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11 06, 2018

Scientists Calculate the Cost of Powering a Dinosaur Theme Park

By | June 11th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Scientists Calculate the Cost of Powering a Dinosaur Theme Park

This week, twenty-five years ago, saw the release of the film “Jurassic Park”, the Steven Spielberg directed blockbuster that brought to the world’s cinema screens CGI generated and animatronic dinosaurs.  As cinema-goers currently enjoy the latest instalment in this multi-billion-dollar franchise – “Fallen Kingdom”, we could reflect on how our perceptions regarding the Dinosauria has changed since the adaptation of Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel first hit our screens.

Celebrating Twenty-Five Years of Jurassic Park

The front cover of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

The first edition of Jurassic Park published in 1990, Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster followed three years later.

We could comment on how these movies have enthused a whole generation of new scientists, with many opting for a career in palaeontology, first inspired by the amazing prehistoric animals brought to life on the silver screen.  Instead, let’s leave the speculation to others about whether it would ever be possible to resurrect a long extinct group of animals, the last of which roamed the Earth sixty-six million years ago and consider one of the more practical aspects of converting an island into a dinosaur themed tourist attraction – how much power would it take to run Jurassic Park?

Thanks to E.ON and the assistance of some very clever physicists at Imperial College London, we have an answer to this question.

It would take 455 million kWh to power a real-life Dinosaur Kingdom.  That’s enough to power half the homes in Harrogate for a year.   Furthermore, team members at Everything Dinosaur have calculated, that based on an average UK household’s power consumption of around 5,000 kWh per annum, the annual power consumption of your typical prehistoric animal populated park would permit you to run the average UK home for around 91,000 years!   That should be enough gas and electricity to see you comfortably through the next Ice Age.

The Cost of Powering a Prehistoric Animal Theme Park

The running costs of a dinosaur themed tourist attraction.

The energy costs involved in running a “Prehistoric Park”.

Picture Credit: E.ON

Running a Real-Life Jurassic Park

From a huge aquarium to house the semi-aquatic Spinosaurus to a dinosaur embryo cooling fridge and egg incubator, the physics experts investigated how much energy each feature would need to keep the park running over twelve months.  The final figure calculated was 455,145,418 kWh, costing approximately £131,732 a day.  We wonder how much money the owners of the theme park would have saved if they had instructed their geneticists to re-create dinosaurs as they probably were, that is, equipped with their own insulation in the form of downy, feathery coats.

If Feathered Dinosaurs had been Genetically Engineered – This Might Have Reduced the Annual Fuel Bill

Artwork by Zhao Chuang (PNSO).

If dinosaurs had been genetically engineered so that they retained their feathers, would insulated dinosaurs have reduced the annual fuel bill?

Picture Credit: Zhao Chuang PNSO

Modern Energy Solutions to Accommodate Ancient Animals

For any billionaire with aspirations to build a real-life “Jurassic Park”, having an understanding of the running costs would be an important component of the business plan.

Scott Somerville, E.ON’s Head of Advertising, PR and Campaigns, stated:

“With huge 10,000 volt electric fences and an aviary designed to house pterosaurs to name just two of the Dinosaur Kingdom’s unusual features, we suspected the energy needed to power the whole park would be big – possibly equivalent to powering a whole region within the UK.  But what our figures show is that it’s actually a massive amount!  It’s about the same as powering 30,142 average UK households a year – roughly equivalent to powering half the homes in Harrogate – but by adopting modern solutions, the power requirement and costs could be even less.”

Prehistoric Poo Turned into Power

The operators of any theoretical theme park, in which the main attractions would have quite happy consumed visitors for their breakfast, would need the very latest in safety features.  There have been five films in the “Jurassic Park/Jurassic World” franchise to date and we all know what happens when things go wrong – it does not end well for the tourists.  However, innovative and environmentally friendly methods of power generation could be adopted to keep those fences charged.  The dinosaurs themselves could play a role in helping to keep running costs from mutating into monstrous proportions, as E.ON’s Scott Somerville went onto explain:

“By generating electricity using technology like a biomass fuelled Combined Heat and Power station, park owners could turn dinosaur droppings into electricity.  Add on other solutions like solar and battery storage, then the park could ultimately benefit from a cheaper, sustainable and more reliable source of electricity instead having to deal with a ‘raptor rampage’ every time the generators that power the electric fences go down.”

For any would-be entrepreneurs with a few billion burning a hole in their pocket, further information on E.ON’s estimates of the running costs of a real-life dinosaur theme park can be found here: Dinosaur Kingdom Running Costs.

As for the rest of us, read the books, watch the movies, it is likely to be a lot less expensive and a good deal safer too.

