Year 2 Send Thank You Letters to Everything Dinosaur

Schoolchildren Say Thanks after Dinosaur Workshop

Earlier this month, a team member from Everything Dinosaur visited Southglade Primary School to deliver a dinosaur workshop in support of Year two’s study topic all about dinosaurs.  As part of our follow up support for the teaching team, we discussed extension ideas and emailed over further resources to assist the enthusiastic teachers with their scheme of work.

One of the things discussed was to encourage the children with their writing by asking them to write a thank you letter to Everything Dinosaur.  Sure enough, a couple of days ago we received a big envelope  from Mrs Hyland containing a super set of letters.  We have enjoyed reading them all and we have posted them up onto a notice board in our warehouse.

What a Lot of Thank You Letters we Received!

Year 2 pupils send in thank you letters to Everything Dinosaur.

Year 2 pupils send in thank you letters to Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Southglade Primary School

 The children had taken great care in how they laid out their letters.  There was lots of proper addressing on display, some super, clear writing as well as effective use of punctuation.  Many of the children had incorporated some amazing vocabulary as well, words like “appreciate” and “sincerely” occasionally trip us up, so to see them used in a letter from a seven year old and spelled correctly too was fantastic!

Lots of Fantastic Letters to Read

Thank you note from Alina.

Thank you note from Alina.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Alina

Dinosaur Mike who visited the school to conduct the dinosaur and fossil themed workshop exclaimed:

“We had so many letters from the children that we had to find a big space in our warehouse to lay them all out so we could take a photograph.  My colleagues and I really enjoyed reading them and I was delighted to see just how many facts that Year 2 had remembered.”

Keira, Aiden, Ella, Amr, Joy and Theo liked looking at the fossil teeth best, whilst Jude, Alex, Grace and Ewan enjoyed learning all about Triceratops.  For Tyler and Lexi-Mai they were delighted to hear all about Tylosaurus and Lexivosaurus, prehistoric animals that have names that are like their own.

Dinosaur Themed Thank You Letter

A thank you letter from Year 2.

A thank you letter from Year 2.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Aimee

Jayden, the other little boy called Theo, Milly, Kai and Demi-Lea all wanted to know whether Everything Dinosaur will be coming back to their school to teach about dinosaurs and fossils.

Young Aimee wrote:

“Thank you for travelling to our school from a long way away today.  I was excited because we all love dinosaurs.  The fossils that we touched all felt cold and hard and I liked moving around making gigantic steps just like a dinosaur.”

Ezekiel, Gracie-Jai, Amira and  Shantel asked how our dinosaur expert came to know so much about dinosaurs?  That’s easy, he had a really enthusiastic teacher at school just like the children in Year 2.

Giant Triassic Amphibian of the Algarve

Metoposaurus algarvensis – Triassic Predator the Size of a Door

Portugal may have earned a deserved reputation for being the Jurassic dinosaur fossil capital of Europe, but more ancient sediments provide equally fascinating insights into life on our planet just as the Dinosauria were beginning to diversify and dominate terrestrial ecosystems.  Step forward (or more appropriately waddle forward), Metoposaurus algarvensis a new species added to the Metoposaurus genus described from a bone bed found in the Algarve region of southern Portugal.  A team of international scientists which include Dr. Steve Brusatte (University of Edinburgh) and J. Sébastien Steyer (Centre de Recherches en Paléobiodiversité et Paléoenvironnements, Paris), Dr.Richard Butler (Birmingham University) and Professor Octávio Mateus (Museu da Lourinhã, Portugal) have been studying the fossilised remains of several individuals that apparently died together when their lake dried up.

A Pair of Super-sized Amphibians Await Their Fate as the Lake Dries Up

Two metre long amphibious predator.

Two metre long amphibious predator.

Picture Credit: Joana Bruno

Metoposaurid fossils are known from Europe, Africa, North America and India, although this is the first time fossils relating to this genus have been discovered in the Iberian peninsula.  Some of the fossil specimens indicate that these amphibians reached lengths in excess of two metres and the shape of the skull along with other anatomical differences between the Portuguese fossils and other material known from Poland and Germany has permitted a new species to be erected.  The bone bed that contains the remains of numerous individuals, ten skulls have been excavated so far, was discovered more than thirty years ago, but not properly mapped and explored until 2009 when the dig site was relocated.  Although, these predators superficially resemble a modern salamander, scientists debate whether the Order Temnospondyli which the metoposaurids are part of, are actually closely related to extant amphibians.

The Scientists at Work Excavating the Bone Bed

Scientists carefully extract blocks containing fossil material.

