Category: Educational Activities

Dinosaur Extinction – A Perfect Storm

Bad Luck and Bad Timing for the Dinosaurs

A new collaborative study looking at the dinosaur fossil record from the Upper Cretaceous of North America suggests that if the extraterrestrial impact event had occurred a few million years before or after it actually hit, life on Earth could be very different today.  Dinosaurs could well be still roaming around.  If the Dinosauria (with the exception of the birds), had not gone extinct, then it could be argued that many of the families of mammals so familiar to us today may not have evolved.  The evolution of the primates, and indeed, our own species, might not ever have happened.

Unlucky Dinosaurs Sixty-six Million Years Ago?

Cataclysmic impact event.

Cataclysmic impact event.

Picture Credit: Don Davis (commissioned by NASA)

Similar studies into the extinction event that took place approximately 66 million years ago have been carried out before, however, this new research, published in the latest edition of the academic journal “Biological Reviews” and led by the University of Edinburgh, focused on examining an updated catalogue of North American dinosaur fossils, in a bid to understand how well the Order Dinosauria was doing in terms of species diversity at around the time of the impact event.

Previous studies, examining the number of different dinosaur species and genera preserved in Upper Cretaceous strata such as the Hell Creek Formation of the western United States, have showed that the number of different types of dinosaur fossils found declines in rocks that mark the time period towards the end of the Cretaceous.  A lack of diversity in an ecosystem, or the dominance of one particular type of creature, can make such ecosystems vulnerable to sudden and dramatic changes that ultimately lead to an extinction.  The research team, drawn from a number of universities and museums, conclude that prior to the impact event, our planet was experiencing dramatic environmental upheaval.  Changing sea levels, fluctuating global temperatures and enormous amounts of volcanic activity were all happening.  Many groups of animals and plants were under stress and the devastating impact from a six-mile-wide space rock provided the final “coup de grâce” that finished off the dinosaurs.

Soon to Become Extinct

Triceratops was one of the last dinosaurs to evolve.

Triceratops was one of the last dinosaurs to evolve.

Picture Credit: Julius Csotonyi

The research team which includes scientists from Edinburgh University, Birmingham University, Imperial College (London), Oxford University, University College (London) and Baylor University (Waco, Texas) suggest that the dinosaurs’ food chain was threatened by a lack of diversity amongst large herbivorous dinosaurs.  The lack of diversity, much of North America was dominated by a handful of plant-eating types of Ornithischian dinosaur, created a “perfect storm” and the vulnerable Dinosauria was unable to recover from the extraterrestrial strike and its aftermath.

Everything Dinosaur team members have provided a number of teaching resources to schools that help to explain extinction events.  To read an article specially prepared for use in schools at Key Stage 2 and 3 about the Cretaceous mass extinction event: Dinosaur Extinction Event – Providing Teaching Resources for Schools

Environmental change, even dramatic global events such as an asteroid impact can in fact provide a stimulus to evolution.  Earlier extraterrestrial impacts which at first caused devastation may actually have acted as catalysts helping certain types of life to flourish.  It can be argued that once the dinosaurs became extinct, the Mammalia were able to rapidly diversify and exploit the niches left vacant by the demise of the Dinosauria, back in 2010, Everything Dinosaur reported on a scientific paper that suggested that earlier cataclysmic events and significantly benefited life on Earth.

To read this article: Extraterrestrial Impact Led to Palaeozoic Explosion of Life

Dr. Steve Brusatte (School of GeoSciences at Edinburgh University) commented:

“Five million years earlier dinosaur ecosystems were much stronger, they were more diverse, the base of the food chain was more robust and it was harder to knock out a lot of species.  If they had a few million years more to recover their diversity they would have had a better chance of surviving the asteroid impact.  Dinosaurs had been around for 160 million years, they had plenty of dips and troughs in their diversity but they always recovered.”

A number of mass extinction events have been identified in the fossil record.  Such mass extinctions ultimately led to a change in direction for life on Earth, permitting new types of organism to evolve.

A Table Showing the Major Extinction Events of the Phanerozoic Eon

Mass Extinction in Summary

Table Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The research team hope to extend their study by taking into account vertebrate fossil data from Upper Cretaceous sediments that have been examined in China and Spain.  This will help the scientists to formulate a global picture.  Naturally, with such academic papers, there is always speculation as to whether or not the dinosaurs would have survived until the present day.  Some speculators go further and ask the question would the dinosaurs have evolved greater intelligence, perhaps evolving into the reptilian equivalents of primates and eventually into a form of humanoid dinosaur – a dinosauroid?

Could the Earth Have Been Dominated by “Intelligent Dinosaurs”?

