From Dinosaur Arms to the Wings of Birds

New Study Helps to Explain How Dinosaurs Got their Wings

Most scientists now agree the feathers originated in the Dinosauria and that Aves (birds) are descendants from a group of bipedal, very bird-like dinosaurs that make up a portion of a larger group of dinosaurs known as the Theropoda.  In essence, the birds we know today evolved from dinosaurs (specifically the Maniraptora).  However, despite a lot of fossil evidence to indicate that the birds are closely related to and descended from the Dinosauria there have been one or two areas that have led to some confusion.  Take for example, the wrist bones.  The numerous wrist bones in dinosaurs and their relatively immobile wrists evolved over time into the highly flexible wrists with fewer bones that scientists see today in living birds.  The wrist bones in birds helps to manage the forces involved in the movements of the wing in flight.  They also permit the wings to be folded back when the bird is not flying, so how the wrist bones of dinosaurs evolved into the specialised and highly modified wrist bones of birds has been the subject of much debate.

The Evolution of a Wrist Designed for a Wing

The evolution of a wrist bone adapted to flight.

The evolution of a wrist bone adapted to flight.

Picture Credit: David Bonnadonna

A new study by a team of scientists based at the Universidae de Chile (University of Chile), Santiago, Chile and published in the academic journal PLOS Biology may have solved this palaeontological puzzle.

Nine into Four Does Go

Let’s start with a very simple explanation of the problem.  Scientists studying living species, in this case birds and specifically ducks, chickens, lapwings, finches and budgerigars that were used in this study, can examine in minute detail the living organism.  They can also study embryos to see how the bones in the wrist are formed.  The scientists can also study the wrist bones and embryos of reptiles such as caiman to provide data on the wrist bones and embryonic growth of other types of Archosaurs.  The Archosauria is the Division of Reptilia that contains the dinosaurs and crocodiles, it is from the Archosaurs that the birds evolved.  These scientists can see how the anatomy of an animal develops.  Techniques such as cell and molecular biology studies can reveal all sorts of information with regards to how the wrists of extant (living organisms) form.  Palaeontologists, on the other hand, (no pun intended) only have a very incomplete fossil record to study.  So scientists are using different data sources to study wrist bone evolution.

Research to help identify the wrist bones in dinosaurs and the corresponding bones in the wrists of birds draws data from two radically different sources:

  • cell biology, extant organisms and embryology
  • fossils of birds, fossils of dinosaurs, studies of the bones of extinct animals

This new study shows how the modern bird wrist with its four bones, arranged in an approximate square shape corresponds to the nine bones found in non-avian dinosaurs.  The team have looked at how dinosaur wrists evolved and report on previously undetected evolutionary processes including loss, fusion and in one case, a re-evolution of a bone once lost in the Dinosauria.

A Critical Advance in Understanding

This new study effectively combined these two areas of research.  The laboratory run by Alexander Vargas (University of Chile) and lead author of the study, developed a new method of looking at specific proteins in the embryos and produced three-dimensional maps to demonstrate how the wrist bones formed.  This new method has been named whole-mount immunostaining.  It allows scientists to observe skeletal development in embryos much better than before.  At the same time, the research team re-examined the fossils of dinosaurs and prehistoric birds in a bid to tie the two strands of research together.

The Semilunate Bone

Back in the 1960′s the palaeontologist John Ostrom, re-ignited the bird/dinosaurs debate by proposing that fearsome, sickle-clawed predators such as Deinonychus (D. antirrhopus) were agile, active animals and very bird-like.  He proposed that the semilunate bone, one of the four bones making up the square-shaped arrangement of bones in a modern bird’s wrist had actually formed from the fusing of two bones present in dinosaur fossils, such as those bones found in the wrists of dinosaurs like Deinonychus and its relatives.  This new technique, confirms that Ostrom was right.

Deinonychus Part of the Dinosaurs to Birds Story

A fearsome Deinonychus dinosaur

A fearsome Deinonychus dinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Whole-mount immunostaining and the mapping of cartilage formation and proteins in the embryos of birds, allowed the scientists to confirm that the semilunate in Aves does form from as two separate cartilages which fuse and ossify into a single bone, proving that Ostrom was very probably on the right track nearly fifty years ago.

