Colourful Dinosaur Soft Toys

Blue Tyrannosaurus rex, Green Stegosaurus and a Red Spinosaurus

Lots of happy customers who love the recently introduced colourful range of dinosaur soft toys.  Team members have been receiving praise for this range of large dino themed plush and the accompanying baby dinosaurs that go with them.

Colourful Soft Toy Dinosaurs

Dinosaur soft toys available in two sizes

Dinosaur soft toys available in two sizes

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We are not sure whether its their super soft textures or perhaps it is the bright colours, after all, who can resist a crimson Spinosaurus.  The large dino soft toys are around forty-eight centimetres in length, whilst the matching baby dinosaurs are in the region of thirty centimetres tall.  Naturally, every dinosaur soft toy we sell at Everything Dinosaur is sent out with its very own dinosaur fact sheet telling you all about the dinosaur that the plush is based on.

Large dinosaur soft toys: Large Dino Soft Toys

Baby dinosaur soft toys: Baby Dinosaur Soft Toys

That reminds us we must print off some more fact sheets about Stegosaurus.

Soft Toy Dinosaurs Proving Quite a Hit this Spring

Children playing with super soft dinosaurs.

Children playing with super soft dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We were told by one young dinosaur fan that her green Stegosaurus was very friendly, her brother liked the blue Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur soft toy best.

Fossil Find Provides Information on the Evolution of Herbivores

Earliest Ancestor of Terrestrial Herbivores Discovered

When watching a wildlife documentary it is easy to overlook some fundamental truths about today’s complex ecosystems with their multi-layered food chains.  Lions attacking zebras on the Serengeti, caribou grazing on Arctic lichens and mosses, foxes chasing after rabbits for instance.  We have predators which prey on primary consumers of plant materials, the predator/prey relationship.  However, such complex ecosystems have not been present throughout the history of land vertebrates, back in the days of the very first land animals with backbones ecosystems were populated by carnivores, it seems the ability to digest tough plant materials such as cellulose had to evolve and that herbivory has its roots amongst the meat-eaters.

Newly published research into the fossil of a reptile discovered in Kansas, by scientists from the University of Toronto Mississauga in collaboration with researchers from Museum für Naturkunde and Humboldt-University (Berlin), had shed light on the evolutionary processes that led to the transition of carnivores into land herbivores.  The specimen which consists of some cranial material from the back of the skull, the backbone, ribs, elements from the pelvic girdle and the right rear limb was collected by Dr. Larry Martin, the curator of the Dyke Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas.  Dr. Martin was exploring a highly fossiliferous location known as Hamilton Quarry in south-eastern Kansas.  Strata laid down at this site were formed in a tidal environment with changing sea levels.  A diverse variety of fauna and flora has been preserved including many fish species, some amphibians and a few, rare reptiles.   The twenty centimetre long specimen was poorly preserved with those bones exposed in the matrix showing signs of erosion.  To preserve the fossil and to allow it to be properly studied, the fossil was loaned to the Biology Department at the University of Toronto. It was encased in epoxy resin to stabilise it and to permit further cleaning and preparation.  Unfortunately, the acidic solution used to clean the fossil and to reveal important anatomical details dissolved the fine, conical teeth that had been preserved in the jaw.

Photograph and Illustration of the Fossil Material (KUVP 9616b)

Scale bar = 1cm

Scale bar = 1 cm

Picture Credit: PLOS One/Reisz RR, Fröbisch J

The skull material is located in the top right of the image, with the hind limb and the pelvic bones located top left.  The fossil material is believed to represent a juvenile.

The little reptile has been named Eocasea martini.  The genus name means “dawn or first Caseidae”, the clade of synapsids that this animal belonged to.  The specific or trivial name honours Dr. Larry Martin.  Caseids are an ancient group of terrestrial vertebrates that form part of a larger group known as synapsids.  Synapsids represent a diverse and unusual group of vertebrates, that include the ancestors of modern reptiles and all mammals, plus those reptiles that have closer affinities to Mammalia than they do to extant reptiles, the so-called mammal-like reptiles.  The fearsome Dimetrodon is an example of a synapsid along with the tusked Dicynodonts such as Placerias and the ancestors of today’s mammals.

An Illustration of Eocasea martini

Ancient fossil shed light on the earliest ancestors of land herbivores.

Ancient fossil shed light on the earliest ancestors of land herbivores.

Picture Credit: Danielle Dufault

The fossil has been dated to around 300 million years ago, (Upper Pennsylvanian of the Carboniferous).  The discovery helps to close a twenty million year gap between E. martini and the next oldest Caseid known from the fossil record.  When scientists map the evolution of closely related organisms and find large gaps in the known fossil material, leading back to a very early ancestral form, as in this case, it is referred to as a “ghost lineage”.

