All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//February
19 02, 2016

Swimming or Walking Sauropods?

By | February 19th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|1 Comment

Re-assessment  of Sauropod Trackways – No Swimming Here

A number of rather strange sets of Sauropod tracks are known from numerous locations.  The tracks, trace fossils of these extremely large, herbivorous dinosaurs don’t show the typical template of front feet and hind feet, but in a number of cases these quadrupeds have left tracks where only two of the feet have left prints behind.  Could these dinosaurs have walked on their hind legs?

A Rearing Diplodocus (CollectA Dinosaur Model)

Model was introduced in 2013.

Model was introduced in 2013.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Certainly, there is some suggestion that these dinosaurs could rear up onto their hind legs, a number of palaeontologists have speculated that very young Sauropods may have had the ability to run short distances on their hind legs only, perhaps to escape predation, but the idea of the Sauropoda being facultative bipeds – surely not?  However, we still have to try to explain these mysterious tracks where only hind feet (pes) or hand prints (manus) tend to be preserved.   If the hand prints only have been preserved does this mean Camarasaurus performing cartwheels – surely not!

Could Sauropods Swim?

Up until very recently the idea that Sauropods, the likes of Brontosaurus, Apatosaurus, Diplodocus et al were aquatic animals held sway in palaeontological circles.  It was assumed therefore that these herbivores could swim and that they would have been very much at home in such environments, with the water helping to support their huge body weights.  A number of fossilised trackways were cited as evidence of an aquatic lifestyle for these dinosaurs.  For example, the American palaeontologist Roland T. Bird proposed that a trackway that consisted almost exclusively of the hand prints of Sauropods from the Cretaceous of Texas was evidence of “swimming Sauropods”, the herd “punting” off the bottom with their forelimbs, whilst the rear legs floated clear of the lake or river bed.

Swimming Sauropods – A Herd of Sauropods “Punting” Along

Suggested explanation for trackways - Sauropods "punting" along.

Suggested explanation for trackways – Sauropods “punting” along.

Picture Credit: Giovani Caselli

A Trace Fossil Preservation Phenomenon

Light may have been shed on these puzzling prints.  An international team of scientists from the China University of Geosciences in collaboration with researchers from the Royal Veterinary College and the University of Bristol have concluded that the two print tracks of quadrupeds may not be preserving swimming behaviour, or indeed any peculiar walking behaviour for that matter.  It is the substrate over which the creatures were walking that has caused this phenomena.

Writing in the journal “Scientific Reports”, the research team analysed a number of trackways preserved in Lower Cretaceous rocks in the Hekou Group of Yongjing County (Yanguoxia), Gansu Province (northern China) .  Quadrupedal tracks of Sauropods are known from the same location, but one set of tracks is characterised by the preservation of the hind feet only, notably just traces of the hind claws.

Sauropod Tracks from the Site

An outcrop showing a Sauropod trackway (Yanguoxia site, China).

An outcrop showing a Sauropod trackway (Yanguoxia site, China).

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The picture above shows a set of typical Sauropod tracks, note the rounded, roughly circular prints and the “narrow gauge” of the tracks – left and right prints close together.  These prints would have come from a Sauropod, but which one (or which ichnogenus), we at Everything Dinosaur don’t know.

However, other tracks show just the hind feet claws.

Lead author of the paper, Lida Xing (School of the Earth Sciences and Resources, China University of Geosciences) stated:

“Nobody would say these huge dinosaurs could stagger along on their hind legs alone – they would fall over.  However, we can prove they were walking because the prints are the same as in more usual tracks consisting of all four feet, it’s just that here, we don’t see the hand prints.  If they had been swimming, with the hind legs dangling down, some of the foot prints would be scratch marks, as the foot scrabbled backwards.”

The strange prints are interpreted as having been caused by the substrate the animals were walking over.  The combination of soft mud and silt led to the claws being pushed deeper into the ground to get more grip as the animals moved along.  These traces were preserved as registrations in an underlying layer of sand.  As most of the Sauropod’s weight was to the rear of the animal, the hind legs pressed down deeper and thus only the rear prints or partial rear prints were preserved.

A Map Showing the Digit Only Impressions Left in the Sediment (Yanguoxia site 2)

Digit only Sauropod tracks - evidence of swimming Sauropods?

Digit only Sauropod tracks – evidence of swimming Sauropods?

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

In the locality, quadrupedal Sauropod tracks are preserved.  These are interpreted as having probably been made slightly earlier on relatively firm substrates prior to the deposition of the soft mud and silt.

A Photograph (A) and a Line Drawing (B) of the Best Preserved Sauropod Print from the Trackway

Photograph (A) and line drawing (B) of best preserved Sauropod print in association with Sauropod manus and a print from an indeterminate Ornithopod.

