All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//March
12 03, 2017

What Do You Know About Dinosaurs?

By | March 12th, 2017|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

What Do You Know About Dinosaurs?  K-W-L Technique

Children at Clutton Church of England Primary School in Cheshire have had a busy week.  The pupils in the Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 have been learning all about dinosaurs and life in the past and on Friday, one of our dinosaur experts visited the school to work with the enthusiastic children for a morning.   Before our dinosaur workshop commenced, the Everything Dinosaur team member had the opportunity to examine some of the children’s work including mind maps created by the teacher to help the teaching team develop an appropriate scheme of work for the mixed age group class.

What Do You Know About Dinosaurs?

The KWL technique helps teachers understand subject pre-knowledge.

Using the KWL technique to start a term topic all about dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Clutton C of E Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

What is the K-W-L Technique?

The mind maps formed part of the teacher’s planning for the topic.  She was utilising a technique called the K-W-L.  The K-W-L concept aids teachers and helps them to plan a topic and to check understanding.  It consists of three phases, firstly, the children brainstorm and say what they think they know about dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.  During the brainstorming session, the children will make statements and assertions that provide the teacher with details as to what the children would like to find out about prehistoric animals.  The third phase, which is conducted at the end of the period of teaching, highlights what the children have learned at the end of their studies.  This third phase permits the teaching team to check understanding and gives them the opportunity to reinforce leaning if required.

The Three Phases of the K-W-L Technique

  • What do you know about a subject area?
  • What would you like to learn about a subject?
  • What have we learned about a subject at the end of the topic?

The Second Phase – What Would We Like to Learn About Dinosaurs?

KWL - technique used in schools (dinosaur term topic).

What do you want to know about dinosaurs?

Picture Credit: Clutton C of E Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

Helping to Guide Lesson Planning

When the children in Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 were asked to consider what they already knew about dinosaurs they demonstrated considerable pre-knowledge.  For example, the children knew what the term predator meant and they could explain a little bit about the extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period.

The teaching team were able to gain valuable insights into gaps in the children’s understanding of the wider world when the second mind map was created.  For instance, Olivia wanted to know if dinosaurs killed people, whilst Josh asked how did the dinosaurs eat things?  These two questions could guide the teaching team and provide a stimulus for the scheme of work.  Perhaps, a timeline could be created explaining just how long ago the dinosaurs lived.  The children could look at the teeth of dinosaurs in books and compare these teeth to the teeth of animals alive today and try and work out which dinosaurs were herbivores and which ones were carnivores.

The K-W-L technique provides a useful planning aid for teachers and teaching assistants.

 To see how schematic story maps can help children learn: Schematic Story Maps Help Children to Remember Facts

For information on Everything Dinosaur’s dinosaur workshops in schools: Contact Everything Dinosaur Request Information

11 03, 2017

Frogspawn in the Office Pond

By | March 11th, 2017|Animal News Stories, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Frogspawn in the Office Pond

We have frogspawn in the Everything Dinosaur office pond!  Early this morning two batches of frogspawn were laid.  We are expecting more as at least five frogs have been spotted in the pond this afternoon.  The frogs are all Common Frogs (Rana temporaria), the name is a bit of a misnomer as frog numbers, like most species of amphibians have declined substantially in recent years.  It’s great news for us, to have frogspawn in the pond once again.

Frogspawn and Mating Frogs in the Office Pond

We have frogspawn in the office pond.

Frogspawn in the office pond, with two frogs also in the picture.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We have been fortunate to have had frogspawn in our small pond for many years now, hopefully, we shall be able to see some small frogs emerging later in the summer, helping to sustain the local frog population and doing our bit for conservation.

Helping to Conserve the Local Frog Population

Mating frogs (2017).

A pair of mating frogs (2017).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

10 03, 2017

Late Jurassic Crocodile Eggs and Meat-Eating Dinosaurs

By | March 10th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Crocodylomorph Ootaxa and the Theropod Connection

A number of media outlets have reported upon a paper published in the on line journal PLOS One which describes two new ootaxa (the name given to a species described just from egg fossils), of crocodilians from the Upper Jurassic rocks of western Portugal.  The focus on many of these reports has been on the age of the fossilised crocodile eggs.  Having been laid more than 150 million years ago, they are the oldest crocodilian eggs described to date.  However, the research paper itself, hints at a remarkable potential relationship between these ancient reptiles and their close cousins, Theropod dinosaurs.

