EYFS at Purston Infant School Learn All About Dinosaurs

Foundation Unit Studies Dinosaurs

It was an exciting Friday for the children at the Foundation Unit at Purston Infant School (West Yorkshire) as yesterday, they had a visit from Everything Dinosaur to help them learn all about dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.  The two classes of Lower Foundation Stage along with the two classes of Upper Foundation Stage have been learning about dinosaurs and there was lots of colourful artwork on display around the classrooms.

One of the Colourful Dinosaur Inspired Displays at the School

Colourful prehistoric animals.

Colourful prehistoric animals.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The children have two beautiful, giant dinosaur eggs to look after.  Both the eggs were made from paper mache.  In discussion, with the teaching team we suggested that an extension activity could involve the children thinking about what sort of animals lay eggs/do not lay eggs.  Perhaps a classroom display could be created with the children being encouraged to list the types of animals they know that lay eggs.  Can the children sort and group the animals that they have thought of?  For example, those with scales, those with feathers, those that can fly etc.  What might a dinosaur nest be made off?  Can the children sort out different types of material and work out which materials would be good/would not be good to line a nest for a dinosaur egg?

A Giant Dinosaur Egg in a Classroom

A big, blue dinosaur egg.

A big, blue dinosaur egg.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Under the enthusiastic tutelage of the teachers and their support staff the children were certainly enjoying this term topic and there was lots of evidence on display of the children enjoying a broad based, varied activity topic.  The Lower Foundation Stage children had a wonderful sensory bin filled with sand and small stones as well as dinosaur skeletons for them to explore.  In addition, dinosaur models had been made using all sorts of household odds and ends, helping the children to learn about the properties of different materials.  The older children in the two Upper Foundation Stage classes (Monkeys 1 and Monkeys 2) had been busy painting their favourite dinosaurs and there was lots of expressive artwork posted up around the classroom as well as plenty of evidence of vocabulary development.

During the dinosaur workshops with the children, our dinosaur expert encouraged the children’s confidence with counting by introducing simple dinosaur fossil themed counting activities all developed with the aim of helping the budding young palaeontologists to improve their confidence in counting and their understanding of numbers.

Enabling Children to Explore and Play Using a Wide Range of Media

Using different media, important in learning and development.

Using different media, important in learning and development.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Our dinosaur expert, promised to email over some more extension resources to help support the scheme of work prepared by the dedicated teaching team, one of whom stated “the children were very responsive and enjoyed looking at all the resources”.

Sir Richard Owen Gets Blue Plaque

Sir Richard Owen Honoured with Blue Plaque

Sir Richard Owen, the 19th Century anatomist and palaeontologist who first used the term dinosaur, has been honoured by the Society of Biology by having a blue heritage plaque installed at his former school, Lancaster Royal Grammar.  The plaque was unveiled yesterday at a small ceremony.  Blue plaques serve to act as a historical marker, indicating that a notable person was associated with a place or that an important, historical event occurred at that location.  This blue plaque commemorates that fact that Sir Richard (knighted in 1884), attended the school from 1809-1819.

The Blue Plaque Erected at Lancaster Royal Grammar School

Sir Richard Owen honoured.

Sir Richard Owen honoured.

Picture Credit: LRGS

 Undoubtedly, Sir Richard Owen was a very talented scientist and an extremely clever man.  Although he did not impress all his tutors whilst at Lancaster Grammar School.  One school master described him as “impudent” and doubted whether the son of a merchant would ever amount to very much.  Although Sir Richard gained a great deal of acclaim during his lifetime and certainty did make a huge contribution to science, by all accounts he had a very egregious character.  There are a number of accounts of him plagiarising the work of his contemporaries and he was very critical of the work of some of his peers.  For example, the then, plain Richard Owen disputed much of the evidence put forward to support the theory of natural selection as suggested by Charles Darwin in the “Origin of Species”, which was first published in 1859.  Richard Owen seemed to resent the success of others and he has earned a reputation (perhaps deserved), for being quick to condemn the work of others whilst desiring to talk up his own contribution.

To read another article about Sir Richard Owen: Remembering Sir Richard Owen”

In a glittering career, which saw him rise to the top of the Victorian scientific community, Sir Richard Owen was awarded many accolades.  He supervised the first “life-sized” prehistoric animal replicas as part of the Great Exhibition in 1851, he acquired one of the very first Archaeopteryx fossil specimens and studied it in great detail.  He described a vast array of extinct and extant animals and wrote a prestigious amount of academic literature.  Perhaps his most notable achievement was campaigning for and helping to set up the museum now known as the Natural History Museum.  Owen’s “cathedral to nature” opened in 1881.

Sir Richard Owen may be credited with coining the term “dinosaur”, but he was not the first person to note that the strange fossils of ancient animals being found in southern England and elsewhere represented a distinct group of animals.  The German palaeontologist, Hermann von Meyer stated that these ancient reptiles now known as dinosaurs should be considered a separate Order as early as 1832, around ten years before Sir Richard Owen coined the term “Dinosauria”.

A Portrait of the Young Richard Owen

A young Sir Richard Owen.

