All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//December
21 12, 2013

Updating on the Christmas Post

By | December 21st, 2013|Press Releases|0 Comments

Updates on the Christmas Post

Team members at Everything Dinosaur are in the office today working hard to ensure that all the orders placed Friday evening and Saturday morning get packed and despatched.  All the orders received before 4pm on Friday afternoon have already been despatched, Everything Dinosaur personnel will also be undertaking a special collection service on Saturday morning to make sure that any last minute gifts get sent on their way as quickly as possible.  Royal Mail have stated that Friday (20th December) was the last recommended day for posting First Class post in time for Christmas.  However, if you are waiting for a gift to arrive, it is worth remembering that there are a number of areas of the UK where extra deliveries are taking place and Royal Mail has also organised Sunday deliveries in many parts of the country.

On Monday 23rd December there will be a normal delivery and collection service offered by Royal Mail and many couriers will be operating a next day delivery service to ensure parcels sent out Monday get to their destinations across the majority of the UK by Christmas Eve.  Everything Dinosaur staff will be in the office from 7am and it is our intention to work late helping where we can.  On Tuesday, there will be normal Royal Mail deliveries and some collections but full service will not resume until Friday.  Couriers picking up parcels on Christmas Eve and operating under their usual service conditions would expect these items to be delivered Friday 27th.

20 12, 2013

New Prehistoric Animal Models from Papo (2014)

By | December 20th, 2013|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|1 Comment

Papo Reveals New Additions to Prehistoric Animal Model Range for 2014 – Archaeopteryx, Dilophosaurus and a Baby Triceratops

The wait is over, we can now reveal that Papo will be adding a model of the creature sometimes referred to as the “first bird” Archaeopteryx to their prehistoric animal model range in 2014.  The figure is of Archaeopteryx lithographica and what a marvellous figure it is.  The company will also be bringing out a replica of the fearsome predator Dilophosaurus and a rather cute baby Triceratops to accompany the adult “three horned face” that is already part of the Papo model range.

Papo Takes to the Air in 2014 – Papo Archaeopteryx

New from Papo for 2014 a model of Archaeopteryx.

New from Papo for 2014 a model of Archaeopteryx.

Picture Credit: Papo/Everything Dinosaur

Formally named and described in 1861, Archaeopteryx with its bird-like and reptile-like features is often described as a transitional fossil.  An animal that represents a sort of half-way house between the Dinosauria and the true Aves (Birds).  The Archaeopteryx fossil material at the Natural History Museum (London), is regarded as the holotype and it has been one of the most closely studied fossil specimens of all.  Everything Dinosaur has reported on a number of academic studies into the fossil material, studies that attempted to provide an insight into this creature’s evolution and Archaeopteryx’s flight capabilities.

Article on Archaeopteryx colouration: Archaeopteryx – Back in Black

Flight capabilities in the Dinosauria: Study shows Dinosaur Brains Pre-programmed for Flight

The second new addition to Papo range of prehistoric animal models for 2014 is this rather wonderful replica of the fearsome predator Dilophosaurus.

Dilophosaurus Set for Release in 2014

Available in 2014 from Everything Dinosaur.

Available in 2014 from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Papo/Everything Dinosaur

Dimensions for the Archaeopteryx or the Dilophosaurus have not been released yet but as soon as Everything Dinosaur gets briefed we will post them up on this blog and on our Facebook site.

Last but not least comes this rather cute baby Triceratops.  The model has been designed to reflect what is currently known about the growth rates and appearance of baby Ceratopsians.  The model should work well with the adult Triceratops model which is already in the Papo prehistoric animal model range.

Baby Triceratops Model Joins the Papo Range for 2014

Available in 2014 from Everything Dinosaur.

Available in 2014 from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Papo/Everything Dinosaur

The baby Triceratops with its stumpy tail, large eyes and rudimentary horns is an accurate representation of what most palaeontologists think a young Triceratops would look like.  The skin texture looks really realistic too, we have been lucky enough to have seen examples of Triceratops fossilised skin impressions and examine them close up.  When the prototypes are available we will have to count those toes and fingers but all in all this model and the two other new additions to the Papo range look most impressive.