If anyone or any organisation did really set out to create a dinosaur themed tourist attraction, populated by living, breathing, albeit genetically engineered prehistoric animals, then we suspect it would “spark” a Tyrannosaurus rex-sized debate.  Feathers would be well and truly ruffled!

10 06, 2018

Fallen Kingdom Posters Donated to School

By | June 10th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Educational Activities, Main Page, Radio Reviews|0 Comments

Fallen Kingdom Posters Donated to School

Yesterday, team members at Everything Dinosaur were able to take a break from their busy schedule and visit the cinema to watch “Fallen Kingdom”, the latest film in the “Jurassic Park/Jurassic World” franchise.  We shall leave it to others to provide a review, but we were able to pass a couple of pleasant hours marvelling at how CGI and animatronics can bring about the resurrection of long extinct species.

Prior to the film starting we got talking to the friendly cinema staff.  They were most interested in our work and as a result, one of the cinema staff members went into their office and returned with two posters.  Free posters are being given out by certain cinema chains to help promote the movie, something that we were not aware of.  Our  posters feature a giant (somewhat oversized), Mosasaurus marine reptile feeding on a shark, a famous scene from the previous film “Jurassic World”.

The Posters that Team Members at Everything Dinosaur were Given

Mosasaurus poster.

The Mosasaurus poster from the film “Fallen Kingdom.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Donating the Poster to a School

We thanked the staff for their gift of the posters, these will go to a good home.  Everything Dinosaur has a school visit arranged for Wednesday of this week, delivering a series of dinosaur workshops to classes in support of their dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed term topic.  We shall take these two posters with us and donate them to the school, perhaps the poster will help the children to remember that an animal like a Mosasaur is not actually a dinosaur.  The poster might even inspire them to have a go at drawing their very own prehistoric animals.

When Everything Dinosaur team members visit a school, we tend to bring extra resources to support the school’s scheme of work and during our dinosaur workshops, the opportunity usually arises to challenge the children to undertake some extension activities in support of the curriculum.

We suspect that these two “Fallen Kingdom” posters will be gratefully received and we are sure that they will help the classes to create their own colourful and informative dinosaur and prehistoric animal displays.

9 06, 2018

University of Bradford Archaeologist Awarded MBE

By | June 9th, 2018|Famous Figures, Main Page|0 Comments

Bradford Archaeologist Honoured with MBE

Professor Vince Gaffney, Anniversary Chair in Landscape Archaeology at the University of Bradford, has been honoured with the award of the MBE in the Queen’s 2018 Birthday Honours List.   The award is for services to archaeology.  Our congratulations to the professor.

Professor Gaffney is a world-renowned expert in archaeological landscape studies who, over the last four decades, has engaged with young and old, passionately presenting his subject matter as an exciting and thought-provoking study of people and their environments in the present and the past.  He continues to attract tremendous international media interest and to inspire the next generation of aspiring archaeologists.

Honoured with the Award of an MBE – Professor Vince Gaffney (Bradford University)

Professor Vincent Gaffney.

Professor Vincent Gaffney (Bradford University).

Picture Credit: University of Bradford

Vince has been the recipient of numerous national and international awards.  In 2017, his work in the Stonehenge landscape was awarded the “Research Project of the Year “ and he was recently shortlisted for Archaeologist of the Year by the journal “Current Archaeology”.  Five years ago, he received the European Archaeological Heritage Prize and his work also received the prestigious Queen’s Award for Higher Education, for use of novel technology within the Wroxeter Hinterland Project, providing the first comprehensive geophysical survey of a major Roman town in Britain.

A Pioneer of New Research Techniques

Professor Gaffney has pioneered the application of computing in archaeology.  His work on the Croatian Adriatic Islands provided the first substantial use of geographical information systems (GIS) in Europe.  More recently, he has led the UK team creating three-dimensional and virtual imaging of the “Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes”, from an extensive programme of geophysical surveys of the largely unmapped landscape and which will change our understanding of Stonehenge and shape history as well as inform student teaching and learning.

His work on archaeological landscapes lost to the sea after the last glaciation received the 2007 award for Heritage Presentation at the British Association for the Advancement of Science.  This research was also selected by Research Councils UK as one of top hundred ground-breaking UK research projects as part of its “Big Ideas for the Future” publication.

In 2010, Professor Gaffney’s book on this subject, “Europe’s Lost World”, was awarded the “Best Publication” prize at the British Archaeological Awards.   Professor Gaffney and his colleagues were also invited to exhibit their work on underwater landscapes in the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition.

Surveying the Extensive Palaeolandscapes of the North and Irish Seas

The extent of the palaeolandscape prior to sea level changes.

Approximate maximum extent of marine palaeolandscapes off the Irish and British coasts (survey areas in red).