A young Sir Richard Owen.

In total ten blue plaques are been erected by the Society of Biology to commemorate the contributions to science made by “heroes of biology”.  Other recipients include: Patrick Steptoe, Jean Purdy and Robert Edwards who jointly developed IVF, leading to the world’s first test-tube baby, Louise Brown who was born in 1978, (plaque located at Dr. Kershaw’s Hospice, Oldham) and Sir Anthony Carlisle, an anatomist who helped develop the concept of producing medical statistics.

There is even a plaque being erected to “Dolly the Sheep”, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell rather than an embryonic one.  This plaque can be seen at the Roslin Institute (part of the University of Edinburgh), where Dolly lived all her life (1996-2003).  We are not sure quite how Sir Richard Owen would feel about having a plaque erected to honour him at the same time as a sheep gets one, but we suspect that he would be desperately keen to learn more about the science of genetics, which was virtually unknown when he was alive.

Everything Dinosaur Stocks the Rebor “Jolly” Hatching Triceratops

The Limited Edition Rebor “Jolly” Hatching Triceratops

Rebor is introducing an exclusive and limited edition range of prehistoric animal replicas under the name “Club Selection”.  The first of these models is a beautiful figure of a hatching Triceratops.  The baby Triceratops has been nick-named “Jolly” as she went into production around Christmas 2014.  Only 1,000 of these exquisite replicas have been produced and Everything Dinosaur was lucky enough to be amongst the first in the world to receive stocks of this highly collectible item.

The Rebor “Jolly” Hatching Triceratops Dinosaur Model

Only 1,000 have been made.

Only 1,000 have been made.

Picture Credit: Rebor/Everything Dinosaur

To view the range of Rebor replicas available: Rebor Prehistoric Animal Replicas

The Christmas link is obvious as soon as you open the packaging.  ”Jolly” has been supplied with a Santa Claus hat!

A Very Well Packaged  Dinosaur Replica

The "Christmas Hat" can be seen in the corner.

The “Christmas Hat” can be seen in the corner.

Picture Credit: Rebor

When mounted on its base the model stands a little under seventeen centimetres high and it is a superb model of a hatching Triceratops and we look forward to hearing more about the exclusive Rebor Club Selection.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“This is a top quality replica of a hatching Triceratops.  The scientist accredited with the discovery of the first Triceratops skull was called John Bell Hatcher, what a great way to commemorate this with a “hatching” baby Triceratops figure, although perhaps Rebor missed a trick here, they might have called their baby Trike “Bella”!”

Each hand-crafted replica is given a unique number on its base plate, this is the customer’s guarantee of quality, confirmation that they own one of just 1,000 replicas to be produced.

Check the Base Plate Under the Model for Your Unique Number 

Check the number on the base of "Jolly" the Hatching Triceratops.

Check the number on the base of “Jolly” the Hatching Triceratops.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

These replicas are going to highly prized in years to come and we advise all serious dinosaur collectors to get one whilst stocks last.

For further information on “Jolly” and the rest of the Rebor range: See the Rebor Range at Everything Dinosaur

Peruvian Paradise for Prehistoric Crocodiles

A Miocene Crocodile Community – from Prehistoric Peru

It’s not just Paddington Bear that heralds from Peru, a team of international scientists writing in the academic journal the “Proceedings of the Royal Society B” have published a paper that describes a rich and diverse wetland ecosystem that thrived thirteen million years ago, jam packed with co-existing Crocodylians.  North-eastern Peru was covered in an extensive tropical wetland during the Middle Miocene Epoch (Serravallion faunal stage), at least seven different species of ancient crocodile lived in this habitat, three of which are entirely new to science.   The crocodile fossils have been excavated from two highly fossiliferous bone beds that document life in South America prior to the formation of the Amazon basin and its rainforest.

As much of north-eastern Peru is now covered in tropical, lowland forest, exposed outcrops of sedimentary rocks are rare, however, a team of researchers from the University of Montpellier, Toulouse University, the American Museum of Natural History, the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre (Holland) and the Department for Vertebrate Palaeontology at the Natural History Museum in Lima have spent more than a decade piecing together information about this ancient ecosystem, one in which a number of specialised Crocodylians co-habited.

 A Mid Miocene Hyperdiverse Crocodylian Community

Hyperdiverse Crocodylian community of Mid Miocene Peru.

Hyperdiverse Crocodylian community of Mid Miocene Peru.

Picture Credit: Javier Herbozo

The picture above illustrates the proto-Amazonian swampland of north-eastern Peru from around thirteen million years ago and three of the Crocodylians that lived in this habitat.  Kuttanacaiman iquitosensis (left), Caiman wannlangstoni (right) and feeding on clams on the lake floor is the short-snouted Gnatusuchus pebasensis.