A spokes person from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Papo have added another three, intriguing models to their prehistoric animal model series.  This company has developed a strong reputation for the quality of its replicas and figures and it is always a pleasure to see new additions to this French company’s portfolio.”

None of these figures will be available before the 1st March next year, when we get more details we will make sure we post them up.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s current Papo prehistoric animal model range: Papo Prehistoric Animal Model Range

20 12, 2013

Walking with Dinosaurs in 3-D in Cinemas Today

By | December 20th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans|0 Comments

Cinema goes back to the Late Cretaceous

The long awaited “Walking with Dinosaurs” film is released in the UK today.  No doubt it will prove to be  a “monster” hit with dinosaur fans of all ages.  The story is set in the Late Cretaceous of North America and centres on the adventures or a horned dinosaur called “Patchi” and his friends.  “Patchi” is a Pachyrhinosaurus, the genus of horned dinosaur has currently got three species ascribed to it.  Everything Dinosaur team members think that the particular species of Pachyrhinosaur featured in the film is Pachyrhinosaurus canadensis.

To learn a little more about the different species of Pachyrhinosaurus: Step Forward the Pachyrhinosaurs – Stars of a Dinosaur Film

Commenting on the film, which is shot in 3-D, a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“This new movie will introduce cinema goers to a whole new range of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals, quite a few of which they will not have heard of before.  For example,  many people may be familiar with the horned dinosaur called Triceratops but not many will be aware of the large number of horned dinosaur species that are now known to have existed during the Late Cretaceous of North America.  The film will also feature a number of dinosaurs with feathers.”

The story unfolds from the point of view of Alex the “Alexornis”, a primitive bird who tells the story of “Patchi”, a baby Pachyrhinosaurus and his adventures when he becomes separated from the protection of his herd.   Life is tough for a young, vulnerable Pachyrhinosaur with marauding Troodons, the fleet-footed Hesperonychus (a Dromaeosaurid) and sharp-beaked Pterosaurs ready to snatch up the youngster.  A number of dinosaur models have been made that represent the prehistoric animals seen in the film.  Walking with dinosaurs dinosaur models are certainly big business.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of prehistoric animal models including Pachyrhinosaurus models: Dinosaur Models and Toys

Walking with Dinosaurs in 3-D

An adult Pachyrhinosaurus surveys the situation.

An adult Pachyrhinosaurus surveys the situation.

The film makers are to be congratulated for providing such a rich and diverse cast of characters, accurately reflecting a Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian faunal stage) ecosystem.  Over the last few years palaeontologists have uncovered some remarkable fossil finds that have formed the basis for the animals in this story.  For instance, fossils found in Alaska indicate that herds of herbivorous dinosaurs very probably undertook seasonal migrations in search of better grazing or favourite nesting sites.  The Pachyrhinosaurs and other large herbivorous dinosaurs are shown in the movie migrating.  Naturally, where the herbivores go the apex predators follow and the chief villain of the piece is Gorgosaurus, a member of the Tyrannosaur family. Gorgosaurus may not have been quite as big as its famous relative Tyrannosaurus rex but at over eight metres in length it was a formidable hunter, quite capable of tackling an unwary Pachyrhinosaurus.

Although there is much to admire in this new dinosaur film, it also, unwittingly portrays a problem with palaeontology.  We at Everything Dinosaur describe the science of palaeontology as being a bit like Easter – it’s a moveable feast.  New discoveries change the way we view prehistoric animals and one of the herbivores seen in this film (Edmontosaurus)  is already in need of a make over.  The three main protagonists, the Pachyrhinosaurs known as “Juniper”, “Scowler” and”Patchi”, once separated from their own herd, join up with a migrating group of Edmontosaurs and head off once again to find new feeding grounds.  The Edmontosaurs depicted in the movie, show a lot of anatomical detail, however, a recent dinosaur discovery has revealed that at least one species E. regalis may have sported a soft tissue crest, almost like the comb seen on a rooster.

The Edmontosaurs as Seen in the New Dinosaur Film

In future this dinosaur could sport a comb-like structure on its head.

In future this dinosaur could sport a comb-like structure on its head.

That’s the trouble with palaeontology, new fossil finds can re-write what we know and future depictions of Edmontosaurus on the big screen could portray this huge herbivore with a comb of soft tissue on its head.

