How did the Dinosaur Saichania get its Name?

The Naming of the Ankylosaur Saichania

The Late Cretaceous member of the Ankylosauridae family, (a group of armoured dinosaurs) known as Saichania (S. chulsanensis) has caused some confusion amongst young dinosaur fans.  Many ask us how did this seven metre long, herbivore get its name.

Saichania (Saichania chulsanensis) was named and described by the Polish palaeontologist Teresa Maryánska in 1977.  In a departure from normal scientific practice whereby dinosaurs are named from Greek or Latin, Teresa named this animal after the local Mongolian for “beautiful”.  This has caused some confusion as some writers have stated that Saichania got its name from the beautifully preserved fossils.  Others state that Saichania was named after the “Saichan-tue” mountains of the Gobi desert.

The fossil remains of Saichania were certainly very well preserved and are almost complete, providing remarkable data on this heavily armoured Cretaceous dinosaur.

A Model of the Late Cretaceous Dinosaur Saichania

Schleich Saichania Dinosaur Model (Schleich Saurus)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view dinosaur and other prehistoric animal models: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls

The animal certainly looks very fierce, it is hard to think of this dinosaur as “beautiful”.

Watch Out – Posting Dates for Christmas

Last Posting Dates for Airmail from the UK to Many Parts of the World Approaching

Christmas is fast approaching and team members at Everything Dinosaur are doing all they can to ensure that they pack and despatch orders as quickly as they can.  A fast turn around from order being placed to the time it is sent out of our warehouse is essential at this time of year, especially with so many orders required in time for December 25th.

We publish a number of articles and links on our blog and Facebook pages, all offering advice and support when it comes to ordering in time for Christmas and there are a number of key dates to remember when sending parcels overseas from the UK.  For instance, December 5th (next Monday) is the last recommended posting date for parcels sent by Airmail from the UK to Central and South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, the Far East (including Japan), Asia and Australia/New Zealand.

It is always good practice to post as early as possible to avoid disappointment.  For further advice and information about shipping overseas visit our shipping and delivery information pages: Delivery Information

We do all we can to ensure a swift service, remember, International Surface Mail, although cheap and efficient is very slow, parcels sent by International Surface Mail from the UK to Australia for example, can take up to three months, as we move towards the end of November, it is extremely unlikely that parcels sent Surface Mail are going to reach their intended destination in time for the big day.  For Airmail service deliveries, time is of the essence and the 5th December is the key date to remember for posting overseas from the UK to the destinations outlined in the paragraph above… hope this helps.

Turiasaurus – The Largest European Dinosaur Known?

Tricky Question – What is the biggest Dinosaur known from Europe?

Team members at Everything Dinosaur are used to fielding lots of dinosaur related questions.  Every day we receive letters, emails and even faxes with prehistoric puzzlers on them.  We try to answer them all as best we can, but sometimes a question can pose some problems such as the one we received from a primary school recently related to dinosaurs and geography.

A group of Key Stage II students and their teacher had been working on a dinosaur topic for the latter part of the Christmas term.  As part of the scheme of work the teacher and her class had prepared a map of the world as it looks today, but placed dinosaurs on the map to indicate where fossils of these creatures had been found.  This chart was then put on the classroom wall, making up part of their dinosaur themed display.  Stegosaurus and T. rex were placed in North America, Edmontonia in Canada, Microraptor in China and so on.  However, from this project a number of questions were raised by the children.  By referring to reference books and such like, the class was able to answer most of the conundrums that had been posed.  However, for some of the more tricky ones they turned to the experts at Everything Dinosaur for help.

When looking a European dinosaurs, the children wanted to know the name of the largest dinosaur found to date, on that continent.  This led to quite a debate amongst our team members, but after a discussion we agreed that we should put forward the Sauropod Turiasaurus (pronounced Tur-ee-oh-sore-us), a dinosaur whose fragmentary fossils were found in Spain in 2006.   Although only a few fossils were found the 1.8 metre long humerus (upper arm bone) indicates a collassal creature,  perhaps more than 35 metres long.  Scientists are uncertain as to whether this animal was a Diplodocid like Apatosaurus or a member of the Macronaria like Brachiosaurus, or perhaps it represents an entirely different type of long-necked dinosaur, but it may have weighed as much as eight fully grown African elephants.