The research team conclude that with the fossilised remains of at least seven different species present, this ecosystem represents the greatest concentration of crocodile species co-existing in one place at any time in Earth’s history, as recorded in the fossil record.  In comparison, the Amazon rainforest today, is home to just six species of Caiman, but only three species are known to co-exist in the same habitats.  The scientists suggest that the huge range of different Molluscs, creatures such as land and pond snails as well as several types of clams enabled these different types of freshwater crocodile to specialise in feeding on a particular group.  Although vertebrate fossils are rare in the exposed Peruvian Miocene strata, a vast assemblage of Mollusc fossils have been preserved.

Commenting on how this research has helped to fill in the gaps in our knowledge regarding the origins of the Amazon’s rich biodiversity, John Flynn, Frick Curator of Fossil Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History and a co-author on the scientific paper stated:

“The modern Amazon River basin contains the world’s richest biota, but the origins of this extraordinary diversity are really poorly understood.”

It seems that whilst today’s South American Crocodylians are generalists eating a range of prey items, in the Mid Miocene a group of durophagous “shell-crunching” crocodiles evolved, to exploit the huge range of different types of Mollusc.  Clams and snails now only make up a small portion of most Caiman’s diets.

John Flynn went onto add:

“Because it’s a vast rainforest today, our exposure to rocks and therefore, also to the fossils those rocks may preserve, is extremely limited.  So anytime you get a special window like these fossilised “mega-wetland” deposits, with so many new and peculiar species, it can provide novel insights into ancient ecosystems.  What we  have found isn’t necessarily what you would expect.”

Other types of crocodiles known to have lived in this habitat include the bizarre Mourasuchus, a large reptile, that probably fed by filtering zooplankton and other small animals out of the water.  The dangerous Purussaurus also inhabited the waterways.  Attaining lengths in excess of eight metres, this was an apex predator that probably preyed on a range of animals including other types of crocodile.

With three of the species new to science, it demonstrates the diversity of the Order Crocodylia.  One of the most peculiar of all the new crocodile discoveries is Gnatusuchus pebasensis.  This was a short-snouted Caiman with rounded teeth and it is thought that it used its snout to dig in the mud at the bottom of lakes and swampy areas to extract clams and other shelled creatures.  The shells would have been smashed to pieces in the strong jaws with their specialised teeth, designed for crushing.

A Model of the New Prehistoric Caiman Species G. pebasensis

New species of ancient Peruvian crocodile.

New species of ancient Peruvian crocodile.

Picture Credit: Aldo Benites-Palomino

The model in the photograph above was made by Kevin Montalbán-Rivera.

South America remained an island continent until around three million years ago.  Isolated from the rest of the world, a unique fauna and flora evolved, including so it would seem a diverse group of Crocodylians.  The Amazon basin itself did not form with its extensive network of rivers until the Late Miocene, around 10.5 million years ago.  Today, the mighty Amazon drains eastwards into the Atlantic ocean, however, in the Mid Miocene, the lakes, wetlands and swamps drained to the north, through what is now Columbia and Venezuela.  As the Amazon system slowly evolved, so it seems that the large numbers of molluscs and other shelled creatures began to decline, this led to the extinction of many of the different types of crocodile that relied on these creatures for food.

As well as the specialised clam feeders, the research team also discovered the first unambiguous fossil evidence of an ancestor of extant Caimans. This Caiman, named Pebas palaeosuchus (ancient crocodile of the Pebas Formation), had a longer snout better adapted for catching a variety of prey.  It is this evolutionary design that triumphed over the broad but short-snouted Crocodylians, giving rise to modern Caimans.

Rodolfo Salas-Gismondi, lead author of the paper and a graduate student of the University of Montpellier (France), explained:

“We uncovered this special moment in time when the ancient mega-wetland ecosystem reached its peak in size and complexity, just before its demise and the start of the modern Amazon River system.  At this moment, most known Caiman groups co-existed, ancient lineages bearing unusual blunt snouts and globular teeth along with those more generalised feeders representing the beginning of what was to come.”

Fossil Evidence Indicates a Rich Hyperdiversity of Crocodylians

A hyperdiversity of Crocodylians.

A hyperdiversity of Crocodylians.

Picture Credit: Rodolfo Salas-Gismondi

Since 2002, the research team have built up a detailed picture of the various different types of crocodiles that inhabited the ecosystem, as preserved in bone beds associated with the Mid Miocene-aged Pebas Formation.  The skull and jaws, depicted above show the specialist adaptations of the different species.

Key

  1. Gnatusuchus pebasensis – probably fed on molluscs
  2. Kuttanacaiman iquitosensis – probably fed on molluscs
  3. Caiman wannlangstoni – probably fed on molluscs
  4. Purussaurus neivensis – large, apex predator feeding on other vertebrates
  5. Mourasuchus atopus – filter feeder
  6. Pebas palaeosuchus – a generalist, more typical of extant Caiman
  7. Pebas gavialoid – probably fed on fish

Reconstructions by Javier Herbozo.

All these different types of Crocodylians, but alas, it seems, the scientists have not identified a species that could have fed on Paddington Bear’s ancestors, or even marmalade sandwiches for that matter.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of the American Museum of Natural History in the compilation of this article.

Win, Win, Win with Everything Dinosaur – Win a Set of CollectA Models

Win a Set of New for 2015 CollectA Models with Everything Dinosaur

WIN! WIN! WIN! with Everything Dinosaur! 

