Late Cretaceous Eastern North America into the Spotlight

Ceratopsians from Appalachia

A serendipitous discovery made by Dr. Nick Longrich (University of Bath), whilst exploring the fossil collection of the Yale Peabody Museum (New Haven, Connecticut) has helped to provide a tantalising glimpse into the Late Cretaceous dinosaur fauna of North America.  The fragment of upper jaw bone (maxilla) has been identified as coming from a early member of the horned dinosaur family and it reinforces the idea that thanks to the Western Interior Seaway, the dinosaurs on the eastern part of the landmass that we now know as North America were very different and genetically diverging from the dinosaurs living on the western part of the continent.

Although to the casual observer the fossil specimen looks like a mere scrap of fossil bone, this is the first evidence of a horned dinosaur found in eastern North America.

An Artists Impression of What the Dog-sized Dinosaur Would Have Looked Like

First fossil evidence of Ceratopsians in eastern North America.

First fossil evidence of Ceratopsians in eastern North America.

Picture Credit: Nicholas Longrich/University of Bath

Described as being about the size of a Labrador dog, Dr. Longrich has not been able to assign a genus to his fossil find.  However, this does represent a new species, one that is difficult to name given the lack of fossil material.  Dr. Longrich (from the Milner Centre for Evolution, part of the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at Bath University), was examining some of fossils held in the collection of the Peabody Museum at Yale University when he noticed the jaw fragment.  It had been found on a farm in North Carolina in 1985 and labelled as a maxilla from a duck-billed dinosaur.  Intrigued by the bizarre shape of the bone and not being able to place the maxilla within any hadrosaurid genus that was familiar to him, Dr. Longrich decided to study this fragment in greater detail.

Views of the Maxilla Identified as Ceratopsian

Various views, dorsal, lateral,ventral etc.

Various views, dorsal, lateral, ventral etc.

Picture Credit: Nicholas Longrich/University of Bath

Although the fossil bone was only around four centimetres in length, Nicholas was able to compare this fragment of upper jaw with other Ornithischian dinosaurs and the short teeth sockets, the tooth socket arrangement in the jaw and their shape and the way that the toothrow curved led him to assign this fossil to the Leptoceratopsidae family.

Introducing the Leptoceratopsids

The Leptoceratopsidae are a family of ceratopsids known from fossil finds from Asia and North America, although some fragmentary fossils from Sweden and Australia have been assigned by some authors to this family.  They are characterised by their small size (less than three metres long), presence of a neck frill but no horns other than pronounced jugal bones.  They may have been facultative bipeds, mostly walking on all fours but with the ability to walk or run on their hind legs should the need have arisen.  Regarded as basal Ceratopsians, this is a bit of a misnomer as the group persisted until the very end of the age of dinosaurs with a number of species living alongside the giant quadrupeds such as the better known horned dinosaurs such as Styracosaurus, Triceratops and Centrosaurus.  The number of genera in this family has been swelled in recent years due to a number of new fossil discoveries such as Zhuchengceratops from China and Gryphoceratops and Unescoceratops from southern Alberta (Canada).

A Unique Slender and Down-turned Toothrow

The maxilla has some unique autapomorphies (unique anatomical characteristics).  It is long, narrow and down-curved, this suggested a specialised feeding strategy.  What exactly this little herbivorous dinosaur fed on is open to speculation but during the time when it lived (around 77 million years ago), the flowering plants were rapidly evolving.  Perhaps, it evolved to feed on a certain group of plants that represented the undergrowth of forests and woodlands.

A Dinosaur from a “Lost Continent”

During the later stages of the Cretaceous, rising sea levels cut the continent of North America in two.  In the east, the long spit of land called Laramidia existed and thanks to the wealth of fossil finds from Alberta, Utah and Montana a great deal is known about the dinosaur fauna that roamed the eastern part of the divided landmass.  The fauna of the  western part, called Appalachia, is not well known in comparison.  Fossil discoveries have been few and far between, much of the Cretaceous-aged fossil bearing material has been eroded away and not a great deal of sedimentary, fossil-bearing strata is exposed in the eastern part of the United States when compared to the vast open spaces of the west.

The Continent of North America During the Late Cretaceous

A mixing of faunas, at least amongst elements of the Ceratopsidae.

Lots of information known about Laramidia ceratopsids but this is the first fossil ceratopsid bone identified from Appalachia.

Picture Credit: University of Bath

The leptoceratopsid fragment fits into a larger pattern of dinosaur evolution.  It does not resemble any of the Leptoceratopsidae genera known from Laramidia.  This suggests that as the landmass of Appalachia became more and more isolated, genetic divergence occurred with the isolated dinosaur species evolving different forms from their cousins in the east.  Many of the dinosaurs from Laramidia resemble Asian dinosaurs more closely than those identified from Appalachia.  Tyrannosaurus rex for example, had an Asian cousin Tarbosaurus bataar.  There is also a close resemblance in Hadrosaur faunas.  From time to time as sea levels rose, the northern tip of Laramidia was able to connect with Asia, a land-bridge was formed and this enabled periods of fauna exchange between the continents to occur.  However, Appalachia remained an island for much of the Late Cretaceous and this permitted a largely unique dinosaur fauna to evolve.

