Dinosaur Workshop in the Land of Dragons

Forden Church in Wales School Dinosaur Workshop

A trip into Wales for Everything Dinosaur this morning as one of the team members had been invited to visit Forden Church in Wales School to conduct dinosaur themed workshops with the Foundation children and a mixed class of Year 1 and Year 2.  The children had prepared lots of questions and our fossil expert did his best to answer them all.  The extra resources that he had brought with him went down well with the dedicated and enthusiastic teaching team, especially the dinosaur name pronunciation guide.  A number of challenges were set, with one special challenge for the mixed Year 3 and Year 4 class, could they compose a letter to Everything Dinosaur and if they did, could they think of a question that would stump our dinosaur experts?

Year 3 and Year 4 Children Wrote Letters to Everything Dinosaur

Letters from children to Everything Dinosaur

The children even illustrated their letters with some wonderful prehistoric animal drawings.

Picture Credit: Forden Church in Wales School/Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaur Footprints and Dinosaur Drawings

The children illustrated their letters with some wonderful prehistoric animal drawings.  Ffion and Aimi drew dinosaur footprints and they both wanted to know about dinosaur teeth.  Aimi asked do all types of dinosaurs have fierce teeth?  Her query ties in with a question sent in by Matthew who enquired how many dinosaur herbivores were there?  Ffion asked do all types of dinosaurs have special teeth?  The mouths of dinosaurs were adapted to help them eat the food that the ate.  Some dinosaurs, such as most of the meat-eaters, had teeth that were sharp and fierce looking, whilst many of the herbivorous dinosaurs such as Triceratops had rows and rows of square and blocky shaped teeth, ideal for grinding up plants.  Some dinosaurs did not have any teeth at all.  About two-thirds of all the dinosaurs described so far were plant eaters.

Matthew Wanted to Know How Many Herbivorous Dinosaurs Were There?

Proportion of plant-eaters to meat-eaters in the Dinosauria.

Proportion of plant-eaters to meat-eaters in the Dinosauria.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In an email sent to Mrs Davies, one of the teachers, we were able to answer questions from Dan, Bethany and Nicky.  Ryan had wanted to know what the name Tyrannosaurus rex means, we challenged the class to be “dinosaur detectives” and to conduct some research to find out for themselves.

How Many Pterodactyls Were There?

Wayne wanted to know how many Pterodactyls were there?  This tied in with a question asked during one of our dinosaur workshops.  The correct term for these flying reptiles is Pterosaurs and so far, something like 120 different types of Pterosaur have been named.  The children were surprised to learn that the biggest Pterosaurs were taller than giraffes.

Prehistoric Animal Drawings from the Children

Children write letters about dinosaurs.

Ben wanted to know how many fossils we had found?

Picture Credit: Forden Church in Wales School/Everything Dinosaur

Ben asked about the number of fossils we had found.  Everything Dinosaur team members are really lucky and they get to go on lots of fossil hunts.  They have found thousands of fossils, some of which we keep and store in our warehouse so we can learn more about prehistoric life.

One Letter Featured Pachycephalosaurus and Apatosaurus

Key Stage 2 dinosaur lettters.

An illustrated dinosaur letter.

Picture Credit: Forden Church in Wales School/Everything Dinosaur

Marine Reptiles and Dinosaurs

A number of letters featured drawings of marine reptiles.  Harvey drew a green coloured marine reptile and asked when did the dinosaurs become extinct?  This is a question that we will leave for the children to research, perhaps they can look at the evidence and come up with their own theory as to why the non-avian dinosaurs died out.  The question why are dinosaurs called dinosaurs was also asked.  The term dinosaur was first coined more than 150 years ago, to find out about the scientist responsible, check out this link here: Happy Birthday Sir Richard Owen

 When Did the Dinosaurs Live?

Year 3 children wrote to Everything Dinosaur

Marine reptiles used to illustrate a letter with questions about dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Forden Church in Wales School/Everything Dinosaur

Zak asked when did the dinosaurs live?  The timeline we provided along with the other extension resources should help Zak to answer this one.  He also asked why are dinosaurs called reptiles?  Dinosaurs make up part of a group of animals called reptiles, there are many different types of reptile living today.  We sent a word game over to the school via email, can the children fill in the blanks and work out the names of reptiles alive today?

Our thanks to all the children  and their teachers at Forden Church in Wales School.  We shall pin up these very colourful letters onto one of the walls in our office.

Rebor Acrocanthosaurus Replica Rave Reviews

Collectors Praise the Rebor Replicas Acrocanthosaurus “Hercules”

Dinosaur fans and model collectors have been praising the Rebor range of 1:35 scale replicas ever since their introduction more than two years ago.  At Everything Dinosaur, we regularly receive emails from collectors who have written to say how much they admire a particular model.  Take for example, this missive we received from “Paleo Paul” regarding the Rebor Acrocanthosaurus atokensis model that he had recently purchased.

