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COP 21 – Global Climate Change

Global Climate Change in a Geological Context

Our planet’s climate has changed dramatically over deep time.  The immense geological record of our Earth and the fossils contained within certain strata point to several periods of dramatic mass extinction.  The Earth’s climate does change, it rarely remains stable for any length of geological time.  Whilst writing this piece and glancing out of the window it is difficult to believe that just a few thousand years ago our part of the world was covered in ice sheets.  Around 20,000 years ago, a mere blink in geological time, this portion of Cheshire was covered in ice approaching 1,000 metres thick, to the east, the prominent, coarse grained sandstones are testament to a vast expanse of desert that existed some 270 million years ago.

Cheshire (North-west England) during the Permian Period

Sand dunes once covered north-west England.

Sand dunes once covered north-west England.

Picture Credit: David Reimer

Global temperatures have also fluctuated widely.  The average global temperature in the first few years of the 21st Century is around 14-15 degrees Celsius, although there is plenty of geological evidence to suggest average global temperatures were much higher and lower in the past.  However, the rate of change is the concern.  Scientists and politicians are becoming increasingly aware that human activity has interrupted the natural, planetary circle and that human-induced global warming has serious implications for the stability of the Earth’s climate and the changes, if allowed to take place, could lead to the extinction of our species and a lot of other species too.  2015 is on course to become the warmest year in recorded history.  Thirteen of the fourteen warmest years were recorded in this Century.  Fortunately, measures are being put in place to try to minimise the effects of global warming.

COP 21

World leaders, politicians, scientists, environmentalists and lobbyists are gathering in Paris for the start of the global warming conference (COP 21).  COP 21 stands for the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  A convention signed in 1994 commits the majority of the countries of the world to work together to lessen the impact of global warming.
That long winded title was created in Rio in 1992 where countries concerned about the impacts of climate change came together under the United Nations to do something about it.  The key aim is the “stabilisation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.

The term anthropogenic refers to something that has been caused by or relates to our species (Homo sapiens).

Time May Be Running Out to Reduce the Impact of Climate Change

Climate change, time is running out.

Climate change, time is running out.

Picture Credit: Associated Press

The conference will run from November 30th to December 11th and its aim is to fundamentally re-order the economies of our planet to permit the reduction of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide that contribute to the global warming of our world.

When the Earth warms about 2°C above pre-industrial revolution times, scientists say there will be dangerous and unpredictable impacts on our climate system.  Our planet is already half way to that danger point.
So the purpose of the Paris conference is to work out a way of limiting emissions of greenhouse gases, while allowing countries to continue to grow their economies, and providing assistance to the least developed and those most affected by rising temperatures.

We wish all those taking part in the conference ever success with this enormous undertaking.  Let us hope that common sense, mediation and a common sense of purpose win the day.  It is not too late, but the window of opportunity is closing.  Our species is not capable of managing the Earth’s climate, however, we are capable of putting in place changes that will minimise our effect on the planet and the natural order.  Ice sheets will one day return to north-western England, deserts will also be here once again, just like they were millions of years ago.  Our planet’s climate changes, what we must do is to have the courage to build a consensus to help minimise our impact and to reduce the speed of change.  Failure to do so is not an option and the geology of our planet will bear testimony to how successful we prove to be in this undertaking.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of the BBC in the compilation of this article.

New from CollectA 2016 (Part 4)

New Prehistoric Animal Models from CollectA (Part 4)

Today we complete Everything Dinosaur’s round up of the new releases from CollectA with the fourth part of our series on the new for 2016 prehistoric animal models.  CollectA have left a couple of very impressive models for us to reveal today, it most certainly is a case of “last but not least”!

First up is this splendid re-boot of one of the most bizarre of all the members of the Ornithomimosauria, Deinocheirus.

New for 2016 An Updated Deinocheirus Model

Available from Everything Dinosaur in 2016.

Available from Everything Dinosaur in 2016.

