All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//November
20 11, 2007

Nigersaurus – An unusual long-necked Dinosaur that grazed like a Cow

By | November 20th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Latest Research Findings on Nigersaurus

As Dinosaurs dominated life on Earth during the latter part of the Mesozoic they diversified into many varied forms, each genus adapting to a specific way of life and filling an ecological niche.

Further research has just been published (November 2007) on a particularly bizarre looking sauropod from Africa – Nigersaurus.

Nigersaurus was first described in 1976 but little was known about this Diplodocoid sauropod as although many isolated bones and fragments of fossils had been recovered very few were found in any form of association or articulation, so piecing together a complete picture of this animal was proving difficult.  Nigersaurus (means “Niger lizard”) has been found in the fossil rich sediments of the Elrhaz Formation in the Niger Republic – Africa.  A rich variety of fauna has been recovered from this particular fossil site including fossils of the Iguanodont Ouranosaurus and the huge, ancient crocodile Sarcosuchus, however because of the nature of the bones of Nigersaurus (highly pneumatic – filled with air spaces) and the delicate structure of the skull the remains of Nigersaurus were often overlooked in favour of better preserved and articulated specimens.

Now research published in the scientific journal “The Public Library of Science” building on work carried out by the American palaeontologist, Paul Sereno (University of Chicago) and his colleagues has shed new light on this remarkable animal.

Nigersaurus lived during the early/middle Cretaceous, fossil evidence suggests that these type of animals were around from 119 to approximately 99 million years ago (Aptian and Albian faunal stages).  It was a member of the Rebbachisaur family, a group of Sauropods from the southern continents and Europe.  Estimates of size vary but it is believed that Nigersaurus grew to lengths of around 10 metres and when compared to more typical Diplodocoids its neck was considerably shorter.  The most remarkable feature of the Rebbachisaurs, and very evident in Nigersaurus was the extensive battery of sophisticated teeth.  Nigersaurus had upwards of 600 teeth in its jaws.  These teeth were arranged in rows along the front edges of the jaws, forming effective 30 cm long shears for cropping vegetation.  Study of the head and neck vertebrae indicate that the head was held close to the ground and Nigersaurus was probably a low level browser, shearing away at ferns, horsetails and other ground level plants like a cow grazing.

A Picture of Nigersaurus

Source: Wired Science

Using CT scans to reveal the strange dentition in the jaws, scientists have calculated that each row of teeth had at least 9 replacement teeth ready in the jaws ready to erupt through the bone and replace any teeth lost.  The mouth parts of Nigersaurus have been described as a huge vacuum cleaner, hoovering up vegetation as it went along.  The ultra light skull and back bones had made this animal difficult to study, but the CT scan showed the placement of delicate canals in the brain-case area and research into their orientation indicates that Nigersaurus spent most of its time with its head lowered to the ground.

It is not known whether Nigersaurus had thick lips or a prehensile truck to assist it with feeding, other similar appendages have been speculated for Diplodocoids but as soft tissue rarely fossilises no evidence for this has been found.

The Jaws of Nigersaurus (front (anterior) view)

Nigersaurus Jaws (Anterior View)

Picture credit: Wired Science

The eyes were positioned relatively high on the skull and like all other sauropods were on the side of the head, this enabled Nigersaurus to keep a careful watch out for predators as it grazed with its head facing the ground.  Living in herds would also have provided protection as in a group some animals would be feeding whilst others would have had their heads raised keeping watch for hungry theropods.  The close cropping action of Nigersaurus may have influenced the evolution of plants with many of the angiosperms (flowering plants) developing a low to the ground growing habit.  Grass for example, has an adaptation to overcome grazing as the growing point of the plant is at soil level thus permitting the plants to grow back after having been grazed.  There is no evidence of grass from this particular part of the Cretaceous, perhaps further research into the palynology (study of microfossils such as spores and pollen) will provide further information of the flora around at the time of Nigersaurus.

From evidence recovered in numerous expeditions Nigersaurus has been formerly named and described – Nigersaurus taqueti by Paul Sereno and his team.  The species name ascribed to this animal honours the French palaeontologist Philippe Taquet who first uncovered the strange lightweight, air sac filled bones of this animal.  The peculiar dentition of Rebbachisaurids, a sort of battery of cropping teeth is an example of parallel evolution within dinosaurs.  Groups of ornithischian dinosaurs such as Hadrosaurs and Ceratopsians also developed batteries of many hundreds of teeth, but in these bird-hipped dinosaurs the teeth were located towards the back of the jaws and formed an immense grinding service to help them cope with their tough diet.

