Depicting a Herd of Woolly Mammoths using Prehistoric Animal Models

Using Mammoth Models to Make a Realistic Herd

Dinosaur model fans and model collectors are able to create a number of exciting scenes using various different scale models of dinosaurs.  The scale sizes of the models can vary considerably and from our perspective, the wider range of scale models available gives a model maker more freedom in terms of the scenes they can create. Interestingly, when it comes to Ice Age mammals such as Woolly Mammoths, there are a number of good quality models around, but the majority of these tend to be the same scale – 1:20.  Creating a realistic-looking scene using Woolly Mammoth models takes considerable care and judgement.

Woolly Mammoths are members of the elephant family (Elephantidae), they lived in herds just like their extant cousins the African and Indian elephants of today.  Palaeontologists believe that the herd structure of Woolly Mammoths such as Mammuthus primigenius, was the same as that seen in living species of elephants.  A matriarch would control the herd which would be comprised of her daughters, sisters and their young.  Bulls very probably lived a solitary existence when fully mature.  Young males would be driven from the herd by the matriarch when they reached maturity and breeding age.  These young males would probably live in small groups made up of other males of similar age (bachelor herds).  Bulls would compete for the right to mate with the females and the herds would probably have moved great distances each season in search of fresh grazing.

Recreating a prehistoric scene featuring a herd of Woolly Mammoths is quite tricky.  The herd would be comprised of a number of individuals and there would be considerable size and age difference between herd members.  The animals would range in size from calves that has been born that year to the older females who might well be sisters of the dominant matriarch.  The matriarch herself could be more than fifty years of age.

A Prehistoric Scene – A Herd of Mammoths

Create a realistic Ice Age Scene

Picture Credit: Alan Whitehouse

The above scene has been created by the highly talented Alan Whitehouse – a stunning diorama.

It is not just the size of the models that the scene designer has to get right, but the coats of these animals would all differ.  Scientists studying the frozen hairs preserved on the remains of Siberian mammoths which are found thawing out of the permafrost in the most northerly parts of Russia, know that there was considerable variation in mammoth coat colour.

The coat consisted of two distinct layers.  A “shaggy” topcoat with an undercoat of denser hair for insulation.  The coat could be coloured various shades of brown or reddish, perhaps bordering on ginger, to almost jet black.  Albino mammoths were possible but these animals would have been unlikely to survive in the wild.

There are a number of accurate 1:20 scale or thereabouts replicas available.  Creating a herd of Woolly Mammoths has been made easier with the introduction of the juvenile and baby Woolly Mammoths from the French manufacturer Papo earlier this year.  When choosing a Woolly Mammoth replica it is helpful to remember that unlike modern elephants they had relatively short tails and small ears – both adaptations for a cold climate.  Look out for these features on any mammoth model you might be interested in purchasing.

The tusks of these animals grew for as long as the animal lived.  Both males and females had substantial tusks, just like us humans with our left or right hand bias, palaeontologists believe that Woolly Mammoths had a preference for using either their right or left tusk.  Differences in the wear pattern seen on pairs of mammoth tusks recovered from individual specimens provides evidence to the scientists as to whether this particular animal was right-tusked or left-tusked.  Tusk size would therefore have varied throughout the herd, it would have been dependent on the age of the individual animal. A number of Woolly Mammoth species and sub-species have been described, at least eight from the Americas alone.  The tusks of Mammoths tended to curve outwards but there was considerable variation. The shape and size of the upper incisors (tusks) is just another issue for the model maker to concern themselves with.

The models can be presented against a painted backdrop or picture.  Mammoths were creatures of the open plains, although a number of species are associated with more closed forested environments so the designer has considerable choice as to what background to use.  A scene depicting early spring or late autumn, times in the year when Mammoth herds might have come together to form super-herds as these elephants made their annual migration to the best feeding grounds, might be appropriate.  Posing the animals on artificial grass or using grass in the foreground is fine.  The models stand up well on this medium and animals such as W. primigenius fed on grasses and small sedges (finely serrated teeth with dense plates, indicate a grazing diet as does stomach content analysis of frozen mammoths).

