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22 06, 2022

A Fossil Emblem for New Zealand?

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

Palaeontologists in New Zealand have started a consultation process in a bid to appoint a fossil emblem for New Zealand. Everything Dinosaur has come across media reports that palaeontologists at the University of Otago (South Island, New Zealand), are beginning a project to identify a fossil emblem for the country. Once a shortlist of candidate fossils has been compiled, the winner will be decided by a public vote.

Many Australian states, have fossil emblems, for example, back in January (2022), team members at Everything Dinosaur covered the announcement that the giant amphibian Koolasuchus (K. cleelandi) had been appointed the fossil emblem of Victoria. Now it seems that New Zealand wants to have a fossil emblem too.

To read the Koolasuchus story: Koolasuchus Becomes the State Fossil of Victoria.

Kairuku waewaeroa line drawing, holotype fossil and scale comparison with an Emperor penguin.
The giant Oligocene penguin K. waewaeroa from North Island (New Zealand) could be a candidate for the country’s fossil symbol. The holotype specimen of Kairuku waewaeroa (WM 2006/1/1). Line drawing of specimen (A), photograph of the holotype in ventral view (B) and (C) scale comparison with the largest extant penguin species the Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri). Note scale bar for (B) equals 4 cm. Picture credit: Giovanardi et al.

Penguins, Plesiosaurs, Trilobites, Dolphins and Giant Prehistoric Birds

New Zealand might not be the first country one thinks about when considering the fossil record. However, several important and unique fossil discoveries have been made on Aotearoa (the Māori name for the country).

The campaign is being led by Dr Nic Rawlence (University of Otago palaeogenetics laboratory), he has suggested some of the country’s giant penguins (Kairuku waewaeroa, Kumimanu biceae, Crossvallia waiparensis), or perhaps one of the early cetaceans or an example of a primitive pinniped (Eomonachus belegaerensis), fossils of which come from the western side of North Island (Taranaki area).

Eomonachus belegaerensis life reconstrustion.
Eomonachus belegaerensis an ancient seal from New Zealand. Could this prehistoric pinniped become the country’s fossil emblem?

In 2002, the Late Cretaceous plesiosaur Kaiwhekea katiki was formally named and described. The seven-metre-long specimen was excavated from a single, large concretion found at Shag Point, Otago (Katiki Formation). It is one of the most complete plesiosaur specimens known from the Southern Hemisphere.

There are also more recent inhabitants of New Zealand to consider, such as the giant South Island Moa Dinornis robustus, as well as many important invertebrate fossils that date from the Palaeozoic but, our personal choice would be the enormous Haast’s eagle (Hieraaetus moorei), the largest eagle known to science. This huge predator occupied the niche filled by mammalian carnivores in other ecosystems. With a body weight in excess of 15 kilograms and a wingspan of around 3 metres, Haast’s eagle was a formidable and terrifying predator.

Haarst's eagle attacks moas.
Haast’s eagle attacks a moa. This eagle is the heaviest eagle known to science and it only recently went extinct (600 years ago). Picture Credit: University of Otago/John Megahan.

Only Recently Extinct

Unlike the trilobites, plesiosaurs, penguins and ancient marine mammals, Haast’s eagle died out relatively recently, not long after the first Māori settlers came to New Zealand.

It has not been decided yet whether a single fossil specimen should become the national emblem, or whether there would be two emblems designated, one for South Island and one for North Island.

A shortlist is due to be announced in the near future and then a public vote will decide on the winner(s).

If New Zealand appoints a fossil emblem, then perhaps the UK or the countries that make up the United Kingdom could consider having fossil emblems too.

Any suggestions?

21 06, 2022

Feefo Product Reviews and Product Stars are Back

By | June 21st, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases, Product Reviews|0 Comments

Feefo product reviews and product stars are back on the Everything Dinosaur website. Reviews provided by customers on their product purchases had been temporarily removed from Everything Dinosaur’s website whilst upgrades and maintenance work was carried out, but now they are back on-line again. Potential customers can see reviews of products from previous purchasers, helping them to make informed choices.

Rebor T. rex model Feefo product stars.
The product stars as awarded by customers in their independent feedback to Feefo. The Rebor 1:35 scale “Tyrannosaurus rex Vanilla Ice” Mountain is given top marks.

