All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
31 07, 2022

The First Froglet of 2022 Spotted

By | July 31st, 2022|Adobe CS5, Animal News Stories, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

We have spotted our first froglet of 2022 from our office pond. Team members at Everything Dinosaur had been looking out for the first frogs to complete their metamorphosis and we have been taking care not to disturb the pond area, although it does need some tender care and a good clean out.

Froglet from 2022.
A photograph of a froglet from the office pond. It is a common frog (Rana temporaria). Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur.

The picture (above), shows the tiny amphibian (Rana temporaria), clinging to the wall of our pond. It has already had probably, its longest journey of its life. We removed a pot plant choked with Elodea weed and drove a few miles to another location where we could safely plant the pond weed. Whilst inspecting the large hopper we used to transport the plants to the new site, we spotted the froglet. We made sure that it was returned to the pond where it was hatched. Hopefully, this frog will hang around the office pond, and perhaps it will return to it in a few years to spawn.

29 07, 2022

Finding Fossil Fish Down on the Farm

By | July 29th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A farmer’s field in rural Gloucestershire (England), has provided palaeontologists with a remarkable glimpse into an Early Jurassic marine ecosystem.

Underneath a grassy bank, normally grazed by cattle at Court Farm, Kings Stanley near Stroud, lies an exceptional fossil site that contains the remains of fish, ammonites, squid, marine reptiles and other creatures, with many of the specimens preserved in three dimensions.

Fossil fish skull
A three-dimensional fish skull (Pachycormus spp.) from a limestone concretion found at Court Farm. Note the small ammonite located in association with the skull. Picture credit: Dean Lomax.

A Toarcian Ecosystem

The clays and hard limestone nodules, many of which contain fossils, were deposited around 183 million years ago (Toarcian stage of the Early Jurassic).

The site was discovered by Sally and Neville Hollingworth, avid fossil collectors who recently uncovered the remains of mammoths in the nearby Cotswold Water Park which was featured in the BBC One documentary “Attenborough and the Mammoth Graveyard” in 2021.

Fossil Hunters Neville and Sally Hollingworth
Neville and Sally Hollingworth at the dig site. Picture credit: Nigel Larkin.

Commenting on the significance of this location, enthusiastic fossil hunters Neville and Sally stated:

“These fossils come from the Early Jurassic, specifically a time called the Toarcian. The clay layers exposed at this site near Stroud have yielded a significant number of well-preserved marine vertebrate fossils that are comparable to the famous and exquisitely preserved similar fauna of the Strawberry Bank Lagerstätte from Ilminster, Somerset – a prehistoric site of exceptional fossil preservation. Excavations at Kings Stanley over the last week have revealed a rich source of fossil material, particularly from a rare layer of rock that has not been exposed since the late 19th Century.”

Early Jurassic Fossil Fish
A stunning Early Jurassic Fossil fish from the dig site. Picture credit: Dean Lomax.

Limestone Concretions

A team of eight scientists spent a total of four days working to clear an area of the bank approximately eighty metres in length. An excavator proved invaluable, but the field team still had to endure record breaking temperatures as they laboured to find and crack open three-dimensionally preserved limestone concretions, many of which contained fossils.

Team members working at the Court Farm dig site.
Field team members busy examining and splitting limestone concretions checking for fossils. Picture credit: Nigel Larkin.

Each specimen was carefully logged onto a database and approximately 200 kilograms of clay from around the concretions was also collected and carefully sieved using a state-of-the-art sediment processing machine to help locate microvertebrate fossils such as fish teeth and small bones.

Sediment processing machine
The sediment processing machine used to help retrieve small fossils from the Lower Jurassic strata exposed at Court Farm (Gloucestershire). Note the novel use of two water troughs. Picture credit: Dr David Ward.

Fossils Donated to Local Museum

Many of the fossils found at the site will be donated to the palaeontology collection of a local museum (The Museum in the Park, Stratford Park, Stroud).

Team member and world-renowned, palaeontological conservator Nigel Larkin (Visiting Research Fellow at Reading University) commented:

“Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Give a palaeontologist a fossil fish and they will tell you the species, the age of the rock, the climate of the time when the fish was alive plus the water depth and salinity and plenty of other information. This site – already an interesting farm in a beautiful setting – is one big outdoor classroom and the lessons now include geology, palaeontology, evolution and climate change. They tell farmers to diversify but this goes one step beyond!”

Exceptional Fossil Fish Finds

Some of the best finds include fossil fish, so well-preserved that details of the scales, fins and even their eyeballs can be made out. One of the most impressive discoveries was a three-dimensionally preserved fish skull, a Pachycormus, (see first image), a genus of ray-finned fish known from the Toarcian of Europe.

The lack of any signs of scavenging of the corpses and the absence of encrusting animals or burrows in the sediment suggest that the fauna which was frozen in time under a farmer’s field was rapidly buried.

