Contrasting Ankylosaurs – Bullyland Ankylosaurus v Schleich Saichania

Different Interpretations of Ankylosaurs

The recent introduction of new armoured dinosaur models from two well-known and globally respected manufacturers gives Everything Dinosaur team members the opportunity to compare and contrast the differing interpretations of two Ankylosaurs.

In September, Schleich launched their re-designed model of Saichania (S. chulsanensis) a late Cretaceous Ankylosaur from Mongolia.  This model is part of the Schleich Saurus range.  Bullyland, also of Germany (Schleich is a German company), launched their version of Ankylosaurus (A. magniventris), a better known dinosaur, one that dates from the very end of the dinosaurs (late Cretaceous – Maastrichtian faunal stage).  The Bullyland Ankylosaurus depicts an animal that lived in North America, it forms part of the company’s “Museum Line” model range.

A Picture of the Two Dinosaur Models (Schleich and Bullyland)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In the picture, the Bullyland Ankylosaurus is in the background with the Schleich Saichania in the foreground.

To view the Bullyland Ankylosaurus and the Schleich Ankylosaurus as well as other dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys for Girls and Boys

Ankylosaurs are quadrupedal, herbivorous Ornithischian dinosaurs from the late Cretaceous, distinguished by their heavy, extensive dermal armour and bony tail clubs.  The largest known genus is Ankylosaurus itself, reaching lengths in excess of 10 metres whilst the Saichania was slightly smaller with a maximum length of around 7 metres.  The Bullyland model depicts a more lithe and agile looking dinosaur, whilst the Schleich representation of Saichania, shows it as a more squat and heavy-set animal.  The dermal scutes in the Saichania are raised into a series of horn-shaped projections whilst the armour on the Bullyland Ankylosaurus takes on more of a carapace appearance.  The position and orientation of dermal armour in dinosaurs is often difficult to deduce given the fragmentary nature of fossil discoveries and the lack of fossil material being found in association or articulation.

As with many other dinosaur genera, skull characteristics play a substantial role in determining the taxonomic classification.  In one genus of Ankylosaur; Shanxia (Chinese Ankylosaurus – S. tianzhenensis), it has been distinguished from other Ankylosaurs in part by the slope and position of the skull horns.

A Close Up of the Two Ankylosaur Models

Close inspection of the dinosaur models

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In the picture above, the Bullyland Ankylosaurus is shown on the left and the Schleich Saichania is depicted on the right.  The shape of the muzzle, the beak and the teeth can all help palaeontologists to speculate on the feeding habits of these large herbivores.  The snout and beak of Ankylosaurus was particularly broad compared to other Thyreophorans, indicating an unfussy diet for this low browser.

What sort of Dinosaur was Thyreophora?

Thyreophora not a Dinosaur Genus but a Sub-Order of Dinosauria

As team members of Everything Dinosaur visit schools and meet pupils we get asked lots of questions from enthusiastic dinosaur fans.  One of our staff was asked the other day by one particular dinosaur fan, what sort of dinosaur was a Thyreophora?  She had come across the word on line but she had not been able to find it in any of her dinosaur books.

The word Thyreophora or Thyreophorans does not relate to just one particular genus of dinosaur but describes a Sub-Order of Dinosauria.  The word means “shield bearers” and refers to a group of Ornithischian dinosaurs characterised by the presence of armour plates arranged along their sides and the top of their bodies.  The Sub-Order Thyreophora contains the familiar dinosaur families of the Stegosauridae and the Ankylosauridae.

An Illustration of a Typical Thyreophoran Dinosaur (Ankylosaurus)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The diagram above is of a Late Cretaceous Thyreophoran dinosaur – Ankylosaurus, a heavily armoured, 10 metre long herbivore from North America.

To view a model of Ankylosaurus and other dinosaur models: Dinosaur Models for Boys and Girls – Dinosaurs

As well as the presence of dermal armour, these members of the bird-hipped group of dinosaurs are also distinguished by anatomical differences between themselves and other dinosaurs.  These types of dinosaurs have unusual hip-bones, they lack the oburator process on the ischium.  The oburator process is a blade-like process that projects out from the ischium, a bone in direct contact with the pubis bone in Ornithischia.