Dr. Vargas explained:

“These findings eliminate persistent doubts that existed over exactly how the bones of the wrist evolved and iron out arguments about wrist development being incompatible with birds originating from dinosaurs.”

This research has helped scientists to work out how the nine bones found in the wrists of some Theropod dinosaurs gradually evolved into the four bones seen in modern birds.  In addition, this study produced a surprise, a result that was not expected.  A small bone present in the wrists of a group of dinosaurs known as the Sauropoda, disappeared in the bipedal Theropods, but re-evolved when some Theropods began to fly.

Sauropods and Theropod dinosaurs are closely related.  They represent the two types of dinosaur that make up the Saurischia (lizard-hipped dinosaurs).  Sauropods walked on all fours and had a small bone in their wrist called the pisiform that had a function in their four-legged, quadrupedal stance.  Theropod dinosaurs were essentially bipeds (walking on their hind limbs).  The arms of these dinosaurs were no longer used for walking but for catching and subduing prey.  Over millions of years the pisiform bone was lost from the wrists of the two-legged Theropods.  However, the authors of this study discovered that the pisiform had reappeared in early birds, probably as an adaptation for flight, where this small wrist bone permits the transmission of force on the down-stroke of a wing beat whilst restricting flexibility on the up-stroke phase of a wing beat.

The Evolution of the Wrist from Dinosaurs to Birds

From

From dinosaurs to birds ( Dinosauria – Theropoda – Maniraptora – Aves)

Picture Credit: PLOS Biology

The chart shows the colour coded bones and how they changed over time.  For example, the pisiform bone (red) can be found in the Early Jurassic Ornithopod Heterodontosaurus (not a Theropod) and in the Late Triassic Theropod Coelophysis.  This bone is lost in later Theropods such as Allosaurus and Guanlong but evolves again in primitive birds such as Sapeornis.  Sapeornis was about the size of a seagull, it seems to have been a strong flyer.  It lived during the Early Cretaceous.

The colour coded chart also shows how the square-shaped arrangement of bones in a modern bird such as the chicken evolved, with the fusion of the distal carpal 1 and the distal carpal 2 bones (yellow and green).  In the Maniraptoran Falcarius, a member of the Therizinosauroidea and not a direct ancestor of birds, these two bones are distinct.  However, in those Maniraptorans believed to be more closely related to the birds, indeed, the ancestors of Aves, dinosaurs such as Khaan, Deinonychus and Yixianosaurus these two carpals become fused to form the semilunate found in the wrists of modern birds.

WIN, WIN with Everything Dinosaur

Competition Time Again with Everything Dinosaur

It’s competition time again with Everything Dinosaur and we have a signed copy of a fantastic new book all about British dinosaurs to win.  To celebrate the publication of “Dinosaurs of the British Isles” one of the authors of this amazing account about all things Dinosauria, palaeontologist Dean Lomax, has autographed a copy from the very first print run.  Everything Dinosaur is going to give this away to one lucky dinosaur fan.

The Front Cover of “Dinosaurs of the British Isles”

A comprehensive guide to British dinosaurs over 400 pages.

A comprehensive guide to British dinosaurs over 400 pages.

Picture Credit: Siri Scientific Press

This unique publication catalogues all the major dinosaur fossil discoveries from the British Isles.  With a foreward from Dr. Paul Barrett of the Natural History Museum, Dean and his fellow author Nobumichi Tamura provide a comprehensive account on the dinosaurs of the entire British Isles.  With hundreds of photographs, detailed skeletal reconstructions and vivid life illustrations this is a “must have” for every dedicated dinosaur fan, fossil collector and budding palaeontologist.

Competition Details

So our competition is this, if you were to discover a new species of dinosaur in the UK – what name would you call it?  That’s right, we want you to come up with a name for a new species of British dinosaur!

To enter our “name a British dinosaur” competition, a chance to win this truly unique account of the dinosaurs of the British Isles, all you have to do is “Like” Everything Dinosaur’s FACEBOOK page, then leave a comment with your suggested name for a new British dinosaur on the picture of the front cover of  the book (shown above).

