10 Places in China Where You Can See a Dinosaur Fossil Up Close

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Tyrannosaurus Rex head on display in Beijing. The country’s fossil boom has resulted in a bevy of options for tourists seeking pterosaurs, feathered dinosaurs and early bird specimens. (Gabbro / Alamy)

The country’s dino explosion has created a mecca for tourists intent on catching a glimpse of feathered dinos and other prehistoric wonders.

Despite a trade plagued by forgeries and amateur digs that destroy excavation sites, paleontology in China is thriving—and so are its dinosaur museums. The fossil boom began in the 1990s. Since then, countless prehistoric species have been discovered, among them groundbreaking feathered dinosaurs which continue to give new clues into the evolution of birds. At the same time, dozens of fossil museums have sprung up across the country, with more opening every year. So tourists, take heart: In China, you don’t have to be a paleontologist to get up and close to some of these fossil beauties.

1. Shandong Tianyu Nature Museum (Shandong Province, eastern China)

The Guinness Book of World Records ranked this museum as the largest dinosaur museum on the planet. Its dinosaur fossils, petrified remains, and early bird specimens number in the thousands. Its hundreds of Jurassic feathered dinosaurs collected here are the most impressive of any Chinese museum, says Zhou Zhonghe, director of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing. “I wonder how many stories will be disclosed out of this collection in the future,” he says.

2. Liaoning Paleontology Museum (Shenyang, Liaoning Province)

Since opening its doors in 2011, this museum has come to boast a collection of over 10,000 paleontological fossils and remains in a whopping 50,000 square feet of space. Its exhibit highlighting the “Top Ten Paleontological Biotas” of Liaoning, spans more than three billion years. The “Liaoning Giant Dinosaur Hall” features eight giant ’saurs excavated in the province, including the 50-foot long Liaoningotitan, shown here to the public for the first time. Even the architecture of the buildings is meant to evoke a prehistoric reptile, curving like a dinosaur’s spine and ribs juxtaposed against an ancient bedrock.

3. Beijing Museum of Natural History (Beijing)

The Jehol Biota—plant and animal life from roughly 130 million years ago in the early Cretaceous period—provides a crucial window into the evolution of birds. And this museum has one of the best collections of Jehol Biota fossils accessible to visitors, according to paleontologist Luis Chiappe, director of the Dinosaur Institute at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. In the Liaoning Province, no fewer than 53 species of birds from this era have been discovered so far.

Chiappe admires the Beijing Museum’s potential to engage visitors with that history. “Looking at the stunningly well-preserved fossils from the Jehol Biota you get transported back in deep time to the utterly different world of the dinosaurs,” he says. Highlights include the Lufengosaurus huenei, the first dinosaur found in China, the 85-foot-long Mamenchisaurus jingyanensispterosaurs, and ichthyosaurs—aquatic reptiles that dominated the oceans.

4. Dalian Natural History Museum (Dalian, Liaoning Province)

This museum, located in the southernmost tip of Liaoning Province, boasts the first five dinosaur eggs ever discovered in China. It also holds a find many thought was lost to the ages: the specimens Endotherium niinomii and Teilhardosaurus carbonarius, preserved together on a slab of coal from a mine in Fuxin, Liaoning. The slab was initially unearthed by the Japanese during World War II. In the decades that followed, some believed it to be lost until it turned up in the collection room of the Dalian Natural History Museum. Resident paleontologist Shen Caizhi believes the most important specimen in this museum is the Psittacosaurus assemblage: 30 juvenile specimens and one larger skull preserved together. Some paleontologists believe it is the first direct evidence of parental care behavior in dinosaurs, while others contend it represents a nesting structure and post-hatching cooperation.

5. Paleozoological Museum of China (Beijing)

A particularly exciting specimen here is the holotype (the specimen used to describe a species for the first time) of Mei longMei is a small theropod dinosaur from Liaoning Province, found in a sleeping or resting posture. “It is the most completely three-dimensional preserved troodontid dinosaur specimen that I have ever seen,” says Chinese paleontologist Shen Caizhi. Other treasures at the museum include Mamenchisaurus, the world’s longest-necked and Asia’s largest dinosaur, Confuciousornis, the world’s earliest beaked bird, and the best-preserved skeleton of Stegodon.

6. Beipiao Pterosaur Museum (Beipiao, Liaoning Province)

The world’s only pterosaur museum opened in 2016 in Beipiao, a city in the fossil rich Liaoning Province. These flying reptiles—neither dinosaurs or birds—lived from about 225 to 65 million years ago and are notable for their ability for powered flight, not just leaping or gliding. Some were as large as an F-16 fighter jet, and others as small as a paper airplane, according to the American Museum of Natural History. Only about 100 species of pterosaurs have been found so far, and more than 50 of those were found in China.

7. Zigong Dinosaur Museum (Zigong, Sichuan Province)

“It’s an incredible museum—like a dinosaur national monument but more impressive,” says Jingmai O’Connor, an American paleontologist with the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing. Constructed over a massive exposed site covered in dinosaur fossils, the museum has an abundance of species including fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. The first discovery of dinosaurs in Zigong was in 1915. In 1977, the first organized dig was conducted at the Dashanpu Dinosaur Fossil Site, but it wasn’t until a subsequent dig in 1979 that the enormity of the fossils embedded there was revealed. Since 1989, Zigong has taken its exhibits around the world, travelling to more than 23 cities across five continents.

8. Sino-German Paleontology Museum (Jinzhou City, Liaoning Province)

A farmer’s accidental discovery of a dinosaur near Jinzhou, Liaoning Province, led to the creation of this museum, which opened in 2008. A sprawling complex, it covers 10 acres and includes a fossil museum, a petrified wood forest, an underwater artificial lake, Mongolian yurts and a park. According to the museum’s website, visitors can “experience the unique charm of fossils … and feel the mysterious geological processes of the geological layers.”