What intelligent life on Earth might have looked like if the dinosaurs had not become extinct.

What intelligent life on Earth might have looked like if the dinosaurs had not become extinct.

Picture Credit: Boxtree

Dr. Brusatte speculates that the Dinosauria could well have survived and that non-avian dinosaurs could make up a significant proportion of the fauna today, whilst other scientists, including a number who worked on this study remain less sure.

For example, Dr. Richard Butler (Birmingham University) stated:

“We can’t re-run the tape of life and see whether an impact at a different time would have led to total extinction.  But it [extraterrestrial impact event] did come at a particularly bad time.”

Did All Dinosaurs Have Feathers?

Kulindadromeus Discovery Gets Palaeontologists into a Flap

The embargo has been lifted and we can now talk about the amazing new fossil discovery from Siberia, details of which has just been published in the academic journal “Science”.  News of the discovery of the first ever plant-eating dinosaur with feathers as well as scales has been announced.  So what does this mean?  Feathered dinosaurs have been discovered before right?  True, but and it is a big “but“, feathers have only been associated with one group of dinosaurs up until now, the Theropods, the group of dinosaurs most closely related to birds.

The dinosaur has been named Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus and at just over a metre in length, it is not going to be breaking any size records when it comes to extinct prehistoric animals.  Indeed, if we had the technology to travel back 175 million years or so, to the area surrounding what was to become the Siberian city of Chita, this little dinosaur would have probably gone almost unnoticed.  However, the publication of this long-awaited scientific paper is very important and over the next few paragraphs we will try to put this fossil discovery into perspective.

The Order Dinosauria (the dinosaurs) can be split into two distinct groups based on the structure and position of their hip bones.  These two sub-divisions are the Ornithischia (bird-hipped dinosaurs) and the Saurischia (lizard-hipped dinosaurs).  Those Theropods many of whom were feathered, belong to the Saurischians.   The Siberian fossils show that a member of the Ornithischian group also had feathers.

Feathers Amongst the Dinosauria

Ornithischians had feathers too.

Ornithischians had feathers too.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows the dinosaurs split into two groups, on one side of the dinosaur family tree are the lizard-hipped dinosaurs, the long-necked Sauropods and the Theropods, those mainly meat-eating dinosaurs who are the closest related to birds (Aves).  The other part of the Dinosauria consists of the bird-hipped Ornithischians, an almost entirely vegetarian group consisting of the horned dinosaurs, duck-bills, armoured dinosaurs and such like.  Kulindadromeus, described as a neoornithischian dinosaur and definitely amongst the bird-hipped dinosaurs, shows that other types of dinosaurs, not just the Theropods had feathers too.

The terms “bird-hipped” and “lizard-hipped” can be a little confusing, especially when we are trying to identify the ancestors of birds.  These terms were first coined by Henry Govier Seeley in 1887.  He divided the dinosaurs into two groups, based on the fact that all the dinosaurs known at the time (and the majority of dinosaurs discovered to date for that matter), had a pelvis that followed one of two distinctive shapes.  There was a bird-like pelvis, where the pubis bone points backwards and the lizard-hipped configuration where the pubis bone points forward.  It is the lizard-hipped dinosaurs,the Theropoda, that are most closely related to the Aves and indeed one group of Theropods, the Maniraptorans that are the direct ancestors of today’s birds.

Classifying the Dinosauria

Classifying dinosaurs by the shape of their hip bones.

Classifying dinosaurs by the shape of their hip bones.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Back in 2010, a scientific team led by Sofia Sinitsa, a geologist at the Institute of Natural Resources, Ecology and Cryology from the Siberian city of Chita, explored some highly fossiliferous strata located in the nearby Kulinda valley.  The site represented a low energy depositional environment with freshwater crustaceans, insect larvae and plant fossils.  The strata was laid down by the edge of a large lake, evidence of ash in the layers of rock indicated that there were volcanoes in the neighbourhood too.  Fragmentary fossils indicating the presence of small dinosaurs were also discovered but their poor state of preservation led the scientists to focus on other fossil material.  Expeditions to the same locality found more fossils of dinosaurs over the next two summers and as a result, Pascal Godefroit, a palaeontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (Brussels) was contacted along with other scientists as the implications of the discovery began to dawn on the Russian team.

Dr. Godefroit commented:

“We were completely shocked by the discoveries.”

Pictures from the Dig Site and Some of the Fossil Material Collected

A vast amount of fossil material was collected.

A vast amount of fossil material was collected.

