In the film “Jurassic World” released in 2015, the theme park’s latest attraction was a synthetic dinosaur called Indominus rex. It was a hybrid of several dinosaurs, a cross between a Velociraptor, a T. rex and other fearsome predators. Scientists recently announced the discovery of a super-sized megaraptor that roamed Argentina around 70 million years ago. At perhaps as much as 10 metres long, Maip macrothorax is the largest megaraptorid known to science and with its long, powerful arms it had a similar body plan to the fictional Indominus.
So perhaps, it is true after all, that life sometimes imitates art. Although, since Maip macrothorax lived some 70 million years or so before the “Jurassic Park/Jurassic World” franchise came into being, perhaps it is more accurate to say that art imitates life…
Everything Dinosaur team members are looking forward to reading and then reviewing a new book by renowned author Professor David Bainbridge that charts the development of the science of palaeontology using classical and contemporary scientific illustrations.
This lavishly illustrated volume, published by Princeton University Press: Princeton University Press examines how art and illustrators have informed both academia and the general public about fossil discoveries and scientific research. It is lavishly illustrated, the author providing a beautifully crafted examination of the art and science of palaeontology from the ancient Greek civilisation right up to the modern day with its techniques of three-dimensional modelling, computed tomography and scanning electron microscopy.
The book “Paleontology an Illustrated History” highlights the contribution to palaeoart made by figures such as the English artist Neave Parker. Neave Parker created iconic images of dinosaurs in collaboration with the scientists at the British Museum (now the London Natural History Museum). The book looks at the contribution made to scientific illustration by artists such as Burian, Zallinger and Charles Knight.
It also includes full colour plates of stunning fossil discoveries as well as biographies of the palaeontologists who have helped shape our view of ancient lifeforms and ecosystems.
Team members at Everything Dinosaur are looking forward to reading this exciting book and providing a more detailed review.
Fragmentary bones excavated from Santa Cruz Province, Patagonia (Argentina), have revealed the presence of a super-sized megaraptorid theropod in the Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian faunal stage). The new dinosaur, named Maip macrothorax is estimated to have been at least 9.5 metres long. It represents the biggest member of the Megaraptoridae described to date and its discovery lends support to the theory that these types of dinosaurs were not members of the Allosauria clade, but they were coelurosaurs and therefore related to the dinosaur lineage that gave rise to the birds.
The fossil material was collected from exposures of the Chorrillo Formation approximately eighteen miles southwest of the city of El Calafate (southwestern Santa Cruz Province, Patagonia, Argentina).
The “Shadow of the Death” which “Kills with Cold Wind”
The Megaraptora clade are mostly known from fragmentary and very incomplete specimens. The fossils of Maip macrothorax (pronounced my-eep mac-row-thor-ax), although representing only a small portion of the overall skeleton, consist of a single cervical vertebra (C2 the axis), several dorsal vertebrae, ribs, the left coracoid, a partial toe bone, fragments of the scapula and caudal vertebrae. By studying these bones the researchers, that included Alexis M. Aranciaga Rolando from the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia” (Buenos Aires, Argentina) and Makoto Manabe from the National Museum of Nature and Science (Japan), postulate that the Megaraptora are not archaic members of the Allosauroidea but members of the Coelurosauria clade, that group of theropods more closely related to birds than they are to other members of the Avetheropoda lineage.
The genus name is from the native Aónikenk people of Patagonia (known as the Tehuelche in western culture). Maip is an evil spirit said to roam the Andes and its name means “the shadow of death” which “kills with cold wind”. The specific name derives from the Latin for big thorax. The rib bones indicate that this dinosaur was deep chested with a large thoracic cavity more than 1.2 metres in width.
The researchers propose that with the extinction of the carcharodontosaurids, many of which were apex predators on the southern continents, the megaraptorids evolved becoming larger, heavier and more robust, eventually filling the niche of top predator in many parts of the Southern Hemisphere during the Late Cretaceous.
The Rise of the Megaraptorids
Around 94 million years ago (Cenomanian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous), there was a global extinction event which led to the demise of the Carcharodontosauridae. As far as Everything Dinosaur team members are aware, there are no reliable fossil records for the presence of carcharodontosaurids in South America beyond the Turonian faunal stage (the stage that followed the Cenomanian). An absence of apex predators permitted the megaraptorids and the abelisaurids to evolve to fill this niche in the Southern Hemisphere, whilst the tyrannosaurids become bigger and occupied the apex predator role in Asia and North America.