9. The Geological Museum of China (Beijing)

When the world’s first feathered dinosaur, Sinosauropteryx, was discovered by a Liaoning farmer in the mid-1990s, half of the specimen found its home here. (The Sinosauropteryx was preserved within two slabs and each was sold separately.) One of the oldest natural history museums in China since its opening in 1916, the museum hosts over 200,000 geological specimens, including the Shantungosaurus giganteus, a species of giant dinosaurs measuring 48 feet long. In addition to public displays, the museum houses a research organization.

10. Henan Geological Museum (Zhengzhou, Henan Province)

Dedicated to integrating scientific research and popular science, the museum’s highlights include the world’s largest nest of dinosaur egg fossils, the world earliest ginkgo fossils, dozens of feathered dinosaurs, and the Ruyangosaurus—Asia’s largest sauropod dinosaur and one of the biggest sauropods in the world. Interactive experiences include multimedia exhibits “The World of Dinosaurs,” “Running with Dinosaurs,” “Weight-to-Dinosaurs,” and “Dinosaur Puzzle.” The collections comprise more than 50,000 geological, mineral, and paleontological specimens from inside and outside the Henan Province.


23 Exceptional Prehistoric Creatures

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Jaekelopterus jay-kel-OP-ter-us (Otto Jaekel's wing) Sea scorpions and normal scorpions are two different types of animal.

Fearsome animals existed at the time of the dinosaurs that you, hardly, know about. Fortunately, they have gone extinct millions of years ago!

Below is a list of the 23 most deadliest prehistoric animals.


Restoration of D. terreli

Dunkleosteus is a genus of arthrodire placoderm fish that existed during the Late Devonian period, about 358–382 million years ago. The name Dunkleosteus combines the Greek osteus (οστεος), meaning "bone", and Dunkle, in honor of David Dunkle of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. It consists of ten species: D. terrelliD. belgicusD. denisoniD. marsaisiD. magnificusD. missouriensisD. newberryiD. amblyodoratus, and D. raveri; some of which are among the largest placoderms to have ever lived. The largest species, D. terrelli, grew up to 6 m (19.7 ft) long and 1 t (1.1 short tons) in weight. Few other placoderms rivaled Dunkleosteusin size. Dunkleosteus could quickly open and close its jaw, like modern day suction feeders, and had a bite force of 6,000 to 7,400 N (1,350 to 1,660 lbf).


Artist’s restoration illustrating one interpretation of Carney’s study by Nobu Tamura

Archaeopteryx meaning "old wing", is a genus of bird-like dinosaurs that is transitional between non-avian feathered dinosaurs and modern birds. The name derives from the ancient Greek ἀρχαῖος (archaīos) meaning "ancient", and πτέρυξ (ptéryx), meaning "feather" or "wing". Between the late nineteenth century and the early twenty-first century, Archaeopteryx had been generally accepted by palaeontologists and popular reference books as the oldest known bird (member of the group Avialae). Older potential avialans have since been identified, including AnchiornisXiaotingia, and Aurornis.


Reconstructed skeleton in side view, Milwaukee Public Museum

Elasmosaurus  is a genus of plesiosaur that lived in North America during the Campanian stage of the Late Cretaceous period, about 80.5 million years ago. The first specimen was discovered in 1867 near Fort Wallace, Kansas, and was sent to the American paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope, who named it E. platyurus in 1868. The generic name means "thin-plate reptile", and the specific name means "flat-tailed". Cope originally reconstructed the skeleton of Elasmosaurus with the skull at the end of the tail, an error which was made light of by the paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh, and became part of their "Bone Wars" rivalry. Only one incomplete Elasmosaurus skeleton is definitely known, consisting of a fragmentary skull, the spine, and the pectoral and pelvic girdles, and a single species is recognized today; other species are now considered invalid or have been moved to other genera.


Restoration of Deinotherium bozasi

Deinotherium ("terrible beast") was a large prehistoric relative of modern-day elephants that appeared in the Middle Miocene and survived until the Early Pleistocene. During that time it changed very little. In life, it probably resembled modern elephants, except it had downward curving tusks attached to the lower jaw.


Restoration of Opabinia regalis

Opabinia regalis is a stem group arthropod found in the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale Lagerstätte of British Columbia, Canada. Fewer than twenty good specimens have been described; 3 specimens of Opabinia are known from the Greater Phyllopod bed, where they constitute less than 0.1% of the community. Opabinia was a soft-bodied animal, averaging about 5.7 cm in length (excluding proboscis), and its segmented body had lobes along the sides and a fan-shaped tail. The head shows unusual features: five eyes, a mouth under the head and facing backwards, and a proboscis that probably passed food to the mouth. Opabinia probably lived on the seafloor, using the proboscis to seek out small, soft food.



Helicoprion is a long-lived genus of shark-like eugeneodontid holocephalid fish. Almost all fossil specimens are of spirally arranged clusters of the individuals' teeth, called "tooth whorls"— the cartilaginous skull, spine, and other structural elements have not been preserved in the fossil record, leaving scientists to make educated guesses as to its anatomy and behavior. Helicoprion lived in the oceans of the early Permian 290 million years ago, with species known from North AmericaEastern EuropeAsia, and Australia. The closest living relatives of Helicoprion (and other eugeneodontids) are the chimaeras.


Quetzalcoatlus by Johnson Mortimer

Quetzalcoatlus northropi  is an azhdarchid pterosaur known from the Late Cretaceous of North America (Maastrichtian stage) and one of the largest known flying animals of all time. It is a member of the family Azhdarchidae, a family of advanced toothless pterosaurs with unusually long, stiffened necks. Its name comes from the Mesoamerican feathered serpent god, Quetzalcoatl.


