New Research into Tyrannosaurus rex Bite Force

T. rex Bite More Powerful than Previously Thought and the Bite became more Powerful as they Grew

New research into the biting power of adult Tyrannosaurs by UK based researchers indicates that the bite force of an adult T. rex was higher than previously thought.  In addition, this new study, results of which appear in the scientific journal “Biology Letters”, suggests that the bite became disproportionately more powerful as this predator grew and matured.

The bite force generated by extinct predators such as Tyrannosaurus rex has been studied before, but this new study suggests that the bite force generated on the points of the back teeth of this dinosaur’s formidable jaws is much higher than previously thought, with T. rex having the strongest bite of any known terrestrial animal.

Dr. Karl Bates, a researcher at the University of Liverpool’s biomechanics laboratory and his colleague, Peter Falkingham (Manchester University) used a life-size, computer generated copy of the STAN-BHI3033 specimen’s skull to carry out their research.  This T. rex specimen was discovered in 1992 by Stan Sacrison, hence the specimen name.

Dr. Bates explained:

“We digitised the skull with a laser scanner, so we had a 3-D model of the skull on our computer.”

We at Everything Dinosaur, known this specimen very well and we have had the privilege to work with elements of the skull including the dentary, the skull of this particular T. rex is exceptionally well-preserved and almost complete.

The Reconstructed STAN-BHI 3033 Replica (Manchester Museum)

Strongest Bite of any Land Animal?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

 Once the three-dimensional image had been created, the muscles that articulated the jaws and the skull could be mapped onto the image.  The researchers could then reproduced the full force of a bite by activating the muscles to contract fully – snapping the digital jaws shut.  A number of extant animals were also mapped in this way, the bite force of an Alligator was modelled using this technique and then compared to known data to test the validity of this methodology.

Dr. Bates stated that this new research gives T. rex an even more powerful bite than previously thought, he declared:

“Those [simulated] muscles closed the jaw as they would in life and we measured the force when the teeth hit each other.  The maximum forces we found – up at the [back] teeth - were between 30,000 and 57,000 Newtons.”

At Everything Dinosaur, we have been working on some comparative data on the toothsome properties of large Tyrannosaurids and Spinosaurids.  Bite force estimates are difficult to calculate, especially in the absence of any extensive large Spinosaur (S. aegyptiacus) fossil material, but in our studies the bite force or a large T. rex was estimated to be around 12-15,000 psi (pounds per square inch) comparable with the Liverpool research.

As an approximate guide, to convert Newtons to lbs per square inch bite force divide by 4.45 (rounded).

When asked to give a “layman’s perspective” regarding the power of a T. rex bite, the scientist compared the bite force generated to the equivalent of a medium-sized elephant sitting on a person.

Computer Model Used to Estimate T. rex Bite Force

Bite down hard!

Picture Credit: Biology Letters

Earlier studies had estimated that an adult T. rex had a bite force of perhaps 13,000 Newtons, still a powerful bite, but nowhere near the figure given by this new research.

The picture above shows the computer generated model of the T. rex skull with the musculature involved in closing he jaws mapped onto the bone.  The first picture on the left  - (a) three-dimensional digitised skull with soft tissues reconstructed for mass and muscle properties (red, adductor mandibulae externus group; blue, adductor mandibulae posterior group; purple, pterygoideus group). The second image (b) shows the  model with joint centres (green circle), muscles (red cylinders), and ‘contact’ springs (blue spheres and cylinder) on the teeth in the initial simulation starting pose. The final picture shows the model in the “sustained biting” position.

The British scientists developed their work on the T. rex bite force.  As well as comparing their data with previous Tyrannosaur studies, they mapped the bites of other large Theropods including Allosaurids such as Giganotosaurus carolini and other Tyrannosaurs.  In addition, they looked at Tyrannosaur ontogeny (how animals grow).  Their work suggests that as the head of T. rex got bigger there was an expected increase in bite force, but the jaws seem to have got disproportionately stronger the bigger the animal got.

Explaining the findings, Dr. Bates stated:

“Obviously, as its head got a lot bigger, there’s an expected increase in bite force associated with that.  But for T. rex, the power behind its bite increased disproportionately – much more than would be expected from a straightforward linear increase.”

Although only speculation, the disproportionately stronger jaws in older individuals may suggest that this predator’s diet changed as it matured.  With perhaps only the biggest Tyrannosaurs able to take on the largest  contemporaneous animals, that co-existed with the “Tyrant Lizard King”.

