Flying Monsters in Three-Dimensions

Pterosaurs Take to the Skies Again In National Geographic’s Stunning Film

Spectacular flying reptiles soar into view in the stunning film “Flying Monsters” narrated by Sir David Attenborough and made by National Geographic. There will be a special screening on Wednesday October 5th at The Liberty Science Centre in New Jersey and the film officially premiers at eight science museums on Friday, the 7th (in Birmingham AL, Hastings NE, Indianapolis ID, Jersey City NJ, Los Angeles CA, Portland OR, and Mexico City NM).   Looks like it is going to be a stunning visual treat for dinosaur fans and enthusiasts of the Pterosaurs.

Sir David Attenborough Encounters a Pterosaur

Picture Credit: National Geographic

Avatar-like CGI brings to life spectacular-looking colossal creatures that have been extinct for millions of years in this captivating, family-friendly new film, “FLYING MONSTERS 3-D,” the new giant screen film adventure, which premieres in North America beginning October 7th, 2011.  Hosted and written by Sir David Attenborough, this film is produced by award-winning Atlantic Productions, in association with Sky 3-D, and being distributed by National Geographic Cinema Ventures.

The film is already earning accolades—scooping up a 2011 BAFTA and nominated for best 3-D film at the Jackson Hole Film Festival, which will take place next week.

These creatures may seem fanciful, but unlike Avatar, these actually were real and did exist — and it’s hard to believe they dominated the skies for millions of years!

You will be astonished by the sheer size and variety of these colossal creatures captured in spectacular, larger-than-life immersive 3-D experience.  These are not your run-of-the-mill pterodactyls…. audiences will get to meet amazing creatures like Tapejara and the enormous Quetzalcoatlus.  We suggest that if you are around these museum locations on the day, you make a date with these creatures – the first group of vertebrates to evolve powered flight.

A Manager for Prehistoric Animals Required

Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre – Looking for a Manager

The staff at the world famous Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre (Morden, Manitoba) may be used to finding prehistoric animal fossils but the search is now on to find a general manager to help map out the direction of the organisation over the next few years.

The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre  (CFDC) is currently recruiting qualified applicants for a soon to be vacant general manager’s position.  A targeted recruitment effort is currently underway to fill the upcoming vacancy.  This management position will offer the selected individual many tremendous professional growth opportunities, is responsible for the overall management of the organisation in consultation with a volunteer board of directors.

Potential applicants are invited to make contact with the Centre to learn more about this opportunity.  The job will be advertised in the local media.  Additional information will be posted on the CFDC website, www.discoverfossils.com. specifically in the staff recruitment centre.  So if you have ever fancied yourself as a Sir Richard Owen figure, now’s your opportunity.

The position of General Manager will become vacant on October 17th.   The position is currently filled by Tyler Schroeder, who will leave the CFDC to pursue other career opportunities within the private sector.

“I would like to extend the heartfelt gratitude of our organisation to Mr. Schroeder, for his significant efforts at the CFDC,” summarises board president Henry Penner.  “During his employment the CFDC has made substantial advancements in the fields of education, tourism and research.  In particular, he has had a tremendous skill in advancing the public image and reach of our Centre.”

“I am very proud of what we’ve achieved as a team, during my time at the CFDC.  This organisation is well positioned to take great advantage of the many opportunities before it,” echoes Tyler Schroeder.  “I look forward to my new role as an Agricultural Loans Manager at the RBC in Morden and wish continued success to the CFDC.”

The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre houses the largest collection of marine reptile fossils in Canada, including a 43-foot long Mosasaur named “Bruce”, the largest Mosasaur in the country.  Housed in the Access Event Centre in Morden, the CFDC is working towards building a new state-of-the-art facility in the Manitoba Escarpment.

A Review of Planet Dinosaur – “The Last Killers”

Planet Dinosaur – The Last Killers (Late Cretaceous Theropods Mainly)

Half way through the BBC television series already, it does not seem more than five minutes since “dear old auntie Beeb” introduced us to their version of Spinosaurus and Carcharodontosaurus back in episode one.  These two dinosaurs were fierce carnivores and after a sojourn into the world of feathered dinosaurs, the majority of which would stand no more than a metre tall, we get right back to big Theropods, but this time with a focus on the very last few million years of the Cretaceous.