A Clutch of Unhatched Late Jurassic Crocodylomorph Eggs (Lourinhã Formation)

Suchoolithus portucalensis fossil eggs.

The unhatched crocodylomorph eggs (Cambelas) ascribed to Suchoolithus portucalensis.

The Famous Lourinhã Formation

The first crocodylomorph eggs were found in 1987 and over the years a number of egg and egg shell fragment discoveries have been made.  The eggs are very similar to the eggs of extant crocodiles but the scientists have been able to identity distinctions between the fossil specimens (not least the size).  This has led to the erection of two new ootaxa.  The eggs of the smaller of the two crocodylomorphs – Suchoolithus portucalensis are shown in the photograph above.  The eggs are quite small and the researchers estimate that the adult female that laid these eggs would have been around seventy centimetres in length.  The second ootaxa to be named – Krokolithes dinophilus, which is known from a number of fossil specimens collected from four locations, is represented by larger but broken eggs and shell fragments.  The research team estimate that the female croc that laid these eggs would have been around the size of a female American Alligator (A. mississippiensis), probably more than two metres long.

Location of the Egg Fossil Finds Referred to in the New Study

Map showing the location of the fossil finds.

A map showing the location of the crocodylomorph egg fossil sites.

Picture Credit: PLOS One with additional annotation from Everything Dinosaur

Key

The picture above shows the five fossil locations that are covered in the scientific paper as well as indicating the position of the Lourinhã Formation in relation to the rest of Portugal.  A total of thirteen fossilised eggs collected at the Cambelas site have been ascribed to the ootaxa Suchoolithus portucalensis (the name translates from Latin as “egg stone crocodile from Portugal”), the fossils represent a clutch of unhatched eggs.  Eggs laid by a much larger crocodylomorph are associated with the other four locations, namely North and South Paimogo, Casal da Rola and Peralta.  These fossils comprise broken eggs and numerous shell fragments, they have been ascribed to the ootaxa Krokolithes dinophilus (which is from the Greek and means “crocodile eggs found in association with dinosaurs”).

Holotype of Krokolithes dinophilus (Specimen Number ML760 from Paimogo N, Praia da Amoreira-Porto Novo Member, Lourinhã Formation)

Krokolithes dinophilus fossil material.

Holotype of the oospecies Krokolithes dinophilus.

Found in Association with Theropod Dinosaur Nests

All the egg fossils (except for the Cambelas site fossils), were found in association with Theropod dinosaur nests and eggs.  So in essence, the palaeontologists, which included João Russo and Octávio Mateus (Museu da Lourinhã, Portugal), have identified four occurrences where the fossils of the large crocodylomorph K. dinophilus are found in the same place as the eggs and nests of large, meat-eating dinosaurs.  This could suggest some sort of biological relationship between the crocodiles and the Theropods.  This is certainly an intriguing thought and there are no parallels that can be drawn between this idea and the behaviour of modern crocodiles.  Extant crocodilians tend to lay eggs in relatively secluded places and a parent (usually the female), will stand guard helping to protect the nest and the subsequent hatchlings from predators.

It can be speculated that these prehistoric crocodiles preferred to nest in close proximity to large meat-eating dinosaurs as perhaps the presence of two different types of large predator helped to protect all the nests from potential danger.  With so many threats to eggs and recently hatched animals around in the Late Jurassic, it could be suggested that there was a degree of mutual benefit between various species – a symbiotic relationship with both the Theropods and the crocodilians gaining an advantage.

Some of the K. dinophilus egg fossils come from sites associated with the nests of Lourinhanosaurus (Lourinhanosaurus antunesi), a formidable Late Jurassic hunter, which may have reached lengths of eight metres or more.  The beautifully preserved Theropod embryos were the inspiration behind the limited edition “Baby Bonnie” 1:1 scale replicas created by Rebor.

The Rebor “Baby Bonnie” Scale Model of a Lourinhanosaurus antunesi Embryo

"Bony Bonnie" from Rebor.

The Rebor Club Selection Lourinhanosaurus replica.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Other Krokolithes dinophilus fossils have been found in proximity to the nests and eggs of the ootaxon Preprismatoolithus coloradensis (which could represent the eggs of a large Allosaurus).  We expect palaeoartists to have a field day illustrating nesting site scenes featuring a mix of large predators together.