Click the logo to visit our Facebook page and to give our page a "like".

Click the logo to visit our Facebook page and to give our page a “like”.

Everything Dinosaur on FACEBOOK: “LIKE” Our Facebook Page and Enter Competition

We will draw the lucky winner at random and the British dinosaur name competition closes on Friday, 31st October 2014.  Good luck to everyone and we can’t wait to see what British dinosaur names you come up!

Terms and Conditions of Name a British Dinosaur Competition

Automated entries are not permitted and will be excluded from the draw.

Only one entry per person.

The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative will be offered.

The Everything Dinosaur name a British dinosaur competition runs until Friday, October 31st 2014.

Winner will be notified by private message on Facebook or email.

Prize includes postage and packing.

For full terms and conditions contact: Contact Us

To read Everything Dinosaur’s Review of “Dinosaurs of the British Isles”: “Dinosaurs of the British Isles” Reviewed

Can’t wait to get hold of this book!  ”Dinosaurs of the British Isles” can be ordered from Siri Scientific Press: Visit the website

The Dinosaur Toy Forum Diorama Contest (Video)

The Dinosaur Toy Forum Diorama Contest Sponsored by Everything Dinosaur

Those clever people at the Dinosaur Toy Forum have compiled a video that displays all the entries for the 2014 diorama competition as sponsored by Everything Dinosaur and what a splendid selection of prehistoric themed scenes have been created.  It is certainly going to be a difficult job selecting the winners as there are some wonderful examples of creative use of models and modelling materials.  The winning entries will be selected by vote amongst forum members, a very democratic  and fair solution, to what would be a tricky task for a judging panel.

There is a Cambrian diorama, some splendid Triassic prehistoric animals, marine reptiles, Pterosaurs and plenty of scenes depicting Theropods, team members have enjoyed watching the video and identifying all the replicas contained therein.

The Competition Entries – Diorama Contest 2014

Video Credit: The Dinosaur Toy Forum

 A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur, which has sponsored the competition this year stated:

“We have all been extremely impressed by the standard of competition entries.  Everything Dinosaur would like to take this opportunity to congratulate everyone who entered, we are very proud to be involved as sponsors and clearly there are a lot of very talented forum members.”

The prizes have all been put aside in a special area of the Everything Dinosaur warehouse, once winners have been announced we can get these prizes (prehistoric animal models of course), sent out and on their way.

Best of luck to everyone involved and we look forward to posting up more news shortly.

Drawing of Sauropelta (Shield Lizard)

Sauropelta Illustrated

As we prepare for the 2015 introduction of the Sauropelta dinosaur figure in the Wild Safari Dinos model series (Safari Ltd), our team members have been working on the fact sheet that will accompany sales of this dinosaur model.  This large, early representative of that branch of the Ankylosauridae known as the nodosaurids was certainly a spectacular animal.  It had four pairs of spines projecting upwards and outwards from the neck and its body armour consisted of rows of bony studs interspersed with small, pebble-like osteoderms.  Sauropelta (S. edwardsorum) certainly needed its armour, as it shared a habitat with some very formidable Theropod dinosaurs.

As part of Everything Dinosaur’s preparations ,we have commissioned an illustration of this nodosaurid.  The drawing will help us to create a scale drawing, to give readers the chance to gauge just how big this dinosaur was.  It will also permit us to add “shield lizard” to our large collection of dinosaur drawing materials and downloads.

Everything Dinosaur’s Sauropelta Illustration

Primitive nodsaurid from the United States.