Product Star Ratings

The Feefo star ratings for products are also back on-line. Purchasers can rate what they have bought, give a star rating, with the top mark being five stars. The Rebor 1:35 scale “Tyrannosaurus rex Vanilla Ice” in the mountain colour scheme has five reviews and an average rating of five stars.

Scroll down the product page and the independent Feefo reviews can be found.

Feefo reviews on a Rebor T. rex product page.
Recent Feefo customer reviews are shown on the product page. The Rebor 1:35 scale “Tyrannosaurus rex Vanilla Ice” Mountain has 5 Feefo reviews.

Independent, Genuine Customer Feedback

Feefo is an independent ratings agency, it collects feedback and comments from real customers of Everything Dinosaur and then publishes it. Every review on Everything Dinosaur’s website is a genuine customer review. Customers can buy dinosaur and prehistoric animal models confident that they are dealing with a highly rated, customer focused company.

5-star Feefo Review Nanmu Studio Parasaurolophus
The Nanmu Studio Nutcracker Parasaurolophus model is picking up Feefo customer reviews. Models that have been added into stock recently will have less reviews than older models and figures.

Models and other items of merchandise that have been added to Everything Dinosaur’s range more recently will have fewer reviews generally when compared to other products that have been available for some time, but the date when the review was made is also listed providing additional assurance and guidance for would-be purchasers.

Nanmu Studio Jurassic Series Parasaurolophus Nutcracker Feefo reviews.
The customer review recorded by Feefo is listed on the Nanmu Studio Nutcracker Parasaurolophus dinosaur model page.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We had to take down some of the Feefo elements whilst we made updates to the website, but the product reviews and product star ratings are back up and this information coupled with the other customer reviews that we have received, will help to inform our customers about purchase decisions.”

To visit Everything Dinosaur’s website: Visit Everything Dinosaur.

20 06, 2022

Analysis of Pterosaur Wing Suggests Jehol Biota Represents Migratory Area for Tapejarids

By | June 20th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

A cross-sectional analysis of a pterosaur wing bone has helped palaeontologists to work out the ages and growth stages of flying reptiles from the Early Cretaceous Jiufotang Formation of China. This research suggests that the Jehol tapejarid biota represents a migratory area for these pterosaurs.

Writing in the academic journal “Scientific Reports”, researchers from Shandong University of Science and Technology (China) in collaboration with the University of Birmingham, took a tiny cross section of bone from the left forelimb of a pterosaur specimen assigned to the genus Sinopterus. Detailed analysis of the bone structure revealed that the fossil came from an immature individual at a late juvenile stage prior to reaching sexual maturity. This is the first time that histological data about the growth stages of Jehol tapejarids has been undertaken and based on this study, the largest skeletally immature tapejarid individuals recorded from the Jiufotang Formation might have reached sexual maturity.

The Jehol tapejarid Sinopterus left wing fossil.
The Jehol tapejarid Sinopterus (specimen number SDUST-V1014). Photograph (a) and line drawing (b) of the wing skeleton as well as enlarged images of the deltopectoral crest (c) and pneumatic foramen on the distal end of the wing metacarpal (d). Arrow points to the thin-section sample position on the first wing phalanx. Note scale bar for a and b = 20 mm. Picture credit: Zhou et al.

At Least a Year Old

Microscopic analysis of the internal structure of the bone revealed the presence of one line of arrested growth (LAG) suggesting that this specimen was over a year old when it died. Palaeontologists have proposed that pterosaurs had a remarkably fast growth rate in their first three years and the postulated size of the pterosaur based on SDUST-V1014 fits with this hypothesis.

The Jehol biota relating to the Pterosauria is dominated by immature individuals and skeletally mature adults are exceptionally rare. The researchers postulate that this ecosystem was not home to the adults, that they may have lived apart from juveniles and immature animals. Perhaps this part of northern China was on a migratory route for these types of flying reptiles.

The Early Cretaceous Jehol biota with emphasis on mammaliamorphs.
The Early Cretaceous Jehol biota – a rich and diverse habitat with many mammaliamorphs, dinosaurs and pterosaurs. A tapejarid pterosaur is shown top right. Picture credit: Chuang Zhao.

Improving Our Knowledge of Tapejarid Anatomy

Although crushed, the forelimb bones reveal helpful morphological information clarifying the anatomy of Jehol tapejarids and the researchers suggest that this improved understanding could lead to a revision of the taxa associated with the Jiufotang Formation.