We think that Turiasaurus would be a contender for the title of Europe’s largest dinosaur discovered to date.  One of the problems with palaeontology, is that it is always moving forward.  New discoveries can turn accepted doctrine and theory upside down and whilst the public might get excited about the biggest or the fiercest dinosaurs, only a small portion or the overall research undertaken by scientists is dedicated to answering these specific questions.

Solving the Problem of Naming Model Dinosaurs

Everything Dinosaur’s Specialists Come to the Aid of Parents and Teachers

The product range at Everything Dinosaur is huge.  Each year it seems to get bigger and bigger, but we stick to our principles of always testing products and getting the opinions of our field testers before any item gets into our shop.  This research pays dividends as our team members acquire knowledge about the products that we sell and this can prove extremely helpful for our customers.

Take for example, the various sets of prehistoric animals that we sell.  The dinosaur experts at the company take great care in selecting ranges of models that are  a reasonably accurate interpretation of Dinosauria.  The play potential is assessed and we look for models of different and unusual prehistoric animals to add to our ranges.  The popular “Dinosaurs in a tin” product, consisting of selected animal models provided in their own handy, tin, dinosaur themed storage box is a case in point.  Our knowledge about what we sell and the care taken in choosing such items for our shop pays handsome dividends when parents and teachers ask for further information.

The Dinosaurs in a Tin Product from Everything Dinosaur

Popular Christmas Gift – Dinosaurs in a Tin

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Many parents, teachers and guardians know that their budding, young palaeontologist is going to ask them about the models in the set.  This can be a little tricky, however, thanks to the work put in by our team members the answers are readily available.  For example, each model in the dinosaurs in a tin gift set has a unique code carefully printed on the underside.  This code consists of a letter and a digit, for example C5, A7 etc.  The code can be difficult to spot but usually a careful examination of the belly area of the model is all that is required.  The experts at Everything Dinosaur have then used this code to identify the prehistoric animal the model represents.  They even have produced a handy identification and pronunciation guide to help grown ups answer the questions posed by their young charges.

Everything Dinosaur’s Handy Model Identification Guide

Helping Parents, Teachers and Guardians

Table Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the selection of dinosaur and prehistoric animal model sets provided by Everything Dinosaur: Dinosaur Toys

Our team members are all dinosaur enthusiasts, they are happy to share their knowledge and help out in this way.  One suggestion is to get your young dinosaur fan to name the models first, then working with them (after all, their young, keen eyes can spot the product codes easily), use the identification table to see how many they got right – it is all part of the learning process and our staff are happy to answer any emails providing further information on the particular dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.

Prehistoric Fishermen Able to Catch Fast Swimming Tuna

East Timor Discovery Hints at Ancestors Teaching Isaac Walton a Thing or Two

Angling is a hobby enjoyed by many millions of people all over the world, these days most of the fish caught by anglers are returned to the water, but for some of our ancestors at least, catching fish with hooks and line may have been a vital to ensure their survival.

Indeed, discoveries made in a remote cave on the island of East Timor, suggest that some prehistoric humans had sophisticated and highly advanced fishing techniques enabling them to catch fast-swimming, deep ocean fish that would make today’s sports angler envious.

Excavations in a small cave, at the eastern side of the island of East Timor (north of Australia) by a team of researchers from the Australian National University have revealed the bones of more than 2,800 fish, some of which were caught as far back as 42,000 years ago.  Tuna bones found at the site suggest that by 40,000 years ago  H. sapiens had mastered the fishing skills required to catch on a regular basis the fast-swimming, powerful tuna.

There are several species of extant tuna, they are all nektonic (animals living above sea floor and active swimmers).  Tuna patrol the water column and they hunt other fish species, using their streamlined bodies and strong tails to pursue and catch their prey.  They are no easy catch for today’s sports angler or for those modern fishermen who use lines and baited hooks to lure them but for our ancestors to hook a tuna would represent a highly nutritious and protein packed addition to their diet.

