News: New Species of Late Cretaceous Hadrosaur found in Alabama

Two weeks ago (though I’ve just heard about it today), paleontologists published a report that they had discovered a new species of dinosaur which inhabited eastern North America during the late Cretaceous Period. Dinosaur fossils from this region are extremely rare, and so any discovery is bound to generate excitement. I’m certain that paleontologist and fello paleo-blogger Chase Brownstein, who is a specialist in eastern North America during the Mesozoic Era, will be geeking out about this discovery very shortly, if he hasn’t been already.

The creature was named Eotrachodon orientalis, “the dawn Trachodon of the East”. It lived in Alabama 83 million years ago, and measured about 25 feet long. Hadrosaurs had only appeared a few million years earlier, so Eotrachodon would have been one of the earliest hadrosaurs not only in North America but globally. Phylogenics suggest that it was a sister taxon of the family Saurolophidae, meaning that it was only slightly more evolved than the most basic hadrosaurs. It is also noteworthy for being found with a mostly intact skull, which gives us a good look as to how an early hadrosaur would have appeared. Contrary to the name “duck bill”, Eotrachodon did not have a broad flat duck-like skull. Instead, its skull was deep with a rounded nose. The fossilized remains, consisting of a partial skeleton and most of the skull, were discovered in 2014 in a creek not far from the city of Montgomery, Alabama.

That fact in itself explains much of why so few dinosaur bones have been found east of the Mississippi River – so much land is covered with cities, farms, highways, and other forms of human development. This significantly limits where a person can dig, and often, the places where you CAN dig don’t contain dinosaur fossils.

For more info, see here:

Albert Prieto-Marquez, et al (2016). “A primitive hadrosaurid from southeastern North America and the origin and early evolution of ‘duck-billed’ dinosaurs”. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, published online January 13, 2016; doi: 10.1080/02724634.2015.1054495. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2015.1054495?journalCode=ujvp20.

Sci-News.com. “Eotrachodon orientalis: New Duck-Billed Dinosaur Species Discovered”

 

News: New species of prehistoric giant crocodile found in North Africa

This post is a couple of days late, but I hope you’ll forgive me. A few days ago, University of Bologna paleontologist Federico Fanti and his colleagues announced that they had discovered the fossilized remains of a thirty-foot crocodile in southern Tunisia within rocks dated to the early Cretaceous Period, about 130 million years ago. The skull alone was five feet long. The fossils had been found in December 2014, and the skeleton, remarkably, was associated (meaning that all of the bones came from one individual, and were not the jumbled remains of multiple individuals) and the skeleton was articulated (all of the bones were in their proper anatomical placement).

Machimosaurus rex, as it has been named, belonged to a group of oceanic crocodilians called the teleosaurids, which was thought to have gone extinct at the end of the Jurassic Period. The genus Machimosaurus had first been described in 1837 by the German paleontologist Christian von Meyer. Prior to the discovery of M. rex, there were four other species known to science, most of which lived in Europe during the Jurassic Period.

Although certainly large, Machimosaurus is still not as big as the two tie-winners for “largest crocodile ever”: Sarcosuchus and Deinosuchus, both of which measured forty feet long.

The discovery and naming of this crocodile was published in the journal Cretaceous Research.

News: Remains of Bronze Age village found in Britain

Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of an ancient village in Britain dated to about 1,300-8,000 BC. The quality of the preservation have led some to equate it with the well-preserved ancient Roman city of Pompeii, which was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79 AD.

Based upon what has been uncovered so far, it seems that the village was a “crannog” – a village that is built upon either an artificial island or one that is elevated above a water body through the use of wooden piles and a platform. This village is in the second category.

The site, known as Must Farm, is located just outside a quarry at Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire, England. It was discovered in 1999 by a local archaeologist, but excavation didn’t get underway until five years later in 2004. A more thorough examination of the site occured two years afterwards in 2006. Archaeologists determined that the village was built sometime between 1,300-1,000 BC. A wooden palisade fence which surrounded the village was added later, dated fom 1,000-800 BC. At some time, the village suffered from a fire, and the damaged builginds dropped into the river below. gradually, they were covered over with river silt, preserving them. The timeframe of this site places it within Britain’s late Bronze Age. The use of iron had not yet arrived in the British Isles, and it would not until about about 800 BC.

The Cambridge University Archaeological Unit, working in association with Historic England and Forterra, have been conducting an eight-month-long excavation of the site, beginning in September 2015. The houses that have been uncovered here are of a typical northwestern European “round house” design common among the Celtic people. In addition to the remains of the buildings, they have uncovered a wealth of Bronze Age artifacts, ranging from wooden eating utensils to pottery to textiles. Regrettably, half of the settlement has been damaged or destroyed due to the quarrying operations at the site.

For more information, see the following:

http://www.mustfarm.com/

http://www.msn.com/en-us/travel/news/a-3000-year-old-settlement-is-being-dubbed-britain%e2%80%99s-pompeii/ar-BBoapkm?li=BBnbfcL

 

 

Dryptosaurus: A possible North American megaraptorid?

This is an idea that I’ve had knocking around in my head for a while. A recent post by fellow paleo-blogger Chase (who has a special interest in eastern North American Mesozoic life) on Dryptosaurus has spurred me to action in terms of writing a short article as well as doing some much delayed artwork.