In addition, this histological analysis permits comparison with other pterosaur growth rates and the researchers conclude that the size gap between sexual and skeletal maturity in tapejarids was very similar to that observed in the not very closely related Pteranodon genus (Ornithocheiroidea).

To read a related article published in 2021 that examines the significance of a headless Sinopterus specimen (S. dongi) and its role in helping to define juvenile tapejarids: Headless Pterosaur Helps to Define an Entire Genus.

The scientific paper: “A new wing skeleton of the Jehol tapejarid Sinopterus and its implications for ontogeny and paleoecology of the Tapejaridae” by Chang-Fu Zhou, Dongxiang Yu, Ziheng Zhu and Brian Andres published in scientific reports.

19 06, 2022

“Paleontology An Illustrated History” Reviewed

By | June 19th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Book Reviews, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Over the last few weeks, team members at Everything Dinosaur have been enjoying “Palaeontology an Illustrated History” by Dr David Bainbridge. A beautifully illustrated book that examines the art and science of palaeontology from its earliest origins to the modern discipline it is today.

This skilfully crafted publication provides an insight not only into the way that the study of fossils and past life has changed, but looks in detail at how famous fossil discoveries have been interpreted and depicted. The work and illustrations of Mary Anning feature, along with reflections on the influence of such luminaries as Georges Cuvier, Charles Darwin, Jenny Clack and Roy Chapman Andrews.

The front cover of "Paleontology an Illustrated History"
The front cover of “Paleontology an Illustrated History” features a lithograph of an ichthyosaur (Temnodontosaurus platyodon) and (below) an illustration of “A Paris Fossil” by Cuvier.

Splendid Sketches, Engravings and Computer-generated Images

Divided into four main chapters, the author takes the reader on a journey through the history of palaeontology and the artwork associated with key fossil discoveries and ground-breaking research. David Bainbridge brings to life the people and the stories behind some of the most significant developments in the Earth sciences. Illustrations of early sketches, engravings as well as state-of-the-art computer-generated images providing a perfect accompaniment demonstrating how our views of the ancient world and the animals contained therein have changed.

An early illustration of pterosaurs.
The book contains over a hundred, full-colour illustrations depicting how the art associated with the science of palaeontology has changed. This is an early illustration of a pterosaur. Picture credit: Edward Newman.

Palaeontology and the Artists that Illustrate Scientific Discoveries

The author, a comparative anatomist at the University of Cambridge, explains how our perceptions regarding prehistoric animals have been changed by their depiction on the big screen, perhaps most famously in King Kong (1933) and Jurassic Park, which was premiered some sixty years later. He looks at how palaeoart has developed from the early influencers such as Charles Knight through the work of Neave Parker and how modern-day palaeoartists work with researchers to produce illustrations that accompany scientific papers.

Changmiania liaoningensis fossil material and life reconstruction.
The perfectly preserved holotype fossil of Changmiania liaoningensis with a life reconstruction. The book “Paleontology an Illustrated History” examines how ground-breaking fossil discoveries have been illustrated from the origins of palaeontology through to the modern day. Picture credit: Carine Ciselet/RBINS-IRSNB-KBIN.

A Comprehensive Account

“Paleontology an Illustrated History” is a most enjoyable and comprehensive account demonstrating how art and scientific enquiry combine to help inform, enlighten and educate.

Highly recommended.

Book details:

  • Published by Princeton University Press
  • ISBN: 9780691220925
  • 256 pages
  • 100+ colour illustrations

To purchase this excellent book, visit the Princeton University Press website and search for “David Bainbridge”, the Princeton University Press site is here: Princeton University Press.

18 06, 2022

When is a Jaw Not a Jaw?

By | June 18th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils, Teaching|0 Comments

The fossil record is rich and diverse however, it only represents a tiny fraction of all the life that has ever existed on Earth. In addition, some fossils can be easily confused and misinterpreted, for example, we recall an incident that occurred when visiting the National Museum Cardiff (Wales). We overhead a conversation in the Evolution of Wales gallery, a mother was pointing out a dinosaur jaw fossil to her children.

The object was not the fossilised remains of a dinosaur, this was not a jaw at all, but the preserved remains in lateral view of the claw of a large sea scorpion (eurypterid).