The Theory has Drawbacks

The absence of any modern parallels and the incomplete fossil record provides considerable drawbacks when it comes to the plausibility of crocodiles nesting alongside meat-eating dinosaurs.  Some of the fossil eggs shell fragments from the Paimogo locations might have been transported and deposited close to the Theropod nests, therefore their placement in the strata is not necessarily their original nesting context.  We at Everything Dinosaur have proposed that it is possible that crocodiles and Theropod dinosaurs preferred to use the same nesting locations, but they may not have bred at the same time.  After all, using an already dug out nest, one that had been used recently by a large, carnivorous dinosaur might prove advantageous for a wily crocodile.

The scientists conclude that this potential egg-laying symbiosis is a mystery and that going forward, further findings and studies are needed to ascertain if there was indeed some kind of reproductive relationship between crocodylomorphs and Theropods in the Late Jurassic of Portugal.

Views of the Lourinhã Formation

Views of the Lourinha Formation.

(A), location of Paimogo, Northern Lourinhã Formation, Praia da Amoreira-Porto Novo and Praia Azul Members. (B), location of Cambelas, Southern Lourinhã Formation, Assenta Member.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

9 03, 2017

Neanderthals and Aspirin

By | March 9th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

A Reappraisal of our Closest Cousin

The Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis) is our closest relative on the hominin family tree.  As our own genome has become better understood, geneticists and anthropologists have been able to appreciate just how closely related we are to Neanderthals.  However, since the first description of the Neanderthal (based on fossil remains from the Neander Valley in Germany), back in 1863, H. neanderthalensis has had quite a bad press.  For most of the last 150 years or so, since we have known about this hominin species, the Neanderthals have been depicted as dim-witted, brutal ape-men.  We now live in more enlightened times, our perception of the Neanderthal has changed.  There is considerable evidence to indicate that this species of human, one that died out around 28,000 years ago, just a blink in geological time, was smart, strong and had a sophisticated culture.

Many 20th Century Artists Depicted Neanderthals as “Ape-men”

Ancient hominins by Zdenek Burian.

Neanderthals depicted a quite primitive “ape-men”.

Picture Credit: Zdenek Burian

Neanderthals May Have Used Plants as Medicine

In a new study, published this week in the journal “Nature”, researchers from the University of Liverpool in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) and Dental School suggest that Neanderthals may have had quite a remarkable knowledge of medicine, even using penicillin, some 40,000 years before Sir Alexander Fleming.  An analysis of ancient DNA found in the dental plaque of Neanderthals has provided further evidence that this species of hominin was intelligent and resourceful, using plant-based medicines and moulds to treat a variety of complaints.

The research also reveals dietary differences between different Neanderthal populations.

Commenting on the study, lead author Dr Laura Weyrich (ACAD) stated:

“Dental plaque traps micro-organisms that lived in the mouth and pathogens found in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract, as well as bits of food stuck in the teeth, preserving the DNA for thousands of years.  Genetic analysis of that DNA ‘locked-up’ in plaque, represents a unique window into Neanderthal lifestyle, revealing new details of what they ate, what their health was like and how the environment impacted their behaviour.”

Partial Neanderthal Skull Showing Jaw Bones

Neanderthals were smarter than we thought.

DNA from ancient dental plaque provides new insights into the Neanderthals.

Picture Credit: University of Liverpool

The scientists analysed and evaluated dental plaque samples from four Neanderthals found at the cave sites of Spy (Belgium) and El Sidrón (Spain).  The four samples range in date from 50,000 years ago to 42,000 years ago approximately.  The samples represent the oldest dental plaque to be genetically analysed.

The Spy Cave Neanderthals were found to have a largely carnivorous diet, consuming Coelodonta (Woolly Rhinoceros), wild sheep and foraged mushrooms.  In contrast, the Neanderthals from the El Sidrón Cave site, showed no evidence of meat consumption, appearing to have had a largely vegetarian diet, consisting of moss, tree bark, mushrooms and pine nuts.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Based on this dietary information, it can be assumed that these two groups of Neanderthals had very different lifestyles.  One group seem to have been active hunters, trapping, ambushing and killing animals, whilst the other group seem to have been foragers within a forest environment.  The dental plaque analysis leads to the inference that different groups of Neanderthals had different behaviours and ultimately, different strategies for survival.”