Primitive nodosaurid from the United States.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Mike Fredericks

The Sauropelta Replica (Safari Ltd)

Available from Everything Dinosaur in early 2015

Available from Everything Dinosaur in early 2015

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd

We think our illustration captures the anatomy of Sauropelta quite well, we shall add a human figure to the final drawing to provide scale.  One thing that has been pointed out to us, however, both the model and drawing with their small, down-turned snouts look unhappy.  Happiness is not an emotional state that is readily applied to the Dinosauria and we certainly should not anthropomorphosize, but perhaps the Sauropelta will look a little happier when these models start being snapped up by collectors and dinosaur fans alike.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of prehistoric animals from Safari Ltd: Dinosaur Models (Safari Ltd)

Feedback from Foundation Class

Five Stars for Everything Dinosaur (sort of)

At Everything Dinosaur we encourage teachers to provide our team members with feedback over our visits to schools to teach about dinosaurs.  We conduct dinosaur and fossil workshops from children within the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stages) right up to students at Key Stage 4.  We are keen to develop our work in schools and museums and we are very grateful for all the feedback that we receive.  Whilst it would be great if teachers could leave feedback and comments on our dedicated teaching website, we do have a section dedicated to this, we do appreciate that sometimes teaching professionals find themselves so busy that this is not always possible.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s dedicated teaching website: Dinosaurs and Fossils Teaching Website

To help overcome this we always carry feedback forms with us when we visit schools, colleges and other institutions.  Being able to provide instant feedback is a great benefit to the teachers, teaching assistants and learning support team members that we work with.

Following our visit to Kensington Primary School to work with Foundation Stage children, we got lots of very positive feedback from the teaching team.  This feedback has already been posted up on our dedicated teaching website, but we thought it would be helpful if we posted up one of the forms from a class teacher here.

Foundation Stage Teacher Praises Everything Dinosaur

5 Stars for Everything Dinosaur.

5 Stars for Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Kensington Primary School

 We note that our “star rating” system was perhaps a little confusing but the comments are greatly appreciated.

The Foundation Stage teacher commented:

“Excellent resources and modelling of different vocabulary, especially focusing on opposites eg. hard/soft.  Children remained engaged throughout and loved touching the objects.  They were the focus of a lot of discussion throughout the rest of the day.”

Our dinosaur expert talked through a couple of extension activities with the teaching team and we look forward to hearing how the term topic develops.

New Armoured Dinosaur from New Mexico

Ziapelta sanjuanensis  From New Mexico but Closely Related to Canadian Ankylosaurs

For some strange reason, the Ankylosaurs don’t seem to be held in quite the same awe as the horned dinosaurs by most members of the public.  We at Everything Dinosaur have our own theory about this.  The horned dinosaurs are much easier for the lay person to recognise.  There is the spectacular spiked frill of Styracosaurus, the peculiar nasal boss of Pachyrhinosaurus, a dinosaur genus which came to greater prominence with the “Walking with Dinosaurs in 3-D” movie.  Then there is of course, the most famous horned dinosaur of all – Triceratops (three horned face).  Members of the Ankylosauridae tend to have the same basic body plan.  They have broad rumps, bony clubs on the end of their tails and of course, all that body armour.  Model makers often find it difficult to distinguish different armoured dinosaurs.  For example, the Saichania replica made by Schleich, to the uninitiated, resembles Ankylosaurus.

The Saichania Model made by Schleich

Saichania means "beautiful"

Saichania means “beautiful”

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

When it comes to films and television documentaries, the Ankylosaurs are rarely given star billing.  So today, in our own small way, we are going to champion the Late Cretaceous armoured dinosaurs by discussing the newest member of their family – Ziapelta, from the San Juan Basin of north-western New Mexico.  The fossils of Ziapelta consist of elements of the skull and incomplete neck rings of spiky bone and fragments of the famous, scaly Ankylosauria body armour (osteoderms).  The material was discovered in 2011 by Robert Sullivan, subsequently excavated by Dr. Sullivan and colleagues and then stored at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.  Once extracted from its silt and sandstone matrix, the scientists had enough fossil evidence to assign these fossils to a new genera.  A thorough exploration of the surrounding area produced no further post-cranial material.  It seems the head and neck of this armoured dinosaur were separated from the rest of the body prior to burial.  How this came about, one can only speculate.

The fossils were collected from the De-na-zin Member of the Kirtland Formation which as been dated to around 74 to 72 million years ago.  At perhaps as much as six metres long, the herbivorous Ziapelta would have been a very formidable adversary for even the largest tyrannosaurid.

