Sauropod Femur Discovered In Japan

Huge Sauropod Thighbone Unearthed in Japan

A partial femur (thigh bone) of a long-necked dinosaur has been discovered by a team of Japanese palaeontologists in Katsuyama, Fukui Prefecture on Honshu island.  This is only the second time a Sauropod  femur has been discovered in Japan.  The first thighbone was unearthed in 1996 in the Kinki region of Japan, on Honshu island but on the Pacific ocean side of the island, whereas as this new find in Fukui Prefecture is from the side of the island that faces the Sea of Japan.   The sediments from which this second fossil femur has been extracted have been dated to the early Cretaceous period about 120 million years ago (Aptian faunal stage).

The bone measures 85 cm long and is believed to have been part of the dinosaur’s right hind leg.  The part of the bone that connects to the knee joint is intact (distal end) but the the part attaching this bone to the hips has been corroded away.  This fossil site has also provided other fossil material including three typical Sauropod-like teeth, a partial rib bone and elements of a sauropod foreleg.  As these fossils have been recovered from the same strata as the femur and are in association with the thigh bone, scientists have speculated that all these bones belonged to the same animal.

Despite the robust nature and huge size of Sauropod bones, complete articulated specimens are extremely rare.  Even very well known dinosaurs such as Diplodocus are known from only incomplete and partial remains.  Lots of the reconstructed specimens and fossil replicas dominating museum entrance halls and exhibitions are actually composites.  They have been made up from the remains of several animals.  Indeed, when it comes to fitting skulls to these huge exhibits, skulls from completely different genera have been added to complete the look of the specimen.  Sauropod skulls are notoriously rare, this is because they are on the end of a long, articulated neck and during decomposition the head often falls off and is lost in the fossilisation process.

This is why, even large museums have often resorted to putting the head of a different species onto the body of another dinosaur to complete their reconstruction.  This has been done partly through mistakes made when it comes to sorting out which skull belonged to which animal and partly through necessity due to the paucity of the sauropod skull record.

Although the genus to which this particular Japanese dinosaur belonged cannot be identified from the material found so far, scientist may be able to estimate the size of this animal by studying the proportions of the limb bones of other sauropods.

To read an article on other recent dinosaur discoveries in Japan: Duck Billed Dinosaur Skull found in Japan

Evidence of Pack behaviour in “Raptors” unveiled in China

Is a Fossil Trackway Proof of Pack Hunting in “Raptors”?

For many years scientists have speculated that the speedy, carnivorous raptors (more appropriately termed Dromaeosaurs), such as Velociraptor and Deinonychus were pack hunters.  Movies such as “Jurassic Park” popularised theories about these animals, making them out to be vicious, ruthless, yet intelligent killers.

Hollywood’s depiction of these swift hunters stretched the truth to say the least, the likes of Velociraptor became a man-sized predator when in truth it stood about 1 metre tall.  Even the sickle shaped foot claw on the second toe was blown out of proportion to some extent.  Movie Directors wanted to show this claw as a razor sharp scythe capable of tearing victims to pieces, recent studies indicate that in Velociraptor’s case the claw (which barely exceeded 9 cm in length was not a terrible slashing weapon.  It may have had a sharp point and been an effective “grappling hook” to help the animal jump onto and stay on its larger victims.

However, the Dromaeosaurs did come in different sizes, although the basic body plan – swift biped with a stiffened tail to assist with balance and sharp turns, remains the same of the genera associated with this family.  Dinosaurs such as Utahraptor represent very large and formidable beasts.

Now evidence to back up how raptors have been depicted in the movies has emerged from China.  A recently excavated fossil trackway shows six Dromaeosaurs tracks, all moving in the same direction.  If the tracks were made at the same time (and there is some palaeontological data to suggest this), then could this be a pack of raptors out on patrol?

A joint international team drawn from the University of Chicago and the Qingdao Institute of Marine Geology have uncovered a series of footprints that capture the moment when six equally sized Dromaeosaurs walked side by side next to some flowing water, possibly a stream or small river.