To read more about latest interpretation of Edmontosaurus: Duck-billed dinosaur with a comb like a rooster.

Neil Nightingale, Creative Director of BBC Earth, which is behind the project, has directed “Walking with Dinosaurs in 3-D”, in conjunction with animator Barry Cook, who can count Disney’s “Mulan” as one of his previous credits. Neil hopes that this film, released in time for the Christmas holidays is going to educate as well as entertain.  As for the future direction of the “Walking with” franchise, Mr Nightingale will not be drawn on whether a sequel is in the pipeline but did comment in a recent interview that “we’ve got lots of great ideas lined up.”

With the best part of 160 million years of the “Age of Dinosaurs” to explore plus the inducement of representing dinosaurs as new fossil evidence is uncovered, we think that there could well be a “Walking with Dinosaurs in 3-D (Part 2)”, coming to a cinema screen near you in a couple of years time.

19 12, 2013

The United Kingdom’s Contribution to Palaeontology in the 19th and 20th Centuries

By | December 19th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Press Releases|1 Comment

What Significant Contributions to Palaeontology has the United Kingdom Made Throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries?

This is not an easy question to answer.  After all, to provide a comprehensive overview of the contribution made in the course of two hundred years by the scientists, academics and indeed laypeople of the British Isles is no easy task.  In short, when the sciences of palaeontology and geology are considered, it could be argued that this little part of western Europe has punched well above its weight in the 19th and 20th Centuries and it continues to do so.  Let’s focus our attention on just a few key, pivotal moments in a bid to shed more light on the prehistoric animals depicted in the recently released Royal Mail stamps that aimed to highlight the UK’s contribution to palaeontology.  All the prehistoric animals featured are vertebrates and from the Mesozoic era, so we will restrict ourselves for the time being, to animals with backbones that lived during the “Age of Dinosaurs” as it is often referred to.

This means that we have to disregard, on this occasion, the work of the likes of Sir Roderick Murchison (1792-1871), a remarkable Scotsman, one who fought in the Napoleonic Wars and later in life, working alongside the Yorkshire born Reverend Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873), helped map, classify and date geological strata in one of the first studies of its kind.  Many of the geological periods before the “Age of Dinosaurs” were named and described by British scientists.  Not surprising really, after all, the age of the rocks that make up the British Isles are extremely varied and we have had a long history of higher education and scientific study.  The Geological Society of London is the oldest geological society in the world, formed in 1807.  In contrast, the Geological Society of America was not founded until 1888 and the Geological Society of China did not come about until 1922.

Adam Sedgwick – Regarded by Many as One of the Founding Fathers of Geology

Adam Sedgwick in later life

Adam Sedgwick – cleric and English geologist

Confining ourselves to vertebrates of the Mesozoic also prevents us from detailing the contribution of Marie Stopes (1880-1958), perhaps better known as a campaigner for women’s rights and family planning, but also an expert in ancient flora who did much to unravel the mysteries of the evolution of flowering plants (angiosperms), or indeed the work of Professor Jenny Clack who in the last year’s of the 20th Century helped to re-write the evolution of the first back-boned animals that evolved adaptations for living on land.  Her analysis of the primitive Tetrapod  known as Acanthostega (Ah-can-tho-stay-ga) offered dramatic new insights into how fish made the transition to a life on Terra firma.  Incidentally, Acanthostega lived during the Devonian, a period of geological time named after that county in south-west England, perhaps better known for its cream teas and sandy beaches.

Let us continue to highlight the role of British women in the Earth sciences by focusing on the work of Mary Anning (1799-1847).  Mary was a pioneering, fossil collector born just a few miles to the east of the county of Devon, in the small, seaside town of Lyme Regis (Dorset).  Although lacking any formal scientific training and as a woman, sadly not given full credit for her work until long after her death, a consequence of, thankfully, now outdated Georgian and Victorian attitudes to the role of women in science.  Mary explored the fossil rich, Jurassic aged strata of her Dorset home, she is accredited for finding the first Plesiosaur fossils and the first Ichthyosaur skeleton to be correctly identified as an ancient, marine reptile.   An Ichthyosaurus and a Plesiosaurus both feature in the recent  Royal Mail stamps issue, however, Mary Anning’s links with this stamp set is not restricted to the marine reptiles.  It was Mary who discovered the first Dimorphodon specimens in the Lower Lias of southern England’s famous “Jurassic Coast”.  This flying reptile also features in the Royal Mail series and the first fossils of Dimorphodon link to two other giants of nineteenth century British palaeontology, as Mary passed her Pterosaur fossil to the Reverend William Buckland to study.  It was Buckland, who  wrote the first full, scientific description of a dinosaur (Megalosaurus – also featured in the stamp set) and Sir Richard Owen, a Lancastrian, who first coined the term Dinosauria, was responsible for erecting the Dimorphodon genus in 1870.