The Cave/Overhang Site in East Timor

A Prehistoric Fisherman’s Lodge?

Picture Credit: Associated Press/Australian National University/Sue O’Connor

Two exploration pits dug by the archaeologists can be seen in the photograph, one in the foreground to the left and a second pit marked by sticks towards the cave wall.

The East Timor discovery shows that  the people living in the region had the sophisticated cognitive skills needed to haul in such a difficult fish to catch.

The team’s findings appear in the scientific journal “Science”.

Archaeologist and Associate Professor at the Australian based university, Sue O’Connor commented:

“What the site [East Timor] has shown us is that early modern humans in island Southeast Asia had amazingly advanced maritime skills.  They were expert at catching the types of fish that would be challenging even today — fish like tuna.  It’s a very exciting find.”

Although the discovery of many thousands of fish bones gives the archaeologists evidence of what these islanders ate, it is not clear how these people actually caught the fish.  Today, tuna can be caught by rod and line, or by trailing long lines of baited hooks through the water.  Alternatively, they can be caught by trawling nets.  Some fish hooks were found at the site, but the scientists consider these hooks, made from shell not to be suitable for tackling such a strong fish as a tuna.

Associate Professor O’ Connor summarised by stating:

“Either way it seems certain that these people were using quite sophisticated technology and watercraft to fish offshore.”

The site where the discoveries were made, known as Jerimalai cave, is a small rock overhang hidden behind dense, jungle foliage, a few hundred metres from the shore. For many thousands of years it seems that this cave was inhabited by humans who may have specialised in fishing off-shore as well as beach-combing and hunting/trapping in the forest.  The cave also contained the bones and shells of a number of turtles, Everything Dinosaur team members speculate that these reptiles were not caught out at sea but captured on land as they wandered onto the shore.

Commenting on the significance of the East Timor discoveries, O’Connor stated:

“When I discovered it in 2005, I didn’t think that Jerimalai would tell us about the very early occupation of Timor, I was quite surprised when I found all these fish bones and turtle bones.”

So far, she and her colleagues have only excavated two small test pits at the cave, which contained a number of stone artefacts, bone points, animal remains, shell beads and ancient fish hooks.

In just one of those pits, 1 metre square and 2 metres deep, they found 39,000 fish bones.

The research team also unearthed another rare find — a small piece of fishing hook made from a shell, which dates to between 23,000 and 16,000 years ago.

A Picture of the Prehistoric Fish Hook

The oldest known fish hook? Dating from 14,000 – 21,000 years BC

Picture Credit: Australian National University

This is the earliest example of a fishing hook that has ever been found, the researchers conclude.  They are hopeful that more extensive excavations might reveal more hooks and other fascinating evidence about human maritime existence at the site.  There are certainly other part of the overhang that need to be excavated, and there well may be other hidden caves and rock overhangs that have yet to be discovered.

In conclusion, Associate Professor O’Connor added:

“I think Jerimalai gives us a window into what maritime coastal occupation was like 40,000 to 50,000 years ago that we don’t really have anywhere else in the world.”

It seems that these prehistoric fishermen might have been able to teach Isaac Walton, known at the “father of modern angling” a thing or two.

Earliest Evidence of Human Aggression

Prehistoric Skull may Show First Signs of Human Violence against Fellow Man

A skull believed to date from more than 120,000 years ago may show the earliest recorded evidence of human violence but on the positive side, the person who was attacked, hit by some form of hard object on the skull, did live to fight another day.  Scientists have suggested the skull shows the tell-tale marks of an attack by another human being, but as the skull also shows signs of healing, the victim did at least recover from the blow.

The discovery is based on highly detailed CT scans of a 126,000-year-old human known as Maba Man, so named because his fossil remains were found near Maba in Guangdong Province (China) in 1958.  The scans revealed a skull fracture caused by blunt force trauma.  The victim was probably clubbed with a weapon such as a stone, heavy bone, or lump of wood, according to a new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The skull was found in a cave and it had been gnawed by some form of giant rodent.  The researchers have speculated that the teeth marks may have been left by a porcupine.

