Everything Dinosaur’s team members receive lots of email enquiries every day including requests to source special models for customers. A mother of a reptile-obsessed dinosaur fan emailed us to ask could we source and supply some snake replicas. We made some enquiries and we were able to sort this out, bringing in some Squamata with our next shipment of Safari Ltd prehistoric animal models.
Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur
Snakes on a Shipment
You might have heard about the film “Snakes on a Plane”, starring Samuel L. Jackson. This film was released in 2006 to mixed reviews. In this instance, team members had to ensure there were “snakes on a shipment”, to satisfy the demands of a snake-loving dinosaur fan.
A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:
“If customers are looking to source some unusual models, or perhaps a replica that has been recently retired, we are happy to use our extensive contacts in the industry to see if we can obtain the figure for them.”
Everything Dinosaur does supply some prehistoric snake models, for example the popular Rebor Titanoboa Museum Class Maquettes “Brian Diccus” and “Monty Resurgent”. These limited-production figures were introduced in 2020, a museu-quality replica of a Titanoboa swallowing its crocodilian prey.
When it came to handling the very realistic snake figures from Safari Ltd, team members tried not to be too squeamish, but whatever the model might be, we will try our best to source it and supply it, even if it is a green Anaconda!
To ask about how Everything Dinosaur can help you find a rare, retired or otherwise difficult to find model or figure: Contact Everything Dinosaur.
Time to praise CollectA for adding some superb replicas of prehistoric cephalopods to the “Prehistoric Life” model collection including a Pleuroceras ammonite, a nautilus and a Cooperoceras replica.
The picture (above) shows the bizarre Palaeozoic nautiloid Cooperoceras (left). The CollectA Pleuroceras ammonite (centre) a replica of a geographically widespread ammonite known from Lower Jurassic strata and on the right is a replica of the extant, chambered nautilus N. pompilius, which is distantly related to Cooperoceras.
The Cephalopoda (cephalopods) are a class within the huge Mollusca phylum. The cephalopods which include extant squid, cuttlefish and octopi as well as extinct forms such as ammonites and indeed belemnites, only make up a small proportion of the genera within the Mollusca. The most successful molluscs in terms of the number of species and habitat range are the gastropods (slugs and snails). It has been calculated that more than three-quarters of all the molluscs known to science are members of the Gastropoda class. The Mollusca phylum is itself, the second largest phyla within the Kingdom Animalia (the largest being the Arthropoda).
Still, that is enough musing about invertebrate taxonomy for now, it is just great to be able to stock a fabulous selection of cephalopod models, including this trio of CollectA cephalopods.
CollectA Age of Dinosaurs “Prehistoric Life” Figures
A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur praised CollectA for producing such a wide range of prehistoric animal figures. The cephalopod models have proved particularly popular with fossil collectors, they have been able to add a replica of the living animal to their fossil display cabinets.
A dragonfly has been spotted by Everything Dinosaur team members on a small patch of grass next to a drainage ditch outside the company’s warehouse. This is the first time that a dragonfly has been seen in the vicinity of the Everything Dinosaur warehouse. There is a small area of grass next to a drainage ditch and we suspect the dragonfly, possibly a male Common darter (Sympetrum striolatum) emerged from the ditch during the recent hot weather. Our litter picking and tidying up of this small body of water outside our warehouse is paying dividends.
A Haven for Wildlife
The ditch is a haven for wildlife, and we have spotted several different species of water snails including the Great Pond Snail (Lymnaea stagnalis) and the Great Ramshorn (Planorbarius corneus). There are also small fish – we suspect Stickleback (Gasterosteidae family). There may also be frogs and newts, although we have not observed any amphibians to date, although we were visited by a young Mallard duck a few weeks ago.
Photographing the dragonfly was tricky, we could not get that close to our subject, but we tried our best.