An Illustration of Ziapelta (Z. sanjuanensis)

New Armoured Dinosaur from New Mexico

New Armoured Dinosaur from New Mexico

Picture Credit: Sydney Mohr

To the lay person, the spiky-looking Ziapelta might just look like any other Ankylosauridae, so let’s explain why the skull and neck material have allowed scientists to erect a new genus of armoured dinosaur.  Firstly, elements of the skull have been found, the skull morphology (shape) and composition can be very helpful when looking to identify an animal new to science, dinosaurs included.  Co-author of the scientific paper, which is published in the on line academic journal PLOS One, Victoria Arbour commented:

“The horns on the back of the skull are thick and curve downwards and the snout has a mixture of flat and bumpy scales – an unusual feature for an ankylosaurid.”

Dr. Arbour (University of Alberta) is a renowned expert on all things Ankylosaur, she was invited to examine the fossils along with PhD student Mike Burns (University of Alberta).  The scientists concluded that unlike the armoured dinosaur Nodocephalosaurus kirtlandensis, which is also known from the San Juan Basin and is believed to be related to Asian genera of the Ankylosauridae, Saichania for example, Ziapelta was more closely related to the ankylosaurids of Canada.

The Formidable Spiky Cervical Rings of Ziapelta

Bony and spiky neck armour of Ziapelta.

Bony and spiky neck armour of Ziapelta.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

Dr. Arbour stated:

“Bob Sullivan, who discovered the specimen, showed us pictures and we were really excited by both its familiarity and its distinctiveness.  We were pretty sure right away we were dealing with a new species that was closely related to the Ankylosaurs we find in Alberta.”

Ziapelta has another unusual feature that distinguishes it from other ankylosaurids, a feature that we at Everything Dinosaur find quite endearing considering the size and fearsome nature of these reptiles.  The layout of the scales that make up the top of the skull are often very distinctive.  In the case of Ziapelta, it has a large triangular-shaped scale on the tip of its snout, in contrast to many other ankylosaurids which have a six-sided scale on their snouts

Views of the Skull Fossil of Ziapelta (Z. sanjuanensis)

Views of the skull fossil material of Ziapelta.

Views of the skull fossil material of Ziapelta.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The photograph above shows various views of the holotype skull material, A – dorsal view (view from the top), B = ventral view (viewed from underneath), C = anterior view (view from the front), D = occipital view (viewed from the rear) and finally E – left lateral view (view of the left side of the skull).  In photograph A, we have highlighted in red the outline of that large triangular scale on the snout (referred to as mnca - median nasal caputegulum to use the formal scientific term).

Dr. Arbour put it very succinctly stating:

“There’s also a distinctive large triangular scale on the snout, where many other ankylosaurids have a hexagonal scale.”

The University of Alberta scientist has specialised in studying Ankylosaurs, especially those specimens which are known from the Late Cretaceous of North America.  Back in 2013, Everything Dinosaur reported on Dr. Arbour’s research into the Ankylosauridae which was helping to redefine this family of dinosaurs.

To read more about this research: When is a Euoplocephalus a Euoplocephalus?

Ankylosaurid fossils make up a small, but significant proportion of the Dinosauria fossil assemblage of southern Alberta, but to date, no ankylosaurid material has been found in the Horseshoe Canyon Formation (lower parts of this formation, the Strathmore and the Drumheller Members) of Alberta.  These rocks are roughly the same age as the strata in which the fossils of Ziapelta were found.  This New Mexico armoured dinosaur is helping palaeontologists to plug a gap in the record of ankylosaurid fossils known from North America.

Dr. Arbour explained:

“The rocks in New Mexico fill in this gap in time, and that’s where Ziapelta occurs.  Could Ziapelta have also lived in Alberta, in the gap where we haven’t found any Ankylosaur fossils yet?  It is possible, but in recent years there has also been increasing evidence that the dinosaurs from the southern part of North America – New Mexico, Texas and Utah, for example, are distinct from their northern neighbours in Alberta.”

There is a lot of evidence to support the idea of “dinosaur provinciality” in North America.  It seems that although the overall mix of dinosaurs was about the same in the regions, the actual genera that made up the dinosaur populations differed markedly.  How or why these distinct faunas came about remains something of a mystery.  The discovery of Ziapelta may help to add more pieces to the picture as palaeontologists strive to solve this puzzle.