One of the earliest members of the Thyreophora was Scutellosaurus.  It was a small (one metre long), fast running primitive member of this Sub-Order.  Scutellosaurus had parallel rows of bony studs running down its neck and back and a long, thin tail.  Its hindlimbs were longer than its forelimbs and it was probably a facultative biped.  In biology, the term facultative describes the ability to undertake an activity by desire rather than obligation.  Facultative bipeds were quadrupeds that when required, were capable of rising up on their hind limbs and walking or running.  As Thyreophorans became larger and more heavily armoured they lost this ability to adopt a bipedal posture.

Fossil evidence of the earliest known Thyreophorans date from the Lower Jurassic, a number of fossils have been found in the Western United States and England.  Scientists have postulated that the origins of this particular group of dinosaurs are in the Triassic, but as far as we know there have been no Thyreophoran fossils found to date in strata dating from the Triassic period.

Everything Dinosaur Blog – Averaging 100,000 page views per Month

Everything Dinosaur Blog – 100,000 page views per Month

The Everything Dinosaur blog site continues to go from strength to strength.  With nearly 900 articles published, the site is getting quite big these days.  We try to write an article each day, something about our company, dinosaur discoveries, science news and such like.  A review of the web log’s site statistics show that over the last quarter the web log (otherwise known as a blog) has registered an average of more than 100,000 page views per month.

Sometime before the spring of 2010 we are due to publish our 1,000th article, to keep a blog going in these busy times is an achievement in itself and we are very grateful for all the comments and feedback we receive.  We have tried to estimate the number of words written in the blog to date, this is very difficult to do, but with nearly 900 articles we calculate that something like one million words have now been published.

Our plans for 2010 include keeping up with the daily web log articles, perhaps by the end of next year we will have increased our readership and page views still further – perhaps 150,000 page views could be achieved?

Dinosaur Cake Toppers – Dinosaur Cake Decorations

Dinosaur Cake Toppers – Dinosaur Cake Decorations

In response to requests from customers and visitors to the Everything Dinosaur website who have downloaded our free party cake recipe ideas, we have added a new product to our range.  Announcing the arrival of dinosaur cake toppers, otherwise known as dinosaur cake decorations.

To view the Everything Dinosaur party cake downloads: Dinosaur Party Cakes

Team members at Everything Dinosaur, have been asked to recommend inexpensive, yet robust dinosaur models suitable for putting on a dinosaur themed cake, such as a dinosaur birthday cake.  Always up for a challenge, our experts have identified a set of dinosaur and prehistoric animals that fit the bill.  Best of all once they have been used to decorate a cake, these study robust models can be quickly washed to remove any icing or other cake residues and they are ready for creative, imaginative play.  Models vary in size from 11cm to 16cm in our chosen cake toppers range.

Set of Five Dinosaur Cake Decorations (Dinosaur Cake Toppers)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Please note, whilst we promise to send out 5 different models, those supplied may vary from those illustrated in the picture – but whatever our experts send, you can be assured that the models will be cool, and just great for imaginative play.

These models are not for eating (non-edible), but make lasting gifts once the party cake has been consumed.

Our dedicated dinosaur experts promise to supply five different prehistoric animal models in every set, five being in our opinion, an ideal number to place on a dinosaur cake.  So if you are looking for the finishing touch to your wonderful dinosaur themed birthday cake, then look no further, these handy dinosaur models are just the thing to make your young dinosaur fans swish their dinosaur tails in excitement.

To view dinosaur themed birthday candles and Everything Dinosaur’s dinosaur party accessories: Dinosaur Party – Dinosaur Birthday Party Supplies

Time to Feel Good About Ouselves – Feedback from Customers

Feedback from Everything Dinosaur Customers

With the season of goodwill towards all men definitely upon us, the team members at Everything Dinosaur have been sorting through all the many hundreds of letters and feedback forms sent in by customers over the last few months.  We work very hard to ensure that all our customers get tip-top service from us, and the feedback forms, letters and emails we receive reflect the way in which we genuinely try to help.

A short blog today, as we out of the office but here are some of the comments from Everything Dinosaur customers that we have received over the last few weeks.

“Very impressed with the customer service and turnaround time.  Delivered to Ireland in under a week” – Janet (Ireland)

“Thank you for including the fact sheets on prehistoric animals, an unexpected and helpful bonus” – Elizabeth (Glos)

“Magnifique” – Jean (France)

“Thank you for the very quick and prompt delivery” – Sally (Isle of Man)

“Lots of really good stuff for my autistic grandson” – Sheila (Nottinghamshire)

“Great range of models and I really appreciated the customer service” – Carl (New York)

Thank you to all our customers, to the teachers that we have helped, to the schools that we have visited and to all those nice people who have given us feedback on our performance.