A fossil fish (slab and counter slab)
A limestone nodule spilt open reveals the fossilised remains of an Early Jurassic fish (slab and counter slab). Picture credit: Dean Lomax.

The layered concretions around the organisms formed relatively early before the sediments were compacted, as the original sediment layering is preserved. These concretions prevented further compaction, compression and distortion from the overlying sediments during burial and thus preserved the fossils as three-dimensional time capsules.

Dr Dean Lomax, a palaeontologist and a Visiting Scientist at the University of Manchester, who recently led the excavation of the Rutland ichthyosaur that also dates to the Toarcian geological age, was part of the team he explained:

“The site is quite remarkable, with numerous beautifully preserved fossils of ancient animals that once lived in a Jurassic sea that covered this part of the UK during the Jurassic. Inland locations with fossils like this are rare in the UK. The fossils we have collected will surely form the basis of research projects for years to come.”

Court Farm dig team.
The dig team take a well-earned break, time for a group photograph. Picture credit: Nigel Larkin.

Landowner, Adam Knight, who has seen part of his farm temporarily converted into a real life “Jurassic Park” added:

“I’m delighted that after the initial work that Sally and Nev did over three years ago we now have a full-scale dig on the farm involving a range of fossil experts from The Natural History Museum, University of Manchester, University of Reading and The Open University. On Friday we were also joined by Emily Baldry on a day’s work experience before she goes to university to study palaeontology – it’s wonderful to see her enthusiasm for her chosen profession. It has been a real pleasure to host the dig and I’m excited to see the results of what has been found.”

Important Microvertebrates and Fossil Insects

Dr David Ward (research scientist at the Natural History Museum, London), outlined his contribution to the fieldwork explaining that his role was to collect evidence of all the small creatures that lived alongside the larger vertebrates and invertebrates in the ancient marine ecosystem.

The silty clay found in association with the limestone concretions was carefully washed and pushed through a fine sieve. Dr Ward’s wife Alison played a vital role in the collection process, and she added:

“My specialism is surface picking. This involves finding areas where fossils, particularly small bones and teeth, are naturally concentrated on the surface. Here, once I had collected them, I dug up the surrounding clay and fed it into David’s clay washing machine. The result is a fine concentrate of tiny fish bones and shells which we sort under a microscope.”

For Open University PhD student Emily Swaby, this fossil site has very special significance. Her PhD research is focused on how insects were affected by dramatic environmental changes that took place during the Toarcian. Fossil insects are extremely rare and although the Court Farm site represents marine deposition, insect fossils are known from such locations.

Emily commented:

“Further research at this site and surrounding Gloucestershire localities might help us to work out the abundance and diversity of insects during this time and help us to understand how this environmental change influenced insects.”

A view of the Court Farm dig site
A view of the exposed strata at the Court Farm dig site. Picture credit: Steve Dey.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release from the University of Manchester and additional information supplied by Dr Dean Lomax in the compilation of this article.

28 07, 2022

Velociraptor Mother and Baby Illustrated

By | July 28th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos|0 Comments

Our thanks to talented, young artist Caldey who sent into Everything Dinosaur an illustration of a mother and baby Velociraptor inspired by the recent film “Jurassic World Dominion”. The skilfully produced drawing features Blue and her offspring Beta from the latest and potentially the last movie in the “Jurassic Park/Jurassic World” franchise.

Two Velociraptors illustrated by Caldey
The beautiful illustration of a pair of “raptors”. The drawing was inspired by the recent (June 2022) movie “Jurassic World Dominion”. The adult Velociraptor Blue and her offspring Beta. Picture credit: Caldey.

A “Raptor” Legacy

Dinosaurs, marine reptiles and pterosaurs roam freely, and human/dinosaur interactions result in inevitable fatalities. The authorities strive to monitor the movements of the genetically engineered prehistoric animals. Blue, one of the Velociraptors trained by Chris Pratt’s character Owen Grady in previous incarnations of the franchise, resides in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where Owen earns a living helping to capture and relocate stray dinosaurs. Owen discovers that Blue has a juvenile “raptor” with her, this is an asexually reproduced hatchling. The baby Velociraptor is named Beta by Maisie Lockwood (played by Isabella Sermon).

Whilst many different types of prehistoric animal have been depicted in the films, no dinosaur has had as much screen time dedicated to it as the iconic “raptors” which have featured in all the films in the “Jurassic Park/Jurassic World” genre.

Three days since a Tyrannosaurus rex attack.
A site safety notice at our local cinema spotted at the entrance as team members went to see “Jurassic World Dominion”.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur thanked Caldey for her drawing and commented:

“Caldey’s choice of the Velociraptor pair for her illustration is fitting. These dinosaurs have featured in all six of the movies associated with this franchise. It is a wonderful drawing of Blue and Beta”.