Year 1 Explore Dinosaurs

Exploring Dinosaurs and Learning How to Eat Like a Diplodocus

Another busy day yesterday for Everything Dinosaur with a visit to Altrincham Preparatory School to work with Year 1.  The children, under the enthusiastic tutelage of their teachers Mrs Bacon and Mrs Eyley had been studying dinosaurs and fossils and a visit from our dinosaur expert helped to reinforce learning.  One of the pupils in the class heralds from Canada, so it was apt to explore the rib bones of an Edmontosaurus (named after the capital of the Canadian province of Alberta).  One of the children in 1E was born in Argentina, so we promised to send out some information on Argentinosaurus, a huge Titanosaur, as part of the extension resources.

The children had been busy writing about Diplodocus and our expert was able to see some of the excellent examples of hand-writing, vocabulary use and sentence construction that was on display.

Year 1 Pupils Write About Diplodocus

A "What I am" writing exercise with Diplodocus.

A “what I am?” writing exercise with Diplodocus.

Picture Credit: Altrincham Preparatory School/Everything Dinosaur

As part of the experiments we conducted, we showed how Sauropod dinosaurs like Diplodocus fed and then we looked at some fossilised plants and compared them to living ferns.

To read more about Everything Dinosaur’s school visit: Dinosaurs Prove to be a Roaring Success for Year 1

There was also some wonderful artwork on display in the classrooms of 1B and 1E, the children were keen to demonstrate their knowledge and one young dinosaur fan even brought in a model of a Baryonyx.

Piecing Together a Carnivorous Dinosaur

Meat-eating dinosaurs inspire artwork.

Meat-eating dinosaurs inspire artwork.

Picture Credit: Altrincham Preparatory School/Everything Dinosaur

The children and the teaching team really enjoyed the morning and it was great to see so many dinosaur themed examples of work posted up around the classrooms.  We even met one little boy called Owen, so we sent over some information on the anatomist Sir Richard Owen who was responsible for naming the group of animals we know as the Dinosauria.

To read more about Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools: Dinosaur Workshops for Schools

New Research Suggests Multicellular Life Started Earlier

Evidence Suggests Multicellular Life 60 Million Years Earlier than Previously Thought

Researchers from the Virginia Tech College of Science in collaboration with counterparts from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have published new data on one of the most fundamental and significant changes that occurred in the history of life on our planet.  At some time during the Proterozoic Eon, multicellular life forms evolved.  These organisms evolved from single-celled entities and in a paper published in the academic journal “Nature”, the researchers propose that multicellular life forms evolved some sixty million years earlier than previously thought.

The team suggest that they have found fossil evidence of complex multicellularity in strata dating from around 600 million years ago, although microscopic fossils are known in Precambrian strata from several locations around the world (Australia, South Africa as well as China), this new research is helping to clarify some long-standing interpretations of micro-fossils.

Professor of Geobiology at the Virginia Tech College of Science, Shuhai Xiao explained the significance of this new fossil discovery:

“This opens up a new door for us to shine some light on the timing and evolutionary steps that were taken by multicellular organisms that would eventually go on to dominate the Earth in a very visible way.  Fossils similar to the ones in this study have been interpreted previously as bacteria, single-cell eukaryotes, algae and transitional forms related to modern animals such as sponges, sea anemones, or bilaterally symmetrical animals.  This paper lets us put aside some of those interpretations.”

It has long been known that simple, multicellular organisms evolved before more complex ones, such as red algae and sponges.  If a biological hierarchy existed (and most scientists believe that this is the case), then at some point in the past, single-celled organisms began to evolve into much larger, more complicated multicellular organisms.  The trouble is, with the paucity of the fossil record and the difficulties involved in interpreting Ediacaran fauna there is a lot of debate amongst biologists and palaeontologists as to when the solo living cells began to fuse into more cohesive, complex forms.

Evidence of Complex Multicellular Organisms from the Doushantuo Formation

Evidence of multicellular structures in 600 million year old rocks.

Evidence of multicellular structures in 600 million year old rocks.