Picture Credit: CollectA

Fans of the CollectA range will recall that a model of Deinocheirus was introduced by the company into their Deluxe range of scale models back in 2012.  At the time, the consensus was that the huge fossilised arms, powerful shoulder girdle and gigantic three-clawed hands (plus fragments of ribs and other post cranial material) that had been assigned to Deinocheirus (D. mirificus) represented some sort of super-sized “ostrich mimic”.  The Deinocheirus model produced by CollectA was a great attempt at interpreting the, as then, known fossil material.  However, more complete fossil specimens representing a number of individuals have been found in the strata that makes up a portion of the Nemegt Formation and palaeontologists have a much better idea of what this bizarre Theropod dinosaur actually may have looked like.

Designer Anthony Beeson takes up the story:

“Originally only known from an astonishing pair of arms almost 8 feet in length and a few other bones, it [Deinocheirus] remained an enigma for around fifty years.  I considered it too important an animal not to spread its fame amongst children, so a few years ago CollectA had a go at reconstructing the animal for our Deluxe range, and the result was very well received at the time.  Quite amazingly, two more specimens turned up around 2014 and the world at last saw what the animal actually looked like, which was something no one could have predicted.  Overall, our stab at reconstruction wasn’t bad, but the new fossils show that it actually had a large hump on its back and the head was a equipped with a Hadrosaur-like mouth.  The skeleton suggests that the tail bore a fan of feathers and so I have reconstructed it in the act of display, either during mating or perhaps as a show of defiance.”

What an amazing model it is!  It is fascinating to see how the interpretations of fossil material change and how model manufacturers respond to new scientific data.

The Deinocheirus 2016 replica is going into the “Prehistoric Life” not to scale series, it measures a fraction over seventeen centimetres long and that colourful head with its magnificent quills stands some ten centimetres tall.

CollectA Will Introduce a 1:20 Scale Model of an Andrewsarchus for 2016

A 1:20 scale replica of an Andrewsarchus from CollectA.

A 1:20 scale replica of an Andrewsarchus from CollectA.

Picture Credit: CollectA

CollectA’s prehistoric mammal models just keep getting better and better.  The Daeodon and Moropus models that were introduced this year won considerable praise and in 2016 CollectA will introduce a replica of the largest mammalian land carnivore that ever existed, the fearsome Andrewsarchus.

Explaining the reasoning for the introduction of an Andrewsarchus Anthony stated:

“For the prehistoric mammals, this year I chose to do Andrewsarchus from the Middle Eocene period some 48-41 million years ago.  It lived in what is now inner Mongolia, China.  It was named after the great American palaeontologist Roy Chapman Andrews, whose book “All about Dinosaurs” was a best seller amongst British and American children in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Although the animal has been reproduced in toy form before, and has starred in various television documentaries, it may come as a shock to many that all that survives of it is the upper jaw that is armed with a formidable array of teeth.  It’s lineage has also been a matter of controversy.  Like so many prehistoric creatures the body has to be a matter of speculation if one is to produce a toy, so this is my take on it.”

The 1:20 scale Andrewsarchus measures nineteen and half centimetres long and that impressive shoulder hump is nearly nine and a half centimetres high.

Both models will be available from Everything Dinosaur in the middle of next year.

To view the Deluxe range of CollectA models: CollectA Deluxe Models

To view the popular prehistoric life range of CollectA models: CollectA Models

To read an article that discusses in more detail the 2014 Deinocheirus reconstruction: Deinocheirus Done and Dusted For Now At Least

Dinosaurs, Rocks and Fossils

Dinosaurs, Rocks and Fossils with Year 3 (Broadway Primary School)

A busy morning spent working with the enthusiastic pupils in Year 3 at Broadway Primary as the children have been learning about life in the past and exploring dinosaurs as their topic for the second part of the autumn term.  This subject area links nicely into the national curriculum science element for England at Lower Key Stage 2 (Rocks, Animals and Working Scientifically).  One of the aims of that part of the curriculum related to learning about different types of rocks involves explaining how fossils form and what fossils can tell us about extinct animals.  The girls and boys got the chance to cast their own fossils from Everything Dinosaur’s collection and thanks to the classroom wall they learnt all about how sedimentary rocks get laid down.