Although, the injury could have been caused by having been hit by another person, it is also possible that the injury resulted from a severe fall – sadly there is no accident record so we can only speculate.

Researcher Lynne Schepartz, of the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa commented:

“This person had a pretty serious injury, it would have been a real good knock to the head.”

She went onto add that the blow, if that is what it was, most likely caused bleeding and a concussion – inducing nausea, vomiting and perhaps even brain damage, leaving the victim prone and helpless.  However, if the wound shows our species violent side, the CT scans also showed that the wound eventually healed and that Maba Man lived for many years afterwards, something that indicates that the hurt man was likely cared for after his injury.  So this wound may show our darker side but also suggests evidence of human compassion.

A Picture of the “Mapa Man” Skull with Close up Showing the Wound

“Signs of a Bashing”

Picture Credit: University of the Witwatersrand

Schepartz stated:

“The bone was depressed inward, pressing on soft tissue and yet this person survived for a long period of time and it was not the immediate cause of [his] death.”

Although an accident cannot be ruled out, modern forensic science and other evidence points to foul play, the researchers report.   Consider it a bit like a game of “Cluedo”, instead of Professor Green in the library with the lead pipe, it may have been an early human in the cave, with a large rock.

Ruling out the likelihood of a severe fall, Schepartz said:

“It’s hard to imagine how you would get just that one area of impact from, say, a fall.”

The fossilised remains of this early human indicate that he lived until his mid forties, a great age for one of our ancestors, as most early H. sapiens were lucky if they reached their thirtieth birthday.

Professor Erik Trinkhaus of Washington University (St Louis) commenting on the study, stated that older skulls showed signs of wounds and damage, but this injury was probably caused by “getting whooped by someone else” to put in bluntly.

The team says his recovery supports evidence from previous fossil studies that Neanderthals and other ancient humans, while often violently aggressive, also took care of their sick and vulnerable.  No one will ever know the real cause of the injury, but it can be postulated that it was caused by a blow from another person, the victim being cared for until he recovered.

Researchers at the University of Witwatersrand have helped provide further insights into the ancestry of our species.  Recently, Everything Dinosaur team members wrote about the discovery of ancient hominid fossils – A. sediba.

To read an article on this: Unlocking the secrets of our Ancestors

Plesiosaurus Rises to the Surface

Rare Plesiosaur Fossil Discovered in Canadian Oil Sands

Engineers and equipment operators working in the large quarries that make up the Canadian Oil Sands have to keep a sharp look out for amongst the dark, blackened rocks monsters lie in wait.  Canada has the largest deposits of what are known as “bituminous sands” in the world.  These deposits are mixtures of sand, clay, water and other debris as well as heavy crude oil, so viscous that it does not flow like oil but tends to have the composition of treacle toffee.  When refined this super, heavy crude can be turned into oil, but for palaeontologists these rocks laid down at the bottom of a Cretaceous sea also contain fossils, including the preserved remains of marine reptiles.

One nearly complete marine reptile fossil, was discovered a few days ago by one sharp-eyed digger operator whilst working on a deposit.  November 14th will always be a red-letter day for operator Maggy Horvath as she discovered the remains of a Plesiosaur.  Plesiosaurs were a group of marine reptiles ranging in size from three metres in length to more than 12 metres long.  Many were long-necked, fish eaters that swam with the aid of four large flippers.  Other forms, the shorter-necked group are classed as Pliosaurs, many of which were huge, apex predators in their marine environment.

The fossil is being examined by scientists at  Royal Tyrrell Museum (Drumheller, Alberta) they have removed most of the specimen from the quarry.

A Plesiosaur – Large Marine Reptile

Long-necked marine predator

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Museum spokesperson Don Brinkman commented:

“This is a very rare find.  It’s a long-necked Plesiosaur, which is a marine reptile with a very long neck, small head and short body.”