27 07, 2022

Plesiosaurs Swam Alongside Spinosaurus

By | July 27th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Plesiosaur fossils found in strata associated with a 100-million-year-old river system prove that some plesiosaurs, traditionally thought to be marine animals, may have lived in freshwater. These long-necked, piscivores co-existed with the giant dinosaur Spinosaurus (S. aegyptiacus).

Spinosaurus and Plesiosaurus encounter.
A plesiosaur in freshwater encounters a Spinosaurus. Artwork by Andrey Atuchin. Picture credit: University of Bath.

Freshwater Plesiosaurs

Scientists from the University of Bath and University of Portsmouth in the UK, and Université Hassan II (Morocco), have reported evidence small plesiosaurs from Kem Kem Group deposits in Morocco.

The fossils include bones and teeth from three-metre-long adults and an arm bone (humerus) from a 1.5- metre-long juvenile. They hint that these creatures routinely lived and fed in freshwater, alongside frogs, crocodiles, turtles, fish, and the huge aquatic dinosaur Spinosaurus.

Plesiosaur humerus
The humerus (upper arm bone) from a juvenile plesiosaur. Picture credit: University of Bath.

When is a “Marine Reptile” a Marine Reptile?

The Plesiosauria clade was a long-lived and widely distributed group of marine reptiles. Most fossils, which date from the Upper Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous (Maastrichtian faunal stage), are associated with marine deposits, but a few specimens have been found in strata associated with brackish and freshwater environments. The researchers report plesiosaurs from river deposits of the Kem Kem Group. The numerous shed teeth show heavy wear similar to that observed in in the teeth of coeval spinosaurids. Contemporary plesiosaur fossils from the Bahariya Formation of Egypt have been identified as examples of the Polycotylidae plesiosaur family. The Kem Kem fossils probably represent leptocleidid plesiosaurs. Most Leptocleididae fossils come from shallow nearshore, brackish or freshwater palaeoenvironments suggesting that these small-bodied plesiosaurs were adapted to shallow, low-salinity environments.

A plesiosaur tooth
A single plesiosaur tooth from the Kem Kem Group. Numerous teeth have been found indicating that these plesiosaurs were frequent visitors to freshwater habitats and perhaps were permanent residents. Picture credit: University of Bath.

As the fossil plesiosaur teeth show the same signs of wear as the teeth of Spinosaurus, the researchers imply that the plesiosaurs were eating the same food – chipping their teeth on the armoured fish that lived in the river. This indicates that they spent a lot of time in the river, rather than being occasional visitors.

As other types of Mesozoic marine reptile (mosasaurids and the crocodile-like teleosaurids), are thought to have inhabited (at least some of the time), freshwater environments, this suggests that so-called “marine reptiles” may have thrived in non-marine habitats.

Co-author of the scientific paper, Dr Nick Longrich (University of Bath Milner Centre for Evolution), commented:

“It’s scrappy stuff, but isolated bones actually tell us a lot about ancient ecosystems and animals in them. They’re so much more common than skeletons, they give you more information to work with. The bones and teeth were found scattered and in different localities, not as a skeleton. So, each bone and each tooth is a different animal. We have over a dozen animals in this collection.”

Diverse and Varied Kem Kem Group Freshwater Fauna

While extant marine mammals like whales and dolphins wander up rivers, either to feed or because they are lost, the number of plesiosaur fossils in the river deposits suggest that is unlikely. The team identified cervical, dorsal and caudal vertebrae, lots of teeth and the humerus from a juvenile. The researchers postulate that the plesiosaurs were able to tolerate fresh and salt water, like some whales, such as the beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas).

Co-author Dr Samir Zouhri said:

“This is another sensational discovery that adds to the many discoveries we have made in the Kem Kem over the past fifteen years of work in this region of Morocco. Kem Kem was truly an incredible biodiversity hotspot in the Cretaceous.”

Kem Kem Group fauna.
Silhouettes showing examples of Kem Kem Group freshwater fauna. Silhouettes show approximate size, the size and the diversity of predators suggests a rich ecosystem. Picture credit: University of Bath.

Plesiosaurs – Freshwater Incursions

The researchers compiled a list of all the geological formations that have shown evidence for the presence of members of the Plesiosauria clade in brackish or freshwater. Having collated this information, they re-examined the data identifying the different types of plesiosaur associated with the deposit.

As a result, a map documenting the incidences of freshwater incursions by different plesiosaur types was produced.

Plesiosaur distribution map
Plesiosaur distribution map. Evidence for freshwater/estuarine incursion by different types of plesiosaur. Picture credit: University of Bath.

For the key to the geological formations see the end of this article.

Co-author David Martill (University of Portsmouth) exclaimed:

“What amazes me is that the ancient Moroccan river contained so many carnivores all living alongside each other. This was no place to go for a swim.”