Photograph (A) and line drawing (B) of best preserved Sauropod print in association with Sauropod manus and a print from an indeterminate Ornithopod.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The picture above shows a Sauropod left pes print (YSII-SS1-LP1) from the site.  Immediately behind the print is a partial left hand print from a Sauropod (YSII-S1-LM1).  Underlying these prints is the track of an Ornithopod (YS11-O1_RP3) that crossed this substrate some time earlier.  The Gansu Province locality is well-known for its dinosaur footprints and tracks.  Something like two hundred tracks and individual prints have been found to date.  They represent a rich fossil assemblage with Theropod, Ornithopod as well as Sauropod tracks being recorded.

The scientists conclude that there is no convincing evidence of Sauropods swimming.  The trackways do not provide clear evidence of Sauropods going for a swim.  All is not lost for those who believe that these animals were at home in the water.

Co-author of the study, Professor Mike Benton (Bristol University) explained:

“This is not to say that Sauropods did not swim.  We are simply suggesting that a closer study of the details of fossil footprints and the sediments can suggest a rather less romantic idea.  The loss of hand prints is down to sedimentology, not dinosaur behaviour.”

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“When one considers the appetites of such dinosaurs, it is likely that they had to migrate large distances to find food.  Indeed, there is plenty of evidence in the fossil record to indicate that Sauropods tended to live in herds and that they did travel far and wide to find enough plant material to fill their vast guts and to visit suitable breeding sites and nesting locations.  If this is the case, then it can be assumed that from time to time these herds had to cross waterways, so it is very probable that, just like most vertebrates today, they could swim.  After all, elephants are known to take to the water and have even been recorded swimming considerable distances in the sea.”

18 02, 2016

Raptor Tracks from Colorado

By | February 18th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Dinosaur Ridge Reveals Evidence of Dromaeosaurs

Welsh palaeontologist Dr. Martin Lockley of the University of Colorado Denver, has identified the tell-tale, two-toed tracks of dromaeosaurid dinosaurs from strata from the eastern side of the famous Dinosaur Ridge location to the west of the “mile high city”.  This is the first time dromaeosaurid tracks have been found in the State, only sixteen other dromaeosaurid trackways have been documented to date, most of these come from China or South Korea.  There has only ever been one other two-toed trackway discovered in the whole of North America.  This site from the Cedar Mountain Formation of eastern Utah (the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite), has preserved didactyl tracks that have been given the ichnogenus Dromaeopodus.  Dr. Lockley played a key role in the study of the eastern Utah fossils.  These trace fossils like the Colorado material, date from the Cretaceous, however, the Dinosaur Ridge tracks are a little younger having been made some 105 million years ago, whereas, the Mill Canyon strata (from the Ruby Ranch Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation), are believed to date from around 112-115 million years ago.

Dromaeosaurid Track and Illustration (Dinosaur Ridge Location)

The two-toed track and an illustration showing how the footprint was made.

The two-toed track and an illustration showing how the footprint was made.

Picture Credit: University of Colorado Denver (photograph), Matt Celeskey illustration with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows one of the tracks identified by the research team as dromaeosaurid.  In these types of dinosaurs, also referred to as the “raptors”, the second toe possessed a huge sickle-like claw which was held off the ground.  In essence, these dinosaurs moved around on just two toes (toes III and IV), hence, only two toe impressions can be seen in the footprint.

Films like “Jurassic Park” and “Jurassic World” have popularised the “raptors”, dinosaurs like Velociraptor and Utahraptor for example.  The illustration above by Matt Celeskey is based on Utahraptor, the largest dromaeosaurid known, although recently Everything Dinosaur reported on the discovery of fossils from another huge “raptor”, but one that lived much later in the Cretaceous – Dakotaraptor.

To read an article about the discovery of Dakotaraptor: Dakotaraptor – A Giant Raptor

An Model of a Typical Dromaeosaurid

The Papo feathered Velociraptor model.

The Papo feathered Velociraptor model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

It is believed that these agile dinosaurs were covered in shaggy coats of proto-feathers and that they may have been pack hunters.  Dromaeosaurids ranged in size from about as big as chickens to giants that were as long as Saltwater crocodiles.

To read about the discovery of a new species of Dromaeosaur from Canada that Everything Dinosaur reported on last year: Sniffing Out a New Dinosaur Species

Dr. Martin Lockley Holding a Cast of a Footprint

Two toes can be clearly seen

Two toes can be clearly seen

Picture Credit: University of Colorado Denver/Channel 9 News

Dr. Lockley’s thumb marks the place where the sickle-toed claw would have been, but it has left no impression as it was raised off the ground, only the pes prior to the claw itself has left an impression.  The track represents a left foot.  A paper detailing the discovery is due to be published in the academic journal “Cretaceous Research”.

Most of the tracks and footprints found in the Cretaceous portion of the Dinosaur Ridge strata represent a wet, lowland, coastal landscape.  However, the dromaeosaurid tracks are located in a bed which is around five million years older than the majority of the footprints and tracks found at this locality.

Commenting on the significance of this Dr. Lockley stated:

“A few million years is a long time in evolution and plenty of time for changes in the ancient environment and ecosystem.  The discovery of these raptor tracks demonstrate the substantial changes in the Cretaceous landscapes in North America over time.”