A Table Showing the Bite Force Comparisons of Animals and Previous Research Figures

Open Wide – Bite Down Hard!

Picture Credit: Biology Letters

The graph shows the results of the Manchester/Liverpool research (white bars) on animals such as adult T. rex, juvenile T. rex, Allosaurus, Alligators et al.  The grey coloured bars show the results of previous research studies into those animals and their respective bite forces.

Dr. Bill Sellers, (University of Manchester), a scientist who has carried out a lot of computer-based comparative research on dinosaurs commented:

“I think everyone expected T. rex to have a strong bite force, but it’s even stronger than we expected.  It gets stronger as it gets bigger, which is surprising.”

He explained that studying dinosaurs shed light on the limits that living things were capable of.

These animals are extremes – one of the biggest carnivores that ever lived.  So it tells you a lot about the limitations of biology.  We want to know how organisms work, but living organisms are much smaller.  In terms of mechanics, size is really important.”

Bite force data can be interpreted in many ways, the lack of observed results and the limits placed on the research by the paucity of the fossil record are problematical, however, with the latest computer generated models, a more accurate measurement can be obtained. Whichever figure is taken, it is clear from only a cursory examination of the jaws and teeth of a Tyrannosaur, that the front end of this particular dinosaur was to be avoided at all costs.

It is worth noting that the specimen adult T. rex studied was a gracile form, larger Tyrannosaurs, more robust T. rex fossils are known and these animals may have had even stronger bites.

“Oetzi” The Iceman – New Insights Thanks to Study of Genome

5,300-Year-Old Mummy Yields Further Secrets

Since the body of a middle-aged man was found in 1991 by a party of hikers in the Italian Alps, the corpse has been the centre of intensive research.  The body was that of a person who had lived some 5,300 years ago, at first the body, which had been beautifully preserved in its icy surroundings, was thought to be that of a climber who had got into difficulties and perished on the mountain, but close examination revealed that this was the corpse of a person who had lived in the New Stone Age.

Italian scientists have published a more complete study of the genome of this Stone Age person, someone who may have been murdered as the body was discovered with an arrow head buried in the shoulder.  This new research, building upon an earlier study into the corpses’s genetic material published in 2008 reveals that “Oetzi” had brown eyes, “O” type blood, was very probably lactose intolerant and was predisposed to heart disease.  The report has been published in the scientific journal “Nature Communications”.

The Mummified Body of “Oetzi”

The Iceman Cometh!

Picture Credit: BBC News

The findings have been published by the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at the European Academy of Bolzano (EURAC), in conjunction with Tuebingen and Saarland universities in Germany, which were also involved in this study.

Albert Zink, an anthropologist,  at the EURAC Institute for Mummies and the Iceman, based in Bolzano, Italy, stated that this new study adds to the database of knowledge on this Neolithic individual.  For example, earlier studies had suggested that “Oetzi” had no living relatives, but the fuller genetic picture as laid out in the nuclei of Oetzi’s cells suggest  a different story.

Based on an analysis of nuclear DNA, this Stone Age person probably was descended from people of the Middle East who migrated out of that part of the world into Europe with the advent of more advanced agricultural systems.  Study of a series of anomalies in the “Iceman’s” DNA reveal him to be more closely related to modern inhabitants of the islands of Sardinia and Corsica than to modern human populations living in the Alps today.

The genome analysis involving the study of cells taken from inside the hip joint  also show him to be the first documented case of infection by a Lyme disease bacterium.  Lyme disease is one of the most common bacterial infections found in the Northern hemisphere, it is spread by tick bites and causes headaches, fatigue and in more extreme cases problems with joints and the nervous system.  It can be effectively treated by antibiotics, but for “Oetzi” there would have been no relief.

Interestingly, the “Tyrol Iceman”, as “Oetzi” is sometimes called, weighed about fifty kilogrammes when he died.  He was not overweight and had a very different diet to us today, but he was still predisposed to cardiovascular disease.  This may have implications for how scientists treat obesity in modern human populations.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Zink said:

“We’ve been studying the Iceman for 20 years.  We know so many things about him – where he lived, how he died – but very little was known about his genetics, the genetic information he was carrying around.”

The lactose intolerance, identified through this “whole genome sequencing process”, used in the study was probably very common in the New Stone Age.  Cows and other milk producing creatures were only just beginning to be domesticated on any large scale and much of the human population was very probably lactose intolerant.  Our ability to digest milk from other animals probably built up in the population over many thousands of years as humanity moved towards an agrarian society.