Although Woolly Mammoths have been depicted in cave art, no living person has seen a mammoth herd.  In fact, no one has seen the Woolly Mammoth for thousands of years, so model makers and designers can use their imaginations based around some scientific principles to guide them as to what sort of scene they would like to create.

Australian Palaeontologists Excited About Potential Queensland Discoveries

Palaeontologists Announce New Fossil Finds

The small town of Winton in western Queensland (Australia) is buzzing with excitement as a team of Australian palaeontologists have announced the discovery of about fifteen dinosaur bones that may represent a new species.  Over the last twenty years or so, Winton has become the centre of Australia’s very own “dinosaur gold rush” with a number of exciting dinosaur discoveries being made as fossils weather out of the Cretaceous aged strata.

The Winton Formation (named after the town) has provided palaeontologists with a whole host of exciting dinosaur discoveries including Australia’s very own super-predator the vicious and agile Australovenator (Australovenator wintonensis) which is believed to be a type of Allosaur.

An Illustration of the “Aussie” Super-Predator (A. wintonensis)

Vicious Dinosaur from “Down Under”

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Already a “Hot Spot” for Cretaceous dinosaur discoveries, the latest fossil finds from the Winton area are fifteen dinosaur bones, including a beautifully preserved but very fragile femur (thigh bone) that has already been partially excavated by the scientists.

As Australia is in the southern hemisphere, it is winter time.  The temperatures in and around the Winton area are much lower than they would be in high summer, so this is the time of year when a lot of field work takes place.  A number of research groups are currently working in the area and a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur said in a statement:

“The fossil discoveries that have been made in western Queensland are providing palaeontologists with a better understanding of the diversity of the Dinosauria on southern continents around 100 million years ago.  It is very likely that new dinosaur species will be unearthed as the field teams continue their work.  When you consider the size of the potential fossil field, then you could say that so far the palaeontologists have only just scratched the surface and there is probably a lot more exciting fossils awaiting discovery.”

To read an article about the discovery of dinosaur fossils in the Winton area: A Trio of Dinosaurs from Down Under

A Review of the Collecta Achelousaurus Dinosaur Model

Collecta Achelousaurus Reviewed

Collecta, the toy and replica company are earning a well-deserved reputation for their excellent models of horned dinosaurs.  Over the past couple of years, this company has introduced a number of horned dinosaurs into their dinosaur model range, there is of course a Triceratops (several in fact); but in addition Styracosaurus, Torosaurus, Koreaceratops, Utahceratops and Chasmosaurus have been included.

All these models are very well designed and accurately depict the prehistoric animals they represent, this review concerns one horned dinosaur (Ceratopsian) – Achelousaurus and what a very good model it is too.

Achelousaurus Dinosaur Model from Collecta

Horned Dinosaur Model

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Achelousaurus model measures fifteen centimetres in length, although this is not supposed to be a scale model, as palaeontologists estimate Achelousaurus to have grown to about six metres, this makes the model approximately 1:40 scale.  This Cretaceous herbivore was named Achelous’s Lizard after the Greek horned river God Achelous.  The name is pronounced Ak-ee-low-saw-us.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s dinosaur models: Dinosaur Models including Horned Dinosaurs

Achelousaurus is known from several partial skulls and a single fragmentary skeleton discovered in the upper layers of the famous Two Medicine Formation of Montana (United States).  Achelousaurus is a medium-sized horned dinosaur related to Pachyrhinosaurus and Centrosaurus.  Named by the Canadian palaeontologist Scott Sampson in the mid 1990s, the species name “horneri” honours the American palaeontologist John “Jack” Horner who was born in Montana and has worked extensively on dinosaur fossils found in that American State.  As several fossil elements from the type species (Achelousaurus horneri) and other individuals were found in close proximity, palaeontologists believe that this plant-eating dinosaur lived in herds.

A Close up of the Head of the Model showing the  Fine Crest

Brightly coloured features on this horned dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows the fine details on this Achelousaurus dinosaur replica, even the dinosaur’s pink tongue can be clearly seen.