Dr Longrich’s paper on the Leptoceratopsidae maxilla has been published in the academic journal “Cretaceous Research”.  Thanks to his keen eyesight whilst exploring the Peabody Museum, the Late Cretaceous dinosaur fauna of eastern North America is well and truly in the spotlight.

COP 21 – Global Climate Change

Global Climate Change in a Geological Context

Our planet’s climate has changed dramatically over deep time.  The immense geological record of our Earth and the fossils contained within certain strata point to several periods of dramatic mass extinction.  The Earth’s climate does change, it rarely remains stable for any length of geological time.  Whilst writing this piece and glancing out of the window it is difficult to believe that just a few thousand years ago our part of the world was covered in ice sheets.  Around 20,000 years ago, a mere blink in geological time, this portion of Cheshire was covered in ice approaching 1,000 metres thick, to the east, the prominent, coarse grained sandstones are testament to a vast expanse of desert that existed some 270 million years ago.

Cheshire (North-west England) during the Permian Period

Sand dunes once covered north-west England.

Sand dunes once covered north-west England.

Picture Credit: David Reimer

Global temperatures have also fluctuated widely.  The average global temperature in the first few years of the 21st Century is around 14-15 degrees Celsius, although there is plenty of geological evidence to suggest average global temperatures were much higher and lower in the past.  However, the rate of change is the concern.  Scientists and politicians are becoming increasingly aware that human activity has interrupted the natural, planetary circle and that human-induced global warming has serious implications for the stability of the Earth’s climate and the changes, if allowed to take place, could lead to the extinction of our species and a lot of other species too.  2015 is on course to become the warmest year in recorded history.  Thirteen of the fourteen warmest years were recorded in this Century.  Fortunately, measures are being put in place to try to minimise the effects of global warming.

COP 21

World leaders, politicians, scientists, environmentalists and lobbyists are gathering in Paris for the start of the global warming conference (COP 21).  COP 21 stands for the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  A convention signed in 1994 commits the majority of the countries of the world to work together to lessen the impact of global warming.
That long winded title was created in Rio in 1992 where countries concerned about the impacts of climate change came together under the United Nations to do something about it.  The key aim is the “stabilisation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.

The term anthropogenic refers to something that has been caused by or relates to our species (Homo sapiens).

Time May Be Running Out to Reduce the Impact of Climate Change

Climate change, time is running out.

Climate change, time is running out.

Picture Credit: Associated Press

The conference will run from November 30th to December 11th and its aim is to fundamentally re-order the economies of our planet to permit the reduction of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide that contribute to the global warming of our world.

When the Earth warms about 2°C above pre-industrial revolution times, scientists say there will be dangerous and unpredictable impacts on our climate system.  Our planet is already half way to that danger point.
So the purpose of the Paris conference is to work out a way of limiting emissions of greenhouse gases, while allowing countries to continue to grow their economies, and providing assistance to the least developed and those most affected by rising temperatures.

We wish all those taking part in the conference ever success with this enormous undertaking.  Let us hope that common sense, mediation and a common sense of purpose win the day.  It is not too late, but the window of opportunity is closing.  Our species is not capable of managing the Earth’s climate, however, we are capable of putting in place changes that will minimise our effect on the planet and the natural order.  Ice sheets will one day return to north-western England, deserts will also be here once again, just like they were millions of years ago.  Our planet’s climate changes, what we must do is to have the courage to build a consensus to help minimise our impact and to reduce the speed of change.  Failure to do so is not an option and the geology of our planet will bear testimony to how successful we prove to be in this undertaking.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of the BBC in the compilation of this article.

The Jehol Biota and Sea Turtle Origins

Scientists Use Chinese Cretaceous Turtle Fossils to “Crack” Turtle Evolution

Turtles and tortoises are representatives of a very ancient group of reptiles and scientists have much still to learn about their origins and how the Chelonia (the name given to tortoises, turtles and terrapins) evolved, but new research by a joint German, Hungarian and Chinese research team is helping to shed some light on these shelled creatures.  The scientists have been studying the beautiful, fossilised remains of Early Cretaceous turtles from north-eastern China in a bid to determine how the first sea turtles arose.

The extant sea turtles found today, represent just a tiny portion of what was once, a hugely diversified group.  There are just seven species, the majority of which are very vulnerable to extinction.  The first sea turtle fossils appear in Cretaceous aged rocks some 130 million  years old, it is very likely that these marine animals evolved from a common, freshwater ancestor, although this ancestor has yet to be identified.  In this new study, Dr. Chang-Fu Zhou of the Shenyang Normal University of Liaoning and Dr. Márton Rabi of the Biogeology Workgroup of the University of Tübingen and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences tried  to identify the ancestors of modern sea turtles from amongst the many excellent turtle fossils that represent the famous Jehol Biota of the Early Cretaceous of north-eastern China.