Commenting on the significance of the research, Professor Robert Reisz of the Department of Biology at the University of Toronto stated:

“The evolution of herbivory was revolutionary to life on land because it meant terrestrial vertebrates could directly access the vast resources provided by terrestrial plants.  These herbivores in turn became a major food resource for large land predators.”

One of the authors of the paper published in the on line scientific journal PLOS One, Jörg Fröbisch (Museum für Naturkunde and Humboldt-University in Berlin), added:

“Eocasea is one of the oldest relatives of modern mammals and closes a gap of about twenty million years to the next youngest members of the Caseid family.  This shows that Caseid synapsids were much more ancient than previously documented in the fossil record.”

Analysis of the fossil material indicates that Eocasea martini was a basal member of the Caseids, a carnivore feeding on small animals and insects but fossils of Caseids dating from the Permian provide clear evidence that terrestrial herbivores evolved from this group’s small, carnivorous members, animals such as Eocasea.

Evidence for Herbivory

The evolution of the ability to consume, process and digest tough plant material is regarded by many scientists as one of the most important developments in the evolution of land living animals with backbones.  Adapting to a diet largely consisting of vegetation requires some modifications to the body plan of an animal, these adaptations can be observed by studying the fossil bones of long extinct creatures.  For example, in order to cope with hard to digest cellulose, the digestive tract tends to get much bigger and a larger, wider body is required to support a bigger gut.  A longer or broader trunk region can be seen in preserved fossils when their skeletons are compared to those of similar sized carnivores.

The body cavity becomes modified to house a bigger digestive tract, which in turn has to house a huge number of symbiotic bacteria to permit the fermentation and and breakdown of plant cells.  Palaeontologists, can therefore identify Palaeozoic herbivores because their rib cages are typically much wider with a bigger capacity than closely related insectivores and carnivores.

 The Wide Body of Edaphosaurus (Herbivorous Pelycosaur)

Wide-bodied Edaphosaurus a herbivorous sail-backed reptile.

Wide-bodied Edaphosaurus a herbivorous sail-backed reptile.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The researchers conclude that Eocasea is one of the first animals to have started the process that would result in the establishment of modern ecosystems, with many plant-eaters supporting fewer types of predator – the start of more complex food chains.

Intriguingly, the research team went onto identify that the ability to digest and process vegetation was not just established in the lineage that includes the Caseids, it arose independently at least five times more, including twice in the Reptilia.

Professor Reisz added:

“When the ability to feed on plants occurred after Eocasea, it seems as though a threshold was passed.  Multiple groups kept re-evolving the same herbivorous traits.”

The five groups developed the novel ability to live off plants in staggered bursts with synapsids such as Eocasea preceding reptiles by nearly 30 million years.  This shows that herbivory as a feeding strategy evolved first amongst those synapsids that are the ancestors of the Mammalia.  Our ancestors evolved a taste for plants long before that branch of the terrestrial vertebrates that includes extant reptiles, the dinosaurs and Aves (birds).

Moving onto a plant-eating diet, resulted in a dramatic change in the size of early herbivores over the duration of the Permian geological period.  Four of the five groups showed that as the Permian progressed so herbivores got bigger and bigger.  The age of the super-sized grazer had dawned.  Professor Reisz observed that the Caseids showed the most extreme examples of size increase.  The earliest member of the group, the diminutive Eocasea martini probably weighed less than two kilogrammes when fully grown.  Later Caseids weighed more than two tonnes, one of the largest known being the enormous, fat bellied Cotylorhynchus whose fossils have been found in the United States.

The research team have stated that the study of Eocasea has led to more questions being asked then answers found.  For example, why didn’t the ability to digest plant material evolve earlier on?  Why did herbivory evolve independently in at least five lineages of vertebrates?

Perhaps there are fossils out there which will shed further light on these mysteries.

Pushing the Evolution of the Pterodactyloidea Back in Time

Basal Member of the Pterodactyloidea – Kryptodrakon progenitor

Fans of the Pterosauria, that enigmatic Order of reptiles that evolved powered flight and lived alongside the Dinosauria for much of the Mesozoic are in a bit of a flap at the moment.  A newly described, fragmentary Pterosaur fossil found in north-west China has pushed back the evolution of the most successful group of Pterosaurs, the Pterodactyloidea by another five million years.  At least one hundred and sixty three million years ago, these leathery winged creatures were soaring overhead and the Pterodactyloidea were to radiate and evolve into a huge range of different types of flying reptile.  Something like 120 different genera of Pterodactyloidea have been identified so far.