Restoration of a pair of D. macronyx

Dimorphodon was a genus of medium-sized pterosaur from the early Jurassic Period. It was named by paleontologist Richard Owen in 1859. Dimorphodon means "two-form tooth", derived from the Greek δι (di) meaning "two", μορφη (morphe) meaning "shape" and οδων (odon) meaning "tooth", referring to the fact that it had two distinct types of teeth in its jaws – which is comparatively rare among reptiles.


Restoration of J. rhenaniae


Jaekelopterus is a genus of giant predatory eurypterid, an extinct group of aquatic arthropods. Fossils of Jaekelopterus have been discovered in deposits of Early Devonian age, from the Pragian and Emsian stages, and have been referred to two known species, the type species J. rhenaniae from freshwater strata in the Rhineland and J. howelli from estuarine strata in Wyoming. The generic name is composed of a patronym honouring German paleontologist Otto Jaekel, who described the type species, and the Greek word πτερόν (pteron) meaning "wing".

Based on the isolated fossil remains of a large chelicera (claw) from the Klerf Formation of Germany, J. rhenaniae has been estimated to have reached a size of around 2.3–2.6 metres (7.5–8.5 ft), average 2.5 metres (8.2 ft), which would make Jaekelopterus the largest known arthropod ever discovered, surpassing other large arthropods such as fellow giant eurypterids Acutiramus and Pterygotus and the giant millipede Arthropleura.



Restoration of H. sparsa

Hallucigenia is a genus of Cambrian xenusiids known from articulated fossils in Burgess Shale-type deposits in Canada and China, and from isolated spines around the world. The generic name reflects the type species' unusual appearance and eccentric history of study; when it was erected as a genus, H. sparsa was reconstructed upside down and back to front. Hallucigenia is now recognized as a "lobopodian worm". It is considered by some to represent an early ancestor of the living velvet worms, although other researchers favour a relationship closer to arthropods.

Hallucigenia had seven tipped tweezers in the tentacles on each side of his body, then three pairs of tentacles behind the first. Some of these tentacles were paired with thorns.




Liopleurodon is a genus of large, carnivorous marine reptile belonging to the Pliosauroidea, a clade of short-necked plesiosaurs. The two species of Liopleurodon lived during the Callovian stage of the Middle Jurassic Period (c. 160 to 155 mya). It was the apex predator of the Middle to Late Jurassic seas that covered Europe. The largest species, L. ferox, is estimated to have grown up to 7.50 metres (24.6 ft) in length.



Therizinosaurus cheloniformis by unlobogris

Therizinosaurus is a genus of very large theropod dinosaursTherizinosaurus comprises the single species T. cheloniformis, which lived in the late Cretaceous Period (late Campanian-early Maastrichtian stages, around 70 million years ago), and was one of the last and largest representatives of its unique group, the TherizinosauriaFossils of this species were first discovered in Mongolia and were originally thought to belong to a turtle-like reptile (hence the species name, T. cheloniformis – "turtle-formed"). It is known only from a few bones, including gigantic hand claws, from which it gets its name.


Megalania (Megalania prisca or Varanus priscus) is a giant goanna or monitor lizard. They were part of a megafaunal assemblage that inhabited southern Australia during the Pleistocene. The youngest fossil remains date to around 50,000 years ago. The first aboriginal settlers of Australia might have encountered them and been a factor in their extinction.


Argentavis magnificens by WillemSvdMerwe

Argentavis magnificens ("magnificent Argentine bird", or more literally "magnificent silver bird") was among the largest flying birds ever to exist, quite possibly surpassed in wingspan only by the recently discovered Pelagornis sandersiA. magnificens, sometimes called the giant teratorn, is an extinct species known from three sites in the Epecuén and Andalhuala Formations in central and northwestern Argentina dating to the Late Miocene (Huayquerian), where a good sample of fossils have been obtained.

Sea Scorpions


Eurypterids, often informally called sea scorpions, are a group of arthropods related to arachnids that include the largest known arthropods to have ever lived. They are members of the extinct order Eurypterida (Chelicerata); which is the most diverse Paleozoic chelicerate order in terms of species. The name Eurypterida comes from the Greek words eury- (meaning "broad" or "wide") and pteron (meaning "wing"). This name was chosen due to the pair of wide swimming appendages, reminiscent of wings, on the first fossil eurypterids discovered. The largest, such as Jaekelopterus, reached 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in) in length, but most species were less than 20 centimetres (8 in). They were formidable predators that thrived in warm shallow water, in both seas and lakes, from the mid Ordovician to late Permian (467.3 to 252 million years ago).


Madtsoia by James Gurney

Madtsoia is a genus of madtsoiid snakes. It is known from the Eocene (Casamayoran and Itaboraian) of Argentina (M. bai), the Paleocene of Brazil (M. camposi), the Late Cretaceous (Campanian) of Spain (M. laurasiae), the Late Cretaceous of India (M. pisdurensis), and the Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) of Madagascar and the Coniacian of Niger (M. madagascariensis). Recovered vertebrae of M. pisdurensisare 1.83 centimetres (0.72 in) long and 4.35 centimetres (1.71 in) tall) and pertain to a snake that was approximately 5 metres (16 ft) long.


Kelenken guillermoi - WIP by FabrizioDeRossi

Kelenken guillermoi is a species of giant flightless predatory birds of the extinct family Phorusrhacidae, or "terror birds".


K. guillermoi lived in the Langhian stage of the Miocene, some 15 million years ago, in Argentina.

With a skull 71.6 cm (28.2 inches) long, it had the largest head of any known bird. It is the largest species of phorusrhacid. The tarsometatarsus is about 43.7 cm (17.2 inches) long.