Paleo Paul wrote:

“Just purchased this recently and WOW! WOW! WOW!  Breathtaking work by Rebor.  Can’t find a single negative about this model.  Detail awesome.  Accuracy brilliant.  Paint and finish stunning.  Spent the first five days just staring at it.  Model comes with prey item accessory, which can be placed in its jaws or at its feet for maximum effect.  The eyes of the Acrocanthosaurus have been very cleverly depicted without pupils, in a translucent gold colour, and this works extremely well as you can imagine the Acro stealthily stalking its prey at dusk or during moonlight hours.  The Rebor range has all the quality of the super detailed polystone replicas, sometimes seen for sale without the megabucks price tag!  I can honestly see these super figurines increasing in value as they become more sought after!  Can’t wait to see what Rebor bring out next.”

The Object of “Paleo Paul’s” Affection – the Rebor 1:35 Scale Replica of Acrocanthosaurus “Hercules”

The Rebor Acrocanthosaurus atokensis model.

A great dinosaur model by Rebor (Acrocanthosaurus atokensis).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Team members at Everything Dinosaur enjoy receiving feedback from customers and we read every review and email that we receive.  It is always fun to read what discerning dinosaur fans think about their purchases.

To see the range of Rebor figures stocked by Everything Dinosaur, including the Acrocanthosaurus “Hercules” replica: The Rebor range of Prehistoric Animal Models

Praise for Everything Dinosaur’s Customer Service

It is not just the models that get rave reviews.  At Everything Dinosaur we try our best to help our customers, to advise them and we always strive to deliver top notch customer service.  Our attention to detail and helpful attitude did not go unnoticed by this reviewer, he added:

“An absolute pleasure to deal with the team at Everything Dinosaur.  They just make the whole ordering process so easy.”

It’s nice to know that are work is appreciated.

Beautiful Detail on the Rebor Acrocanthosaurus atokensis model

Great detail on the Rebor Acrocanthosaurus replica.

Wonderful detail on the Rebor Acrocanthosaurus model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur has published a total of 1,492 customer reviews on its website over the last three years.  A total of forty-six reviews for the Rebor range of models and replicas have been received so far.  Given the popularity of Rebor models a spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur stated that it was likely that Rebor would pass the half century mark for customer reviews before the entire site reached the landmark total of fifteen hundred.

The Prey Item Accessory

“The prey item accessory” referred to in the Acrocanthosaurus model review by Paleo Paul is the head, neck and partial torso of a Tenontosaurus, a contemporary of A. atokensis and it is quite likely that this large carnivore did indeed hunt and eat Tenontosaurus.  Recently, Rebor introduced the second element of the Acrocanthosaurus diorama, the rest of the Tenontosaurus corpse.

The Second Element in the “Hercules” Dinosaur Diorama – the Tenontosaurus Carcase

The Rebor Acrocanthosaurus and the Tenontosaurus.

The Rebor Tenontosaurus links with the Rebor Acrocanthosaurus replica.

Picture Credit: Rebor

The Tenontosaurus replica “Ceryneian Hind” – from the labours of Hercules, has already received rave reviews of its own.

Regular Everything Dinosaur customer Rhiannon reviewed this replica and stated:

“Beautifully produced, with a high visual impact.  Suitably grotesque, yet also sombre and very much worth adding to the Hercules piece.  Corpse models can really bring a set to life!  It’s such a beautiful model it also bodes very well for Rebor’s future Ornithischian lines.”

A third element to make this diorama complete will shortly be available from Everything Dinosaur.

Bird Wing Preserved in Amber

Early Bird Wings Preserved in Amber from Myanmar

A team of international scientists including researchers from Bristol University, have published research on two specimens of 99 million-year-old amber from Myanmar (called burmite), which have revealed the preserved remains of two tiny, baby birds.  The scientists conclude that these birds were active shortly after hatching (precocial) and that sadly they met their demise when they became trapped in sticky tree resin.

The Amber Has Preserved the Feathers in Exquisite Detail

Preserved in amber, the remains of a bird's wing.

The remains of the wing can be clearly made out trapped in the amber.

Picture Credit: Royal Saskatchewan Museum (R.C. McKellar)

The photograph above shows a close up of the feathers preserved in one of the burmite specimens.  The researchers led by Dr. Xing Lida (China University of Geosciences), along with colleagues from the USA, Canada and Professor Mike Benton from the School of Earth Sciences (Bristol University), have identified three long fingers, each tipped by a sharp and strongly curved claw, one of which can be seen in the top right of the picture above.