Maip macrothorax estimated at around 9.5 metres in length, lived some sixteen million years after the next largest megaraptorid (Aerosteon – A. riocoloradense). The body size of megaraptorids during the Early Cretaceous when the carcharodontosaurids still roamed seems to have been limited to around six metres in length, suggesting that these theropods were secondary predators. However, with the extinction of the carcharodontosaurids, body size in the Megaraptoridae increased and by the very end of the Cretaceous (Maastrichtian faunal stage), a body length in excess of ten metres seems plausible.
Helping to Resolve the Phylogeny of these Enigmatic Theropods
Although the bones only represent a small part of the total skeleton and no cranial material has been identified, Maip macrothorax is the most informative megaraptoran known from the Maastrichtian stage. Phylogenetic analysis has placed this new taxon together with other South American megaraptorans in a monophyletic clade (they shared a single, common ancestor), whereas Australian and Asian members constitute successive stem groups.
The researchers propose that the South American megaraptorids differ from more basal megaraptorans such as Fukuiraptor from Japan and Australovenator from Queensland, Australia in several anatomical features and the South American lineage evolved into much bigger, more robust and powerful predators.
The scientific paper: “A large Megaraptoridae (Theropoda: Coelurosauria) from Upper Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) of Patagonia, Argentina” by Alexis M. Aranciaga Rolando, Matias J. Motta, Federico L. Agnolín, Makoto Manabe, Takanobu Tsuihiji and Fernando E. Novas published in Scientific Reports.
One in five species of reptile is threatened with extinction. A team of international scientists including researchers from the Zoological Society of London, the University of Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa), Monash University (Victoria, Australia) and the Biodiversity Assessment Unit, IUCN-Conservation International based in Washington DC (USA), have conducted a comprehensive extinction-risk assessment of the class Reptilia. Writing in the academic journal “Natural” the team conclude that at least 1,829 out of 10,196 species of reptile (21.1%) are threatened.
Agriculture, Logging, Urban Development and Invasive Species
A global assessment of the risk of extinction to species of reptile has been lacking, although similar studies have been undertaken for the other tetrapods such as amphibians, mammals and birds. The researchers conclude that reptiles are threatened by the same major factors that threaten other tetrapods— agriculture, logging, urban development and invasive species, although the threat posed by climate change remains uncertain. Many species of reptile live in extremely arid or desert regions, this comprehensive study reveals that it is those reptiles that live in forests that face the greatest threat.
The scientists discovered that birds, mammals and amphibians are unexpectedly good surrogates for the conservation of reptiles. The study revealed that efforts to conserve other threatened tetrapods (mammals, birds and amphibians) are more likely than expected to co-benefit many threatened species of reptile. Although reptiles are well known to inhabit arid habitats such as deserts and scrubland, most reptile species occur in forested habitats, where they and other vertebrate groups, suffer from threats such as logging and conversion of forest to agriculture. The study found that 30% of forest-dwelling reptiles are at risk of extinction, compared with 14% of reptiles in arid habitats.
An Urgent Multifaceted Plan is Needed
Neil Cox, co-leader of the study and Manager of the IUCN-Conservation International Biodiversity Assessment Unit in Washington DC stated:
“The results of the Global Reptile Assessment signal the need to ramp up global efforts to conserve them. Because reptiles are so diverse, they face a wide range of threats across a variety of habitats. A multifaceted action plan is necessary to protect these species, with all the evolutionary history they represent.”
The report states that although some reptiles including most species of crocodiles and turtles require urgent, targeted action to prevent extinctions, efforts to protect other tetrapods, such as habitat preservation and control of trade and invasive species, will probably also benefit many reptiles.
Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the compilation of this article.
The scientific paper: “A global reptile assessment highlights shared conservation needs of tetrapods” by Neil Cox, Bruce E. Young, Philip Bowles, Miguel Fernandez, Julie Marin et al published in Nature.
The Deinotherium model produced by Eofauna Scientific Research was the third prehistoric elephant figure to be added to this scale model series and what a fantastic replica of a prehistoric proboscidean it is! Team members at Everything Dinosaur took a photo of the Eofauna Deinotherium in the company’s photographic studio (see picture below).
Deinotherium giganteum “Gigantic Terrible Beast”
The Deinotherium genus was established in the 19th century and several species have been named and described. The species Deinotherium giganteum, the type species, was erected in 1829 by the German naturalist Johann Jakob von Kaup. The scientific name translates as “gigantic terrible beast” and with an estimated weight of 11 tonnes, Deinotherium giganteum was far larger than the largest extant elephants (Loxodonta).