We have got another super, prehistoric animal and dinosaur giveaway.  CollectA, those clever model and figure manufacturers will be bringing out some amazing new prehistoric animal figures in 2015 and we are giving one lucky dinosaur model fan the chance to get their hands on a set of these new models before anyone else.

Win a Super Set of New for 2015 CollectA Prehistoric Animal Models
Win a set of CollectA models with Everything Dinosaur!

Win a set of CollectA models with Everything Dinosaur!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur 

Our prize giveaway includes the mighty 1:40 scale Pliosaur, the pair of horned dinosaurs Nasutoceratops and Medusaceratops, the fearsome Xiongguanlong, Daxiatitan, the Temnodontosaurus and the magnificent prehistoric mammal models Daeodon and Moropus (both 1:20 scale).  Eight superb collector’s items, the first to come off the production run and to win this prize all you have to do is to come up with a collective noun for a collection of CollectA!

To enter Everything Dinosaur’s competition, all you have to do is “Like” Everything Dinosaur’s FACEBOOK page, then comment on the picture (either here or on Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook page)  including a suggestion for the collective noun for a set of CollectA prehistoric animal replicas.

Everything Dinosaur on FACEBOOK: “LIKE” Our Facebook Page and Enter Competition

For example, if the collective noun for a group of lions is a “pride” and we have a “pack” of dogs, a “swarm” of bees, a “gaggle” of geese, then what term can you come up with for a collection of CollectA prehistoric animals?

We will draw the lucky winner at random and the name caption competition closes on Tuesday, March 24th.  Good luck!

Just visit Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook page, give our page a “like” and then leave a comment on the picture showing the set of eight prehistoric animal models. What collective noun can you come up with?

“Like” Everything Dinosaur’s Page on Facebook

Like our Page (please).

Like our Page (please).

 

Super CollectA Models to Win Thanks to Everything Dinosaur
Win a fantastic set of 8 prehistoric animal models.

Win a fantastic set of 8 prehistoric animal models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of CollectA prehistoric animals: CollectA Dinosaurs and Other Replicas

To see the full range of CollectA scale prehistoric animal replicas: CollectA Scale Prehistoric Animals

Terms and Conditions of the Everything Dinosaur Collective Noun Competition

Automated entries are not permitted and will be excluded from the draw.

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Only one entry per person.

The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative will be offered.

The Everything Dinosaur collective noun caption competition runs until March 24th 2015.

Winner will be notified by private message on Facebook.

Prize includes postage and packing.

For full terms and conditions contact: Contact Everything Dinosaur

Papo Young Apatosaurus Model Reviewed

A Review of the Papo Young Apatosaurus Dinosaur Model

New for 2015 and one of two new replicas in Papo’s prehistoric animal replica range (the other being the Tupuxuara Pterosaur), is a model of a Young Apatosaurus, part of a trend by the French manufacturer to depict juvenile versions of dinosaurs, after the introduction of the young Triceratops last year and what an amazing detailed Apatosaurus model it is.

Named back in 1877, Apatosaurus has had quite a makeover in the last few decades and it is pleasing to see that the design team at Papo have obviously reviewed the known fossil material and attempted to produce a modern interpretation of the dinosaur formerly known as Brontosaurus.  Here we have a heavy set animal, with hind limbs longer than the front legs, a deep chest, thick neck and a long, whip-like tail.  To learn more about this dinosaur’s name change, check out Everything Dinosaur’s article about how Apatosaurus got its name: Why Brontosaurus is no more

Papo has earned a deserved reputation for the quality of the skin texture on its prehistoric animal models.  Once again, Papo have produced a beautifully sculpted dinosaur with lots of anatomical evidence inferred in the sculpt and some amazing skin details with wrinkles and folds clearly evident, even underneath the model as well, an area often overlooked in poorer quality dinosaur replicas.

The Papo Young Apatosaurus Dinosaur Model

Available from Everything Dinosaur.

Available from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Papo

For many years the head of Apatosaurus was unknown and many museum exhibits depicted this dinosaur with a square, box-like skull reminiscent of another type of long-necked dinosaur whose fossils were also from Upper Jurassic aged deposits of the Western United States (Camarasaurus).  It was not until the late 1970′s that the skull of this dinosaur was formally described.  Apatosaurus had a skull very similar to that of Diplodocus.  It was rectangular in shape, with a blunt, square snout. The weak, peg-like teeth were only present in the front portion of the jaws.

Typical Diplodocid Head (Adult and Juvenile)

Ontogeny in Diplodocids

Ontogeny in diplodocids

Picture Credit: Mark A Klinger/ Carnegie Museum of Natural History

This Papo replica does a fine job at recreating the head as it is reflected in the fossil record.  When compared to the rest of this dinosaur’s body the head is extremely small.  The tiny nostrils are positioned on the top of the skull, again reflecting what most palaeontologists believe, they are present on the model, but such is the fine detail on this replica that they are best viewed using a magnifying glass.