Amber fossils from Myanmar (formerly called Burma), have provided palaeontologists with a fascinating insight into life in the primordial forests of the Cretaceous.  In the spring, Everything Dinosaur published two articles regarding remarkable fossil discoveries which had only been possible due to fossil finds within burmite.  In one article, we reported on the potential origins of the malaria parasite, in the second we provided information regarding the discovery of the fossilised remains of tiny lizards.

To read about the evolutionary origins of the malaria: The Origins of Malaria Traced Back 100 Million Years

To read more about the lizard fossil discovery: Lizards Preserved in Amber

Although Burmese amber has produced fossils of isolated feathers, this is the first time in which portions of birds have been discovered.

One of the Fossil Specimens Has Been Nicknamed “Rose”

Enantiornithes wing and skin sections encased in amber.

Pieces of skin and parts of an ancient wing preserved in amber.

Picture Credit: Royal Saskatchewan Museum (R.C. McKellar)

Tiny Fossil Wings

The fossil wings are very small, between two and three centimetres long. the long, bony fingers can be made out along with the three digits on each wing.  The anatomy of the hand has allowed the scientists to identify these as members of the Enantiornithines (Enantiornithes), group of birds, a diverse clade of toothed birds that possessed prominent wing claws.  The Enantiornithines, thrived during the Cretaceous and some eighty species have been named, although a number are only known from single bones.  These birds became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous and they are thought not to have been very closely related to modern Aves (Neornithes).

Under High Magnification the Fine Details of the Feathers Can Be Clearly Made Out

Minute details on the feathers were preserved.

Tiny details on the feathers have been preserved. Ultra violet light and X-rays were used to analyse the fossil material.

Evidence of Precocial Behaviour in Enantiornithes

The two specimens have been nicknamed “Rose” and “Angel Wings”.  After careful polishing, the fossils were analysed using white light, UV light and powerful X-rays.

Commenting on the research, one of the authors of the paper published in the academic journal “Nature Communications”, Professor Mike Benton stated:

“These fossil wings show amazing detail.  The individual feathers show every filament and whisker, whether they are flight feathers or down feathers, and there are even traces of colour – spots and stripes.”

The scientists conclude that the birds, although babies were highly mobile.  This indicates that these birds were very well developed when they hatched and capable of being independent from their parents.  Sadly, their mobility seems to have been their downfall.   As the clambered around the branches and trunks of trees they became trapped in sticky tree resin.  Larger animals would have had the strength to pull free, but these youngsters were doomed.  The amber even preserves claw marks and scratches as the birds tried to pull themselves free.

A Desperate but Ultimately Doomed Struggle

Fossils from Myanmar show bird's wing.

Preserved in amber the wings of baby birds that once became trapped in tree resin.

Picture Credit: Chung-tat Cheung

The beautiful illustration above shows an imagined scene in which one of these young birds find itself trapped and unable to break free of the glue-like tree resin.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Xing Lida added:

“The fact that the tiny birds were clambering about in the trees suggests that they had advanced development, meaning they were ready for action as soon as they hatched [precocial].  These birds did not hang about in the nest waiting to be fed, but set off looking for food, and sadly died perhaps because of their small size and lack of experience.  Isolated feathers in other amber samples show that adult birds might have avoided the sticky sap, or pulled themselves free.”

Scientists Can Identify Different Pigments in the Fossilised Remains of the Feathers

Feathers preserved in Burmese amber.

Different pigments in the feathers can be made out quite clearly in this feather preserved in Burmese amber.

Researchers Hope to Learn More About Aves/Dinosaur Evolution

Exquisite details on the fossilised feathers can be made out.

Fine details of the fossilised feather can be clearly seen in the amber.

Picture Credit: Royal Saskatchewan Museum (R.C. McKellar)

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

The scientific paper from which this article is drawn: “Mummified precocial bird wings in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber” by Lida Xing, Ryan C. McKellar, Min Wang, Ming Bai, Jingmai K. O’Connor, Michael J. Benton, Jianping Zhang, Yan Wang, Kuowei Tseng, Martin G. Lockley, Gang Li, Weiwei Zhang and Xing Xu.

Abercrombie School and Dinosaurs

Abercrombie School Pupils Study Dinosaurs

Earlier this month, a member of the Everything Dinosaur team visited Abercrombie Primary School in Chesterfield (Derbyshire), as part of two days of science study with Year 2, 3, 4, 5 and Year 6.  Over the course of the workshops we conducted, we set a number of challenges for the classes.  One challenge was to have the children “design their very own prehistoric animal”, with a new dinosaur species being named, on average, every three weeks or so, there is plenty of scope for new dinosaurs.  Another challenge involved the children writing Everything Dinosaur a thank you letter, from our bulging mail bag on Friday, it looks like lots of the pupils at the school took up the opportunity to send in examples of their work.