The Eofauna Deinotherium is approximately 20 cm in length and it stands around 13 cm tall. The figure has a declared scale of 1:35.
A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:
“The Eofauna Deinotherium model is one of our favourite prehistoric animal figures. Whilst working in the studio we took the opportunity to take some photographs of this wonderful model.”
There are so many clever and creative people on the worldwide web. Take for example Joe Dolan a retired welder who spends his time creating metal prehistoric monsters in his workshop. Each hand-crafted sculpture takes dozens of hours to produce, each one is a labour of love, honed by the skills developed over a lifetime as a welder/fabricator.
Joe very kindly contacted Everything Dinosaur and sent us some pictures of his latest creations.
Making Figures from Metal
With over forty years experience Joe’s skilfully constructed animal figures are a great conversation starter and certainly are statement pieces. All the joints are fully welded, cleaned, deburred and polished. It is great to see Joe still using his engineering and design skills to create such novel, metallic sculptures.
The “Detail is Everything”
Joe explains that his hobby has grown into a small business. The figures are made for indoor display as the steel used in the construction would rust if left outside. At first Joe created sculptures for friends and family but soon word of his talent for creating unusual sculptures spread and he began to attract commercial interest from farther afield.
Joe has not restricted himself to dinosaurs, he builds lots of amazing sculptures of other animals too.
He explained how his unusual business started commenting:
“I started some years back, making things for myself and family. Other people started showing interest in my work so I made more, and to me “detail is everything”, plus the figurines are robust and if cared for they will last for years and years.”
Traditional Skills Given a New Twist
Traditional skills such as metal working are under threat, the models and figures that Joe has created enable him to keep using the techniques that he has honed over a lifetime, bringing pleasure and delight to others.
A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:
“We are always amazed at how creative and clever people can be. Joe has turned his talents to making some amazing metallic monsters including models of dinosaurs like T. rex and Velociraptors. He also has a flair for fish models and we love the eyes on the metallic crab figure.”
The latest issue of “Prehistoric Times” magazine has arrived at Everything Dinosaur’s offices and team members have been admiring all the reader submitted artwork, articles and features contained therein.
The front cover illustration has been provided by British palaeoartist John Sibbick, who must hold the record for the number of “Prehistoric Times” front covers produced by a single artist. The stunning illustration depicts typical Jehol Biota members Microraptor and Jeholornis and there are plenty of feathers on show which is appropriate as inside the magazine regular contributor Tracy Lee Ford provides part three of his excellent series on integumentary coverings.
Bajadasaurus and the Fearsome Thalattoarchon
Phil Hore provides information on the bizarre sauropod Bajadasaurus and the ferocious Triassic ichthyosaur Thalattoarchon and there are plenty of reader submitted examples of artwork to admire too. Palaeontologist Gregory S. Paul co-authored a scientific paper published recently that proposes that there were three species of Tyrannosaurus in the Late Cretaceous of North America. The magazine includes an in-depth explanation of the paper’s conclusions and reviews the evidence.
Randy Knol updates collectors with the latest model news and editor Mike Fredericks reviews the latest book releases and there is a comprehensive section providing details of recent fossil discoveries and research.
Burian and the Marginocephalians
John R. Lavas continues his long-running series highlighting the astonishing artwork of the Czech artist Zdeněk Burian. Issue 141 of “Prehistoric Times” sees him focusing on the Burian’s interpretation of ceratopsids and their close relatives.
Jon Noad tells the story of one of Calgary Zoo’s oldest residents Dinny the dinosaur and Sean Kotz explains how to create a model of a Pachyrhinosaurus. Brian Novak provides part two of his series on prehistoric coins, not currency from the Cretaceous, but an illustrated guide to the types of coins and currency with a prehistoric animal theme.
Team members at Everything Dinosaur have posted up their product showcase video of the Rebor Saurophaganax maximus dinosaur model in the “Volcanic Cavern” colour scheme. This is the third video in this trilogy, with team members having produced product showcase videos of the other two colour variants “Jungle” and “Badlands”.
Rebor Saurophaganax maximus “Volcanic Cavern”
The striking colouration of the Rebor Saurophaganax maximus 1:35 scale replica is highlighted in the company’s short video presentation. The actual size of the model is demonstrated along with the articulated lower jaw. The packaging for this prehistoric animal model is also briefly featured.