Surprising Self-Medication

Evidence for self-medication was detected in an El Sidrón Neanderthal with a dental abscess (identified from scarring left on the jaw), this individual (most likely a male), also suffered from a chronic gastrointestinal pathogen (Enterocytozoon bieneusi).  He would have been suffering from a severe bought of diarrhoea.  The intestinal parasite was identified through studying DNA in the ancient dental plaque.  However, further analysis revealed that he had been chewing the bark of the Poplar tree, which contains the natural pain killer salicylic acid (the active ingredient in modern aspirin).  The scientists could also detect a natural antibiotic mould (Penicillium) not found in the other Neanderthals examined within this study.

From this, the team concluded that Neanderthals may have possessed a substantial knowledge of medicinal plants and their various anti-inflammatory and pain-reliving properties.

One of the researchers stated:

“Our findings contrast markedly with the rather simplistic view of our ancient relatives in popular imagination.”

The El Sidrón Neanderthal provided another intriguing insight into our Neanderthal evolutionary relationship.  It seems that we shared several disease-causing microbes, including the bacteria that cause gum disease and dental caries.  The scientists were able to identify the oldest microbial genome yet sequenced, a gum rotting bacteria called Methanobrevibacter oralis.  The microbial genome is estimated to be around 48,000 years old.

The researchers also noted how rapidly the oral microbial community has altered in recent history.  The composition of the oral bacterial population in Neanderthals and both ancient and modern humans correlated closely with the amount of meat consumed in the diet, with the Spanish Neanderthals grouping more closely with chimpanzees and our forager ancestors in Africa.  The Belgian Neanderthal bacteria, in contrast, were similar to early hunter gatherers, and quite close to modern humans and early farmers.

Dental plaque and its microbial treasures are providing an extraordinary window on the past, giving geneticists and anthropologists new ways to explore and understand our evolutionary history through the micro-organisms that lived in us.

8 03, 2017

Unravelling a Fishy Tale

By | March 8th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|1 Comment

Reassessment of Ichthyosaur Material Solves Century Old Mystery

Ichthyosaurs were a very successful group of marine reptiles. They originated during the Triassic and thrived in the seas of the Mesozoic and had a global distribution, but towards the end of the Cretaceous, these dolphin-shaped animals, that seemed so perfectly adapted to their environment, became extinct.  They were the first, large extinct reptiles brought to the attention of the scientific world.  It is difficult to avoid mention of the Ichthyosaurs when looking at information that outlines the history of palaeontology, however, despite first having been described nearly 200 years ago, (1821), there is still a lot we don’t know about these iconic “fish lizards”.

The Iconic Ichthyosaurus

An Ichthyosaur illustration.

An Ichthyosaur (courtesy of Robert Richardson).

Picture Credit: Robert Richardson

The Long History of Ichthyosaur Research

It is the long history of scientific study and research into the Ichthyosaurs that has proved to be a bit of a headache for today’s palaeontologists.   Dean Lomax, a palaeontologist and Honorary Scientist at The University of Manchester, working with Professor Judy Massare of Brockport College, New York, have studied thousands of Ichthyosaur specimens and have delved through hundreds of years of records to solve an ancient mystery, a mystery that dates back to the early 1820’2, when the English geologist William Conybeare, described the first species of Ichthyosaurus.

Many Ichthyosaur fossils were found in England during the early 19th century, but it was not until 1821 that the first Ichthyosaur species was described called Ichthyosaurus communis.  This species has become one of the most well-known and iconic of all the British fossil reptiles, after all, an Ichthyosaurus even featured on a set of specially commissioned Royal Mail stamps to celebrate 150 years of British palaeontology!

To read article about the Royal Mail commemorative stamps: Royal Mail Issues New Prehistoric Animal Stamps

In 1822, three other species of Ichthyosaurus were described, based on differences in the shape and structure of their teeth.  Two of the species were later re-identified as other types of Ichthyosaur, whereas one of these species, called Ichthyosaurus intermedius, was still considered closely related to I. communis.

In the years that followed, many eminent scientists, including Sir Richard Owen (the man who coined the word dinosaur), studied “fish lizard” fossils collected from Dorset, Somerset, Yorkshire and other locations in England.  Their studies and observations of Ichthyosaurus communis and I. intermedius resulted in confusion with the species, with many skeletons identified on unreliable grounds.

