All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
16 02, 2017

Helping to Organise a School Trip to Wren’s Nest

By | February 16th, 2017|Educational Activities, Geology, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Wren’s Nest and School Trips

Everything Dinosaur has been contacted by a school based in the West Midlands, seeking advice about a trip to the famous Wren’s Nest National Nature Reserve, a place we know very well indeed!  This location is a popular destination for local schools which are studying fossils and rocks as part of the National Curriculum (England).  Wren’s Nest is to the north-east of the town of Dudley and it is a designated SSSI (site of special scientific interest), so no hammering at the cliffs of this former quarry is allowed. However, lots of fossils are being washed out of the scree slopes and there is something like seven hundred different types of fossil to collect, nearly ninety of which are unique to the Wren’s Nest area.

The Famous Ripple Beds at Wren’s Nest

Ripples preserved in limestone.

The famous ripple beds at Wren’s Nest SSSI located in the West Midlands.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows the famous “Ripple Bed Hill” at Wren’s Nest.  This near vertical cliff face was once at the bottom of a shallow sea.  The “ripples” are the preserved remains of wave action on the seabed, they are around 426 million years old.  Taking schoolchildren to this location, helps them to gain an appreciation of deep, geological time.

How Did the Ripple Beds Form?

These structures formed as a result of massive, probably seasonal storms that swept across the normally, relatively calm sea.  The huge waves generated by the storm, led to the seabed being disturbed, the waves created by the storm had much more energy and their effect was felt much deeper in the tropical sea than usual.  Sand and debris was picked up and washed backwards and forwards over the seabed, creating the ripples.  The seabed was nearly 100 feet (thirty metres), under water and normally it would have been unaffected by usual sea conditions.  However, the symmetrical ripples are evidence of storm damage to this part of the seabed back in the Late Silurian.

After the storm had passed, the sea would have once again returned to its relatively calm state.  Thirty metres down the seabed was once again protected by the effects of normal-sized waves, which could not penetrate deep enough to wipe away the ridges and ripples caused by the storm.  Crinoids, (sea-lilies) soon colonised this part of the sea floor. However, sometime later, perhaps a few months, or perhaps after several years a large amount of mud was dumped on top of the ripples, permitting their preservation.  The mud could have been deposited as a result of exceptional run-off from the land, or perhaps an earthquake or other seismic event led to a large amount of sediment being shifted.  Whatever, the cause the ripples (and the crinoids living on them), were buried.  Palaeontologists have identified a total of twenty-five ripple bed areas in the cliffs that make up this feature of Wren’s Nest.  Each ripple bed represents a separate storm event.

Fossils Galore to be Found

More than 700 different fossils found at Wren's Nest

Lots of brachiopod and coral fossils to find at Wren’s Nest.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Top Tips for a School Visit to Wren’s Nest

The site represents the remains of an ancient coral ecosystem dating between 423-426 million years ago (mya), it is Silurian in age and more than 700 different types of fossils have been found at this site.  A party of schoolchildren will not collect them all, but they are bound to find plenty of fossils to satisfy curious minds.  However, finding your own Trilobite fossil, a “Dudley Bug” Calymene blumenbachii, is most unlikely but you might find a fragment of the exoskeleton, a piece shed when the animal moulted.

• This is an SSSI (site of special scientific interest), no hammers or tools of any kind are permitted on site. However, you don’t need any tools as the constantly eroding scree provides lots of fossils that can simply be picked up.
• There are no toilet facilities at this location
• A mid-week visit is best, either quite early in the morning or in the afternoon, although, the area tends not to be that busy at most times
• When we visit we park close to the Caves Inn (car parking from 9.30am to 4pm Monday to Friday)
• The slopes are a magnet for young fossil hunters who love to try to climb them (and run up and down them), these slopes are very steep and very slippery after rain, so sensible precautions need to be taken.
• There is a slight risk of rock falls, after all, this is an old quarry site, but in all our visits, we have never seen any evidence of this.
• Contact Wren’s Nest here: Further information about Wren’s Nest. You might even be able to arrange short talk by one of the very knowledgeable wardens.