Scientists carefully extract blocks containing fossil material.

Picture Credit: Steve Brusatte/Richard Butler/ Octávio Mateus/J. Sébastien Steyer

Although the mouth was large and lined with many sharp teeth, the thick-set body was supported by relatively weak limbs.  It is very likely that M. algarvensis spent a great deal of time in water, the fossils of these large amphibians are associated with strata laid down in lake or river environments (lacustrine and fluvial environments).  These animals were probably ambush predators catching fish with rapid movements of their large mouths from side to side.  They may also have ambushed unsuspecting small creatures, even some small early dinosaurs as these animals came down to the waters edge to drink.  They would have been very capable swimmers but the small legs would have made movement on land rather clumsy and awkward.

Three European species of Metoposaurus have now been described (M. diagnosticus from Germany,  M. krasiejowensis from Poland and M. algarvensis from Portugal).  Some of the German fossil specimens indicate amphibians approaching 3 metres in length, however, the majority of the Temnospondyls became extinct by the end of the Triassic.  The Portuguese bone bed evidence further supports the theory that these large animals were confined to very wet habitats with lots of freshwater and therefore the sort of areas that these creatures could live in was much more restricted when compared to the rapidly evolving reptiles such as the crocodiles and the Dinosauria.

As an Order, the Temnospondyls probably evolved sometime in the early Carboniferous and their fossils represent some of the most widely distributed terrestrial fossils recorded in Permian/Triassic strata.  Their global range seems to have been limited to low latitudes during the Middle to Late Triassic, a distribution similar to but not identical to the Phytosaurs (crocodile-like reptiles that most probably become extinct at the end of the Triassic).  Phytosaurs are Archosauriforms and provide plenty of evidence that the long-snouted, fish grabbing, swimming predator form has evolved in lots of different types of animal over the course of the history of our planet.  Their more primitive ankle configuration (when compared to extant crocodiles), did not prevent the Phytosaurs from evolving into a myriad of different forms.

However, apart from some controversial fossils, which most scientists claim are Late Triassic and not Early Jurassic the Phytosaurs along with most of the Temnospondyls were extinct by around 200 million years ago.  However, viewers of the seminal television series “Walking with Dinosaurs” will remember that in programme five “Spirits of the Silent Forest”, which focused on life in the southern polar regions around 106 million years ago, a Koolasuchus makes an appearance.    Two fossil jaws found in Victoria, Australia suggest that at least one type of Temnospondyl survived into the Cretaceous.

William Smith Map – Re-discovered

Founding Father of Geology and His Remarkable Map

One of the very first editions of arguably one of the most significant maps in the history of the study of our planet has been re-discovered.  A pristine copy of William Smith’s 1815 map of the geology of England, Wales and parts of Scotland has been found in the archives of the Geological Society (London).  It seems that the map was placed in storage, carefully sealed inside a leather wallet but just where in the vast archive it was stored had not been recorded.  Ironic really, when you consider the dedication and attention to detail shown by Smith, the son of a blacksmith who so meticulously mapped the strata of most of the British Isles.

The archives of the Geological Society are vast, after all, it is the oldest body of its kind in the world (founded in 1807).  This year marks the bicentenary of the publication of William Smith’s great geological survey, only about 370 or thereabouts were ever produced and with this re-discovery, it is estimated that at least seventy are still in existence, not bad considering this map first went into production in the same year as the battle of Waterloo.  It is believed that this particular copy last saw the light of day around forty years ago.

Indexing the map, which comprises of fifteen sections would not have been easy.  It was customary in Georgian times to use very long titles for scientific publications, a trend that in some academic institutions still exists today.  Try cataloguing a map with the catchy title of:

“A  Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales with part of Scotland, exhibiting the collieries and mines, the marshes and fen lands originally overflowed by the sea, and the varieties of soil according to the variations in the substrata, illustrated by the most descriptive names by W. Smith.”

It is thought that William Smith, nick-named “strata-Smith” by his contemporaries spent fifteen years travelling the United Kingdom and carefully recording the rock formations exposed on the surface of the land.  His map when published, helped land owners and mining companies exploit this nation’s natural resources as the map helped surveyors identify potential areas for drainage, sites for new building work and most importantly which layers of strata indicated the presence of coal seams nearby.

Commenting on the discovery, John Henry (Chairman of the Geological Society’s History of Geology Group), stated:

“It just wasn’t where people expected it to be.  I guess the person who put it away knew where it was, but then they left and that was it, it became lost.”