An Example of One of the Exquisitely Preserved Turtle Fossils Affiliated to the Jehol Biota

The newly-described fossil species, Xiaochelys ningchengensis, from northeastern China’s Jehol Biota; right: an illustration of the skeleton incorporating positive and negative impressions preserved in the layers of stone

The newly-described fossil species, Xiaochelys ningchengensis from north-eastern China’s Jehol Biota; right: an illustration of the skeleton incorporating positive and negative impressions preserved in the layers of stone.

Picture Credit: Chang-Fu Zhou

The picture above shows the slab and counter slab of the newly described Cretaceous turtle Xiaochelys ningchengensis from north-eastern China.  To the right of the photograph a line drawing has been produced to show the preserved features of the shell (scale bar = 20 mm).

The Importance of the Jehol Biota

The Jehol Biota is a rich Cretaceous ecosystem preserved in a multi-layered rock formation cropping out in the Chinese provinces of Liaoning, Hebei and Inner Mongolia.  The habitat represented is that of a temperate forest zone, with large lakes in situ.  Nearby, volcanoes occasionally covered the area in fine ash and this led to the exquisite preservation of many of the fossils to be found in these regions.  The most famous fossils associated with these strata are feathered dinosaurs, animals such as Sinosauropteryx, Sinornithosaurus, Microraptor and the recently described  Zhenyuanlong suni.

To read an article about the significance of the Jehol Biota: Unravelling the Sequence of Deposition in North-eastern China

To read an article about the “winged dragon”  Zhenyuanlong suniA New “Winged Dragon” from China

North-eastern China Around 130-125 Million Years Ago

A rich and diverse Jurassic environment dominated by small mammals, Pterosaurs and feathered Theropods.

A rich and diverse environment dominated by small mammals, Pterosaurs and feathered Theropods.

Picture Credit: Julia Molnar

Ironically, despite this part of the world’s connection with feathered dinosaurs, the first vertebrate of the Jehol Biota to be described was a freshwater turtle (1942).

Xiaochelys ningchengensis – A New Species of Freshwater Turtle

The research team have described a new species of freshwater turtle, adding to the rich vertebrate assemblage known to have existed in this part of the world during the Early Cretaceous.  A study of the fossils of X. ningchengensis was undertaken to ascertain whether this ancient turtle, whose shell was not much bigger than a saucer, was a potential ancestor of today’s sea turtles.  Dr. Zhou and Dr. Rabi applied comparative morphological assessment techniques to try to map this turtle’s position in relation to other members of the Chelonia, this produced a comprehensive phylogeny diagram of turtle evolutionary relationships leading to today’s living turtle species.  The scientists wanted to test an earlier hypothesis that the Jehol Biota turtles belong to a lineage that eventually gave rise to extant marine reptiles.

Dr. Zhou explained:

“According to our findings, the Jehol turtles are instead found on the lineage leading to the Cryptodiran turtles.”

An Illustration of Xiaochelys ningchengensis

An illustration of the freshwater turtle Xiaochelys

An illustration of the freshwater turtle Xiaochelys

Picture Credit: W. S. Wang

In the picture above, the small, freshwater turtle Xiaochelys ningchengensis has caught a fish (Lycoptera spp.) fossils of these fish are associated with the same strata as the X.  ningchengensis material.  Xiaochelys (pronounced sho-ow-key-lis) comes from the Chinese Pinyin “Xiao” a reference to the small size of this taxon and the Greek for turtle “chelys”.  The trivial name honours the type locality, Ningcheng County (Inner Mongolia).  The research has been published in the latest edition of the academic journal “Scientific Reports”.

The Cryptodires, which also include sea turtles, are able to pull their heads and necks vertically into their shells using an S-shaped motion.  The statistical analysis only just placed the likes of Xiaochelys outside the ancestral line of modern turtles, so it is quite likely that this Cretaceous turtle was quite similar to those types of turtle that were ancestral to the modern forms.

Dr. Zhou added:

“These well-preserved fossils give us insights into the origin of Cryptodires.  About three-quarters of today’s turtles belong to that group.”

It is not clear however, just how the main adaptations of marine turtles arose.  These evolutionary changes included the reduction of their skeleton and the development of large, rigid paddles which enable the creatures to swim in a style which is best described as “flying underwater”.  The Chelonia, throughout their long evolutionary history seemed to have evolved into a myriad of forms with several lineages “flipping” between a terrestrial and fully aquatic existence.  Scientists still don’t really understand how the Chelonia evolved and changed since they first appeared many millions of years ago.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of Tübingen University in the compilation of this article.

New from CollectA 2016 (Part 4)

New Prehistoric Animal Models from CollectA (Part 4)

Today we complete Everything Dinosaur’s round up of the new releases from CollectA with the fourth part of our series on the new for 2016 prehistoric animal models.  CollectA have left a couple of very impressive models for us to reveal today, it most certainly is a case of “last but not least”!

First up is this splendid re-boot of one of the most bizarre of all the members of the Ornithomimosauria, Deinocheirus.