A sea scorpion claw
A stunning fossil of a sea scorpion (eurypterid) claw housed at the National Museum Cardiff (Wales) photographed in 2019 when team members at Everything Dinosaur visited.

We can understand how the confusion arose, the fossilised claw does resemble a jaw. The fossil exhibit featuring several examples of Palaeozoic invertebrates was clearly labelled and the gallery layout guides readers from the Big Bang to the present day in chronological order. There are plenty of helpful panels providing information and explanations, all helping to educate and inform.

One of the children corrected the grown-up, pointing out that the dinosaurs lived in the Mesozoic.

Ancient predator of the Middle Ordovician. An illustration of a sea scorpion. Picture credit: Patrick Lynch/Yale University.

We shared a smile and moved on to view some of the other amazing exhibits housed in this excellent museum.

To read about the discovery of a giant sea scorpion (Terropterus xiushanensis) from China: Giant Sea Scorpion from China.

17 06, 2022

Abnormal Titanosaur Egg Suggests Close Links to Bird Reproductive Strategy

By | June 17th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

The discovery of a titanosaurid egg, preserved inside another titanosaur egg (ovum-in-ovo) adds weight to the theory that dinosaurs had a reproduction strategy very similar to birds. This discovery opens up the possibility that dinosaurs laid their eggs sequentially like birds, whereas other reptiles tend to lay eggs simultaneously as a clutch.

The researchers from the University of Delhi in collaboration with a colleague from the Higher Secondary School (Dhar District, Madhya Pradesh), documented the contents of a titanosaur nest discovered in Upper Cretaceous deposits (Maastrichtian stage) from the Lameta Formation exposed in the lower Narmada valley. The Lameta Formation is famous for its titanosaur nest fossils, hundreds of individual nests have been recorded. The titanosaur nest which records a rare example of an abnormal egg is known as P7, it is one of fifty-two titanosaur nests that have been mapped around the village of Padlya.

Photograph of titanosaur next P7 and explanatory diagram.
In-situ field photograph and explanatory drawing of the outcrop showing the titanosaur nest P7 and its eggs and eggshell fragments. Captions A to O indicate eggs and eggshell locations. Picture credit: Dhiman et al.

Titanosaur Nest P7

The titanosaur nest P7 preserves eleven large, round eggs which are placed in a circular arrangement entombed within a block of sandy limestone. Not all the eggs are entire, some of the eggshell is missing. They could represent broken shells after the eggs hatched or the missing shell elements may have been eroded away.

One egg (egg C) records unusual pathology. Two partially broken, circular eggshell outlines are preserved, with a prominent crescent-shaped gap between the two eggshells present in the top right corner (see line drawing). Egg C has been interpreted as an example of an abnormal egg, one egg containing another egg within it. This type of egg pathology is termed ovum-in-ovo and this is the first time this has been reported in a dinosaur. Ovum-in-ovo eggs are found in birds but no such egg pathology has been reported in a reptile (living or extinct). This discovery suggests that titanosaurids had a reproductive system similar to that of birds.

Ovum-in-ovo fossilised titanosaur egg
In-situ field photograph (a) of the ovum-in-ovo egg (egg number C) from the Upper Cretaceous Lameta Formation (Dhar District, India) with explanatory line drawing (b). Two partially broken, circular eggshell outlines can be seen with broken eggshell fragments also preserved. With ovum-in-ovo egg pathology, a crescent-shaped gap is characteristically present in the upper right part of the egg. Picture credit: Dhiman et al.

Different Types of Egg Pathology

Abnormal egg formation has been documented in many types of amniote (undergoing foetal or embryonic development within a protective membrane, the amnion), such as turtles, dinosaurs and birds. Two main examples of egg pathology are known. There is a condition where one egg forms within another egg (ovum-in-ovo) and a second condition in which multi-shelled eggs are formed, essentially the formation of a second eggshell layer beside the primary eggshell.

Unusual pathologies in amniote eggs.
Unusual pathologies in amniote eggs. Ovum-in-ovo (a) an egg within an egg, characterised by the presence of two yolks. Multi-shelled egg (b) with two or more eggshell layers surrounding a single yolk. Picture credit: Dhiman et al (after Carpenter).