The Gravestone of Mary Anning and Joseph Anning (brother)

Mary Anning's grave at St Michael's Church on the hill overlooking Lyme Regis

Mary Anning’s grave at St Michael’s Church on the hill overlooking Lyme Regis

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The pair of Iguanodons, beautifully illustrated by John Sibbick on one of the stamps is a reminder of the role played by this country in fundamentally changing scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of our planet.  Gideon Mantell, a medical man by training but with a passion for geology and palaeontology, did much to broaden our understanding regarding the prehistoric animals of the Cretaceous.  It was Mantell who first scientifically described Iguanodon and this dinosaur was one of the first to be reconstructed both as a mounted skeleton and as a representation of a living animal.   The United Kingdom has made a significant contribution to the popularising of science, especially the study of prehistoric animals.  Scotsman Bill Swinton (1900-1994) is credited with writing one of the first ever textbooks on dinosaurs.  The book, first published in 1934 with the catchy title “The Dinosaurs: A Short History of the Great Group of Extinct Reptiles”, became a standard text for students of palaeontology all over the world for the next forty years or so.

The Iguanodons that Feature on the Royal Mail Stamps

The Ornithopod Iguanodon on a stamp.

The Ornithopod Iguanodon on a stamp.

The prehistoric stamps can be found at: The Post Office Shop

Life-size replicas of prehistoric animals built by London born Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins and first put on display in 1854 can still be seen today in south London’s Crystal Palace Park.  These concrete replicas, the first of their kind to be exhibited anywhere in the world now have  Grade 1 listed status (the same status as Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace).  The general public’s fascination for everything dinosaur seems to have continued non-stop and many British academics have been in the vanguard of popularising the study of ancient life and prehistoric ecosystems.

To end our very brief foray into the contribution made to palaeontology and geology in the 19th and 20th Centuries by the United Kingdom, it seems fitting to end our short discourse by paying tribute to  Alan Charig (1927-1997), a research scientist who rose to become Curator of Fossil Amphibians, Reptiles and Birds at the Natural History Museum.  Dr. Charig did much to popularise the subject of palaeontology in the 1970’s, with the BBC television series “Before the Ark”, the success of which, according to many commentators, paved the way for Sir David Attenborough to make the first of his ground-breaking  natural history programmes (Life on Earth).

Alan Charig in conjunction with Angela Milner was given the responsibility of studying and scientifically describing a new type of predatory dinosaur unearthed by an amateur fossil hunter whilst exploring a Surrey clay pit in 1983.  Almost seventy percent of the fossilised skeleton was excavated.  This ten metre long leviathan was named Baryonyx (Bar-ree-on-niks) and the head and neck of this Theropod dinosaur are depicted on one of the stamps in the Royal Mail set, a fitting tribute to the immense contribution made by the people of this country to the study of ancient life and in particular to the Dinosauria.

A Model of Baryonyx (B. walkeri)

Baryonyx "Heavy Claw"

Baryonyx – the name means “heavy claw”

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

18 12, 2013

Remembering Sir Richard Owen – Naturalist, Anatomist and Palaeontologist

By | December 18th, 2013|Dinosaur Fans, Famous Figures|0 Comments

Sir Richard Owen Died This Day in 1899

Today, 18th December, marks the anniversary of the death of Sir Richard Owen, the Lancashire born scientist who is credited with coining the term “Dinosauria” and for helping to found the Natural History Museum in London. Born in Lancaster in 1804, Richard Owen trained as a doctor and went on to become an expert in comparative anatomy.  Regarded as a pioneer of vertebrate palaeontology, he did much to assist with public learning and to advance the study of ancient, long extinct fauna.  Sir Richard was instrumental in developing the science of palaeontology, although he was often criticised for his willingness to discredit fellow academics and to take plaudits for the work of others.  He was frequently accused of and found guilty of plagiarism.