For all those enthusiastic dinosaur fans waiting to see Tyrannosaurs they were not to be kept waiting any longer.  However, it was not Tyrannosaurus rex that was the star attraction, other older members of the Tyrannosauridae were put into the spotlight – the likes of Daspletosaurus torosus allowing the evidence for the mobbing of herbivores (Chasmosaurus belli), reflecting what scientists have observed Komodo dragons doing, only scaled up to nine metre long Theropods.

It was a bad night for Ceratopsians all round with Centrosaurs getting caught up in a raging torrent and dying in their hundreds – a vivid explanation of bone bed formation.  The bizarre Abelisaurids, those dominant predators of the southern hemisphere were brought to life with a feature on the cannibalistic Majungasaurus (we still prefer the synonym Majungatholus).

An interesting programme that did its best to update viewers on how our understanding of the apex predators of the Dinosauria has moved on since “Walking with Dinosaurs”.

Rex Appeal – Dinosaurs a Cinematic History

Rex Appeal (BBC 4 at 9pm)

Part of the BBC’s dinosaur season, “Rex Appeal” is an hour long programme that examines how dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals have been depicted in the cinema.  Director John MacLaverty provides a fun and informative insight into the history of dinosaurs in the movies, part of the BBC’s season of dinosaur programmes.

The enduring appeal of dinosaurs in cinema, beginning with the cartoon Apatosaurus in the 1914 animation Gertie. The creatures have not only been used to reflect contemporary anxieties, including how Jurassic Park’s fears of DNA manipulation mirrored arguments about genetically modified crops, but have featured prominently in the development of special effects, from Willis O’Brien’s work on King Kong to the advent of CGI in the 1990s.

Look out for a few familiar friends behind the various talking heads, as supplied by Everything Dinosaur.  This programme will be repeated on BBC 4 three times over the next few days or so.  What with the third episode of “Planet Dinosaur” being shown tonight (Last Killers), with a film to follow called “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” there is a feast of Dinosauria on our screens tonight.

Polar Dinosaurs May not have Hibernated to Escape the Cold

New Research Challenges Theory of Hibernating Dinosaurs in Polar Regions

It is now known that dinosaurs inhabited the polar regions during the Mesozoic.  Recent studies of Alaskan rocks dating from the Cretaceous has revealed the fossilised remains of a surprising prehistoric ecosystem with dinosaurs surviving four months of near total darkness in what would have been the Arctic winter.  In the southern hemisphere the fossils excavated from the famous Dinosaur Cove and East Gippsland sites have provided palaeontologists with data on dinosaurs that inhabited the southern polar forests – small Hypsilophodonts such as Leaellynasaurua, Qantassaurus and the bizarrely named Atlascopcosaurus.

It had been suggested that dinosaurs hibernated to escape the worst of the cold weather, as although the polar regions were much warmer than today, temperatures would have fallen below freezing in the long cold, totally dark winters.

However, a study of fossilised dinosaur bones from Victoria (Australia) have revealed that dinosaurs which once lived in the Antarctic Circle were little different to those living in other parts of the southern hemisphere when it came to staying active year-round.  This new evidence suggests that polar residents, those Antarctic dinosaurs may not have hibernated.

During the Cretaceous Period Australia was much further South than it is today, and parts of it sat inside the Antarctic Circle.  This meant that it would have experienced total darkness for many months of the year and the conifer and fern forests would have been affected by frosts and falls in temperature to below freezing.

In a paper published in the online scientific journal PLoS One, a joint US and Australian research team challenge the hibernating dinosaurs theory, as, with the discovery of more dinosaur bones from Victoria they have more fossil bones to study and they question their previous hypothesis that some dinosaurs may have hibernated in order to survive the harsher winter climate.