 – Took the picture at Musee des Confluences, Lyon

Mosasaurus ("lizard of the Meuse River") is a genus of mosasaurs, carnivorous aquatic lizards. It existed during the Maastrichtian age of the late Cretaceous period, between about 70 and 66 million years ago, in western Europe and North America. The name means "Meuse lizard", as the first specimen was found near the Meuse River (Latin Mosa + Greek sauros lizard)..


Tick Tock by randomdinos

Purussaurus is a genus of giant caiman that lived in South America during the Miocene epoch, from the Colhuehuapian to the Montehermosan in the SALMA classification. It is known from skull material found in the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon, Colombian Villavieja Formation, Panamanian Culebra Formation and the Urumaco and Socorro Formations of northern Venezuela.


Entelodons intimidating Hyaenodon by Petr Modlitba

Entelodon is a genus of entelodont artiodactyl endemic to Eurasia. Fossils of species are found in Paleogene strata ranging in age from the Houldjinian (37.2–33.9 mya) until the Rupelian epoch of the early Oligocene (33.9–28.4 mya).


Reconstructed skeleton of Quetzalcoatlus northropi

Azhdarchidae is a family of pterosaurs known primarily from the late Cretaceous Period, though an isolated vertebra apparently from an azhdarchid is known from the early Cretaceous as well (late Berriasian age, about 140 million years ago). Azhdarchids included some of the largest known flying animals of all time, but members no larger than a cat have also been found. Originally considered a sub-family of Pteranodontidae, Nesov (1984) named the azhdarchinae to include the pterosaurs AzhdarchoQuetzalcoatlus, and "Titanopteryx" (now known as Arambourgiania). They were among the last known surviving members of the pterosaurs, and were a rather successful group with a worldwide distribution. By the time of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction, most pterosaur families except for the Azhdarchidae disappear from the fossil record, but recent studies indicate a wealth in pterosaurian faunas, including pteranodontidsnyctosauridstapejarids and several indeterminate forms. Some taxa like NavajodactylusBakonydraco and Montanazhdarcho were moved from Azhdarchidae to other clades.


Megalodon size

Megalodon (Carcharocles megalodon), meaning "big tooth," is an extinct species of shark that lived approximately 23 to 2.6 million years ago (mya), during the Early Miocene to the end of the Pliocene. There had been some debate regarding the taxonomy of megalodon: some researchers argued that it was of the family Lamnidae and closely related to the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), while others argued that it belonged to the extinct family Otodontidae; presently, there is near unanimous consensus that the latter view is correct. Its genus placement is still debated, authors placing it in either CarcharoclesMegaselachusOtodus, or Procarcharodon. The shark has made appearances in several media, such as the Discovery Channel's docufiction Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives.


Life-sized model of Titanoboa devouring a dyrosaurid, from the Smithsonian exhibit

Titanoboa, meaning "titanic boa," is a genus of snakes that is known to have lived in present-day La Guajira in northern Colombia. Fossils of Titanoboa have been found in the Cerrejón Formation, and date to around 58 to 60 million years ago. The giant snake lived during the Middle to Late Paleocene epoch, a 10-million-year period immediately following the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. The only known species is Titanoboa cerrejonensis, the largest snake ever discovered, which supplanted the previous record holder, Gigantophis.

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Jeff Goldblum Welcomes You To 'Jurassic World' In New 'Fallen Kingdom' Trailer

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - Final Trailer [HD]

What makes Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom different from the rest of the Jurassic Park movies? That’s the question that Universal/Comcast Corp. will have to answer in the next two months. Yes, Jurassic World earned a record-breaking $208 million Fri-Sun weekend and ended up with $652m domestic and $1.671 billion worldwide, but that was the first Jurassic Park movie in 14 years. Moreover, the film had a killer hook (“The park is open”) and Chris Pratt fresh off The LEGO Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy leading the way. And, warts and all, Colin Trevorrow delivered a big, colorful, quirky piece of IMAX-friendly popcorn entertainment that offered just enough self-commentary to justify itself beyond IP exploitation.

But Fallen Kingdom is just another Jurassic Park movie. The premise, from what we’ve seen so far, is relatively straightforward, with Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt returning to the deserted island to rescue the dinosaurs before its volcanos explode. It’s a “save the animals” plot akin to The Lost World. But, as seen in this trailer, with its shots of close-quarters attacks and dinos menacing kids in their beds (that’s a primal as all hell piece of imagery), Universal is selling the idea that J.A. Bayona’s installment will be less swashbuckling adventure and more horror. Or, maybe a little of both, as what starts as Jurassic Park eventually turns into Carnosaur.

If it’s more “Egad, the horror!” than “Woohoo, the fun!” than that’s another reason it might not play as big or as leggy as Jurassic World. And, of course, the darker, grimmer and more graphically violent The Lost World took some slight knocks for its double-digit body count and periodic gruesome violence, as well as for being a less than “Oooh… ah!” experience. Like Batman Returns and The Last JediThe Lost World still made gonzo bucks ($228m domestic and $619m worldwide) but earned around 35% less than Jurassic Park worldwide. A similar scenario still gives Fallen Kingdom $416m domestic and around $1.1 billion worldwide, which would still be a boatload of cash for the over/under $180m sequel.

It will be very interesting to see how this one plays out. It’s entirely possible that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will both be a better movie than Jurassic World and different enough from the rest of the franchise to justify itself while still not becoming anywhere near of a pop culture event. It opens a week after The Incredibles 2 and just two weeks before Ant-Man and the Wasp so the competition will be heavier. But don’t be shocked if Avengers: Infinity War crushes it in North America while Fallen Kingdom still squeaks out an overseas victory, as Fate of the Furious barely cracked $225m domestic but earned over $1 billion worldwide last year.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, BD Wong, Ted Levine, James Cromwell and Jeff Goldblum, opens June 6 overseas and June 22 in North America. As always, we’ll see.


Dinosaur National Monument Announces Fee Increase

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Dinosaur National Monument. Photo © Zrphoto/Dreamstime.