Commenting on this palaeontological puzzle, Dean Lomax stated:

“The early accounts of Ichthyosaurs were based on very scrappy, often isolated, remains.  This resulted in a very poor understanding of the differences between species and thus how to identify them.  To complicate matters further, the original specimen of Ichthyosaurus communis is lost and was never illustrated.  Similarly, the original specimen of I. intermedius is also lost, but an illustration does exist.  This has caused a big headache for palaeontologists trying to understand the differences between the species.”

Hunting for Clues to Help Solve a “Fish Lizard” Mystery

Dean Lomax and Judy Massare examining Ichthyosaur specimens.

Dean Lomax and Judy Massare examining Ichthyosaur specimens in the marine reptile gallery at the Natural History Museum (London).

Picture Credit: Dean Lomax

In the mid-1970’s, palaeontologist, Dr Chris McGowan was the first to suggest that Ichthyosaurus communis and I. intermedius may represent the same species.  He could not find reliable evidence to separate the two species.  Subsequent studies argued for and against the separation of the species.

In this new research, Dean and Judy have reviewed all of the research for and against the separation of the two species.  This is the most extensive scientific study ever published comparing the two Jurassic-aged marine reptiles.   The pair of scientists have confirmed that the species are the same and that features of Ichthyosaurus intermedius can be found in other Ichthyosaur species, including I. communis.

It seems that the fossil material ascribed to the species Ichthyosaurus intermedius lack any autapomorphies – distinctive features or derived characteristics and traits that are unique to that taxon.

Thanks to the efforts of these two researchers, a fishy tale that is over a hundred years may have been resolved.

In recent years, the duo have described three new species and have provided a reassessment of historical species.  Their work has provided a far superior understanding of the species than has ever been produced.

The research has been published in Journal of Systematic Palaeontology: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14772019.2017.1291116.

7 03, 2017

A Royal Ceratopsian

By | March 7th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Regaliceratops peterhewsi – Awaiting the new CollectA Model

We are expecting the first batch of new for 2017 CollectA models to arrive shortly.  The CollectA Prehistoric Life Regaliceratops model should be amongst the first of these new models to be delivered into our warehouse and team members at Everything Dinosaur have been busy preparing the fact sheet that will be sent out accompanying sales of this model.

Preparing for the CollectA Fact Sheet

A drawing of the horned dinosaur Regaliceratops.

A scale drawing of the horned dinosaur Regaliceratops.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Hundreds of Prehistoric Animal Fact Sheets

Regaliceratops means “Royal Horned Face”, honouring the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller (Alberta, Canada), as well as paying tribute to that amazing head shield with its rounded epocipitals.  For every fact sheet that we produce, we commission a drawing of the prehistoric animal and the picture above shows our Regaliceratops and a human figure next to it for scale.  Our dinosaur experts estimate that this horned dinosaur would have weighed perhaps as much as two thousand kilogrammes and the head shield would have been some three and a half metres tall in a fully grown adult.  The Regaliceratops fact sheet from Everything Dinosaur is number 814, this gives readers an idea of just how many fact sheets we have written.  Other new fact sheets include one for Basilosaurus, a fact sheet for the marine reptile Excalibosaurus and a fact sheet for the CollectA Gigantspinosaurus replica.  All of these figures will be in stock at Everything Dinosaur very soon.

The CollectA Regaliceratops Dinosaur Model

CollectA Prehistoric Life Regaliceratops model.

The CollectA Regaliceratops horned dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Romantic Regaliceratops

The dinosaur shows characteristics of both the Chasmosaurinae and the Centrosaurinae tribes of the Ceratopsia and hopefully more fossils of this enigmatic horned dinosaur will be found in the future.  In the meantime, we have the arrival of the new for 2017 CollectA Regaliceratops to look forward to.  Academic papers can make quite dry and sober reading.  There is a strict etiquette to be observed when writing them, especially those that are up for peer review.  However, one of the authors of the scientific paper describing R. peterhewsi showed his romantic side, as in the acknowledgements section of the paper, Dr Caleb Brown sneaked in a marriage proposal to his long-time partner Dr Lorna O’Brien.  We are happy to report that Dr O’Brien accepted.

Dr Brown’s Proposal of Marriage in the Scientific Paper

A marriage proposal inserted into the Regaliceratops paper.

By “Royal Command”.