Key to the Geological Formations Featured in the Plesiosaur Map

Geographic distribution of non-marine Plesiosauria Formations: 1, Dinosaur Park Formation (Campanian); (2), Horseshoe Canyon Formation (Campanian – Maastrichtian); 3, Isachsen Fm. (Late Aptian); 4, Strand Fiord Formation (Turonian – Coniacian); 5, Great Estuarine Group (Bathonian); 6, La Colonia Formation (Upper Campanian – Lower Maastrichtian); 7, Wadhurst Clay Formation (Valanginian); 8, Tunbridge Wells Sands Formation (Upper Valanginian); 9, Wessex Formation (Barremian); 10, Upper Weald Clay Formation (Barremian); 11, Vectis Formation (Barremian – Aptian); 12, Obernkirchen Sandstone (Late Berriasian);
13, Bükerberg Formation (Berriasian); 14, Kem Kem beds (Cenomanian – Albian?); 15, Chenini Formation (Albian); 16, Bahariya Formation (Cenomanian), 17, Sunday River Formation (Valanginian); 18, Lianmugin Formation (Upper Aptian); 19, Xinhe Formation (Middle Jurassic); 20, Ziliujing Formation (Toarcian); 21, Xintiangou Formation (Middle Jurassic), 22, Xiashaximiao Formation (Middle Jurassic); 23, Shezi Formation (Upper Triassic); 24, Razorback Beds (Sinemurian); 25, Evergreen Formation (Pliensbachian – Toarcian); 26, Griman Creek Formation (Albian); 27, Eumeralla Formation (Aptian) 28; Wonthaggi Formation (Valanginian – Aptian), 29 Eumeralla Formation (Upper Aptian – Lower Albian). Note that some formations contain more than one occurrence.

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

The scientific paper: “Plesiosaurs from the fluvial Kem Kem Group (mid-Cretaceous) of eastern Morocco and a review of non-marine plesiosaurs” by Georgina Bunker, David M. Martill, Roy Smith, Samir Zouhri and Nick Longrich.

25 07, 2022

Earliest Known Animal Predator

By | July 25th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Scientists have announced the discovery of what might possibly be the earliest known animal predator. The fossils discovered in Charnwood Forest (Leicester, England), are estimated to be around 560 million years old and the animal has been named Auroralumina attenboroughii in honour of Sir David Attenborough.

A life reconstruction of Auroralumina attenboroughii
A life reconstruction of Auroralumina attenboroughii superimposed on the fossil material. Picture credit: BGS @ UKRI.

Attenborough’s Dawn Lantern

As a boy, Sir David Attenborough used to collect fossils from various locations close to his Leicestershire home. However, he never went to Charnwood Forest to hunt for fossils as the rocks exposed in that area were thought to be too old to contain signs of life.

In the late 1950s, another young boy, Roger Mason found a strange frond-like impression in a rock. Researchers identified this as the fossilised remains of a bizarre organism, later named Charnia masoni, which forms part of an ancient ecosystem that existed prior to the Cambrian.

This newly described organism Auroralumina attenboroughii honours Sir David Attenborough. The first part of its name is Latin for “dawn lantern”, in recognition of its great age and the organism’s resemblance to a burning torch.

Auroralumina attenboroughii fossil.
Auroralumina attenboroughii fossil imprint preserved in the rock. Picture credit: BGS @ UKRI.

Related to Corals, Jellyfish and Anemones

The geological period known as the Ediacaran precedes the Cambrian. The Ediacaran spans an immense amount of deep time, from approximately 635 million years ago, to the beginning of the Cambrian around 540 million years ago. In some parts of the world, notably the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve on the south-eastern coast of Newfoundland, Namibia, Guizhou Province (China), Charnwood Forest and the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, ancient sedimentary rocks preserve the remains of the oldest, complex multi-cellular organisms known to science.

Most of the Ediacaran biota bears little resemblance to fossils associated with younger Cambrian-aged strata, A. attenboroughii is an exception, the research team postulate that the fossils represent an ancestor of today’s corals, jellyfish and anemones – the Cnidaria phylum.

Auroralumina attenboroughii line drawing.
The fossil imprint of the newly described Auroralumina attenboroughii with a line drawing on the matrix to show features. Picture credit: BGS @ UKRI.

“Truly Delighted”

Naturalist, campaigner and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough stated that he was “truly delighted” with his ancient namesake.

He added:

“When I was at school in Leicester, I was an ardent fossil hunter. The rocks in which Auroralumina has now been discovered were then considered to be so ancient that they dated from long before life began on the planet. So, I never looked for fossils there.

A few years later a boy from my school found one [Roger Mason] and proved the experts wrong. He was rewarded by his name being given to his discovery. Now I have – almost – caught up with him and I am truly delighted.”

The scientific paper has been published in the journal “Nature Ecology & Evolution”. This discovery challenges perceptions as to when modern groups of animals, or their direct ancestors first evolved.