The model is very well made and depicts a sturdy, Late Cretaceous Ceratopsian, a member of the Centrosaurine group of horned dinosaurs, known for their relatively short neck frills and the presence of a horn or large bump on top of the naris bone.  The model is painted a sandy, brown colour with subtle bands of black colouration running from the back of the neck along the body and down to the stumpy tail.  The substantial and prominent bump on the nose is painted a vivid red.  There are also red paint markings on the front of the neck crest.  Scientists believe that visual communication was very important to dinosaurs, a brightly coloured frill with a distinctive nose horn may have acted as a signalling device between herd members or perhaps for visual display to permit disputes to be settled.  The eyes are particularly well painted as are the large nostrils of this heavy-set dinosaur.

This replica of one of the more unusual of the horned dinosaurs will make an excellent addition to a dinosaur model collector’s collection, it is also likely to prove to be a firm favourite amongst dinosaur fans.

Dinosaurs at the Olympics

How Would Dinosaurs Cope in Olympic Events?

With the London Olympics starting, the thirtieth running of the modern Olympiad and the third time that London has hosted the games, we can expect to see a number of records broken over the next sixteen days or so.  Team Great Britain has the most number of athletes taking part but what would happen if we allowed dinosaurs to compete in certain events.

Take for example gymnastics.  Although most of the general public would not think of dinosaurs as natural gymnasts some species may have been very at home on gymnastics apparatus. An agile Dromaeosaur such as a Velociraptor, the tiny Bambiraptor, or even a flying Microraptor could excel at a number of gymnastic disciplines.  Granted the floor exercises may prove a little difficult, but as palaeontologists believe that one of the roles of feathers on these animals was for visual display, we could be treated to a “Dromaeosaur dance” featuring lots of leaping, flapping of arms and bobbing about.  Forward rolls and hand springs would most likely be beyond even the most agile of these small, lightweight dinosaurs but from studies of their leg bones, they could certainly run faster than a human gymnast and they could probably jump very high.  These dinosaurs had an excellent sense of balance and some of them were probably capable climbers at home in the trees, so the parallel bars would prove no obstacle.

Giganotosaurus would have made an excellent super-heavyweight weight lifter.  Its arms were more powerful, longer and stronger than most other meat-eating dinosaurs except the Spinosaurids.  Palaeontologists estimate that its jaws were so strong and its neck muscles so powerful that it could pick up and carry a medium sized dinosaur in its mouth.  According to the Guinness Book of World Records (2012 edition) the world record for the snatch in the 105 plus kilogrammes weight category for men is an incredible 213 kilogrammes achieved by Hossein Rezazadeh (Iran).  Although Giganotosaurus is much heavier (about 75 times as heavy), scientists have estimated that it could have picked up more than a tonne with its super-strong  jaws.

Dinosaurs Compared with Athletes

Medal winners amongst the Dinosauria

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Podium Image Credit: Svilen Milev at: Svilen Milev’s website

Turning to track and field, one of the most keenly anticipated Olympic events is the men’s one hundred metres.  The Olympic champion and current world record holder is Usain Bolt of Jamaica.  The Jamaican sprinter covered one hundred metres in an astonishing time of 9.58 seconds in Berlin on the 16th of August 2009.  This means that he would have averaged something like 23.35 miles per hour over the course of that race.  Compared to most dinosaurs this is pretty quick.  For example, an adult T. rex running in a straight line with a running start would probably complete a one hundred metres race in approximately13.5 seconds.  A Diplodocus, a huge, plant-eating dinosaur, despite having an enormous neck with which it could break the tape at the finishing line would have probably taken more than fifty seconds to cover the distance, not withstanding the fact that it would probably have stopped to graze on the infield area along the way.

The real speed kings of the Dinosauria were the Ornithomimids.  Ornithomimids (known as “bird mimics”) were Theropod dinosaurs related to the likes of T. rex but anatomically similar to modern, ground-dwelling birds.  With a light, compact skeleton and long hind legs these animals were very fast runners.  Estimates of how fast these dinosaurs were vary.  However, based on Ornithomimid tracks found in the United States, palaeontologists estimate that these reptiles may have been capable of bursts of speed up to sixty kilometres an hour, that is race horse speed.   An Ornithomimid could therefore complete the one hundred metres in something like six to eight seconds, given the time it would have taken for this animal to get into top gear.