The fossil was found at a Syncrude company site, a number of marine reptile fossils have been found on their oil sand deposits as Brinkman stated:

“The last one that was recovered was 10 years ago; it was recognised as a new kind and given the name Wapuskanectes.”

When she discovered the bones, operator Maggy Horvath said she immediately stopped digging and told a Syncrude geologist who works with the Royal Tyrrell on fossil discoveries.

A Plesiosaurus Specimen from the Oil Sand Deposits

Superbly preserved Plesiosaurus fossil

Picture Credit: Royal Tyrrell Museum/Sabrowski/CP

The fossil discovery is similar to the one seen in the picture above (discovered in 1994).  The oil sand specimen in the picture even has part of its hide preserved.

She later added:

“It felt pretty good to call my son and let him know that I found a prehistoric fossil while working.”

Just occasionally, dinosaur fossils are found in the oil sands.  Some dinosaur carcases must have floated out to see and then sank, settling on the seabed, these specimens are much rarer than the marine reptile remains.

To read an article about a rare dinosaur discovery: Ankylosaur fossil found in Oil Sands

Miragaia Dinosaur Model from CollectA

New Stegosaur Model available in Spring 2012

CollectA are going to be introducing a model of the European, Jurassic Stegosaur called Miragaia in the spring of 2012. Fossils of this type of Stegosaur were found in Upper Jurassic strata of the Lourinhã Formation of western Portugal, an area rich in dinosaur fossil remains that has yielded a number of new and exciting dinosaur genera over the last fifty years or so.

Most of the front portion of this dinosaur was excavated, including elements of the snout, the first Stegosaur skull material to have been discovered in Europe.  As well as the nasal, maxilla and premaxilla bones (snout) the fossils included the postorbital bone from the skull and an element from the lower jaw plus shoulder bones, most of the front forelimbs, fifteen cervical vertebrae (neck bones) and a number of armour plates.  Although, just two specimens are known (one a probable juvenile), the design team at CollectA have created a very credible dinosaur model.

The New Miragaia Model (available Spring 2012)

Jurassic Stegosaur Model

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/CollectA

The elongated neck is well depicted, this dinosaur had more cervical vertebrae than most Sauropods.  The shoulder spikes are perhaps a little too erect and if this animal did possess shoulder spikes, they might have been at a more acute angle to provide more protection on the shoulders.

To read an article on the discovery of Miragaia: New, Long-necked Stegosaur Discovered

This model contrasts with the 2011 introduction by Safari into their Carnegie Collectibles series.  The skin on this version of Miragaia has a more roughened texture and this model has a bright and more prominent red throat patch.

The Miragaia Model from Safari

Jurassic Stegosaur – Safari’s Interpretation

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

It is interesting to contrast the design of the “thagomiser” – the spikes on the end of the tail.  The rear end of this dinosaur is not known in the current fossil record, so it is intriguing to note the differences, with the Safari specimen having a larger pair of double spikes at the end of the tail.

Therizinosaurus – Enter the “Scythe Lizards”

Therizinosaurus (Therizinosaurus cheloniformis) from Collecta

The new Collecta Therizinosaurus dinosaur model will be available next year.  This is the second model of a “Scythe Lizard” the company has produced, the first being a Nothronychus that came out a couple of years ago.

Collecta Therizinosaurus Dinosaur Model (Collecta Dinosaurs)

A Therizinosaurus about to display.

Picture Credit: Collecta/Everything Dinosaur

Those claws certainly look very formidable, lets hope that the models can stand up to rigours of transport.  The model has been posed as if this Theropod dinosaur is about to launch into a display, perhaps to deter an attack or to attract a mate.

World Museum (Liverpool) Visitors Take Part in Dinosaur Study

Visitors Cast their Votes in Battle of the Giant Killers (T. rex versus Spinosaurus)

Visitors to the Liverpool World Museum have been able to participate in a unique study conducted by members of the Everything Dinosaur team, aimed at deciding whether T. rex or Spinosaurus was the most dangerous, large, meat-eating dinosaur of the Late Cretaceous.