17 02, 2016

Ancient Gene Flow Between Modern Humans and Neanderthals

By | February 17th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Humans and Neanderthals Interbred “100,000” Years Ago

Previous research has demonstrated that modern humans (Homo sapiens) interbred with Neanderthals outside Africa from between 65,000 and 47,000 years ago.  As a result, many of us “modern people”, especially those from Europe and Asia, contain a little bit of ancient Neanderthal DNA in our genome.  However, in a new study, published in the journal “Nature” the genomes of a Neanderthal woman and a third species of ancient hominin, a Denisovan, obtained from fragmentary fossil material found in the remote Altai Mountains of Siberia, suggests that interbreeding between Neanderthals and our species took place much earlier than previously thought.  No modern human genetic mixing was detected in the Denisovan genome.

A Neanderthal – Interbreeding Between the Species 100,000 Years Ago

New gene research helping to unravel human evolution.

New gene research helping to unravel human evolution.

It had been suggested that our species first began encountering Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) as modern humans began to migrate out of northern Africa into the Middle East and Europe sometime around 65,000 years ago.  This new study suggests “hanky-panky” took place between these species much earlier, as the genetic fingerprints don’t lie, it seems that a few of our African ancestors must have left their homelands a lot earlier, some 35,000 years earlier to be exact.  Or did some Neanderthals move into Africa and encounter humans, interbreed and then these descendants migrated out into Asia?  The lack of Neanderthal tool technology and fossil evidence casts doubt on this particular idea, it seems more likely that modern humans migrated out of their African homelands much earlier than previous research had indicated.

The international team of researchers, which included scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig, Germany) sequenced the Siberian fossil remains and compared them to the sequences of chromosome 21 from two Neanderthal specimens, one from Spain, the other from Croatia.  This new study finds that a population that diverged early from other modern humans in Africa contributed genetically to the ancestors of Neanderthals from the Altai Mountains some 100,000 years ago.  No genetic contribution was detected in the two European Neanderthals or indeed within the Denisovan genome.  This research indicates that in addition to later interbreeding events, the ancestors of Neanderthals from the Altai Mountains and early modern humans mingled and interbred, possibly in the Near East.

Commenting on the importance of this discovery and its implications for our own evolution, Dr. Sergi Castellano (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology) stated:

“It is significant for understanding the history of modern humans and Neanderthals.”

Earlier Human Migration Out of Africa

The genetic evidence suggests that early modern humans must have migrated out of Africa in significant numbers much earlier than 65,000 years ago.  It is not clear what impact the genetic contribution of our species had on the Neanderthals.  If interbreeding was taking place it can be assumed that there must have been other forms of contact between these two species, perhaps simple bartering and the exchange of ideas, or perhaps one group raided the other and stole females away.  This sort of behaviour has been recorded in hunter-gather populations and within chimpanzee populations.

Scientists Working in the Remote Cave where the Denisovan Material was Found

Excavation work in the cave.

Excavation work in the cave.

Picture Credit:  Bence Viola

Professor Chris Stringer, an expert in the evolution of hominins, based at the London History Museum explained:

“I think that anywhere in southern Asia could theoretically have been the location of this early interbreeding, since we really don’t know how widespread Neanderthals and early modern humans might have been in the regions between Arabia and China at this time.”

The professor added:  “May be one group adopted the abandoned or orphaned babies of the other.  Eventually, geneticists should be able to show if the transfer of DNA in either direction was mainly via males, females, or about equal in proportion, but it will need a lot more data before that becomes possible.”

16 02, 2016

Don’t Climb a Tree to Avoid a Marsupial Lion

By | February 16th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Thylacoleo carnifex Behaviour Deduced from Cave Claw Mark Study

Don’t climb a tree in a bid to avoid an attack from a Marsupial Lion (Thylacoleo carnifex).  That might have proved very good advice to the first inhabitants of Australia who set foot on the continent some 50,000 years ago.  These early explorers would have encountered a bizarre and unique fauna dominated by giant monitor lizards, flightless birds and strange mammals, the like of which existed nowhere else on Earth.  One of the more peculiar creatures, and an animal probably best given a wide berth, was the leopard sized Marsupial Lion (T. carnifex).  The name “Marsupial Lion” for an animal about the size of a male African leopard (Panthera pardus pardus), albeit slightly heavier, may sound like a bit of a misnomer, but from a palaeontological perspective this is just one of the peculiarities surrounding this enigmatic creature.

Thylacoleo carnifex – Study Suggests These Marsupials were Capable Climbers

Capable of climbing trees.

Capable of climbing trees.

Picture Credit: Peter Trusler/Australian Post

However, a new study assessing scratches and claw marks left in the main cavern of Tight Entrance Cave, located in south-western Australia, has provided fresh insights into the likely behaviour and habits of these prehistoric animals.  This new research suggests that Thylacoleo carnifex was an able climber and that it probably raised its young in caves.

