Beautiful North Wales

The Beautiful Colwyn Bay Area of North Wales

The glorious English weather continues, it has been wonderfully warm and sunny for the last ten days or so.  After all the snow and bad weather we encountered last winter we are not complaining.  Yesterday, we visited the professional photographic studios in North Wales to get some pictures taken of various new products and other items that are due to be put into our on line shop in the next few weeks or so.  After a morning at the photographer’s we had to travel north to the coast to visit a quarry to view some rocks and fossils (the joys of geology and palaeontology).  Our travels took us through the very scenic countryside of the Snowdonia National Park up to the Colwyn Bay area.  Although this part of Wales is only about one hour’s journey from our warehouse and offices we forget just how attractive the countryside is in this part of the world.

The view from the location on the coast was amazing, we could see right along the coast of what was Conwy Bay to the Great Ormes Head at the beginning of Colwyn Bay.  In the background, rising ominously behind us were the mountains of Snowdonia.  We were not to far from Bangor and in front of us we could see the Isle of Anglesey, it really was a great view and sometimes we forget just how beautiful this part of Wales is.  We have vowed to return to this area again before too long

The View from the Coast (Bangor Area)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We shall have to organise some field trips, so that we can spend more time in Wales enjoying the fantastic scenery.

Darwin’s Ornithorhynchus

Duck-billed Platypus gets a Mention in the Origin of Species

The web-footed, venomous, egg-laying mammal (a monotreme), has been known to science for over 200  years.  This furry little animal, with its duck-like bill, is a native of eastern Australia and Tasmania.  It was first described and studied at the end of the 18th Century.  Although, when the first pelts of this animal were seen by Europeans it was thought to be an elaborate joke.  Europeans thought at first; that the beak had been glued or stitched onto the fur.  However, just sixty years after this small mammal became known to science Darwin uses the Platypus to elucidate on the difficulties encountered by scientists as they attempt to classify organisms.

The duck-billed Platypus (genus Ornithorhynchus) is actually a very ancient type of mammal, perhaps the oldest known type of mammal extant today.  There is fossil evidence to suggest that animals similar to the modern Platypus lived as long ago as the Early Cretaceous, approximately 120 million years ago.

To read more about fossils of Ornithorhynchus: Duck-billed Platypus lived alongside Duck-billed Dinosaurs

In one of the closing chapters of Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”, Darwin muses on the problems encountered by scientists as they try to classify organisms on the bases of common characteristics.  He uses some of the work of Sir Richard Owen to support his arguments and refers specifically to the duck-billed Platypus stating:

“If the Ornithorhynchus had been covered in with feathers instead of hair, this external and trifling character, would, I think, have been considered by naturalists as important an aid in determining the degree of affinity of this strange creature to birds and reptiles, as an approach in structure in any one internal and important organ.”

One of the  problems we have encountered with our copy of “The Origin of Species”, a copy of the third edition, is that the glossary and index are not very comprehensive.  It would help readers if an explanation for the genera named in the book and other scientific terms used was given so that readers could appreciate the comments and points Darwin is attempting to make.

Taking a Photograph of a Dragonfly Prior to a School Visit to Talk about Fossils

Picture of a Dragonfly to Help Teach about Fossils

As team members at Everything Dinosaur prepare for a dinosaur workshop as the Summer term draws to a close, we have been asked to show examples of living creatures that have been around on planet Earth for a long time.  Naturally we have dug out our information on the Tuatara from New Zealand, plus information on Horseshoe crabs and other such creatures, all part of our preparations for teaching about dinosaurs with Year 4.  Coincidently, one of our team members spotted a dragonfly emerging from our office pond and they were able to take a photograph whilst this beautiful insect was drying its wings.

A Picture of a Dragonfly

Fossils of Dragonflies preserved from the Carboniferous.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Always a pleasure to see a member of the Odonta Order emerging from our office pond, such creatures have, very rarely been preserved in the fossil record.

To read an article on the discovery of a dragonfly fossil: Spectacular Insect Fossil from the Eastern USA

Dragonflies are amazing aerial acrobats and Everything Dinosaur team members enjoy watching them during their office breaks, in between preparing lesson plans for more dinosaur workshops of course.

To read more about Everything Dinosaur’s teaching about dinosaurs in schools: Dinosaur Workshop in School

Arctic Pliocene Fossil Site may Hold Clues to Northern Hemisphere’s Future Climate

Ancient Arctic Fossil Site Reveals Arctic was much Warmer Recently

Scientist’s studying the Arctic’s ancient past have issued a stark warning about the future climatic conditions the Arctic will face after an analysis of fossils and microfossils from Pliocene strata.