New for 2016 An Updated Deinocheirus Model

Available from Everything Dinosaur in 2016.

Available from Everything Dinosaur in 2016.

Picture Credit: CollectA

Fans of the CollectA range will recall that a model of Deinocheirus was introduced by the company into their Deluxe range of scale models back in 2012.  At the time, the consensus was that the huge fossilised arms, powerful shoulder girdle and gigantic three-clawed hands (plus fragments of ribs and other post cranial material) that had been assigned to Deinocheirus (D. mirificus) represented some sort of super-sized “ostrich mimic”.  The Deinocheirus model produced by CollectA was a great attempt at interpreting the, as then, known fossil material.  However, more complete fossil specimens representing a number of individuals have been found in the strata that makes up a portion of the Nemegt Formation and palaeontologists have a much better idea of what this bizarre Theropod dinosaur actually may have looked like.

Designer Anthony Beeson takes up the story:

“Originally only known from an astonishing pair of arms almost 8 feet in length and a few other bones, it [Deinocheirus] remained an enigma for around fifty years.  I considered it too important an animal not to spread its fame amongst children, so a few years ago CollectA had a go at reconstructing the animal for our Deluxe range, and the result was very well received at the time.  Quite amazingly, two more specimens turned up around 2014 and the world at last saw what the animal actually looked like, which was something no one could have predicted.  Overall, our stab at reconstruction wasn’t bad, but the new fossils show that it actually had a large hump on its back and the head was a equipped with a Hadrosaur-like mouth.  The skeleton suggests that the tail bore a fan of feathers and so I have reconstructed it in the act of display, either during mating or perhaps as a show of defiance.”

What an amazing model it is!  It is fascinating to see how the interpretations of fossil material change and how model manufacturers respond to new scientific data.

The Deinocheirus 2016 replica is going into the “Prehistoric Life” not to scale series, it measures a fraction over seventeen centimetres long and that colourful head with its magnificent quills stands some ten centimetres tall.

CollectA Will Introduce a 1:20 Scale Model of an Andrewsarchus for 2016

A 1:20 scale replica of an Andrewsarchus from CollectA.

A 1:20 scale replica of an Andrewsarchus from CollectA.

Picture Credit: CollectA

CollectA’s prehistoric mammal models just keep getting better and better.  The Daeodon and Moropus models that were introduced this year won considerable praise and in 2016 CollectA will introduce a replica of the largest mammalian land carnivore that ever existed, the fearsome Andrewsarchus.

Explaining the reasoning for the introduction of an Andrewsarchus Anthony stated:

“For the prehistoric mammals, this year I chose to do Andrewsarchus from the Middle Eocene period some 48-41 million years ago.  It lived in what is now inner Mongolia, China.  It was named after the great American palaeontologist Roy Chapman Andrews, whose book “All about Dinosaurs” was a best seller amongst British and American children in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Although the animal has been reproduced in toy form before, and has starred in various television documentaries, it may come as a shock to many that all that survives of it is the upper jaw that is armed with a formidable array of teeth.  It’s lineage has also been a matter of controversy.  Like so many prehistoric creatures the body has to be a matter of speculation if one is to produce a toy, so this is my take on it.”

The 1:20 scale Andrewsarchus measures nineteen and half centimetres long and that impressive shoulder hump is nearly nine and a half centimetres high.

Both models will be available from Everything Dinosaur in the middle of next year.

To view the Deluxe range of CollectA models: CollectA Deluxe Models

To view the popular prehistoric life range of CollectA models: CollectA Models

To read an article that discusses in more detail the 2014 Deinocheirus reconstruction: Deinocheirus Done and Dusted For Now At Least

A Blue Tyrannosaurus rex Soft Toy

A Large, Blue Tyrannosaurus rex Soft Toy

Everything Dinosaur have introduced a lovely, colourful soft toy of everybody’s favourite dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex!  Standing some thirty-two centimetres high and measuring an impressive forty-eight centimetres in length, this dinosaur soft toy is certainly an impressive size.

Dylan’s mummy posted her review of this T. rex, she wrote:

“We brought this for my son’s 2nd birthday and since then he has to take him everywhere and packaging and service [from Everything Dinosaur] is brilliant.”

The Large, Blue Tyrannosaurus rex Soft Toy

A large, blue T. rex soft toy.

A large, blue T. rex soft toy.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

T. rex might have been the “tyrant lizard king”, but he has never looked so cute, we love the patterns on this big dinosaur’s sides and the care taken in giving him (or her) a set of fearsome teeth.  The colour of dinosaurs has been hotly debated and if you had been in North America towards the very end of the Cretaceous you might have seen a living Tyrannosaurus rex.  Surprisingly this seven tonne behemoth might have been covered in a coat of shaggy feathers.

Commenting on the blue Tyrannosaurus rex purchase from Everything Dinosaur, customer SK stated:

“Great dinosaur thank you, my boy is so happy with his dino x.”