Picture Credit: University of Bradford

Recently, Everything Dinosaur has featured the research into the hidden landscapes of the southern North Sea basin.  This study funded by a European Research Council grant, represents one of the largest, continuous areas to be mapped using geophysical data ever attempted.  The aim of this extensive project is to document evidence of human settlement in these hinterlands, prior to the flooding of this part of Europe.

To read more about this research: In Search of a Prehistoric Landscape Under the Sea

Commenting upon this accolade, professor Gaffney modestly stated:

“It is both a surprise, and a great pleasure, to learn that I have been selected to receive an MBE for services to Archaeology.  When receiving such an honour within Higher Education it is, of course, completely appropriate to recognise that an individual’s career is actually a result of the labours of numerous students, researchers and the many colleagues one works with over the years and I would like to think that I am accepting this honour for them all.  It is also important to note the value of such awards to universities and their communities.  Archaeology may be associated with Stonehenge and many glamorous monuments but to us, the archaeology of Bradford Park Avenue is equally important and our work there and elsewhere in Bradford and Yorkshire, links the University and the town and is the basis for future, globally important research.”

8 06, 2018

South African Fossils Re-write History of Life on Land

By | June 8th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Some of the First Land Vertebrates Lived in Antarctica

The fossilised remains of two newly described Late Devonian tetrapods have helped to shed new light on the evolution of land vertebrates.  Since most of the known Devonian tetrapod fossils are associated with equatorial palaeoenvironments, it had been thought that the first animals with back bones to adapt to a life on land must have lived in very close to the equator.  However, these new specimens lived on the southernmost portion of the giant super-continent Gondwana.  These early land pioneers of 360 million years ago were living within the Antarctic circle.

A Life Reconstruction of the Two Newly Described Tetrapod Species from the Waterloo Farm Site

Waterloo Farm in the Late Devonian.

The Waterloo Farm area of South Africa during the Late Devonian (Tutusius and Umzantsia).

Picture Credit: Maggie Newman

The evolution of the first land animals from fish during the Devonian geological period is regarded as a key event in the history of life on Earth.  Newly described fossils from the Waterloo Farm locality near Grahamstown (Easter Cape Province, South Africa), are challenging current perceptions about where in the world the first land vertebrates evolved.

Lead author of the scientific paper, published in the journal “Science”, Dr Robert Gess (Albany Museum, Grahamstown), explained:

“Whereas all previously found Devonian tetrapods came from localities which were in tropical regions during the Devonian, these specimens lived within the Antarctic circle.”

The First African Devonian Tetrapods

The researchers, including co-author Professor Per Ahlberg (Uppsala University, Sweden), name two new species Tutusius umlambo and Umzantsia amazana from fragmentary bones from a road cutting at the Waterloo Farm site, bones from the shoulder girdle related to these new early tetrapods, are helping palaeontologists to gain a better understanding of the development of the shoulder girdle from a fish to that of a tetrapod, adapted to walking around on land.

Tutusius and Umzantsia, are Africa’s earliest known four-legged vertebrates by a remarkable 70 million years.  The approximately one-metre-long Tutusius umlambo (named in honour of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu) and the somewhat smaller Umzantsia amazana are both incomplete.  Tutusius is represented by a single bone from the shoulder girdle, whereas Umzantsia is known from a greater number of bones, but they both appear similar to previously known Devonian tetrapods.  Alive, they would have resembled a cross between a salamander and a fish, with an amphibian-like head, stubby legs with numerous fingers and a tail that was reminiscent of a tadpole’s.

Scale Drawings of Tutusius and the Smaller Umzantsia

The known fossils of Tutusius umlambo and Umzantsia amazana

New Late Devonian Tetrapods from southern Gondwana.  Known bones highlighted in green.

Picture Credit: University of Witwatersrand

The Waterloo Farm site, where the fossils were discovered, is a road cutting first exposed two years ago after controlled rock-cutting explosions by the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL).  This very important fossil site is along the N2 highway between Grahamstown and the Fish River.  The construction crew exposed dark, grey mudstones of the Witpoort Formation.  The strata represent sedimentary deposits laid down in a brackish, tidal river estuary.  The rocks preserve numerous fossils, including animals and plants.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article about the fortuitous discovery of this important fossil site: Roadway Leads to Devonian Deposit

Antarctic Tetrapods

The discovery of these fossils is extremely significant not only for what was found, but where they were found.  Devonian tetrapod fossils are found in widely scattered localities.  However, if the continents are mapped back to their Devonian positions, it emerges that all previous finds are from rocks deposited in the palaeotropics, between 30 degrees north and south of the equator.