Having been hidden away in the archives the map, which was printed from copper plate engravings with the details painted in with water colours, has not faded and the colours depicted are as vivid today as when the map was first completed.  Archivists are puzzling over just what number in the sequence of maps produced might this copy be?  There is the exquisite hand finished painting with the lower edge of each formation saturated and then the paint is faded to indicate the formation’s edge, a technique used by Smith to make his maps easier to read, but the map itself, unlike later editions, has no serial number.

Geologists are aware that the very first maps produced were not numbered.  Another clue as to just when this map was made can be seen in how the geology of the Isle of Wight is depicted.  Over the production period of Smith’s map, the way in which the geology of the Isle of Wight was shown changed several times.  This map shows a very early effort to map the geology of the island.  All this suggests that this particular example of cartography might be amongst the first dozen or so ever produced.

A Clue to the Age of the Map – The Strata of the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight illustrations suggests an early print.

The Isle of Wight illustrations suggests an early print.

Picture Credit: The Geological Society (London)

The Geological Society has had the map fully restored and digitised.  As from today, it will be available to view on line on the Geological Society’s website.  This copy of the map itself will be stored back in the archives, this time properly catalogued.  A paper copy of the “Smith map” will be put on display in Burlington House, (London) the home of the Geological Society.

The Beautifully Illustrated Geological Map of the Cotswolds (William Smith)

Beautifully illustrated geological map.

Beautifully illustrated geological map.

Picture Credit: The Geological Society (London)

To see the map and other important geological images on line: The Picture Library of the Geological Society

Now, we at Everything Dinosaur don’t want to be cynical but today, March 23rd, is the anniversary of the birth of William Smith.  He was born on this day in 1769 in the county of Oxfordshire.  We think the timing of this announcement regarding the re-discovery has a lot to do with publicising an event taking place later on today, when Sir David Attenborough will be unveiling a plaque in tribute to the “Father of English Geology” at his former London residence – 15 Buckingham Street.  During his life, as William Smith strived to forge a reputation amongst academics, his lowly beginnings as the son of a blacksmith meant that his views and findings were often disregarded by those who perceived themselves to be of a higher class.  Class distinctions blighted the lives of many pioneers in geology and palaeontology during the Georgian and Victorian times.  However, William Smith and his contribution to our understanding of the world is now recognised and his map of England, Wales and parts of Scotland remains one of the most significant maps ever produced.

Why was the Map So Important?

The map certainly helped landowners and that part of Georgian society that owned mines.  It helped stoke (literally) the Industrial Revolution but it did something else, as William Smith traversed the British Isles making his map, he noticed that certain types of sedimentary rock, although far apart contained the same types of fossils.  We shall let John Henry explain just how significant this realisation was:

“The concept which enabled him to do the mapping and that drove him along almost obsessively was this realisation that specific fossils were unique to a specific stratum, and that you knew where you were in a sequence if you could see what the fossils were.  That was the breakthrough.  People had been collecting them for a long time and naming them in the Linnaean way, but without any real idea that they were in a sequence.  But Smith knew it.”

Smith explored the deep excavations taking place as canals and other major works were being constructed and found that he could correlate apparently dissimilar and geographically dispersed strata based on the fact that they contained similar fossils.  Going up through the strata, William Smith observed a succession of different fossils and proposed that each stage of this succession represented a specific period in the history of the Earth.  This is termed the “principle of faunal succession”.  In this way, the relative age of rocks could be determined and the types of fossils that characterise strata led to the concept of biostratigraphy.  Smith developed and built on the idea of a Law of Superposition, postulated by the great scientist Nicolas (sometimes spelled as Nicolaus), Steno in the 17th Century.

To read more about the work of Nicolas Steno: Google Doodle Commemorates Nicolas Steno

The 1815 Geological Map of England, Wales and Parts of Scotland

Can you see the geology in your part of the world?

Can you see the geology in your part of the world?

Picture Credit: The Geological Society (London)

Originally produced as a map in fifteen sheet sections, the geological map of the British Isles (most of it) measures approximately 180 cm by 250 cm.  We at Everything Dinosaur, don’t know why northern Scotland was not mapped by Smith, we suspect it was much more difficult to travel the highlands and islands of northern Scotland and during the early 19th Century, there was simply not the demand for detailed geological maps of that part of the British Isles.