Visitors to Dinosaur National Monument this summer will pay $5 more for entry, as the National Park Service has announced increased entry fees at parks nationwide.

Dinosaur National Monument is increasing its fee structure as follows.

• Per vehicle fee will increase from $20 to $25.

• Per person fees will increase from $10 to $15.

• Per motorcycle fees will increase from $15 to $20.

• Annual passes to Dinosaur National Monument will increase from $40 to $45.

The new fee schedule will take effect June 1.

"We do want it to be an affordable place to come," said Dan Johnson, chief of interpretation and visitor services at the monument. He added there are a few fee-free weekends and days for visitors who can't or don't want to pay basic entrance fees. The next of these fee-free days will be Saturday, in celebration of National Park Week.

Last year, the Department of Interior proposed increasing peak-season fees at 17 highly visited national parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park. After receiving public comments, the agency instead opted to increase fees in all areas that charge an entrance fee, according to a news release from Dinosaur National Monument. Fees were last raised in Dinosaur by local park management in 2016.

At least 80 percent of revenue made from entrance fees will remain within Dinosaur. Johnson said there is more than $10 million in deferred maintenance at the monument.

"It's certainly a place that could use some more help," said Tom Kleinschnitz, director of the Moffat County Tourism Association. "I wish there was another way to get that accomplished."

Revenues from the fee increase will help the park pay for improvements to restrooms in the Green River and Split Mountain campgrounds on the Utah side of the park. Several comfort stations in that area are in poor condition, according to Dan Johnson, chief of interpretation and visitor services at Dinosaur National Monument.

"We do what we can to try to maintain them and keep them up, try to make them presentable as best we can, but they were built in the time before the Americans with Disability Act requirements, so they're not accessible to people in a wheelchair," Johnson said.

He added that one comfort station has been modified to make it more accessible, but it is still not up to the standard.

"When those are done, we'll have modern, clean, easy-to-maintain, sustainable restrooms that will be accessible to all of our visitors," he said.

Money from the fee increase will also help repair trails and improve exhibits and interpretive materials. Some funding from the fee increase will help pay for updates to the Canyon Visitors Center's outdoor exhibits.

"The exhibits that are here in the Canyon Visitors Center were put in in the 1960s, so they are, again, quite dated," Johnson said. "You look at what people are expecting in a modern visitor's center, and as far as how people learn these days, it's very different from that time period."

Johnson said the park also hopes to expand its outdoor exhibits and information booths, so people have more access to information when the Canyon Visitors Center is closed.

"It's unfortunate the fees are raised right in front of our tourist season," Kleinschnitz said. "It would be nice to have a bit more notice for people."

Johnson compared the cost of entry to cost of other family activities, such as amusement park admissions or lift tickets at a ski resort. Dinosaur's $25 per-vehicle fee could get an entire family into the park for a week.

"It still remains a really good value for people," Johnson said.


First an Alga, Then a Squid, Enigmatic Fossil is Actually a Fish

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A photo of the Platylithophycus cretaceus specimen. The scale bar is 5 centimeters. Credit: © Mike Eklund

A fossil slab discovered in Kansas 70 years ago and twice misidentified -- first as a green alga and then as a cephalopod -- has been reinterpreted as the preserved remains of a large cartilaginous fish, the group that includes sharks and rays. Researchers now describe the fishy characteristics of the animal, which lived between 70-85 million years ago.


"There are many examples of temporarily misplaced taxa in paleontological history, including ferns that were once thought to be sponges and lungfish teeth thought to be fungi," said the lead author, Allison Bronson, a comparative biology Ph.D.-degree student in the Museum's Richard Gilder Graduate School. "In this case, the misidentification didn't happen because of a lack of technology at the time -- scientists familiar with cartilage structure could easily see this was a chondrichthyan fish. The researchers used reasonable arguments for their interpretations, but didn't look outside of their own fields."

The enigmatic specimen, Platylithophycus cretaceum, is roughly 1.5-feet long by 10-inches wide and from the Niobrara Formation in Kansas. The Niobrara Formation is one of the most diverse fish-fossil sites in North America, preserving late Cretaceous animals that lived in and around the Western Interior Seaway, a broad expanse of water that split North America into two land masses.

In 1948, two paleobotanists from the Colorado School of Mines and Princeton University compared the texture of the fossil slab with that of green algae. They described two parts of a plant: surfaces covered with hexagonal plates, which they called "fronds," and supposedly calcium carbonate-covered thread-like filaments. In 1968, two researchers from Fort Hays Kansas State College studying cephalopods from the Niobrara Formation compared the specimen with a cuttlefish, based primarily on its textural similarities to a cuttlebone -- the unique internal shell of cuttlefish. The reclassification made Platylithophycus the oldest sepiid squid then on record.

In both of these earlier studies, the hard tissue was assumed to be composed of calcium carbonate, but no tests were performed. For the new study, Bronson and co-author John Maisey, a curator in the Museum's Division of Paleontology, applied a small amount of dilute organic acid to the specimen -- a method that has been widely used in paleontology since the time of the initial description of Platylithophycus. If there is a reaction, the fossilized material is likely made from calcium carbonate. But if there is no reaction, which was the case when Bronson and Maisey performed the test, it is likely made from calcium phosphate, as are the fossilized skeletons of cartilaginous fish like sharks and rays.

The most obvious clue that Platylithophycus was a cartilaginous fish are the hexagonal plates on the surface of the specimen. After taking a closer look with a scanning electron microscope, Bronson and Maisey reinterpreted that feature as tessellated calcified cartilage, found on both extinct and living sharks and rays. The new study suggests that the "filaments" earlier described are actually part of the gill arches, made up of tessellated cartilage. Gill arches are cartilaginous curved bars along the pharynx, or throat, that support the gills of fish. The "fronds" are reinterpreted as gill rakers, finger-like projections that extend from the gill arches and help with feeding.