Sir Richard Owen

Sir Richard Owen regarded by many as a pioneer in the science of palaeontology.

Sir Richard Owen regarded by many as a pioneer in the science of palaeontology.

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum (London)

In the picture, Sir Richard Owen is holding leg bones from an extinct, flightless bird from New Zealand (Moa).  During his long and illustrious career he received many accolades including a Knighthood.  His contempt for the work of others, his willingness to claim credit for studies not necessarily carried out by himself and some of the underhand tactics used by Owen, may have led history to portray him as a flawed character but he remains one of the most significant and influential British scientists of the Victorian age.

17 12, 2013

Diplodocus Goes to Denmark

By | December 17th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

“Misty”  The Diplodocus Skeleton Purchased by the Natural History Museum of Denmark

The mounted, fossilised remains of a seventeen metre long Diplodocus sold at auction last month has been purchased by the Natural History Museum of Denmark.  The museum, which has links to the University of Copenhagen celebrates it’s tenth anniversary on New Years Day and the purchase of this Jurassic Sauropod skeleton makes a nice Christmas/Tenth anniversary present for the institution.

The Museum came into being on the 1st January 2004 with the amalgamation of a number of museums (including the geological and zoological museums) and other organisations into one body.  Everything Dinosaur reported on the auction of “Misty” – as this was the nickname of the mounted specimen, earlier in the year.  When the auction took place, the Diplodocus sold for £400,000 GBP (approximately 472,000 euros) but at the time the name of the purchaser was not revealed.

To read more about the sale of “Misty” the Diplodocus: Diplodocus Goes Under the Hammer

Believed to one of just a handful of near complete specimens in the world that represent the Diplodocus genus, the fossil material was originally excavated in Wyoming and from there it went to Holland for further preparation work, cleaning and mounting.  In an announcement to the press, the Copenhagen based museum confirmed that it had bought this auction lot.  The dinosaur, thought to be a female, was purchased following a donation from the Obel Family Foundation.

Diplodocus on its Way to Denmark

Diplodocus Fossil Going to Danish Museum

Diplodocus Fossil Going to Danish Museum

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Museum Director Morten Meldgaard commented:

 “To own a giant dinosaur is, of course, the dream of any natural history museum.  In order to understand the nature and the world we live in, we have to understand the past, and more than anything else, a dinosaur is an object that connects us with the distant past.”

The Diplodocus will very probably go on exhibit within a gallery dedicated to the evolution of life on Earth, amongst the Museum’s existing, extensive fossil collection.  With the amalgamation of the various museums and other institutions into a single attraction visitors can marvel at the fossils, hundreds of minerals and examine the huge zoological collection as well as enjoy the famed Botanical gardens.

Christen Obel, the Chairman of the Obel Family Foundation stated:

“I think it’s quite obvious and right that the Natural History Museum of Denmark should own a dinosaur.  So when we suddenly had the opportunity to give the museum this early Christmas present, we jumped at the chance.”

Despite being a small country, the geology of Denmark is extremely varied and many different types of fossil bearing sedimentary deposits are exposed and can be explored.  A number of quarries grant permission to parties of fossil hunters and there are a number of sites along Denmark’s coast where different types of fossil can be found, including many vertebrates (fish).  Intriguingly, Denmark is one of the few countries in Europe where the K-T boundary, that thin iridium layer that separates the Mesozoic from the Cenozoic can be accessed.

It looks like the Diplodocus specimen has found a good home and it is pleasing to hear that this specimen will still be able to be viewed by the public and utilised by palaeontologists carrying out research.

16 12, 2013

New French Abelisaurid Named After Road Builder

By | December 16th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Arcovenator escotae – Hunter from the Arc River Region of France

The Abelisauridae family tree just got a little bit bigger.  A team of scientists from France have published a paper on a new Abelisaur, this fossil discovery proves beyond reasonable doubt that these narrow-snouted, short-armed Theropods were present in Europe at the very end of the Cretaceous.  Say hello to Arcovenator escotae, which alongside the likes of Tarascosaurus* (T. salluvicus) becomes the second Abelisaur to be known from France.