To read an article about how fast dinosaurs could run compared with humans and other animals: T. rex could run faster than a footballer

Competing in the swimming events may have proved more difficult for the Dinosauria.  Dinosaurs could swim just like most vertebrates, but whether or not they liked getting out of their depth is  a different matter.  They would have been limited to a single stroke – their form of doggy paddle and a several tonne dinosaur would not have been very streamlined in the water but thanks to one remarkable trace fossil discovered in Spain we do know that some dinosaurs did take to the water.  A fossilised track-way discovered in Spain records the moment in Jurassic history when a large, carnivorous dinosaur (possibly an Allosaurid) swam across a body of water.  Every now and then this huge, bipedal dinosaur put a foot on the bottom and pushed itself off again.  The likes of Rebecca Adlington, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte may be faster, but would you fancy going into the pool with a two tonne Allosaurus in the next lane?

To read more about the remarkable Spanish trace fossils: Swimming Dinosaurs

With thirty-six sports and something like a total of three hundred and four medal events it is likely that the Dinosauria might well have found one or two to excel in.  After all, if they were warm-blooded just as we mammals they were probably far more active and agile than previously thought.

Ancient Snake Slithers into View

Cretaceous Snake Fossil Hints at Serpentes Origins

The evolution of the true snakes (Serpentes) from lizards as part of the Order Squamata (snakes, lizards and their most immediate, common ancestors) is a hotly debated area of vertebrate palaeontology.  There are something like seven thousand extant (living) species of snakes and lizards today.  These animals make up by far the largest proportion of reptiles on Earth, there are more members of the Squamata than all the other types of reptile combined.  Snakes and lizards can be found all over the planet with the exception of the most northerly and southerly latitudes and one or two other locations which owe their lack of native reptile species to a hang over from the most recent Ice Age – Ireland for example.

In the United Kingdom, there are three native species of lizard plus three species of snake, all of which have conservation/protected status.  However, how and when the Serpentes (snakes) evolved as a separate sub-order of the Squamata are questions that a number of vertebrate palaeontologists from around the world are trying to find answers to.

One of the problems faced by the researchers is the lack of fossil material of snakes and their potential ancestors.  Something like one thousand known fossil species of lizards and snakes are known.  These fossils have been found in Africa, the Americas and Asia but in relation to the number of Squamata genera that there must have been in the past, the amount of fossil material found is tiny.  In addition, most of the fossils are fragmentary and as a result it is difficult to establish a phylogenetic relationship – to build a family tree of prehistoric snakes and lizards.  It is likely that compared to lizards, snakes only made up a small proportion of the terrestrial vertebrate fauna during the time of the dinosaurs.

Another problem that is faced by palaeontologists is that despite there being very few fossils to study, it is clear from the fossil remains available that prehistoric members of the Squamata represent a much more diverse group of reptiles than their modern relatives.  Prehistoric Squamata were much more morphologically diverse than their modern representatives.  Take one example, the Mosasaurs a group of entirely marine lizards that evolved into a myriad of forms during the Cretaceous geological period.  Whilst dinosaurs dominated the land during the Late Cretaceous, many Mosasaur families become the apex predators in marine environments.

One of the most primitive snakes known from the fossil record is Coniophis. This genus of snake was first described and studied by the great 19th Century, American, palaeontologist Othniel Charles Marsh.  The genus was established in 1892.  This primitive snake is known for its small, squarish vertebrae and although fossils ascribed to this genus have been found in North and South America scientists still knew very little about it.

O. C. Marsh was a graduate of Yale University, ironically the research of another Yale University student is helping to shed more light on the Coniophis genus and the origin of the true snakes.  Yale University Postgraduate Fellow and vertebrate palaeontologist Nicholas Longrich, has helped to identify fossil material which has been ascribed to Coniophis (Coniophis precedens), this research helps to shed further light onto the origin of true snakes.

Whilst carrying out some academic research in the process of writing a paper related to lizard extinction at Berkeley University (California, United States), Nicholas came across in the collection some fossils from a primitive snake, including top and bottom jaw material that had never been properly classified.  Until this discovery, found ironically not in the field, but within an existing specimen collection Coniophis precedens had been named based on a study of a single, distinctive backbone (squarish vertebra).