Picture Credit: Current Biology

I guess you could say that this is one marriage proposal that has received royal approval.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of CollectA Prehistoric Life Models: CollectA Prehistoric Life Models

6 03, 2017

Abbey Hey Primary Pupils Imagine Prehistoric Animals

By | March 6th, 2017|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Year 1 Design Dinosaurs

Last month, a member of the Everything Dinosaur team visited Abbey Hey Primary Academy to work with the Year 1 classes as they studied dinosaurs and fossils.  During our dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed workshop, we challenged the eager, junior palaeontologists to have a go at designing their very own dinosaur.  The dedicated teachers kindly sent us a set of the children’s drawings and dinosaur designs and what a wonderful display they make.

Year 1 Children at Abbey Hey Primary Academy Design Dinosaurs

Amazing imaginary dinosaur drawings from Year 1,

Year 1 produced some amazing imaginary dinosaur drawings.

Picture Credit: Year 1 (Abbey Hey Primary Academy)

We laid out all the colourful dinosaur designs on the floor of our warehouse.  Once we had carefully sorted them and laid them out we took a photograph (see above).  We can’t wait to pin them all up onto our warehouse notice board.

Thinking of a Name for Your Dinosaur

As part of a series of carefully thought out extension activities, our dinosaur expert challenged the children to label their dinosaur’s body parts.  Once they had done this, could they think of a suitable name for their prehistoric animal?  We received lots of lovely examples, with some super labelling, well done Year 1!  The names the children came up with were very imaginative also, we loved Madison’s purple “Maddisonodon” (see below) for example.

A Very Purple Dinosaur by Madison

A purple dinosaur with a long neck.

A long-necked, purple dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Madison in Year 1 at Abbey Hey Primary Academy

In addition, we had a long-necked dinosaur called “Indiaraptor“, spiky dinosaurs, and a scary looking “Levirex“, what super prehistoric animal names!

Flying reptiles were also included in the extension activity and we received some very colourful pictures of Pterosaurs (flying reptiles), all with lovely labelling.

A Very Carefully Drawn and Labelled Flying Reptile

Children create imaginary prehistoric animals.

A “Tabita-dactyl” – wonderful prehistoric animal drawings from Year 1.

Picture Credit: Year 1 Abbey Hey Primary Academy

The teacher who kindly sent in the pictures included a note:

“We hope you like our lovely imaginary dinosaurs all with unique names”.

We certainly did and the drawings have been put up on display in our warehouse.  Our thanks to all the children in Year 1 and their teachers at Abbey Hey Primary Academy.

 

5 03, 2017

A Revamped Blog

By | March 5th, 2017|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|3 Comments

Everything Dinosaur’s Blog Gets A Makeover

The Everything Dinosaur blog has had a makeover.  With over 3,600 articles, the blog, which has been operating since May 2007, is approaching its tenth anniversary and it has recently been given a new look to ensure it stays true to the look of the company’s main website: Everything Dinosaur.

The Revamped Everything Dinosaur Blog Site

Everything Dinosaur blog.

Everything Dinosaur’s revamped blog site.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Helping to Educate and Inform

Everything Dinosaur is made up of a dedicated team who write about anything and everything to do with dinosaurs, fossils and other prehistoric animals.   Our features, articles and news stories are posted up on this, our blog site.  The blog was established nearly ten years ago, with the aim of providing open access to news about palaeontology, new model releases, research into dinosaurs and updates on fossil discoveries.  Our blog articles also provide an insight into Everything Dinosaur’s work with schools, museums and other educational bodies as we strive to help inform and educate with regards to the amazing story of life on our planet.

We aim to provide interesting and informative articles on palaeontology and other Earth sciences as well as to highlight good teaching practices that we find on our visits to schools.  It is great to be able to showcase the work of students, helping them to become enthused about the sciences and helping to feed their curiosity.

The Everything Dinosaur Blog Makes an Excellent Teaching Resource

Fossil handling workshop.

A blog that helps to inform and educate.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We try to produce blog posts that minimises jargon and the use of technical terms.  Our blog is aimed at dinosaur fans, model collectors, teachers and those who share our passion for learning about prehistoric life.

The articles and features that we produce can be used by fellow teachers, teaching assistants and home educationalists.   In order to provide further support, Everything Dinosaur also manages a website dedicated to schools, all helping to support the recently introduced science curriculum at both the primary and secondary levels of education.

The specialist Everything Dinosaur school site: Dinosaurs for School Site

A spokesperson for the UK-based company stated:

“The blog site gives us the opportunity to present information on the many press releases and papers that we get sent from universities and museums.  Our aim is to produce articles that demystify some of the science behind the study of prehistoric life and to provide informative and helpful articles to our readership.”