* The fragmentary nature of the fossil material ascribed to Tarascosaurus has led some scientists to question whether this dinosaur actually is a member of the Abelisauridae family.

In 2007, as a French construction company called Escota worked on an extension to the major trunk road, the A8, close to the city of Aix-en-Provence, (which itself is about twenty miles north of Marseilles), a series of fossil fragments were discovered in fluvial sandstones, all of which probably came from the same individual animal.  The fossil material consisted of elements from the back of the skull, a tail bone (caudal vertebra), bones from the lower right leg and three teeth.  Importantly, the presence of cranial material, enabled the scientists including Thierry Tortosa (Museum of Natural History, Aix-en-Provence) in collaboration with Eric Buffetaut, one of the world’s leading experts on European dinosaurs, and the palaeontologist responsible for naming and describing Tarascosaurus, to positively identify the material as being from an Abelisaur.

This new dinosaur has been named Arcovenator escotae, the name means “hunter from the River Arc”, the specific name honours the motorway construction company which delayed the building work until all the sediments and strata in the construction site had been properly mapped and explored.

Thierry Tortosa Examining Cranial (Skull) Material from the New Abelisaur
New Theropod dinosaur from France.

New Theropod dinosaur from France.

Phylogenetic studies carried out by the French team suggest that this member of the Abelisauridae is more closely related to the taxa known from India and Madagascar than to South American forms of Abelisaur.  In addition, along with Tarascosaurus, Arcovenator is assigned a position in the Abelisauridae that indicates it is a basal, primitive member.  The discovery of these fossils in Campanian aged strata (72-76 million years old), have led the scientists to propose that Africa and Europe may have played a significant role in Abelisaurid dispersal, and not South America as previously thought.

A Typical Illustration of a Fearsome Abelisaurid (Rajasaurus)
Fearsome, Theropods - a typical Abelisaur.

Fearsome, Theropods – a typical Abelisaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

At an estimated six metres in length, this Theropod was very probably the apex predator in what was to become southern Europe at the end of the Cretaceous.  It shared its environment with Titanosaurs, Ornithopods and a variety of mammals and birds, including several types of large flightless bird.

15 12, 2013

Denisovan Cave Material Hints at Mystery Human Species

By | December 15th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Research Shows that Neanderthals and Denisovans were Closely Related

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology based in Leipzig (Germany) have completed an analysis of ancient hominin DNA from a cave located in the Altai Mountains of Siberia.  Their study suggests the existence of a mystery human species, as evidence from the genome indicates the likelihood of extensive interbreeding and the possible recording of genetic material from Homo erectus.  H. erectus, although very different from modern humans, is much more “modern looking” than earlier hominins.  It also has the distinction of being the longest living species in terms of the age of its fossil record.  The earliest fossil material ascribed to H. erectus is approximately 1.9 million years old, yet H. erectus may have survived until just fifty thousand years ago.  Fossils are known from Europe and Asia, but it is likely this species evolved in Africa.  It is the oldest globally distributed species of hominin known.

The research team have also announced that they have completed the most detailed analysis of a Neanderthal’s DNA to date.  The details of the team’s work has been published in the scientific journal “Nature”.  Back in 2010, Everything Dinosaur team members reported on the discovery of a new hominin species after researchers found fragmentary fossil remains in a cave located in the Altai Mountains.  The cave known as the Denisova Cave, gave rise to the name of this new species, they were labelled Denisovans, a type of human distinct from both Neanderthals and H. sapiens that lived in that part of Siberia forty thousand years ago.

To read the article on the discovery of the Denisovans: Evidence of New Species of Early Human Found

This new research concerns a Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis) toe bone that was found in the same cave as the Denisovan discovery, although it comes from a layer of sediments believed to date from between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago.  The Denisova site has provided evidence of Denisovans, Neanderthals and modern humans, this location seems to have been home to at least three species of early humans over the years – although each species occupied the cave at different times in prehistory.

The Neanderthal Toe Bone Used in the Study

Neanderthal Toe Bone used in the Study.

Neanderthal Toe Bone used in the Study.