The fossil site is in the Shandong Province of eastern China and the sediments have been dated to between 120 -100 million years ago, placing the footprints in the Cretaceous period.  This is the first fossil evidence palaeontologists have of possible pack behaviour in these animals.  Ripple marks also preserved in the rock strata indicate that the trackways were covered shortly after they were made, thus strengthening the hypothesis that this evidence represents a group moving together.

This site has already provided a number of sets of dinosaur prints, providing a great deal of material for ichnologists (the term used to describe scientists who specialise in studying trackways).   The report on the evidence for Dromaeosaur pack hunting plus some additional information on the trackways of a smaller Dromaeosaur found nearby have been published in the European scientific journal “Naturwissenschaften”.

Dromaeosaur Trackways

Image Credit: Dr Martin Lockley

The picture on the left shows one of the trackways left by the larger Dromaeosaur.  The line drawing on the top right depicts a single footprint (made by the left foot).  The picture on the bottom right with the 5cm scale bar is a picture of a footprint made by a smaller Dromaeosaur at the same site (left foot).

In the trackways, two clear toe prints can be seen.  The third toe print (actually representing the second digit on the foot) is only partial, indicating that this toe, the one with the sickle claw was held off the ground.  Scientists had suspected that the sickle claw was raised off the ground, examination of the joints in the second toe bones indicated that this was probably the case.  These beautifully preserved tracks confirm the theories, that indeed the sickle toe was carried off the ground.

The larger tracks contain foot prints about 28 cm long and 12 cm wide, these indicate the presence of larger Dromaeosaurs in this area, possibly about the size of Deinonychus from North America.  Ironically, these tracks may represent an animal about as big as the over-sized Velociraptors as seen in the movie “Jurassic Park”.  The second set of tracks  represent a much smaller raptor, possibly the same size of a Velociraptor (1 metre tall at the hips).

Although it is not possible to identify the species that made these tracks, the larger trackway provides the first evidence of the presence of big Dromaeosaurs in China.  Ichnologists have named the bigger Dromaeosaur Dromaeopodus shandongensis.  The name means “swift footed from Shandong Province”.  The smaller tracks have been ascribed to a new genus of raptor called Velociraptorichnus.

The parallel trackways do not demonstrate pack behaviour, nor can we assume that these animals adopted any sophisticated group hunting strategies like packs of mammals, such as wolves or lions.  However, this is the first evidence of potential social groups in Dromaeosaurs, plus proof that the second toe was held off the ground – just like in the movies.

Films depict the raptors as deadly, pack predators using cunning to outwit their victims.  Is this too the stuff of fiction or will we find evidence to support this theory as well?

Young Dinosaur fans can excavate their own Velociraptors using these two fossil kits available from Everything Dinosaur:

Dinosaur Crafts: Dinosaur Crafts for Kids

Confusing Spinosaurs – when is a Spinosaur a Spinosaur?

The problem with Spinosaurs

Palaeontologists debate how all the meat-eating dinosaurs are related to each other.  There is little consensus when it comes to organising a family tree, especially with the large Theropods.  The reasons for this are quite simple, big meat-eaters tend to be at the top of the food chain and as a result are not as common as other animals lower down the pecking order, as it were.  For example, palaeontologists have hundreds of well preserved Maastrichtian Hadrosaur fossils, many of them found in association or articulation.  However, in comparison very few Tyrannosaurus rex fossils have been recovered.  There is plenty of evidence to indicate that plant-eaters moved around in large herds, just as many species of herbivores do today.  So if a disaster occurs such as the herd panicking and floundering when crossing a swollen river, many animals may be killed.  The corpses can drift downstream and slowly and surely as sediments cover them a vast bone bed of fossils can form.

The evidence of meat-eaters moving around in anything bigger than a small family group is patchy to say the least.  Although there is evidence of group behaviour in fossils of certain Theropods such as Albertosaurs, many large meat-eaters may have lived solitary existences, so the chances of finding lots and lots of fossils of a particular genus is quite small.