Picture Credit: Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

Bristle-like and brush-like structures had been identified in a number of Cretaceous species of Ornithischian dinosaur, most notably in dinosaurs such as Psittacosaurus and Tianyulong, but these quills, brushes and bristles have been described by researchers as representing the very earliest development stage of feathers, what scientists call proto-feathers.

To read an article by Everything Dinosaur on the evidence of quills and bristles in later Ornithischian dinosaurs:

Evidence of feathers in psittacosaurids: Upsetting the Apple Cart

The scientists claim that these new fossils differ from the the bristle-like structures found in much later Ornithischian dinosaurs as they have complex, multi-filamented structures typical of the feathers associated with the Theropoda.

Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus (pronounced Cul-lin-dah-dro-me-us zah-bay-cal-lik-us) had been named after the Kulinda valley locality and from the Greek “dromeus”, which means runner.  The trivial name honours the Zabaikal krai region of Siberia in which the Kulinda valley can be found.

An Illustration of Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus

Feathered dinosaur down amongst the horsetails.

Feathered dinosaur down amongst the horsetails.

Picture Credit: Andrey Atuchin

Dated to around 175 to 160 million years ago (Aalenian to Early Callovian of the Mid Jurassic), this one metre long plant-eater had filamentous structures covering most of its body, including its head, neck and chest.  The more complex feather-like structures are confined to the upper arms and upper legs, an arrangement found in a number of fossils of small Theropod dinosaurs excavated from Cretaceous strata in the famous Lioaning Province of north-eastern China.

Explaining the significance of this discovery, Dr. Godefroit stated:

“For the first time we found more complex, compound structures together with simpler hair-like structures in a plant-eating dinosaur that really resemble the proto-feathers in advanced meat-eaters”.

Multiple Filamentous Structures Associated with the Femur (Thigh Bone)

Complex feather-like structures on the thigh

Complex feather-like structures on the thigh

Picture Credit: Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences/ Dr. Pascal Godefroit

The scientists are confident that these little, fast-running creatures could not fly, so why evolve feathers then?  The answer is quite simple, feathers first evolved for other purposes and they only became adapted for flight much later.  These feathers probably helped to keep these small animals insulated and warm.  This suggests that contrary to popular opinion, most dinosaurs were endothermic (warm-blooded  like mammals and birds) and not cold-blooded like today’s reptiles.  The longer, more complex feather structures may have had some role in display and visual communication.  In total, at least six fossil skulls have been found along with a large number of fossilised bones from many individuals and lots of different growth stages have been recognised.  The abundance of fossil material will give the palaeontologists the chance to study how feathers changed as animals grew and matured.

If this neoornithischian had complex feathers then this also throws up an intriguing set of possibilities.  The common ancestor of both the Ornithischian and Saurischian dinosaurs could have been feathered, or perhaps, feathers evolved in different types of dinosaur, an example of convergent evolution.

Chinese palaeontologist Xing Xu of the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (Beijing), someone who has intensively studied the Lioaning feathered dinosaurs commented:

“The finds are a fantastic discovery”.

However, he warns against getting too carried away, stating that the fossils are too fragmentary to be certain that the more complex feathery structures actually correspond to those found later in birds.  We suspect that further research is going to be carried out into the nature of these branched integumentary structures, before palaeontologists will agree that feather-like structures were widespread amongst the Dinosauria.

One of the co-authors of the scientific paper, Professor Danielle Dhouailly from the Université Joseph Fourier in La Tronche (France ), has been examining these ancient structures and comparing them to the down and feathers found in modern birds.  The lake sediments also preserved scales, so scientists now have evidence that both scales and feathers could be found on individual dinosaurs.  In addition, scientists now know that the leg scales found in modern birds are essentially aborted feathers.

The Ancient Lake Sediments Preserved Evidence of Scales

Fossilised bone (sandy colour) surrounded by evidence of small scales on the foot.

Fossilised bone (sandy colour) surrounded by evidence of small scales on the foot.

Picture Credit: Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences/ Dr. Pascal Godefroit

Professor Dhouailly added:

“Developmental experiments in modern chickens suggest that  avian  scales are aborted feathers, an idea that explains why birds have scaly legs.  The astonishing discovery is that the molecular mechanisms needed for this switch might have been so clearly related to the appearance of the first feathers in the earliest dinosaurs”.

There is more research to be done, but this discovery has potentially huge implications for our view of the Dinosauria.  Ironically, back in the beginning of 2014, Everything Dinosaur team members were asked to predict what news stories might occur over the year and they did predict that a discovery regarding feathered Ornithischian dinosaurs would be announced.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s full list of 2014 predictions: 2014 Palaeontology Predictions

Team members congratulate all those involved in this exciting fossil discovery and the subsequent research.