A team of researchers from the USA, Canada and Holland have published their conclusions in the scientific journal “Geology”.  They conclude that the Arctic Circle was much warmer than previously thought 4 million years ago, with average annual temperatures approximately 0 degrees Celsius.  The international team of scientists examined the fossil evidence at a world-renowned Ellesmere Island fossil site and calculated that the palaeo-climate was much milder and warmer than had been previously thought.  This evidence provides a stark warming for geologists and climatologists as they calculate the effect of global warming on the Arctic in the 21st Century.

Ellesmere island lies deep within the Arctic Circle and it is part of the Nunavut territory of Canada.  This heavily glaciated, snowbound island is one of the largest in the world, yet there are only a few hardy scientists as year round inhabitants as the annual temperature for this cold and mountainous region is approximately -19 (minus) degrees Celsius.  The island is very important to palaeontologists as there are many fossiliferous Cenozoic sediments plus a number of extremely significant older strata, such as the early Carboniferous sediments that represent ancient stream-beds where fossils of the ancient transitional fish/amphibian Tiktaalik (T. roseae) have been discovered.

In this study, the international team analysed the prehistoric evidence from peat deposits dating from the early Pliocene, approximately 4 million years ago.  The peat accumulated in a beaver pond (hence the name of the dig site – Beaver Pond), this pond was surrounded by a larch forest, today the only tree native to Ellesmere Island is the Arctic Willow.  The plant and animal fossils that have accumulated in these sediments are important to scientists as they provide a window into the past climate of this part of the northern hemisphere as well as helping palaeontologists to understand the interchange of mammalian fauna between Asia and North America during this part of the Earth’s relatively recent history.

The team of six researchers published their findings after analysing the fossilised remains of plants, trees and animals that had been preserved in the peat deposits.  Based on this information they have calculated that the average annual temperature for this area around 4 million years ago was 0 degrees Celsius, still very cold but not as cold as scientists had thought previously.

The Bleak and Chilly Ellesmere Island

Picture Credit: James R. Drummond/Dalhousie University Handout

This clearer picture of the ancient Arctic climate has potentially important and troubling implications for how quickly and severely the region could witness a temperature spike given current climate-change trends.

The team state in the journal Geology:

“The Arctic climate system may be much more sensitive to greenhouse gas warming than previously thought, and current CO2 levels may be sufficient to bring about significant and irreversible shifts in Arctic ecosystems.”

Given the dramatic increases that have been seen in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels (CO2) the team suggest:

“Our results indicate that a significant increase in Arctic temperatures may be imminent in response to current atmospheric CO2 levels.”

The research was led by University of Colorado scientist Ashley Ballantyne and the paper has been co-authored by Canadian Museum of Nature palaeontologist Natalia Rybczynski and biologist David Greenwood of Manitoba’s Brandon University.  Also contributing was palaeontologist Jaelyn Eberle, curator of fossil vertebrates at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History.

When the transitional animal Tiktaalik roamed; Ellesmere Island was situated a lot further south, however, the Beaver Pond site is just four million years old and dates from a time when the island was at roughly the same high northerly latitude that it is at today.

In addition, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere during that time, the Pliocene era, was almost identical to the elevated CO2 levels of today’s warmed-up globe – making the Beaver Pond site an unusually accurate “proxy” for the 21st century Arctic, the researchers conclude.

And while the Ellesmere site’s namesake species, a primitive variety of small beaver and other extinct mammals, such Pliocene rabbits and three-toed horses, are indicative of a warmer environment than today, scientists have generally estimated that the average annual temperature at Beaver Pond four million years ago was no higher than -5 (minus) degrees Celsius.

However, this new evidence suggests that Arctic temperatures could rise much higher, much faster if present-day climate trends continue.

Natalia Rybczynski commented:

“It is really, really compelling evidence.  That number [0 degrees Celsius] is quite a bit warmer than previous proxy estimates and it is warmer than the [climate change] models have come up with.”

She went onto add:

“We don’t imagine in 100 years we’re going to be getting a forest on Ellesmere Island.  You just don’t have the soil – it’s not going to happen.”

But the scientists predict that the warm conditions revealed by the Beaver Pond site may offer a foretelling of the Canadian Arctic’s climate future.