The Spinosaurid family illustrate some of the difficulties that palaeontologists face.  Firstly, there is still argument in scientific circles as to whether animals such as Baryonyx (a Baryonychid) is actually distinct enough from Spinosaurs to be regarded as a separate (but closely related) family.  Some palaeontologists believe that the Baryonychidae are merely a sub-family of the Spinosaurs.

Baryonyx was first described from a specimen found in a clay pit in Smokejacks Brickworks, at Wallis Wood, near the village of Ockley, Surrey in England.  About 30% of the remains of a sub-adult animal were recovered from this site.  Since then Baryonyx fossils have been found on the Isle of Wight and in Spain.  There is also evidence to suggest that Baryonychids were present in Africa during the early Cretaceous.

Although Baryonyx has a lot of features in common with animals such as Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, it is believed to more primitive.  Baryonyx teeth are slightly recurved and are finely serrated, in true Spinosaurs these features have been lost.  Spinosaur teeth tend to be straight, conicle shaped and have no serrations, possibly an adaptation for eating a much more fish dominated diet.

A Museum model Interpretation of Baryonyx

“Heavy Claw”

Picture courtesy of Everything Dinosaur

The model in the picture above is a 1:40 scale model of Baryonyx designed under the supervision of Dr Paul Barrett of the Natural History museum – London.  Sales of this product help support the palaeontologists and fund their research.

To view the model: Dinosaur Models for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Toys

Fossil bone material of large carnivores is extremely rare, but lots of teeth have been found, particularly in places such as the Isle of Wight.  It seems that dinosaurs were able to shed teeth, replacing them with new ones erupting from the jaws.  This is why when you look at the jaws of a meat-eating dinosaur in a museum exhibit, the teeth are different sizes.  Some teeth did vary in size depending on which part of the jaw they came from, but the different sized teeth show younger teeth just emerging from the teeth sockets.  Before Baryonyx was known, palaeontologists assigned many of the teeth fossils to extinct crocodile genera.  Now much of this material has been reviewed by the likes of Dr Angela Milner of the Natural History museum (one of the scientists responsible for naming and describing Baryonyx from the Ockley specimen) and some of the teeth have been re-classified as belonging to Baryonyx.

Spinosaurs are known from Africa and South America.  Once again the fossil record is fragmentary.  Our knowledge of these bizarre Theropods has been hampered by the lack of fossil finds and as a result of mankind’s own stupidity and greed.  The best known specimen of S. aegyptiacus was found by the German palaeontologist/geologist Ernst Stromer von Reichenbach on his expeditions to North Africa between 1911 and 1914. This species was named and described by him in 1915.  The fossils recovered were never really studied to their full extent, perhaps as a result of the wealth of material brought back to Germany from Africa.  Drawings were made and there were some descriptions and anatomical comparisons provided, but the Spinosaur fossils were destroyed by an American bombing raid on Germany during World War II.

Confusion also surrounds the South American Spinosaur, Irritator.  This dinosaur was named and described in 1996 by a joint palaeontological team headed up by David Martill of the University of Portsmouth.  The only known fossil of this animal is a partial skull recovered from eastern Brazil.  The amateur fossil collector who first found the skull attempted to restore it and make it a more complete and valuable specimen using plaster and superglue.  The scientists given the job of studying this fossil had to dismantle it again, this is how Irritator got its name, as it irritated the palaeontologists!  The actual species is I. challengeri, named in honour of the fictional Professor Challenger, who led an exhibition to the plateau in Guyana (South America) and discovered prehistoric animals in the book “The Lost World” written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1912.

In the late 1990s another partial skull of a Spinosaur was recovered from the same sediments as Irritator (Santana Formation of Brazil).  This animal was named as Angaturama but the remains could actually belong to the same skull as Irritator so the term Angaturama is not valid at present.  It is classified as Nomen dubium.

The dispersion of Baryonychid and Spinosauridae fossils across South America, Europe and Africa provide an important piece of evidence as to the land bridge links in Gondwanaland during the early Cretaceous.  During this time Africa, Europe and South America were linked (part of the southern land mass Gondwanaland), the various Spinosauridae and Baryonychid fossils found so far provide conclusive biogeographical evidence of the land bridges between these regions that existed prior to the formation of the Atlantic ocean.