Thank you

To visit the Everything Dinosaur website: Our Everything Dinosaur website

And Darwin Mentions the Quagga

Darwin uses the Quagga to help explain the Laws of Variation

It is interesting to note whilst re-reading the Origin of Species, that Darwin uses the example of several genera of horses to demonstrate reversion in natural selection with striped markings appearing in the offspring of many separate species from the family Equus (horses).

When Darwin’s ground-breaking book the Origin of Species, or to give its full title “The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”, was first published the year was 1859.  The science of genetics did not exist and there was no known scientific mechanism for passing on inheritance.  In chapter 5, Darwin sets out his thoughts on the laws of variation in nature.  He uses Equus (horses) to illustrate how species of the same genus can vary in an analogous manner.  Analogy in this instance is describing the resemblance of structures which depends upon similarity of function, as in the wings of insects and birds.  Such structures are said to be analogous, and to be analogues of each other.

One of the animals used to illustrate the points made by Darwin in this chapter is the South African Quagga.  At the time Darwin wrote this book, the Quagga was still around but within a few years this particular striped horse had been hunted to extinction.

An Illustration of Quagga

Picture Credit: London Ist.

The Quagga had the distinctive markings of the plains Zebra on the head and neck, but the dark markings between the white bars grew darker and whiter towards the rear of the animal with the rump dark brown in colour.  Sadly, this animal was hunted to extinction for meat, hides and to preserve grazing land for domesticated animals.  The last Quagga in the wild was probably killed in the late 1870′s.  Darwin may have viewed a Quagga as there was one at London Zoo until this animal died in 1870.  The Quagga has the remarkable distinction of being one of the very few extinct animals where the date is known when they became extinct.  The last Quagga, alive on Earth was kept in a Zoo in Holland. When this animal died on August 12th 1883, these animals became extinct.

Ironically, even though Darwin et al referred to the Quagga as a separate species, the DNA of hides and the very few skeletons of this animal that remain indicate that it was actually a sub-species of the highly variable plains Zebra.  Attempts are being made to reproduce the Quagga by selectively breeding Zebra species.

The name Quagga was taken from a native language, it is supposed to be onomatopoeic as the sound made by pronouncing the word reflects the call made by the animal.

As these animals have become extinct in recent history, those exhibits seen in museum collections are not fossils but actual skeletons.  The Quagga skeleton is believed to be the rarest mammal skeleton on the planet kept in museums, as so few of these creatures were preserved and retained in Natural History Museum collections.

Merry Christmas to all our Web Log Readers

Merry Christmas from Everything Dinosaur

The great day has arrived and Christmas is finally here.  Here’s hoping that all our web log readers have a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year.  We have lots of exciting plans for 2010, but before we get there we have perhaps the worst job of the year ahead of us – stock take.  Between now and New Year we will all be in the warehouse counting the stock, with something like 700 product lines it is a Mammoth (no pun intended) task.

Still, I’m sure someone will bring in some mince pies and biscuits and this will keep us going.

On behalf of all the team members at Everything Dinosaur have a Happy Christmas.

Construction Workers on South African Dam Find Permian Aged Fossils

Permian Aged Fossils – Important Discoveries made at Dam Site

The last period of the Palaeozoic era was the Permian, it ended with the largest mass extinction event in recorded time, the greatest die off of species for 500 million years or more when at least 90% of all land and marine organisms became extinct.  Scientists are always excited when new discoveries of fossils dating from the end of the Permian are announced, they can help them to piece together the causes and the consequences of this mass extinction event.

A series of fossiliferous beds dating from the end of the Permian (250 million years ago) have been found during the construction of a new dam, in Bedford, in the Free State (South Africa).  The country of South Africa is one of the most important places in the world for finds of late Permian fossils (Karoo Basin), in a statement sent out to the press it has been stated that “scientists working at the new Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme have mad exciting discoveries of the remains of animals that walked the Earth around 250 million years ago.”

A local resident of the area discovered the first set of teeth of an ancient animal during the construction work in November.  A palaeontologist, Dr Gideon Groenewald, was then appointed as a consultant to review any other finds that may turn up as a result of the excavation work.