Almost all these rare and important fossils come from Laurasia, a super-continent that later fragmented into North America, Europe and Greenland.  Umzantsia and Tutusius have certainly bucked this trend.  Gondwana, the much larger, southern super-continent (made up of present -day South America, Australia, Madagascar, Australia, India and Africa), has hitherto yielded virtually no evidence of Devonian tetrapods.  Footprints ascribed to early tetrapods have been discovered in Australia and an isolated jawbone was found in New South Wales.  When this jawbone fossil was first studied, scientists thought it represented the jaw of a lobe-finned fish.  However, subsequent research led to the conclusion that this single bone came from a primitive tetrapod.  The species Metaxygnathus denticulus was erected.  During the later stages of the Devonian, this part of Australia was associated with the northern Gondwana.  It would have been located in the tropics.  As a result, it was assumed that movement of vertebrates from water onto land (terrestrialisation) also occurred in the tropics.  Attempts to understand the causes of these major macroevolutionary steps therefore focused on conditions prevalent in tropical water bodies.

The fossil Cleithrum of T. umlambo

One of the fossil bones of Tutusius umlambo.

The Cleithrum of Tutusius umlambo (part of the shoulder girdle).

Picture Credit: University of Witwatersrand

Challenging Current Perceptions and Assumptions About Tetrapod Evolution

The two early tetrapods named from Waterloo Farm fossils, also come from Gondwana, but from an environment associated with the southernmost part of the super-continent.  Waterloo Farm was approximately seventy degrees south, within the Antarctic circle.   Many plant and insect fossils recovered from the road side indicate that the climate was much milder than the Antarctic circle today, but it would still have been cold and during the long winter season, this region would have experienced many months when the sun did not appear above the horizon.  These amphibians would have had to endure long periods of darkness.

The Location of the Waterloo Farm Site in the Late Devonian

Waterloo Farm and Grahamstown Devonian fossil sites.

The location of Waterloo Farm and Grahamstown where a substantial number of Devonian fossils have been found.  Look for the green label.

Picture Credit: University of Witwatersrand with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The researchers conclude that these fossils change our understanding of the distribution of Devonian tetrapods.  We now know that tetrapods occurred throughout the world by the Late Devonian and that their evolution and terrestrialisation could realistically have occurred anywhere.

7 06, 2018

Albertosaurus Helps Protect Against Fraud and Identity Theft

By | June 7th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos|0 Comments

Alberta Reveals New Driver’s Licence with Dinosaur Design

In a bid to help protect residents of the Canadian province of Alberta from counterfeiting and identify theft, driving licences have been redesigned and they will feature a skeleton of an Albertosaurus.  This iconic, albeit somewhat extinct resident of southern Canada is honoured and the bones in the tail of the dinosaur image helps to improve the card’s security.

The New Driver’s Licence for the Canadian Province of Alberta

Albertosaurus features on driving licence.

The new design for a driving licence in Alberta features Albertosaurus.

Picture Credit: Alberta Government

The provincial government has redesigned driver’s licences and identity cards with updated and improved security features such as clear windows, laser engraving and three-dimensional embossing.  These features are designed to deter fraudsters and counterfeiters but the additional of an Albertosaurus skeleton must make this one of the coolest things that a wallet or purse could contain.

Stephanie McLean, (Minister of Service for Alberta) commented:

“Our government takes identity fraud very seriously.  We are the first jurisdiction in North America to integrate this combination of design and security to protect Albertans from ID theft and prevent fraud.  We are using the latest technology available to safeguard people’s personal information and prevent scams.”

Saving $1,000,000 Canadian Dollars

The new cards are currently in production and although the cards have a suite of security measures incorporated within them, advances in technology mean that they will cost less than the old licences to make.  The Alberta treasury expects to save over $1,000,000 Canadian dollars as a result of the new design.

The driver’s licence design depicts famous landmarks such as Castle Mountain and the Bow River in Banff National Park, while the new identity cards will feature a Wild Rose, Alberta’s provincial flower.  Both cards also include an image of an Albertosaurus, a dinosaur whose name honours Alberta.  Fossils of a very large predatory dinosaur had been uncovered in southern Canada prior to the turn of the Century and this dinosaur was finally named and scientifically described in 1905, the same year that the province of Alberta was established by an Act of Parliament.  Coincidentally, 1905 was also the year that Tyrannosaurus rex,  a famous relative of Albertosaurus was named.

A Museum Exhibit Albertosaurus Skeleton Fossil

Albertosaurus fossil exhibit.