A Reconstruction of the New Stone Age Man – “Oetzi”

Reconstruction of the New Stone Age Man

Picture Credit: South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/EURAC 

Professor Zink added:

“This was really exciting and I think it’s just the start for a longer study on this level.  We still would like to learn more from this data – we’ve only just started to analyse it.”

Certainly, the discovery of a beautifully preserved specimen of a New Stone Age person, was one of the most amazing archaeological discoveries of the 20th Century.  Advances in genetics are permitting scientists in the 21st Century to gain a further insight into the life of this ancient human being, who perished on a Tyrol mountainside more than 5,300 years ago.

An interesting paper was published on “Oetzi” in 2010, it suggested that this person may have been a Stone Age VIP and as a result given a much more formal burial.

To read this article: “Oetzi” – The Chieftan

100,000 Year-Old Rock Star

Pebble May Be the Oldest H. sapiens Artwork Ever Found

A small pebble made of ochre, discovered in South Africa may be the oldest example ever found of an engraving made by H. sapiens.  Researchers from the University of Witwatersrand Institute for Human Evolution (S. Africa) have dated this eight centimetre long fragment, part of what was believed to be a much larger object, to around 100,000 years ago, making this object a candidate for the oldest known abstract art.

The colourful pebble was found in the Klasies River Cave (Eastern Cape Province), it is associated with human remains and artefacts from the Middle Stone Age.  The Middle Stone Age, the Mesolithic is the period of geological time used by archaeologists to describe the period of human evolution from the ending of the Ice Age phases to the beginning of sedentary farming.  It is a “catch all” period with different dates ascribed to Mesolithic artefacts and human remains dependent on where in the world they were found.

Commenting on the research, co-author of the scientific paper, Riaan Rifkin (University of Witwatersrand’s Institute for Human Evolution) stated:

“Associated human remains indicate that the engraved piece was certainly made by Homo sapiens.”

Rifkin and colleagues Francesco d’Errico and Renata Garcia Moreno performed extensive non-invasive analyses of the object.  Methods like X-ray fluorescence and microscopic analysis enabled the researchers to examine every minute detail of the ochre pebble.  The scientists have concluded that humans or a human deliberately and intentionally made sub-parallel cuts on the pebble – for what purpose remains open to speculation.

The Ochre Pebble – Does is Show Early Human Symbolism?

The pebble with the scratches highlighted

Picture Credit: University of Witwatersrand

Riaan added:

“Upon engraving the piece with a sharp lithic implement [stone tool], it is likely to have produced a markedly bright and dark red-maroon powder.  The design may therefore have been strikingly visible shortly after it was produced.”

Ochre- is a naturally tinted clay that mainly consists of hydrated iron oxide.  It was amongst the earliest pigments used by humans and other hominids (Neanderthals for example).  It is often referred to as the “caveman’s crayon”.

The Klasies River object contains a series of seven deep cuts and several (sixteen or so), smaller and somewhat shallower linear features.  It is not known whether the cuts of different magnitude were made by the same person or by different stone tools or made by a second human engraver.

Riaan commented:

“The fragment is a remnant of a formerly semi-circular ochre pebble that likely contained a much more extensive engraved design on its surface.”

The research team are particularly interested in whether or not the engraver or engravers made the design with symbolic intent.  Excavations at Blombos Cave, on the southern Cape Coast of South Africa have revealed similar finds of red ochre engraved with geometric patterns.  These objects have been dated to approximately 73,000 years ago, but the Klasies River Cave object is much older.

Use of symbols and meaningful images are thought to have been a significant breakthrough in human development. Language, maths and countless other studies are tied to this basic skill, in addition to improved communication.  To this day, art permits communication of identity and other things among diverse cultures.

Linear and cross-hatch carved patterns may have been common in Mesolithic culture.  As well as the examples found in Blombos Cave, scientists found similar carvings on ostrich eggshell fragments found in the Diepkloof Rock Shelter in the Western Cape Province.  Some of these, and other, similar objects may even pre-date the Klasies River pebble, but studies on them are ongoing and research papers yet to be published.

Riaan Rifkin explained:

“The employment of red ochre for symbolic purposes likely played an important role in mediating increasingly complex social relations that emerged during the Middle Stone Age.”