Picture Credit: Virginia Tech College of Science

The researchers examined microscopic samples of phosphorite rocks from the Doushantuo Formation in Guizhou Province (south, central China).  This formation represents extensive marine sediments that were deposited from around 635 million years ago to around 550 million years ago.  They preserve a unique record of microscopic life (Metazoan life – animals) that existed during the Ediacaran geological period, the period in Earth’s history defined as immediately before the Cambrian and that marks the end of the Precambrian or the Proterozoic Eon.

What is an Eukaryote?

The scientists were able to identify a number of three-dimensional multicellular fossils that show signs of cell-to-cell adhesion, cells potentially performing different functions and programmed cell death.  These qualities are all found in complex eukaryotes, the organisms that dominate visible life on Earth to day, the fungi, animals and plants.  Eukaryotes range in size from single-celled amoebas to giant sequoias and blue whales.  We (H. sapiens) belong to the Domain Eukarya.   Eukaryote cells are complex, they have a distinct nucleus surrounded by a membrane.  The nucleus contains most of the genetic material.  The nucleus itself is a specialised area of the cell, it is referred to as an organelle.  Eukaryote cells have a number of specialised areas within them (other organelles as well as a nucleus).

Professor Xiao and his colleagues admit that these are not the first multicellular fossils found, nor are they probably the oldest, but the exceptional preservation permits the researchers to draw certain conclusions.  For example, it had been previously thought that these multicellular characteristics had started to develop much later in Earth’s history, perhaps as recently as 545 million years ago, a time shortly before the great Cambrian explosion.

What was the Cambrian Explosion?

The Cambrian explosion refers to the period in Earth’s history around 545 to 542 million years ago when there was a sudden burst of evolution as recorded by extensive fossil discoveries.  A wide variety of organisms, especially those with hard, mineralised body parts first appear.

This new research may help to shed some light on when multicellularity arose, but the reasons for this significant change remain unclear.  The complex multicellularity shown in these Chinese fossils is not consistent with that seen in simpler forms such as bacteria.  The scientists note, that whilst some earlier theories can be disregarded these three-dimensional structures can be interpreted in many ways and more research is required to construct the complete life cycle of these ancient organisms.

In summary, these fossils may show some affinity towards the stem-groups that led to the first members of the Kingdoms we know as Animalia, Fungi and Plantae, but much more data is needed to establish a more thorough phylogenetic relationship.

Feedback after Working with EYFS (Reception)

A Tactile Dinosaur Themed Session Helping to Develop Vocabulary

Everything Dinosaur’s team members are busy with the teaching and other outreach commitments as the autumn term progresses.  Yesterday, Everything Dinosaur was working with a primary school in Merseyside, the aim being to help with the term topic (dinosaurs) by providing an interactive and tactile dinosaur and fossil themed workshop.

Could we answer the question of the day – Were some dinosaurs huge?

One of the objectives that was set in the short briefing with the teaching team prior to the first session was to focus on helping to develop vocabulary and to give the children the opportunity to develop a wider range of describing words.

Feedback form from Reception Teacher

Feedback from Primary School (EYFS).

Feedback from Primary School (EYFS).

Working with children, some of whom do not have English as a first language and who have only just started school, can be quite a challenge.  However, guided by their enthusiastic teachers the children had been undertaking all sorts of exciting exercises and activities to do with dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.  It seems from the feedback received that Everything Dinosaur had indeed, achieved the learning objectives.

We suggested a couple of extension activities as a follow up to some of the work undertaken in the actual dinosaur themed workshop and we look forward to hearing how the children fared as they explore all things dinosaur!

To learn more about Everything Dinosaur’s dinosaur themed workshops for reception classes: Teaching about dinosaurs in schools

Everything Dinosaur on Social Media

Social Media and Dinosaurs

Today, is the official first day of autumn in the United Kingdom.  Although our team members spend most of their waking hours discussing the concept of “deep time”, this year seems to have simply whizzed by.  Soon it will be Christmas (just ninety-two days to Christmas, or so we have been reliable informed).  Therefore it is a good time to reflect on our social media targets that were set at the beginning of the year.  On January 8th 2014, Everything Dinosaur staff set out a list of objectives with regards to the company’s social media activities, this list was updated and reviewed again in June.