A team spokesperson said:

“If you just let the planet go to its equilibrium under the current CO2 levels, that is the warming that perhaps you would expect to see based on this one site.”

By studying ancient strata, scientists are able to supplement the work of climate models and computer programmes to provide fresh insights into the threat of global warming.  Unfortunately, the Beaver Pond site is under threat as a coal mine is planned for the area.  Ironically, an important fossil site that may provide clues to our future climate is threatened by the desire to get at fossil fuels that are evidence of the Earth’s climatic past.

Spirit of Adventure Lives on with Voyage on Alberta’s Red Deer River

Voyage Re-enacts Dinosaur Expedition of 1910

For the last eight years Palaeontology Technician Darren Tanke (Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller, Alberta, Canada) has pursued a dream of re-enacting Barnum Brown’s historic 1910 dinosaur expedition on Alberta’s Red Deer River.  His work and that of many other volunteers becomes a reality on June 29th as the scow called Peter C. Kaisen is to be formerly launched on the river at the city of Red Deer.

In 1910, Barnum Brown , the newly appointed Associate Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the American Museum of Natural History (New York), along with technical assistant Peter C. Kaisen (after whom the new scow is named), and other collectors, spent the first of four seasons floating down the Red Deer scouring its banks and the surrounding area for dinosaur skeletons and bone beds.

Barnum Brown, has been called “the greatest dinosaur hunter of the 20th Century”.  Perhaps most famous for his discoveries of Tyrannosaurus rex fossils, casts of which were on display at the Natural History museum in London until recently, he is strongly associated with the exploration of the Red Deer River area.  From 1910, Brown recovered a spectacular variety of fossils, including almost complete dinosaur skeletons from this part of Canada.  In total, Brown and his team excavated material representing 36 species of dinosaur and a further 84 species of other vertebrates.

Alberta in the early part of the 20th Century had limited railway lines and very few roads.  The deep valley of the Red Deer was only accessible by water.  For his expedition, Brown used a specially designed scow – a flat  bottomed, flat decked, floating camp.  It was equipped with a large tent and a wood-burning stove.  It was used as living accommodation and for transportation of up to 10 tons of field equipment and specimens that the explorers picked up along the way.

The American Museum Scow “Mary Jane” in 1911

Picture Credit: Kindly supplied by 2010dinohuntingbyboat.blogspot.com

The picture above shows the American Museum scow called “Mary Jane” in 1911.  It is from studying the photographs and records made at the time, that Darren and his team have been able to reconstruct the scow.  In the picture, the expedition’s  cook Fred Saunders can be seen on the left, with Barnum Brown on the right.  If viewers look carefully to the right of Barnum Brown (his left) a black cat standing on a shelf attached to the two upright tiller support posts can be seen.  A cat accompanied the original explorers to control mice, however, Darren Tanke and his colleagues will not have a cat on their voyage for “fear of losing it along the way”.

Fascinated by Brown’s voyages and motivated by a desire to raise awareness of Alberta’s dinosaur-hunting history, Darren Tanke and other volunteers will spend five weeks on the Red Deer River.  They will explore the banks and the surrounding badlands and have high expectations of what thy may find.

Commenting on his hopes for the expedition, Tanke stated:

“It’s been many years since an expedition systematically surveyed the badlands along much of the river.  In that time rain, melt water and wind have eroded the valley formations and we hope to map several promising locations for future digs.”

The five-week trip begins on June 29th with the launch and will end at the Dinosaur Provincial Park on August 7th.  This coincides with the town of Brooks centennial and a celebration is planned at the park to coincide with the arrival of the scow.

Tanke commented:

“The project started about eight years ago, when I started looking for and buying artifacts or replicas to equip a reconstructed scow”.

Darren hopes to relive the little known past of Alberta’s palaeontological heritage and to share it with others, he went onto add:

“I think the best way to truly understand what our palaeontological forefathers went through is to live, as closely as possible, the same way the did on the early fossil hunting expeditions.”

The magnificent scow and its rowing boat were built by carpenter Perry Schopff of Munson, (Alberta).  Schopff and Tanke have both worked for many years at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, though they are working on this centennial project in their spare time.  The Peter C. Kaisen measures 30 feet long by 12 feet wide and has a height of just 18 inches.  Few details of the vessel used on Brown’s 1910 trip were available so Schopff worked from some rare photographs taken of the 1912 expedition to help him re-create the craft.  Some modern safety features have been added such as compartmentalised sections, sections filled with foam and metal flashing on the underwater corners.