Commenting on the significance of this fossil find, one of the authors of the paper, Dr Phil Wilby (palaeontology leader at the British Geological Survey), explained:

“It’s generally held that modern animal groups like jellyfish appeared 540 million years ago in the Cambrian explosion. But this predator predates that by 20 million years. It’s the earliest creature we know of to have a skeleton. So far we’ve only found one, but it’s massively exciting to know there must be others out there, holding the key to when complex life began on Earth.”

A Geological Spring Clean

In 2007, Dr Wilby and his colleagues spent over a week carefully cleaning a 100 square metres of a rock surface exposed in the Forest. A variety of tools including pressure hoses and toothbrushes were used to spring clean deposits that were laid down at the bottom of a deep sea more than half a billion years ago.

A rubber mould of the whole surface was then taken, capturing the preserved impressions of more than a thousand fossils.

Geologists at work.
Geologists cleaning and mapping the rockface in the Charnwood Forest (Leicester, England). Picture credit: BGS @ UKRI.

One Fossil Specimen Stood Out

Co-author of the scientific paper, Dr Frankie Dunn (Oxford University Museum of Natural History), explained that one fossil impression stood out from the rest, commenting that it looked very different from the other Ediacaran fossils (Charnia masoni and Bradgatia linfordensis) preserved on the same bedding plane.

Dr Dunn commented that Auroralumina:

“Is very different to the other fossils in Charnwood Forest and around the world. Most other fossils from this time have extinct body plans and it’s not clear how they are related to living animals. This one clearly has a skeleton, with densely-packed tentacles that would have waved around in the water capturing passing food, much like corals and sea anemones do today. It’s nothing like anything else we’ve found in the fossil record at the time.”

Dr Wilby scans the fossil.
Palaeontologist Dr Phil Wilby using a 3D laser scanner to create a detailed record of the fossil. Picture credit: BGS @ UKRI.

A Lonely Fossil

Dr Dunn calls the single Auroralumina specimen a “lonely little fossil” and suggest it probably inhabited much shallower marine environments compared to rest of the Charnwood Forest biota.

She added:

“The ancient rocks in Charnwood closely resemble ones deposited in the deep ocean on the flanks of volcanic islands, much like at the base of Montserrat in the Caribbean today. All of the fossils on the cleaned rock surface were anchored to the seafloor and were knocked over in the same direction by a deluge of volcanic ash sweeping down the submerged foot of the volcano, except one, A. attenboroughii. It lies at an odd angle and has lost its base, so appears to have been swept down the slope in the deluge.”

Zircon minerals associated with the volcanic deposits permitted the researchers to accurately age the fossil based on radioactive decay measurements relating to uranium/lead ratios.

Dr Frankie Dunn said:

“The Cambrian Explosion was remarkable. It’s known as the time when the anatomy of living animal groups was fixed for the next half a billion years. Our discovery shows that the body plan of the cnidarians was fixed at least 20 million years before this, so it’s hugely exciting and raises many more questions.”

Nonagenarian Sir David Attenborough has been honoured on numerous occasions by having newly described extinct creatures named after him. However, arguably the lonely, little Auroralumina attenboroughii may represent the most significant, as it challenges existing perceptions about when animal body plans still found today, first evolved.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release received via email on 26th July in the compilation of this article.

The scientific paper: “A crown-group cnidarian from the Ediacaran of Charnwood Forest, UK” by F. S. Dunn, C. G. Kenchington, L. A. Parry, J. W. Clark, R. S. Kendall and P. R. Wilby published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

22 07, 2022

Australia’s First Vulture – Hiding in Plain Sight

By | July 22nd, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Today, Australia has no vultures, but in the Pleistocene Epoch it did. Researchers have reclassified fossil remains and identified Australia’s first fossil vulture. The bird, which probably stood around one metre tall, has been named Cryptogyps lacertosus. The scientific name translates as “powerful hidden vulture”, reflecting the fact that its fossils had been hiding in plain sight for more than a hundred years.

Vulture Cryptogyps compared to Aquila audax.
A silhouette of the newly described Australian vulture Cryptogyps lacertosus which lived in Australia until around 50,000 years ago. C. lacertosus (right) is compared to Aquila audax, the Wedge-tailed eagle which is Australia’s largest extant bird of prey. Wedge-tailed eagles often scavenge carcasses and are frequently observed feeding on kangaroo corpses and other animals killed in roadside collisions. The Wedge-tailed eagle is filling the ecological niche once filled by the extinct C. lacertosus. Picture credit: Ellen Mather, Flinders University Palaeontology Lab with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur.

Fossil Vulture Hiding in Plain Sight

Researchers from Flinders University and the South Australian Museum writing in the academic journal “Zootaxa” have reassessed fossil material first described by the English ornithologist Charles Walter de Vis in 1905 and named as “Taphaetus lacertosus”. The ornithologist thought the partial humerus and fragmentary skull bones found in north-eastern South Australia represented an ancient eagle and he named the bird “powerful grave eagle”.