In a paper published in the scientific journal “Nature”, the Yale-based researcher and his colleagues describe Coniophis precedens from the maxilla (upper jaw),  the dentary (lower jaw) and additional vertebrae.  They see this species as a transitional form between lizards and true snakes.  It had a lizard’s head on a snake’s body and it also provides evidence that snakes evolved from burrowing lizards, not from marine lizards as had previously been thought.

The fossils of the “Proto-snake” Coniophis precedens

Piecing together the evolution of modern snakes

Picture Credit: Nicholas Longrich

The picture compares the skulls of extant members of the Squamata with the fossils associated with C. precedens.  The top image is of a Gila Monster, a venomous lizard that can be found in the Americas today. The middle image shows the maxilla and dentary of Coniophis precedens and the picture at the bottom shows the skull and kinetic jaws of a modern Pipe Snake.

Coniophis precedens was very small and unobtrusive in a Late Cretaceous fauna dominated by the dinosaurs.  It did slither with the unique snake locomotion common to all Serpentes today, but it could not unhinge its jaws to feed on animals larger than its jaws are wide.  Study of the jaw bones found in the Californian collection suggest that there was some opportunity for expansion of the mouth as the lower jaw flexed a little, but this “proto-snake” could not unhinge its jaws to feed like modern snakes.  It lacked the hinges in its jaws that allow the jawbones to dis-articulate, this probably limited the snake in terms of what it could actually eat.  The Yale researches speculate that it was the evolution of the ability to unhinge their jaws that led to the radiation of snake species throughout the Late Mesozoic and into the Cenozoic.

Although the snake fossils in the Berkeley collection had been found many years ago, they had not been properly studied and their significance not recognised.  These fossils were found in Wyoming and Montana, from strata that represented a flood-plain.  Finding primitive snake fossils in terrestrial sediments questions the long-held theory that true snakes evolved from marine ancestors.

Commenting on the research work, Nicholas stated:

“Snake fossils are exceptionally rare.  They tend to be very small and very delicate.”

The research team describe the finding of these snake fossils as “significant” but warn against assuming that C. precedens was a direct ancestors of extant Serpentes.  These sixty-five million year old fossil remains date from a time when more evolved types of snake, including constrictors who could unhinge their jaws lived.  The researchers have concluded that the small, burrowing C. precedens shared its flood-plain habitat with more advanced types of snake, it was a “living fossil in its own time”, comment the research team.

With a skull described as intermediate between lizards and snakes, hooked teeth and an inability to open its jaws very wide, the scientists have speculated as to what this creature may actually have fed on.  It has been suggested that it probably ate soft-bodied animals such as worms and grubs that it found as it went through the leaf litter, although it could have tackled small amphibians.

Based on these findings the Yale scientists postulate that it was the development of the hinged, kinetic skull of snakes that enabled them to exploit a much wider range of food sources and this helped the Serpentes to diversify and radiate to create the thousands of species we see today.  The rapid radiation occurred in the Cretaceous (Cenomanian faunal stage?), a time when the dinosaurs still dominated terrestrial habitats but new types of small mammal were evolving.

Interestingly, one of the best known prehistoric faunas during the Late Cretaceous is that which has been established from fossil material found in the Dinosaur Park Formation (Alberta, Canada).  However, snake fossils are virtually absent from this Formation.  Coniophis fossils are known from similar aged strata but have yet to be found in the Dinosaur Provincial Park Formation – another snake-based puzzle for the palaeontologists to ponder.

Plans to Exhibit Vandalised Hadrosaur Bones

Shattered Dinosaur Fossils to be Put on Display to Educate the Public

Canadian palaeontologists still angry and upset after the fossilised bones of a dinosaur were deliberately smashed by vandals plan to put the specimen on display so that the public can be educated about the theft and destruction of fossils.

Earlier this month, team members at Everything Dinosaur reported that a duck-billed dinosaur fossilised skeleton discovered near Grande Prairie (north-western Alberta) had been deliberately vandalised with bones smashed and pieces of the specimen scattered.  Unfortunately, there have been a number of incidents reported from Canada over the last few months.