"We think this was a rather large cartilaginous fish, possibly related to living filter-feeding rays such as Manta and Mobula," Maisey said. "This potentially expands the range of diversity in the Niobrara fauna."

But because this fossil only preserves the animal's gills and no additional identifying features like teeth, it cannot be given a new name or reunited with an existing species. So until then, this fish will still carry the name of a plant.

Story Source:

Materials provided by American Museum of Natural HistoryNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Allison W. Bronson, John G. Maisey. Resolving the identity of Platylithophycus, an enigmatic fossil from the Niobrara Chalk (Upper Cretaceous, Coniacian–Campanian)Journal of Paleontology, 2018; 1 DOI: 10.1017/jpa.2018.14


Mass Extinction Event Triggered Dinosaur Expansion 232 Million Years Ago

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A life-scene from 232 million years ago, during the Carnian Pluvial Episode after which dinosaurs took over: a large rauisuchian lurks in the background, while two species of dinosaurs stand in the foreground, and some rhynchosaurs sit on the logs to the left; based on data from the Ischigualasto Formation in Argentina. Image credit: Davide Bonadonna.

Paleontologists believe that all non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out when a giant asteroid or comet collided with Earth some 65 million years ago, resulting in huge clouds of dust that blocked the Sun’s rays from reaching Earth’s surface. But the origins of dinosaurs have been less understood. In a new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers argue that dinosaurs diversified explosively in the mid-Carnian, at a time of major climate and floral change and the extinction of key plant-eaters, which the dinosaurs opportunistically replaced.


In the new study, evidence is provided to match the two events: the mid-Carnian extinction (known as the Carnian Pluvial Episode, or CPE) and the initial diversification of dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs had originated much earlier, at the beginning of the Triassic period, some 245 million years ago, but they remained very rare until the shock events of CPE 13 million years later.

The study shows just when dinosaurs took over by using detailed evidence from rock sequences in the Dolomites, in north Italy — here the dinosaurs are detected from their footprints.

First there were no dinosaur tracks, and then there were many. This marks the moment of their explosion, and the rock successions in the Dolomites are well dated.

Comparison with rock successions in Argentina and Brazil, here the first extensive skeletons of dinosaurs occur, show the explosion happened at the same time there as well.

“We were excited to see that the footprints and skeletons told the same story,” said study lead author Dr. Massimo Bernardi, from the MUSE-Museo delle Scienze in Trento, Italy, and the University of Bristol, UK.

“We had been studying the footprints in the Dolomites for some time, and it’s amazing how clear cut the change from ‘no dinosaurs’ to ‘all dinosaurs’ was.”

The point of explosion of dinosaurs matches the end of the CPE event, a time when climates shuttled from dry to humid and back to dry again.

It was long suspected that CPE had caused upheavals among life on land and in the sea, but the details were not clear.

Then, in 2015, dating of rock sections and measurement of oxygen and carbon values showed just what had happened.

There were massive eruptions in western Canada, represented today by the great Wrangellia basalts — these drove bursts of global warming, acid rain, and killing on land and in the oceans.

“We had detected evidence for the climate change in the Dolomites. There were four pulses of warming and climate perturbation, all within a million years or so. This must have led to repeated extinctions,” said co-author Dr. Piero Gianolla, from the University of Ferrara, Italy.

“The discovery of the existence of a link between the first diversification of dinosaurs and a global mass extinction is important,” said co-author Professor Mike Benton, from the University of Bristol.

“The extinction didn’t just clear the way for the age of the dinosaurs, but also for the origins of many modern groups, including lizards, crocodiles, turtles, and mammals — key land animals today.”


Massimo Bernardi et al. 2018. Dinosaur diversification linked with the Carnian Pluvial Episode. Nature Communications 9, article number: 1499; doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-03996-1


25th Anniversary: Official ‘Jurassic Park’ LEGO Set

Monday, April 16, 2018

Since the Jurassic Park franchise was reinvigorated with the legacy-quel Jurassic World in 2015, the merchandise for the action adventure film series featuring hungry dinosaurs has been ramped up to its full potential. There are plenty of action figures, t-shirts, stuffed dinosaurs, video games and much more to cash in on the Jurassic Park name. However, not much attention has been paid to bringing the original Jurassic Park to life in merchandise form again, but LEGO is about to change that.

A new Jurassic Park LEGO set will be available for purchase next week, and it allows fans to recreate several iconic scenes fro Steven Spielberg’s original movie. More specifically, it brings to life the third act chase sequence with a pack of velociraptors chasing down Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and John Hammond’s grandchildren Lex (Ariana Richards) and Tim (Joseph Mazzello).

Jurassic Park LEGO Set


As you can see, the 360-piece LEGO set, dubbed the Velociraptor Chase, allows collectors to build embryo storage, the computer room and the kitchen, three key areas where scenes from Jurassic Park unfold. While I would prefer a LEGO set that has a more complete recreation of the visitor center (like this set that LEGO Ideas turned down), this is still a pretty cool little set.

Along with building the settings inside the Jurassic Park visitor center, it’s the minfigures that make this $40 set worth the price. As you can see, it comes with Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ellie Sattler, Lex and Tim. And while his minifigure may not be included in this set, you’ll notice that one of the computer screens features a tiny LEGO illustration of Wayne Knight as Dennis Nedry. It’s not his head on a cartoon Elvis body as it appears in the movie, but we’ll let it slide. Plus, if you look in the embryo room, you might see a tiny LEGO version of the fake Barbasol shaving cream that he used to smuggle dino DNA outside of the laboratory.

But where are John Hammond, Ian Malcolm and Samuel L. Jackson LEGO minifigures? And why aren’t we getting LEGO versions of the Jurassic Park Jeep or Ford Explorer? Well, there’s a chance those sets might still be on the way.