An Illustration of a Hypsilophodontid Dinosaur

Picture Credit: Ralph S Coventry Associates

The Hypsilophodontids were a very successful group of Ornithopods.  Most were small and cursorial, living in the shadow of larger herbivores such as the Iguanodonts.  Interpretations of Hypsilophodont fossil bones discovered on the Isle of Wight led some palaeontologists to be believe that these nimble creatures were arboreal.  Scientists now doubt whether these animals were tree dwellers – however, discoveries made in China and North America suggest that a number of dinosaur genera were adapted to a life in the trees.

The ‘hibernation hypothesis’ was based on the presence or absence of tree-ring-like growth markings, called lines of arrested growth (LAGs), in cross sections of fossilised bones.  LAGs can be used to determine the age of an animal; they form as a result of an animal’s slowed metabolic processes, such as those experienced during hibernation.

All but the smallest dinosaurs were found to have LAGs, the researchers revealed in the study, the smallest dinosaurs being juveniles experiencing rapid growth, which slowed down as these animals reached maturity.

The physiology of these “polar” dinosaurs “strongly resembled” that of their warmer-clime cousins, says study co-author Professor Patricia Vickers-Rich at Monash University.

She stated:

“Based on bone microstructure alone, we can say that the dinosaurs living near the South Pole were not physiologically different from dinosaurs living anywhere else in the world during that time.  This tells us something very interesting: that basically from the very start, early dinosaurs, or even the ancestors of dinosaurs, evolved a physiology that allowed an entire group of animals to successfully exploit a multitude of environmental conditions.”

Co-author Dr Thomas Rich of Museum Victoria in Melbourne, stated that with more fossils excavated from sites such as Dinosaur Cove,  being able to study additional fossils led to a “change in ideas”.  He explained that their earlier investigations, published thirteen years ago, relied on observations from just two species.  The researchers had been trying to figure out when animals developed the ability to hibernate to cope with extreme cold periods.

For the new study, the researchers analysed bones from perhaps as many as eighteen species of dinosaur, mostly Hypsilophodontids (two-legged, plant-eating dinosaurs) that lived 112-100 million years ago, in the Early Cretaceous.  The palaeontologists remain unsure as to just how many Hypsilophodontid species the fossil bones represent, as the fossils are “mined” out of the cliff face and are fragmentary.

University of Queensland paleontologist Dr Steve Salisbury, who was not involved in the study, is not surprised by these findings.  He explains that LAGs are not exclusive to hibernators.

“Most exothermic animals – those that depend on environment for regulation of body temperature, such as crocodiles, turtles, various lizards – go through periods of faster growth and slower growth.”

Dinosaur bone growth would most likely have been linked to the seasons.  Slower bone growth (and therefore, LAGs) is likely to occur during cooler seasons and when resources are in short supply.

Dr. Salisbury added:

“Gradually evidence is emerging, and a better understanding of dinosaur growth and physiology is showing that [the hibernating dinosaur theory] was a good story at the time, but it probably doesn’t hold up today.”

He continued stating  that whilst the many months of darkness would have been an issue, climatic conditions were probably not as harsh as found near the poles today.

“These dinosaurs existed when Australia was still connected to Antarctica and there was no Southern Ocean encircling Antarctica, which meant that warm tropical currents could circulate down to very high latitudes and that would have kept the continent much warmer than it is now.”

While the revelations discount the hibernation theory, they still don’t give the whole story about the differences in dinosaurs that lived around the poles and those that didn’t.   Dinosaurs may have been very similar to their relatives living in lower latitudes according to this analysis of microstructure in fossilised Ornithopod and Theropod bones, but they may have behaved differently.  Perhaps these animals huddled together to keep warm, this would have resulted in a more social, pack animal.  Perhaps these dinosaurs did not hibernate fully but like modern crocodiles facing harsh environmental conditions they entered into a state of torpor – estivation.

It is interesting to note that as far as we at Everything Dinosaur know, birds don’t hibernate.  They do migrate to avoid harsh weather, perhaps a number of dinosaurs were seasonal visitors to the polar regions, exploiting the continuous plant growth encouraged by the twenty-four hours of daylight experienced in the polar summers.  However, these small Hypsilophodontids were too small to migrate far, they may have been permanent residents which brings in the intriguing possibilities of endothermy and feathered dinosaurs (feathers primarily for insulation).