A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented that it was always exciting to see a dragonfly. Due to loss of habitat and pollution, these magnificent insects are under threat in many parts of the UK. The earliest dragonfly fossils are known from the Carboniferous. Some of these Carboniferous forms (Meganisoptera order) were huge with wingspans in excess of sixty centimetres. Extant dragonflies (Odonata) are distantly related to these ancient, winged insects, the Odonata lineage may have evolved in the Late Permian.
The office pond has also produced dragonflies, although no Common darters. As the mature nymphs emerge from the pond, they climb up plant stems and prepare to shed their external skeletons and emerge as winged adults (Ecdysis).
Team members have already spotted several exuviae (shed exoskeletons) around the pond.
Let’s hope we see a few more dragonflies before the end of summer.
On the 7th of September, 1936 the last known Thylacine died at Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart (Tasmania). Although most of the scientific community believe that the Thylacine, or as it is sometimes called the Tasmanian Tiger, is extinct there are occasional reports of sightings, either from Tasmania or elsewhere in Australia.
Researchers at the University of Melbourne believe that extinction does not have to mean forever, and they are pursuing a Thylacine de-extinction project to bring back one of the last of Australia’s marsupial apex predators.
The research team led by Professor Andrew Pask of the Thylacine Integrated Genetic Restoration Research (TIGRR) Lab is confident that a newly signed partnership agreement with Dallas-based Colossal Biosciences will bring the resurrection of the Tasmanian Tiger one step closer.
Conserving Australia’s Wildlife Heritage
The new American/Australian partnership will provide access to CRISPR DNA editing technology and allow scientists to pool their resources in their quest to bring back the Thylacine and to prevent many of Australian’s endangered mammals from going the same way.
Commenting on the significance of the new partnership and the access to state-of-the-art gene editing technology, Professor Pask stated:
“We can now take the giant leaps to conserve Australia’s threatened marsupials and take on the grand challenge of de-extincting animals we had lost.”
The Professor added:
“A lot of the challenges with our efforts can be overcome by an army of scientists working on the same problems simultaneously, conducting and collaborating on the many experiments to accelerate discoveries. With this partnership, we will now have the army we need to make this happen.”
Thylacines (family Thylacinidae) are part of the marsupial order Dasyuromorphia. In 2018, researchers led by Professor Pask sequenced the genome of the Thylacine. This was achieved by extracting DNA samples from the pouch of a young Thylacine preserved in a jar of alcohol (specimen number C5757), part of the marsupial collection at Melbourne Museum. The team were able to read the approximately 3 billion nucleotide “letters” of the Thylacine genome and with the help of powerful computers to sequence them.
Armed with this knowledge, the research team could establish the genetic relationship between the extinct Thylacine and living, closely related members of the Dasyuromorphia such as the Tasmanian devil.
It would be theoretically possible to mimic the Thylacine genome and reconstruct it using marsupial stem cells.
A Focus on Protecting Extant Marsupials
Professor Pask explained that TIGGR will concentrate efforts on establishing the reproductive technologies tailored to Australian marsupials, such as IVF and gestation without a surrogate, as Colossal simultaneously deploy their CRISPR gene editing and computational biology capabilities to reproduce Thylacine DNA. This research will also help in the long-term protection of many of Australia’s indigenous marsupials, study of Thylacine DNA will help scientists to better understand the genetic makeup of closely related, extant genera. This research will influence the next generation of Australia’s marsupial conservation efforts.
This partnership with Colossal follows a significant philanthropic donation of $5 million AUD for the TIGGR Lab earlier this year.
Colossal’s experience in CRISPR gene editing will be partnered with TIGGR’s work sequencing the Thylacine genome and identifying marsupials with similar DNA to provide living cells and a template genome that can then be edited to recreate the genetic instructions required to resurrect the extinct marsupial.
Professor Park added:
“The question everyone asks is ‘how long until we see a living Thylacine’ – and I’ve previously believed in ten years’ time we would have an edited cell that we could then consider progressing into making into an animal. With this partnership, I now believe that in ten years’ time we could have our first living baby Thylacine since they were hunted to extinction close to a century ago.”