Spring Low Tides Uncover French Dinosaur Footprints

The Dinosaur Footprints at Veillon Beach (Vendée)

The low tides brought about as a result of the spring equinox has exposed a remarkable series of Early Jurassic trace fossils, giving residents of the town of Talmont-Saint-Hilaire the chance to go “Walking with Dinosaurs”.  The exceptional low tides on France’s North Atlantic coast have revealed 200 million year old footprints as well as ripple marks preserved in the mudstone and sandstone which were laid down at the very beginning of the Jurassic (Hettangian faunal stage).  The site represents an estuary, or shallow bay area and this was criss-crossed by many different types of dinosaurs.  Hundreds of footprints have been recorded, a large number have been removed to prevent further damage by erosion, but at very low tides, especially in the spring when the seaweed and algae growth is not extensive, many three-toed prints can still be seen.

“Walking with Dinosaurs” – Some of the Footprints Revealed at Low Tide

One of the many three-toed prints that can be seen at very low tide.

One of the many three-toed prints that can be seen at very low tide.

Picture Credit: GeoWiki

The site was discovered in 1963 by a local engineer and chemist Gilbert Bessonnat, but it was not until March 1965 when a team of French palaeontologists mapped the area in earnest that the full significance of the location was revealed.  The mapping project begun on March 19th that year, taking advantage of the very low tide associated with the spring equinox, allowed the scientists to discover what has turned out to be the largest single concentration of dinosaur ichnofauna in the whole of France.  Dinosaur trace fossils from the Lower Jurassic are exceptionally rare, the site is protected and no fossil collecting is allowed.  After all, the sandstones and mudstones preserved here record terrestrial life shortly after the End Triassic extinction event, those footprints were made some fifty million years before the likes of Stegosaurus and Diplodocus and other iconic Jurassic dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

In all, about a dozen different ichnospecies have been identified, including large and small Theropods.  Some footprints may not represent dinosaurs, for example, some trace fossils have been assigned to the Order Rauisuchia and ascribed to the Postosuchus genus (a type of ancient, terrestrial Crocodylomorph).  Ichnospecies associated with the site include: Eubrontes veillonensis tentatively described as a Megalosaur, Talmontopus tersi which could be a bipedal Ornithischian dinosaur and several dinosaurs assigned to the coelophysids (ichnogenus Grallator).

It seems that low tides on the North Atlantic coast of France, are providing scientists with a unique opportunity to learn about life in the Early Jurassic, well at least over the spring and autumn equinox anyway.

A Close Up of One of the Many Hundreds of Dinosaur Footprints Preserved at the Site

This print has been assigned to the ichnospecies Eubrontes.

This print has been assigned to the ichnospecies Eubrontes.

Picture Credit: GeoWiki

The Crocodile Problem of Costa Rica

Latest Attack on Surfer Highlights Growing Crocodile Problem

The number of crocodiles inhabiting the mangrove swamps, rivers and estuaries of Costa Rica continue to give the local authorities cause for concern.  The problem of potential fatal attacks by American crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus) was highlighted again this month after a surfer narrowly escaped the jaws of a crocodile whist waiting to catch a wave  near the mouth of the Tamarindo estuary on the county’s Pacific coast.  Apparently, the crocodile had swam down river out into the estuary and it grabbed the surfer’s leg.  The surfer, identified as Canadian Val Muscalu, was able to free his foot from the crocodile’s jaws and escape.  This is the second reported crocodile attack in the Tamarindo Bay area in the last two years.

The American crocodile is widely distributed throughout the tropical areas of the New World. It ranges from Florida to the Caribbean, including Cuba. It is also found in southern Mexico,  Guatemala through to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Isthmus of Panama and the most northerly parts of South America.  Males can grow up to more than five metres in length and American crocodiles can be distinguished from Alligators and other large species of Crocodylians as they tend to have a proportionately smaller, more narrow snout.  Attacks on people and livestock are rare, but Costa Rica has seen a dramatic rise in crocodile attacks over the last few years and this has been put down to the feeding of crocodiles as part river tours.

A Picture of an American Crocodile (C. acutus)

Long-snouted crocodile that prefers brackish, salty water.

Long-snouted crocodile that prefers brackish, salty water.

Picture Credit: Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times

Tourism plays a significant role in the economy of Costa Rica and as American crocodiles are able to tolerate brackish water and even seem to prefer salt-water habitats.  As a result, attacks on people who come to explore the beaches and the surrounding coastlines are always a possibility.   The crocodile suspected of carrying out the attack, will remain in the estuary according to officials from Costa Rica’s National Park Service (SINAC).  There had been calls from hotel owners and locals to have the crocodile removed, but as the estuary is part of a national park, crocodiles cannot be relocated without scientific evidence of overpopulation.