The company’s buying team take great pride in choosing really tip-top dinosaur soft toys and the current range includes pink Triceratops, red Spinosaurs and green and brown Stegosaurs – what an eclectic and very colourful collection.

Everything Dinosaur Stocks a High Quality Range of Soft Toy Dinosaurs

A blue Tyrannosaurus rex soft toy.

A blue Tyrannosaurus rex soft toy.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of soft toy dinosaurs: Soft Toy Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals

These dinosaur soft toys are suitable for children from one month and upwards and we love the way the eye looks like it is watching you warily.  Perhaps this dinosaur is going to attack, but he looks just to cuddly to be dangerous, unlike the actual dinosaur.  Tyrannosaurus rex could have swallowed a child whole, such was the size of this Theropod’s jaws.  Now there’s a thought!

Iguanodon is Older Than You Think

Public and Private Announcements Regarding Gideon Mantell’s Iguanodontid

Many young dinosaur fans, eager to demonstrate their in-depth knowledge when it comes to the Dinosauria are happy to assert that the Iguanodon was the second dinosaur to be formally named and described. Some of the more confident, young scientists point out that this was the first dinosaur to be named by Gideon Mantell.  Trouble is, when it comes to Britain’s relationship with the iguanodontids it is certainly an enduring relationship but a rather complicated one as well.  The fossilised bones of this Ornithopod feature prominently in regional museums, especially those in southern England.  This Early Cretaceous herbivore is probably the genus most associated with the British Isles and its Dinosauria.  Iguanodon is even depicted on the coat of arms of the town of Maidstone (Kent) and two years ago it was included in a set of stamps designed by British palaeoartist John Sibbick.  Everything Dinosaur team members were asked to help out Royal Mail by providing the text for the press releases concerning these special stamps.  Yes, we wrote lots and lots about Iguanodon.

Iguanodon Featured on a Set of Royal Mail Stamps (2013)

The Ornithopod Iguanodon on a stamp.

The Ornithopod Iguanodon on a stamp.  Is this Britain’s iconic dinosaur?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

However, as with much of the information that relates to early English fossil discoveries, nothing is as straight forward as it seems.  For example, the name Iguanodon or at least “Iguanadon” appeared in print prior to Mantell’s letter to the Royal Society which was read out at a meeting of The Society on February 10th 1825.  It had been thought that the first public announcement of Iguanodon had taken place on that date.  Freelance palaeontologist and Isle of Wight based dinosaur hunter Martin Simpson has unearthed a newspaper report from the Hampshire Telegraph published on the 20th December 1824 that describes this dinosaur, well, the name given is “Iguanadon”.  This means that this dinosaur’s announcement took place seven weeks earlier than previously thought.  The Hampshire Telegraph report covers the matters arising at a meeting of the Portsmouth Philosophical Society that took place on December 17th.  It seems that Gideon Mantell has written to the Portsmouth Philosophical Society shortly after settling on the name Iguanodon “Iguana Tooth”.  So it seems that it was Portsmouth not London where the name Iguanodon was first officially heard.

Pompeysaurus

It seems likely that other fossils representing iguanodontids had come to the attention of academics, long before the fabled teeth find by Mary Ann Mantell (Gideon Mantell’s wife) around 1822.  Reports of bones found in the Tilgate Forest area, at the time attributed to reptiles such as crocodiles and alligators, date from at least ten years before.  Indeed, such is the volume of large Ornithopod fossil bones from southern England that in the year 2000, a revision of the Iguanodon family took place.  Many of the species that had been erected were declared nomen dubium (dubious in the their validity), fossils were assigned to other genera.  Now the Iguanodon holotype material is actually fossil material associated with Belgium (Iguanodon bernissartensis) and strictly speaking, only two species are currently included in this genus (I. bernissartensis) and the recently described Iguanodon galvensis from Spain.

In a press release which provides details of an article to feature in the next edition of “Deposits Magazine”, Martin Simpson is quoted as saying:

“It would be nice if she [Mary Ann Mantell] eventually had a species named after her to celebrate her role in the discovery of Iguanodon, one of the world’s most important dinosaurs.  I’m really excited to have discovered this unknown snippet of information which adds to the history of British dinosaurs and which will really appeal to all the dinosaur aficionados out there.”

The Crystal Palace Iguanodon – Or Is It?

A pair of Iguanodons study the Crystal Palace landscape.

A pair of Iguanodons study the Crystal Palace landscape.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of a press release sent in by Jenny Hawthorn.

Perhaps the Natural History Museum Knew All About “Iguanadon” All Along

Spelling error on the box.

Spelling error on the box.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

 

Dinosaurs, Rocks and Fossils

Dinosaurs, Rocks and Fossils with Year 3 (Broadway Primary School)

A busy morning spent working with the enthusiastic pupils in Year 3 at Broadway Primary as the children have been learning about life in the past and exploring dinosaurs as their topic for the second part of the autumn term.  This subject area links nicely into the national curriculum science element for England at Lower Key Stage 2 (Rocks, Animals and Working Scientifically).  One of the aims of that part of the curriculum related to learning about different types of rocks involves explaining how fossils form and what fossils can tell us about extinct animals.  The girls and boys got the chance to cast their own fossils from Everything Dinosaur’s collection and thanks to the classroom wall they learnt all about how sedimentary rocks get laid down.