Wild Safari Dinosaurs Ammonite Model Reviewed

A Review of the Wild Safari Dinosaurs Ammonite Model

The design team at Safari Ltd have produced a number of prehistoric animal replicas over the years, broadening the scope of their Wild Safari Dinosaurs range to include other extinct creatures and not just dinosaurs.  In 2014, a model of an Ammonite was introduced to the delight of teachers, fossil hunters and model collectors alike.

The Ammonite Model (Wild Safari Dinosaurs)

Large eyes, deeply ribbed shell perhaps a model of a Pavlovia spp?

Large eyes, deeply ribbed shell perhaps a model of a Pavlovia spp?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Ammonites are an extinct group of Cephalopods, that belong to the extremely diverse Mollusc phylum.  Ammonite fossils, because of their abundance and variety, are very important to geologists and palaeontologists.  Along with two other types of Mollusc, the Bivalves and the Gastropods, (for example snails), Ammonite fossils help scientists to date geological strata relative to other rock formations.

Closely related to living Cephalopods such as squid, the nautilus and cuttlefish, Ammonites lived in chambered shells.  In most species the shells were coiled round and the animal lived in the last section of the outer whorl of the coil, in what is referred to as the body chamber.  The shells made of aragonite, a form of calcium carbonate, are extremely numerous in the fossil record, although the soft parts, the Ammonite’s actual  body tissues are virtually unknown.

It is believed that Ammonites had eight, grasping arms and  two much larger tentacles.  These two tentacles had many suckers on the end which helped these animals grab prey.  It is likely that because of the variety and diversity of Ammonite species, that these creatures occupied a number of niches in marine food webs.  For example, large actively swimming species could have hunted fish, crustaceans or jellyfish, others may have been scavengers, many smaller species probably fed on plankton.

The Ammonite Model from Safari Ltd

A great Ammonite model for use in schools, museums and for model collectors.

A great Ammonite model for use in schools, museums and for model collectors.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Safari Ltd replica is beautifully painted, the coiled shell being a metallic bronze colour, the body chamber battleship grey with the animal itself painted in subtle oranges and pinks.  Note the large eye, like modern Cephalopods such as squid and cuttlefish , Ammonites very probably had excellent eyesight.  They were probably visual hunters, their large eyes giving them excellent peripheral vision to help them avoid predators.

When viewed from the front, a good view of the muscular arms can be obtained.  The two specialised tentacles are painted a lighter colour and can be seen projecting downwards.  The ends, of these two tentacles have been provided with a number of round suckers by the design team at Safari Ltd, these represent the soft, fleshy pad called the dactylus, the apparatus with which the Ammonite could grasp and secure prey.

A View from the Front (Anterior View) of the Ammonite Model

Eight arms and two grasping tentacles.

Eight arms and two grasping tentacles.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Projecting out from underneath is the hypernome, a narrow, muscular tube that squirted water, providing the Ammonite with a form of jet propulsion.

The shell has very prominent ribs which are raised in the last whorl of the shell to form two rows of parallel spines.  Such ornamentation would have helped protect the Ammonite from attack, perhaps deterring a marine reptile such as a Mosasaur from taking a bite.  Whilst these spines would have assisted with the animal’s defence, they do not help much with streamlining.  It may be difficult to identify the precise species that the sculptors at Safari Ltd have based their model on, but due to the shape of the shell, those large ribs and projecting points, the model probably represents quite a slow swimming species.

The Wild Safari Dinosaurs Ammonite Model

A super model of an Ammonite.

A super model of an Ammonite.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This Ammonite measures a fraction under eleven centimetres in length and the shell has a diameter of six and a half centimetres.  It is not possible to put a scale on this figure, most Ammonite species were small, with shells only a few centimetres across, although the fossil record has preserved the remains of some giant forms with shells in excess of two metres in diameter.

To view the range of Safari Ltd models: Safari Ltd Prehistoric Animal Models

It is great to see a replica of an Ammonite added to the Wild Safari Dinos model range.  It is ideal for use in schools as an inexpensive teaching aid when exploring fossils and in addition it can be added to the display cases of Ammonite fossil material to give viewers an appreciation of what the animal actually may have looked like.

This is an exciting addition to the Wild Safari Dinosaurs model range made by Safari Ltd and it means that Everything Dinosaur now has an Ammonite replica to supply to model collectors and fans of prehistoric animals.  We even supply a fact sheet all about Ammonites and this will be sent out with model sales.