We remain passionate and enthusiastic about what we do and hopefully this blog helps to keep our customers informed about our activities, new products and our work.  Naturally, we welcome all comments and feedback and one of the new improvements with this revamped blog is that it is now easier to leave a comment on any one of the 3, 600 articles we have produced so far.  Roll on article 4,000!

4 03, 2017

Woolly Mammoth Genome Meltdown

By | March 4th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Mammoth Mutational Meltdown As Species Headed for Extinction

Woolly Mammoths experienced a mutational meltdown in their genome prior to their extinction according to a study published this week by researchers at the University of California (Berkeley).  The Woolly Mammoth genome has been mapped (2015), scientists have been able to make comparisons between the extinct species (Mammuthus primigenius) and its closest living relative, the Indian Elephant (Elephas maximus).  A great deal of information has been gained from these genetic studies, but the mystery of why this animal which roamed across Europe, Siberia, North America and the land mass which once joined Asia to the Americas (Beringia), died out remains.  In this new research, scientists from the University of California (Berkeley) compared the genetic makeup of one of the last surviving mammoths, with the genome of a mammoth that had lived when these iconic creatures of the Pleistocene were still thriving.

Study into the Last Population of Woolly Mammoths Reveals Genetic Defects

Woolly Mammoths.

DNA clues as to why the last Mammoths became extinct.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To read an article on the mapping of the Woolly Mammoth genome: Woolly Mammoth Genome is Sequenced

Comparing the Genome of a Mammoth from 45,000 Years Ago to One of the Last Mammoths

The comparison gave researchers the rare opportunity to see what happens to the genome as a population dwindles, the conclusions drawn support existing theories of genome deterioration stemming from small population sizes.  The study also provides a stark warning to conservationists and environmentalists.  Preserving a small group of isolated animals is not sufficient to stop negative effects of inbreeding and genomic meltdown.

Corresponding author, Rebekah Rogers, who led the work as a postdoctoral scholar at Berkeley and is now an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina stated:

“There is a long history of theoretical work about how genomes might change in small populations.  Here we got a rare chance to look at snapshots of genomes “before” and “after” a population decline in a single species.  The results we found were consistent with this theory that had been discussed for decades.”

The researchers, which included Professor Monty Slatkin, looked at the genome from a Woolly Mammoth that had lived on Wrangel Island, the last known refuge of the Woolly Mammoth.  The DNA was extracted from a specimen that lived some six hundred years before the elephant species finally died out.  The genetic material from the 4,300-year-old individual was compared to the DNA from a mammoth that had lived in Siberia some 40,000 years earlier when the Woolly Mammoth population was still large and relatively robust.

Reporting in the journal “PLOS Genetics”, the researchers found a lot of mutations in the Wrangel Island specimen’s genome.  The comparative analysis with the mainland mammoth remains showed that the Wrangel Island specimen had accumulated multiple harmful mutations in its genome, which interfered with gene functions.  The animals had lost many olfactory receptors, which detect odours, as well as urinary proteins, which can impact upon social status and mate choice.  The genome also revealed that the Wrangel Island mammoth had specific mutations that likely created an unusual translucent satin coat.

Rebekah Rogers said mathematical models developed by Slatkin of how genomes change as population conditions change were key to analysing and comparing the two genomes.

She stated:

“With only two specimens to look at, these mathematical models were important to show that the differences between the two mammoths are too extreme to be explained by other factors.”

Wrangel Island – The Last Refuge of the Woolly Mammoth

Rising sea levels cut off the land that is now known as Wrangel Island around 10,000 years ago.  A population of Woolly Mammoths were then isolated from the mainland and this population persisted for several thousand years, before the last of the Mammoths became extinct around 2000 B.C.

The Location of Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean

Wrangel Island.

The last refuge of the Woolly Mammoth.

Picture Credit: Google Maps

The isolated and small population of Wrangel Island mammoths probably exhibited an accumulation of detrimental mutations consistent with genomic meltdown in response to low effective population sizes in the dwindling population.  With Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei), Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) and the Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) populations at or below the assumed population of Wrangel Island mammoths (around 300 individuals), this research provides conservationists with sobering evidence which suggests attempting to preserve a small group of individuals may not be enough to stop degradation of the genetic material that the viability of the species depends on.