A Collection of Very Colourful Prehistoric Animal Drawings

Schoolchildren send in dinosaur drawings.

Pupils from Abercrombie Primary sent in dinosaur drawings.

Picture Credit: Abercrombie Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

Our thanks to Henry, Daisy, Frasier, Sophie, Ebony, Daisy, Reuben, Lucy, Daniel, Ibrahim, Alfie, Holly, Noah and all the other children who sent in super prehistoric animal drawings, they are certainly very colourful.  The children have thought very carefully about their prehistoric animal designs, considering where the animal might live, what it might eat and how it would keep itself safe.

Joelasaurus by Henry

A dinosaur designed by a schoolchild.

A very colourful dinosaur drawing by Henry.

Picture Credit: Abercrombie Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

We enjoyed looking at all the prehistoric animal pictures that had been sent into us by the children.  Some of the dinosaur names the children had invented were very creative such as “Hungry eater steeler” from Leo and we even had a drawing of Indominus rex from the film Jurassic World.

Thank You Letters Sent to Everything Dinosaur

The hand-writing challenge involved composing a thank you letter to Everything Dinosaur and sure enough we received a set of beautiful and well written thank you letters, some of which had even been illustrated.

Thank You Letters Sent in by the Children (Abercrombie Primary School)

A set of thank you letters from a class.

Pupils sent in thank you letters to Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Abercrombie Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

Our thanks to Ali, Dexter, Oliver, Libby, Alice (yes, you are quite right fossils are usually found in sandstone and limestone), Erin and Harry (wonderful dinosaur skull drawing).

Isobel wanted to know how long have we been looking for fossils?  Everything Dinosaur team members found their first fossils when they were not much older than Georgia or Felix.  Louie wrote to say that he was sorry to have missed all the dinosaurs as he had been ill but he did send in a nice letter and even took the trouble to draw some dinosaur eggs.

Cole Sent in a Beautiful Thank You Letter

Abercrombie Primary children sent in letters to Everything Dinosaur.

A thank you letter from a pupil at Abercrombie Primary.

Picture Credit: Abercrombie Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

The question was asked, how do you get fossils?  Fossil can be found in lots of places but most fossils are found in rocks and one of the best places to find them is at the seaside.  Arthur wrote in to say that his favourite part was holding the Tyrannosaurus rex tooth and he also liked the stickers we gave him.

A special thank you to all the children at Abercrombie Primary who sent in letters and pictures.

Mexico City Mammoth Find

Digging for Drains Unearths Columbian Mammoth

Back in December 2015, a routine drain excavation taking place north of Mexico City was halted when the fossilised remains of a giant Woolly Mammoth were uncovered.  Such finds are relatively common in this part of Mexico, a number of specimens of the Columbian Mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) have been discovered in recent years as the metropolitan area of Mexico has expanded.  The Columbian Mammoth roamed much of North America during the Pleistocene Epoch, its fossils have been found over most parts of the United States and it has been recorded as far south as Costa Rica.  Scientists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia), in Mexico, have been working to excavate the fossils including an exquisitely preserved skull with two-metre long tusks.

The Skull and Tusks Wrapped in Plaster and Burlap Ready for Removal from the Dig Site

Columbian mammoth fossils found near Mexico City.

The Columbian Mammoth fossils found near Mexico City being prepared for removal from the dig site.

Picture Credit: AFP

This Mammoth is believed to have died around 14,000 years ago, when it became bogged down in mud surrounding a shallow lake.  Around fifty individuals have been found around Mexico City, it seems that these large elephants (Columbian Mammoths were considerably bigger than their more famous counterparts, the Woolly Mammoth, M. primigenius), were prone to getting stuck in mud, the site where the remains were found, near the village of Tultepec was once covered by a shallow lake, animals were attracted to this area and occasionally a Mammoth would have become stuck in the mud that surrounded the water.  Field team members working to remove the bones have suggested that the scattered remains may indicate that the carcase was butchered by humans for meat.  However, Everything Dinosaur team members have not been informed of the discovery of any tell-tale cut marks found on the bones.  The carcase could have become scattered as a result of other animals trampling the bones.

Field Team Members Work to Excavate Individual Bones

A field team member working on a Columbian Mammoth fossil.

Remains of a Columbian Mammoth found near Mexico City.

Picture Credit: Reuters

Back in 2009, Everything Dinosaur reported on the opening of a major exhibit at Waco in Texas which provided members of the public access to a Columbian Mammoth dig site where the remains of more than a dozen of these elephants had been discovered.