Can you See the Layers of Sedimentary Rocks?

Can you see the different coloured bands which represent different layers of rock?

Can you see the different coloured bands which represent different layers of rock?

Picture Credit: Montana State University/Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows a view of the amazing Judith River Formation which can be found in Montana (north-western United States).  These rocks were laid down in layers towards the end of “Age of Dinosaurs”, near to the end of the Cretaceous Period.  The dinosaur fossils we find in these rocks are approximately 79-75 million years old.  Duck-billed dinosaurs and horned dinosaur fossils can be found (herbivores).  There are also fossils of the meat-eating dinosaurs (carnivores) but these are much less common then the plant-eaters.  Can Year 3 work out why?

We can also find fossils of salamanders, bony fish, lizards and several types of crocodiles, although none of these crocodiles are closely related to the crocodiles alive today.

Dinosaurs and Maths

As part of our workshop and in order to support a number of mathematical themed extension exercises, we looked at how big the teeth of Tyrannosaurus rex really are.  One of the “pinkie palaeontologist” challenges we set the class was whether or not the children could use the special “greater than” and “less than” symbols we sent over to make a table listing items in the classroom that were bigger or small than the T. rex tooth they saw.  Could the children think of a way to present their data?

Benjamin’s favourite dinosaur was Velociraptor, he and some of his chums were shown an unusual way to measure a dinosaur.  Once this relatively small dinosaur had been measured we set the class another challenge that involved them trying to measure a much larger, carnivorous dinosaur.  Let’s hope they can master their eight times table, as this would certainly help!

Dinosaur Models Made by the Children

Model dinosaurs on display at Broadoak Primary School.

Model dinosaurs on display at Broadoak Primary School.

Picture Credit: Broadway Primary School

On the classroom walls there was lots of excellent evidence of independent learning, the books at the back of the classroom had inspired the young researchers.  There were also a number of wonderful dinosaur models on display.   The Year 3 class had produced some excellent dinosaur replicas and we loved the “Thomasaurus”.

Dinosaurs and Literacy

In collaboration with Miss Heaton (class teacher), we were able to advise on further extension resources, focusing on literacy.  Different types of writing activities were proposed (non-fiction and fiction) and we challenged the children to use some of the resources that we had provided to write statements about prehistoric animals and also to think up some questions to pose for us.  We know Ethan and Emma have questions, we suggested that they save them in their heads and then include them in a thank you letter that they could compose and send to the Everything Dinosaur offices.

We look forward to seeing some of the results of the children’s research as they study rocks, fossils and dinosaurs.

Renowned Palaeontologist Jack Horner Will Join Chapman University as Presidential Fellow

John “Jack” Horner to join Chapman University (California)

John R. “Jack” Horner, one of the world’s leading experts in palaeontology, MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient and inspiration for the character of Alan Grant in the “Jurassic Park” movies, will join Chapman University in Orange, California as a Presidential Fellow, beginning in the autumn of next  year . He retires on June 30th, 2016 from a distinguished thirty-three year tenure as Regents Professor of Palaeontology at Montana State University and curator of palaeontology at the Museum of the Rockies (Bozeman, Montana).

John “Jack” Horner – To Join Chapman University

A new appointment for the distinguished palaeontologist.

A new appointment for the distinguished palaeontologist.

Picture Credit: Chapman University

Commenting on the appointment, Dr. Daniele Struppa, Chancellor and President-designate of Chapman University stated:

“I am delighted to announce that Jack Horner, one of the most creative living scientists, will join us as a Presidential Fellow in the next academic year.  We are not hiring Jack for our acclaimed film programme, nor for a palaeontology programme – we don’t have one – but rather for his unconventional and extremely successful approach to creativity and learning.  It is his ingenuity and his sense of curiosity and wonder that he will bring to Chapman as we continue to re-think the meaning of education and how students learn.”