To view the original article: Our Social Media Plans

To see the June review: Social Media Performance Review

Social media can be used for many purposes, we like to pass on helpful tips and advice to our customers.  We also like to post up articles about new dinosaur and fossil discoveries, museum exhibitions, competitions that we run, support schools and teachers and generally engage in two-way communication with our many friends and supporters across the world.  Our team members set targets at the start of the year, let’s see how we are doing.

FACEBOOK

This is our favourite platform, although Twitter is catching up fast.  Thanks to all those people who have entered our competitions and sent us various drawings and pictures, we have enjoyed seeing these items as they have been posted up onto our Facebook wall.  In terms of “likes” we had a target of 1,200 by the end of 2014, so far we have over 1,265 “likes”.  We are grateful to everyone who has liked our page.  Should we set a new target, how about an additional 100 “likes” by the end of the year?

New target = 1,380 “likes”

You can help us, by visiting Everything Dinosaur on Facebook (click the Facebook  logo below) and “like” the Everything Dinosaur page.

Everything Dinosaur on Facebook

Click the logo to visit our Facebook page and to give our page a "like".

Click the logo to visit our Facebook page and to give our page a “like”.

TWITTER

We love the immediacy of Twitter and we have really enjoyed “Tweeting” to our many friends and fans.  It has been great to correspond with so many helpful, intelligent people and to swap ideas and updates.

Back in January we had the following targets:

  • Tweets: 2,000
  • Followers 250
  • Following 300

So far we have tweeted 1,670 times and we have 255 followers and we are following 278, not many but not too bad considering all the work we do in schools and our other activities.

PINTEREST

Everything Dinosaur set the following targets for Pinterest at the beginning of 2014 (revised targets from June in brackets)

  1. 3,000 pins (4,000)
  2. Dinosaur party board
  3. 500 following
  4. 250 followers

As of this week, our Pinterest figures look like this – 4,639 pins with 130 pins on our Dinosaur Party board with a further 143 pins on our commercial board “dinosaur themed gifts”, 570 followers and 495 following.  Everything Dinosaur has already surpassed a number of Pinterest targets for the year, perhaps a total of 5,200 pins by the end of December?

Check out Everything Dinosaur on Pinterest: Everything Dinosaur on Pinterest

EVERYTHING DINOSAUR’S BLOG

Our web log (this site) is quite big, we are on target to have 2,800 articles on line by the end of the year, we should really post up on our social media platforms that we have passed 2,750 so far.  We try to put up an article, a news story or feature every single day of the year.  We set ourselves an additional target of 1,125 verified comments by the end of 2014, so far we have logged over 1,080, perhaps over the next few months we can achieve our comments target.  In addition, we have also spring cleaned (if that is the right term) our blog site, we have added a site map put up those blog articles that were lost when we upgraded systems and made sure that the archive was up to date.  Not too bad then.

YOUTUBE

Our video reviews have proved to be very popular, we are very appreciative of all the kind words and positive comments that we have received.  We wanted to upload a number of video reviews of new models this year, we have still got a few to do but we have 90 videos on line at the moment.  We set a target of 800,000 video reviews by the end of the year, it looks like that target is going to be exceeded as we have got 797,000 video views to date, perhaps we should set a new target of 900,000 by December 31st 2014.  Our subscriber numbers continue to increase we have over 1,030 at the moment.

We are truly grateful for all the comments, suggestions, feedback, unboxing videos, likes that we receive etc..  We can’t stress enough how important they are to us.

In addition to all our social media activities, we have been able over the last month or so, to establish a bespoke website aimed at helping teachers, learning support providers and homeschoolers teach about dinosaurs and fossils.  This new site contains lots of free resources to help this teaching work, as well as articles, features and advice from other teaching professionals.  Thanks to the support that we receive on our social media platforms we have been able to introduce this new website.

New Dinosaurs for Schools Teaching Website has been Launched

Teaching tips, articles, resources and free downloads.

Teaching tips, articles, resources and free downloads.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

 To visit the school site click here: Teaching About Fossils and Dinosaurs in Schools

Our thanks to everyone who has helped us on our journey.

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