For those of you who are too lazy to read Chase’s excellent article about this animal, Dryptosaurus was a medium-sized theropod dinosaur, approximately 20-25 feet long which lived in eastern North America during the late Cretaceous Period. Unfortunately, our total knowledge of this dinosaur is known from only a few fragmentary remains, including a hand claw that seems way too big in proportion with the rest of this animal’s body.

For as far back as I can remember, Dryptosaurus was classified as a tyrannosaur. But recently, I have my doubts about this classification. Even very primitive tyrannosaurs such as Guanlong and Proceratosaurus don’t have some of the anatomical features that Dryptosaurus appears to possess.

My curiosity centered around that claw. It didn’t look like a tyrannosaur claw – to me, it looked more like an allosaur claw. An unusually large hand claw also reminded me of another animal – Megaraptor, from South America. Originally, this was thought to be a gigantic dromaeosaur, but then it was hypothesized to be more closely related to the allosauroids, like Neovenator, Giganotosaurus, and Carcharodontosaurus. The allosaur-like claw would make this classification a good fit. Then I saw a picture of the skeletal remains of Australovenator, a megaraptorid that was discovered in (you guessed it) Australia. I immediately noticed similarities in the hand and body structure between Australovenator and Dryptosaurus.

  • Massive thumb claws in comparison with the other finger claws.
  • Short muscular arms and huge hands
  • Slender lower jaws with small closely-packed hook-shaped teeth.

What I find really interesting is that in 2012, a hypothesis was put forward by Fernando Novas and other paleontologists that the megaraptorids might actually be extremely primitive members of the tyrannosaur family. In 2014, fragments from a juvenile Megaraptor were discovered, including part of the upper jaw. The structure of the juvenile Megaraptor’s maxilla was very similar to the structure of the dentary from Australovenator. That year, Juan Porfiri re-iterated Novas’ hypothesis that the megaraptorids might be primitive tyrannosaurs.

So, with all of that being said, I hypothesize that Dryptosaurus was a member of Megaraptora, which would make it the first of its kind found within North America.

How did Dryptosaurus feed? The large hook-shaped claws and the small hook-shaped closely-packed teeth seem to indicate that Dryptosaurus and other megaraptorids were fish-eaters. The fossils of Dryptosaurus were discovered in the New Egypt Formation and the Navesink Formation, the later of which is known for both dinosaur fossils as well as fossilized shells. Also, Australovenator was found in deposits that indicate a swampy still wetlands environment, full of bivalves, fish, and turtles. The fact that this megaraptorid was found in a water-rich environment full of aquatic life leads me to suspect that Dryptosaurus might have had a similar lifestyle.

To conclude this short article, I have a drawing of the enigmatic Dryptosaurus portrayed as a megaraptorid rather than as a typical often-illustrated tyrannosaurid. Who knows – maybe my less-than-scholarly idea about Dryptosaurus being a fish-eating megaraptorid will prove out to be right. Only time and the discovery of more specimens will tell.

Dryptosaurus

Keep your pencils (and minds) sharp, everybody.

Goodbye 2015, and good riddance

Hello all,

Today is New Year’s Eve, December 31. The year 2015 has been a rough year for me and for a lot of the people in my life. It has certainly been the worst year for me from a financial and relationship viewpoint. I realize that I haven’t put as many drawings or articles up as I should have, and as a result my views have sharply declined. The reason for my shrinking artistic work ethic is down to concentrating on my job, doing researching and writing for my second book which will get published God-knows-when, and conducting an increasingly frustrating and depressing job hunt. So far, things aren’t looking good.

All that being said, I hope that 2016 will be better for myself as well as for a lot of the people that I know. Best wishes for the new year.

Sincerely,

Jason

My book “Four Days in September” to be re-published as a 2nd edition

Hello all,

In May 2013, my first book Four Days in September: The Battle of Teutoburg was published by Trafford Publishing, based in Indiana, USA. I’m happy to say that my book has been taken up by a British publishing company specializing in military history called Pen & Sword Books. My book will be re-published as a new and improved updated 2nd Edition sometime around late March 2016. I should state that this is a provisional date – the actual date of publishing could be earlier or later depending on how smoothly the publishing process goes.

I’ve heard it said that authors should never read reviews of their work to avoid hurting their feelings in case the reviews are bad, but I avidly read my reviews. I got a lot of feedback from people who read my book, including ordinary history buffs and professional historians, and I listened to what they liked and didn’t like about it. So, I revised my manuscript based upon their suggestions. I corrected mistakes that I made (both in terms of incorrect info as well as the mountain of spelling errors that slipped through the editing process), and I added in new information which I did not have at the time. The new edition will be the most accurate account to date about that fateful battle in the year 9 AD.

Granted, the publishing process is still going on, and there are lots of matters that need to be addressed. The cover design still has not been finalized although the publishing staff has a rough idea about how it will look, we haven’t even started the editing process yet, and the index hasn’t been made. Hopefully, things will be concluded on schedule.

That’s all that I have to say for now on this matter.

Anzu

Anzu

Anzu was a caenagnathid from the Hell Creek Formation. I wrote of its discovery and naming in an earlier post that you can read here. The caenagnathids were a primitive group of oviraptorosaurs, the “egg thief” dinosaurs. Anzu is so far the largest species from this group found in North America, measuring 10-13 feet long from nose-tip to tail-tip, and it was also one of the last of its kind.

In terms of this picture, the chicken-like wattles are purely conjecture on my part, as are the types of feathers and color patterns.

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