The TIGRR Lab is believed to be close to producing the first laboratory-created embryos from Australian marsupial sperm and eggs.
Marsupials have a much shorter gestation period when compared to placental mammals. It is conceivable to produce a marsupial without the aid of a surrogate mother. Growing a marsupial, even a Thylacine in a test-tube from conception to the stage at which it would have been born.
Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release from the University of Melbourne in the compilation of this article.
Our thanks to model collector and keen bird watcher Elizabeth who sent into Everything Dinosaur a fantastic photograph of a Kingfisher with its lunch. The lack of rainfall in most areas of the UK in recent months has led to water levels in rivers and lakes dropping. This has concentrated fish (the preferred prey of the Kingfisher), into ever decreasing pools and fish-eaters such as the beautiful Kingfisher have been taking advantage of the easier access to prey.
The drought could have long-term implications for local Kingfisher populations, particularly if ponds and other water sources dry up. Team members at Everything Dinosaur do occasionally catch the glimpse of a pair of iridescent wings, or a splash of orange colour, as they walk along the canal and the river on their way to work. There are Kingfishers in our neighbourhood, but these short-lived birds are notoriously difficult to spot.
Our thanks to Elizabeth for sending in her superb photograph. We think this might be a male. Female Kingfishers have an orange/pinkish tinge to their lower beak. In contrast, the males tend to have black beaks. A tip to help you remember the difference between male and female Kingfishers is to think of the female birds wearing pink lipstick on their lower mandibles.
It is a superb, close-up view of one of our country’s most colourful birds.
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.
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.
Compared with most birds and mammals, reptiles like turtles and tortoises are extremely long-lived, but how do they achieve such great ages, with little evidence of age-related decline? Recently published research papers examined ageing rates and lifespans across seventy-seven species of reptiles and amphibians and these studies suggest that “cold-blooded” animals could teach us a thing or two about living to a ripe old age.
Life in the Slow Lane
An international team, consisting of over one hundred scientists including researchers from Flinders University (Adelaide, South Australia), Pennsylvania State, Northeastern Illinois University and the University of Kent, have provided the first comprehensive evidence confirming that turtles in the wild age very slowly and have long lifespans. In addition, the team concluded that reptiles and amphibians (ectotherms) have highly variable rates of ageing.
Several cold-blooded (ectothermic) species, essentially, do not age and show very little evidence for age-related decline. Unlike warm-blooded (endothermic) animals, ectotherms rely on external heat sources to help them regulate their body temperature, as a result, they tend to have much lower metabolisms than animals like birds and mammals. They way in which these animals regulate their body temperatures could play a role in ageing and potential lifespan (thermoregulatory mode hypothesis).
Having a Shell, Armour, Venom or Spines Might Help You Live Longer
In this extensive study programme, the researchers also noted that animals with physical or chemical traits that provide defence and protection such as spines, armour, shells or venom, tend to age slowly and to live longer.
The scientists documented that these protective traits do, indeed, enable animals to age more slowly and in the case of physical protection, live much longer for their size than those without protective phenotypes (protective phenotypes hypothesis).
Some Cold-blooded Animals Do Not Seem to Age
Discussing the significance of this long-term research programme, Professor Mike Gardner (Flinders University) stated:
“We helped track seventy-seven species for up to sixty years to try to reveal the secrets of long life. Some don’t seem to age at all.”
First author of one of the studies, published in the journal “Science”, Assistant Professor Beth Reinke from Northeastern Illinois University added:
“These various protective mechanisms may reduce animals’ mortality rates within generations. Thus, they are more likely to live longer, and that can change the selection landscape across generations for the evolution of slower ageing. We found the biggest support for the protective phenotype hypothesis in turtles. Again, this demonstrates that turtles, as a group, are unique.”