This new LEGO set will have to do for the time being. If you want it, you’ll have to hit up Walmart, who has the exclusive on this set. It will be available on shelves starting today, April 16, so keep an eye out.

All the Dinosaurs Found in Wales, Mapped

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Image: Dave Catchpole/Archangel12/Flickr

A guide to all the dinosaurs that have ever been discovered in Wales.

Despite having died out 65 million years ago, dinosaurs have fascinated people ever since the first bones were discovered.

From Velociraptors chasing children round a kitchen in Jurassic Park to Dippy on show at the Natural History Museum, these prehistoric beasts are fascinating.


And several dinosaur remains have been discovered in Wales.

But you'll notice that all the dinosaur finds have come in a relatively small area of south Wales, roughly between Porthcawl and Penarth.

Why are all the fossils in Wales found in roughly the same area?

Dr Caroline Buttler, head of paleontology at National Museum of Wales, explains it is down to the age of the rocks.

She said: "The reason the finds are all in that area is due to the age of the rocks. They are mainly the Triassic and Jurassic period which is why we find dinosaurs. In west Wales the rocks are much older, before dinosaurs."

But it's actually incredibly rare to find dinosaurs even in this area.

"The rock around here was marine rock. That is why the find by the Hanigan brothers (see below) was so exceptional. The dinosaur died and was washed into the sea where it became fossilised.

"What we do get is a lot of ichthyosaurs. They lived at the time of dinosaurs. They had a body the shape of dolphins, sharp teeth and were canivourous. We have lots of skulls and whole specimins."

But you don't have to go far along the southern coast of Wales before your chances of finding dinosaurs is reduced to zero.

"Once you get to Ogmore the rock is already too old for dinosaurs." said Dr Buttler.

It is important to bear in mind that this is not every fossil. Not all fossils discovered are dinosaurs. And these discoveries are almost never full skeletons. They often get reclassified decades later once more data becomes available.

So what were they?

If you're a fan of the T. rex you are going to be a little bit disappointed. The Tyrannosaurus rex, or "king of the tyrant lizards", has not been discovered in Wales.

But there have been some pretty astonishing finds.

Dracoraptor hanigani

An artist's impression of what Dracoraptor hanigani would have looked like

This distant relative of the T. rex was discovered on Lavernock beach by fossil-hunting brothers Nick and Rob Hanigan, from Llantwit Major.

The pair made the “discovery of a lifetime” when they found the fossilised skull and bones on the beach in the Vale of Glamorgan after storms in spring 2014.

Nick and Rob pictured with their fascinating discovery at the National Museum in Cardiff

Scientists have recreated the creature's bone structure

The creature, which dates back 201 million years, was named Dracoraptor hanigani after them.

Dracoraptor is Latin for “dragon robber” in fitting with the national symbol of Wales.

Although a meat-eater, the newly-discovered dragon was nothing like as terrifying as its later cousin.

It stood on two legs, and was a small, agile animal probably no more than about 2.2ft tall and 6.5ft long with a long tail that may have been used for balance.

Brothers Nick and Rob Hanigan excavating the fossilised remains

The fossilised remains were described as 'the discovery of a lifetime'

Since most of its bones were not yet fully formed, experts believe the specimen discovered here may have been a youngster.

Scientists have recovered about 40% of the dinosaur’s skeleton, found embedded in rock at the base of a collapsed coastal cliff at Lavernock Point in March 2014.

At the start of the Jurassic Period, when D. hanigani was alive, the climate of south Wales was much warmer than it is today and dinosaurs were just starting to diversify.


Pantydraco (Image: Nobu Tamura)

This particular dinosaur is actually named after a Welsh quarry.

Standing about the same size as an adult human it had a dragon shaped head and strong jaw. When fully grown it would have been an amazing three metres long.

This dinosaur was probably omnivorous and would have been an impressive hunter, grasping at its prey with its long front arms.

It was discovered in Pant-y-ffynnon quarry near Cowbridge which is where it gets the "pant" part of its name. Draco means a dragon or mythical creature in latin.


The jaw of the new species Clevosaurus cambrica, here shown as a 3D CT scan model, was adapted for chopping up small prey (Image: University of Bristol)

This one is not technically a dinosaur but would have lived alongside pantydraco. This fossil was identified by an undergraduate student from Bristol University.

The research was completed by Emily Keeble, an undergraduate in Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, as part of her final-year project for her palaeontology degree.

The fossils she studied were collected in the 1950s in Pant-y-ffynnon Quarry, and they belong to a new species of the "Gloucester lizard" Clevosaurus (named in 1939 after Clevum, the Latin name for Gloucester).

In the Late Triassic, the hills of south Wales and the south west of England formed an archipelago that was inhabited by small dinosaurs and relatives of the Tuatara, a reptilian living fossil from New Zealand.

'The teeth were likely adapted to dice pieces of flesh'

The limestone quarries of the region have many caves or fissures containing sediments filled with the bones of abundant small reptile species that give us a unique insight into the animals that scuttled at the feet of the dinosaurs. The fissures are of worldwide importance in for such well-preserved small reptiles.

Emily said: “The new species, Clevosaurus cambrica lived side-by-side with a small dinosaur, Pantydraco, and an early crocodile-like animal, Terrestrisuchus. We compared it with other examples of Clevosaurus from locations around Bristol and South Gloucestershire, but our new beast is quite different in the arrangement of its teeth.”

Professor Mike Benton, Emily’s co-supervisor, added: “We were lucky to find quite a lot of the skeleton and Emily was able to scan the blocks and make 3D reconstructions of the skull, neck, shoulder and arm region.”

Another co-supervisor, Dr David Whiteside, said: “The teeth of Clevosaurus cambric were likely adapted to dice pieces of flesh, so we interpret this little critter as a predator, feeding on insects and other small animals.”