Typical Scree Slope at Wren’s Nest

Wren's Nest SSSI

A view of Wren’s Nest.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

16 02, 2017

Papo Prehistoric Mammals New for 2017

By | February 16th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|1 Comment

Papo Prehistoric Mammals 2017

Amongst the dinosaur (and one pterosaur), models being introduced by Papo this year, there are two prehistoric mammals, both members of the Order Carnivora.  The Acrocanthosaurus, Ceratosaurus and the Cryolophosaurus might be getting all the attention, but we thought we would shed some light on the intriguing Papo Sabre-Tooth Cat and Cave Bear models that are also coming into stock over the next few months or so.

New for 2017 the Papo Sabre-Tooth Cat and Cave Bear

Papo Sabre-Tooth Cat model and Cave Bear

Papo Smilodon and the Cave Bear.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Papo Smilodon (S. fatalis)

When we saw the first images of the new for 2017 Papo Smilodon, we have to say we were somewhat taken aback.  It looks very different from the Papo Smilodon model that is currently in the range, a model that was originally introduced in the second quarter of 2011.  The new figure is certainly more flamboyant than the 2011 replica, the pose is fascinating but it is the combination of a lion’s mane and those rear tiger stripes that gives this particular representation such an unusual look.  In the modern lion Panthera leo, the males have manes.  The mane is thought to have evolved under selection pressure caused as a result of this social cat needing to impress females/intimidate rivals.  The mane provides a degree of protection during intraspecific conflicts, but we at Everything Dinosaur are not sure what evidence there is, if any, for a mane being present in the sub-family Machairodontinae of which Smilodon is a member.

The Papo Smilodon Model Introduced in 2011

Papo Smilodon model.

Excellent model of a Sabre-Toothed Cat

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Cave paintings of male Cave Lions (Panthera leo spelaea) show these lions without manes.  Although, this does not mean the members of the Smilodon genus were not maned either.  They could have had manes, there is simply not enough evidence to determine this either way (as far as we know).  Many scientists have argued that the likes of Smilodon fatalis were social animals living in groups rather than solitary hunters.  A mane could have evolved, an example of convergent evolution as Smilodon species were subjected to the same selection pressure as their modern, African counterparts.

The Papo 2017 Smilodon Figure

Papo Smilodon (2017)

The Papo Sabre-Tooth Cat model (2017).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Several palaeontologists and palaeobiologists have proposed that Sabre-Tooth Cats could have possessed a ruff of thick hair around the neck.  This would have protected the neck and provided insulation against the cold.  The scientific evidence remains incomplete, but for the moment Papo offers a maned and a maneless Sabre-Tooth cat model for collectors.

As for those tiger stripes, research has shown that Smilodon was very probably an ambush predator.  Limb and locomotion studies have ruled out long pursuits of prey.  It is likely that the likes of Smilodon fatalis, S. populator et al were camouflaged, perhaps some species did possess stripes reminiscent of a tiger.

 The Papo Cave Bear (Ursus spelaeus)

The Papo Cave Bear replica is a real delight.  There have not been that many Cave Bear models made by the mainstream manufacturers, Everything Dinosaur team members remember with fondness the Schleich Cave Bear, one of a series of prehistoric mammals that were once produced by that German company.  Papo’s interpretation of this Pleistocene beast (which although classified as a Carnivoran. (the collective term for a member of the Carnivora), might actually have been almost entirely herbivorous, certainly has attitude.  The thick, powerful frame is well-depicted and the beast is almost snarling at you, as if daring you to purchase it.

New for 2017 The Papo Cave Bear Model

Cave Bear model by Papo.

Papo Cave Bear.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Looking like it has just been disturbed from its winter refuge, this Cave Bear model is very well painted and the sculpt shows lots of detail.  We congratulate Papo for introducing another prehistoric mammal into its “Les Dinosaures” model range.

A Skilfully Crafted Prehistoric Animal Model (Papo Cave Bear)

Papo Cave Bear.

The Papo Cave Bear model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Smilodon and Cave Bear figures are scheduled to be in stock at Everything Dinosaur sometime towards the end of quarter 2 (June or early July), we will keep readers posted about new editions to the model range.

To view the current Papo model range available from Everything Dinosaur: Papo Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models

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