Amazing Detail on the Papo Young Apatosaurus

Amazing detail on model.

Amazing detail on model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The neck of Apatosaurus was relatively short compared to the tail but much broader and thicker.  The bones in the neck, the cervical vertebrae, are much wider than they are long.  The neural spines along the top of the these bones were divided in two, what is termed bifurcation.  These formed fork-like processes technically referred to as paired metapophyses and they can be picked out in this Apatosaurus replica, which is very much to Papo’s credit.

In addition, viewed from the side, prominent bumps along the neck can also be seen, these mark the presence of immense cervical ribs that stuck out sideways in the neck bones of Apatosaurus.  By counting the bumps you can estimate the number of cervical vertebrae depicted in the model.  By our calculations the count comes up a couple short (should be fifteen, we think) and although the bumps are very conspicuous in the replica, obviously, whether or not these bumps would have been visible in the living animal is purely speculative.  Our guess is that with the neck being very strong and covered in sheaths of muscle, these lumps and bumps would not have been seen.  However, as they feature in the Papo replica, it does at least indicate that the French company has done some research into the characteristics of Apatosaurus neck bones.

The hands and feet of Sauropods are unique amongst the vertebrates and again Papo is to be applauded for the details shown in their Apatosaurus model.  On the front feet, the hands, there are signs of five digits, although only one, the thumb has a claw.  The claw is particularly large and prominent, diplodocids like Apatosaurus did indeed have big, pronounced thumb claws.  The hands may have had a more column-like appearance and it might have been difficult to spot individual fingers, but we commend Papo for their efforts.

The feet are also well modelled, the stout and strong back legs end in hind feet that look very different from the “hands” of the Apatosaurus replica.  The back feet are larger than the hands and there are three claws to each foot, again there is much to be appreciated with this sculpt.

To view the Papo Young Apatosaurus and Everything Dinosaur’s range of Papo models: Papo Prehistoric Animal Replicas

The tail is very long and very thin at the end.  The tail of Apatosaurus was indeed very long, it had some eighty plus tail bones.  The tail in the model is held off the ground (correct posture) and curved round on itself resembling a whip.  This is very typical of modern interpretations of the tails of diplodocids.  It may not have used the tail as a defensive weapon, however, by swishing the base of its tail, the tip would travel so fast that a supersonic cracking sound could have been produced.  This sound could have been used to communicate with other herd members or to deter predators.  Recently, it has been suggested that many of these types of long-necked dinosaurs possessed defensive spikes that ran down the back and along the tail, however, Papo have opted not to depict any spines or spikes on their Apatosaurus.

The Natural History Museums Depiction of a Spiky Diplodocid (Diplodocus)

Natural History Museum Diplodocus.

Natural History Museum Diplodocus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Officially the model measures 37 centimetres but when that curved tail is taken into account this figure is something like 41 centimetres long.  We at Everything Dinosaur have been asked to comment on the age of this Young Apatosaurus model.  There has been some work on growth and the potential ages of dinosaurs represented by Apatosaurus fossil material, (ontogenic studies) although the research is far from conclusive.  We like to think that the Young Apatosaurus model is of a sub-adult, consider this replica as a teenage Apatosaurus.

All in all this is an excellent Young Apatosaurus dinosaur model and it is a welcome addition to the Papo prehistoric animals range.

Answering Questions from Young Dinosaur Fans

Answering Questions about Dinosaurs

At Everything Dinosaur we get lots of questions sent into us about dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.  We try to answer as many as we can, especially those sent in by budding, young palaeontologists.  Here are some of the questions that we have received recently.

1). Who was more powerful Allosaurus or Suchomimus?

We get a lot of questions about comparing different types of dinosaur.  There are a number of Allosaurus species known, one of the largest Allosaurus fragilis, comes from the Western United States (Morrison Formation).  This Theropod dinosaur was one of the biggest predators around during the Late Jurassic.  Suchomimus lived much later than most of the allosaurid dinosaurs.  Its fossils have been found in Cretaceous aged deposits in Niger (Africa). Both dinosaurs were more than eleven metres in length and differing body mass estimates for Suchomimus make it rather difficult to answer this question.  One thing that is known, the shape of the skulls were very different.  These dinosaurs probably preyed on different animals.  Allosaurus was a predator of other dinosaurs, whilst Suchomimus might well have attacked other dinosaurs but it may have been primarily a fish-eater.  Tests carried out on the skull of a sub-adult Allosaurus indicated that this large dinosaur had a surprisingly weak bite.  The research suggested that this Allosaurus could generate a bite force of just 200 kilogrammes on the tips of its teeth.  This is the equivalent of a the bite of a modern leopard and a much weaker bite than found in crocodiles and alligators.

Work undertaken in 2013 compared the resistance to bending and distortion of Spinosaur skulls to those of modern crocodiles.  When the skull size differences were taken into account, the skull of Baryonyx, a dinosaur believed to be closely related to Suchomimus, turned out to be remarkably strong.  The scientists concluded that based on these results, Spinosaurs may not have been specialised fish-eaters, but their diets may have changed as the animals grew and became stronger.