Commenting on the potential conflict between humans and crocodiles, Rotney Piedra, the administrator of Las Baulas National Marine Park, just up the coast from where the attack took place stated:

“The Tamarindo Estuary that leads into the mangrove forest is a protected area.  We can’t remove crocodiles, but we want to work with the community to manage the issue.”

Back in April last year, a fatality occurred at the Tárcoles River, located on the eastern side of the Gulf of Nicoya, some forty miles to the south-east of the latest surfer attack.  A man, who was apparently drunk, attempted to swim near the main river bridge.  A crocodile grabbed the swimmer and despite the efforts of onlookers, the victim, later identified as Omar de Jesús Jirón was killed.  His body has not been recovered.

A four-part plan is being implemented by authorities to try and reduce such incidents.  It is hoped that SINAC will be able to educate the local community and tourists about crocodile behaviour.  More warning signs are being posted up at the mouth of the river, replacing those that were stolen, most probably by tourists looking for an unusual souvenir from their stay.   A helpline is being set up to help the authorities to be alerted when crocodiles stray out of the park, these animals can then be relocated.  In addition, a survey is being conducted to try to determine whether the estuary is over populated.

Perhaps most importantly of all, the officials from SINAC hope to educate river tour operators not to feed the crocodiles as part of their crocodile spotting river cruises.  These river trips are very popular with tourists and provide a significant boost to the economy, but by feeding the crocodiles, on some occasions, hand-feeding them, these reptiles begin to associate humans with food and this could lead to further attacks.

Although the American crocodile is not regarded as a very aggressive species, hand-feeding these animals could be modifying their natural behaviour and making them much less afraid of humans and more likely to approach.

American Crocodile Posing an Increasing Threat to the Tourist Industry of Costa Rica

Adverse publicity about crocodile attacks could impact upon the country's tourist industry.

Adverse publicity about crocodile attacks could impact upon the country’s tourist industry.

Picture Credit: Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur explained:

“Although American crocodile attacks are statistically very rare and the American crocodile is not known for its aggressive behaviour, not when compared to the likes of the Nile crocodile or the Estuarine for example.  These animals can grow up to five metres in length and at a little over a metre long they would be capable of causing very serious injury should a person be grabbed by one.”

Heasandford Primary School Year 1 – Dinosaurs

Lower Key Stage 1 Study Dinosaurs

Year 1 children at Heasandford Primary school in Lancashire have been studying dinosaurs this term and all three classrooms had lots of dinosaur themed displays.  Everything Dinosaur was invited into the school to conduct a series of dinosaur and prehistoric animal workshops with the three classes of Year 1 pupils.  One of the first things seen as we discussed the intended teaching outcomes for the day, was a clever display posted up in one of the classrooms that showed the differences between fiction and non-fiction texts.

Learning All About Different Types of Books

Helping to learn the difference between fiction and non-fiction texts

Helping to learn the difference between fiction and non-fiction texts

Picture Credit: Heasandford Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

Using dinosaurs as a template to help the children to learn about different types of books is very clever.  During the course of the term topic, the Year 1 children were given plenty of opportunities to undertake creative writing.  In addition, the children were challenged to produce their own fact books based on their favourite dinosaurs.  Our dinosaur expert spent some time over lunch looking at one of these dinosaur fact books that had been produced.  Allosaurus seems to have been this budding young palaeontologist’s favourite dinosaur, there was even a model of Allosaurus made from green tissue included in the book, along with lots of prehistoric animal facts and dinosaur drawings.  With the aid of one of the enthusiastic teaching assistants, some children had even taken photographs of fossils.  We compared these pictures with some photographs of fossils in a magazine that we just happened to have with us.

Children Produce Non-Fiction Texts All About Dinosaurs

Colourful books all about dinosaurs demonstrate lots of independent learning.

Colourful books all about dinosaurs demonstrate lots of independent learning.

Picture Credit: Heasandford Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

Some of the children had even brought dinosaur toys to show our expert.  Some of these proved to be just the job when it came to explaining about different types of dinosaur such as Apatosaurus and Triceratops.  This Burnley based school is one of the largest primary schools in England.  There are twenty-one classes at the moment, and the size and scale of the school enables it to be at the very heart of the local community.  With each Year group being made up of three classes, this sets the dedicated teaching team some challenges but there was plenty of evidence to demonstrate that despite the large numbers of children at the school, there was a really strong cohesion between all the classes.  The teaching teams and their learning support providers co-ordinate schemes of work to ensure that every pupil has the opportunity to learn in a safe, stimulating and enthusiastic environment.  For example, all three classes had produced some wonderful silhouette paintings of different prehistoric animals as the children explored different types of media.  These paintings made very colourful displays.