Keeping your head close to ground was a dangerous habit during the middle Cretaceous.  Nigersaurus shared its world with a number of top predators including Spinosaurids and Abelisaurs.

Even lakes and rivers held their dangers, fossils of Sarcosuchus (means “flesh crocodile”) have been found in the same deposits as Nigersaurus.  This primitive crocodile grew to lengths of 40 feet or more and weighed an estimated 8 tonnes, certainly big enough to ambush a young Nigersaurus as it came down to drink.

There is just one model of Sarcosuchus available, as far as we know but Deinosuchus (means “terrible crocodile”) is available from Schleich.

Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models: Dinosaur Models for Girls and Boys – Dinosaur Toys

19 11, 2007

Dating the Mesozoic Cow – It was the Fish and Ostracods that did it!

By | November 19th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|1 Comment

Dating an early Mammal Tooth to the very end of the Cretaceous

On Friday 9th November we published an article about the discovery of an ancient tooth, believed to come from an early ancestor of ungulates (hoofed mammals) from 65 million years ago.  The discovery had been made in India, and this find was important as very little is known about late Cretaceous mammals.

To read article: Very ancient udders! Mesozoic cow discovered in India

At first we queried whether the tooth had indeed been recovered from late Maastrichtian strata, thus placing this tooth at the very end of the age of Dinosaurs 65 million years ago.  The diversification and geographical distribution of mammals is still very poorly understood at this particular time in Earth’s history.  Material from the southern continents (Gondwanaland) is particularly rare, with most mammal fossils from this particular faunal stage having been recovered from the northern hemisphere – Laurasia.

However, one of the research scholars who worked on this particular discovery, Omkar Verma of the department of Geology (University of Jammu), was able to furnish us with a little more information.  From the articles and research papers that we were sent, it seems that the tooth was dated using other micro-fossil remains that had been recovered from the same matrix and the same site.  In particular remains of an ancient fish (a ray) Igdabatis indicus; and evidence from the many types of ostracod (crustaceans) and their carapaces indicates that the tooth came from the Maastrichtian faunal stage, placing this ancient mammal at the time of the last of the dinosaurs.

Dating of fossils using “key” or “indicator” species which have a more precise date assigned to them in the palaeontological record is called biostratigraphy.  The remains of I. indicus are associated with the very late Cretaceous and so it seems that the mammalian tooth can be dated to that time period as well.

Ostracods, are still abundant today (the date back to the Cambrian period) and live in both marine and freshwater environments, there are thousands of different genera.  As the carapace or shell can enclose the entire body including the legs they are often referred to as “seed shrimps”, but their importance to micro-palaeontolgists cannot be underestimated.  The huge numbers of micro-fossil remains and their prevalence all over the world enables scientists to accurately date geological deposits and thus assist in the dating of rarer finds such as in this case, the ancient mammalian molar from an ancestor of cows.

18 11, 2007

Digging Up Dinosaurs – Book Review

By | November 18th, 2007|Book Reviews, Main Page|0 Comments

Digging Up Dinosaurs – Book Review

If you have ever wondered how and where dinosaur fossils are found and thought about wanting to have a go at excavating your very own dinosaur, then this book (an ideal dinosaur book for kids),  is for you.

Combining information about the Age of Reptiles, the hard book cover folds out into a one metre wide sized booklet that takes young dinosaur fans through the step-by-step process of conducting their own dinosaur dig.  With a little guidebook included entitled “The Fossil Finders Handbook”, this very well crafted and colourful publication explains how palaeontologists unlock secrets from the past.

The book has been designed so that it can be folded outwards to provide a 3-D Tyrannosaurus skeleton that can be hung on a bedroom wall as an informative dinosaur poster.  The two main dinosaurs featured are Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops and information and lots of facts are provided about these two late Cretaceous dinosaurs in particular.

It is a colourful and informative publication with a unique style and layout which will appeal to children aged 5-6 years and upwards.

To view this book: Dinosaur Books for Kids

17 11, 2007

Where is the best place to find a new Dinosaur – in a museum collection?