The fossil was found in 2001, it consists of some pieces from the enlarged fourth digit (the wing fingers) from the right and left wings, elements from the metacarpals, the radius, part of the left humerus and other fragmentary elements including a scapula.  Although, only about 10% of the skeleton was found and no cranial material identified, the length of the fourth metacarpal in relation to the other bones that make up the forelimb places this flying reptile at the base of the Pterodactyloid group of Pterosaurs.  This group of Pterosaurs radiated and diversified throughout the Late Jurassic and into the Cretaceous Period.  They produced a myriad of forms which include the Late Cretaceous Azhdarchidae some of the largest flying creatures known to science with some species standing taller than a modern day giraffe.

The Start of Something Big!

Pterodactyloidea a diverse SubOrder of the Pterosauria.

Pterodactyloidea a diverse Suborder of the Pterosauria.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The bones were found in a “dinosaur death pit”, red mudstone strata that represents fine sediments, including volcanic ash which acted like “quicksand” trapping many animals and leaving their bodies piled up on top of each other.  Such locations have revealed a “treasure trove” of fossil material, including these largely uncompressed Pterosaur bones.  For the international research team involved in the 2001 field study, it would have been quite a odd feeling working in what are virtually vertical bone beds, but the fossil material that has been excavated has provided a rare insight into a rich and diverse Upper to Middle Jurassic terrestrial environment.

To read more about dinosaur death pits from China: Dinosaur Death Pits Reveal Dozens of Fossils

The fossil comes from the famous Shishugou Formation of Xinjiang Province (north-western China), the scientific paper on this new genus of flying reptile has just been published in the academic journal “Current Biology”.  Lead authors of the paper include University of South Florida palaeontologist Brian Andres, James Clark of the George Washington University and Xu Xing of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.  The specimen is currently stored in the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (Beijing).  It has taken time to realise the significance of this discovery, at first the fragmentary bones were thought to be that of an unknown species of Theropod dinosaur.  The fossils were found in an ash bed some thirty-five metres below a layer of rock that had been dated to 161 million years ago (Bathonian/Callovian faunal stages of the Middle to Late Jurassic).

Commenting on the length of time taken to identify the specimen, a spokes person from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“It is not unusual for ten years or more to pass before a formal scientific description is published.  The wealth of the fossil material being found in China leads to a backlog in the research and the importance of the discovery was not recognised at first.  A basal Pterodactyloid Pterosaur was not expected, not many people would have considered this possibility when the fossils were first found and catalogued.”

The new genus has been named Kryptodrakon progenitor.  The genus name means “hidden dragon” a reference to the fact that the martial arts film “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”, directed by Ang Lee and released in 2000 was filmed in the same locality as where the fossils were found.  The trivial or species name means “ancestor”, reflecting the fact that this flying reptile has been ascribed to a basal position in the Pterodactyloidea.

Fossil Material Assigned to Kryptodrakon progenitor

New Pterosaur named after "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" Film.

New Pterosaur named after “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” Film.

Picture Credit:  Brian Andres

The diagram shows the fragmentary remains of Kryptodrakon progenitor found in the famed “dinosaur death pits” area of the Shishugou Formation in north-western China.  The red mudstone strata from which the fossil was obtained can be seen in the background, the Pterosaur skeleton used to give an impression of what this flying reptile may have looked like represents Pterodactylus antiquus (original drawing by Peter Wellnhofer).  The scale bar represents five centimetres.

This Pterosaur lived on a flood plain, many miles from the sea. It had been thought that Pterosaurs evolved in areas that were close to the sea and that the majority of early Pterodactyloid forms were fish-eaters.  The discovery of the fossils of K. progenitor far inland challenges this long held assumption.  It is likely that the first members of the Pterodactyloidea evolved far inland.  Phylogenetic comparative analysis of wing shape supports this theory as the research team support the idea of there being a significant correlation between wing morphology and the environment in which the animal lived.  Such a strong relationship between wing shape and environmental suitability is seen in extant flying vertebrates, this indicates that Pterosaurs lived in or were at least adapted to the environments represented by the strata in which their fossils have been preserved.

Dr. Clark explained the significance of their fossil discovery:

“Kryptodrakon is the second Pterosaur species we’ve discovered in the Shishugou Formation and it deepens our understanding of this unusually diverse Jurassic ecosystem.  It is rare for small, delicate fossils to be preserved in Jurassic terrestrial deposits and the Shishugou fauna is giving us a glimpse of what was living alongside the behemoths like Mamenchisaurus [Sauropod dinosaur].