If Egg C represents an example of ovum-in-ovo egg laying in a dinosaur, then this egg deformity will only have been recorded in the Dinosauria and birds, suggesting similar reproductive biology. In birds, when an egg is fully formed it is pushed into the cloaca to be laid one-by-one. Eggs are not laid as clutch, but egg laying can take place sequentially over several days. In birds such as hens (Galliformes), egg laying can be suspended if conditions are unfavourable. However, crocodiles and turtles tend to lay all their eggs at the same time, as a single clutch. Both turtles and crocodiles have two oviducts, but crocodiles are more derived than turtles possessing a segmented oviduct and share this derived trait with the birds.

The structure of the oviduct dictates the sort of egg abnormalities that can occur. The ovum-in-ovo pathology as observed in the titanosaur eggs has led the researchers to hypothesise that titanosaurs possessed a segmented oviduct similar to birds and crocodiles, but unlike crocodilians they were capable of laying eggs sequentially.

Titanosaur sequential egg laying.
Inferred cladogram showing divergence of dinosaurs from crocodiles on the basis of sequential egg laying. Picture credit: Dhiman et al.

Building up a Picture of Titanosaurid Reproductive Strategy

Turtles, crocodiles, dinosaurs and birds all share the common trait of having multi-shelled eggs. Both turtles and crocodiles have two oviducts, but crocodiles are more derived than turtles in that they possess a segmented oviduct, a characteristic that they share with birds.

This new study suggests that at least one type of dinosaur (titanosaurids) had an oviduct anatomy and biology similar to modern birds. Titanosaurs may have been capable of laying eggs sequentially, just like birds.

Palaeontologists are building up a detailed picture of titanosaur reproductive behaviour. These sauropods had favoured nesting sites, which they returned to, they nested in colonies, excavated nests and covered the nests to incubate the eggs and they may have laid their eggs not as a single clutch but sequentially over several days.

Brazilian titanosaur nesting site
A site in Brazil reveals that titanosaurs had favoured nesting sites and returned to these locations to lay their eggs. The titanosaur egg fossils were found in two distinct layers (L1 and L2) approximately two metres apart. This suggests that this area was a preferred nesting site for titanosaurs. This is the first confirmed dinosaur nesting area found in Brazil. The eggs attributed to titanosaurs also represent the most northerly titanosaurian nesting site known from South America. The discovery of nests located at different levels indicates that titanosaurs returned regularly to preferred nesting areas. Picture credit: Fiorelli et al.

The scientific report: “First ovum-in-ovo pathological titanosaurid egg throws light on the reproductive biology of sauropod dinosaurs” by Harsha Dhiman, Vishal Verma & Guntupalli V. R. Prasad published in Scientific Reports.

16 06, 2022

“Prehistoric Planet” Inspires Young Artists

By | June 16th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

The recent documentary series “Prehistoric Planet” has inspired many young artists to produce prehistoric animal drawings and illustrations depicting scenes from this highly acclaimed five-part television series.

Everything Dinosaur team members have observed an increased level of interest in dinosaurs and prehistoric animals after the programmes were aired on Apple TV+ last month (May 2022). Produced by the BBC Studios Natural History Unit and with Dr Darren Naish acting as lead scientific consultant, each programme looked at a specific dinosaur-dominated ecosystem that existed during the Late Cretaceous.

Young artist Caldey, was inspired by one scene in the first episode (Coasts), sending into Everything Dinosaur her illustration of a T. rex adult and juvenile.

Caldey draws a Tyrannosaurus rex.
Inspired by the first episode of the highly praised documentary television series “Prehistoric Planet”, Caldey has drawn an adult Tyrannosaurus rex and young. In the first episode of this five-part series, a male T. rex took its family to an off-shore island to feed on turtle remains and turtle hatchlings. Caldey shows T. rex not as a fearsome predator but as an attentive father. Picture credit: Caldey.

Depicting Prehistoric Animals as Living Creatures Not Movie Monsters

“Prehistoric Planet” has been praised for its depiction of dinosaurs and other long extinct creatures, not as terrifying, bloodthirsty movie monsters but as living animals capable of demonstrating complex social behaviours.

In Caldey’s illustration, the T. rex is depicted as an attentive parent. In contrast, when the film “Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom” was released in 2018, Caldey sent into Everything Dinosaur a drawing featuring Tyrannosaurus rex in an iconic scene from the movie.

In the Universal Studios production, T. rex is depicted as attacking a Carnotaurus. Once the abelisaurid had been subdued the Tyrannosaurus emits an ear-piercing roar.