Colourful Paintings on Display

Effective use of different media.

Effective use of different media.

Picture Credit: Heasandford Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

One of the benefits of having an expert from Everything Dinosaur visit, is that there is an opportunity to discuss extension activities to help support learning.  Whilst one class was outside busy calculating the length of a Stegosaurus, we took the chance to explore one of the dinosaur museums that the children had created in the classrooms.  There was lots of evidence on display of the varied and stimulating activities that the children had been undertaking.

One of the Dinosaur Museums in a Classroom

Year 1 classes create their own dinosaur museums.

Year 1 classes create their own dinosaur museums.

Picture Credit: Heasandford Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

As part of our follow up work with the school we emailed over some further information on the prehistoric animals that the children had learned about over the course of the day.  We even set them one or two of our special “pinkie palaeontologist challenges”, one of which included comparing Tyrannosaurus rex teeth to bananas, a great way to support the numeracy elements of the teaching scheme of work.  Could the children produce a table of their results?  Could they create a graph and plot the data?

An Update on the Utahraptors

Preparation of Stone Block in a Bid to Learn Utahraptor Pack Secrets

In early 2015, Everything Dinosaur team members reported on the excavation and removal of a massive 9,000 kilogramme block from the Arches National Park (eastern Utah).  The block contains the fossilised remains of at least six different Utahraptors (U. ostrommaysorum).  These were fast and agile predatory dinosaurs that roamed the western United States some 125 million years ago (Early Cretaceous).  Fossils of an Iguanodont were also found at this remote location.  It has been suggested that the ferocious Utahraptors may have been attracted to the area by the stench of the rotting carcase of this Ornithopod.  Unfortunately, these creatures seem to have become trapped in soft ground (the same likely fate as their intended Iguanodont victim), as a result several specimens have been preserved together.

An Illustration of Utahraptor (U. ostrommaysorum)

Speedy, dinosaur hunters

Speedy, dinosaur hunters

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

 We think that Utahraptor is the largest member of the Dromaeosauridae family yet described.  It may have reached lengths in excess of seven metres or more and palaeontologists hope that these fossils will greatly increase the understanding of Utahraptor anatomy and ontogeny.  Ontogeny is the study of how an animal grows.   Amongst the fossils documented so far are a number of skulls.  These range in size from a little over ten centimetres (a very young animal), to a skull more than six times as big (the skull of a fully grown adult).

The Huge Bounder Wrapped in Burlap and Plaster

The logistics of fossil transportation.

The logistics of fossil transportation.

Picture Credit: ABC News

 To read Everything Dinosaur’s original article on the Utahraptor excavation: One Nine Tonne Block = 6 Potential Utahraptors

It will take many months to prepare the fossils, extracting them with great care from the surrounding matrix.  Their orientation and layout are as important as the fossils themselves.  They may provide clues as to the sequence of deposition and possibly reveal evidence of pack behaviour in these very bird-like predators.  The removal and transport of such a huge boulder was extremely difficult, especially when the relatively remote location of the Mesa where the specimen is from is taken into consideration.  However, the picture above shows the great care taken by Utah’s Department for Natural Resources in order to ensure a happy ending to this highly complicated logistical undertaking.

We await further developments and the publication of scientific papers documenting these fossils over the next eighteen months or so.

Still Time to Enter Everything Dinosaur’s Prehistoric Animal Model Competition

Still Time to Enter Everything Dinosaur’s Model Competition

WIN! WIN! WIN! with Everything Dinosaur!  Closing date for competition Tuesday March 24th.  PLEASE NOTE THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED

There is still time to enter Everything Dinosaur’s win a set of the new for 2015 CollectA prehistoric animal models competition, but you can’t afford to hang about as the closing date is less than a week away.

CollectA, those clever model and figure manufacturers have introduced some amazingly detailed, new prehistoric animal figures this year  and we are giving one lucky dinosaur model fan the chance to get their hands on a set of these models.

CollectA Prehistoric Animal Models to Win
Win a set of CollectA models with Everything Dinosaur!

Win a set of CollectA models with Everything Dinosaur!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur 

Included in our super prehistoric animal giveaway is the mighty 1:40 scale Pliosaur, two horned dinosaurs Nasutoceratops and Medusaceratops, the ferocious Xiongguanlong, Daxiatitan, a huge, plant-eating dinosaur from China, the Temnodontosaurus and a pair of magnificent prehistoric mammal models Daeodon and Moropus (both 1:20 scale).  Eight fantastic collector’s items, the very first to come off the production line and to win this prize all you have to do is to come up with a collective noun for a collection of CollectA!  It really is as easy as that.