Smithsonian Institute’s Dinosaur Gallery to Close Monday

Last Day to Visit the Dinosaur Gallery at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Today, April 27th is the last day that visitors will be able to explore the magnificent dinosaur gallery at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (Washington D.C.), on Monday the gallery closes and the hall will not open again until 2019.  The 31,000 square foot dinosaur gallery attracts in the region of 5.5 million visitors each year.  It has been estimated that nearly seventy percent of all the Natural History Museum’s visitors each year spend time exploring the amazing dinosaur fossils and other vertebrates on display in the dinosaur gallery.  However, as from tomorrow, the gallery will be closed as a $48 million USD renovation project commences.

Dinosaur Hall Closes on Monday 28th April for Major Renovation

National Natural History Museum one of the most visited museum galleries in the world.

National Natural History Museum one of the most visited museum galleries in the world.

Picture Credit: Donald E. Hulbert/Smithsonian Institute

The hall will be undergoing an extensive re-fit, it has not had any major alterations since the 1980’s and as palaeontology has moved on so the directors at the museum feel the time is right (and the funding is now in place), to conduct a major overhaul of the space and the vertebrate fossil exhibits and casts.

The current dinosaur hall began as “The Hall of Extinct Monsters” when the museum opened in 1910.  The museum’s most recent public display of dinosaurs and palaeontology has been essentially unchanged for more than 20 years.  Although the museum has one of the most comprehensive collections of fossils and a staff of eminent palaeobiologists, the exhibition has become outdated because the museum lacked the funding for a total renovation of the space.  The new dinosaur exhibition hall has been made a reality thanks to the extremely generous donation of $35 million USD from David H. Koch, the executive vice president of Koch Industries.  The renovation will be the most extensive and costly in the museum’s 104 year history and it will provide a fitting showcase for some of the museum’s 46 million fossils as well as permitting state-of-the-art research to be demonstrated to the public.

Although it is sad to hear that the gallery will be closed for five years, we, at Everything Dinosaur do understand the time that will be needed to prepare the new exhibits.  For example, the Diplodocus replica skeleton which measures nearly ninety feet long will have to be dismantled, cleaned and the put back together again, a major undertaking in itself, as we think this is one of the original Diplodocus casts donated by the Scottish born philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (cast of museum specimen CM 84).

The renovation work will be undertaken in three major phases. Firstly, there will be the dismantling of all current exhibits, their careful cataloguing, cleaning and storage.  Secondly, the hall itself will be completely re-fitted, the brief is to return the space to its original splendour when it first opened, with the architecture of the building itself given greater prominence.  Thirdly, there is the re-fitting of the exhibition space which will include the installation of the Museum’s very own real Tyrannosaurus rex fossil exhibit (the Wankel T. rex), although we are confident the life-size replica of the gracile T. rex currently on display (cast of Stan – BHI 3033) will still form part of the display.

Ever since the donation was confirmed, the process of planning the new hall layout was started.  A number of preliminary sketches have been released and team members at Everything Dinosaur are very excited about the prospect of seeing a substantial proportion of the museum’s collection exhibited using the very latest visitor enrichment techniques.

Sketches Outlining the Potential New Layout have been Released

Plans for the new Dinosaur Hall.

Plans for the new Dinosaur Hall.

Picture Credit: Smithsonian Institute

Some of the iconic dinosaur fossils and specimens in the Museum’s collection will be on display over the period of construction and renovation.  For example, a stopgap exhibition featuring the “Stan” cast and a cast of the skull of a Triceratops (T. horridus) as well as other Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossils will open in November 2014.  This exhibition will be called “The Last American Dinosaurs – Discovering a Lost World”.  This exhibition will remain open until the new dinosaur hall re-opens.

We wish all the staff and contractors involved in the project the best of luck and we pass on our best wishes to them.

The Current Dinosaur Hall (2013)

Current Tyrannosaurus rex display.

Current Tyrannosaurus rex display.

Picture Credit: Chip Clark

 The vertebrae at the top of the picture are cervical vertebrae of the famous Diplodocus cast (CM 84).

Everything Dinosaur Sponsors Prestigious Model Contest

Everything Dinosaur Sponsors the 2014 Dinosaur Toy Forum Diorama Competition

Everything Dinosaur is proud to sponsor the 2014 Dinosaur Toy Forum Diorama contest, a chance for model makers and dinosaur fans to show off their skills in creating prehistoric scenes.  This highly respected competition is open to all members of the Dinosaur Toy Forum and this annual contest attracts model makers from all over the world.

Can you Create a Prehistoric Scene?