The scientists were able to study fossils from the Wellington Caves of New South Wales and material recovered from the Nullarbor Plain of Western Australia including a lower leg bone (tarsometatarsus), which when compared to the lower leg bones of living birds of prey, it became clear that the fossil tarsometatarsus did not support the musculature required to despatch prey.

Eagle lower leg bone compared to fossil vulture.
Comparisons of the tarsometatarsi of wedge-tailed eagle (lower right) and Cryptogyps (lower left), with position of tarsometatarsi shown in the leg (centre, based on illustration by Jollie, 1977). Picture credit: Dr Ellen Mather (Flinders University Palaeontology Lab.

Lead author of the paper, Dr Ellen Mather (Flinders University) commented:

“We compared the fossil material to birds of prey from around the world, and it became clear right away that this bird was not adapted to being a hunter, and so it was not a hawk or an eagle.”

A Phylogenetic Analysis

A phylogenetic analysis placed C. lacertosus within the subfamily Aegypiinae, making it an Old World Vulture related to extant birds found in Africa, Asia and Europe. The identification of Cryptogyps lacertosus as an Old World Vulture significantly expands the palaeogeographical range of the Old World vultures, previously unknown in Australia and indeed, there are no vultures in Australia today.

Given the megafauna that existed on the continent until very recently, giant kangaroos, flightless thunder birds, huge wombats such as Diprotodon and the enormous monitor lizard Megalania, the presence of vultures in the Pleistocene ecosystem had been predicted.

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

The scientific paper: “A new look at an old Australian raptor places “Taphaetus” lacertosus de Vis 1905 in the Old World vultures (Accipitridae: Aegypiinae)” by Ellen K. Mather, Michael S. Y. Lee and Trevor H. Worthy published in Zootaxa.

21 07, 2022

Maintenance on the Everything Dinosaur Blog

By | July 21st, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

The Everything Dinosaur blog consists of over 6,000 posts. The articles, features and news stories on the blog provide a valuable resource for teachers, academics and dinosaur fans. First started back in late May 2007, team members have built up an extensive library of dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed posts. The site, like all websites, needs to be occasionally modified and updated to help maintain and improve the customer experience. Over the next few weeks, the Everything Dinosaur blog will be undergoing some maintenance.

The Everything Dinosaur blog is undergoing routine maintenance and new updates are being added. These changes are being made to improve the efficiency and function of the site.

An Enormous Weblog

A review of each and every article posted on the blog is being undertaken. This is an immense amount of work, as there are thousands of articles and millions of words on the site. This maintenance work has been structured to ensure that visitors can access the blog posts with the minimum of disruption. Viewers will not notice the work going on, but behind the scenes our trained Velociraptors will be working hard to ensure that the weblog is in tip-top condition.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We understand that our blog is very important to people, we will continue to post up articles and features whilst this work is going on. It will be business as usual for all the blog site visitors, but in the background we will be implementing changes to ensure our site is secure and provides the very best customer visitor experience. Around 3% of the site has been reviewed and checked over so far, but we intend to make rapid progress over the next few days.”

Everything Dinosaur Dodo model.
One of the first blog posts published by Everything Dinosaur fifteen years ago featured a model of Dodo that we had sourced for a customer. Team members still trace prehistoric animal models and figures requested by customers. Our commitment to customer service continues to be maintained.

The spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur commented that by the end of this year, team members would have posted up another 150 articles on the Everything Dinosaur blog and that the landmark of 7,000 blog posts was expected to be reached by the middle of 2025.

20 07, 2022

Unique Dinosaur Fossil to be Returned to Brazil

By | July 20th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

A unique, chicken-sized dinosaur fossil excavated from the Lower Cretaceous deposits of the Araripe Basin (Brazil) and currently residing at the State Museum of Natural History Karlsruhe (Baden-Württemberg, Germany) will be returned to Brazil. The specimen (Ubirajara jubatus), lacks properly documented paperwork detailing its acquisition and it may have been obtained without legitimate export permits.

Holotype of Ubirajara jubatus preserved as slab and counter slab.
The holotype of Ubirajara jubatus preserved as slab and counter slab. The fossil material is to be returned to Brazil after evidence emerged that the specimen may not have been obtained legally. Picture credit: Smyth et al/Cretaceous Research.

Conflicting Accounts about Fossil Acquisition

Conflicting accounts regarding the fossil’s acquisition emerged prompting the Baden-Württemberg science ministry to launch an internal investigation.

In the scientific paper (now withdrawn) published in the journal “Cretaceous Research” it was stated that the fossil specimen was brought to Germany in 1995. However, this statement was contradicted by researchers at the State Museum of Natural History Karlsruhe claiming the fossil was imported in 2006 by a private company and then acquired by the Museum in 2009.