Everything Dinosaur staff have been conducting a series of weekend presentations, all part of the exciting dinosaur themed activities currently taking place at the museum to coincide with the “Age of the Dinosaur” exhibition which is just one of the many dinosaur themed attractions at this city centre location.

Meet a Baby Iguanodon at the Liverpool World Museum

Amazing Dinosaurs to meet at the Liverpool World Museum

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In one of the presentations, entitled “Battle of the Giant Killers”, audiences are asked to vote on who would win in a fight between a Spinosaurus and a Tyrannosaurus rex.  With lots of young dinosaur fans and their mums and dads sitting down to watch the recent BBC television series “Planet Dinosaur”, Spinosaurus has once again risen to prominence.  Spinosaurus appears in the first episode of this series – “Lost World” and it is described as the biggest ever land predator, but could it win a fight with a T. rex?  In a re-run of the Jurassic Park III encounter, Everything Dinosaur’s experts presented the fossil evidence relating to Spinosaurus (Spinosaurus aegyptiacus and nomen dubium S. maroccansus) and compared/contrasted the fossil material with what has been discovered about “the King of the Tyrant Lizards”.

Battle of the Killer Giants!

An imaginary encounter between these dinosaurs.

Picture Credit:Everything Dinosaur

 The team members provided a “tale of the tape” so visitors could weigh up the contenders and vote on who might win an imaginary fight between these large Theropods separated by some thirty million years of evolution (and a few thousand miles to boot).   The audience at each show, which took place in the museum’s Treasure House theatre, was then asked to cast their vote based on this information and for the rest of the show the actual fossil evidence was explored with the help of lots of keen volunteers and budding young palaeontologists.

Stromer’s story and the Egyptian discoveries, lost fossils, Moroccan finds, the Kem Kem Formation – all these areas and more were discussed in the fifty minute show.  There were even a couple of tigers thrown in for good measure.

After all the teeth, claws, fossil bones, brain endocasts etc. had been thoroughly explored, each theatre audience was asked to vote again to see if they had altered their view based on an understanding of the actual fossil evidence.

A spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Such a confrontation between these two dinosaurs, never happened, however, these two different Theropods give us the opportunity to introduce some important scientific concepts to members of the public. There is no doubt that the big predators capture the public’s imagination and if we can use the likes of T. rex and Spinosaurus to inform and educate then this has to be a good thing.”

 The Result of the Initial Vote

T. rex v Spinosaurus – The First Vote

Graph credit: Everything Dinosaur

The initial vote was very much in favour of “Spine Lizard” coming out on top in an encounter between these super heavyweights.  Sixty-one percent of the audience attending the Everything Dinosaur shows thought that Spinosaurus would win.  This is not entirely surprising given this particular dinosaurs high profile at the moment after the popular BBC television series.

However, once the fossil data was explored the view of the audience changed dramatically.  By the end of each presentation, with all the available evidence presented; the vote swung dramatically in favour of the “King of the Tyrant Lizards”.  Interestingly, the second vote cumulatively, and after rounding was a mirror image of the first vote.

The Result of the Second Vote – After the Evidence

T. rex versus Spinosaurus

Graph Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Whether it was the T. rex jaws, the differences in the teeth, or perhaps the evidence to suggest that Spinosaurs were specialised fish eaters, it seems that there was a big swing towards the T. rex.  This might be explained by the paucity of the Spinosaurus fossil record compared to the Tyrannosaurs, certainly, the loss of the Egyptian material (holotype) prevents firm conclusions being drawn regarding the Spinosaurs in north Africa.  This will probably change as more fossils are discovered.

For further information on Liverpool World Museum’s dinosaur themed events and activities: Liverpool World Museum

However, for the time being it looks like based on the fossil evidence as presented by Everything Dinosaur, T. rex holds sway.  Now all we need to do is to introduce the likes of Saurophaganax, Carcharodontosaurus, Giganotosaurus, Acrocanthosaurus and Mapusaurus into the fray.  Perhaps another time…

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