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom illustration by Caldey
Caldey illustrates an iconic scene from “Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom” when the T. rex attacks a Carnotaurus. Picture credit: Caldey.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“The Apple TV plus television series has inspired a whole new generation of dinosaur fans and we have received numerous drawings depicting prehistoric animals from the documentary series. Our thanks to Caldey for sending into Everything Dinosaur her illustration of the male T. rex with its offspring.”

15 06, 2022

Searching for Evidence of Ice Age Settlements Under the Sea

By | June 15th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Geology, Main Page, Photos|0 Comments

A study published in the journal Ocean and Coastal Management predicts that rising sea levels threaten 200,000 properties in England. Sea levels have changed before and a new research programme instigated by scientists at the University of Bradford is setting out to map Stone Age settlements that have been swallowed by the sea.

The extent of the palaeolandscape prior to sea level changes.
Approximate maximum extent of marine palaeolandscapes off the Irish and British coasts. Scientists plan to map Stone Age settlements that once existed on landmasses that are now submerged. Picture credit: University of Bradford.

Searching for Human Settlements

The archaeological study, the first of its kind in the world, is being led by Dr Simon Fitch, a geoarchaeologist at the University of Bradford. It will entail the use of unmanned underwater drones and advanced three-dimensional seismic sensors to map coastlines as they looked between 20,000 BCE and 10,000 BCE (BCE – Before the Common Era).

During the later stages of the Palaeolithic, sea levels were between 120 metres to 40 metres lower than they are today, the British Isles was still connected to the European mainland and much of the area we now refer to as the North Sea was land (Doggerland). This project aims to find evidence of human occupation in areas which are now underwater.

Geoarchaeologist Dr Simon Fitch
Dr Simon Fitch is a geoarchaeologist who has a long interest in the study of all aspects of submerged landscapes. Dr Fitch will lead the project to find evidence of Stone Age occupation in areas that are now under the sea. Picture credit: University of Bradford.

The “Life on the Edge” Project

The five-year project entitled “Life on the Edge” has received funding from several sources including the use of a vessel provided by the Flanders Marine Institute.

Commenting on the significance of this study, Dr Fitch stated:

“Our knowledge of the submerged coastal zones of the Late Palaeolithic is essentially non-existent and we have little to no knowledge on the settlement of these areas. This project will represent the first serious attempt to record these landscapes and understand the communities who lived on the edge of the continents.”

Ice Age Settlements

During the last glacial period, humans occupied the extensive plains that linked the British Isles to the European mainland. It is likely that there were many settlements and this project sets out to map the unexplored record of coastal occupation with the focus on three locations the coast of Scotland, Belgium and the continental shelf of Croatia.

Whilst looking backwards into human history, this research also has important implications for the future of humanity. The study will examine how people adapted to the challenges of sea levels and climate change – issues that threaten humanity today.

Brown Bank Stone Age artefacts.
Brown Bank artefacts – A selection of prehistoric artefacts from Brown Bank (southern North Sea) collected by Dr Dick Mol polished stone axe mace head; b) perforated deer antler socketed adze axe head; c) human mandible, without scale from (Peeters 2011). Picture credit: University of Bradford.

Dr Fitch added:

“It is not hyperbole to say this is ground-breaking. This survey will provide significant advances in scientific understanding and the results will be of global importance, as it will vastly improve the methodologies available to investigate the vast inundated prehistoric landscapes that can be found around the world.”

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

14 06, 2022

Dinosaurs had “Belly Buttons”

By | June 14th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Researchers have identified the oldest preserved umbilical scar (umbilicus) in the fossilised remains of a dinosaur (Psittacosaurus). The equivalent of our “belly button”, this is the first dinosaur specimen to demonstrate an umbilical scar.

Psittacosaurus had a belly button
A life reconstruction of a resting Psittacosaurus, the umbilical scar is highlighted. Picture credit: Jagged Fang Designs.

The “Belly Button” in Placental Mammals

Placental mammals such as humans (Homo sapiens) have an umbilical cord that connects the growing embryo to the placenta. It provides a supply line for nutrients, gaseous exchange and the removal of waste products. Our “belly button”, the navel, is the scar that is left when the last fragment of the umbilical detaches from the baby shortly after the cord has been cut.