A Chequered History

The habits and diet of the Marsupial Lion has puzzled scientists, almost since the initial scientific description by Richard Owen (later Sir Richard Owen), in 1859.  At first, this animal was thought to be a carnivore, but as a member of the Order Diprotodontia along with kangaroos, it was then suggested to have been herbivorous.  Anatomical analysis reveals Thylacoleo to be a robust animal with strong back legs and powerful shoulders, not particularly adept at running.  It had been thought that this animal filled the ecological niche occupied by bears outside Australia.  Recently, the idea that the Marsupial Lion was an apex predator that could drag prey up into trees became popularised.  Thylacoleo as a sort of Aussie version of a leopard was even illustrated on the front cover the prestigious magazine Prehistoric Times.

Prehistoric Times Featured Thylacoleo (Issue 85)

The front cover features a Marsupial Lion.

The front cover features a Marsupial Lion.

Picture Credit: Prehistoric Times

A Tree Climber?

Scientists from Flinders University (South Australia) analysed the scratch marks left on the walls of the main chamber in the Tight Entrance Cave.  The majority of these marks were clustered on a near-vertical rock face that led up towards an exit to the surface.  That exit may be blocked today, but clearly this way out of the cave was a preferred route for many Marsupial Lions rather than using a circuitous path with a lesser gradient.  This suggests that these animals were confident and assured climbers and remarkably agile.  In addition, the study indicates that the scratches were mostly made by juveniles, this suggests that Marsupial Lions may have reared their young inside caves.

One of the authors of the research, published in the open access journal “Scientific Reports”, Associate Professor Gavin Prideaux (School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University) commented:

“Our findings indicate the Marsupial Lions were running up and down these rock piles to get out of the cave, and they weren’t using the lower-gradient, longer route.  We can be confident now and say that they could climb and if they could climb really well in the dark, underground, there’s no reason they couldn’t climb trees.”

In order to confirm that the scratches were most probably made by juvenile Marsupial Lions, co-author Samuel Arman, established a list of seven potential candidates, composed of both living and extinct species.  A model was made of a Thylacoleo paw to test how the digit and claw configuration matched against the scratch marks from the cave.  To assess the sort of claw marks made by extant animals included in the study (possums, wombats and Tasmanian devils), scratch pads were given to zoos so that they could be placed inside the enclosures where these animals were housed.  Any claw markings were examined and cross referenced against the trace fossils from the cave.

Examples of Scratch Marks from the Cave

Claw marks from the cave made (most probably) by juvenile Marsupial Lions.

Claw marks from the cave made (most probably) by juvenile Marsupial Lions.

Picture Credit: Flinders University/Scientific Reports

The picture above shows (a) cave wall south, (b) marks from a central rock pile to the west, (c) marks from a central rock pile from the south sub-region of the main cavern, (d and e) scratches from the boulder sub-region.  Scale bar = 10 cm.

Based on this research, it seems that climbing a tree to avoid the attentions of Thylacoleo would not have been a very good idea.

The Ubiquitous Marsupial

The various eclectic theories regarding the habits of T. carnifex that have been proposed may have had something to do with the wealth of fossil material available to study.  More complete or partial skeletons of Marsupial Lions are known from cave sites than for any other extinct Pleistocene species.  Thylacoleo carnifex is amongst the best represented large carnivores known from Pleistocene fossil bearing sites.

15 02, 2016

More Dinosaur Fossils from Western India

By | February 15th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|2 Comments

Rich Fossil Pickings from Gujarat State

Since the turn of the year, Everything Dinosaur has been receiving reports circulated by various Indian universities of further dinosaur fossil discoveries from Kutch district from the state of Gujarat (western India).  In a collaboration with German scientists from the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Bavaria (southern Germany), field team members from the Department of Geology (Kutch University, Gujarat) and Rajasthan University have uncovered the fragmentary remains of a number of dinosaurs and they have identified around 150 sites which may yield yet more fossil data.  The latest discovery includes cranial material, excavated from a location close to Lodai village (Kas Hill).  Lodai village itself is located around fifteen miles north-east of the large town of Bhuj.

Field Team Members Explore the Kas Hill Location

More dinosaur bones from Gujarat.

More dinosaur bones from Gujarat.

Picture Credit: the hindu.com

On January 19th, field team members uncovered fragments from the hip bones of a substantial plant-eating dinosaur.  In addition, a partial leg bone was discovered.  The pieces of bone have been tentatively assigned to the Camarasaurus genus and they may represent some of the oldest dinosaur fossils ever found in India.    The fossil material has been dispatched to the Friedrich-Alexander University so that the specimens can undergo radiocarbon dating in a bid to determine an accurate age of the fossils.  Preliminary dating work suggests that the bones are at least 135 million years old (Valanginian faunal stage of the Early Cretaceous).

Fossil Finds Discovered So Far Including the Dinosaur Bones on Display

Fragmentary dinosaur bones from Western India.