Gondwanaland in the Cretaceous (90 mya)

Gondwanaland in the early Cretaceous

Picture Credit: A. T. White

The picture shows Gondwanaland approximately 90 million years ago.  During the Cretaceous this super continent began to break up and the Atlantic ocean started to form.  Prior to the continent’s break up prehistoric animals could migrate between Africa, Europe and South America.  This helps to explain the fossil distribution of Spinosaurs and Baryonychids.

“Oh we Do Like to be Beside the Seaside” – Early Man a Beach-comber

Learning to Beach comb – an Essential Survival Technique for Early Man

A study by American palaeoanthropologists published in the journal “Nature” provides evidence of early Homo sapiens turning to a beach-combing existence to survive global climate change.

A South African cave located at Pinnacle Point on the Indian Ocean shows evidence of periodic habitation by humans, with the first evidence of people living in the cave dating back to around 164,000 years ago, a time when much of the world’s freshwater was locked up in ice sheets.  The lack of free water in the environment led much of Africa to suffer drought and put the population of modern humans under extreme pressure.

The harsh environment drove many tribes to extinction, but it seems our beach-combing ancestors were able to survive by living off the bounty brought in by the tides twice a day.  The scientists from Arizona State University excavated the cave and discovered shellfish remains, small stone tools called bladelets and evidence of the use of ochre from deposits dated to more than 160,000 years ago.  The Pinnacle Point cave is extremely important and has yielded much information on the ascent of man as modern humans are believed to have evolved around 180,000 to 200,000 years ago in southern Africa.  The oldest finds in the cave trace the early origins of our own species and link modern people to a coastal environment much earlier in our evolution than previously thought.  Until the discoveries at Pinnacle Point, the earliest evidence for humans living beside the sea was from strata 125,000 years old.  These remains pushes back our association with a beach-combing lifestyle by 40,000 years.

It seems that these people plucked shellfish from the rock pools and perhaps used the small bladelets as barbs on wooden harpoons to catch fish.  It seems that shelled animals were consumed in large numbers, the scientists have unearthed the remains of whelks, limpets and molluscs.  A fragment of a whale barnacle found in the cave may also indicate that our early ancestors scoured the beach for whale and seal carcases.  The meat and blubber would have been a rich source of protein and carbohydrate.

The evidence of ochre has important implications for our social development.  Ochre is formed from hematite rocks.  These can be ground up to produce a red pigment that could have been used as  a body paint or red dye.  This may indicate that these early humans were already practising symbolic behaviours, using ochre in this way is a trait that would not look out of place in a site dating from the New Stone Age.  The stone tools found in the cave also indicate that these people were using technologically advanced tools, that were to remain unchanged for 150,000 years.

Some of the Artifacts found at Pinnacle Point

Picture Credit: Mossel Bay Archaeological Project

These stone tools bare the scratch marks from use by their owners and the stone at the bottom of the picture shows evidence of ochre.

The Pinnacle Point cave, located at Mossel Bay, half-way between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth would have been an ideal home for early humans.  At the time it was first settled, the cave would have been 3 miles inland, but high up overlooking the bay.  This would have made the cave safe from any flooding or extreme high tides as well as providing an excellent vantage point to spot potential food on the beach below.

Evidence of human habitation can be found in various strata in the cave, with the first settlers living around 164,000 years ago, marking the start of perhaps several hundred years of use.  The site seems to have been settled again around 140,000 years ago and then there is evidence of permanent settlement between 120,000 and 90,000 BC.

Scientists have long speculated about how early humans coped with the extreme droughts caused by the Ice Ages.  Many believe that H. sapiens nearly went extinct during this period, when the extremely dry climate wiped out a large number of mammal species and led ourselves to the brink of extinction.  It seems it was coastal sites like Pinnacle Point that enabled our ancestors to hold on and eek out an existence.  The environment improved when the ice sheets retreated, enabling seasonal rains to return and to become more certain.  In these conditions, early mankind was able to flourish and migrate out of Africa (often via maritime and coastal routes).  Around 120,000 years ago man began to settle areas beyond their homeland of southern Africa, into the Middle East and eventually Europe via ocean coastal routes and routes along the Red Sea.