Tanke and some of the scow’s crew will on occasion dress according to clothes of the day and the boat’s tools, tent and stove are typical of those of the period.  For the last eight years, Tanke has scoured antique and second-hand shops for period tools and equipment.  He has even gone as far as researching cookbooks and recipes to replicate the meals the explorers ate as they drifted down the Red Deer.

Darren Tanke in Clothing Replicating the Clothes worn by the 1910 Expedition

Darren Tanke dressed up for fossil hunting

Picture Credit: Kindly supplied by 2010dinohuntingbyboat.blogspot.com

This project is funded by Darren Tanke, expedition participants, interested members of the public and the Calgary-based Dinosaur Research Institute The Dinosaur Research Institute.

The Dinosaur Research Institute has played a large supportive role as a fund-raiser to promote historic awareness and scientific aspects of this unique and exciting project.

Hauling of the scow to its Red Deer River launch point (11am to 1pm on June 29th) is being done by Dan’s Oilfield Services with funding assistance from Cliff’s Oilfield Hauling.  Both these firms operate in Drumheller.

For us at Everything Dinosaur, (especially the lucky ones amongst us who have had the pleasure of working in Alberta), we would like to congratulate Darren and his team for putting together such an imaginative and worthwhile project.  We wish them every success on their voyage and we look forward to reporting their progress.

The very best of luck to you all.

Council Worker Discovers 3,000 Year Old Carving

3,000 Year Old Prehistoric Art Discovered in South Yorkshire

For John Gilpin, a Woodlands Officer in the Council’s Parks and Countryside department at Sheffield Council (South Yorkshire, England) a day’s routine maintenance in Ecclesall woods, turned out to be a day to remember when he discovered an example of prehistoric art that dates from the Late Bronze Age.

John found a boulder marked with a series of strange lines and cuts.  The boulder has been examined by Archaeologists and declared a “significant archaeological find.”
Jim McNeil, of South Yorkshire Archaeological Service, said:

“I was called in and recorded the discovery, taking photographs.  I have taken advice from a specialist who considers this to be an important piece of prehistoric rock art.  This is the second example of such rock art from Ecclesall Woods, although other examples are known from the Peak District and further north in the Pennines.”

Despite having been carefully studied by experts, the exact meaning of the carvings remains unclear.

The previous discovery of prehistoric rock art in Ecclesall Woods was in 1983. The only other example nearby is at Gardom’s Edge, north of Baslow in the Peak District.
Mary Bagley, Director of the Parks and Countryside department at Sheffield Council, stated:

“This just goes to show what things we have in our parks, woodlands and countryside that we didn’t know were there – and to think we were a City of Culture all those years ago.”

The find is one of a number of new archaeological discoveries made around South Yorkshire in recent years, finds which include rare Iron Age pottery plus evidence of a Roman settlement.

Ecclesall wood is a 140 hectare area of ancient woodland found southwest of the city of Sheffield (South Yorkshire).  It is a popular visitor attraction and has a rich archaeological heritage as well as providing an important habitat for many native and non-native types of fauna and flora.

Did Tyrannosaurus rex Live on the Isle of Wight?

T. rex on the Isle of Wight

An email received on Thursday afternoon sent our dinosaur experts scurrying away to find their compendiums detailing fossil discoveries related to the Wealden Formation in association with the Isle of Wight.

A school pupil had emailed with a query regarding whether it was true that ancestor of Tyrannosaurus rex lived in the Isle of Wight.  The origins of the Tyrannosaur family are very much open to debate.  However, one member of this family is associated with the Isle of Wight, although whether is creature was a direct ancestor of T. rex remains in doubt.

The dinosaur in question is Eotyrannus (E. lengi), which is known from one, partial, disarticulated skeleton partly enclosed within a large siderite concretion (a lump of iron carbonate).  The fossil was found in a plant debris bed (Wessex Formation) on the south-west coast of the island.  The fossils have been dated to the Early Cretaceous (Barremian faunal stage), and although a juvenile, the animal is estimated to have been over 4 metres long when it died.  Adult animals may have exceeded 6 metres or more.