Famous K/T Boundary gets UNESCO World Heritage Status

Stevns Klint Awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status

The World Heritage Committee, meeting in Doha (Qatar) have granted World Heritage status to a number of new sites and locations.  These awards are given to reflect the cultural or natural heritage that such sites and locations represent, they are important to humanity and therefore it is imperative that their value is acknowledged.  One such site is the nine mile long cliffs at Stevns Klint, on the Danish island of Sjaelland.  These fossil rich cliffs record the K/T boundary, (Cretaceous – Tertiary) and as a result, this site is extremely important to palaeontologists and geologists.  The cliffs have preserved an exceptional fossil record showing a complete succession of fauna and micro-fauna that charts the extinction event and the subsequent recovery of life on Earth.

An exceptional fossil record is visible at the site, showing the complete succession of fauna and micro-fauna charting the recovery after the mass extinction.  Tertiary aged limestone deposits overlie much softer, older Cretaceous chalk deposits.  Sandwiched between the two distinct rock types is a thin, ash grey coloured band with high levels of the rare Earth element iridium.  This is the ash layer that is associated with the Chicxulub impact event that occurred approximately 66 million years ago and marked the end of the dinosaurs and the extinction of something like 50% of all life.

The Picturesque Stevns Klint Cliffs (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Geologically significant site awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.

Geologically significant site awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.

Picture Credit: UNESCO/Jacob Lautrup

This part of the Danish coast is a popular tourist destination, it lies twenty-five miles south of Copenhagen on the east coast of Sjaelland and many types of Cretaceous and Tertiary marine fossils can be seen at the local museum.  This site is one of three known in the world that exhibit the iridium anomaly, which helped form the basis of the extraterrestrial impact theory proposed by Walter and Louis Alvarez in 1980.

The K/T Boundary can be Made Out very Clearly

The K/T boundary is very clearly defined.

The K/T boundary is very clearly defined.

Picture Credit: UNESCO/Jacob Lautrup

The exposed succession is around forty-five metres thick and shows the stratigraphic evolution from Maastrichtian (Upper Cretaceous) across the K/T boundary into the very early Tertiary (Danian faunal stage of the Palaeogene).  A huge amount of research has been undertaken in this area.  Studies into the micro-fauna, palaeontology, geochemical changes, sediment deposition and sea level changes are just some of the research that has taken place recently.  The Stevns Klint locality is defined as the type location for the classification of the Danian faunal stage, it joins such famous fossil locations as the Jurassic Coast of East Devon and Dorset and the Messel Quarry near Frankfurt (Germany) as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Our congratulations to everyone involved in nominating this wonderful location.

Achievosaurs – Helping Foundation Stage Children

Learning  Skills with Dinosaurs – Achievosaurs

Team members at Everything Dinosaur, with their teaching and educational backgrounds have helped teachers and teaching assistants to develop all sorts of innovative learning materials for use in schools at the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).  For example, a large number of schools rely on Everything Dinosaur to supply the soft toys used in the Achievosaurs learning concept.  However, as manufacturers change product lines so some of the soft toys used in the original scheme of work are no longer available.  Not to worry, as Everything Dinosaur specialises in dinosaur toys, the company has a huge range of inexpensive, soft toy dinosaurs to help teachers in the classroom.

Some of the Original Prehistoric Animal Soft Toys Used in the Achievosaurs Teaching Concept

Some of the original "Achievosaurs".

Some of the original “Achievosaurs”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Children in Foundation Stage or Early Years education can gain important life lessons by being introduced to key learning skills at a young age.  Many schools include a drive to develop learning skills with students as part of a co-ordinated plan to improve life-long learning.  Essentially, the Achievosaurs, or as they are sometimes called “the Achieveosaurs”, with the extra “e”, aims to teach children about positive ways in which they can improve their ability to learn.  Qualities such as being persistent and not giving up too easily, being prepared to ask questions and to share thoughts and ideas.  The children are rewarded by being able to look after a dinosaur soft toy which epitomises the learning skill that they have just demonstrated.

Many schools adopt the Achievosaurs concept across all their classes in EYFS through to Key Stage 1, it often ties in with a term topic covered by the children in Year 1 and 2 which enables them to study dinosaurs and fossils.