Our species came so very close to extinction due to the harsh environmental conditions that some scientists have estimated that there were just a few thousand people left living in isolated pockets of Africa.  It is from these people that all 7 billion of us are descended.  Although we are now extremely diverse with Chinese, Indians, Europeans and Americans, our genetic make-up reveals how closely related we all our to each other.

In fact subscribers to the “Daughters of Eve Hypothesis”  believe that there are just seven original human bloodlines, each one linked to a group of early humans and their migration route from Africa.  Our genome is so constrained as a result of this early extinction leaving few ancestors from which the rest of us are related; that viruses such as bird flu, although originating in the Far East can be lethal to Westerners too.

It is worth thinking about… a person reading this web log living in Basingstoke, England is more closely related genetically to a Chinese farmer in a remote part of Mongolia than one mountain gorilla is to another mountain gorilla in the next valley.  With this week’s United Nations report on the problems caused by human population growth, the lack of resources and the impact of the human race on the environment, some comfort may be taken from the fact that our species has survived dramatic climatic change before.  They adapted to a beach-combing lifestyle to cope with the lack of other food resources, but despite man’s ingenuity, our species came so close to the brink of extinction, and besides, it is unlikely that there will be enough sites such as Pinnacle Point to go round next time.

Dig a Dinosaur – Evidence that Dinosaurs Lived in Burrows

Fossils of Burrowing Dinosaur Found in Montana

Scientists have speculated that with dinosaurs dominating life on Earth during the Mesozoic they will have filled a lot of environmental niches, specialising in types of food and different ways of living.  Now a team of palaeontologists from Montana State University have found evidence that some dinosaurs spent at least part of their lives in burrows.

Working in an area of south-western Montana, the leader of the university team, David Varricchio discovered an unusual deposit of sandstone protruding from the surrounding sediments.  Choosing to excavate this peculiar feature, the team dug through the sandstone and discovered a mass of small dinosaur bones tangled up in a single layer.  The remains represent a new species of Ornithopod, perhaps closely related to Hypsilophodontia.

Three individual skeletons were located, each one virtually complete, there was two smaller animals and a larger one.  Could this be an underground den where an adult looked after the young?

Further excavation of the 95-million-year-old sediment (dated to the middle Cretaceous – Cenomanian faunal stage), revealed that the sandstone mass was S-shaped and about 2.1 metres in length. For most of its length, the sinuous feature had an oval cross section about 30 centimetres in diameter and about 40 cm high.  However, at its lower end—where the dinosaur bones were found—it broadened to a width of 45 cm, could this be a nursery chamber?  The elongated sandstone mass intersected with three distinct layers of rock derived from mud and clay, perhaps a sign that those strata were in place before the material that formed the sandstone was deposited.

Close study of the fossil remains showed that they were unbroken and showed no signs of having been weathered before they were buried. The bones show no signs of predation either, so it is unlikely a meat-eater dragged the bodies into the burrow.  David Varricchio and his university team have proposed that the mass of sandstone represents a sudden influx of material that filled in a burrow, such as that from a sandstorm trapping its occupants and suffocating them.

These findings have been reported at the scientific symposium and meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology in Texas.  This unique discovery adds weight to the theory that some dinosaurs cared for their young and showed a strong maternal or paternal nature.

A Diagram of the Fossil Site showing the Composition of the Burrow

Diagram Credit: L. Hall – Montana State University

The red arrows in the diagram indicate the position of fossil bones.

The dinosaur has been named Oryctodromeus cubicularis (means digging runner of the lair).  The size of the juveniles and the complexity of the burrow indicates that this particular species may have spent a long time looking after young.  The adult was approximately 2.1 metres in length with an estimated weight of 25 kilogrammes.  The juveniles were approximately 1.3 metres long.