To read more about this: Prehistoric Mammoth Site Opens to the Public

Commenting on the discovery, archaeologist Luis Cordoba from the National Institute of Anthropology and History explained that these fossils were found some two metres below ground and they represent an animal that would have been between 20 and 25 years of age when it died.  The skeleton, although disarticulated is almost complete and it is in a remarkable state of preservation.  It is hoped that the specimen will be able to go on display to the public once it has been fully prepared.

Archaeologist Luis Cordoba (National Institute of Anthropology and History)

One of the vertebrae from a Columbian Mammoth.

Luis Cordoba holding a dorsal vertebra from a Columbian Mammoth.

Picture Credit: AFP

Ancestry of the Columbian Mammoth

It is likely that the Columbian Mammoth is descended from the Steppe Mammoth (M. trogontherii).  Mammoths crossed the Bering Straits land bridge (Beringia), entering the New World from Asia around 1.5 million years ago.  The very last of these Mammoths may have lived as recently as 11,000 years ago.  It is not known what role human hunting played in their extinction.

JurassicCollectables Reviews the Papo Feathered Velociraptor

The Papo Feathered Velociraptor Model Reviewed

The talented people at JurassicCollectables have made a video review of the new for 2016 Papo feathered Velociraptor dinosaur model, for us this was the last of the 2016 models to arrive and it is certainly a case of last but not least as this is bound to be a big hit with feathered dinosaur replica fans. In the short video, it lasts a little over nine and a half minutes, the JurassicCollectables narrator reviews this new model and compares and contrasts this “raptor” with earlier Papo models.  Papo have certainly done a great job of recreating “speedy thief”.

JurassicCollectables – Papo Feathered Velociraptor Video Review

Video Credit: JurassicCollectables

JurassicCollectables have produced video reviews of every single prehistoric animal and dinosaur replica that Papo have made, to view these videos and to subscribe to their brilliant YouTube channel: Subscribe to JurassicCollectables on YouTube

The Papo Green Velociraptor Dinosaur Model and the Feathered Velociraptor Side by Side

Two Papo Velociraptor models are compared.

Papo Velociraptor model size comparison.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Great Video Review of the Papo Feathered Velociraptor Model

In this great video, the narrator gives a detailed review of this new for 2016 sculpt.  It is compared with other Papo models and we really liked the description of that wide opening articulated jaw as a “butterfly jaw”, that’s a fantastic description.  Look out for the CollectA Mosasaur model that can be seen at the end of the video.

To see the range of Papo prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur (including the Papo Feathered Velociraptor): Papo Prehistoric Animals

The Papo Feathered Velociraptor Model (Close Up of the Head)

The Papo Feathered Dinosaur Model

A close look at the Papo feathered Velociraptor dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows one of our studio shots of the new for 2016  Papo Feathered Velociraptor.  JurassicCollectables comment extensively about this new replica and they stress how the skull of this replica more accurately reflects the skull fossils of the Velociraptor genus.

The narrator comments:

“I think this [the Papo feathered Velociraptor model] is incredible!  Papo have excelled in terms of detail and paint job.”

The feathery coat is really well done and we too at Everything Dinosaur would like to congratulate the designers at Papo for making such a fascinating and intriguing replica.

In Everything Dinosaur’s annual survey of the most popular prehistoric animal models, Velociraptor had climbed to number two in our chart.  We suspect that this was because of the influence of the film “Jurassic World”, as Velociraptors play a significant part and perhaps have almost as much, if not more screen time than the Indominus rex.

To read an article about the top five most popular prehistoric animals in our annual survey: Everything Dinosaur’s Annual Prehistoric Animal Survey

This new feathered Velociraptor model is a welcome addition to the Papo range and it will prove popular with dinosaur fans and collectors alike.  For more information on this replica, don’t forget to check out the amazing JurassicCollectables video and to subscribe to their YouTube channel: Subscribe to JurassicCollectables and YouTube

Scientists “Root Out” Oldest Plant Root Cells

Oldest Plant Roots Identified

Scientists from Oxford University and the Departamento de Biología Molecular de Plantas, Instituto de Biotecnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (Mexico), have identified the oldest known population of plant root cells in a 320 million-year-old fossil.  This study, published as an on line, open access article, highlights the importance of historical collections such as the Oxford University Herbaria, which as part of the University’s Plant Sciences Department, houses an extensive botany collection, with some specimens within the archive over 300 years old.

A Slide Showing Preserved Plant Remains from the Oxford University Herbaria Collection

Carboniferous root structures preserved in a thin slice (slide)

A slide made over 100 years ago preserves evidence of fossilised root structures.

Picture Credit: Oxford University Herbaria

The picture above shows a thin soil slice prepared on a slide over 100 years ago and part of the Oxford University Herbaria collection.  The fossilised soil is estimated to be around 320 million-years-old and shows the cellular anatomy of plants which were growing and decaying in the fossil soil underlying the Carboniferous coal swamp forests.