For Horner, as he will be seventy when he takes up the appointment, the warmer climate in California might have helped tip the balance.  He will most certainly be missed after his remarkable career in Montana.  Everything Dinosaur reported on his retirement announcement back on the 18th of this month: Jack Horner Announces His Retirement (Well Almost)

With his tremendous energy and enthusiasm, he will be taking on a number of new challenges.  Speaking about his new role, he explained:

“I’m coming to Chapman because of its strong commitment to nurturing curiosity, inquisitiveness and creativity in all aspects of academia,  I very much look forward to helping Dr. Struppa and his staff create an integrative educational environment that accepts all learning styles.”

Looking Forward to the New Challenge

Last month, Horner spoke at Chapman University’s first annual Dyslexia Summit: Strength in Cognitive Diversity, where he recounted his inspirational life story.  As a child with undiagnosed dyslexia, he struggled in school and later dropped in and out of college, attending the University of Montana for seven years.  Although he never completed a formal degree, the University of Montana awarded him an honorary doctorate of science in 1986 due to his astonishing list of achievements in the field of palaeontology.

Among other ground-breaking accomplishments, Horner and his teams discovered the first evidence of parental care in dinosaurs, extensive nesting grounds, evidence of gigantic dinosaur herds, and the world’s first dinosaur embryos.  Horner’s “outside the box” thinking skills led him to ask why no one had thought yet of slicing open fossilised dinosaur eggs – and the result was the discovery of the delicate embryos, fossilised in place.  He was a leader in the now-widely-accepted theory that dinosaurs were warm-blooded, social creatures more like birds than cold-blooded animals like lizards.

Helping to Popularise the Study of the Dinosauria

Horner has named several new species of dinosaurs, including Maiasaura, the “good mother reptile.”  Three dinosaur species have been named after him.  He has published more than a hundred professional papers, eight popular books and fifty popular articles.   His book “Digging Dinosaurs” was lauded by New Scientist magazine as one of the two hundred most important science books of the 20th century.

Horner was the technical advisor for Steven Spielberg on all four movies in the “Jurassic Park” franchise, including this past summer’s global hit “Jurassic World”.  He also helped inspire the lead character Alan Grant, portrayed by actor Sam Neill in the first and third films.

Awarded the famed MacArthur “Genius” Grant in 1986, Horner has received many other honours and awards.  Most recently, in 2013, he was awarded the Romer-Simpson Medal, the highest honour given by the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology, for his lifetime of achievement in the field.  Earlier this year, he was recognised as one of the world’s top twenty-four scientists by Newton Graphic Science magazine.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges use of the press release from Chapman University as supplied by Mary Platt (Director of Communications and Media Relations) in the compilation of this article.

Prehistoric Times Issue 115 Reviewed

Prehistoric Times (Autumn 2015) Reviewed

The weekend has arrived and a chance to catch up with our reading.  First on our list is to browse through the latest edition of Prehistoric Times, the magazine for fans of dinosaurs, artwork and prehistoric animal models and what a super edition issue 115 is.  The Autumn 2015 copy of this quarterly publication features a fantastic, in-depth article on the making of the video game called “Saurian”.  The creators of this stunning game explain their reasons for basing the concept on the fauna and flora of the famous Hell Creek Formation of the United States.  Players of the game will get the chance to play a number of different animals, including the role of a herbivore and a potential prey item – Pachycephalosaurus.  On the subject of “bone heads”, Pachycephalosaurus is one of the highlighted prehistoric animals in the magazine and in a carefully crafted article, writer Phil Hore explains the history of “The Megatherium Club” and tells the story of some of this society’s more famous and notorious members.  The Smithsonian Institute will never be seen in the same light again!  Look out for some splendid Pachycephalosaur inspired artwork sent in by readers.