The “Death Pose” of a Dinosaur.  A fossil exhibit featuring Albertosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The last redesign occurred nine years ago and the Alberta government has incorporated advice from law enforcement agencies to ensure the cards have the most up-to-date safeguards against fraudsters and identify thieves.  The Albertosaurus image plays an important role in card security.  The dinosaur’s image is embossed and has a raised feel to it.  This creates a three-dimensional effect, the tail continues on the back of the card and appears to travel through the Alberta-shaped window, which also holds an image of the legitimate card holder.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“It is wonderful to see the authorities celebrating the natural beauty of the province of Alberta in such an interesting way.  Having an iconic dinosaur on the driver’s licence will remind holders of the rich fossil heritage of this part of Canada.”

A Life Reconstruction of Albertosaurus (A. sarcophagus)

Albertosaurus illustrated.

An illustration of Albertosaurus (A. sarcophagus).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

6 06, 2018

Three-toed Dinosaurs from the Tatras

By | June 6th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Scientists Discover Dinosaur Footprints in the Tatra Mountains

The beautiful and rugged Tatra mountain range forms a natural border between Poland and Slovakia, but during the Late Triassic, the sediments that formed part of these peaks were sandy shores close to large rivers where many different types of dinosaur wandered.  Dinosaurs left their footprints in these soft sands, and remarkably some of these trace fossils have survived more than 200 million years and they are helping palaeontologists to better understand the composition of Late Triassic vertebrate faunas.  Media reports from the Centre of Interdisciplinary Biosciences of Pavol Jozef Šafárik University in Košice, Slovakia, confirm the discovery of yet more three-toed Theropod dinosaur footprints, although most are badly eroded, these trace fossils indicate the presence of a sizeable predator, one that may have exceeded five metres in length.

The fossils come from the Tomanová Formation and although dating the strata is challenging, the rocks are thought to have been laid down during the Late Norian to the Rhaetian faunal stage of the Triassic (215 – 202 million years ago approximately).

Palaeontologist Martin Kundrát with a Cast of a Dinosaur Footprint

Dinosaur Footprint cast (Tatra Mountains).

Martin Kundrát holding a cast of the dinosaur trace fossil he discovered in the Tatras.

Picture Credit: Jana Otriová

Recording the Activity of Dinosaurs from the Late Triassic

The first dinosaur fossil footprints found in the High Tatras were described in 1976.  These fossils and subsequent footprint discoveries led to the establishment of a new ichnospecies – Coelurosaurichnus tatricus.  However, these new finds, ten dinosaur trace fossils, have helped shed further light on vertebrate fauna at an important time in our planet’s history.  At around this time, a mass extinction event occurred and a number of terrestrial vertebrates (and other types of animal) became extinct, providing the Dinosauria with even greater opportunities to diversify and produce new species.

Commenting on these fossils, one of the palaeontologists who discovered them, Martin Kundrát (Centre of Interdisciplinary Biosciences of Pavol Jozef Šafárik University), stated:

“The locality is extremely rare for Slovak dinosaurology.  It is located at high altitude.  This does not mean, however, that dinosaurs have been hiking.  The truth is that the sediments in which the traces were preserved were created hundreds of kilometres from Slovakia almost at the level of the then advancing sea.  The layers of the tracks were later transported to the territory of Slovakia and raised to the stars.  This is our modest dinosaur association.  Two of them are complete, the rest are only fragments.”

One of the More Complete Footprint Fossils

Dinosaur footprint fossil from Slovakia.

Coelurosaurichnus tatricus?  Footprints previously ascribed to the ichnospecies C. tatricus may have to be redefined in the light of these new fossil discoveries.

Picture Credit: Martin Kundrát

Important Fossils Although Fragmentary Fossils

The fossil record for dinosaurs from Europe during the Late Triassic is relatively poor, so even these fragments are very helpful to palaeontologists as they attempt to piece together the biota of Pangaea.  The trace fossils, although quite indistinct, help scientists to gain an understanding of the various types of dinosaur that roamed this part of the world more than 200 million years ago.  Moreover, these new discoveries allow palaeontologists to revise their knowledge about an ancient ecosystem.   Based on studies of similar imprints from South Korea, the United States, Iran and China, scientists have been able to make two important deductions.

First, the researchers have concluded that the former ichnotaxonomy (classification of an animal based on its footprints, burrows, or other traces) of Coelurosaurichnus tatricus is not valid.

Secondly, the number of imprints confined to a small area indicates that it was a very often frequented locality.

The Dinosaur Footprints Indicate a Theropod Around Five Metres in Length

Liliensternus drawing.

Liliensternus dinosaur drawing,  It is probable that the Slovakian Theropod looked like Liliensternus from the Late Triassic of Germany.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In total, this part of the High Tatras has yielded several different types of dinosaur footprint.  Several papers have been published previously describing Ornithischian prints and the large, rounded tracks of what are assumed to be Sauropodomorpha, as well as numerous types of three-toed (tridactyl) prints assigned to the Theropoda.