Reptiles and living avian dinosaurs (birds) do not have a true umbilical cord. However, whilst inside the egg, the embryo’s abdomen is connected to the yolk sac, which provides the developing embryo with a food source. The umbilical scar (umbilicus), appears when the embryo detaches from the yolk sac and other membranes.

In most living reptiles and birds this umbilical scar persists for only a few days, although in some genera the scar can persist and be found in adult animals, the Rock pigeon (Columba livia) for example. Scales on the bellies of snakes, lizards and crocodilians often preserve faint traces of the umbilicus, it being marked by a subtle change in scale morphology and alignment.

The embryo of a Lufengosaurus
This diagram of a baby Lufengosaurus (Sauropodomorpha) shows that the embryo is attached to the yolk sac inside the egg. When the baby hatches and leaves the egg, the yolk sac is detached but a scar on the belly (umbilicus) is formed. This scar may quickly heal and grow over, but it can persist in some amniotes for a lifetime. Picture credit: D. Mazierski.

The Remarkable Senckenberg Psittacosaurus

The researchers who included Dr Phil Bell (University of New England, New South Wales, Australia) and Dr Michael Pittman (The Chinese University of Hong Kong), subjected the superbly-preserved Senckenberg Psittacosaurus specimen (SMF R 4970) to examination under laser-stimulated fluorescence (LSF). Using this imaging technique, the team were able to identify the umbilical scar as a midline structure outlined by a row of paired scales on the abdomen.

Senckenberg specimen of Psittacosaurus reveals umbilical scar
Umbilical scar in Psittacosaurus SMF R 4970 under LSF. Cropped image (A) of Psittacosaurus sp. (SMF R 4970) showing just the skeleton and soft tissue outlines, with the umbilical scar highlighted by the dashed yellow line. B Close up of boxed region in (A) with the maximal anteroposterior extent of the umbilical scar indicated by arrowheads. Wrinkling forming irregular wavy creases in the integument can be seen on the far right on this image where the abdomen meets the inner thigh; C, D Close up of boxed region in (B) showing paired quadrangular scales (blue outline in D) delimiting the umbilicus. Transverse banding is visible in the remaining abdominal scales (black outlines in D). E Close up of paired quadrangular scales (ps). A clear line of interstitial tissue, delimiting the former scar, can be seen between the paired scales. Anterior is towards the top in (B–E). Scale bars equal 5 mm (B–D) and 2 mm (E). Picture credit: Bell et al.

The remarkable Senckenberg Psittacosaurus specimen preserves extensive soft tissues including skin, it has provided palaeontologists with a rare insight into the integumentary covering of an early member of the horned dinosaur lineage. The skeleton is so precious that no form of destructive bone histology was permitted, but by measuring the length of the thighbones (femora) of this fossil and comparing these measurements to the length of the thigh bones from other Psittacosaurus fossils, which had been subjected to ontogenetic study, the researchers concluded that the Senckenberg specimen was close to being sexually mature.

This suggests that the umbilicus was probably retained in psittacosaurids throughout their lives.

Whilst this is the first, definitive proof of an umbilical scar in the Dinosauria, it is not possible to infer from this study whether all dinosaurs retained the umbilicus into adulthood.

A Psittacosaurus fossil.
Psittacosaurus fossils (SMF R 4970) on display at the Senckenberg Naturmuseum (Frankfurt).

A Legal Debate Surrounding SMF R 4970

The Psittacosaurus sp. specimen (SMF R 4970) is on public display in the Dinosaurs Unlimited permanent exhibition at the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany. Team members at Everything Dinosaur have had the opportunity to view this remarkable fossil.

The legal ownership of this fossil is disputed and there have been attempts to have this specimen repatriated to China.

The scientific paper: “Oldest preserved umbilical scar reveals dinosaurs had “belly buttons” by Phil R. Bell, Christophe Hendrickx, Michael Pittman and Thomas G. Kaye published in BMC Biology.

13 06, 2022

Abelisaurids Lived Alongside Spinosaurus

By | June 13th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Last week, the discovery of the fossilised bones of a huge spinosaurid from the Isle of Wight was reported*. This giant theropod, with an estimated length of around ten metres, could be the biggest meat-eating dinosaur described from European fossils, but the largest theropod known to science is thought to be Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, which was first reported from the Bahariya Formation of Egypt.