A Scale Drawing of Eotyrannus (E. lengi)

Isle of Wight Tyrannosaurid

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This dinosaur has been classified as a basal (primitive) Tyrannosauroid.  The teeth are D-shaped in cross-section, characteristic of Tyrannosaurs.  The shape of the snout, the fused nasal bones plus similarities seen in the fossilised humerus (upper arm bone) between this dinosaur and other known Tyrannosaurs led scientists to conclude that Eotyrannus was indeed a Tyrannosaur.  The neck bones (cervical vertebrae) also suggest that this dinosaur was a Tyrannosaur.

To view a model of Eotyrannus and other dinosaur toys: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

Other fragmentary Theropod fossils from the Isle of Wight have been ascribed to this genus.  Although the rarity of these fossils may suggest that Eotyrannus was not a resident of the flood plains that the fossil strata of the Isle of Wight represent.  Scientists have speculated that this predator stalked the upland areas and was a creature that preferred a woodland habitat.  The long limbs and light-weight skeleton indicate an active hunter, this is why most illustrations of Eotyrannus depict this dinosaur with a coat of insulating primitive feathers.

The Abundant Tenontosaurus

The Prolific Tenontosaurus

We have just finished writing and testing a new teaching session aimed at Year 7 students (key stage 3) for the national curriculum science element.  Working around the objective of trying to create a 45 minute long teaching session based around the concepts of scientific evaluation and analysis, we chose to focus on the interaction between the Mid Cretaceous Dromaeosaur Deinonychus and the herbivorous Tenontosaurus.

Despite the large numbers of Tenontosaurus fossils that have been found in the United States (Montana with a second species identified in Texas),  palaeontologists remain uncertain whether this highly successful plant-eater is a member of the Hypsilophodontidae or a basal Iguanodontid.  We think current research puts this Ornithopod in the Iguanodontidae camp (at least for the moment).

Something like 20% of all Tenontosaurus fossils found outside Texas are associated with the fossilised remains of Deinonychus.   This may reflect a predator/prey relationship and a number of dig sites have revealed so much more information that some scientists have postulated that Deinonychus was the  main predator of Tenontosaurus and these two genera were very strongly dependent upon one another – i.e. when the Tenontosaurs thrived so did the predatory “raptors”.

The lesson plan we have developed permits students to explore the fossil evidence and to act as “dinosaur detectives” putting forward theories as to what the fossils may show.  We then encourage students, working in small groups to undertake role play to demonstrate the theory that they have come up with and to justify it.

To view a model of Tenontosaurus and other dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys for Boys & Girls – Dinosaur Toys

Working around the themes from the national curriculum for science such as using scientific ideas and models to explain phenomena and developing them creatively to generate and test theories (KS3 Science 1.1a), this lesson plan that has already been piloted, seems to have a broad appeal as well as catering for a number of different learning styles.

To visit the Everything Dinosaur Teaching Information including a Dinosaur Workshop: Dinosaur Workshops for Schools

Baby Mammoth Gets Gamma Ray Treatment

Baby Mammoth Zapped by Gamma Rays to Kill Pathogens before going on Display

The remains of a 50,000 year old, baby Woolly Mammoth are being exposed to powerful doses of Gamma radiation in order to kill any germs and bacteria before going on display in France.  These ancient remains are a rare example of a baby Mammoth having been found preserved in the permafrost of northern Siberia, only a handful of these frozen carcases have been found in the last one hundred years.

Keeping with the tradition of naming the remains of baby Mammoths (Lyuba and Dima for example), the corpse has been named Khroma.  It is not clear whether the remains are male or female, the body was discovered by a local hunter in July 2009, as it slowly emerged from melting permafrost on the banks of the river Khroma, some 1,300 miles north of Yakutsk, close to the Arctic Ocean.  This specimen is approximately 6-7 months old and is the eldest of the baby Mammoths found in Siberia over the last one hundred years or so.

Bernard Buigues, a noted expert on these ancient herbivores commented that the body was at least 50,000 years old and that analysis of these remains will help scientists to understand more about the environment in that region close to the Arctic Ocean during the Pleistocene epoch.

As the corpse emerged from the melting ice, the smell of the body attracted scavengers and the trunk and parts of the head had been eaten away before the baby Mammoth was found.

Initially, a team of Russian scientists examined the animal then informed Buigues, who works with authorities in Moscow for his palaeontological Mammoth project, which is behind Khroma’s European trip.