To read an article that suggests dwindling supplies for freshwater speeded up the demise of isolated Woolly Mammoth populations: Last of the Mammoths Died of Thirst

Genetic Studies are Helping to Solve the Riddle of the Woolly Mammoth Extinction

Mammoth vertebrae.

Genetic studies are now telling us more about Woolly Mammoths than their bones ever could.

3 03, 2017

Ancient Hominin Skulls from the Late Pleistocene of China

By | March 3rd, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Ancient Hominins of China

Two fragmentary skulls found in eastern China (Henan Province), have shed light on the ancient hominins who inhabited that part of the world before the arrival of our own species (H. sapiens).

Palaeoanthropologists know that Europe and western Asia was the domain of the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) before they were displaced by H. sapiens which had migrated out of Africa.  However, frustratingly, remains belonging to the equivalent human populations in eastern and central Asia have rarely been found.  The two skulls, although lacking facial bones, have provided researchers with tantalising evidence with regards to the type of human species that lived in this region around 125,000 to 105,000 years ago.

Views of the Ancient Skull (Xuchang 1)

Ancient hominin fossil skull from China.

Views of the skull called Xuchang 1 dorsal (left), posterior (right).

Picture Credit: Dr Wu Xiujie

The skulls were excavated during a series of field studies undertaken at a site in Lingjing, Xuchang County, between 2007 and 2014.  The fossils were found in association with a wealth of mammal remains including deer, horse, Coelodonta (Woolly Rhino), ancient cattle, gazelles and Megaloceros (giant elk).  The scientists which included researchers from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (Beijing) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have dated the skulls to between 125,000 and 105,000 years ago.  The overlying layers of sediment date from less than 100,000 years ago.

A Mosaic of Ancient and Modern Features

The skulls show a range of morphological features with differences from and similarities to their European and western Asia contemporaries.

Co-author of the study, Professor Erik Trinkaus explained that although the skulls had some features that mirrored what has been found in Neanderthal skulls, some characteristics, like a low, broad braincase, link them to even earlier humans from the same region, who lived in the Middle Pleistocene.

The professor commented:

“There’s a certain amount of regional diversity at this time, but also there are trends in basic biology that are shared by everybody and the supposed Neanderthal characteristics show that all these populations were interconnected.”

Big Brains?

One of the skulls, the specimen referred to as Xuchang 1, is estimated to have had a very large endocranial volume.  This suggests a large brain, a brain size of around 1,800 cubic centimetres, which is at the high end for Neanderthal and early modern humans.  Indeed, within our own species, although there is considerable variation in brain volume, a endocranial volume of 1,800 cm3 would be exceptional.

Scans of Xuchang 1 Suggests a Remarkable Brain Size

Various images of the ancient Chinese skull.

Scans of Xuchang 1 indicates large brain size.

Picture Credit: Dr Wu Xiujie/Science

Corresponding author for the study, published in the journal “Science”, Dr Wu Xiujie of the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and  Palaeoanthropology stated:

“This morphological combination, particularly the presence of a mosaic not known among early Late Pleistocene humans in the western Old World, suggests a complex interaction of directional palaeobiological changes and intra and inter-regional population dynamics.  From their fossil record, eastern Asian late archaic humans have been interpreted to resemble their Neanderthal contemporaries to some degree, with considerations of whether the fragmentary remains of the former exhibit features characteristic of the latter.  Yet it is only with the discovery of two human crania (plus additional elements), that the nature of these eastern Eurasian early Late Pleistocene archaic humans is becoming clear.”

The Xuchang skulls provide palaeoanthropologists with an important window into the biology and population history of early Late Pleistocene eastern Eurasian people.  As such, they are a critical piece in our understanding of the human evolutionary background to the subsequent establishment of modern human biology across the Old World, a process that was already underway in eastern Africa and (apparently), further south in eastern Asia.

Links with the Denisovans?

How these ancient hominins are related to the enigmatic and mysterious Denisovans (if they are closely related, for that matter), remains uncertain.  The absence of any teeth restricts the comparisons between these two skulls and the Denisovan ascribed fossil material, which includes a large tooth.  Researchers hope that perhaps some ancient, uncontaminated DNA can be recovered from the site.  Finding genetic material would permit whether these skulls represent a link to the Denisovans or whether they represent a distinct hominin lineage to be tested.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the compilation of this article.

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