Some of the key learning skills covered by the dinosaur soft toys in the Achievosaurs teaching concept:

  • ASKARAPTOR – I can use my imagination and ask interesting questions (based on a “raptor” dinosaur such as Velociraptor or Utahraptor regarded as some of the more intelligent and agile of all the dinosaurs)
  • SOLVEOSAURUS REX – I can solve problems and improve (based on T. rex the most famous dinosaur of all)
  • TRYCERATOPS – I try new things, don’t give up and work really hard (based on Triceratops, a very well known horned dinosaur with three horns)
  • STICKASAURUS  - I stick at tasks and persevere (based on Stegosaurus a popular, plant eating dinosaur with plates on its back)
  • THINKODOCUS – I think carefully about what I learn (based on the big, plant-eating dinosaur called Diplodocus)
  • SHAREOSAURUS – I share my ideas and can work well with others (based on the Spinosaurus)

These important skills can help prepare young minds for learning later on in life.  Teaching teams can come up with their on variants and new additions, however, the trouble is, finding soft toys that represent the likes of Diplodocus, Spinosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex.  This is where are experts at Everything Dinosaur can help, they not only can advise about educational matters but guide teachers through our extensive range of prehistoric animal soft toys.

To view the range of prehistoric animal soft toys: Soft Toy Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals

In addition, when Everything Dinosaur supplies prehistoric animal soft toys, a fact sheet on the particular dinosaur represented by the plush is included.

A Download is Available from Everything Dinosaur on the Achievosaurs

Helping to encourage learning skills.

Helping to encourage learning skills.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

With the advice and support of Everything Dinosaur’s trained specialists, teachers can utilise a child’s fascination with prehistoric animals to help reinforce important lessons.  Enthusing and motivating children to learn by utilising dinosaur soft toys in school.

A spokes person for Everything Dinosaur commented:

“With all the workshops and teaching activities that we deliver in schools, it was only natural that teachers and learning support providers came to us to help develop innovative ways of getting important messages about learning across to children.”

To read more about Everything Dinosaur’s school workshops: Everything Dinosaur School Visits

Dinosaurs, Fossils, Extinction for Key Stages 3 and 4

Higher Order Thinking Skills Encouraged in Key Stages 3 and 4

Science remains at the core of the national curriculum for the United Kingdom.  Although there may be differences in the structure of the education systems in Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland, there is a strong emphasis on studying science subjects and with the new curriculum due to roll out in England from next September, the focus is on learning how to work scientifically.  The dinosaur and fossil themed workshops conducted by Everything Dinosaur have always attempted to demonstrate the links between observation, investigation, experimentation and evaluation.  Staff are busy preparing new lesson plans, specifically aimed at students in Year 7 and upwards.

Dinosaur, Extinction and Evolution (Key Stages 3 and 4)

Looking at the evolution of H. sapiens with Key Stage 3.

Looking at the evolution of H. sapiens with Key Stage 3.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

For Key Stage 3 for example, science teaching is now directed towards outcomes such as the encouragement of higher order thinking skills.  Students are encouraged to build on acquired knowledge learned in Key Stage 2 and to make connections between different areas of science.  At Everything Dinosaur, we use real aspects of palaeontology to explore key elements such as food chains, the interrelationships between living things, environmental change and extinction.

We aim to enthuse, motivate and engage, there are some fascinating and intriguing lesson plans and schemes of work coming together.

To learn more about our dinosaur workshops in schools: Dinosaur Workshops in School

Class 2T Learn About Fossils and Dinosaurs

Year 2 Pupils at Morecambe Primary School Study Dinosaurs

After a morning of dinosaur workshops working with children studying Key Stage 1, Everything Dinosaur set the pupils a challenge.  We had done our best to answer their questions as we explored fossils and prehistoric animals but inevitably there was not enough time to answer some of the questions that the children had prepared.  So with Mrs Todd’s and Miss Bolton’s permission (Year 2 teachers), a creative writing exercise was proposed. The children were challenged to write to the Everything Dinosaur offices telling us about their favourite dinosaur or prehistoric animal fact.  If they had a question, then this too could be sent into us for our dinosaur experts to have a look at.

A few days ago, we received a big pile of letters from the children in class two.  There was even a drawing of a fearsome looking monster on the back of the envelope that contained the children’s correspondence.

Colourful Envelope with Prehistoric Animal Drawing

Colourful drawing from school children.

Colourful drawing from school children.

Picture Credit: Class Two

There were certainly a lot of amazing questions contained in the letters and plenty of dinosaur facts as well.  Class 2 certainly enjoyed themselves, Billy, Alice B, Jack B, Ellie, Amy, Darcey, Jenny, Nathan, Freya and Zara all declared that they would like to become palaeontologists when they are older.  With over 1,200 different types of dinosaur having been discovered, I think we will be glad of their help.  The children had illustrated their letters with lots of beautiful drawings of prehistoric animals, we have posted some up onto our warehouse wall.

Zara Drew an Orange Coloured Dinosaur

A bright orange dinosaur.