A Model of the African Spinosaurid Called Suchomimus

Suchomimus Dinosaur Model.

Suchomimus Dinosaur Model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

2).  Was Ichthyovenator a Strong Dinosaur?

Ichthyovenator was formally named and described in 2012. It was the first spinosaurid dinosaur to be described from Asia. It is only known from fragmentary remains and although teeth have been ascribed to this genus, no skull material has yet to be discovered.  Most illustrations of Ichthyovenator are based on reconstructions of better known spinosaurids.  It is believed to have been closely related to Suchomimus.  Size estimates vary for this dinosaur, but it could have reached lengths of around nine metres and weighed as much as 1.5 tonnes.  Although the fossilised remains of just one animal have been found and these fossils represent less than 15% of the entire skeleton, measurements of the hip bones indicate that this animal did have strong, powerful back legs.  The size of the arms is unknown.

3). How Long was Mapusaurus?

Named in 2006, this dinosaur’s fossils come from Argentina.  The remains of several individuals have been found, from juveniles to mature adults.  The largest specimens have been estimated to have been around 12 to 12.2 metres in total length.

A Museum Display  of the Fearsome Carnivore – Mapusaurus

Museum display of Mapusaurus.

Museum display of Mapusaurus.

4).  How Big and How Long was Tarbosaurus?

Tarbosaurus (T. bataar) is sometimes referred to as the Asian T. rex.  It was a Late Cretaceous tyrannosaurid whose fossils have been found in Mongolia and China.  It is also referred to as Tyrannosaurus bataar as a number of palaeontologists have proposed in the past that the fossil material represents an Asian species of Tyrannosaurus.  A number of fossil specimens which are more than fifty percent complete are known.  Due to the number of Tarbosaurus skull fossils that have been found, scientists have been able to study how the heads of these dinosaurs changed as the animals grew.  Size estimates do vary, but most scientists place this dinosaur at around 9.5 to 12 metres long with a body weight of about 4 to 5 tonnes.  It was an apex predator in its environment.

A Skull of Tarbosaurus (T. bataar)

Tarbosaurus specimen.

Tarbosaurus specimen.

For Theodore and Martin

Evolution Favours Getting Big

Stanford University Study Tests “Cope’s Law”

Evolution, at least in marine organisms, tends to favour the emergence of bigger animals according to new research published by Stanford University of California.  A trend for “bigness” – a term coined by a Year 3 pupil we overheard the other day during a dinosaur workshop we were conducting at a school, seems to have been present in the oceans of the world, at least since the Cambrian, a time when the first hard-bodied creatures evolved.  This suggests that the path followed by natural selection can be predicted, it indicates that evolution may follow certain rules, at least for one important biological trait – body mass.

It was the American naturalist and palaeontologist Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897) who proposed a natural law, now referred to as “Cope’s Law” that the ancient ancestors of extant animals were usually much smaller than their modern counterparts.  Building on the research from some of Cope’s rivals, such as the work on the evolution of equines (horses) by Othniel Marsh (1831-1899), Cope postulated that evolution had a tendency to produce larger animals.  The first horses such as Propalaeotherium, known from the famous Messel shales near Frankfurt (Germany), were only sixty centimetres high at the shoulder.  Dinosaurs too, seem to follow this rule, with the very first members of the Dinosauria being just a fraction the size of later types of dinosaur such as the enormous Sauropods Diplodocus, Barosaurus and Apatosaurus from the Late Jurassic.

Getting Bigger Over Time – the Dinosauria

Dinosaurs tended to get bigger over time.

Dinosaurs tended to get bigger over time.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This pattern is not consistent across the Kingdom Animalia.  For example, Aves (birds) do not show this trend, very probably as there is a need to reduce weight in order to become more efficient fliers.  Insects too, do not follow this trend, although in the case of the Insecta there are body mass limits probably related to atmospheric oxygen concentrations and the constraints of having an exoskeleton.

However, in one of the most comprehensive research programmes ever undertaken, scientists from the Stanford School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences conducted a review of over 17,000 extinct and extant marine genera.  The study incorporates data from over sixty percent of all the animal types that have ever existed.  The amount of work that had to be done was simply colossal.  Members of the Department enlisted the help of University colleagues, undergraduates and even high school interns to search through the scientific record for measurement data on marine life forms from the Cambrian geological period to today.

 The study published this week in the journal “Science” concludes that over the last 542 million years the mean size of marine animals has increased by 150 fold.  The Stanford research team also discovered that the increase in body size that has occurred since animals first appeared in the fossil record is not due to all animal lineages steadily growing bigger, but rather to the diversification of groups of organisms that were already larger than other groups early in the history of animal evolution.

An Evolutionary Trend for “Bigness” Indicated by Statistical Analysis

Over time there has been a tendency for marine animals to get bigger..

Over time there has been a tendency for marine animals to get bigger..