Fragmentary dinosaur bones from Western India.

Picture Credit: ANI

Estimating that these bones came from a Sauropod (long-necked) dinosaur measuring around fifteen metres in length, Dr. Dhirendra Pandey (University of Rajasthan), explained that such fossils provided information on the mega fauna that inhabited this part of the giant, super-continent of Gondwana.  Most of the dinosaur fossils from Gujarat State come rock strata that is actually much younger, dating from the Late Cretaceous.

Commenting on the new discovery, Gaurav Chauhan, from the Geology Department of Kutch University stated:

“The new fossils include skull, jaw and some teeth of a dinosaur.  We still have to excavate a lot of material in order to get the fossils out.”

The team are hopeful that more fossil material may be found at this location and that the fossils may represent a new species.

A number of important dinosaur fossil finds have already been reported from this part of India.  For example, back in 2010, Everything Dinosaur reported on the remarkable discovery of a Titanosaur nest site, which included the remains of a primitive snake that had died whilst attempting to raid a nest.

To read an article about this remarkable fossil find: Baby Dinosaurs Attacked by Snake

14 02, 2016

New Schleich Prehistoric Animal Models in Stock

By | February 14th, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Dimetrodon, Dilophosaurus and Schleich Landscape Jigsaws

The first of the new for 2016 Schleich prehistoric animal models have arrived at Everything Dinosaur.  Marketed by Schleich as “The first giants of the dinosaur world”, a model of the Early Jurassic carnivore Dilophosaurus and the Permian Pelycosaur Dimetrodon have been added to the range.

Both models have articulated lower jaws and come with an information booklet.

Both models have articulated lower jaws and come with an information booklet.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Schleich Dimetrodon Model

Schleich state:

“The great dinosaurs series has been expanded to include less well-known dinosaurs!  Learning by playing.  More can be found out about the first giants of the dinosaur world in the accompanying booklet.”

As any young budding palaeontologist who knows dinosaurs will tell you, Dimetrodon was not a dinosaur, it lived well before the very first dinosaurs evolved.  The accompanying booklet that comes with the model does at least indicate that this dinosaur lived during the Permian geological period, but the text does refer to Dimetrodon as being “one of the first giants of the dinosaur world”.

Having made this point, the Schleich Dimetrodon model (which has an articulated lower jaw), is very well painted with some lovely detail and the replica does have the correct number of digits (five).

The Schleich Dilophosaurus

The Dilophosaurus replica is attractively painted with the bright blue body contrasting nicely with the greyish undersides.  Those famous crests are a muted red with flashes of red along the lower jaw and tipping the tops of the prominent spines that run down the animal’s back.  It too, just like the Dimetrodon has an articulated lower jaw.

To see these models and to view the rest of the Schleich prehistoric animal model range: Schleich Prehistoric Animal Figures

As with all our named prehistoric animal models, Everything Dinosaur will include a fact sheet about the prehistoric animal with every Schleich model we sell.

“Watch Out!  The Schleich Mini Dinosaurs are on the Loose Again

Also new for 2016, Schleich have introduced mini Schleich figure sets in combination with prehistoric landscape puzzles.  There are four in the series and the first of these sets – lava field, discovery and the waterhole have arrived at our warehouse.

The Schleich Mini Dinos Puzzles Each Puzzle has Four Prehistoric Animal Models

Schleich prehistoric animal figures with puzzles.

Schleich prehistoric animal figures with puzzles.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Each of the twenty-four piece puzzles comes with a set of four mini-prehistoric animal figures, some of these figures are new for 2016, animals such as the Ichthyosaurus.  Other models are colour variants of prehistoric animals that were featured in the highly successful “mini dinosaurs” model series introduced by Schleich last year.  A fourth set, entitled “Marshland” is likely to be available in the summer.  This set will also include four prehistoric animals.

Schleich Mini Dinosaur Landscape Puzzles and the Models they Contain

  • Set 1 (Lava Field) contains:  Spinosaurus, Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops and the armoured dinosaur Saichania.
  • Set 2 (Discovery) contains: Pentaceratops, Quetzalcoatlus, Stegosaurus and Velociraptor.
  • Set 3 (Waterhole) contains: Ichthyosaurus and Mosasaurus (both new for 2016), plus a Spinosaurus colour variant (green) and a Quetzalcoatlus colour variant brown/grey).
  • Set 4 (Marshland) available summer 2016 contains: Kentrosaurus and Suchomimus (both new for 2016), plus a colour variant Triceratops (blue markings) and a colour variant Velociraptor (red).

To view the Schleich mini dinosaurs and the range of landscape puzzles: Schleich Mini Dinosaurs

These new jigsaw puzzles are certainly great for creative, imaginative play and some of the models they contain, the Mosasaurus and the Ichthyosaurus for example, are not available to purchase as individual items at the moment, they are only available in these sets.  When all our Schleich landscape jigsaws are available they can be combined to make a ninety-six piece puzzle measuring approximately fifty centimetres by thirty-six centimetres wide.