About 19 tons of rock was blasted and removed from the construction area for further examination.  Material collected included bone and teeth of plant-eating animals and predators, all dating from the end of the Permian.

Commenting on the new discoveries, Dr. Groenewald said:

“The discoveries are of unique importance for science and help in the understanding of the pre-history of the rocks that underlie the eastern Free State.”

The fossil material will be taken to the National Museum in Bloemfontein for further studies, although it is hoped that some of the fossils will be returned to the construction site for the dam, to feature in a planned visitor centre.

The scientists responsible for the study of these new finds are hoping that data extracted will provide more insight into the Permian mass extinction event.

Evidence of Venomous Dinosaurs – Sinornithosaurus

Dromaeosaurs with Poison Fangs.  Was “Dave” Poisonous?

The movie Jurassic Park is arguably one of the most famous dinosaur films of all time.  It was certainly one of the most successful at the box office.  However, the author of the book upon which the film is based, Michael Crichton, who sadly passed away last year, could hardly have guessed that some of the pseudo dinosaur science in the movie could actually turn out to be true.

To read more about Michael Crichton: Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton passes away

In the first Jurassic Park movie, a venomous dinosaur is encountered.  Known as a “spitter” this Theropod, loosely based on the Jurassic meat-eater Dilophosaurus, spits venom at its victims faces, rendering them blind and helpless, thus permitting these movie beasts to overpower their prey without too much danger to themselves.  The evidence of venom in Dilophosaurs is, as far as we can recall never been found, however, a group of US based researchers, along with research colleagues from China, have published a paper that indicates that another type of Theropod may have been poisonous and equipped with venom delivering fangs.

The dinosaur in question is the primitive Dromaeosaur Sinornithosaurus (the name means “Chinese bird lizard”, a metre long Theropod from the Jehol biota of the famous Liaoning Region of northern China. The upper teeth in the top jaw (maxilla) resemble the teeth of “rear-fanged” snakes which bite their prey and channel venom into the wound.  Rear-fanged snakes, also known as “back-fanged” snakes are so-called because their fangs are at the back of the jaws instead of the front.  The fangs themselves are grooved on the latero-anterior of the tooth (front and side surface), instead of being hollow to allow the injection of venom as in front-fanged snakes.  Rear-fanged snakes usually prey on small animals such as mice, rats, lizards, birds and frogs.  They need to use a chewing action in order to bring their prey to the rear part of their mouths to inject the poison.  A rear-fanged snake is said to be opisthoglyphous.

Perhaps the most deadly of all the rear-fanged snakes is the African Tree Snake or Boomslang (Dispholidus typus).  This arboreal snake has a range across much of the woodland terrain of sub-Saharan Africa.  The largest snakes are up to 1.4 metres long and their normal prey is chameleons, other lizards, as well as tree frogs and small birds.  The venom is extremely toxic, destroying the fibrinogen in the blood and causing internal bleeding.  One bite can prove fatal to an adult human.

A Picture of Two Boomslang Snakes

Picture Credit: Peebles Press

The Liaoning discoveries date from approximately 135 – 110 million years ago (Cretaceous period).  Animal and plant remains deposited on the floors of lakes have been preserved by fine-grained volcanic ash that rained down on the lake’s surfaces and settled on the lake bed.

Scientists from the University of Kansas (USA), and colleagues from the Northeastern University of Shenyang, China, have published a paper detailing the evidence of a venomous dinosaur in the scientific journal “The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”.  The Sino-American team point out that the some of the teeth in the maxilla of Sinornithosaurus resemble those of rear-fanged snakes which bite prey and channel venom down a groove in the teeth into the flesh of the victim.  The jaws of many Dromaeosaurs have more teeth than the fearsome Tyrannosaurs, Velociraptors for example had approximately 80 teeth in the jaws whilst the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex had approximately 60.  The shape of the teeth are also different.  One thing meat-eating dinosaurs seem to have in common is their ability to open their jaws very wide.  For a suspected rear-fanged dinosaur such as Sinornithosaurus the ability to get prey items adjacent to the venom delivering teeth would have been essential.

An Illustration of the Skull of Sinornithosaurus

A dinosaur with venom?