Reviewing the papers produced by the Montana team, Dr Paul Sereno commented “all the pieces are there to support the burrowing interpretation”.  Dr Sereno has specialised in Ornithischian cladograms so was able to add credence to the hypothesis that this small biped was a Hypsilophodont.

Being bipedal enabled this little animal to evolve modified forelimbs that could have helped with the digging of dens and burrows.  Although study of the adult arm bone (humerus, ulna and radius) may indicate large muscle attachments to assist with digging, the absence of a manus (hand) prevents scientists from speculating on further anatomical modifications to assist with excavation.  Similar forelimb modifications are seen in modern animals such as rabbits that also have a running and burrowing existence.

The dinosaur’s wide, broad hips as well as being a trait of herbivores may also have assisted with burrow digging.  Oryctodromeus could have braced itself in a wide stance while burrowing.  Modifications to the skull and jaw bones may also have helped this little animal manipulate soil.

An Artist’s Impression of Oryctodromeus

Burrowing Dinosaurs

Picture Credit: Lee Hall (Montana State University)

The large orbit in the skull may indicate that this animal had big eyes and this may indicate that Oryctodromeus was nocturnal.  The presence of a burrow provides evidence of social behaviour, with a prolonged period of parental care coupled with aspects of territory management and possibly social interactions if rival pairs of these animals wandered into another Oryctodromeus’s domain.  Some scientists have speculated that some other small Ornithopods may also have lived part of their lives in burrows.  Their forelimbs may also show modifications for digging.

The technical scientific term for burrowing animals is fossorial, this word and the term fossil are derived from the same Latin source – fossillis; which is related to digging.

Certainly, a little pack of Oryctodromeus working alongside palaeontologists would have been very useful when it came to excavating fossils.

Digging for fossils is certainly very hard work, especially when the matrix is unforgiving and hard such as compacted sandstone.  Machinery cannot be used close to any fossil bearing sediment in case of damage so much of the close excavation is down to elbow grease.  However, when it comes to removing the matrix around fossil bone a steady hand and a lot of patience is required.

Young dinosaur fans can experience this for themselves with Everything Dinosaur’s Dig-a-Dino Series which features excavation kits of prehistoric animals such as Tricertops, Velociraptor, Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus rex and the Pterosaur Pteranodon:

As an alternative, the smaller Dinosaur Fossil Finds provide a similar experience but inside the gypsum based block there is a mini dinosaur fossil.  There are six models in this series including Pachycephalosaurus and Diplodocus.

Dinosaur Crafts: Dinosaur Crafts for Kids

The Neanderthals were Redheads

DNA Reveals that Neanderthals may have been Redheads

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany have been working on the genetic profile of Neanderthals, their latest research published in the journal “Science” reveals that at least some of these hardy, ancient people had red hair.  Indeed, the leader of the research team, evolutionary biologist Michael Hofreiter has stated:

“Our calculations suggest that at least 1% of Neanderthals had red hair.  They would have had lighter hair all over their bodies, like today’s Irish red-headed people”.

This is the latest revelation in a long study of Neanderthal DNA taken from fossil bones.  The team published research earlier on in the year linking a specific gene found in the fossils with the human gene thought to be associated with speech development.  These findings provided further evidence that the Neanderthals may have been capable of developing a language.  The team’s work indicates that the gene linked to speech processes appeared much earlier than previously thought – in the ancestors of humans and Neanderthals with Homo heidelbergensis being a likely candidate.

It is ironic that the German research team have likened Neanderthals to the Irish; as although these early people are strongly associated with Germany (named after the Neander valley near Dusseldorf where the first remains were found), Neanderthals were named by an Irish scientist.  It was Irishman William King who named Neanderthals as a separate species (H. neanderthalennsis), in a presentation to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1863.

A variant in DNA taken from Neanderthal bones behaves in a similar way to one associated with red hair and light skin in humans.  This study provides another link between our species and Neanderthals, but as to the exact relationship scientists still remain uncertain.