The Front Cover of Issue 115 of Prehistoric Times

Jorge Blanco painted the front cover (Deinotherium)

Jorge Blanco painted the front cover (Deinotherium)

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks

The second prehistoric animal the magazine sets its sights on is Deinotherium and once again Phil Hore provides a very informative article.  More wonderful artwork is included to illustrate this piece.  Look out for the detailed line drawing by British artist John Sibbick as well as David Hicks interpretation of a Deinotherium calf being rescued.  Notable mentions go to John Goodier and our good friend Patrick Krol Padilha.  There is also a photograph of an amazing sculpture created by Jim Martinez.

Editor Mike Fredericks, takes time out to give Everything Dinosaur a mention, our customer service and attention to detail have helped Everything Dinosaur to become a global player in the dinosaur models market and 2015 marks our tenth anniversary!

Everything Dinosaur Praised in Prestigious Magazine

Mentioned in dispatches!

Mentioned in dispatches!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Tracy Lee Ford provides further information on his poster presentation for the annual Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology conference (held in Dallas, Texas), the controversial area of how to tackle the “lips” of Theropods.  Lots of analysis, clever illustrations and comparative drawings to get your teeth into (no pun intended).  When done sir, we now have an article as reference material which covers fossae, lizard skull morphology as well as the smooth textured skull bones of Ornithischians.

Dinosaur Collector News

Randy Knol gives us an overview of new model releases and we note the “bootleg” Papo Archaeopteryx information that he kindly discusses, it is certainly a case of buyer beware!  For those collectors interested in what is coming out in 2016, keep checking Everything Dinosaur’s blog site and our Facebook page: Everything Dinosaur on Facebook we have not finished publishing all our exclusive “first peeks” at what models are due out next year.

Our chum, Anthony Beeson, continues to chronicle the history of the classic Invicta models and delivers a very informative and beautifully illustrated article all about the different variants that were manufactured.  The guide to base marks and the years of production is most enlightening.

From Britain to Brazil with an article submitted by Sergio Luis Fica Biston all about the Sauropods that once roamed the largest country in South America.  The editor, Mike Fredericks gets in on the action with a review of new replicas and resin casts, there is a section dedicated to a number of fossil and palaeontology news stories and look out for review of “How to Clone a Mammoth” by the very talented Beth Shapiro in the Mesozoic media section.  Beth very kindly sent an inspection copy of this super book to Everything Dinosaur about six months ago when it first came out.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s review of “How to Clone a Mammoth”: How to Clone a Mammoth by Beth Shapiro

Look out for the article on visiting the “Dino Hotel” and we are delighted to see Jan Harrison’s article all about building up the Pegasus T. rex and Triceratops kits.  We know these kits very well, Everything Dinosaur is the exclusive seller in the UK and our next shipment is due in early next week, which makes us swish our dinosaur tails in excitement!

Vote for Your Favourites!

It is that time of year again, when if readers can tear themselves away from the magazine, they are asked to vote for their favourite prehistoric animal model kit of 2015, the best animal toy figure, favourite dinosaur book and most impressive prehistoric animal discovery – subscribe to Prehistoric Times and join in the fun.

For further information on Prehistoric Times and to enquire about subscriptions: Prehistoric Times Magazine

It really is “Dinotastic”!

Baby Dinosaur Returns Home

Baby Oviraptorosaur May Be New Species of Giant Feathered Dinosaur

The fossilised remains of a baby dinosaur, identified as a member of the Oviraptorosauria clade have been returned to China, some twenty years or so after it was taken out of the country.  The baby dinosaur, a hatchling, may represent a new species of dinosaur, possibly a dinosaur that could have grown to about eight metres in length, around the size of Gigantoraptor (G. erlianensis) which is the largest species of this type of feathered dinosaur described to date.