The Front Cover of the Book Planet Dinosaur

The Front Cover of the Book Planet Dinosaur

If Spinosaurus is one of your favourite dinosaurs, then read all about this huge, Cretaceous dinosaur in books about dinosaurs.  One of the best illustrations of Spinosaurus that we have seen this year can be found on the front cover of the book called “Planet Dinosaur”, a book that accompanies the television series of the same name.

Planet Dinosaur Spinosaurus Illustrated

Dinosaur books, books about dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The front cover of this book shows the huge prehistoric animal called Spinosaurus fishing.  It is a beautiful illustration on the front cover of a dinosaur book.  If you are looking for dinosaur books for children check out Everything Dinosaur’s book range.

Dinosaur Books from Everything Dinosaur: Everything Dinosaur’s Dinosaur Book Collection

A Review of Planet Dinosaur – The Next Generation of Giant Killers

Planet Dinosaur – Book Review

The new dinosaur discoveries, the huge, the tiny, the weird and the wonderful are revealed in remarkable detail in this book “Planet Dinosaur – The Next Generation of Giant Killers” that has been produced to accompany the BBC television series.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur, were asked to write a review and true to our word here it is.

It is more than ten years since the ground-breaking BBC television series “Walking with Dinosaurs” was first broadcast on BBC1.  Now, 2011 brings the much anticipated “Planet Dinosaur” to our screens, an opportunity to highlight some of the amazing dinosaur discoveries that have been made over the last decade or so.  Accompanying the 1999 television series a book entitled “Walking with Dinosaurs – A Natural History” was published, in a continuation of this trend, BBC Books have produced a companion to “Planet Dinosaur” and what a visual feast it proves to be.

It may be just a blink in geological time since 1999, but this new publication is strikingly different from its predecessor.  For example, “Walking with Dinosaurs – A Natural History” followed the format of the television programmes very closely.  Each of the six chapters was dedicated to telling the story and introducing the prehistoric animals and the science behind them from a particular episode of the TV series.  “Planet Dinosaur – The Next Generation of Giant Killers”; in contrast, focuses on the prehistoric animals and the palaeontology, with the use of a graphic novel style layout to highlight elements taken from individual television programmes.

Each of the main protagonists from the television series is given its own double page fact file – a vast array of amazing prehistoric creatures many of whom have been discovered since 1999.  A highly detailed CGI image is surrounded by notes providing information about long extinct animals as diverse as Microraptor – a dinosaur that could glide and predator X a huge, marine reptile so new to science that it has yet to be formally named and described.

In contrast to the “Walking with Dinosaurs” publication,  the majority of the animals featured are described using their binomial scientific name, that is, the genus and species name as if to reaffirm the publisher’s desire to provide a strong scientific undercurrent to the narrative.

The Front Cover of “Planet Dinosaur”

Picture Credit: Ebury Publishing

A handy pronunciation guide is provided, a boon to parents and grand-parents who will no doubt be persuaded to read alongside their dinosaur obsessed younger family members.

One slight criticism we proffer in what is generally an excellent book, towards the end of the 238 pages there is a small section that attempts to place the prehistoric animals featured in the television series into context with geological time.  We could take issue with the dates given for some of the geological periods, indeed there seems to be some discrepancies over the dates given in this section with those stated in the introduction, but our main gripe is that the Triassic has been omitted from the time-line altogether.  This may be expediency on behalf of the publishers, as the television series focuses almost exclusively on the work of palaeontologists studying creatures that lived during the later part of the Mesozoic Era – the Jurassic and the Cretaceous.

Just as certain as planet Earth having been subjected to extraterrestrial impacts, this beautifully illustrated book will prove to be very popular amongst avid dinosaur fans.  Its clever combination of stunning images and scientific detail  will also intrigue and inform the casual reader, keen to see how the science of palaeontology and our understanding of the prehistoric world has moved on. Highly recommended.