To take part in Everything Dinosaur’s competition, all you have to do is “Like” Everything Dinosaur’s FACEBOOK page, then comment on the picture (either here or on Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook page)  including a suggestion for the collective noun for a set of CollectA prehistoric animal replicas.

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

For example, if the collective noun for a group of lions is a “pride” and we have a “pack” of dogs, a “swarm” of bees, a “gaggle” of geese, then what term can you come up with for a collection of CollectA prehistoric animals?

We will draw the lucky winner at random and the name caption competition closes on Tuesday, March 24th.  Good luck!

Just visit Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook page, give our page a “like” and then leave a comment on the picture showing the set of eight prehistoric animal models. What collective noun can you come up with?

“Like” Everything Dinosaur’s Page on Facebook

Like our Page (please).

Like our Page (please).

 

Super CollectA Models to Win Thanks to Everything Dinosaur
Win a fantastic set of 8 prehistoric animal models.

Win a fantastic set of eight CollectA models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

PLEASE NOTE THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of CollectA prehistoric animals: CollectA Dinosaurs and Other Replicas

To see the full range of CollectA scale prehistoric animal replicas: CollectA Scale Prehistoric Animals

Terms and Conditions of the Everything Dinosaur Collective Noun Competition

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

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Only one entry per person.

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

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The “Carolina Butcher”

Carnufex carolinensis – Three Metre Long Crocodylomorph Challenged Early Theropod Dinosaurs

Palaeontologists from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences have published a paper in the open access journal “Scientific Reports” about their research into one of the most fearsome predators that roamed the Americas during the early stages of the Late Triassic some 231 million years ago.  The reptile, identified as an ancestral crocodile has been named Carnufex carolinensis and it probably occupied an apex predator position in the lush, humid, tropical ecosystem as represented by the strata of the Pekin Formation found in North Carolina.

An Illustration of the Fearsome Crocodylomorph C. carolinensis

Fearsome predator of the Triassic.

Fearsome predator of the Triassic.

Picture Credit: Jorge Gonzales

 The fossilised remains were found in Chatham County. They include a fifty centimetre long partial skull, which when digitally mapped and reconstructed in three dimensions provided the scientists with a very accurate picture of the skull of this carnivore.  It may have walked on four legs for some of the time, but it would also have been able to rear up onto its powerful hind legs, perhaps to help it run down prey.  C. carolinensis was very probably a facultative biped.

Commenting on the significance of the study, Assistant Research Professor at North Caroline State University, Lindsay Zanno said:

“Fossils from this time period are extremely important to scientists because they record the earliest appearance of Crocodylomorphs and Theropod dinosaurs, two groups that first evolved in the Triassic Period, yet managed to survive to the present day in the form of crocodiles and birds.  The discovery of Carnufex, one of the world’s earliest and largest Crocodylomorphs, adds new information to the push and pull of terrestrial top predators across Pangea.”

After the end Permian extinction that wiped out a lot of terrestrial animals there seems to have been a period of rapid evolution as new animal types evolved to exploit the vacant positions in ecosystems.  The fossil record from the Early and Middle Triassic indicates that land-living predator diversity attained new levels with a seeming overabundance of carnivorous animals due to the evolution of entirely new types of predator.  One of the most significant clades to evolve was the Crocodylomorpha that still survive today.  The crocodiles represent one of only two Archosaurian lineages that are extant.  The second lineage are the Aves (birds).  In contrast to their modern-day descendants, the earliest Crocodylomorphs were generally small, cursorial animals occupying a subsidiary role to other types of predator.  However, C. carolinensis represents a large-bodied taxon with a slender skull, lined with sharp teeth.  It was clearly a formidable hunter and these fossils from Chatham County represent the remains of one of the oldest and earliest diverging Crocodylomorphs described so far.

Roaming Pangea at the time were large terrestrial predators which formed the Rauisuchians group, amongst the rauisuchids there was a sub-group of poposauroids which were also mainly predatory.  In the southern part of the super-continent, these types of ancient crocodile-like creatures competed with the rapidly evolving Theropod dinosaurs.  The fossils of Carnufex also suggest that in the northern part of Pangea, large-bodied Crocodylomorphs, not dinosaurs were making up a large portion of the apex terrestrial predators.