5 06, 2018

Amargasaurus Makeover

By | June 5th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Amargasaurus Makeover

The new for 2018, Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus model has been given a makeover by talented model maker Martin Garratt.  The “lizard from Amarga Canyon” has had its head raised, alterations have been made to those famous, bizarre spines and the tail has been shortened.  The end result is a very impressive dinosaur model indeed!

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus Model has been “Customised” by Martin Garratt

A customised Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus dinosaur model.

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus model is customised.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/UMF Models

Re-designing a Diplodocid

This stunning figure looks very different from the Safari Ltd dinosaur model, upon which it is based.  However, one of the great benefits of the Safari Ltd range is that model makers are starting with a well-made, detailed figure to begin with.  From this solid foundation, talented individuals like Martin can modify and customise the piece to create truly unique and most attractive dinosaur dioramas.

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus Dinosaur (2018)

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus dinosaur figure.

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Additional of Scales Running Down the Back

Eagle-eyed readers will note that Martin has added a row of scales running down the back of the plant-eating dinosaur.  In addition, the neck has been filled out somewhat and made thicker.  The pose remains virtually unaltered and although the colour scheme for the paint job is very different, it still incorporates the concept of counter shading as seen in the original Wild Safari Prehistoric World model.

A Close-up view of the Repainted and Re-modelled Head and Neck

A view of the re-painted and re-modelled Amargasaurus.

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus figure gets a makeover.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/UMF Models

An Amazing Amargasaurus

This South American dinosaur (fossils come from Argentina), was named and described in 1991 by Leonardo Salgado and José Bonaparte.  It has been assigned to the diplodocid group of Sauropods, this means that it was related to the better-known, North American members of the Sauropoda, such as Diplodocus, Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus.   As the holotype specimen is missing much of the tail, the length of this Early Cretaceous dinosaur is not known.  However, most palaeontologists estimate that it was around twelve metres long.

The Amargasaurus Replica Created by Martin Garratt

A model of Amargasaurus.

The Amargasaurus has been mounted onto a bespoke base.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/UMF Models

The animal was named after the river (La Amarga) and the nearby town, plus the rock formation within which the fossils were found is also named La Amarga. This dinosaur was described during a period of research that led to the recognition of South America’s unique dinosaur fauna.  The amended figure has been placed on a bespoke base.

To view the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus and the other figures in the Safari Ltd range: Safari Ltd/Wild Safari Prehistoric World Models

The Beautiful and Detailed Head of the Amargasaurus

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus gets a makeover.

A close-up view of the head of the Amargasaurus figure.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/UMF Models

The picture (above) shows a close-up of the head and neck of the dinosaur model.  The details in the figure and the care taken with the painting are clearly evident.  Our congratulations to Martin for producing such an elegant and beautiful dinosaur figure.

The Customised Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amargasaurus Dinosaur Model

An Amargasaurus dinosaur model.

An Amargasaurus dinosaur figure.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/UMF Models

4 06, 2018

New Study Provides Fresh Insight into Ancient Africa’s Climate

By | June 4th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Hominin Ancestors Had to Cope with Climate Change Too

It seems that climate change for hominins is not a new phenomenon, our ancient ancestors living in southern Africa almost two million years ago, had to cope with climate change too.  A new study published in the academic journal “Nature Ecology and Evolution”, reveals that the climate of the interior of southern Africa during the Early Pleistocene (Gelasian stage), was like no modern African environment.  The hominins around at the time would have had to cope with much wetter conditions.

The Entrance to the Wonderwerk Cave (Northern Cape Province)

Wonderwerk cave in South Africa.

The entrance to Wonderwerk cave in South Africa.

Picture Credit: Michaela Ecker/University of Toronto

That is the conclusion reached by an international team of scientists who conducted an analysis of the fossilised teeth of herbivores found in two-million-year-old sediments in South Africa’s Wonderwerk Cave.  Lead author of the study,  Michaela Ecker, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Toronto’s Department of Anthropology, in collaboration with colleagues such as Michael Chazan the director of the University of Toronto’s Archaeology Centre, mapped the environmental change recorded in the sediments and fossils found in the Cave.

Commenting on the significance of the study, Michaela Ecker stated:

“The influence of climatic and environmental change on human evolution is largely understood from East African research.  Our research constructed the first extensive palaeoenvironmental sequence for the interior of southern Africa using a combination of methods for environmental reconstruction at Wonderwerk Cave.”

A Different Climate to East Africa

While East African research shows increasing aridity and the spread of savannah (grassland habitats), this new research showed that during the same time period, southern Africa was significantly wetter and housed a plant community unlike any other in the modern African savannah.  The scientists conclude that early humans were living in environments other than open, arid grasslands.