To read more about the attack on the Hadrosaur fossils: Vandals in Alberta Smash Dinosaur Skeleton

Dr. Phil Bell, the curator of the new palaeontology museum that is scheduled to open in the town of Grande Prairie had wanted to excavate and prepare the eight metre long Hadrosaur specimen and have it displayed in the museum,  however, after the attack, plans have been proposed to display the fossils still within their fossil matrix.  This would serve as a reminder of the increasing theft and destruction that palaeontologists have to contend with.

The Shattered Hadrosaur Fossil Bones at the Site

Vandals Destroy Dinosaur Skeleton

Picture credit: Dr. Phil Bell

The picture shows a close up of some fossilised ribs of the Hadrosaur specimen, these have been deliberately smashed and broken.  A receipt for a local liquor store may provide a clue to the cluprits identity.  The vandalism incident is currently being investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The site had been mapped on June 15th and several days of excavation and digging followed permitting elements of the arms, vertebrae and ribs to be exposed.  These fossils were carefully covered to protect them whilst the palaeontologists and field workers left the site.  On their return a few days later the team discovered that  much of the site had been attacked by vandals and many of the fossil bones smashed.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“This is a terrible incident, unfortunately there have been a number of such attacks reported over recent months.  Let us hope that if the fossil bones are put on display in their shattered state then this exhibit can serve to help educate members of the public and alert them to this very serious problem.”

Researchers are trying to take what steps they can to safeguard dig sites, but they are hampered in their efforts due to lack of funds.  A few days ago we published an article which explained some of the measures being taken by palaeontologists.

To read more about these measures: Palaeontologists Take Steps to Protect Dig Sites

A Review of Prehistoric Times (Summer 2012)

Prehistoric Times (Issue 102) Reviewed

It may not feel like Summer in the United Kingdom, we have joked that British Summer Time (BST) should be changed to British Soggy Time after all the bad weather, but the Summer edition of Prehistoric Times has just arrived.

Prehistoric Times is a magazine dedicated to all things to do with dinosaur and prehistoric animal models and collecting. It also contains lots of information and articles related to fossil discoveries as well as tonnes of reader submitted artwork and illustrations.

The Summer edition features Giganotosaurus, perhaps the largest carnivorous dinosaur known to science (although Spinosaurid fans may dispute this).  The magazine’s Phil Hore has provided a highly informative article about this South American giant.  The other type of prehistoric animal featured – the Oreodonts (prehistoric mammals) provide a nice contrast and it is great to see this important group of animals and their thousands of fossils discussed in this magazine.

Tracy Ford’s contribution is a fascinating article on how to illustrate (or not illustrate) the skull fenestrae of Theropod dinosaurs and there are well-written articles on new museum exhibits at the Houston Museum of Natural History (Texas) and the Peabody Museum.

The Front Cover of Prehistoric Times (Summer 2012)

Giganotosaurus Featured on the Front Cover of “PT 102″

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Some of the artwork submitted by readers is truly amazing.  We particularly loved the Giganotosaurus illustrations by Damir Martin and the close up of those fearsome jaws by Robert Nicholls.  The artwork sent in by younger fans (Kretaceous Kids Korner) made us jealous, they are all much better than we could do.

To visit the Prehistoric Times website: Prehistoric Times

Lots of model and replica reviews plus updates on new model introductions as well as information relating to the latest dinosaur and other prehistoric animal discoveries – certainly a jam packed edition of this quarterly magazine.  Prehistoric Times is now available digitally with electronic versions available for various applications – very clever.

Woman’s Body Found under Landslide

Body Found after Dorset Landslide

It has been reported that a body has been found after approximately four hundred tonnes of rocks fell in a series of massive landslides from cliffs above a Dorset beach (southern England).  Over the last few weeks, team members at Everything Dinosaur have been raising awareness about the potential dangers of rock falls from unstable cliffs along England’s Jurassic Coast after the prolonged, heavy rains.