Lindsay Zanno went onto add:

“These animals hunted alongside the earliest Theropod dinosaurs, creating a predator pile-up.  We knew that there were too many top performers on the proverbial stage in the Late Triassic.  Yet, until we deciphered the story behind Carnufex, it wasn’t clear that early crocodile ancestors were among those vying for top predator roles prior to the reign of the dinosaurs in North America.”

Although the skull material was fragmentary, the scientists were able to build up a picture of the features of Carnufex using comparisons with better known Crocodylomorphs from the fossil record.  Sophisticated computer modelling helped the scientists to piece together the skull of this ancient crocodile.

A 231 Million Year Old Jigsaw Puzzle

Piecing together the skull from the fragmentary bones.

Piecing together the skull from the fragmentary bones.

Picture Credit: North Caroline State University

The picture above shows the various bones associated with the fossil specimen (blue), these have been superimposed on a model of a skull (white parts relate to fossil material, grey pieces are based on related animals from the fossil record).

As the Triassic period came to an end there was another set of extinctions, although nowhere near as dramatic as the End Permian extinction.  Many of these large, apex predators did not survive into the Jurassic, only the small-bodied Crocodylomorphs and the Theropoda survived.

Lindsay Zanno stated:

“Theropods were ready understudies for vacant top predator niches when large-bodied crocs and their relatives bowed out.  Predatory dinosaurs went on to fill these roles exclusively for the next 135 million years or so.”

However, for the ancestors of today’s crocodiles, gharials, caimans and alligators there were plenty of other ecological niches for them to exploit.  As the Theropods began to get bigger and bigger, these early crocodiles continued to flourish but this time they occupied secondary predatory roles.

Graduate student Susan Drymala of North Carolina State University and a co-author of the study put it rather nicely when she explained:

“The ancestors of modern crocs initially took on a role similar to foxes and jackals, with small, sleek bodies and long limbs.  If you want to picture these animals, just think of a modern fox, but with alligator skin instead of fur.”

Perhaps the most famous member of the Order Rauisuchia is Postosuchus, fossils of this six metre long giant have been found in North Carolina.  However, it appeared around ten million years after Carnufex carolinensis roamed the Earth.  The last of the large-bodied rauisuchians became extinct at the end of the Triassic.

A Famous Early Crocodile – Postosuchus

Scale drawing of Postosuchus

Scale drawing of Postosuchus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaur Nest Site Vandalised

Vandals Destroy Dinosaur Nests and Footprints

Everything Dinosaur has received press reports that vandals have smashed a number of dinosaur eggs and footprints that made up part of an outdoor display at the Mirador del Cretáceo dig site  in Coll de Nargó, Catalonia (north-eastern Spain).  The tourist attraction was opened in 2005 and combines a serious palaeontological study of Upper Cretaceous highly fossiliferous sediments with a tourist attraction, which permits onlookers to walk round the site and to view some of the fossil specimens in situ as well as other exhibits that show how dinosaurs nested.

Some of the items believed to have been smashed include dinosaur eggs that had been reassembled from the fossil remains to give the impression that they had just been laid.

Sites containing dinosaur egg remains and evidence of nesting behaviour are extremely rare and the dig site in the Pyrénéen village is believed to represent the largest location of its kind yet discovered in Europe.  In addition, the fossils are very well preserved and these in conjunction with the numerous dinosaur footprints that have been mapped in the area indicate the presence of at least six different types of dinosaur present in this Late Cretaceous ecosystem.

One of the Fossilised Eggs Preserved at the Site

An important Late Cretaceous dig site.

An important Late Cretaceous dig site.

Picture Credit: (Xavier Delclòs, Faculty of Geology UB)

Sadly, this is not the only example of vandalism reported upon by Everything Dinosaur, back in 2012, team members from Everything Dinosaur published an article about an act of dinosaur vandalism in Alberta, Canada.

To read more about this incident: Hooligans smash duck-billed dinosaur fossils

More recently, a Sauropod bone at the Dinosaur Monument in Utah was broken and a piece stolen, this theft and the damage to that part of the bone that remained led to the specimen having to be removed.

Salvador Moyà, the manager at the Palaeolithic Institute of Catalunya (ICP) called the destruction of the fossils “inconceivable” and the mayor of Coll de Nargó, Senor Benito Fité stated that this was a “catastrophe”.

These incidents are all to frequent, especially at sites which are relatively open and allow public access.  Back in 2013, the site was raided by a local resident and several specimens stolen.  These were only returned when it became public knowledge that whoever was responsible for the theft would face prosecution for their criminal action.

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