By | November 17th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

If you want to find a new Dinosaur Species- try looking in a Museum’s Vaults

The romantic notion of an earnest young palaeontologist exploring the base of a cliff away from the rest of the dig team and uncovering their very own brand new genus of dinosaur is a bit fanciful, but these occasions do occur.  However, sometimes amazing discoveries can be made by simply re-examining earlier finds in museum collections.

This is precisely what happened to Mike Taylor, a PhD student from the University of Portsmouth who has discovered a brand new type of sauropod (long-necked dinosaur) whilst studying at the Natural History museum – London.

For Mike, who has been studying the vertebrae of sauropods for 5 years as soon as he saw the strange partially complete fossil bone, he knew it was very different from fossil vertebrae he had seen before.  The isolated bone represents a posterior part of the dorsal vertebrae section of an elephant-sized sauropod.  The fossil was unearthed in the early 1890s in Ecclesbourne Glen, near Hastings in the county of Kent.  Unfortunately since palaeontology was very much in its infancy and the importance of accurate mapping of find locations was not well understood, no detailed records were kept of the actual site.

The fossil was acquired by the Natural History museum and briefly reviewed by the English palaeontologist Richard Lydekker in 1893, but after this it was simply stored in the vaults – that is until a very observant PhD student came along and noted its significance.

Mike Taylor with his New Discovery

Picture credit: Wired Science

This new dinosaur has been named Xenoposeidon proneneukus, which means “alien sauropod – forward sloping” in homage to another sauropod called Sauroposeidon discovered in Western North America and because the upper portion of this single bone slopes forward.  It has been estimated that this animal lived during the early Cretaceous approximately 130 million years ago and from the shape and structure of this single dorsal vertebra it appears to represent a totally new family of Sauropoda.

Mike’s work is to published in the academic journal “Palaeontology” and here’s hoping that his diligence and hard work leads to more exciting discoveries in the museum’s collection.

Having been privileged to visit behind the scenes at a number of museums, the fact that new species of dinosaur (and even new families) can be found does not really surprise us.  For example, the Natural History museum has over 70 million specimens in its collection, the vast majority in storage.  Many of the fossils unearthed in the past have been misidentified and mis-labelled so there may be other fascinating finds awaiting discovery.

Once whilst at the Royal Tyrrell museum in Alberta, Canada we calculated that in their fossil depository, the tonnes and tonnes of burlap covered fossil bearing rock would take over 100 years to prepare and describe properly.  One hundred years, if every single palaeontologist and team worker stopped what they were doing and then spent 8 hours a day working on the museum’s back catalogue.

16 11, 2007

Distinguishing between Art and Science in Palaeontology

By | November 16th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Press Releases|0 Comments

The Difference between Art and Science

Team members at Everything Dinosaur encourage people to try to draw their fossil finds and discoveries.  Photographs of objects are very useful but our dinosaur and fossil experts don’t really believe you understand an object until you have observed it carefully as it is sketched.

So what is the difference between science and art?  This is quite a difficult question and we would not want to make any value judgements between these two disciplines but the best explanation we can find goes like this:

Science differs from artistic endeavours in that there is more emphasis on evidence than undirected interpretation.  Science is at its best when it is constrained by rules and discipline, whilst art is often at its worst when the artist concerned feels constrained and restricted by rules.

For young children, we encourage lots of different learning activities involving dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.  Some are art based with lots of drawing, whilst we also conduct experiments with fossils and dinosaurs as part of our company’s dinosaur workshops in schools programme.

15 11, 2007

Newsletter – Christmas Gift Ideas from Everything Dinosaur

By | November 15th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur Newsletters, Main Page|1 Comment

Christmas Gift Ideas from Everything Dinosaur

Dear Newsletter reader, (note from the editor – we do personalise all our newsletter addresses)

With Christmas just 42 days away your thoughts may be turning to what to get the Dinosaur fans in your family.  Here are a couple of suggestions from Everything Dinosaur to inspire young palaeontologists.

Dinosaur Games:  an unusual twist on a traditional board game,  with the added bonus of learning all about dinosaurs (2-6 players),  just £19.99 plus P+P.

Dinosaur Crafts:  a museum quality cast of a real T. rex tooth one of the very first T. rex teeth ever found only £4.75 plus P+P.

With over hundreds of dinosaur themed toys and gifts there is something for everyone at Everything Dinosaur.

Best wishes:
Mike

14 11, 2007

Frequently Asked Questions

By | November 14th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Frequently Asked Questions

The Internet entrepreneur Simon Nixon in an interview recently stated that “in the worldwide web, nothing stands still in this industry, change happens in a heartbeat”.