Picture Credit: Bence Viola

Professor Svante Paabo (Max Planck Institute) led the analysis of the toe bone and it has revealed some interesting information about both Neanderthals and other early human types.  The toe bone came from a female Neanderthal, one that was highly inbred perhaps the child of half-siblings who shared the same mother.  Other family relationship scenarios are possible however, including that her parents were an uncle/niece or aunt/nephew combination.  It is also feasible from the DNA study that her parents were a grandparent and grandchild or double first-cousins (the children of two siblings who bred with siblings).

Whatever the exact family relationship, based on this evidence, even the most ardent soap script writers would do well to come up with a convoluted story line to explain this one away.

The research into the toe bone when compared to data on the Denisovans suggest that Neanderthals and Denisovans were closely related and probably looked very similar to each other as species.  Based on this study, it indicates that the Neanderthal/Denisovan common ancestor split off from the branch of the human family tree that would eventually lead to our own species, around 400,000 years ago.  The genome study as revealed by the Max Planck Institute also indicates that the Neanderthals and the Denisovans themselves diverged from each other around 300,000 years ago.

In addition, this genetic analysis threw up a surprise result.  It has been postulated that the Denisovans interbred with a mystery, fourth type of early hominin that was living in Eurasia.  Between 2.7 and 5.8% of the Denisovan genome comes from this, as yet not identified species.

This group split from the others more than a million years ago, and may represent the early human species known as Homo erectus, which fossils show was living in Europe and Asia a million or more years ago.
But Spanish researchers also recognise a species known as Homo antecessor, whose fossils show up about a million years ago at the Atapuerca site, near Burgos in Spain, and this may be another candidate.

Though Denisovans and Neanderthals eventually died out, they left behind bits of their genetic heritage because they occasionally interbred with modern humans.  The research team estimates that between 1.5 and 2.1 percent of the genomes of modern non-Africans can be traced to Neanderthals, whilst perhaps as much as 0.8% (on average across the entire human genome), of modern human DNA can be traced back to the Denisovan lineage, although most Denisovan DNA traces are associated with those modern humans from Oceanic or Asian populations.

Excavations in the Denisova Cave System Indicate at Least Three Species of Hominin Have Inhabited It

Excavation work in the cave.

Excavation work in the cave.

Picture Credit: Bence Viola

The study proposes that as much 6% of the genomes of Aboriginal Australians, natives of New Guinea and some Pacific Islanders can be traced to Denisovans.  The new analysis finds that the genomes of Han Chinese and other mainland Asian populations, as well as of Native Americans, contain about 0.2% Denisovan genes.

Interbreeding between populations has certainly “clouded” the genetic map of modern humans and it is difficult to distinguish links to different species as a result, but the research has also identified at least eighty-seven specific genes to H. sapiens that are significantly different to Denisovan and Neanderthal DNA.  The research team suggest that these genes may hold clues to behavioural differences between different types of early human and may even go some way to explaining why we are still here but the Neanderthals and Denisovans as species are extinct.

14 12, 2013

Wild Safari Dinos and Prehistoric Life Elasmosaurus Model Reviewed

By | December 14th, 2013|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases, Product Reviews|0 Comments

Elasmosaurus Model (Safari Ltd) Under the Spotlight

New to the Wild Safari Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life model series manufactured by Safari Ltd for 2013, is this replica of Elasmosaurus, a member of the Plesiosaur group, one of the last types to evolve and a marine reptile with approximately half of its entire body length made up by its extraordinarily long neck.

Elasmosaurus was named and described by the American palaeontologist Edward Drinker Cope from fossils discovered in Wyoming.  He had a preconceived idea that this sort of creature would be propelled through the water by its tail.  This in part, explains why when it came to reconstructing the holotype material,  Cope ended up putting the head on the tail, a mistake that was pointed out to him much to his subsequent embarrassment.  The design team at Safari Ltd have avoided such errors and this model is a very accurate representation of an Elasmosaurid.

Wild Safari Dinos & Prehistoric Life Model Series Elasmosaurus

Cretaceous Plesiosaur

Cretaceous Plesiosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Safari Ltd

Focusing on the neck, this model is posed with the neck slightly curved, but a swan-like posture has been avoided.  The neck is held out almost horizontally from the body and this reflects the current scientific thinking regarding these Late Cretaceous Plesiosaurs.  The small head on the end of that enormous neck could permit Elasmosaurus to approach shoals of fish in order to hunt, without the fish being too alarmed .