The scientists have not only revealed the oldest plant root stem cells found to date, the research also marks the first time an actively growing fossilised root has been discovered and it shows that plant root cell division in the past may have been more diverse than today.

Roots and Shoots – Getting to the Root of the Problem

The roots and shoots of plants develop from specialised groups of cells called meristems.  These self renew and produce cells that undergo differentiation.  The organisation of these cells changes when growth stops, so up until this research was published, it was impossible to compare the fossil record with the cellular structure of actively growing meristems.  Using slides from the Oxford University Herbaria that represent thin sections of fossilised soils taken from Carboniferous coal balls, researchers were able to identify the fossilised remains of an actively growing root meristem and examine in detail the stem cells and their structure.  They found that the cellular organisation of the fossilised root tip is unique.  Roots and shoots of ancient plants from the Carboniferous may have grown in a broadly similar way to modern plants such as the angiosperms (flowering plants), but the unique cellular order and structure demonstrates that the meristem growth we find today may only represent a proportion of the root and shoot growth diversity that once existed.  This research indicates that some of the biological processes and systems controlling the root development of plants have now become extinct.

A Highly Magnified Image Showing the Growing Root Apex Assigned to the Species Radix carbonica

The holotype fossil of Radix caronica (growing root).

The dark horseshoe-shaped structure is the root cap protecting the growing root apex as it pushes through the soil.

Picture Credit: Oxford University Herbaria

The structures preserved in the fossil record are similar to those found in extant species, but they are different, they represent a unique cellular arrangement not known in modern plants.

Commenting on the study, one of the authors of the paper, Oxford Plant Sciences PhD student Alexander (Sandy) Hetherington stated:

‘I was examining one of the fossilised soil slides held at the University Herbaria as part of my research into the rooting systems of ancient trees when I noticed a structure that looked like the living root tips we see in plants today.  I began to realise that I was looking at a population of 320 million-year-old plant stem cells preserved as they were growing – and that it was the first time anything like this had ever been found.  It gives us a unique window into how roots developed hundreds of millions of years ago.’

The First Global Tropical Wetland Forests

The fossil soil slides and the root structures they contain are extremely important as they provide a record of our planet’s first global tropical wetland forests.  The Carboniferous swamps and wetlands were to form the extensive coal deposits found in much of the world today, including most of the coal in the United Kingdom, exploitation of which fuelled the industrial revolution.  From a biological point of view, these huge, lycopsid (club mosses), pteridosperm (seed fern) and sphenopsid (horsetails) dominated forests represent the first time deep rooting structures evolved on Earth.  These root systems increased the rate of chemical weathering of the silicate minerals in rocks, a chemical reaction that pulled carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, leading to a period of global cooling – climate change on a worldwide scale.  Of the 139 slides studied, two root caps were identified.  The first was assigned to a known species Lyginopteris oldhamia, a seed fern (pteridosperm), the second was an unknown species, this has been named Radix carbonica, this translates as “coal root”.

Professor Liam Dolan, (Department Head of Plant Sciences, Oxford University) and lead author of the academic paper, explained:

“These fossils demonstrate how the roots of these ancient plants grew for the first time.  It is startling that something so small could have had such a dramatic effect on the Earth’s climate.  This discovery also shows the importance of collections such as the Oxford University Herbaria, they are so valuable, and we need to maintain them for future generations.”

A Highly Magnified Image Showing the Root Cellular Structure

A close up of the fossilised root structure (Radix carbonica).

Fossilised root structure preserves record of ancient root growth.

Picture Credit: Oxford University Herbaria

From examining the size and number of cells which radiate out from the tip the researchers were able to establish that the root was actively growing at the time it was fossilised.  This makes the finding the first and only discovery to date of the fossilised remains of an actively growing root meristem.

The Root Growth of Radix carbonica is Unique Compared to Living Plant Root Meristems

The schematic diagram below shows the cellular organisation of a typical member of the gymnosperm group (conifers, ginkgos and cycads).  The colours show various major tissue types within the meristem.

Mapping the Evolution of Root Systems

The origin of root evolution in the Plantae.

New study suggests different types of root growth in plants took place in the past.

Picture Credit: Current Biology with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The diagram above shows (A and C) the meristem of a typical gymnosperm, compared with (B and D) the meristem of Radix carbonica.

Yellow = the root cap

Pink = the promeristem (yellow lines in the R. carbonica promeristem indicate the positions of anticlinal cell divisions within the promeristem)

Orange = ground tissue

Blue = epidermis

Green = procambium

A simplified cladogram showing the hypothesised origin of roots based on this new study (E).  The meristems of different types of lycopsids are compared to the evolution of ferns, gymnosperms and the path towards the flowing plants (angiosperms), that evolved later.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of a press release from the press team at Oxford University in the compilation of this article.