We are not about to doubt his words as we are constantly bombarded with offers, tips and promotions to do with our websites and in particular our main dinosaur and prehistoric animal website – Everything Dinosaur

Still, over the last few weeks we have been working on two new initiatives related to our little company.  Firstly, we have added a Frequently Asked Questions section to our website (FAQs).  These pages went live yesterday and they feature a number of questions that have been asked by our customers and visitors.  We have done our best to provide further information, plus of course adding our contact details and the ability to e-mail us if any visitor should require further clarification or assistance.

Our new FAQ pages:  FAQs

On the subject of frequently asked questions, we must write some web log articles on some of the more popular questions that our experts get asked, but this will have to wait for another day.

The second new development is going to be our first ever customer newsletter.  Rather than rely on our IT support  to write this we have decided that some of the less Internet savvy team members should get involved.   After all, it is all part of the customer service at Everything Dinosaur.

There are a couple of reasons behind this thinking:

1).  With e-commerce becoming more popular the rest of us had better brush up our IT skills.

2).  This gives everyone in the company the chance to learn a new skill.

Our first newsletter will be quite basic, but after all our attempts and the hours we have spent we are quite proud of it.  As teachers, parents and dinosaur experts we profess not to have a great deal of hypertext markup language experience but with a little tuition we seem to have completed this exercise without too many anxiety attacks.

Naturally, the best measure of our work will be in the responses we get from our newsletter subscribers.  We intend to send out the newsletter today (Wednesday), so we will soon find out.

Now to the next task, finding a way of publishing our first newsletter on this web log…

The industry may be changing rapidly, we tend to be a little less quick in our ability to update technology; we would rather focus on satisfying our customers and packing orders, so I guess we have got our priorities just about right.  However, today should see our first newsletter go out, so we may not be the fastest when it comes to grasping new ideas and technology but rather like the tortoise in the race against the hare; we get there in the end.

13 11, 2007

Is it a Book or is it a Board Game? It’s Both!

By | November 13th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

The Book of Prehistoric Pop-Up Board Games

A novel twist to a conventional book about prehistoric animals,“Prehistoric Pop-Up Board Games”, combines the features of a book about dinosaurs and other animals from the Age of Reptiles with four prehistoric themed board games.

The Book of Prehistoric Board Games

Is it a book or a game – it is both!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur (Tango)

To view this book: Dinosaur Books for Kids

Beautifully illustrated by the well-known commercial artist Robert Nicholls, the book takes players through four prehistoric adventures from the Jurassic and Cretaceous.  Each game section can be played by four players and individual game counters are provided within the book’s contents for you – although more players can join in, little model dinosaurs make excellent counters too.

In the first game, you become an Allosaurus, a fierce meat-eater from the late Jurassic and you have to hunt down a Stegosaurus.  Players then move onto the Cretaceous and face the perils of being a baby Pterosaur just hatched looking for a tasty fish to eat; before plunging into the sea to confront the mighty Mosasaurs and other marine perils as you attempt to swim to safety, with your counter which could either be an Ichthyosaur, Plesiosaur or Pliosaur.

Of course any children’s book would not be complete with out an appearance by Tyrannosaurus rex.  Your travels send you to very last days of the dinosaurs and choosing your herbivorous dinosaur game counter you face the dangers of the late Cretaceous of North America and try to avoid becoming a snack for the ever-hungry predator.

We found the book/games fun and suitable for children aged 5+, although it did appeal to a couple of very enthusiastic 4-year olds we know, who took to it with equal relish.

The Tyrannosaurus rex Game – Will you get Eaten?

Try the T. rex game, one of four in this book.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

12 11, 2007

Digging for Dinosaurs

By | November 12th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Digging for Dinosaurs – Excavate your own Prehistoric Animals

We often get asked by school children “what does it feel like when you find a fossil?”.  No matter how small and insignificant the find we still get a thrill out of finding fossils, especially when you have been working all day at a dig site, or wandering up and down some shoreline with a gale blowing into your face.

I recall one occasion when we were working with a team of palaeontologists excavating an assemblage of Hadrosaur remains that had been deposited in an ancient stream bed.  The carcases had accumulated and become heaped up onto each other, there were at least three adult Hadrosaurs within the matrix.  Although it was early days and no skull material had yet been found we were confident that they were the remains of  Edmontosaurus.  Before the bones were buried this pile of corpses had attracted a number of scavengers.  We found crocodilian teeth and a single tooth from a Troodontid.