As the documentation providing an audit trail for the obtaining of this specimen has not been supplied nor any evidence given to confirm the fossil material was imported before a German cultural protection law took effect in 2007, it has been decided to return the fossil to its country of origin.

Ubirajara jubatus life reconstruction.
Ubirajara jubatus life reconstruction by the very talented palaeoartist Bob Nicholls.

“Parachute Science”

In the days of empire and colonialism, many western powers took fossils from their colonies. These precious artefacts were then put on display. What we see today is another form of colonialism, whereby scientists from the more prosperous countries go to poorer countries to collect fossils. Scientists are “parachuted in” and there is a limited exchange of knowledge with local researchers.

There is a considerable movement to “kick back” against such practices.

To read an article from 2008 about calls from the Government of Tanzania to return fossils in German institutions: Return our Fossils.

Palaeontologists and other researchers are being accused of taking advantage of the natural resources of countries without leaving anything behind in return.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s original blog post about the formal naming and scientific description of this bizarre dinosaur: One Very Flashy New Dinosaur.

19 07, 2022

Titus the T. rex Exhibition Unveils a Microscopic T. rex Model

By | July 19th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos|0 Comments

Fans of dinosaurs like to collect scale models, and there is one scale model on show at the Titus T. rex is King exhibition at Wollaton Hall Nottinghamshire, which puts any model collection into perspective.

Internationally renowned micro-sculpturist, Dr Willard Wigan MBE, has created and installed a new extraordinary micro-sculpture of a perfectly formed Tyrannosaurus rex, measuring just 0.5 mm in length.

This amazing figure is so small, it sits comfortably within the eye of a needle.

Microscopic T. rex Model
The remarkable microscopic Titus the T. rex sculpted by Dr Willard Wigan MBE. The T. rex model measures 0.5 mm in length and it sits within the eye of a needle. Picture credit: Wollaton Hall/Dr Willard Wigan.

Celebrating the First-year Anniversary of this World-exclusive Event

The “microsaur” has been installed to mark the first-year anniversary of the opening of the Titus T. rex is King exhibition. Based on the estimated size for an adult T. rex at around 13 metres, the tiny “tyrant lizard king”, complete with fearsome teeth and sharp claws is approximately in 1/26,000th scale.

Now the very tiniest micro-depiction, and, Titus, the first real Tyrannosaurus rex to be exhibited in England for over a century, stand side by side. Titus the T. rex, demonstrates the immense power and impact of this king of the dinosaurs, while Willard Wigan’s creation presents the smallest, but no less powerful.

Dr Willard Wigan commented:

“It is a real honour to be exhibiting one of my sculptures alongside the breath-taking Titus T. rex exhibition. Wollaton Hall Natural History Museum is renowned for being home to rare specimens from across the globe, including Titus himself, which made it the perfect home for my T. rex sculpture.”

Titus T. rex is King has a new attraction.
Titus the T. rex and the Willard Wigan miniature masterpieces exhibit at Wollaton Hall. Everything Dinosaur team members estimate that the 0.5 mm long T. rex sculpture is in approximately 1:26,000 scale! Picture credit: Wollaton Hall.

A Message to Humanity

Through his incredible sculptures, Dr Wigan is sending a message to humanity – just because you cannot see something does not mean that it does not exist. In palaeontology, including the study of the Dinosauria, a similar metaphor can be demonstrated in the concept of “ghost lineages”. A hypothesis that an animal would have existed in the past, but no fossils to prove its existence have been found, but fossils of related genera imply that it did exist.

Titus the T. rex is King Exhibition

Titus the T. rex is King opened in July 2021, to international acclaim. Over 70,000 visitors have already met Titus and engaged with the bespoke interactive exhibition designed around the remarkable skeletal mount.

Rachael Evans (Museums Development Manager at Nottingham City Museums and Galleries at Wollaton Hall), one of the UK’s most important Natural History Museums, added:

“It is an astonishing moment for us. We will have one the largest dinosaurs ever exhibited in the UK on display alongside one of the smallest. The T. rex that has been introduced to the exhibition is 0.5mm in size, with miniscule teeth made from glass. Since new information about the T. rex has been researched and made available, Willard has remodelled the sculpture to be as accurate as possible in his depiction. We can’t wait to see our visitors’ reaction to this new addition.”

Titus the T. rex Skull and Jaws
The skull of the T. rex exhibit on display at Wollaton Hall until August 2022.

Exhibition Details

Tickets for TITUS T. REX IS KING are on sale now, set at £13.00 for an adult, £8.75 for a child (under 16 years), students and concessions, £34.00 for a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children under 16 years) and under 3s and carers have no entry fees to pay. Car parking charges apply.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from Wollaton Hall in the compilation of this article.

For further information: Wollaton Hall Titus T. rex is King Exhibition.