Christopher Henshilwood, a researcher at the University of Witwatersrand, did not work on this study, but he has examined other very early probable engravings.  For example, he studied abstract markings of another piece of southern African ochre dating to around 70,000 years ago.

In that case, the engraving consisted of a more complex geometric pattern that looks like the letter “X” repeated in a connected series.  Scientists remain puzzled as to what meaning these symbols may have had.

Henshilwood stated:

“They are symbols that I think could have been interpreted by those people as having meaning that would have been understood by others.”

At present, Rifkin and his team are studying 30,000-year old cave art from Africa.  So far, they have determined that the abstract images depict a zebra, a rhino and a half human-half cat creature – perhaps a deity symbol or an animal that features in tribal stories.  The Klasies River Cave system was inhabited by humans for thousands of years.  Excavations have been on-going at this location since the 1960′s.  The site is one of the most important in the world in terms of H. sapiens evolution and development.  The artefacts found have provided an unprecedented insight into early human behaviour, particularly hunting among groups of early humans.  Some of the remains and items found in the cave system are believed to date from more than 125,000 years ago.

Dinosaurs at the Oscars

Academy Awards for all things Dinosauria

As the 84th Annual Academy Awards, otherwise known as the Oscars is almost upon us, this is an opportune time to  have a short review the role of dinosaurs in movies that have received nominations or indeed won the Oscar accolade.  Dinosaurs have appeared in feature films almost since the beginning of the film genre.  The first film to show a dinosaur was the 1914 animated film staring “Gertie the Dinosaur”, a Sauropod dinosaur cartoon; based on the skeleton of a prehistoric animal known then as  Brontosaurus from the American Museum of Natural History (New York).

Dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts have proved popular with film audiences ever since.  There have been a whole host of monster movies made from the Lost World (1925), based on the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to 10,000 B.C. from the Warner Bros studios, released in 2008.  The quality of these films, do in a large number of cases, leave a lot to be desired.  From a palaeontology perspective most of the films are indeed widely inaccurate portrayals of the Dinosauria and other extinct creatures. Science has never been allowed to get in the way of  a good movie plot and films like “One Million Years B.C.” released in 1966 by the UK based film company Hammer, proved to be very successful at the box office.  Unfortunately, this film, described by some critics as a “bad movie saved by a great film poster”, was overlooked at the 1967 Academy Awards.  That year, films such as “Bonnie and Clyde” and “The Graduate” were awarded the plaudits. Even the fur bikini worn by the film’s female star, Raquel Welch failed to be nominated for an Oscar for best costumes.  That Oscar went to the musical “Camelot”, so even the iconic, furry underwear of Stone Age women failed to impress the Oscar judges.

A word here for the wonderful and talented Ray Harryhausen and his masterful creation of what he termed “Dynamation”, advanced stop-motion film making that brought many prehistoric animals to our screens.  He worked on the dinosaur and other prehistoric animal effects for “One Million Years B.C.” as well as on other titles such as “Valley of the Gwangi” (1969) – a western/dinosaur fantasy that was shot in the Cuenca region of Spain, a location now famed for its real dinosaur fossil discoveries.  Mr. Harryhausen never received an Oscar for any of his special effects seen in a particular movie, however, his contribution to the genre was recognised when he was awarded a special prize in 1992, marking his outstanding work in the science fiction genre and film-making in general.

Dinosaurs at the Movies

Oscar winning movies feature Dinosaurs.

One of the most important influences on the career of Ray Harryhausen and indeed, on the careers of a number of other famous film makers was the movie King Kong released in 1933.  Dinosaurs featured in this film, but they were very much the supporting cast to the  main attraction, the giant ape called Kong.  The film is regarded by many as one of the most influential films of all time, with Fay Wray playing the heroine of the picture “the beauty that killed the beast”, otherwise referred to as the “queen of scream” for all her shrieks that can be heard throughout most of the action sequences.  This film did not win an Oscar, the directors Merian C. Cooper et al could have felt a little hard done by, but the Oscars themselves (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) had only been going for a few years and there was no award category yet for special movie effects.

King Kong, the original 1933 film, show cased a number of revolutionary film-making techniques and innovations such as the amazing stop-motion animation sequences (the work of chief technician, Willis O’Brien who has also worked on the picture “The Lost World” (1925).  Despite this, it failed to receive a single Academy Award nomination. However, amongst film critics and film fans, the original King Kong movie is often voted in the top one hundred most important and influential movies of all time.