Where is the best place in Wales to find fossils dinosaurs?

Lavernock Point, near Cardiff

Fossil vertebrae of extinct marine reptiles such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs have been found here.

Particularly worthy of investigation are the "bone beds" near Lavernock Point, where you might find fish and reptile teeth, scales and bones, and coprolites (fossilised dung). You can also see dinosaur footprints on this section of coast.

The National Museum of Wales has an Evolution of Wales gallery with a reconstruction of south Wales as it was 200 million years ago, with dinosaur skeletons and footprints.

Llantwit Major, Vale of Glamorgan

Best spot for Jurassic fossils in Wales, offering corals, giant shells (brachiopods and gastropods) and bones.

Walk east to find well-preserved fossils in the boulders and slabs that have been washed toward the sea.

Where else in the UK is a good place for to find dinosaur fossils?

Other good places to for fossil hunting in the UK include:

  • Jurassic Coast, Dorset to East Devon

  • The Fossil Coast, Yorkshire

  • Isle of Wight

  • Bracklesham Bay, West Sussex

  • Helmsdale, Sutherland

  • Isle of Sheppey, Kent

  • Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex

  • Antrim coast, Northern Ireland

What dinosaur species are most commonly found in the UK?

The most common species of dinosaur found in the UK is the terrifying meat eater Megalosaurus.

An artists impression of Megalosaurus (Image: Mariana Ruiz)

A full list of the most common species are here:

Species Amount found
Megalosaurus bucklandii 9
Cetiosaurus oxoniensis 6
Iguanodon mantelli 6
Owenodon hoggii 6
Iguanodon bernissartensis 5
Mantellisaurus atherfieldensis 5
Polacanthus foxii 5
Barilium dawsoni 4
Duriatitan humerocristatus 4
Hypselospinus fittoni 4

Wales actually has a long history of paleontology

Dorothea Bate paleontologist and first woman to work at Natural History Museum London (Image: © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London [2017]. All rights reserved.’)

Paleontologist Dorothea Bate was born in Carmarthen and was the first female to work at London's Natural History Museum.


Rare Fossils Could Face Trouble Outside New Bears Ears National Monument Boundaries

Monday, April 16, 2018

This is part of a phytosaur fossil unearthed by an excavation team in a now-unprotected area of Bears Ears National Monument. Credit: Courtesy of Rob Gay

The Trump administration's move to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent jeopardizes future research and excavation in one of the densest fossil troves in the world, according to scientists who work in the region.

More than 200 million years ago, giant reptiles wandered in Bears Ears, leaving a vast cache of recently discovered Triassic-era, fossilized bones, says paleontologist Rob Gay. He and his team have been exploring the Chinle Formation in Bears Ears National Monument.

“Bears Ears dates from the dawn of the age of dinosaurs, and we found all sorts of amazing fossils — plant-eating crocodile teeth; footprints, which indicate that armored, herbivorous crocodiles walked the landscape; and then, most recently, we came across a huge deposit of fossilized bones from animals called phytosaurs. These are 15- to 20-foot-long crocodile mimics with blowholes,” Gay explains. “It seems to be a very rare animal, and all of a sudden, we've got the world's largest treasure trove of this animal."

The site is enormous — about 63 meters long, which makes it the largest Triassic bone bed in the state of Utah and possibly one of the densest in the country, if not the world, Gay adds. 

All federal land has some basic protection for vertebrate fossils. But additional protections are in place within national monuments, not just for vertebrate fossils, but also for invertebrate and plant fossils, Gay explains. “Without a monument, anyone can come and collect plant fossils and shells, legally. It’s not prohibited,” he says. “Whereas in a monument, that activity is restricted to permitted scientists.”

Bears Ears was also protected as part of the National Conservation Lands, which is a system of Bureau of Land Management areas mainly across the West encompassing national monuments, conservation areas and historic trails. Congress sets funding aside for scientific exploration of these lands. Now that the site is no longer in a protected area, it's not eligible for these funding sources.

As for the Trump administration’s plans for drilling, Gay doesn’t see much potential in the region for oil and gas. The area was extensively drilled in the 1920s and 1930s and came up with nothing, he says. There is coal within the boundaries of Bears Ears, but the seams are small and not likely to be commercially viable.  

The most likely material to mine within Bears Ears is uranium. The uranium boom of the 1950s and 1960s fueled the development of roads into the area and, ironically, Gay adds, also fueled the development of scientific understanding of the fossils in the region. Expanding uranium development in the area now would severely threaten fossil resources, and "while that is a possibility, the fact that existing mines in the area are not producing uranium tells me that the commercial value of the uranium in the ground is probably not too high.”

Gay says he will continue to seek funding for his work and will continue exploration in the region. Outside of that, “the next steps are to figure out what the heck we actually have. What did we pull out of the rock? The fossils are currently undergoing preparation at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site in St. George, Utah, where they are being removed from their rocky cradles. I'm really excited to see what all comes out of there.”

This article is based on an interview that aired on PRI’s Living on Earth with Steve Curwood.


“Jurassic World” Sequel Teases Full Trailer

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Two months out from the film’s release, Universal Pictures has posted a 30-second teaser for the upcoming full-length trailer for “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” being released online on Wednesday.

Stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return for this outing in which Owen and Clare return to Isla Nublar to try and rescue the dinosaurs from an impending volcanic eruption, including his trained raptor Blue. The film also stars James Cromwell, Ted Levine, Justice Smith, Geraldine Chaplin, Daniella Pineda, Toby Jones and Rafe Spall, while BD Wong and Jeff Goldblum reprise their roles.

J.A. Bayona helms the film which was executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Colin Trevorrow. The trailer will follow on from a teaser released late last year, and an extended trailer released during this year’s Superbowl broadcast.

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” opens in cinemas on June 22nd.