18 07, 2022

The Eotyrannus Monograph

By | July 18th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A new scientific paper on the Early Cretaceous tyrannosauroid Eotyrannus lengi has been published. It is confirmed as a valid genus and the phylogenetic assessment places the enigmatic Megaraptora clade within the Tyrannosauroidea superfamily.

First named and scientifically described back in 2001 (Hutt et al), Eotyrannus is helping to provide significant insights into the early evolution of tyrannosauroids as well as potentially redefining how enigmatic “megaraptors” such as Australovenator, Megaraptor and the recently described Maip macrothorax fit within the Theropoda.

Eotyrannus scale drawing.
Isle of Wight tyrannosauroid (E. lengi). The recently published monograph (Naish and Cau) supports the earlier hypothesis that this dinosaur had proportionately long arms and a rectangular snout. The holotype specimen (IWCMS: 1997.550) indicates an animal around 4.5 metres in length. However, these fossils represent a sub-adult and the fully-grown, adult size of this Early Cretaceous predator remains undetermined.

The Carnivorous Dinosaurs of the Wessex Formation

Since the first fossils of Eotyrannus were found (1997), this theropod has attracted a lot of scientific interest. It is one of numerous carnivorous dinosaurs associated with the Wessex Formation (part of the Wealden Supergroup), indeed, back in 2021 we blogged about two new members of the Baryonychinae named and described from fossil remains found on the Isle of Wight (Wessex Formation). Last month, we wrote about an even bigger predator, an as yet, unnamed spinosaurid known as the “White Rock spinosaurid”.

For the article on the recently described baryonychids Ceratosuchops inferodios and Riparovenator milnerae: Two New Spinosaurids from the Isle of Wight.

To read about the Isle of Wight “White Rock spinosaurid”: Super-sized Isle of Wight Carnivorous Dinosaur.

The newly published paper provides further information on Eotyrannus autapomorphies (characteristic traits) that help to distinguish it from the often, fragmentary remains of other theropods associated with the Wessex Formation.

Eotyrannus teeth.
Isolated Eotyrannus teeth from the Wessex Formation.

Deciphering the Fossil Evidence

Many of the fossil bones associated with the Eotyrannus genus remain entombed in their concrete-like matrix. Anatomical traits helping to define and classify this dinosaur are only beginning to emerge and there is a substantial amount of further preparation work required to permit a comprehensive analysis.

However, by combining all the new data since the formal description, the authors (Darren Naish and Andrea Cau) were able to produce a new skeletal reconstruction. The maxilla is confirmed as being quite rectangular in shape. Eotyrannus did not have the long, narrow snout (longirostrine) as seen in other early tyrannosauroids such as Dilong and Xiongguanlong from the Early Cretaceous of China. This suggests that longirostry evolved several times within the Tyrannosauroidea, perhaps in response to adaptations to permit these theropods to exploit a particular predatory niche.

Longirostry in Early Members of the Superfamily Tyrannosauroidea
Longirostry (having a long, narrow snout) in early members of the Tyrannosauroidea. Eotyrannus is confirmed as not exhibiting longirostry.

Where do the Megaraptora Fit?

The scientific paper also incorporated a revised phylogenetic analysis of Eotyrannus. No significant support was found for Eotyrannus having a close evolutionary relationship to Juratyrant (J. langhami), known from the Late Jurassic of Dorset or indeed to the Late Jurassic early tyrannosauroid Stokesosaurus (S. clevelandi) from the western United States.

Instead, it is grouped with gracile, mid-sized tyrannosauroids that represent a more derived state than proceratosaurids, stokesosaurs and Juratyrant.

If megaraptoran dinosaurs are tyrannosauroids and therefore coelurosaurs, then this challenges long-held views on Theropoda classification and suggests that after the Early Cretaceous most of the hypercarnivore niches within dinosaur dominated ecosystems were increasingly occupied by coelurosaurs. It also suggests that tyrannosauroids were much more diverse and widespread during the Cretaceous than previously thought.

Eotyrannus remains a fascinating dinosaur, a genus that has led to new insights into the evolution and radiation of the Theropoda. It offers a tantalising glimpse into the ecology represented by the Wessex Formation deposits and how a mid-sized theropod co-existed with other, larger members of the ever-widening collection of Wessex Formation meat-eating dinosaurs.

Everything Dinosaur Helping to Fund Research

The authors wanted to make their paper available to everyone. To do this they set up a GoFundMe campaign to cover publishing costs. Everything Dinosaur assisted with the funding.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“We were happy to support this excellent paper and we helped to make such studies possible. Your purchases from Everything Dinosaur genuinely help science”.

Everything Dinosaur helping to fund research.
Team members at Everything Dinosaur were happy to assist with funding a newly published paper on the early tyrannosauroid Eotyrannus lengi.

The scientific paper: “The osteology and affinities of Eotyrannus lengi, a tyrannosauroid theropod from the Wealden Supergroup of southern England” by Darren Naish and Andrea Cau published in PeerJ.

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