The landslides took place at approximately 12.30pm BST yesterday afternoon at Hive Beach (Bridport) near to a holiday camp, the beach was packed with holiday makers at the time.  A spokesperson for Dorset Police has stated that the body is believed to be that of a twenty-two year old woman who had been reported missing after the rock falls.  The body was found at 21.40pm BST last night as rescue teams searched the ten metre high pile of debris.
 Next of kin [of the missing woman] have been informed and family liaison officers are with them.
This is a terrible tragedy that highlights the potential dangers from rock falls and mudslips along the Dorset coast.  The rescue teams have been stood down as it is believed that no one else is missing.  On behalf of everyone at Everything Dinosaur we would like to express our deepest sympathy to the family and our thoughts are with them at this very difficult time.
The Landslide that Proved Fatal

Fatal landslide along Dorset coast

Picture Credit: Martin Cox/BBC News website

One Person Trapped after Dorset Landslide

Series of Landslides at Hive Beach (Dorset) traps Walker

A woman is believed trapped on Hive Beach after being caught in a series of landslides it has been reported.  The incident took place east of Seatown on the Dorset coast.  A significant portion of the sandstone cliff, estimated at around four hundred tonnes of rock has crashed down onto the beach in what is believed to be two landslides, one following seconds after the first.  A major search and rescue effort has been taking place since the incident occurred at around 12.30pm BST today.

Helicopters have been used to search the area around Freshwater Beach Holiday Park, near Bridport.

A person thought to be a 22-year-old woman is trapped in the landslide, a Dorset fire service spokesman said.  For further information visit the BBC news website: Landslides on Dorset Coast

At Everything Dinosaur, we were aware of the potential dangers and earlier this morning we wrote a short blog article on the threat of landslides and mudslips on the Jurassic coast.  This article was posted up on the Everything Dinosaur Facebook page and it follows an article written about concerns over beach safety on the 6th of July.

Our thoughts are with the family of the victim.

Council Officials Warn Walkers and Fossil Collectors About Dangerous Cliffs

Jurassic Coast “Unusually Unstable”

On July 6th team members at Everything Dinosaur published an article warning of the dangers of approaching to close to the unstable cliffs on the Jurassic coast.  A number of landslides had already been reported, the recent heavy rains saturating the cliff areas and making them particularly prone to landslips.

With the start of the school holidays for most of the UK and the onset of some sunny, warm weather in the country (at last), the beaches on the Dorset and Devon coasts are likely to get very crowded.  Council officials have warned fossil collectors and walkers to avoid the cliffs and there is also the added threat of invisible quicksand, areas of dangerous beach that has been created as a result of the recent flooding.

The county of Dorset  is still reeling from the landslide caused by the recent heavy rainfall that took place on July 7th in the area around  the Beaminster Tunnel.  Two people were killed when their car was crushed by hundreds of tonnes of mud.  The bodies were only discovered ten days later when the tunnel was finally cleared of debris.

Dorset council has stated that much of the World Heritage coastline poses a grave danger.

A spokesperson for the council warned of a risk of a landslip “anywhere and at any time along the coast”.

The person went on to add:

“Landslides have also delivered thick mudflows and quicksands to the beaches in many places.  One of the hidden hazards is that the sea can wash sand and shingle over the mud and quicksand, giving the appearance of a solid beach.  The advice is to stay well away from the cliffs at all times and to beware of mudflows and quicksand, especially when the tide is coming in as it is possible to become cut off from the normal exit points from the beaches.”

The council has highlighted a number of known hazard areas between Lyme Regis and the Axmouth Undercliffs.

The list  includes: A massive mudslide at Seven Rock Point on Monmouth Beach, and a landslide at the start of the beach; several mudslides between Lyme Regic and Charmouth; the base of Stonebarrow Cliff east of Charmouth, said to be “shrouded in mudflows” with increased risk of rock fall and a “very real possibility of becoming trapped by the incoming tide.”;

Another substantial landslide has completely blocked the beach between Eype and West Bay to the east of Charmouth.  Temporary signs have been put up to warn tourists, but the council spokesperson stated that the situation was in constant flux.

A spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur, urged visitors to the area to heed the warning signs and to check the local information as well as staying well away from the cliffs.

To read the July 6th Everything Dinosaur article: Dangerous Cliffs in the Lyme Regis Area

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