All in all the site yielded a lot of palaeontological evidence, although I do remember one day when I toiled under the hot sun (we were digging in Alberta as part of a Royal Tyrrell museum team); for hours and hours and although stations either side of me were working on impressive fossils (tibia and fibia to be precise), where I had chosen to dig I could find nothing.  I even went back over the sediment I removed and sieved it again in case I had missed some tiny fragment.  After all my labour, late in the afternoon I uncovered my first fossil of the day – a piece of ossified tendon, tiny, but to me I was thrilled!

No matter whether it is the simplest brachiopod, bivalve, belemnites or an articulated Brachiosaur, finding something that lived millions of years ago, and exposing it to human eyes for the first time – it still is an enormous thrill.

When we work on designing items for young palaeontologists we try to create products and games that give them a chance to relive the experience of excavating their very own fossils.

One such product is the “Digging for Dinosaurs” range.  Models of prehistoric animal skeletons are set into a solid block of gypsum and then using the tools provided in the kit, children can have a go at excavating their own prehistoric animal.  If only the real thing was as much fun and came with the guarantee of finding a complete specimen in a single block.

Still, that is not the point, these kits are fun and give a real sense of achievement when all the digging is done.  There are a number of such kits available – the larger ones (house brick size) are called “Dig a Dino” animals in the series include Tyrannosaurus rex, Velociraptor, Triceratops, Stegosaurus and a Pterosaur (Pteranodon).

Dinosaur crafts: Dinosaur Crafts for Kids

Dig-a- Dino Range Product Shot

Source: Everything Dinosaur (Kids Labs)

Here are a couple of tips for all the parents of budding palaeontologists:

1).  It is a good idea to put plenty of newspaper down (we use lots of newspaper to wrap specimens in real dig), but in this case it is best to do this as it saves a lot of cleaning up afterwards.

2).  A thump with a mallet is a good way to start the dig (get Dad to do this).

3).  Keep the gypsum bits away from your sink and certainly don’t flush bits away down the plughole, you might lose part of your model skeleton and in extreme cases block the drain.

11 11, 2007

Putting Australian Dinosaurs on the Map

By | November 11th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

Joint US and Australian Team excavate Rich Fossil Beds in Queensland

The small town of Winton in the centre of Queensland has become the focus for an international team of palaeontologists as they try to unearth secrets of Australia’s prehistoric past.

Researchers from the University of Queensland and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, USA are hoping that the extremely rich Mesozoic fossil beds will shed new light on the relationship between Australia’s Dinosaur fauna and the rest of the world.

The team are currently excavating a series of bone beds close to the town of Winton on the Australian route 66.  The town’s only other claim to fame is that the song “Waltzing Matilda” is believed to have originated there.

The joint US and Aussie team headed by Dr Steve Salisbury (University of Queensland)  and Dr Matt Lamanna (Carnegie) are hoping that their work will help palaeontologists understand the evolution of dinosaurs on the southern landmass of Gondwana, of which Australia was part during the Mesozoic.

Australian dinosaur fauna is little known when compared to the evidence amassed about dinosaurs in Europe, the Americas and Asia.  Many scientists see the Australian fauna as an unusual blend of ancient genera long extinct elsewhere in the world and other types of dinosaur more commonly associated with the Northern Hemisphere.

For example, evidence has been uncovered previously that indicated that Allosaurs (large bipedal meat-eaters) survived in Australia into the Cretaceous whilst elsewhere in the world this particular family of dinosaurs died out.

As well as finding some new species the scientists are hoping to uncover evidence of animals moving between the landmasses that comprised Gondwana, with the expectation that some of the dinosaur groups associated with South America may also have been present in Australia.

According to Drs Salisbury and Lamanna, the great wealth of fossil material at the Winton site should help them piece together the story of Australia’s prehistoric animals.

Digging Up Australia’s Prehistoric Past

Dr Salisbury (left) assisted by a student carefully excavating dinosaur bones.

Picture credit: University of Queensland

This joint US and Australian research is funded in part by an Australian Research Council grant, and is being conducted in collaboration with the Isisford Shire Council.

Story sourced from: University of Queensland (09/11/07) – “Digging for Dinosaurs in Outback Australia”.

University of Queensland (2007, November 9). Digging For Dinosaurs In Outback Australia.
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