A Review of Planet Dinosaur – BBC Books

Planet Dinosaur – The Next Generation of Giant Killers

A definite requirement for the Christmas stockings of dinosaur fans this book, published to accompany the six-part BBC documentary series “Planet Dinosaur” is packed full of information and facts about the prehistoric creatures featured in the programmes.

Broken down into six chapters, although not reflecting the format of the television episodes, this 238-page volume updates readers on the progress made by palaeontologists over the last ten years as they uncover new evidence about dinosaurs and other ancient creatures from the past.

Despite the title, it is not just meat-eaters, or indeed dinosaurs that feature.  For example, there is an in-depth assessment of the fossil evidence to support Argentinosaurus (A. huinculensis), a herbivore, as being the biggest land animal known to science.  This book also features the marine reptiles Kimmerosaurus (k. langhami) and “predator X” – a giant Pliosaur, so new it has yet to be formally described.

The almost three-dimensional illustrations and the storyboard layout will appeal to dinosaur fans old and young alike.  This publication will also help to inform the curious reader interested in learning more about these long extinct creatures.  “Planet Dinosaur – The Next Generation of Giant Killers” helps to put the flesh on the bones of the animals featured in the television series.

Edmontosaurus Review – So Much More than T. rex Food

Edmontosaurus Model (Safari Ltd) Review

The amazing three Tyrannosaur exhibition mount at the newly refurbished Los Angeles County Museum features an Edmontosaurus as well.  Alongside the T. rex nick-named “Thomas” and his/her chums there is the fossil of an Edmontosaurus, a duck-billed dinosaur.  This exciting diorama shows three Tyrannosaur skeletons all different ages, a two-year old, an animal that died aged perhaps thirteen years old and the biggest specimen represents a T. rex in its late teens.  The Edmontosaurus is depicted as the victim, it is the corpse upon which these Tyrannosaurs are about to feast in the L. A. Museum’s scenario.

Whilst there are a number of Edmontosaurus fossils that suggest that this four tonne herbivore was part of a Tyrannosaurus rex diet, we think that it is time for Edmontosaurus to step into the spotlight and to be given some attention.  After all, as one of the last dinosaurs to evolve, it was very big for a Hadrosaur and as a genus it was extremely widespread and if the Late Cretaceous fossil record of North America is anything to go by it was very numerous, roaming what was to become Alaska, Alberta, and Montana in huge herds.

The introduction of a new Edmontosaurus replica into the Wild Safari Dinos model range (Safari Ltd) gave us the chance to make a video review featuring Edmontosaurus.

Everything Dinosaur’s Review of Edmontosaurus (Safari Ltd)

Video credit: Everything Dinosaur

In this video, we use this new model to highlight some of the knowledge that palaeontologists have been able to build up based on the extensive Edmontosaurus fossil material.  We discuss why the model has been painted the way that it has, how the hooves and skin have been depicted and reflect on the interaction between this Ornithopod and T. rex with whom it shared its environment.

To view the range of Safari Ltd’s dinosaur models including the Wild Safari Dinos Edmontosaurus: Dinosaur Toys – Dinosaur Models

We go on to explain why Edmontosaurus was chosen as the “victim” for the three T. rex exhibit at the L. A. Museum and provide answers to the question as to why this model has such a deep tail – enjoy.

Definition of the Word “Holotype”

Answering Reader’s Questions – What is a Holotype?

At Everything Dinosaur we receive lots of correspondence from customers, avid dinosaur fans and interested readers who want to ask questions about Dinosauria and other prehistoric animals.  Yesterday, we were asked in an email to explain what the word “Holotype” means as the sender had seen this word in a number of books relating to dinosaurs and fossils and did not know what it meant.

A holotype is one specimen of a species that is used as the standard to which other fossils, thought to represent the same species, are compared.  The first fossil of a prehistoric animal found does not always end up becoming the holotype – the benchmark fossil for the species as it were.  A specimen may be the holotype because it was the first found and formally described or because it shows the various characteristics that define the species most clearly.

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