It might sound a little dramatic to conclude that some cold-blooded animals may show no signs of ageing, but basically their likelihood of dying does not alter to any great extent once they mature. They show “negligible ageing” which means if an animal’s chance of dying in a year when they are ten years old is 1%, if that animal is alive in a hundred years, it still has a 1% chance of dying. In contrast, a study of American women found that the risk of dying at age twenty is 1 in 2,500, but this risk rises as they get older. For example, in this study group, at the age of eighty, their risk of dying was more than a hundred times higher (1 in 24) than when they were twenty years old.
Everything Dinosaur stocks a range of prehistoric reptile models including crocodilians and other cold-blooded animals as well as feathered dinosaurs and models of endothermic creatures.
Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release from Flinders University in the compilation of this article.
The scientific paper: “Diverse aging rates in ectothermic tetrapods provide insights for the evolution of aging and longevity” by Beth A. Reinke, Hugo Cayuela, Fredric J. Janzen et al published in Science.
Gold miners working at Eureka Creek in the Klondike Region of Yukon Province in Canada have discovered the frozen remains of a baby woolly mammoth. The calf, which is female is estimated to have lived around 30,000 years ago and it represents the best-preserved woolly mammoth specimen ever found in North America.
“Big Baby Animal”
The discovery was made on June 21st, the Northern Hemisphere solstice and also appropriately, Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day. The Klondike gold fields lie within the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin Traditional Territory. Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin elders have named the mammoth calf Nun cho ga, meaning “big baby animal” in the indigenous people’s (Hän) language.
Ice Age animal remains are quite commonly found in the Yukon area as they erode out of thawing permafrost, however, mummified remains complete with skin and hair are exceptionally rare.
Minister for Tourism and Culture, Ranj Pillai of the Yukon Territory Administration commented:
“The Yukon has always been an internationally renowned leader for ice age and Beringia research. We are thrilled about this significant discovery of a mummified woolly mammoth calf: Nun cho ga. Without strong partnerships between placer miners, Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin, and the Yukon government, discoveries like this could not happen.”
Vertebrate palaeontologist Dr Grant Zazula added:
“As an ice age palaeontologist, it has been one of my lifelong dreams to come face to face with a real woolly mammoth. That dream came true today. Nun cho ga is beautiful and one of the most incredible mummified ice age animals ever discovered in the world. I am excited to get to know her more.”
Comparisons with Lyuba
The discovery of the superbly preserved corpse will provide scientists with an opportunity to compare Nun cho ga with Lyuba, a mammoth calf discovered in Siberia back in 2007. Lyuba lived a few thousand years earlier than the Yukon mammoth (circa 41,800 years), researchers will have the opportunity to compare the genetic health of the mammoth population and plot any changes between the older Lyuba and Nun cho ga which lived, around 12,000 years later.
The discovery of Nun cho ga is not the first woolly mammoth calf found in North America. In 1948, a partial mammoth calf, nicknamed Effie, was found at a gold mine in Alaska.
A few days ago (3rd of June, 2022), we published a blog post about a new species of ancestral giraffe (Discokeryx xiezhi) that had been described from fossils found in Miocene strata in the Junggar Basin in north-western China (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region).
The researchers, writing in the academic journal “Science” had compared the prevalence of head ornamentation amongst giraffomorphs (those animals within the Giraffidae family and their ancestors) to other types of ruminant within the Pecora. They concluded that those animals on the branch of ruminants leading to the extant giraffes evolved more types of headgear than other pecoran groups. The driver for this evolution, was not selective browsing as previously thought, but the variety of headgear had, in part come about due to intensive sexual selection linked to various male combat styles – head-butting, neck banging etc.
Team members at Everything Dinosaur were not familiar with the Pecora and what types of ruminant within the Artiodactyla (even-toed, hoofed mammals) would be described as pecorans. So, we thought we would dedicate this blog post to providing a definition.
The Pecora – A Definition
The order Artiodactyla is the most diverse and abundant group of large mammals on planet Earth. The Artiodactyla consists of the Whippomorpha (hippos), pigs (Suidae), Tayassuidae (peccaries and their relatives), the whales (Cetacea), Tylopods (camels, llamas and their relatives) as well as all the ruminants.