Khroma – Under Analysis by a team of Russian and French Scientists

Picture Credit: AFP photo/Mammuthus Project 2010-2014 (Francis Latreille)

A preliminary study showed that the body of Khroma was harbouring very old but potentially very dangerous germs, most probably anthracis, which can cause anthrax and black lung disease.  The presence of these pathogens has led to the imposition of extreme precautions for the transport of this rare fossil, just in case contamination occurred.  Khroma, still encased in its icy tomb, will be handled initially at a laboratory in Grenoble, the only one in the world specialising in Gamma ray treatment.

This is not the first time the scientists at the Grenoble laboratory have bombarded an ancient object with Gamma rays to kill any harmful pathogens, they treated the mummified remains of King Ramses II in 1977.  In that instance, the Gamma radiation was used to kill a fungus that was affecting the corpse, for Khroma the dose of radiation will be enough to completely wipe out any nasty bugs that have been preserved.

Laurent Cortella, the laboratory’s nuclear physician commented;

“Our baby, inside its box, will undergo three to four days of continuous bombardment of 20,000 grays of gamma rays.”

The gray is the SI unit which measures the amount of adsorbed radiation doses.  Referring to the amount of radiation the baby Mammoth will be subjected to Laurent stated:

“The slightest lethargic little germ from time immemorial hasn’t the least chance of resisting when you realise that one Gamma ray of just four grays kills a human.”

Once Khroma has completed his/her treatment the next stop will by Puy-en-Velay in central France for further study and a general autopsy before going on public display as part of an exhibition on Mammoths and other Ice Age mammals.

A Mammoth Family on the move in the Snowbound Wastes

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Schleich

To view a model of a baby Woolly Mammoth and dinosaur toys: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

Pterosaurs Coming to London to Celebrate 350 Years of the Royal Society

Pterosaurs Swoop into London for the Festival of Science and the Arts

A team of researchers from the University of Portsmouth have created five, life-sized Pterosaur models (flying reptiles) to help scientists to understand more about how these animals flew and walked.

This year, marks the 350th anniversary of the founding of the UK’s academy of science and to celebrate this, a summer of special events and activities are being held at London’s Southbank Centre.  Taking pride of place at the Southbank Centre’s outdoor arena will be this set of five flying reptiles, the largest with a wingspan in excess of 10 metres.

Pterosaurs are an extinct group of flying reptiles that dominated the air during the early part of the Mesozoic.  These animals evolved in the early Triassic and diversified into many forms, some no bigger than garden birds, whilst one type of Pterosaur, the Azhdarchids, one of the last groups to evolve, grew to enormous sizes making them the largest flying creatures known.  The wings of Pterosaurs were formed out of skin that stretched from the body over the forelimbs and along an extremely elongated fourth finger that acted as a supporting strut for the wing.  These magnificent creatures, not dinosaurs but members of the same branch of the Archosaur group as the Dinosauria, became less common towards the end of the Cretaceous and died out at the same time as the dinosaurs.

An Illustration of the Azhdarchid Quetzalcoatlus (Q. northropi)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The research team from the University of Portsmouth are studying pterosaurs to better understand how their skeletons withstood the stress and strain of flying.  One of the best ways to understand the forces involved is to build a life-sized Pterosaur.  Models such as the five going on display in London can help scientists gain a more accurate picture of the stresses involved in flight, aiding the work carried out using computer models and programmes.

Dr. David Martill from the School of Earth and Environmental Science (University of Portsmouth) commented:

“Creating these models help us to better understand how these ancient reptiles were able to achieve gigantic proportions and still be able to fly with great manoeuvrability.  Studying the skeletons of these amazing creatures could help engineers to design stronger and lighter aircraft frames.”

In this free exhibition, entitled: “Pterosaurs - Dragons of the Air”, visitors to London’s Southbank Centre will be able to get up close to the huge models and see real, fossilised Pterosaur bones.

The life-size models will not only depict Pterosaurs in a flying pose but one model will also show how palaeontologists’s have interpreted the fossil evidence to explain how these creatures walked.

Life-size Azhdarchid Pterosaur Model Framework

Huge Pterosaur Framework

Picture Credit: University of Portsmouth

One of the more recent theories regarding the habits and lifestyles of these bizarre creatures is that the later forms, the very large, long-beaked Azhdarchids hunted small dinosaurs in the same way that Secretary birds and certain types of stork hunt small mammals and lizards on the plains of Africa today.  The models at this exhibition will permit visitors to gain an insight into this current Pterosaur research.

To read an article on terrestrial hunting Pterosaurs: Getting Stalked by a Flock of Quetzalcoatlus

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