The re-make of King Kong (1976) fared better.  The 1976 version won a Special Achievement Award Oscar for Visual Effects.  The most recent re-make of this movie, directed by Oscar winning director Peter Jackson, (King Kong 2005) did better still.  It won three Oscars – Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and not surprisingly -Visual Effects.

Perhaps, the Dinosauria’s greatest success at the Oscars came at the sixty-sixth Academy Awards, honouring films released in 1993.  The movie “Jurassic Park” won three Oscars – Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and again, not surprisingly since the film featured ground-breaking CGI – Best Visual Effects.  The big winner on the night may have been the movie “Schindler’s List”, but with three awards films featuring dinosaurs were finally being acknowledged for their contribution to the industry.  The scene where dinosaurs are first encountered by the scientists sent to scrutinise the proposed theme park, a shot of an enormous Brachiosaurus (a Sauropod dinosaur just like “Gertie” back in 1914), grazing on the top of a tree and rearing up to feed on the uppermost branches has become one of the best known dinosaur sequences ever created in a movie.

“The Lost World” released in 1997, the sequel to “Jurassic Park” was nominated in the special effects category but lost out to the big winner on the night – the movie Titanic.  The third film in the trilogy (a trilogy so far, as there are rumours of a fourth Jurassic Park movie being made), entitled, not  surprisingly “Jurassic Park III), released in 2001 did not receive a single nomination at the seventy-fifth Academy Awards ceremony held the following year.

No doubt, the continued popularity of the Dinosauria and of other prehistoric creatures will motivate future film makers to include these spectacular animals in their film projects.  Dinosaurs tend to be visually stunning, their great size and ferocity making them a favourite amongst movie goers old and young alike.  Although the quality of some of the offerings can be questioned, the legacy of dinosaurs in films is set to continue and we can look forward to more Oscars for the Dinosauria and their on screen creators in the future.

Who knows, perhaps the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may introduce a special “Youtube” category, given our own humble offerings a chance of success.

Dinosaur Extinction (Part 2) – Mass Extinction

Dinosaur Mass Extinction Event with Wind Up Dinosaur Toys

It seems that after the catastrophic  ex-terrestrial impact event some sixty-five million years ago, planet Earth was subjected to severe seismic shocks.  These powerful quakes in conjunction with the other devastating effects of an object some ten kilometres wide and travelling in excess of 30,000 metres per second slamming into the Yucatan peninsula, were causal factors in the mass extinction event that took place marking the end of the Mesozoic.

Whilst playing with our new wind up dinosaurs, and with no expense spared we thought we would have a go at creating our own interpretation of an earthquake event that helped bring about the demise of the Dinosauria et al.

Dinosaur Mass Extinction Event

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To read more about the Chicxulub impact (theory by Luis and Walter Alvarez): Evidence of Late Cretaceous Impact Event

Naturally, we cannot ignore data from the Deccan Traps (India) and other causal factors, but we thought the dinosaur wind ups were so cute that we should make another video featuring these dino playmates.

To view wind up dinosaur toys and other party gift ideas: Dinosaur Party Supplies

Ichnologists Study Oldest Elephant Trackways

Arabian Footprints Show Behaviour in Primitive Elephant Herd

Palaeontologists have been able to build up a good understanding of the evolution of the elephant family (Proboscidea – elephants and their close relatives), due to the extensive amount of body fossils associated with these tusked creatures.  Footprints and other trace fossils are extremely rare.  However, a remarkable set of primitive elephant tracks, dated to the Late Miocene Epoch, discovered on the Arabian desert are giving scientists new insights into primitive elephant behaviour.

The paper, detailing the research work, on what are believed to be the oldest elephant trackway ever discovered has been published in the scientific journal “Biology Letters”.  The beautifully preserved tracks, have been left by thirteen primitive elephants, ancestors of the extant species found in Asia and Africa today.  These trace fossils dated to around seven million  years ago are the earliest, direct evidence of how the ancestors of modern elephants interacted socially. These fossils are the oldest evidence of an elephant herd.

Vertebrate palaeontologist at the Museum for Natural History (Berlin), Faysal Bibi commented:

 ”Basically, this is fossilised behaviour.  This is an absolutely unique site, a really rare opportunity in the fossil record that lets you see animal behaviour in a way you couldn’t otherwise do with bones or teeth [body fossils].