13 02, 2016

Toe Bone Suggests Gastornis Roamed the High Arctic

By | February 13th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Ellesmere Island Fossil Suggests Giant Birds Wandered Northern Canada

Fossils found in the 1970’s on the remote Ellesmere Island, in the high Arctic suggest that giant, flightless birds roamed this part of the world during the Eocene.  In a new study, published this week in the open access scientific journal “Scientific Reports” a single toe bone is described that indicates that Gastornis lived this far north around 52 to 53 million years ago.

Gastornis Roamed the Arctic During the Eocene

Model of a giant, flightless bird from Safari Ltd.

Model of a giant, flightless bird from Safari Ltd.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Colorado Boulder, describe a single toe bone, which suggests this two-metre tall bird lived this far north.  This fossil along with a partial humerus (upper arm bone) which as been identified as belonging to a member of the Presbyornithidae clade of waterfowl, also found in the same area, represent the oldest Cenozoic avian fossils found in the Arctic to date.

A Toe Bone Points to Gastornis

The toe bone is almost an identical match to Gastornis toe bones excavated from Wyoming from similar aged Eocene sediments.  Scientists have speculated that Gastornis was likely to be an all year round resident of Ellesmere Island, although during the Eocene the Arctic was much warmer than it is today, this giant bird would still have had to endure harsh winters and almost four months of total darkness (the polar night).

The Gastornis Toe Bone (Several Views) and Presbyornis  Humeri

Gastornis toe bone (above)

Gastornis toe bone (above)

 Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The picture above shows the probable left phalanx (toe bone) of digit IV from a Gastornis (A) viewed from the top, (B) lateral, view, (C) view from underneath posterior/plantar view and (D) medial view.  The other pictures show the a distal partial humerus (E) recovered from the Margaret Formation of Ellesmere Island (Canadian territory of Nunavut) compared to a Presbyornis specimen (F) from the University of California Museum of Palaeontology.  The fossil bone (pictures G and H) represents an indeterminate pedal phalanx, probably from digit III on the left side.  This specimen also comes from the Ellesmere Island locality.

Key

  • bf = brachial fossa
  • dc = dorsal condyle
  • lp = collateral ligament pit
  • vc = ventral condyle
  • vl =facet for the ventral collateral ligament on the ventral supracondylar tubercle.

Specimen (E) the distal humerus assigned to the Presbyornithidae, is much larger than the Californian specimen.  The extensive pitting of the bone is not regarded as sign that this is from a juvenile individual.  Lack of further fossil evidence precludes any significant calculations as to the size of the Arctic Presbyornis in relation to its contemporaries from more southerly latitudes.

The fact that Gastornis (also referred to as Diatryma), fossil evidence has been found on Ellesmere Island has been discussed before, this flightless bird appears on a few faunal lists, but this is the first time that the bone has been closely examined and described in detail.

Very Rare Fossil Find

One of the researchers, co-author of the paper Jaelyn Eberle (Associate Professor in Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder) stated:

“We knew there were a few bird fossils from up there, but we also knew they were extremely rare.”

Around 53 million years ago the environment of Ellesmere Island was very different from that of today.  It was much warmer and wetter with a significant portion of the island forming a swamp dominated by Cypress trees.  Living alongside Gastornis and Presbyornis were turtles, crocodilians, primates and large mammals such as tapirs.

Originally thought to be a fearsome carnivore, recent research indicates Gastornis probably was a vegan, using its huge beak to tear at foliage, nuts, seeds and hard fruit.

To read an article about our changing perceptions of Gastornis: Was the “Terror Bird” Gastornis a Herbivore?

The second Ellesmere Island prehistoric bird described in the paper is Presbyornis, a member of the duck family but with much longer legs.  The research team compared fossils from Wyoming to the Ellesmere Island specimen and they could not find any significant differences, even though the fossils were 2,5oo miles apart.  This might indicate that these types of birds migrated up to the Arctic, perhaps to breed, in a similar fashion to a number of North American duck and goose species today.  Alternatively, Presbyornis might have been a year round resident of Ellesmere Island.

This new analysis of Eocene avian fauna from the high Arctic has implications for the rapidly warming Arctic climate of today.

Associate Professor Eberle explained:

“Permanent Arctic ice, which has been around for millennia, is on track to disappear.  I’m not suggesting there will be a return of alligators and giant tortoises to Ellesmere Island any time soon.  But what we know about past warm intervals in the Arctic can give us a much better idea about what to expect in terms of changing plant and animal populations there in the future.”  