The proportion of humans with red hair is similar to that expected in the Neanderthal population, about 1%.  It the least common natural hair colour. Red hair is almost always linked to light skin, and experiments with a Neanderthal gene variant suggest it behaves similarly to a human gene variant that cuts down on skin pigment.  Palaeontologists had predicted that the Neanderthals would have light skin as they evolved in Europe at higher latitudes than Homo sapiens and therefore their skin did not need as much protection from sunlight.

The Neanderthals were very well adapted to the European climate at the time. Their squat bodies kept them warm and their powerful muscles helped them cope with the very tough life that they led.  Many Neanderthal skeletons bare witness to their tough lives, with the fossil bones carrying many injuries, the sort of injuries associated with modern rodeo riders.

The last of the Neanderthals died out 27,000 years ago, they held on in the Iberian peninsular before finally going extinct.  When they had gone they left the world with one single hominid species  – us; (not withstanding any surprises we don’t know about).

Children are fascinated with cave people, and we stock an Ice Age Play tube with Neanderthals and animals from the Ice Age such as Giant Sloths, Woolly Rhinos and Sabre Tooth Cats.  All the Neanderthals have light skin and red hair, did the designer know something that the scientists didn’t?

Ice Age Play Tube

Ice Age Play Set

Picture credit Everything Dinosaur.

Sales help support the Natural History museum in London so perhaps the palaeontologists had an input into the look of the cave people featured.  The set also features a fire place and a stone monolith with a cave painting, there is little evidence that Neanderthals indulged in cave art, but perhaps like the red hair and fair skin, the DNA study will reveal that they too were capable artists.

To view a range of prehistoric animal themed play sets available from Everything Dinosaur: Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal/Cave People Play Sets

Prehistoric Times – Autumn 2007 Edition

Review of Prehistoric Times Autumn Edition (Issue 83)

Prehistoric Times is a magazine for dinosaur enthusiasts and collectors of related prehistoric animal merchandise.  Four issues are produced each year, edited by Mike Fredericks, the magazine is printed in America and has a strong bias towards the United States, but can be published on a subscription basis and sent all over the world.

Each full colour magazine includes reviews of the latest model kits, plus interviews with artists and scientists.  Plus news and information about prehistoric life and the latest scientific discoveries.

The autumn edtion features an interview with the creator of Dinotopia James Gurney, on the eve of publication of his new Dinotopia novel “Journey to Chandara”.  The article provides an insight into this new novel in the Dinotopia saga, with lots of illustrations taken from the Dinotopia series.

Prehistoric Times – Front Cover

New Issue of PT

Picture courtesy of Prehistoric Times

The magazine also features articles on ratites (Terror Birds) and raptors illustrated by a number of well-known palaeo-artists, plus a reveiw of the latest models and kits.

To subscribe to this magazine:  Prehistoric Times

Helping Your Children with their Reading

Start of ”National Reading Year”  Encouraging Parents to Read to their Children

Today, Wednesday 24th October sees the start of “National Reading Year”  which aims to help more people, especially young people become avid readers.  As part of a series of campaigns that are due to run throughout the next 12 months, parents are being asked to read to their children before bed.

Many parents try to make time to do this, however, UK Government Ministers urged all parents to make an effort.  To make time for bed-time reading just as they would for time to brush the children’s teeth.  By reading to children in this way, it helps build up an affection for books at early age, hopefully this affection will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

By reading to children, parents can help young people understand more about language and sentence construction.  New words can be explored and explained helping to develop the child’s vocabulary.  The parent also benefits from this exercise, spending such quality time with the children is the perfect way to unwind after a difficult day at work.

The National Reading Year (NRY) will be led by Honor Wilson-Fletcher the Marketing Director at the London Southbank Centre.  The last  NRY was in 1998 and it was criticised for not making a lasting impact on the reading habits of the nation.

Books can help develop children’s imagination and also encourage them to write creatively as well.  It is best to choose a subject that the child is fond of, dinosaur books come in very handy.   There are many story books to choose from and the team at Everything Dinosaur are currently researching more books (approved by our dinosaur experts) to add to our shop.