The fossil trackway is located in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), is is known as Mleisa 1.  During the Late Miocene, this area was not like the desert environment found today.  A large, slow flowing river, meandered across a lush, verdant plain and the area teemed with life.  As well as elephants there were ancient hippos, antelopes, giraffes, monkeys and ostriches.  Along the river bank, crocodiles and turtles basked in the sun, ready to enter the slow flowing river to feed on the many types of fish species that lived there.  This ecosystem shares affinities with fossil assemblies found further south in Africa, although scientists have also recorded similarities with Asian and Europe species known from the Late Miocene.

 An Aerial View of the Fossilised Tracks

Plotting the movements of Elephants from 7 million years ago

Picture Credit: N. Craig

The tracks near to the city of Abu Dhabi, had been known to locals for many years.  Some had thought these were the tracks of dinosaurs or perhaps from mythical creatures, stories of which are passed down from one generation to another as folk tales.  However, although the site had been studied back in 2001, it was only when in January 2011, once the trackways were studied from the air, that their true nature was revealed.

Commenting on the importance of the aerial photography, Brian Kraatz a researcher at the Western University of Health and Sciences (Pomona, California) stated:

“Once we saw it aerially, it became a much different and clearer story.  Seeing the whole site in one shot meant we could finally understand what was happening.”

The fossilised tracks cover an area of approximately five hectares, an area of land a fraction bigger than London’s Wembley Football Stadium.  At first, due to the scale of the site, it was difficult for ichnologists (scientists who specialise in studying trace fossils such as trackways), to understand precisely what the footprints represented.

The study team noted that while these large animals were members of the Proboscidea – just like modern elephants, they did look very different.  Of the three kinds of prehistoric elephant known to roam that area in the Late Miocene, the one that most likely made the trackways was Stegotetrabelodon syrticus,the earliest known member of the elephant family.

An Artists Impression of the Herd of S. syrticus

Tracks show a single, large animal crossed the herds path

Picture Credit: Mauricio Anton

The picture above shows a reconstruction of the Stegotetrabelodon syrticus herd that likely made the tracks in the Arabian desert.  These primitive elephants had a pair of tusks in the lower jaws as well as tusks in the upper jaw.

The trackways stretch up to about 260 metres long, making them, the most extensive and longest ever recorded for mammals known.

Actually mapping these footsteps proved challenging, since the individual tracks are each only about 15 inches (40 centimetres) wide, too small to show up in satellite imagery.  To do so, researchers mounted a pocket digital camera onto a kite, stitching the hundreds of pictures it took into a single large mosaic image that gave a broad overview of the site.

Analysis of the footsteps suggests they belonged to a herd of at least thirteen elephants of different sizes and ages that walked through mud, leaving behind tracks that hardened, were buried, and then re-exposed by erosion.

The researchers also discovered tracks from a solitary animal (believed to be a male) traveling in a different direction from the herd.  These suggest the extinct giants divided into solitary and social groups, just as modern African elephants do today.   Also, these ancient Pachyderms might have structured themselves along lines of males and females just as their modern relatives do, with the males leaving the herd to live alone.

 A Picture of the Single Elephant Trackway

The tracks of a single elephant – a solitary bull perhaps?

Picture Credit: London Natural History Museum

Scientists hope to return to the area in the future to continue their studies, and to also look for more body fossils, helping them to piece together more information about the diversity of mammals in this region during the Late Miocene, in a bid to understand how mega fauna from Africa spread into Asia and Europe.

A spokes person from Everything Dinosaur, commented that it was fascinating to read about this new research into elephant behaviour, especially after the team had just finished reviewing new baby Mammoth models (Papo) so collectors could make up their own prehistoric elephant herds.

To view the Papo prehistoric animal model range: Papo Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models

Our Baby Woolly Mammoth

Baby Woolly Mammoth Soft Toy

With the Chicago Field Museum’s “Mammoth and Mastodons – Titans of the Ice Age” Tour likely to hit European shores in 2013, we thought we would get prepared by sorting out some more prehistoric mammal soft toys.  The latest edition, nick-named “Lyuba” by Everything Dinosaur staff after the baby Woolly Mammoth found preserved in the frozen wastes of Siberia a couple of years ago, is a very cute, plush Mammuthus primigenius.

Although the tusks are somewhat impressive for what we think is a baby, and the trunk is perhaps a little long (baby elephants have disproportionately small trunks compared to adults), we think this is one of the “softest” soft toys in our current range.  Best of all it is sponge washable, so it is OK for your own little ones.