The Interior of Wonderwerk Cave

A view of the interior of Wonderwerk Cave (South Africa).

The interior of Wonderwerk Cave (South Africa), the sediments have been studied for over seventy years.

Picture Credit: Michaela Ecker/University of Toronto

The limestone Wonderwerk Cave is located in the Kuruman Hills between Danielskuil and Kuruman in Northern Cape Province, the sediments deposited in the cave provide a palaeoenvironmental record of the climate of southern Africa.  These sediments and the artefacts and fossils found within them have been studied since the 1940’s.  Analysis of the cave sediments to date has established a chronology for hominin occupation of the anterior portions of the cave stretching back two million years.  In this research, Ecker and her collaborators were able to reconstruct the vegetation by using carbon and oxygen isotope analysis on the fossil teeth of herbivores found at various sediment layers within the cave.

Ecker added:

“Understanding the environment humans evolved in is key to improving our knowledge of our species and its development.  Our work at Wonderwerk Cave demonstrates how humankind existed in multiple environmental contexts in the past, contexts which are substantially different from the environments of today.”

The scientists propose that Oldowan and early Acheulean lithic industries (distinctive periods of stone tool making), in this part of Africa took place in a much wetter environment than when compared to sites of showing similar stone tool cultures in eastern Africa.

The scientific paper: “The Palaeoecological Context of the Oldowan-Acheulean in Southern Africa” by Michaela Ecker, James S. Brink, Lloyd Rossouw, Michael Chazan, Liora K. Horwitz and Julia A. Lee-Thorp published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

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

3 06, 2018

Beasts of the Mesozoic Velociraptor mongoliensis

By | June 3rd, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Beasts of the Mesozoic Velociraptor mongoliensis

The amazing Beasts of the Mesozoic model range arrived at Everything Dinosaur’s warehouse last week and over the last few days, team members have been busy sorting out all the orders from customers, including all those dinosaur fans who had Beasts of the Mesozoic figures on reserve.  With lots of parcels now safely delivered, Everything Dinosaur is starting to get feedback on these superb, articulated 1/6th scale replicas.

Fans Take Pictures of their Beasts of the Mesozoic Models

Beasts of the Mesozoic Velociraptor on the prowl.

A photograph of a Beasts of the Mesozoic Velociraptor mongoliensis from a dinosaur model fan.

Picture Credit: Andrea/Everything Dinosaur

The Deluxe Velociraptor mongoliensis

Andrea sent us a picture of her Deluxe Beasts of the Mesozoic Velociraptor mongoliensis model.  It was ordered on Friday and it was delivered the next day.  It looks like the lizard model from the Rebor Dimorphodon figure (Judy) is in a lot of trouble, if it does not move it is likely to end up as dinner for the Velociraptor.  The diet of the two species of Velociraptor (V. mongoliensis named in 1924 and Velociraptor osmolskae, which was described in 2008), remains uncertain, although it is likely they fed on a variety of other creatures including mammals, amphibians and other reptiles.

One of the most famous fossils ever found was discovered in 1971.  A joint Mongolian/Polish expedition uncovered the fossilised remains of a Velociraptor mongoliensis that had been preserved in combat with another dinosaur (Protoceratops andrewsi).  This was evidence that Velociraptor attacked other dinosaurs.

The Famous “Fighting Dinosaurs” Fossil Excavation

Velociraptor in combat with Protoceratops.

“Duelling dinosaurs” – Velociraptor fighting with Protoceratops.

Picture Credit: Polish Academy of Sciences

To view the Beasts of the Mesozoic Deluxe Velociraptor mongoliensis figure and the rest of this 1:6 scale model range: Beasts of the Mesozoic

An Illustration Showing the Velociraptor Fighting a Protoceratops

Fighting dinosaurs.

Fighting dinosaurs – a Protoceratops defends itself against Velociraptor.

When first discovered it was thought that this combat between two dinosaurs had been preserved as both animals had drowned, but subsequent studies showed that these poor, unfortunate creatures had been covered in sand, presumably as a dune had collapsed and buried them both, or they may have been caught in a sudden sandstone.  The Protoceratops skeleton shows signs of having been scavenged, so these two dinosaurs could have died locked in combat before being completely covered.  It remains one of the most remarkable vertebrate fossil discoveries known to science and provided evidence of predatory behaviour amongst dromaeosaurids.

Velociraptor – A Very Popular Dinosaur

Whether it is due to the over-sized Velociraptors depicted in the “Jurassic Park ” film franchise or due to amazing fossil examples such as the “fighting dinosaurs” fossil from Mongolia, Velociraptor remains a very popular dinosaur and it is great to see an articulated, highly-detailed Velociraptor mongoliensis model on the market.