The paper “Unique Cellular Organization in the Oldest Root Meristem”  is published in Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.04.072

JurassicCollectables Reviews Rebor “Sentry”

A Review of the Rebor Compsognathus “Sentry” by JurassicCollectables

Those clever people at JurassicCollectables have just published a video unboxing and review of the Rebor Compsognathus model “Sentry”.  In this informative five minute video, the Compsognathus replica and the accompanying dragonfly model (Protolindenia) are reviewed in turn and then a number of other Rebor replicas are featured demonstrating how many of the Rebor models can be customised to make intriguing dioramas.

Jurassic Collectables Reviews the 1:6 Scale Rebor Compsognathus “Sentry”

Video credit: JurassicCollectables

JurassicCollectables have produced video reviews of a number of prehistoric animal models that Rebor have made, to see these videos and to subscribe to their excellent YouTube channel: Subscribe to JurassicCollectables on YouTube

Rebor “Sentry” Compsognathus 1:6 Scale Replica

The narrator compares this 1:6 scale replica of this Jurassic dinosaur to the compsognathids that were depicted in the second of the Jurassic Park movies “The Lost World”, which came out in 1997 and was the second highest grossing movie that year behind Titanic.  In the film, the small but agile compsognathids are social animals that live in a flock and they attack a young girl before gaining even more notoriety by fatally attacking one of the InGen team members Dieter Stark, played by Peter Stormare.  It seems that in the “Lost World” even tiny dinosaurs can be extremely dangerous when they are hungry.

One of the Compsognathus Dinosaurs from the Film “The Lost World”

A young girl encounters Compsognathus

One of the compsognathid dinosaurs from “The Lost World” film (1997).

Picture Credit: Universal Pictures

The compsognathids from the film have certainly inspired the model makers at Rebor.  Their compsognathids “Sentry” and the four model set “Bad Company” due to be reviewed by JurassicCollectables shortly, are very similar to those seen in the movie.  In the video review, the narrator points out several similarities and there is much to be admired about this Rebor 1:6 scale replica.

To view the complete range of Rebor replicas including the new “Sentry” and “Bad Company” Compsognathus figures: Rebor Replicas and Figures

One of the Compsognathus 1:6 Scale Replicas from Rebor

Rebor 1:6 scale Compsognathus model

One of the amazing Compsognathus models from Rebor available from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We have been most impressed with the Compsognathus models made by Rebor.  It is rare to see such fine detail in a dinosaur model and they really are exquisite.  The video review from JurassicCollectables permits viewers to get a good close up view of a potential purchase, to view the model before deciding to buy.  It is great to see the dragonfly component also sharing the limelight, this is a wonderful model and it demonstrates the care and attention to detail that Rebor have instilled into their production process.”

JurassicCollectables show a number of ways in which components from “Sentry” can be combined with other replicas in the Rebor range.  Elements from “Sentry” are shown with “Melon”, the baby Stegosaurus in the Scout series as well as with the Dimorphodon pair (Punch and Judy) and the base from the “Savage” Ceratosaurus 1:35 scale model.

Both the JurassicCollectables YouTube channel and the Rebor replicas are highly recommended.

Class 1 and Class 2 Explore Dinosaurs

A Return Visit to Thorpe Hesley Primary School

A busy morning for Everything Dinosaur, as one of their team members made a return visit to Thorpe Hesley Primary (Rotherham, south Yorkshire), to work with the two classes of Year 1 children who have been spending the summer term learning all about dinosaurs.  This is a topic that the children in previous years have covered, one of the classrooms had a wonderful paper mâché Triceratops on display.

A Large Model of a Triceratops on Display in the Classroom

A big dinosaur model made by Year 1 children.

A Triceratops on display.

Picture Credit: Thorpe Hesley Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

In the tidy and well appointed classrooms, the enthusiastic teaching team had been preparing a range of very creative activities for the budding palaeontologists to try on their special dinosaur day.  Our workshops aimed to reinforce learning as well as to introduce different types of dinosaurs to the children.  Could they remember all the dinosaur facts?

Handling Fossils

The children in Class 1 and Class 2 (Key Stage 1), had the opportunity to handle fossils and their super quick reactions ensured that both classes won some dinosaur stickers.  We look forward to seeing how the pupils got on with the “design a dinosaur challenge” that we set them, can they label all the body parts including the skull?  We noted that an area of one classroom had been set aside so that a special dinosaur museum could be created, we think this would be a great place to exhibit some of the children’s prehistoric animal themed work.

Lots of Dinosaur Habitats on Show in the Classrooms

Year 1 children explore dinosaur habitats.

Exploring dinosaur habitats.