Create a realistic Ice Age Scene

Create a realistic Ice Age Scene

Commenting on this year’s showcase for aspiring Ray Harryhausen’s, Dr. Adam Smith of the Dinosaur Toy Forum stated:

“It’s that time of year again!  I’m delighted to announce The Dinosaur Toy Forum Diorama Contest 2014 sponsored by Everything Dinosaur!  We have some wonderful prizes again this year courtesy of our generous sponsor.”

The rules and regulations for the 2014 contest are as follows:

  • Entry is free and all members of The Dinosaur Toy Forum, including staff, are invited to participate.  Non-members wishing to enter are invited to register to the forum (this is free).
  • Dioramas have to feature prehistoric organisms, from Trilobita to Triceratops from Acanthocladia to Zosterophyllum, it does not matter, so long as its prehistoric.
  • The deadline for entries is Saturday 27th September 2014.  Entries received after 00.00 hours GMT September 27th will be invalid.
  • One diorama per member.  Once submitted it cannot be exchanged for an alternative entry.
  • Entries must be accompanied by a creative title.
  • Dioramas have to be new (never published on the web before) and you must have produced the diorama yourself.  Stealing somebody else’s diorama will result in disqualification.
  • Photoshop is allowed, but the original photograph(s) must be your own.
  • Winners will be selected by a poll open to all Dinosaur Toy Forum members (there will be no professional judges), that will take place shortly after the closing date.  There will be three winners in first, second and third place respectively (no joint positions), as selected by the poll.  In the event of a tie for any position, a tie-break poll will be created.  There will also be three non-prize winning honourable mentions.

Last Year’s Winning Entry – “Three Angry Chicks”

The winning entry last yar.

The winning entry last year.

Picture Credit: federreptil (2013 contest sponsored by Safari Ltd)

A spokes person from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We are pleased to be involved with this annual competition.  It gives model fans of all ages the opportunity to get creative and to show how imaginative they can be.  Behaviour is rarely preserved in the fossil record, so we will be fascinated to see what scenarios the contestants come up with.  We wish everybody the very best of luck.”

Everything Dinosaur Sponsors Prestigious Model Contest

Proud to sponsor the competition.

Proud to sponsor the competition.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of prehistoric animal models: Visit Everything Dinosaur

How to Enter

-Entries will remain anonymous until the winners are announced. For this reason we request that entrants do no watermark or sign their entries.
-Entries should be submitted as a .jpg file 1000px wide.
-Entries should be sent via email as an attachment to plesiosauria@gmail.com. The email title should read as follows: “dinosaur diorama contest 2014 – [forum username]”, and the email body should include the diorama    title.

For further guidance Everything Dinosaur recommends that The Dinosaur Toy Forum should be viewed and consulted or emails can be sent to the email address provided immediately above.

To register to join The Dinosaur Toy Forum: The Dinosaur Toy Forum

On behalf of Everything Dinosaur, just time to say good luck to every one.

Third Crocodile Attack Fatality in Vadodara (Gujarat State)

Mugger Crocodiles Protecting Nests Blamed for Fatal Attacks

Indian media is reporting a third crocodile attack in as many weeks in and around the city of Vadodara in the state of Gujarat (north-western India).  A sixty year old man was attacked close to the Vishwamitri river on Friday afternoon, despite desperate attempts from local residents and members of the fire brigade, the man was pronounced dead at the scene.  The crocodile initially refused to relinquish the body, but persistent efforts finally succeeded in recovering the victim who has yet to be formally identified.  The Vishwamitri river runs through the city of Vadodara and recent surveys suggest that there is a healthy population of Mugger crocodiles (Crocodylus palustris) living in the river.  The Mugger or Marsh crocodile is the most common crocodile species found in India and although these reptiles predominately eat fish, snakes, turtles and small mammals, they have been known to attack people and livestock.   However, the spate of recent crocodile attacks has led city officials to issue notices and warnings with regards to the potential threat of an attack.

An elderly woman was killed by a crocodile three weeks ago, when she was seized close to a lock near the village of Savli.  A teenage boy was killed on April 20th when he fell into the Vishwamitri when trying to cross the river on a wooden plank.

The Mugger crocodile can grow up to around 4.5 metres in length, with adult males growing to larger sizes than females.  They are distributed throughout the Indian sub-continent and can be found in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan with a small population reported from southern Iran.   The recent spate of attacks has been blamed on female crocodiles being extra aggressive at this time of year (spring).  Many female crocodiles might be guarding nests and as a result, they will instinctively attack any creature that wanders too near the eggs.  Animal activists and conservation groups have urged local people to avoid areas where crocodiles are known to nest, not to venture close to the riverbanks and not to go out at night near bodies of freshwater.