There are some wonderful details on the head.  Firstly, the teeth are thin and give the impression of being needle-like.  The teeth in the upper jaw of this model project forward in a very pronounced way, this reflects Elasmosaurid teeth very accurately.  Their teeth being perfectly evolved to interlock, trapping any poor unfortunate fish that should have strayed within range.  The jaws themselves give an indication of being very powerful. The back of the skull is widened slightly to give the impression of the presence of strong jaw muscles.  The eyes although small,  are positioned above the mid-line of the skull, which again reflects what is seen in the fossil record.

The Model Reflects the Known Fossil Material Accurately

Elasmosaurus fossil

Elasmosaurus fossil

The body of the model and those four wing-like paddles give this replica a certain rigidity.  It is likely that Elasmosaurus was a predator of the open ocean, ambushing prey by attacking from below using its strong flippers to provide the burst of speed necessary for an attack.  Compared to the neck, the tail is relatively diminutive, but the model makers have successfully avoided making the tail too stumpy.  The creases and folds in the skin at the base of the tail and also seen halfway up the tail on the other side hint at movement – which is a nice touch.

Compared to other Safari Ltd marine reptile models, the colouration is quite muted.  The top of the body is painted a dark green colour, which contrasts nicely with sandy coloured underside. The detailing around the head has been enhanced by careful painting.

The skin itself has a stippled effect and feels quite rough to the touch.  We are not aware of Elasmosaurus skin impressions being preserved within the fossil record.  However, fossilised skin impressions from earlier  Jurassic Plesiosaurs suggest that the skin was relatively smooth, any scales present may have been extremely small, although on some parts of the body the skin may have been slightly wrinkled.

This Elasmosaurus model from Safari Ltd does reflect the known fossil material well and it represents an extremely good reconstruction of this Late Cretaceous marine reptile.

To view the range of prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur: Carnegie Collectibles and Wild Safari Dinos & Prehistoric Life Models (Safari Ltd)

13 12, 2013

New 2014 Introductions from Collecta

By | December 13th, 2013|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products|4 Comments

Available in Late 2014 Three New Replicas from Collecta

Collecta are going to introduce a wonderful replica of a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex, a T. rex with feathers.  Anthony Beeson, the designer of this figure has commented that he has given his baby Tyrannosaur plumage based on a woodland bird, thinking that these small and vulnerable predators would hide in forests to avoid larger carnivores.  The replica is a very accurate representation of the latest scientific interpretation of young Tyrannosaurs.

The model measures approximately ten centimetres in length.

Collecta 2014 Introducing a Feathered Tyrannosaurus rex Juvenile

A young T. rex

A young T. rex

Picture Credit: Collecta/Everything Dinosaur

Joining the T. rex juvenile model next year is this lovely replica of Gastonia (G. burgei), an armoured dinosaur believed to be closely related to Polacanthus.  This dinosaur has spikes, plates and a heavily armoured head, a contemporary of the fearsome Utahraptor, this armour would have come in very handy.

Gastonia – Armoured Dinosaur from Collecta

Gastonia model (Collecta).

Gastonia model (Collecta).

Picture Credit: Collecta/Everything Dinosaur

The model measures around fifteen centimetres in length and should work well in dioramas with the existing Collecta Utahraptor model.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s current range of Collecta models: Collecta Prehistoric Animal Models

Last but not least for the moment, comes a model of the bizarre-looking prehistoric mammal called Arsinoitherium.  Arsinoitherium was a distant relative of today’s elephants, fossils have been found in Asia, Oman and we have seen some examples discovered in Egypt.  Great to see a model of this hoofed herbivore added to the Collecta model range.

Arsinoitherium Model from Collecta

Prehistoric beast distantly related to modern elephants.

Prehistoric beast distantly related to modern elephants.

Picture Credit: Collecta/Everything Dinosaur

The Arsinoitherium prototype measures around twenty centimetres in length and based on the size of an adult, male Arsinoitherium being around 3.4 to 3.5 metres in length, we estimate that this figure will work well with Collecta’s other prehistoric mammal models in 1:20 scale.

Looks like Collecta are going to have a super 2014.  These models should be in stock late in 2014 perhaps mid Summer?

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