Picture Credit: Open University

The picture above depicts a typical scene in a shallow Silurian sea about 428 million years ago (Wenlock Epoch).  Analysis of the fossil record indicates that the explosion of different life forms in the Palaeozoic eventually skewed decisively towards larger, bulkier animals.  Measured by volume, today’s smallest marine animals (microscopic crustaceans) are less than ten times smaller than their Cambrian counterparts.  However, at the other end of the scale, perhaps the largest animal known from the Cambrian is Anomalocaris canadensis, which at nearly a metre in length, was huge compared to the other Cambrian fauna it preyed upon, but Anomalocaris at perhaps two to three kilogrammes in weight (estimate), was many thousands of times lighter than today’s largest sea creature the Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus).  Body weights of Blue Whales have been calculated at over 190,000 kilogrammes.

The research team also set about trying to work out whether the favouring of bigger sea creatures over time was really driven by evolutionary advantage, or was this trend just a case of serendipity?   Neutral drift is the term used to describe changes in an organism that seem to infer no evolutionary advantage or disadvantage.   A computer model was created and size data from the oldest animals included in the study was incorporated into it.  From this data set a series of simulations were run to see how life in marine environments might have evolved.  Each species used in this part of the research, could either die out, stay unchanged or get bigger or reduce in size.  In the various scenarios that were tested, the version that best matched the fossil evidence was one where there was a genuine size advantage inferred.

One of the lead authors of the research, post-doctoral researcher Dr. Noel Heim commented:

“The degrees of increase in both mean and maximum body size just aren’t well explained by neutral drift.  It appears that you actually need some active evolutionary process that promotes larger sizes.”

As for what those benefits of being big might be, the research team cannot be certain, but larger species may have been able to take greater advantage of resources by being able to swim faster, burrow deeper or to eat larger and more varied types of prey.  Dr. Heim also suggested that the increase in oxygen may also have played a significant role in the evolution of larger animals.

Anomalocaris – Big for the Cambrian but Dwarfed by Today’s Larger Marine Animals

The Terror of the Trilobites - Anomalocaris

The Terror of the Trilobites – Anomalocaris

Picture Credit: BBC Worldwide/Framestore

New Ichthyosaurus Species Honours Mary Anning

Dorset to Doncaster – New Species of Ichthyosaurus Described

It might be one of the best known of all the genera of Mesozoic marine reptiles, but the Ichthyosaurus genus has been becalmed in terms of new additions to the species list.  That is, until a remarkable discovery in the fossil collection of the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery led to the naming of a new species.  Ichthyosaurus anningae, the first “new” Ichthyosaurus for 127 years.  A paper describing this new species is due to be published in the prestigious academic publication “The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology” and it is great to see that the trivial name honours Dorset fossil collector Mary Anning, it was Mary along with her brother Joseph, who found the first Ichthyosaurus fossils to be scientifically studied (1811).

The First New Species of Ichthyosaurus to be Described Since the 19th Century

Dolphin-like prehistoric animals.

Dolphin-like prehistoric marine reptiles.

The fossil, representing a sub-adult specimen, had resided in the collection of the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery since it had been acquired sometime in the early 1980′s.   It was excavated from Lower Jurassic strata of West Dorset, but we at Everything Dinosaur, are unable to provide further information as to who exactly discovered it.  The fossil is believed to have come from the Lower Pliensbachian Stonebarrow Marl Member (Charmouth Mudstone Formation), which forms part of the geology of southern England’s famous “Jurassic Coast”.  The specimen, which measures around 1.5 metres in length is nearly complete, there is a beautifully preserved skull, much of the front portion of the body including ribs and preserved stomach contents.  The assigned holotype (DONMG:1983.98) had been mislabelled as a plaster cast replica.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur recall seeing the image of the fossil used to help promote children’s holiday activities at the Museum, it emphasises the importance of regional museums and their collections.  There are probably a significant number of new species awaiting discovery, not in the cliffs of Monmouth Beach, Lyme Regis, but in the draws and cabinets of museums.

Newest Ichthyosaurus on the Block (I. anningae)

A new species of Ichthyosaurus.

A new species of Ichthyosaurus.

Picture Credit: Dean Lomax and Judy Massare

This is not the first time that a new Mesozoic species has been identified from a museum collection.  Back in 2007, Everything Dinosaur wrote about the discovery made by then PhD student Mike Taylor at the Natural History Museum (London), which led to the naming of a new species of Sauropod dinosaur.

To read the article: How to Find a New Dinosaur – Look in a Museum

Dean Lomax, Honorary Scientist at The University of Manchester, examined the specimen in 2008.  He noticed a number of anatomical differences between this specimen and other types of Ichthyosaur.  Working with Professor Judy Massare (Brockport College, New York), Dean spent over five  years comparing and contrasting the Doncaster Ichthyosaur that had been nicknamed “Fizzy” with other museum specimens from around the world.  Unusual features in the humerus and femur (upper limb bones) along with the humerus length to femur ratio led him to believe that the Doncaster fossil represented something not seen before.  Over 1,000 other Ichthyosaurus fossils were examined during the course of the research, a further four fossils (three most likely of juveniles), were identified as having the same anatomical features as “Fizzy”.