A recent study of Mugger crocodiles and American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) by an international team of scientists proved the long held belief that these species use tools to help attract prey close enough for them to grab in their powerful jaws.  These two species of Crocodylians are not closely related but both the American alligator and the Mugger find sticks and balance them on the top of their jaws in a bid to lure birds to perch on them and to steal the sticks during the nesting season when many wading birds are seeking sticks and other materials to help them build nests.  A paper on this observed behaviour was published in the academic journal “Ethology Ecology and Evolution”.

This is the only known incidence of tool use in the Reptilia.

A Mugger Crocodile Lies in Wait for a Bird Looking for Nesting Materials

Mugger crocodile lies in wait to ambush a bird

Mugger crocodile lies in wait to ambush a bird

Picture Credit: Vladimir Dinets

A twelve year old boy from Zimbabwe was killed by a Nile crocodile  (Crocodylus niloticus) on April 22nd and earlier this month a fisherman was mauled to death in Belize with an American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) blamed for the assault.  A Nile crocodile which is believed to have been responsible for the deaths of at least six people was captured by Ugandan game wardens.  The crocodile measured nearly six metres in length and is estimated to have been at least eighty years old.

We are grateful to Brandon who pointed out that the attack reported in Belize was not from an American Crocodile but from a Morelet’s crocodile (Mexican crocodile).  We thank him for the correction.

Hoylandswaine Primary School Send in Thank You Letters

Year 1 and Year 2 Show Off their Writing Skills

Last month, a team member at Everything Dinosaur visited Hoylandswaine Primary School to help teach about dinosaurs and fossils as the Year 1 and Year 2 students had spent a good portion of their term learning all about prehistoric animals.

Under the guidance of Miss Birkinshaw, the teacher and with the support of Mrs Burr (teaching assistant), the school children had been studying how fossils are formed, the life of Mary Anning, dinosaurs and the extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous.  The enthusiastic, young palaeontologists had even had a go at making their own fossils and creating their own dinosaur dig site in the classroom.  Our dinosaur expert felt very much at home surrounded by all the artwork and posters showing dinosaur facts and figures that the children had made.

At the end of the morning’s teaching, the Everything Dinosaur team member challenged the children to write a thank you letter.  Could they start their letter correctly?  Could they include a dinosaur fact or perhaps tell us about their favourite part of the morning’s dinosaur themed activities?  Would they use connectives, proper sentences, could they think of a way of ending their letter?

Having returned from some fieldwork, there was a bulging postal sack waiting in the office and amongst all our correspondence was a set of thank you letters from Hoylandswaine Primary.

Thank you Letter Received from Jacob

Jacob loved learning all about Spinosaurus.

Jacob loved learning all about Spinosaurus.

Picture Credit: Hoylandswaine Primary Year 1/2 – Jacob

One of the many thank you letters received by Everything Dinosaur, young Jacob has illustrated his letter with some three-toed dinosaur footprints.

Gracie’s Thank You Letter to Everything Dinosaur

Gracie's favourite thing was learning all about giant sharks.

Gracie’s favourite thing was learning all about giant sharks.

Picture Credit: Hoylandswaine Primary Year 1/2 – Gracie

Gracie chose to illustrate her letter with pictures of dinosaurs and a marine reptile swimming in the sea.  We had lots of colourful letters and we have posted them all up onto our huge warehouse wall so that we can look at them and smile whilst we are sorting out fossils and working on our dinosaurs.

Thank you Letter Sent in by Katie

"Amazing fossils"

“Amazing fossils”

Picture Credit: Hoylandswaine Primary Year 1/2 – Katie

A very big thank you to all the children who sent us thank you letters, there are too many to post up here but we have put them all up onto our warehouse wall.  Miss Birkinshaw even got in on the act and sent us a short note to thank Everything Dinosaur for their morning’s teaching work at the school.

Teacher’s Thank You Note

"The children really did have a fantastic morning."

“The children really did have a fantastic morning.”

Picture Credit: Hoylandswaine Primary Year 1/2 – Miss Birkinshaw

Setting a creative writing exercise such as this, is very worthwhile.  Often it can be difficult for the teaching team to motivate the children to write, but this follow up exercise enables the teacher to assess a child’s writing and reading progress as well as testing recall and how the pupil conveys information.  At Everything Dinosaur we always follow up letters we receive and we send out a reply to the school so that the children can learn a little more about the work we do and what we have been doing since our school visit.

Once again, our thanks to all the children in Year 1 and Year 2 who sent in thank you letters.