Picture Credit: National Academy of Sciences

The diagram of the skull and jaws of Sinornithosaurus has been labelled to show the over-sized teeth in the maxilla with the grooves and the sub fenestral fossa – the proposed site of a venom gland that stored the poison prior to its delivery along the tooth groove.  The upper teeth of this particular primitive Dromaeosaur appear to be over-sized and fang like (maxillary fangs).

Perhaps the finest dinosaur fossil ever found, certainly one of the most complete and detailed is the fossil called “Dave”, believed to be semi-adult Sinornithosaurus.  This fossil from the Jehol biota is beautifully preserved and there is the slab and counter slab components making this little feathered dinosaur one of the most complete specimens ever discovered.  The fine, feathery filaments are clearly seen, indicating feathers in non-avian dinosaurs.  The dinosaur was named “Dave” as a cultural reference to a comedy sketch where two people try to describe the location of a friend called Dave. The confusion surrounding their conversation reflects the problems American palaeontologists had when trying to converse with their Chinese colleagues, as they did not share a common language.

Does this new research indicate that “Dave” was venomous?

Close up of the Maxilla of a Sinornithosaurus Specimen

A dinosaur with a venom gland

Picture Credit: National Academy of Sciences

The grooves in the teeth can be seen in the close up of the skull, the arrows point to some of the grooves.  The scientists who produced this new paper have speculated that this little carnivore predated upon the abundant birds which inhabited the wooded environment that Sinornithosaurus is believed to have lived in.

Kansas University Professor Larry Martin commented:

“This thing [Sinornithosaurus] is a venomous bird for all intents and purposes”.

Researcher David Burnham stated:

“You wouldn’t have seen it coming.  It would have swooped down behind you from a low-hanging tree branch and attacked from the back.  It wanted to get its jaws around you [hence the large gape].  Once the teeth were embedded in your skin the venom could seep into the wound.  The prey would rapidly go into shock, but it would still be living, and it might have seen itself being slowly devoured by this raptor.”

The joint US and Chinese team also state that there is evidence in the upper jaw of a venom gland.  The evidence for venomous dinosaurs can be doubted, for example, a number of creatures alive today have grooves in their teeth similar to those seen in the fossils of Sinornithosaurus but these animals are not poisonous. A primate called a Mandrill has grooves in its teeth but these are not associated with the delivery of poison.  Scientists believe the teeth are grooved to make them easier to extract from their victim as they bite or from a carcase as they feed.  The large teeth in the maxilla of this little Dromaeosaur could have evolved to help this dinosaur pierce the thick plumage of birds as it attacked them and then to extract the teeth from the bird’s body as it bit down into them.  The grooves may not necessarily indicate the presence of venom.

It is believed that this little dinosaur roamed the undergrowth of the Chinese forests around 128 million  years ago (Barremian faunal stage), feeding on animals smaller than itself.  Why it needed to evolve venom if it fed on small birds is not made clear, some of the birds around at the time were less than 10cm long, not much bigger than a garden robin and when it is considered that this fast-running, predator was over 10 times the size of the birds, the evolution of a toxic venom to subdue victims seems a little superfluous.  Of course, if Sinornithosaurus lived in flocks and attacked larger prey then the ability to poison its victims would have made greater sense.

The complexity over the evolution of poisons in the Animal Kingdom was brought into focus recently when it was proved that the Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis) had a venomous bite to help it overwhelm large prey items such as water buffalo and deer.  It had been thought that the largest species of lizard alive today had a bacterial bite which poisoned prey, with bacteria being introduced into any bitten wound via saliva or bacteria living on the surface of the teeth, but it has now been proved that these huge lizards are venomous.

Children Ask Santa for a Dinosaur

Children ask Santa for Dinosaurs at Christmas

It is traditional for children to write to Santa Claus or Father Christmas letting him know what toys they want him to bring for Christmas presents.  The media is full of stories at the moment about which types of toys have sold well and which ones have dropped in popularity.  We came across one news story that discussed the content of children’s letters to Santa and dinosaurs as pets and dinosaur toys were proving to be very popular requests.

Many letters addressed to Santa’s toy shop head quarters at the North Pole, letters from young girls and boys, contained requests for dinosaurs as Christmas presents.  The idea of a pet dinosaur is intriguing, we have often speculated what sort of dinosaur would make a good pet if they were still around today, but we have to confess that the vast majority of the dinosaur species would have been very unsuitable as domestic pets.

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