Can you See the Layers of Sedimentary Rocks?

Can you see the different coloured bands which represent different layers of rock?

Can you see the different coloured bands which represent different layers of rock?

Picture Credit: Montana State University/Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows a view of the amazing Judith River Formation which can be found in Montana (north-western United States).  These rocks were laid down in layers towards the end of “Age of Dinosaurs”, near to the end of the Cretaceous Period.  The dinosaur fossils we find in these rocks are approximately 79-75 million years old.  Duck-billed dinosaurs and horned dinosaur fossils can be found (herbivores).  There are also fossils of the meat-eating dinosaurs (carnivores) but these are much less common then the plant-eaters.  Can Year 3 work out why?

We can also find fossils of salamanders, bony fish, lizards and several types of crocodiles, although none of these crocodiles are closely related to the crocodiles alive today.

Dinosaurs and Maths

As part of our workshop and in order to support a number of mathematical themed extension exercises, we looked at how big the teeth of Tyrannosaurus rex really are.  One of the “pinkie palaeontologist” challenges we set the class was whether or not the children could use the special “greater than” and “less than” symbols we sent over to make a table listing items in the classroom that were bigger or small than the T. rex tooth they saw.  Could the children think of a way to present their data?

Benjamin’s favourite dinosaur was Velociraptor, he and some of his chums were shown an unusual way to measure a dinosaur.  Once this relatively small dinosaur had been measured we set the class another challenge that involved them trying to measure a much larger, carnivorous dinosaur.  Let’s hope they can master their eight times table, as this would certainly help!

Dinosaur Models Made by the Children

Model dinosaurs on display at Broadoak Primary School.

Model dinosaurs on display at Broadoak Primary School.

Picture Credit: Broadway Primary School

On the classroom walls there was lots of excellent evidence of independent learning, the books at the back of the classroom had inspired the young researchers.  There were also a number of wonderful dinosaur models on display.   The Year 3 class had produced some excellent dinosaur replicas and we loved the “Thomasaurus”.

Dinosaurs and Literacy

In collaboration with Miss Heaton (class teacher), we were able to advise on further extension resources, focusing on literacy.  Different types of writing activities were proposed (non-fiction and fiction) and we challenged the children to use some of the resources that we had provided to write statements about prehistoric animals and also to think up some questions to pose for us.  We know Ethan and Emma have questions, we suggested that they save them in their heads and then include them in a thank you letter that they could compose and send to the Everything Dinosaur offices.

We look forward to seeing some of the results of the children’s research as they study rocks, fossils and dinosaurs.

Renowned Palaeontologist Jack Horner Will Join Chapman University as Presidential Fellow

John “Jack” Horner to join Chapman University (California)

John R. “Jack” Horner, one of the world’s leading experts in palaeontology, MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient and inspiration for the character of Alan Grant in the “Jurassic Park” movies, will join Chapman University in Orange, California as a Presidential Fellow, beginning in the autumn of next  year . He retires on June 30th, 2016 from a distinguished thirty-three year tenure as Regents Professor of Palaeontology at Montana State University and curator of palaeontology at the Museum of the Rockies (Bozeman, Montana).

John “Jack” Horner – To Join Chapman University

A new appointment for the distinguished palaeontologist.

A new appointment for the distinguished palaeontologist.

Picture Credit: Chapman University

Commenting on the appointment, Dr. Daniele Struppa, Chancellor and President-designate of Chapman University stated:

“I am delighted to announce that Jack Horner, one of the most creative living scientists, will join us as a Presidential Fellow in the next academic year.  We are not hiring Jack for our acclaimed film programme, nor for a palaeontology programme – we don’t have one – but rather for his unconventional and extremely successful approach to creativity and learning.  It is his ingenuity and his sense of curiosity and wonder that he will bring to Chapman as we continue to re-think the meaning of education and how students learn.”

For Horner, as he will be seventy when he takes up the appointment, the warmer climate in California might have helped tip the balance.  He will most certainly be missed after his remarkable career in Montana.  Everything Dinosaur reported on his retirement announcement back on the 18th of this month: Jack Horner Announces His Retirement (Well Almost)

With his tremendous energy and enthusiasm, he will be taking on a number of new challenges.  Speaking about his new role, he explained:

“I’m coming to Chapman because of its strong commitment to nurturing curiosity, inquisitiveness and creativity in all aspects of academia,  I very much look forward to helping Dr. Struppa and his staff create an integrative educational environment that accepts all learning styles.”

Looking Forward to the New Challenge

Last month, Horner spoke at Chapman University’s first annual Dyslexia Summit: Strength in Cognitive Diversity, where he recounted his inspirational life story.  As a child with undiagnosed dyslexia, he struggled in school and later dropped in and out of college, attending the University of Montana for seven years.  Although he never completed a formal degree, the University of Montana awarded him an honorary doctorate of science in 1986 due to his astonishing list of achievements in the field of palaeontology.

