the middle Oxfordian age of the Jurassic.

Rhamphorhynchid left humerus and line drawings
Views of the left humerus (MUHNCAL.20165) identified as a fossil bone from a rhamphorhynchid pterosaur with accompanying line drawings. Picture credit: Universidad de Chile.

Assigning the Fossils to the Rhamphorhynchidae

Although the remains represent a small proportion of the total skeleton their three-dimensional preservation permitted the research team to confidently assign the material to the Rhamphorhynchidae.

The humerus has a hatchet-shaped deltopectoral crest, proximally positioned, and its shaft is markedly anteriorly curved, which are characteristic features of the Rhamphorhynchidae. Furthermore, the presence of a groove that runs along the caudal surface of the phalanx, being flanked by two asymmetric crests, is a distinctive feature of the clade Rhamphorhynchinae. These traits provide evidence for an affinity to the Rhamphorhynchidae family and as such this reinforces the idea that these types of long-tailed pterosaurs were the first pterosaurs to achieve a relatively global distribution. Writing in the academic journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, the researchers who included Jhonatan Alarcón-Muñoz from the Universidad de Chile, assert that the specimen (MUHNCAL.20165), represents the first evidence of this group found to date in Gondwana. They are also the oldest pterosaur fossils to have been described from Chile.

Although it is difficult to estimate the size of the animal, comparisons with the well-known Rhamphorhynchus, most closely associated with the Solnhofen limestone deposits of Bavaria, (southern Germany), indicate that the Chilean pterosaur was large for a rhamphorhynchid. A wingspan in excess of 1.5 to 2 metres has been suggested.

Rhamphorhynchid pterosaur ife reconstruction.
A life reconstruction of a typical rhamphorhynchid pterosaur. The fossil remains from Chile are the first, definitive evidence for this type of pterosaur in Gondwana. Picture credit: Universidad de Chile.

The Caribbean Corridor

Rhamphorhynchid fossils are relatively rare from the Middle Jurassic, but they have been widely reported from Upper Jurassic strata associated with Laurasia. The Chile specimen was found in marine sediments that were deposited at the bottom of a shallow sea, most other rhamphorhynchid fossils are also found in rocks that represent shallow sea, near coastal environments. Some Rhamphorhynchus fossils (R. muensteri) from Solnhofen preserve fish remains as stomach contents and this supports the idea that these pterosaurs were piscivores and lived in coastal habitats.

During the Oxfordian, internal seaways such as the Caribbean corridor and the Trans-Erythrean corridor provided similar coastal environments running down and between Laurasia in the north and Gondwana in the south. The researchers propose that the Caribbean corridor acted as a dispersal route permitting the spread of flying reptiles such as rhamphorhynchids. They postulate that this corridor helps to explain the faunal similarities amongst marine vertebrates found in Germany, the UK, Cuba and South America during the Oxfordian faunal stage.

Rhamphorhynchid dispersal during the Late Jurassic.
The shape of the world’s landmasses during the Oxfordian of the Jurassic. The dashed line represents the hypothetical route that would have allowed the dispersal of marine vertebrates and invertebrates between Tethys and South America during the Late Jurassic. Picture credit: Universidad de Chile.

Map Key

The circle represents the Chile rhamphorhynchid, whilst the square indicates the location of two rhamphorhynchids from Cuba (Cacibupteryx caribensis and Nesodactylus hesperius), the star shape highlights these types of pterosaur discoveries associated with southern England whilst the triangle shows the location of Qinglongopterus guoi from the Tiaojishan Formation of China.

It is likely that more pterosaur fossils will be found in northern Chile. The prospect of further fossil discoveries will hopefully permit palaeontologists to erect a new genus to describe this South American rhamphorhynchid material.

The scientific paper: “First record of a Late Jurassic rhamphorhynchine pterosaur from Gondwana” by J. Alarcón-Muñoz, R. A. Otero, S. Soto-Acuña, A. O. Vargas, J. Rojas and O. Rojas published in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

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