The product showcase video provides further information, model measurements are given and the flexible tail and articulated arms are accentuated. The Rebor Saurophaganax maximus Notorious Big “Volcanic Cavern” product showcase video lasts around 45 seconds.
A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:
“This is the third Rebor Saurophaganax model we have created a product showcase video for. The videos featuring the other two colour variants “Badlands” and “Jungle” have already been posted on Everything Dinosaur’s YouTube channel. We hope these short videos help and inform our customers.”
The Rebor range of models and figures features a wide variety of prehistoric animals. There have been several different types of theropod dinosaur included in the Rebor portfolio, allosaurids such as Saurophaganax, but also tyrannosaurs such as Yutyrannus huali and T. rex along with ceratosaurs (Ceratosaurus dentisulcatus) and abelisaurids – Carnotaurus and Ekrixinatosaurus.
The Everything Dinosaur YouTube channel has thousands of subscribers and features hundreds of informative and helpful prehistoric animal themed videos.
Our thanks to young dinosaur fan and artist Caldey who sent into Everything Dinosaur a wonderful illustration of the South American abelisaurid Carnotaurus (C. sastrei). Caldey’s pencil drawing captures this large predator and shows plenty of fine detailing and different sized scales on the animal’s skin. If you look carefully, one of the bony horns on top of this dinosaur’s head, from which this animal was named (meat-eating bull), has been damaged. Scientists remain uncertain as to the function of these small horns, although they may have played a role in species recognition, asserted dominance or perhaps were involved in visual communication.
“Jurassic World Dominion”
Caldey was inspired to produce a Carnotaurus drawing by the forthcoming film “Jurassic World Dominion”, which is thought to be the last film in the “Jurassic Park/Jurassic World” movie franchise. The COVID-19 pandemic had delayed the release date for this eagerly anticipated film, it is now scheduled for global cinema release on June 10th (2022). The trailer for the film was released eight weeks ago and has already received over fifty million views on YouTube.
When viewing the image that Caldey had sent into us, it reminded team members of the recently introduced PNSO Carnotaurus figure “Domingo”.
We compared Caldey’s excellent drawing with one of the images we have in our database for the PNSO Domingo the Carnotaurus model.
A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:
“It is always a pleasure to receive artwork from dinosaur fans. We have received lots of illustrations from Caldey and we are very impressed with her work and her attention to detail. Keep up the good work Caldey!”
Scientists from John Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland), Smith College (Northampton, Massachusetts) along with bryozoan expert Paul Taylor of the London Natural History Museum and another collaborator have published a paper in “Science Advances” reporting a possible earliest occurrence of palaeostomate bryozoans.
Fossils from the Harkless Formation (Nevada)
Recently, Everything Dinosaur published a blog post about a scientific paper that came out late last year (October 2021), the study reported upon the identification a soft-bodied bryozoan Protomelission gatehousei from Early Cambrian strata: Early Cambrian Origin for the Bryozoa. The oldest previously accepted skeletal bryozoans occur in Lower Ordovician deposits, however, these researchers suggest that fossils found in strata from the Harkless Formation (Nevada, USA) are also bryozoans. The fossils show a radiating form preserved in limestone deposited during the Cambrian. If these fossils also represent bryozoans, they have a hard, mineralised skeleton.
All Skeletal Marine Invertebrate Phyla Appeared During the Cambrian Explosion
Previously, it had been thought that all skeletal marine invertebrate phyla appeared during the Cambrian explosion, except for Bryozoa with mineralised skeletons which were known from fossils dating from the Early Ordovician. If the small fossils identified in thin cross sections of Harkless Formation limestone are examples of bryozoans with a hard skeleton, then this evidence, in addition to the recent paper on the soft-bodied Cambrian bryozoan Protomelission (P. gatehousei), suggests an Early Cambrian origin for the Bryozoa and provides evidence to support the hypothesis that all types of skeletal marine invertebrate phyla evolved during the Cambrian.
If the Nevada fossils are confirmed as bryozoans, the appearance of a mineralised skeleton in this phylum would be pushed back by some 30 million years.
The scientific paper: “The oldest mineralized bryozoan? A possible palaeostomate in the lower Cambrian of Nevada, USA” by Sara B. Pruss, Lexie Leeser, Emily F. Smith, Andrey Yu. Zhuravlev and Paul D. Taylor published in Science Advances.