Spinosaurus had plenty of company, several large theropods have been named and described from fossils from the Upper Cretaceous (Cenomanian), Bahariya Oasis, Western Desert of Egypt and a newly published paper confirms the presence of abelisaurids in this ancient ecosystem too.

Theropod dominated Bahariya Formation palaeoecosystem.
Reconstruction of the palaeoecosystem of the Upper Cretaceous (Cenomanian) Bahariya Formation of the Bahariya Oasis, Western Desert of Egypt. A single neck bone proves the presence of abelisaurids in the ecosystem. Picture credit: Andrew McAfee, Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Cervical Vertebra Fossil Discovery

A 2016 expedition led by researchers from the Mansoura University Vertebrate Palaeontology Centre, (Mansoura, Egypt), unearthed a single neck bone (10th cervical vertebra), a formal description of this specimen (MUVP 477) has been published in Royal Society Open Science.

Neck bone of an abelisaurid (Bahariya Formation)
Tenth cervical vertebra of Abelisauridae indet. (MUVP 477) in cranial (a), caudal (b), left lateral (c), right dorsolateral (d), ventral (e) and dorsal (f) views. Note scale bar = 5 cm. Picture credit: Salem et al.

Similar to the Cervical Vertebrae of Majungasaurus and Carnotaurus

The neckbone is strikingly similar to the cervical vertebrae of Majungasaurus from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar and the cervical vertebrae of Carnotaurus, fossils of which are associated with Upper Cretaceous deposits of Argentina. Phylogenetic analysis places the Bahariya Formation specimen within the Abelisauridae, but the absence of any further fossil material has restricted the taxonomic classification to the family level (a similar taxonomic position to that of the “White Rock spinosaurid” described from fragmentary bones found on the Isle of Wight).

Based on measurements of the cervical vertebra the Bahariya Formation abelisaurid is estimated to have had a body length of between 5.3 and 6.3 metres, indicating that this fossil represents a mid-sized member of the Abelisauridae with a body size similar to Rugops, Majungasaurus, Viavenator and Xenotarsosaurus bonapartei.

Abelisaurid size Comparison
Abelisaurid size comparison. The Bahariya Formation abelisaurid is described as a mid-sized member of the Abelisauridae with a body length estimated to be 5.3 to 6.3 metres long.

The First Definitive Proof of Abelisaurids and the Oldest from North-eastern Africa

Specimen number MUVP 477 is not only the first definitive proof of the presence of abelisaurids with the Bahariya Formation biota, but with an estimated age of approximately 98 million years, this fossil is also the oldest record of the Abelisauria clade in Egypt and north-eastern Africa generally.

Providing a Key for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History Life Reconstruction

Theropod dominated Bahariya Formation palaeoecosystem.
The early Late Cretaceous of north-eastern Africa was a dangerous place with several different types of predatory dinosaur present in the ecosystem. Picture credit: Andrew McAfee, Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

The stunning prehistoric scene (Andrew McAfee/Carnegie Museum of Natural History) shows, the mid-sized abelisaurid (far right) confronting the giant theropod Spinosaurus aegyptiacus which is holding a dipnoan (lungfish) Retodus tuberculatus in its jaws.

The large carcharodontosaurid Carcharodontosaurus saharicus can be seen in the centre background. Two stomatosuchid crocodyliforms (Stomatosuchus inermis) can be seen on the far left, whilst in the background a trio of Paralititan stromeri walk by. A pair of bahariasaurids are located just behind the tail of the abelisaurid whilst a flock of pterosaurs soar overhead. The vegetation is dominated by the mangrove-like tree fern Weichselia reticulata.

Niche Partitioning

The presence of so many large predators in the biota suggests that the Bahariya Formation ecosystem was extremely rich, even so, it is likely that the different types of theropod exhibited niche-partitioning, with coeval genera exploiting different resources.

*To read our article on the “White Rock spinosaurid”: Super-sized Carnivorous Dinosaur from the Isle of Wight.

The scientific paper: “First definitive record of Abelisauridae (Theropoda: Ceratosauria) from the Cretaceous Bahariya Formation, Bahariya Oasis, Western Desert of Egypt” by Belal S. Salem, Matthew C. Lamanna, Patrick M. O’Connor, Gamal M. El-Qot, Fatma Shaker, Wael A. Thabet, Sanaa El-Sayed and Hesham M. Sallam published by Royal Society Open Science.

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