Very Cute and Cuddly Baby Woolly Mammoth Soft Toy

Ice Age soft toy baby Woolly Mammoth

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Sales of this adorable prehistoric mammal  helps raise funds to support children’s education in Indonesia.  We are working with one of the largest child development agencies in the world, helping to break the cycle of poverty in some of the poorest areas of Africa, Asia and the Americas.  With Mammoths and Mastodon fossils being found in all these areas it seemed only right and proper to find a Woolly Mammoth soft toy that could help provide funds for charities working in those parts of the world.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s prehistoric animal soft toys: Prehistoric Mammal Soft Toys

A cute and very cuddly addition to our prehistoric mammal soft toy family.

A “Permian Pompeii”

Chinese Fossil Site Preserves Ancient Permian Ecosystem

A treasure trove of Permian aged plant fossils have been discovered in northern China by a team of U.S./Chinese scientists.  A volcanic eruption some 298 million years ago (Asselian faunal stage of the Early Permian), buried an entire ancient forest under many layers of fine ash, and this has led to the almost perfect preservation of a vast number of plant fossils – some preserved in situ with leaves, branches and even seed cones intact.  Described as a “Pompeii-like site in recognition of the remarkable Roman town’s preservation after a volcanic eruption (Mount Vesuvius ) in AD79.  This location, part of a Chinese coal-mine will provide palaeobotanists with a fascinating insight into the flora of our planet nearly 300 million years ago.

A study by University of Pennsylvania, palaeobotanist Professor Hermann Pfefferkorn and colleagues provides information on the ecology and climate during this early part of the geological period known as the Permian.  The paper has just been published in the scientific journal “The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”.

The work has been conducted in collaboration with a number of Chinese scientists, with the study site, located in a remote part of northern China covering an area of more than 1,000 square metres.  It seems that a massive volcanic eruption blanketed the surrounding area in a fine layer of ash in just a few days.  This enabled the plants and tree-like structures in the forest to be preserved in a remarkably well-defined state.  The plants have been preserved as they fell, in many cases in the exact locations where they had been growing.  Relatively little transport of material has taken place.

Commenting on the significance of this location Professor Pfefferkorn stated:

“We can stand there and find a branch with the leaves attached, and then we find the next branch and the next branch and the next branch.  And then we find the stump from the same tree.  That’s really exciting.”

The researchers also found some smaller trees with leaves, branches, trunk and cones intact, preserved in their entirety.

The scientists were able to date the ash layer to approximately 298 million years ago.  That falls at the beginning of the Permian, during which Earth’s continental plates were still moving toward each other to form the super-continent Pangea.

The Permian was a period of great change, both in climate and the diversity and abundance in fauna and flora.  The drying climate of the Permian led to the destruction of the huge coal swamps that had existed during the Carboniferous.  This part of China was still close to the equator and tropical conditions here ensured the survival of this eco-system into the Permian.

An Artist’s Impression of the Chinese Coal Forest

A “Pompeii of the Permian”

Picture Credit:University of Pennsylvania/Ren Yugao

In total, the U.S./Sino study team identified three locations where ash had preserved the remnants of an ancient forest, one that would have teemed with insects, amphibians and primitive reptiles.  In all three sites, Pfefferkorn and his colleagues counted and mapped the fossilised plants they encountered.   In all, they identified six groups of trees. Tree ferns formed a lower canopy while much taller trees — Sigillaria and Cordaites provided a canopy reaching heights in excess of twenty metres.  The researchers also found nearly complete specimens of a group of trees called Noeggerathiales.  These extinct spore-bearing trees, relatives of ferns, had been identified from sites in North America and Europe but appeared to be much more common in these Asian sites.

They also observed that the three sites were somewhat different from one another in plant composition and diversity.  For instance, in one site, for example, Noeggerathiales were fairly uncommon, while they made up the dominant plant type in another site.

Professor Pfefferkorn added:

“This is now the baseline.  Any other finds, which are normally much less complete, have to be evaluated based on what we determined here.”

This is a remarkable discovery, most plant fossils consist of fragments, perhaps individual leaves, or a seed cone.  This has led to the confusing situation of having several parts of the same plant – roots, truck, leaves etc. being classified as a separate taxonomic species – the Lepidodendron is a good example of this.

In a University of Pennsylvania press release it was noted that this location (near Wuda, northern China) was remarkable because it is the first such forest reconstruction in Asia for any time interval, it’s the first of a peat forest for this time interval and it’s the first with Noeggerathiales as a dominant group.