Collecta Ichthyovenator Dinosaur Model Reviewed

A Review of the Collecta Ichthyovenator Dinosaur Model

Over the last decade or so, palaeontologists have begun to realise that the Spinosaurs were a very geographically widespread group of Theropod dinosaurs.  Fossils have been found in South America, Africa, Europe and there has even been fragmentary remains assigned to Spinosaurids found in Australia.

To learn more about the evidence for Spinosaurs in Australia: Evidence for Spinosaurs in Australia

When the fossils of Ichthyovenator were discovered by a French led, scientific expedition to the Savannakhet Basin of south, central Laos in 2010, they represented the first definitive spinosaurid fossil material to have been found in the whole of Asia.

Ichthyovenator is known from an individual specimen, all the fossil bones assigned to this new genus of carnivorous dinosaur were found in a single stone block, about two metres square.  The fossils consist of two dorsal vertebrae (backbones), five partially articulated sacral vertebrae (back-bones over the hips), two tail bones, elements from the hips themselves and a single rib.  No skull material was found so Collecta have modelled the head of Ichthyovenator on better known Spinosaurs such as Suchomimus.  The head on the dinosaur model is typical for a Spinosaur, the snout is long and narrow and there is a distinctive hook in the front portion of the upper jaw.

As well as being the first definitive Spinosaur from Asia, Ichthyovenator is the first to be described that had two sail-like structures running along its back.  The two dorsal vertebrae, numbers 12 and 13 are adjacent to hip area, dorsal vertebrae 12 is tall and fan shaped, it is believed to have supported a sail that ran from just before the hips down to the shoulder.  The first sacral vertebra is less than 50% of the size of dorsal vertebra number 13, it is very much reduced, so it could not have supported a sail-like structure, the sacral vertebrae posterior to it are much larger and the sacral vertebrae numbers 3 and 4 are fan shaped just like dorsal vertebra number 12.  This suggests that a second “sail” ran from over the hips down to the base of the tail.

The Collecta Ichthyovenator Dinosaur Model

The first mainstream model available of this bizarre dinosaur.

The first mainstream model available of this bizarre dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In essence, based on the fossil evidence, Ichthyovenator seems to have U-shaped notch in the middle of its back.  The model shows these bizarre sails in fine detail.  The sails have been tipped with large scales and there is a row of spines running parallel to the sails on each side of the model.  There are also prominent projections on the thigh.  These projections, in combination with the triangular spines on the tail give this dinosaur a very crocodile-like appearance.

The model measures a fraction under eighteen centimetres in length.  No one knows for sure how big Ichthyovenator (I. laosensis) was but it has been estimated to have been between seven and a half and nine metres in length.  This makes this model to be around the 1:42 to 1:50 scale size.  Ichthyovenator could have weighed as much as two and half tonnes.

Collecta have decided to put their Ichthyovenator model onto a base.  This gives the model stability, allows the feet to be moulded in proportion to the rest of the dinosaur’s body and in this case, it gives a hint at where the animal might have lived.  The feet are sunk into the base, to give the impression of the dinosaur standing on soft mud, the base even has claw marks and a fragment of a leaf.  It is thought that Ichthyovenator hunted for fish on the banks of large rivers that criss-crossed Laos in the Early Cretaceous.

Ichthyovenator even has a small fish in its mouth, to reinforce the idea of this dinosaur being closely related to other fish-eating dinosaurs such as Suchomimus and Baryonyx.  It is appropriate for the Collecta dinosaur model to show this, after all, the name of this dinosaur translates as “Fish Hunter from Laos”.

A Close up Showing the Fish in the Mouth of Ichthyovenator

"Fish Hunter from Laos".

“Fish Hunter from Laos”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

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

This is a beautifully crafted, hand-painted replica of Ichthyovenator, a dinosaur that was only named and scientifically described two years ago.  It is an exciting addition to the Collecta range of dinosaur models.

Aim to Keep “Dakota” in North Dakota

Hugely Important Duck-Billed Dinosaur Fossil Plans to Keep it in North Dakota

The permanent home for one of the most important dinosaur discoveries made in the last fifty years or so is under discussion in the United States.  The fossil, representing a duck-billed dinosaur that lived in the Late Cretaceous (Edmontosaurus regalis) has helped palaeontologists to learn a lot about these long extinct creatures as its state of preservation permitted large sections of the animal’s skin to be preserved along with ossified tendons, ligaments and even the possibility of having preserved internal organs.  Like many large specimens, the fossil has a nick-name, it is called “Dakota” as it was found in North Dakota back in 1999.  State officials in North Dakota are hoping that an agreement can be reached to permit the huge fossil to stay in the State, hopefully becoming a centre piece exhibit in a newly refurbished and expanded North Dakota Heritage Centre based in Bismarck (capital city of the State).  The Heritage Centre is due to re-open on November 2nd this year, the 125th anniversary of the State joining the United States of America.