Among other ground-breaking accomplishments, Horner and his teams discovered the first evidence of parental care in dinosaurs, extensive nesting grounds, evidence of gigantic dinosaur herds, and the world’s first dinosaur embryos.  Horner’s “outside the box” thinking skills led him to ask why no one had thought yet of slicing open fossilised dinosaur eggs – and the result was the discovery of the delicate embryos, fossilised in place.  He was a leader in the now-widely-accepted theory that dinosaurs were warm-blooded, social creatures more like birds than cold-blooded animals like lizards.

Helping to Popularise the Study of the Dinosauria

Horner has named several new species of dinosaurs, including Maiasaura, the “good mother reptile.”  Three dinosaur species have been named after him.  He has published more than a hundred professional papers, eight popular books and fifty popular articles.   His book “Digging Dinosaurs” was lauded by New Scientist magazine as one of the two hundred most important science books of the 20th century.

Horner was the technical advisor for Steven Spielberg on all four movies in the “Jurassic Park” franchise, including this past summer’s global hit “Jurassic World”.  He also helped inspire the lead character Alan Grant, portrayed by actor Sam Neill in the first and third films.

Awarded the famed MacArthur “Genius” Grant in 1986, Horner has received many other honours and awards.  Most recently, in 2013, he was awarded the Romer-Simpson Medal, the highest honour given by the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology, for his lifetime of achievement in the field.  Earlier this year, he was recognised as one of the world’s top twenty-four scientists by Newton Graphic Science magazine.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges use of the press release from Chapman University as supplied by Mary Platt (Director of Communications and Media Relations) in the compilation of this article.

Prehistoric Times Issue 115 Reviewed

Prehistoric Times (Autumn 2015) Reviewed

The weekend has arrived and a chance to catch up with our reading.  First on our list is to browse through the latest edition of Prehistoric Times, the magazine for fans of dinosaurs, artwork and prehistoric animal models and what a super edition issue 115 is.  The Autumn 2015 copy of this quarterly publication features a fantastic, in-depth article on the making of the video game called “Saurian”.  The creators of this stunning game explain their reasons for basing the concept on the fauna and flora of the famous Hell Creek Formation of the United States.  Players of the game will get the chance to play a number of different animals, including the role of a herbivore and a potential prey item – Pachycephalosaurus.  On the subject of “bone heads”, Pachycephalosaurus is one of the highlighted prehistoric animals in the magazine and in a carefully crafted article, writer Phil Hore explains the history of “The Megatherium Club” and tells the story of some of this society’s more famous and notorious members.  The Smithsonian Institute will never be seen in the same light again!  Look out for some splendid Pachycephalosaur inspired artwork sent in by readers.

The Front Cover of Issue 115 of Prehistoric Times

Jorge Blanco painted the front cover (Deinotherium)

Jorge Blanco painted the front cover (Deinotherium)

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks

The second prehistoric animal the magazine sets its sights on is Deinotherium and once again Phil Hore provides a very informative article.  More wonderful artwork is included to illustrate this piece.  Look out for the detailed line drawing by British artist John Sibbick as well as David Hicks interpretation of a Deinotherium calf being rescued.  Notable mentions go to John Goodier and our good friend Patrick Krol Padilha.  There is also a photograph of an amazing sculpture created by Jim Martinez.

Editor Mike Fredericks, takes time out to give Everything Dinosaur a mention, our customer service and attention to detail have helped Everything Dinosaur to become a global player in the dinosaur models market and 2015 marks our tenth anniversary!

Everything Dinosaur Praised in Prestigious Magazine

Mentioned in dispatches!

Mentioned in dispatches!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Tracy Lee Ford provides further information on his poster presentation for the annual Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology conference (held in Dallas, Texas), the controversial area of how to tackle the “lips” of Theropods.  Lots of analysis, clever illustrations and comparative drawings to get your teeth into (no pun intended).  When done sir, we now have an article as reference material which covers fossae, lizard skull morphology as well as the smooth textured skull bones of Ornithischians.

Dinosaur Collector News

Randy Knol gives us an overview of new model releases and we note the “bootleg” Papo Archaeopteryx information that he kindly discusses, it is certainly a case of buyer beware!  For those collectors interested in what is coming out in 2016, keep checking Everything Dinosaur’s blog site and our Facebook page: Everything Dinosaur on Facebook we have not finished publishing all our exclusive “first peeks” at what models are due out next year.

Our chum, Anthony Beeson, continues to chronicle the history of the classic Invicta models and delivers a very informative and beautifully illustrated article all about the different variants that were manufactured.  The guide to base marks and the years of production is most enlightening.