Because the site captures just one moment in Earth’s history, Pfefferkorn noted that it alone cannot explain how climate changes affected life on Earth, but it helps provide valuable context.

The Professor commented:

“It’s like Pompeii: Pompeii gives us deep insight into Roman culture, but it doesn’t say anything about Roman history in and of itself.  But on the other hand, it elucidates the time before and the time after.  This finding is similar.  It’s a time capsule and therefore it allows us now to interpret what happened before or after much better.”

The study was supported by the Chinese Academy of Science, the National Basic Research Program of China, the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the University of Pennsylvania and we are grateful to the University of Pennsylvania for this press release information.

Dinosaurs in Different Languages

Introducing the Deinosoriaid

As part of Everything Dinosaur’s teaching activities, we get the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of the country delivering Earth Science related workshops to school children.  We also provide support to teachers outside of the UK via emails and such like.  One of the pleasures of doing such work is we get to see the amazing dinosaur themed projects that the children get involved with.

In a recent trip to North Wales (Gwynedd) we worked with Year 5 and Year 6 pupils who had just started a dinosaur themed topic for the term.

Dinosaurs in Different Languages

Dinosaurs in another Name

Picture Credit: Ysgol y Gorlan (Tremadog)

It was fascinating to see the project work that the budding young palaeontologists had undertaken and intriguing to see a dinosaur topic delivered in the Welsh language.  The picture above shows part of the children’s wall display with the word “dinosaurs” written in Welsh.  The dinosaur workshops in school activities that team members undertake are popular in Wales as well as England.

We come across the phrase “dinosaures”, “los dinosaurios”, “dinosaurier” – French, Spanish, Germany but we have not come across this phrase translated into Welsh – cool.

Papo Woolly Mammoth Models Reviewed

A Papo Woolly Mammoth Family

Papo, the French based model and figure manufacturer have introduced into their “Dinosaures” range two, new baby Woolly Mammoth models.  These two new additions accompany the adult Woolly Mammoth figure which was introduced by the company some years ago, so collectors have the chance to build up their own Ice Age family of Woolly Mammoths.

Scientists are fairly certain that just like extant species of elephant today, Woolly Mammoths travelled in extended family groups.  Whether or not this group or herd of shaggy coated elephants was controlled by a dominant matriarch (female elephant), remains uncertain.  As elephants today form social groups based on this structure, it may be assumed that their close relatives, the extinct Mammoths adopted similar behaviour.

The two babies represent young Mammoths of different ages.  The first model to be reviewed is the smallest, perhaps representing an animal just a few weeks old.  This model stands six centimetres high and measures approximately seven and a half centimetres in length.  It has the fine detail that one would expect of a Papo produced replica.  The hairy, brown, shaggy coat is well defined and the prominent lump on the back of the animal between the shoulders can be clearly made out.  Recent discoveries of very young Mammoths found in the frozen wastes of Siberia, such as “Lyuba”, the name given to the carcase of a month old baby Mammoth found almost perfectly preserved, have given scientists a tremendous insight into how Mammoth calves looked.  The designers and model makers at Papo have used this new information to help guide them when creating their own baby Mammoth replica.

This small Mammoth model can be posed next to the adult Mammoth replica made by this company to give the impression that the youngster is trying to suckle.

The second new Mammoth model, represents an older animal, perhaps a yearling, or as colleagues at Everything Dinosaur have suggested, an animal around two years of age.  This replica is much larger than the baby, measuring a total length of twelve centimetres and standing eight centimetres tall.  It is still towered over by the adult Mammoth model in this range, this measures a whopping twenty-two centimetres in length, suggesting this set of replicas is in approximately 1:20 scale.

The New Papo Woolly Mammoth Replicas

An Ice Age Family – Baby Woolly Mammoths

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The juvenile is presented in a walking pose, with its trunk held up so that the two small tusks (one on each side of the upper jaw) can be seen.  Once again the painting is excellent and the detail on the coat exquisite.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s Papo replicas: Papo Prehistoric Animal Models

These prehistoric animal models are ideal for robust, creative play and it is always a pleasure to see new Ice Age models introduced, especially at a time when many manufacturers are reducing their ranges.

The three Woolly Mammoth models work well together as a family group, they are going to be popular with schools who would use such replicas in teaching topics such as discussing extinction events, as well as with professional model collectors.

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