12 02, 2016

Dinosaur Themed Word Mats for Schools

By | February 12th, 2016|Educational Activities, Main Page, Press Releases, Teaching|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Teams up with Papo to Help School Children

Thanks to all the dinosaur workshops delivered by Everything Dinosaur, the Cheshire based company has built up a strong reputation for their work in schools.  Indeed, over this half-term, Everything Dinosaur has logged up another twenty or so five star reviews from teachers on the dinosaurs for schools website.  One of the great advantages our staff have is that with their teaching knowledge combined with their dinosaur expertise, they can provide lots of advice to support the scheme of work that has been designed for each class.  Everything Dinosaur has teamed up with Papo to help enthuse and inspire the next generation of palaeontologists by using pictures of Papo model dinosaurs to create dinosaur themed word mats for use in schools.

A Dinosaur Themed Word Mat for Use in Schools

Dinosaur themed word mat.

Dinosaur themed word mat.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In the EYFS and Key Stage 1 classes, the teaching team will be helping to develop communication and language skills.  The children will be encouraged to broaden their vocabulary, using different words and to gain a better understanding of their meaning and context.  Dinosaurs as a term topic, will certainly expose the children to a whole range of new words.  Given most children’s fascination with prehistoric animals, dinosaurs can help to inspire word usage as well as encouraging the children to read and write.

Dinosaur Themed Word Mats

For Reception classes, when it comes to literacy, the children will be starting to form their own sentences and to write, trying to include finger spaces, capital letters and full stops. The teaching team will continue to encourage the children to read and write using their phonic knowledge.   At Key Stage 1, children will have moved away from free flowing play activities into much more structured learning.  The school day will be more task-orientated with further progress in literacy and numeracy key components within the planned curriculum for the year.  Many schools adopt a term topic all about dinosaurs for Year 1 and Year 2.  Within this topic, the children will be expected to develop their fiction and non-fiction writing, using increasingly sophisticated language.

A Tyrannosaurus rex Word Mat Incorporating Information on Diet and Geological Age

Helping to develop literacy as well as touching upon scientific working.

Helping to develop literacy as well as touching upon scientific working.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The teaching objectives for non-fiction writing involve developing a wider range of nouns and building upon a fascination with dinosaurs to encourage the use of adjectives.  Here the word mat features a single dinosaur, information about the diet of the dinosaur is provided along with a handy geological timeline to indicate when the dinosaur lived.

To download these free dinosaur teaching resources: Free Dinosaur and Fossil Themed Teaching Downloads

To see Everything Dinosaur’s range of Papo prehistoric animal models: Papo Dinosaur Models

A Stegosaurus Word Mat for Use in Schools and Other Educational Establishments

A word mat for the Jurassic herbivore Stegosaurus.

A word mat for the Jurassic herbivore Stegosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows the Stegosaurus word mat.  It uses the Papo model Stegosaurus, as well as providing nouns, information about the diet of this armoured dinosaur and when it lived is given.  In total, five word mats have been developed, these can be downloaded from Everything Dinosaur’s school website for free.  These helpful word mats can be incorporated into wall displays, or laminated and stuck to the children’s work tables to help keep the focus on vocabulary extension.

Commenting on the addition of a these Papo dinosaur inspired word mats to Everything Dinosaur’s range of teaching downloads, one of the teaching team stated:

“These colourful word mats will make a welcome addition to a teacher’s resources.  Many schools have to rely on materials provided by non-specialist educational companies who simply lack knowledge when it comes to the Dinosauria.  We have found numerous examples of word mats and other teaching aids with spelling mistakes and other inaccuracies.  With these examples, the teachers can be assured that they have been designed by people who combine a knowledge about prehistoric life with expertise in teaching.”

11 02, 2016

Celebrating All Things Dinosaur

By | February 11th, 2016|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Dinosaurs – End of Topic “Wow”!

For the Reception class at St Lawrence CE Primary, today was a special “dinosaur day”, as to help draw their term topic to a close, a visit from Everything Dinosaur had been arranged.  The eager explorers and budding young palaeontologists have been studying dinosaurs and fossils since the beginning of the Spring Term and there was a lot of lovely dinosaur themed writing and prehistoric animal inspired artwork on display in the classroom.

Dinosaurs on Display in the Classroom

Lots of literacy and numeracy activities displayed.

Lots of literacy and numeracy activities displayed.

Picture Credit: St Lawrence CE Primary/Everything Dinosaur

The children had certainly been enjoying their topic.  Teacher Mrs Rogerson, ably supported by the two teaching assistants, had put together an exciting and diverse scheme of work for the children.  The Reception class had been involved in a wide range of activities, all aimed at helping to develop everyday skills and to support learning.  The children had even brought in some of their dinosaur models and toys from home.  The classroom had been turned into a Lancashire’s very own “Jurassic Park”!

Inspiring Confidence with Numbers

The extension ideas and additional resources provided by our fossil expert will help develop the children’s confidence with numbers.  Will they be up to one of our “pinkie palaeontologist challenges” and have a go at calculating just how big some dinosaur footprints could be?  Working in small groups, the children demonstrated a good grasp of simple subtraction and they were confident when it came to using the measuring cubes and comparing their own hands to the feet of some dinosaurs.  One of the other extension activities involves an unusual way of measuring a fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex, perhaps the class can try this activity in the hall, as quite a bit of space will be needed.