A bright orange dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Zara (Class Two)

Whilst at the school, we met a budding scientist called Alexa so we told her and the rest of the class about a dinosaur that had a similar name to hers.  We discussed Alxasaurus and on return to the office we emailed over some further information about this particular dinosaur.  Gabby was pleased to hear about Alxasaurus and in answer to the question asked, scientists think that this dinosaur would have been about a metre taller than Mrs Cronshaw (teaching assistant).

Jasmine’s Letter Featured a Purple Long-Necked Dinosaur

A purple dinosaur by Jasmine.

A purple dinosaur by Jasmine.

Picture Credit:  Jasmine  (Class Two)

We had lots of prehistoric animal drawings to admire.  Adam drew some Ammonite shells and asked how old would the oldest T. rex be?  This is quite a tricky question, but palaeontologists think that the biggest Tyrannosaurus rex known, the dinosaur whose fossils can be seen in a museum in Chicago (USA), was probably around thirty years old when she died.  The biggest Tyrannosaurs probably reached lengths of around thirteen to fourteen metres, we hope this answers Alissia’s question.  Our thanks to Isaac who informed us that T. rex lived in North America.

The most popular question that we received was why do dinosaurs battle?  This question was asked by Hannah, Harry, Jack and Lawson.  Dinosaurs fighting can be seen in films and on television, although, like animals today, for much of the time, most dinosaurs kept themselves to themselves.  The carnivores would have hunted and attacked herbivores, whilst some herbivores like the horned dinosaurs may have fought amongst themselves to settle disputes in the herd.  Some meat-eating dinosaurs would have battled others of their own species in fights over resources such as territories or disputes over rights to claim a carcase of another dinosaur for a meal.  In most cases, when dinosaurs of the same species argued, it would have been rare for them to come to blows.  Usually, as with animals today most disputes were settled with displays before a fight.  Amongst most dinosaurs fighting one of their own species would have been very much a last resort – good question though.

Colourful Prehistoric Animals Drawn by Jack

Thanks for the labels Jack.

Thanks for the labels Jack.

Picture Credit: Jack (Class Two)

Kaylee asked how many bones in a Tyrannosaurus rex?  This is another tricky question, as since no complete fossilised skeleton of Tyrannosaurus rex has ever been found, nobody knows for sure.  A typical human body contains 206 bones, T. rex probably had more bones than we do, it may not have had as many fingers but it had belly ribs called gastralia which we do not and it had a lot of bones in its long tail, perhaps as many as forty.  The bones that it did have in its body were much larger than the equivalent bones found in a human being, after all, Tyrannosaurus rex was much bigger than us.

Kaylee’s Prehistoric Scene in Her Letter to Everything Dinosaur

A long-necked dinosaur.

A long-necked dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Kaylee (Class Two)

We also received questions about extinction.  Some children wanted to know how big was the space rock that crashed into Earth, scientists estimate that it was around ten kilometres (six miles) in diameter.  It was travelling at over thirty kilometres (eighteen miles) a second, that is quick enough to travel from Morecambe in Lancashire to Sydney in Australia in around five minutes.  Some of the very last dinosaurs to have lived were Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops and Edmontosaurus.  Questions about the space rock, its size and which were the last types of dinosaur were asked by Joe, Eve, Lydia and Alice T.W.

A big thank you to all the children for the letters, hopefully we have been able to answer them all.  A special thank you to Mrs McGowan, Mrs Cronshaw, Miss Bolton, Mrs Coulthard, Mrs Jackson and Miss Woodcock for their assistance during the dinosaur workshops.

Now it’s time to pop into the warehouse and pin some more pictures up onto the wall.

To learn about Everything Dinosaur’s prehistoric animal themed workshops in schools: Dinosaur Workshops in School

Artwork Prepared for New School Site

Everything Dinosaur’s New School Site Coming Along Nicely

Team members at Everything Dinosaur have been busy sorting through and setting aside the pictures of all the company’s dinosaur themed activities in museums, educational events and dinosaur workshops in schools.  A number of new visuals are required for the new and improved “dinosaur teaching” website that is currently being worked on.  The website is much bigger than the existing site and we are keen to include as many photographs of our work in schools and museums as we possibly can.

One of the Banner Visuals for the “Dinosaur Teaching” Website

So many events, so many activities, so many photographs.

So many events, so many activities, so many photographs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The site is slowly and surely coming together.  It will provide teachers, home-schoolers and museum staff with lots more information about who we are and what we do.  In addition, there will be lots of free downloads of teaching materials to help with teaching about dinosaurs, fossils and evolution in schools and other establishments.  Hopefully the new site will be ready soon.