From Britain to Brazil with an article submitted by Sergio Luis Fica Biston all about the Sauropods that once roamed the largest country in South America.  The editor, Mike Fredericks gets in on the action with a review of new replicas and resin casts, there is a section dedicated to a number of fossil and palaeontology news stories and look out for review of “How to Clone a Mammoth” by the very talented Beth Shapiro in the Mesozoic media section.  Beth very kindly sent an inspection copy of this super book to Everything Dinosaur about six months ago when it first came out.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s review of “How to Clone a Mammoth”: How to Clone a Mammoth by Beth Shapiro

Look out for the article on visiting the “Dino Hotel” and we are delighted to see Jan Harrison’s article all about building up the Pegasus T. rex and Triceratops kits.  We know these kits very well, Everything Dinosaur is the exclusive seller in the UK and our next shipment is due in early next week, which makes us swish our dinosaur tails in excitement!

Vote for Your Favourites!

It is that time of year again, when if readers can tear themselves away from the magazine, they are asked to vote for their favourite prehistoric animal model kit of 2015, the best animal toy figure, favourite dinosaur book and most impressive prehistoric animal discovery – subscribe to Prehistoric Times and join in the fun.

For further information on Prehistoric Times and to enquire about subscriptions: Prehistoric Times Magazine

It really is “Dinotastic”!

Baby Dinosaur Returns Home

Baby Oviraptorosaur May Be New Species of Giant Feathered Dinosaur

The fossilised remains of a baby dinosaur, identified as a member of the Oviraptorosauria clade have been returned to China, some twenty years or so after it was taken out of the country.  The baby dinosaur, a hatchling, may represent a new species of dinosaur, possibly a dinosaur that could have grown to about eight metres in length, around the size of Gigantoraptor (G. erlianensis) which is the largest species of this type of feathered dinosaur described to date.

To read about the discovery of the 1,400 kilogramme Gigantoraptor: New Chinese Dinosaur Described – Gigantoraptor

There is a large market for illegally obtained dinosaur fossils from China, many fossils found by local farmers such as dinosaur eggs and even baby dinosaurs, end up being carefully collected and smuggled out of the country to become part of a wealthy individual’s private collection.  This is what happened to the baby dinosaur fossil, it was found perhaps in the mid 1990’s amongst a collection of fossilised eggs in the Henan Province of China, it would have moved through various parties until eventually winding up in the hands of a private collector in America.

The Fossilised Remains of “Baby Louie” – An Oviraptorosaur

"Baby Louie" returns home to China.

“Baby Louie” returns home to China.

Picture Credit: Darla Zelenitsky (University of Calgary) with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The nearly complete fossil specimen was eventually purchased by the Indianapolis Children’s Museum (purchased in 2013), even though it was now in a museum collection, detailed scientific study of the fossil material was not possible, to provide a more complete understanding of the significance of this dinosaur, it would need to be examined in conjunction with other dinosaur egg fossils from the same Upper Cretaceous strata.  The fossil, nick-named “Baby Louie” after photographer, documentary maker and acclaimed contributor to National Geographic, Louie Psihoyos, was returned to China and now resides in the collection of the Henan Geological Museum, where scientists are confident that with other contemporaneous fossil material available, much more will be learned about this particular dinosaur species.

Darla Zelenitsky, of the University of Calgary, recently updated the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology at their annual conference held in Dallas, (Texas), about the progress being made with the research.

Dr. Zelenitsky stated:

“I have initially started doing research on the specimen in an attempt to identify the parentage of the eggs, but interpreting the fossil wasn’t so simple.  Most dinosaurs are named from adult specimens and multiple studies have underscored the fact that dinosaurs changed dramatically as they grew up.”

Unable to Speculate on the Nature of the Species

Although it has been widely accepted that the fossil represents a baby Oviraptorosaur, it has proved difficult pining down a genus or indeed erecting a new species for this fossil.

Darla Zelenitsky summarised the problems:

“Because of the nature of the preservation and the immaturity of the skeleton, who laid the eggs was difficult to identify from the skeleton alone.  The best bet seemed to be some kind of Oviraptorosaur, feathery Theropod dinosaurs that had strange crests, and strange beaks.  Yet baby Louie seemed to large for such a species”.

It was not until that Gigantoraptor was described in 2007, that scientists became aware that some types of this Theropod dinosaur could grown to be very sizeable animals.  Most members of this clade tend to be just a couple of metres in length, some such as Caudipteryx are a lot smaller than that.

Dr. Zelenitsky added:

“The eggs themselves suggest Oviraptorosaur, but their size indicated an adult egg-layer that would have been more than a dozen times larger than most Oviraptorosaurs known at the time.”

Whilst it is still not possible to assign a species to the fossil, the discovery of Gigantoraptor suggests that “baby Louie” could have grown to a similarly large size.  Although it is difficult to speculate given the paucity of the fossil evidence, it has been suggested that this young dinosaur could have grown to be the size of Gigantoraptor.

Could Baby Louie Have Grown to the Size of Gigantoraptor?

Feathers used for display and courtship.

Feathers used for display and courtship.

Picture Credit: BBC (Planet Dinosaur Television Series)

Now that the specimen is in Henan Province, Dr. Zelenitsky and her colleagues can put together a sustained research project to learn as much as they can about how Oviraptorosaurs grew and matured.

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