Dean commented:

“After examining the specimen extensively, both Professor Massare and I identified several unusual features of the limb bones that were completely different to any other Ichthyosaur known.  That became very exciting.  After examining over a thousand specimens we found four others with the same features as the Doncaster fossil.”

Professor Massare has worked on a number of Ichthyosaur specimens, most notably a remarkable fossil found in Wyoming.  She used her knowledge of Ichthyosaur anatomy and locomotion to compare and contrast the fossil material.  The strata from which this fossil was extracted dates from the Early Jurassic (Lower Jurassic - Hettangian/Sinemurian–Pliensbachian).  It has been estimated that this fossil material is around 189 million years old. (Pliensbachian faunal stage).  Most Ichthyosaur fossils that date from this stage of the Jurassic are fragmentary, very few articulated specimens with cranial material are known.  The Doncaster fossil is the most complete Ichthyosaur fossil that dates from this time interval.

The upper arm bone (humerus) is short and robust.  The femur (thigh bone), in comparison is very much smaller.  The morphology of the fossil specimens ascribed to this new species, suggest that there were differences in the limb bones of males and females.  Such differences have not been identified before in Ichthyosaurs.  The species name pays tribute to Mary Anning (1799-1847), it was Mary along with other family members who found the fossils of the first scientifically described “fish lizard”.  The very first formal, academic paper describing an Ichthyosaur was published in 1814, the study being based on fossil material found in the Lyme Regis area by the Anning family.  Last year, Everything Dinosaur wrote a short article commemorating the 200th anniversary of this event.

To view this article: Two Hundred Years of Ichthyosaurs

Dean explained:

“Mary worked tirelessly to bring Ichthyosaurs, among other fossils, to the attention of the scientific world.  It is an honour to name a new species, but to name it after somebody who is intertwined with such an important role in helping to sculpt the science of palaeontology, especially in Britain, it is something that I’m very proud of.  In fact, one of the specimens in our study was even found by Mary herself!  Science is awesome.”

It has been a very busy couple of years for Dean, as well as helping to increase our understanding of British marine reptiles, in 2014, his book “Dinosaurs of the British Isles”, co-authored with Nobumichi Tamura was published.  This book provides a comprehensive account of the dinosaur fossils associated with the British Isles and we at Everything Dinosaur strongly recommend it to anyone with an interest in dinosaurs.

“Dinosaurs of the British Isles” – A First, Comprehensive Account of British Dinosauria

A comprehensive guide to British dinosaurs over 400 pages.

A comprehensive guide to British dinosaurs over 400 pages.

Picture Credit: Siri Scientific Press

For more details about the book and to order a copy: Dinosaurs of the British Isles Available Here

This new specimen, helps palaeontologists to understand in greater detail the evolution and radiation of the Ichthyosauria.  I. anningae adds to the number of Ichthyosaurus known from the Pliensbachian faunal stage.  There has now been recorded at least three species (possibly as many as five species) from this time interval.  This is significant, as the discovery of this new species falls between two of the three known major radiations of Ichthyosaur genera.  The numbers and types of Ichthyosaur seemed to have increased around 200 million years ago (Triassic/Jurassic boundary) – Neoichthyosaurian radiation.  A second major radiation occurred around 175 million years ago (Aalenian faunal stage), the Ophthalomosaurid radiation, when many new kinds of “fish lizard” also evolved.

Exploring Dinosaurs at Hadfield Infant School

Foundation Stage/Year 1/Year 2 Study Dinosaurs and Fossils

Children at Hadfield Infant School have had a busy day learning all about dinosaurs, fossils and life in the past.  The children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 have started a term topic all about prehistoric animals.  Some of the children found a “dinosaur egg” in their classroom, what type of dinosaur could have laid such a big egg?

The egg had started to hatch and sure enough, the children had a baby dinosaur to look after.  We hope that they will learn all about dinosaur plant-eaters and meat-eaters so that they can work out what to feed it!

The Dinosaur Egg in One of the Classrooms

Schoolchildren discover dinosaur egg.

Schoolchildren discover dinosaur egg.

Picture Credit: Hadfield Infant School/Everything Dinosaur

What would happen if the baby dinosaur escaped one evening?  Where would the dinosaur go?  Can the children follow the dinosaur’s travels around the world?

Our dinosaur expert felt very much at home at the school today.  On the wall in the hall where he had been working was a big picture with lots of bones in it.  The children learned that scientists look at the fossilised bones of dinosaurs so that they can work out what they looked like and how they lived.

A Great Backdrop for a Dinosaur Workshop

Learning all about fossil bones of dinosaurs.

Learning all about fossil bones of dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Hadfield Infant School/Everything Dinosaur

With the enthusiastic support of the teaching team the children will have a wonderful and engaging topic to study up to the end of the spring term.  There were so many amazing questions asked during the day, questions such as what was the biggest crocodile of all time?  How big were the plates on the back of Stegosaurus?  Good job the children had been working on their phonics to help them work out the difference between big, bigger and biggest.

We sent over some extension resources to help the teaching team answer some of the questions that we did  not get round to in our dinosaur workshop.  We think this term topic is going to be a “roaring success”!

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