A Close up of the Skin of the Edmontosaurus

Preserved skin on Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossil.

Preserved skin on Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossil.

Picture Credit: Associated Press

 To read more about the research into this remarkable dinosaur fossil: Dinosaur Fossil Begins to Show its Secrets

The Edmontosaurus died close to a river and the carcase was rapidly buried and a form of mummification took place, the fine grained sediments and the lack of oxygen when the body was buried prevented decay, hence the high degree of preservation.  The Edmontosaurus fossil was discovered by Tyler Lyson, on his uncle’s farm near the town of Marmarth.  The extraction and the preparation of the fossil was an enormous task.  The specimen was encased in two large blocks of stone, the largest of which weighed several tonnes.  The blocks were extensively scanned using sophisticated CT (computerised tomography) and even traces of organic compounds were identified in the matrix material.

Commenting on the importance and the significance of this fossil, North Dakota’s state palaeontologist John Hoganson said:

“We want to keep that iconic fossil in North Dakota.”

The fossil was prepared in the preparation laboratory at the Heritage Centre and it has been on exhibit in Bismarck, the State capital, but such is the importance of the fossil that it has been in demand from other museums and it was carefully packed up and sent over to Japan to take part in a major exhibition about Cretaceous dinosaurs before being returned to North Dakota.

A Model of an Edmontosaurus (E. regalis)

Edmontosaurus a member of the Hadrosaurine group of duck-billed dinosaurs.

Edmontosaurus a member of the Hadrosaurine group of duck-billed dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The specimen is owned by Tyler Lyson, who since the fossil’s discovery has earned a doctorate in palaeontology from Yale University and is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Smithsonian Institute.  Currently, Tyler is negotiating with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, sources suggest that the sum of money involved will be around $3 million USD to ensure the permanent future of this 76 million year old dinosaur.

Further research into “Dakota”: Dinosaur Mummy Reveals More Secrets

Tyler is reported to have said in a statement to the Associated Press:

“We are all working to keep Dakota at the North Dakota Heritage Centre and to establish a Marmarth Research Foundation endowment fund to be used to further vertebrate palaeontology.”

When the redeveloped Heritage Centre opens in November it will be a state-of-the-art museum and it would be fantastic to have “Dakota” as part of the dinosaur gallery.  It would also help with further study into this amazing specimen as keeping the fossil in a permanent home would help with fund raising efforts.  According to local sources, the finance to secure the fossil is not yet in place but it is likely that this iconic fossil will attract funding and significant sponsorship once arrangements for display have been put in place.

Dakota remains on loan to the Heritage Centre until 2015, all parties involved in the negotiations are keen to see the fossil stay in North Dakota and Everything Dinosaur team members are confident that there will be a swift resolution and that this fossil of a duck-billed dinosaur will remain in North Dakota.  Today, April 22nd is Earth Day, an annual event celebrated worldwide in which people demonstrate their support for environmental protection.  It is appropriate on this day of all days to be discussing the future of a dinosaur fossil, one that can tell scientists a lot about how these huge plant-eaters lived.

A Video Review of the Collecta Ichthyovenator Dinosaur Model

Collecta Ichthyovenator – A Video Review

Ichthyovenator laosensis, the “fish hunter from Laos is the only member of the Spinosauridae known from Asia.  Prior to this dinosaur’s discovery in 2010, fossil teeth from Asia had been ascribed to a Spinosaur and this dinosaur was tentatively named Siamosaurus.  Teeth that could have potentially belonged to a Spinosaur have been found in several locations in south-east Asia, most notably Thailand, hence the name Siamosaurus “lizard from Siam”, but the validity of this genus remains under dispute.  Ichthyovenator remains, for the moment, as the only member of the Spinosauridae from Asia.  In this short video (6.06), team members at Everything Dinosaur compare the new Collecta dinosaur model with the fossil material.

A Video Review of the Collecta Ichthyovenator Dinosaur Model

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Although the video covers the bizarre twin sails on the back of this Theropod, it is not known why this dinosaur may have possessed such a strange anatomical feature.  Palaeontologists cannot even be sure what these structures looked like, or indeed how long they were.  As to their function, a number of theories have been put forward, for example, the first sail at the front may have played a role in visual communication, whilst the second structure, positioned over the hips, may actually have been a fleshy hump where food reserves could be stored, rather like the hump of a bison or the humps seen in extant camels today.

To view the Ichthyovenator dinosaur model at Everything Dinosaur and to see the complete range of Collecta prehistoric animals stocked: Collecta Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models

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