Picture Credit: Thorpe Hesley Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

Herbivores and Carnivores

We looked at herbivores and carnivores and explored how many Year 1 children could fit inside the tummy of a really big dinosaur.  In addition, the extra resources our dinosaur expert provided should help the children gain confidence with numbers as a couple of the extension exercises involve measuring and counting.  We even spotted some dinosaurs in the play area used by the Nursery.  Our dinosaur expert felt quite at home with all the dinosaurs and prehistoric animal themed displays at the school.

Spotting Dinosaurs in the Nursery Play Area

Three dinosaurs in a triangle shape.

A triangle shape filled with dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Thorpe Hesley Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

That is a lovely group of plant-eating dinosaurs, can the children name them?

Sadly, all too soon our time was up and it was lunch.  The children had lots of questions and we did not have time to answer them all, so with the permission of the teaching team we challenged the children to write us a thank you letter and if they did, they could include a question if they wanted.  We made a “pinkie palaeontologist” promise to read them all.  As the summer term progresses, soon it will be time for sports day, we sported some equipment close by to the well-stocked resources cupboard and we wondered could the children be using dinosaur eggs for the egg and spoon race?

Could the Children Use Dinosaur Eggs for the Egg and Spoon Race?

Preparing for the dinosaur egg and spoon race

Dinosaur eggs for the egg and spoon race?

Picture Credit: Thorpe Hesley Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

Glad we were able to help the children explore prehistoric animals with a dinosaur themed workshop.

Very Big Dinosaurs Bring Very Big Problems

Museum of Palaeontology Egidio Feruglio Expansion Plans

The Museum of Palaeontology Egidio Feruglio (Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio), located in the city of Trelew in the Chubut Province of Patagonia (Argentina), has announced plans to expand.  Expansion is needed as this regional museum is going to be home to the world’s largest dinosaur, a Titanosaur whose fossilised remains featured in the BBC/National Geographic documentary “Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur” which aired in January this year.

The museum was founded in 1990 and to begin with it operated with just three employees and a relatively small collection, however, after a number of important fossil discoveries in the area, the museum’s catalogue has increased substantially.  The 2011 discovery of the fossilised remains of seven giant, herbivorous dinosaurs at a location nick-named the “graveyard of giants”, really helped to put the city of Trelew and its museum on the map and in a press release, communications and marketing director Florencia Gigena explained that the cohort of scientists would increase to sixty-five by 2020.

Filming the Fossil Dig for the Documentary Programme

The giant Titanosaur dig site.

Filming the documentary “Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur”.

Picture Credit: Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio

A Giant Hall for a Giant Dinosaur

The museum intends to greatly enlarge its current exhibition space and to build an adjoining university campus that will accommodate up to twenty students.  This will help with preparation work and provide a ready source of willing volunteers for field work as well as giving the students the opportunity to work in close association with a commercial museum.  In addition, a giant hall will be constructed to house the Titanosaur exhibit.  The American Museum of Natural History (New York), already has an enormous replica of the largest Titanosaur from the fossil quarry.  This exhibit measures thirty-seven metres in length.  It is so large that part of the head and neck of the American mount sticks out of the main gallery.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum of Palaeontology Egidio Feruglio

Sir David Attenborough prepares for the next take.

Behind the scenes during the Titanosaur filming.

Picture Credit: Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio

The picture above shows, presenter Sir David Attenborough and the film crew preparing to film the giant 2.4 metre long thigh bone (femur) of the giant Titanosaur.  With so many Titanosaur fossil bones to study, (over two hundred), the Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio had to expand, the existing facilities were simply not large enough to house the fossils of a dinosaur that could have weighed as much as a dozen African elephants.

To read more about the Titanosaur fossil discovery: Biggest Dinosaur of All – A New South American Contender!

To learn more about the Titanosaur documentary: Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur

Giant Titanosaur Needs a Name

The giant Titanosaur has yet to be formally described and no genus name has been erected yet.  A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur explained that a scientific paper on this remarkable fossil find was likely to be published soon and that the name of this new dinosaur would probably reflect the local area in which the fossils were found.  As part of the company’s outreach work in schools, Everything Dinosaur sets a challenge to school children to try and work out a name for this massive, plant-eating Cretaceous reptile.

To view an article about our work with schools and this giant Titanosaur: Biggest Dinosaur Needs a Name

Everything Dinosaur staff have been lucky enough to visit the Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio, it is a splendid regional museum and it houses more than giant titanosaurid fossils.  For example, the museum sets out to tell the story of life on Earth and as well as a very diverse collection of dinosaur fossils from Patagonia, the museum is also home to a range of Palaeozoic specimens including ancient insects.  The Cenozoic is well represented too, with a number of excellent examples of Pleistocene mammals on display.

Everything Dinosaur is delighted to hear of the Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio expansion and we wish this wonderful museum every success.

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