The Beasts of the Mesozoic Velociraptor mongoliensis Figure

Beasts of the Mesozoic Velociraptor mongoliensis.

Velociraptor mongoliensis.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

2 06, 2018

The Mother of All Dragons – Megachirella

By | June 2nd, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

The Mother of All Dragons – Megachirella wachtleri

A team of international scientists, including palaeontologists from Bristol University, Midwestern University (Arizona) and the University of Alberta, have identified the world’s oldest lizard fossil, permitting fresh insight into the evolution of extant snakes and lizards (Squamata).  Writing in the journal “Nature”, the researchers, including co-author Dr Massimo Bernardi from MUSE – Science Museum, Italy and University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, built the largest dataset of reptiles ever assembled in order to assess where in the evolutionary tree of the Reptilia a fossil from the Dolomites of Italy should be placed.

The Holotype Specimen of Megachirella wachtleri

The origins of the Squamata - The holotype of Megachirella wachtleri.

The holotype of Megachirella wachtleri.

Picture Credit:  MUSE – Science Museum

Megachirella wachtleri

The fossil, consisting of an articulated partial specimen was discovered in marine sediments in the Dolomites of Italy and named Megachirella wachtleri in 2003.  Although, found in marine sediment, the fossil, which represented the front portion of the animal, showed no adaptations to an aquatic existence.  On the contrary, it had strong legs with claws and although small at around twenty centimetres in length, it was probably a capable climber.  It was concluded that the carcass of this reptile had been washed out to sea following a storm.

An analysis in 2013 concluded that Megachirella wachtleri was a member of the Lepidosauromorpha, a group of diapsid reptiles defined as being closer to Squamata than to the Archosauria.  Lepidosaurs include modern snakes and lizards, many extinct forms of reptile and the Order Rhynchocephalia, once very diverse, but now only represented by the tuatara of New Zealand.  This new research, which drew upon an enormous database of skeletal and molecular information about 129 different types of reptile, revealed that Megachirella had characteristics that are only found in the Squamata.  It was concluded that M. wachtleri was a stem squamate – think of it as being the “the mother of all dragons”.

Co-author Dr Randall Nydam of the Midwestern University in Arizona stated:

“At first I did not think Megachirella was a true lizard, but the empirical evidence uncovered in this study is substantial and can lead to no other conclusion.”

The 240-million-year-old fossil, Megachirella wachtleri, is the most ancient ancestor of all modern lizards and snakes discovered to date.  The study also found that geckoes are the earliest crown group squamates not iguanians as previously thought.

A Life Reconstruction of  Megachirella wachtleri

Megachirella wachtleri in the Dolomites 240 million years ago.

A life reconstruction of Megachirella wachtleri.

Picture Credit: Davide Bonadonna

The beautiful illustration of M. wachtleri produced by Davide Bonadonna is featured on the front cover of the journal Nature, which provides details of this scientific study.

The research team conclude that the Squamata probably evolved in the Late Permian and therefore, the ancestors of today’s snakes and lizards survived the most devastating mass extinction event known to science – the end Permian extinction.

Tiago Simões, lead author of the scientific paper and a PhD student at the University of Alberta (Canada), explained:

“The specimen is 75 million years older than what we thought were the oldest fossil lizards in the entire world and provides valuable information for understanding the evolution of both living and extinct squamates.”

10,000 Squamate Species

It has been estimated that there are around 10,000 species of lizards and snakes living today, twice as many different species as mammals.  Despite this modern diversity, scientists did not know much about the early stages of their evolution.

Student Tiago Simões added:

“It is extraordinary when you realise you are answering long-standing questions about the origin of one of the largest groups of vertebrates on Earth.”

Co-author of the study, Dr Michael Caldwell from the University of Alberta, explained that fossils represent the only accurate window into the ancient story of life on our planet.  The new understanding about Megachirella and its significance is but a point in deep geological time, it does tell us things about the evolution of lizards that we simply cannot learn from any of the extant species today.

Co-author Dr Massimo Bernardi from MUSE – Science Museum, Italy and University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, commented upon the importance of such fossil specimens, stating:

“This is the story of the re-discovery of a specimen and highlights the importance of preserving naturalistic specimens in well maintained, publicly accessible collections.”

The scientific paper:

“The Origin of Squamates Revealed by a Middle Triassic Lizard from the Italian Alps” by T. Simões, M. Caldwell, M. Tałanda, M. Bernardi, A. Palci, O. Vernygora, F. Bernardini, L. Mancini and R. Nydam published in the journal Nature.

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

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