A particular favourite is “Triceratops Gets Lost”, this book has been especially designed to help young people learn to read.  The story centres around a young Triceratops that has lost its herd, the book comes with a special cuddly Triceratops soft toy as a “bed-time buddy”.  The book also contains a CD-rom so that the child can have the book read to them and follow the story via a home computer.

Triceratops Book: Dinosaur Books for Kids

This book is one of a series of two (the other features T.rex looking for dinner), they have been designed for children between 3-6 years and the authors have made sure that the story contains words that can help children expand their word usage and reading skills.

Chinese Workers build Dam to Protect Dinosaurs

Dam to Protect Dinosaurs

Chinese construction workers have spent three years building a huge earth dam to protect priceless dinosaur bones from being washed away by the Heilongjiang river in China’s northernmost province.

There are a number of very important Mesozoic fossil sites in China, indeed the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing has a collection of over 200,000 fossil vertebrates and this is rapidly becoming the largest collection in the world.

The Heilongjiang river, is one of the longest rivers in China and marks the border between Russia and China.  The name means “Black Dragon River”, which is very appropriate considering the number of dinosaur bones that are revealed each year as flood-waters erode riverbanks.

To date, thousands of dinosaur fossil bones have been unearthed from the surrounding sediments.  Thirteen complete dinosaur skeletons have so far been excavated, these are on display at a number of Chinese museums.  Palaeontologists have estimated that there may be as many as 100 more complete dinosaur skeletons waiting to be discovered but every summer flooding from the Heilongjiang river washes away fossil deposits.  Although the waters do help to expose fossils a large number of specimens have been washed away and lost.

The Land and Resources Department of Heilongjiang Province ordered the building of a 1, 450 metre long earth embankment on the Chinese side of the river to prevent the fossils being washed away.  The dam has taken three years to complete, the work has been hampered due to the cold winters and the problem with the summer flood-waters interrupting the construction work.

The fossil rich area is to be called Dinosaur Mountain and this area is now protected from the damage caused by the flood-waters.  This site is part of the Jiayin Dinosaur National Geological Park and the new earthworks should help palaeontologists recover many more dinosaur specimens.

Christmas Gift Ideas from Everything Dinosaur

Why Not Try Dinosaur This Christmas?

From cuddly toys, to educational posters, books, puzzles and kits, to mind-boggling inflatables and funky T-shirts Everything Dinosaur offers fabulous gift ideas for Christmas. Run by passionate dinosaur enthusiasts, parents and teachers, this is no ordinary web site but one which strives to promote the love of dinosaurs and educate people about this wondrous period in history.   If you’re looking for a Christmas gift which is big on fun and makes prehistoric times bang up to date, then a website all about dinosaurs is the perfect place to explore – Everything Dinosaur

From the adorable cuddly Woolly Mammoth and baby to the clever Dinosaur Excavation Game to the fascinating and educational posters there is truly something for everyone, of all ages.

Woolly Mammoth and Baby: Dinosaur Stuffed Animals

Dinosaur Excavation Game: Dino Board Games and Puzzles

Plus if you need to give Santa a hand to fill stockings, then take  a look at the Dinosaur Erasers, Dinosaur Pens or the fantastic value Woodencraft Velociraptor.  It’s enough to make you want to flatten bushes by swishing your tail with excitement!

Maybe there is a dinosaur for everyone?  An inflatable Tyrannosaurus rex will add “roooar” to a children’s party or bedroom, whilst little sister will love the pink Diplodocus T-shirt.

Creative family members or friends will really enjoy the Mould & Paint Dino or the Dino Making Kit.  For the person who loves an unusual gift, why not surprise them with a Mammoth Skull Kit or the Replica Sabre-Tooth, a cast from a real tooth from the Natural History museum.

However, the people behind Everything Dinosaur are more than on-line retailers – they are dinosaur enthusiasts who promote education and knowledge on this huge subject.  The team specialise in the supply of dinosaur and prehistoric animal related hobby products and merchandise.  Working in association with museums and educational bodies, the company has proved there is a market for accurate, exciting, imaginative and educational products for people of all ages.

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