Encouraging Writing

The children demonstrated lots of existing knowledge, using terms like Cretaceous and Mesozoic, which was most impressive.  We set some writing challenges, all based around non-fiction writing.  We wonder if any of the children’s dinosaur facts will get posted up onto the display wall, next to all their wonderful artwork?

Chalk Drawings of Dinosaurs on Display

Reception class uses different materials to explore dinosaurs.

Reception class uses different materials to explore dinosaurs.

Linking Dinosaurs and Space

After half-term the children will be moving on to learn all about space and the planets.  Whilst Everything Dinosaur worked with the children in the spacious hall, the teaching assistants could prepare the classroom in readiness for the new topic.  How to link dinosaurs and space?  Fortunately, our expert was on hand to explain which dinosaur fossils have been into space and to send links to Mrs Rogerson to help support the topic transition.  In addition, when the extraterrestrial object slammed into planet Earth, marking the end of the “Age of the Dinosaurs”, the explosion was so powerful that sea creatures were shot so high into the air, that they may have left Earth’s orbit.  Some Ammonites could have landed on the moon!

Ammonites Shot into Outer Space

How many Ammonites can you count?

How many Ammonites can you count?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

10 02, 2016

Cretaceous “Big Mouths”

By | February 10th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Cretaceous Fish with Gigantic Mouths

The oceans of the Cretaceous had some very strange inhabitants, sadly the fossil record only hints at the remarkable diversity of vertebrates, particularly fish.  That’s why when scientists announce the discovery of not one but two new species of Cretaceous plankton-feeding fish, such stories tend to make extensive ripples in palaeontological circles.  An international team of researchers have announced a tripling of the known fish species that make up the genus called Rhinconichthys (pronounced rink-oh-nik-thees).  New fossil discoveries from the United States and Japan extend the known distribution of these Cretaceous fish and it is likely that these types of animals had a global distribution during the Late Cretaceous.

An Illustration of a Pair of Rhinconichthys Fish Feeding

Large filter-feeding fish of the Cretaceous.

Large filter-feeding fish of the Cretaceous.

Picture Credit: Bob Nicholls

One of the lead authors of the study, published in the academic journal “Cretaceous Research” Kenshu Shimada, explained that fossils of these types of fish are exceptionally rare.  Previously, only one species was known Rhinconichthys taylori, and only two specimens had been described, both from England (dating from the Cenomanian faunal stage of the Cretaceous).  However, a new skull from Colorado, along with the re-examination of another skull found in Japan have extended the known palaeogeographical range along with the number of species.

Only the skulls have been found, the cartilaginous skeletons of these fish have a poor fossil preservation potential, a problem that has plagued scientists as they strive to piece together the history of plankton feeding fish.  For example, giants are known from the Jurassic such as Leedsichthys and it is very likely that a myriad of forms existed during the Mesozoic, but little fossil evidence has been found with regards to these creatures (Pachycormiformes).

To read more about research into ancient members of the Pachycormidae: Filling a 100 Million Year Wide Gap

The Colorado fossil was found by Bruce A. Schumacher (United States Forest Service), this species has been named Rhinconichthys purgatoirensis.  It dates from later in the Cretaceous when compared to the English fossils (middle Turonian faunal stage of the Cretaceous).  R. purgatoirensis swam in the Western Interior Seaway around 89 million years ago, whereas Rhinconichthys taylori lived at least five million years earlier.  The Japanese specimen found on the island of Hokkaido, dates from around the same time as the English fossils.  It has been named Rhinconichthys uyenoi.

Kenshu Shimada (Department of Environmental Science and Studies, DePaul University, Chicago) stated:

“I was in a team that named Rhinconichthys in 2010, which was based on a single species from England, but we had no idea back then that the genus was so diverse and so globally distributed.”

Rhinconichthys spp. are estimated to have ranged in size from 2 metres to more than 2.7 metres in length.  They had a highly specialised jaw with a pair of bones (called hyomanidbulae) that formed a huge oar-shaped lever that enabled the jaws to open extremely wide, a little like the opening mechanism for a parachute.  This enabled them to capture even more plankton as they swam.  This type of anatomical feature is also found in many types of filter feeding shark today, an example of convergent evolution.

A Picture of the Colorado Specimen Showing Jaw Bones with Explanatory Diagram

Able to open the jaws really wide.

Able to open the jaws really wide.

Picture Credit: DePaul University

Many More Suspension Feeders Existed

Feeding on plankton, being planktivorous, also known as suspension-feeding is seen in a number of specialised aquatic vertebrates today, including the largest animal known to science the Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) and the largest extant fish the Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus).  Indeed, the genus name Rhinconichthys means “fish like a whale shark”.

Professor Shimada concluded:

“Based on our new study, we now have three different species of Rhinconichthys from three separate regions of the globe, each represented by a single skull.  This tells just how little we still know about the biodiversity of organisms through the Earth’s history.  It’s really mindboggling.”

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