Fossil Fun at Wiltshire Museum

Fantastic Fossil Fun at Wiltshire Museum

In the beautiful town of Devizes (Wiltshire), lies a little gem of a museum which houses an amazing collection of ancient artefacts associated with this historic county of south-western England.  The chalk downlands of this part of the UK have provided archaeologists with a huge collection of Stone Age and Bronze Age relics and the museum itself boasts many fine examples including gold from the time that Stonehenge was built.  Wiltshire is the home of many historic, ancient monuments and visitors to locations such as the West Kennet Long Barrow, the Neolithic stone circle at Avebury and of course Stonehenge itself can learn a lot about the people who built these structures during a visit to the Wiltshire Museum.

Wiltshire Museum, is located in the heart of Devizes about ten miles to the north of the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge, now a World Heritage Site.  Within its walls, the extensive collection traces human history in this part of the world over the last half a million years or so.  However, a new exhibition housed in the temporary gallery space takes visitors further back in time as it explores fossils and prehistoric animals, many of which would have been familiar to our ancient ancestors.  Wiltshire itself, borders Dorset and team members at Everything Dinosaur recall talking to farmers in the area who have ploughed up evidence of strange marine creatures that once lived in a tropical sea that covered much of Europe.  A number of Mesozoic aged fossils are on display along with more recent finds that bring to life the Stone Age and depict animals that made up part of the prehistoric landscape.

Wiltshire Museum’s Fossil Exhibition 2014

Family orientated fossil exhibition at the Museum.

Family orientated fossil exhibition at the Museum.

Picture Credit: Wiltshire Museum

The friendly staff are on hand to guide visitors through life in the Ice Age and to explain a little more about the amazing prehistoric creatures whose fossils can be found in the sedimentary strata.  The Wiltshire Museum is open seven days a week and the exhibition will run all through spring and into August.  The Museum has recently been rated one of the top tourist attractions and places to see in Wiltshire on Trip Advisor.

To learn more about the museum and the fossil exhibition, visit the website: Wiltshire Museum

To read an article from Everything Dinosaur about how the fossilised remains of a Jurassic marine creature was used in a remarkable and unexpected way: Ink from Jurassic Belemnite found in Wiltshire “re-writes” history

Dinosaur Fun at St Elizabeth’s Primary School

Foundation Stage Children Explore Dinosaurs

The month of May is always a busy time for Everything Dinosaur team members and May Day itself saw Everything Dinosaur carrying out a morning’s activities with Foundation Stage children at St Elizabeth’s  Primary School.  The children had been learning about dinosaurs and fossils and with the help of their teachers, Mrs Carr and Miss Bailey the budding young palaeontologists had created a “dinosaur museum” in one of the classrooms.

The Dinosaur Museum at the School

Children create their very own dinosaur exhibition.

Children create their very own dinosaur exhibition.

Picture Credit: St Elizabeth’s Primary/Everything Dinosaur

The museum was full of lots of drawings and labelling exercises that the children had undertaken, with the help of Mrs Driver and Mrs Wilson (teaching assistants).  The children were keen to demonstrate which dinosaurs were plant-eaters and which ones ate meat.

As part of Everything Dinosaur’s visit to the school, our dinosaur expert challenged Foundation Stage 2 to create a piece of dinosaur themed writing.  Could they write about their favourite dinosaur?  Perhaps they could include a dinosaur fact,  could they recall something that the dinosaur expert had said to them and then include this in their piece of prose?  In return, Everything Dinosaur’s expert promised (pinkie palaeontologist promise), to email a drawing of an Ammonite for the children’s museum along with a fact sheet on these extinct Cephalopods for Mrs Carr.

A Promise to Send over Information on Ammonites

A model showing an Ammonite.

A model of an Ammonite.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Ammonites are members of the Mollusc Phylum and they are closely related to the cuttlefish, octopus and squid.  The children learned all about their wiggle-wobbly tentacles and how some Ammonites swam and caught fish.

It was a full morning of activities for the children, some of which were only just 4 years of age, but they demonstrated excellent listening skills.  Although, our dinosaur expert was kept very busy, there was still time to take some pictures of the lovely dinosaur models that the children had made.

A Model of a Tyrannosaurus rex Made by the Children

A very fearsome looking dinosaur.

A very fearsome looking dinosaur.

Picture Credit: St Elizabeth’s  Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

This dinosaur has some very big teeth and the yoghurt pot eyes look fantastic.  Perhaps the children can think of an appropriate name for their model, how about “Yoghurt-pot-o-saurus”?

To learn more about Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools: Dinosaur Workshops for Foundation Stage and Reception

The combination of physical activities, cognitive processes, tactile fossil handling with the extension activity seemed to be very well received by the children and their teachers.

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