The biggest component of the Artiodactyla is the Ruminantia which are characterised by their four-chambered stomachs. Over eighty-five percent of all the artiodactyls are ruminants. Molecular studies have helped scientists to better understand the evolutionary relationships between the many families that make up this very large and diverse group of mammals. Although the exact taxonomy of this group is still uncertain, attempts have been made to clarify the evolutionary relationships between the different types of ruminant – hence the creation of the infraorder Pecora.
Most scientists define the Pecora as artiodactyls with a ruminant digestive system. Specifically, those ruminants that possess cranial ornamentation either horns, antlers, bony structures (ossicones) or pronghorns, although Musk deer and their relatives lack cranial ornamentation but are still defined as pecorans.
The long neck of the giraffe has often been cited as a classic example of adaptive evolution. Long necks evolved to permit them to access food that other animals could not reach. However, a newly described early giraffe with a toughened skull adapted for head-butting contests suggests that intensive sexual competition may have led to the extremely long neck found in modern giraffes.
Discokeryx xiezhi from the Early Miocene (Junggar Basin)
Scientists led by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have described a new species of ancient giraffe from the northern margins of the Junggar Basin in north-western China (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region). The early giraffoid named Discokeryx xiezhi did not have a very long neck, instead, based on the analysis of an almost complete skull and four cervical vertebrae, this herbivore had a neck and head adapted to absorbing the immense stresses of head-butting combat.
Writing in the academic journal “Science”, the researchers conclude that the neck bones of Discokeryx xiezhi were extremely stout and had the most complex joints between the head and the neck and between the cervical vertebrae of any mammal. The team demonstrated that the complex articulations between the skull and cervical vertebrae of Discokeryx xiezhi were particularly adapted to high-speed head-to-head impact. They found this structure was far more effective than that of extant animals, such as musk oxen, that are adapted for head butting intraspecific combat. The scientists postulate that D. xiezhi may have been the vertebrate best adapted to head impact known to science.
Lead author of the study, Shi-qi Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences explained:
“Both living giraffes and Discokeryx xiezhi belong to the Giraffoidea, a superfamily. Although their skull and neck morphologies differ greatly, both are associated with male courtship struggles and both have evolved in an extreme direction.”
Climate Change Driving Morphological Changes
Tooth isotope analysis of fossil teeth indicate that Discokeryx lived in a dry, grassland environment. The habitat was more barren and less rich than forest environments and this may have resulted in increased stress on animal populations and greater competition within species for limited resources. Around 7 million years ago, the environment on the East African Plateau was broadly similar with forests being replaced by savannah. The direct ancestors of extant giraffes had to adapt and it is possible that during this period mating males developed a way of attacking their competitors by swinging their necks and heads. This extreme struggle, supported by sexual selection, thus led to the rapid elongation of the giraffe’s neck over a period of two million years to become the extant genus, Giraffa.
Comparing Horn Morphology
The research team compared the horn morphology of several groups of ruminants, including giraffoids, cattle, sheep, deer and pronghorns. They found that horn diversity in giraffes is much greater than in other groups, with a tendency toward extreme differences in morphology. This suggests that courtship struggles (intraspecific combat) are more intense and diverse in giraffes than in other ruminants.
The research team conclude that the primary driving force for extreme body shape in giraffes was not the benefit of being able to browse on parts of the canopy other herbivores could not reach, but it was the intensive sexual competition that fostered extreme morphologies.
Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the compilation of this article.
The scientific paper: “Sexual selection promotes giraffoid head-neck evolution and ecological adaptation” by Shi-qi Wang, Jie Ye, Jin Meng, Chunxiao Li, Loic Costeur, Bastien Mennecart, Chi Zhang, Ji Zhang, Manuela Aiglstorfer, Yang Wang, Yan Wu, Wen-yu Wu and Tao Deng published in the journal Science.