To read about the discovery of the 1,400 kilogramme Gigantoraptor: New Chinese Dinosaur Described – Gigantoraptor

There is a large market for illegally obtained dinosaur fossils from China, many fossils found by local farmers such as dinosaur eggs and even baby dinosaurs, end up being carefully collected and smuggled out of the country to become part of a wealthy individual’s private collection.  This is what happened to the baby dinosaur fossil, it was found perhaps in the mid 1990’s amongst a collection of fossilised eggs in the Henan Province of China, it would have moved through various parties until eventually winding up in the hands of a private collector in America.

The Fossilised Remains of “Baby Louie” – An Oviraptorosaur

"Baby Louie" returns home to China.

“Baby Louie” returns home to China.

Picture Credit: Darla Zelenitsky (University of Calgary) with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The nearly complete fossil specimen was eventually purchased by the Indianapolis Children’s Museum (purchased in 2013), even though it was now in a museum collection, detailed scientific study of the fossil material was not possible, to provide a more complete understanding of the significance of this dinosaur, it would need to be examined in conjunction with other dinosaur egg fossils from the same Upper Cretaceous strata.  The fossil, nick-named “Baby Louie” after photographer, documentary maker and acclaimed contributor to National Geographic, Louie Psihoyos, was returned to China and now resides in the collection of the Henan Geological Museum, where scientists are confident that with other contemporaneous fossil material available, much more will be learned about this particular dinosaur species.

Darla Zelenitsky, of the University of Calgary, recently updated the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology at their annual conference held in Dallas, (Texas), about the progress being made with the research.

Dr. Zelenitsky stated:

“I have initially started doing research on the specimen in an attempt to identify the parentage of the eggs, but interpreting the fossil wasn’t so simple.  Most dinosaurs are named from adult specimens and multiple studies have underscored the fact that dinosaurs changed dramatically as they grew up.”

Unable to Speculate on the Nature of the Species

Although it has been widely accepted that the fossil represents a baby Oviraptorosaur, it has proved difficult pining down a genus or indeed erecting a new species for this fossil.

Darla Zelenitsky summarised the problems:

“Because of the nature of the preservation and the immaturity of the skeleton, who laid the eggs was difficult to identify from the skeleton alone.  The best bet seemed to be some kind of Oviraptorosaur, feathery Theropod dinosaurs that had strange crests, and strange beaks.  Yet baby Louie seemed to large for such a species”.

It was not until that Gigantoraptor was described in 2007, that scientists became aware that some types of this Theropod dinosaur could grown to be very sizeable animals.  Most members of this clade tend to be just a couple of metres in length, some such as Caudipteryx are a lot smaller than that.

Dr. Zelenitsky added:

“The eggs themselves suggest Oviraptorosaur, but their size indicated an adult egg-layer that would have been more than a dozen times larger than most Oviraptorosaurs known at the time.”

Whilst it is still not possible to assign a species to the fossil, the discovery of Gigantoraptor suggests that “baby Louie” could have grown to a similarly large size.  Although it is difficult to speculate given the paucity of the fossil evidence, it has been suggested that this young dinosaur could have grown to be the size of Gigantoraptor.

Could Baby Louie Have Grown to the Size of Gigantoraptor?

Feathers used for display and courtship.

Feathers used for display and courtship.

Picture Credit: BBC (Planet Dinosaur Television Series)

Now that the specimen is in Henan Province, Dr. Zelenitsky and her colleagues can put together a sustained research project to learn as much as they can about how Oviraptorosaurs grew and matured.

New from CollectA for 2016 (Part 3)

Two New CollectA Prehistoric Animal Models for 2016

In the third of a series of articles written by Everything Dinosaur team members, we can discuss the latest news about CollectA’s plans for prehistoric animal models which will be introduced in 2016.  There will be a further two additions to the CollectA Deluxe range of scale models next year.  Firstly, there is going to be a 1:40 scale model of the Late Jurassic carnivore called Torvosaurus.  Fossils of Torvosaurus have been found in Portugal and the western United States, currently two species have been named.  The Portuguese species (Torvosaurus gurneyi), is regarded by many scientists as the largest land carnivore known from Europe, it was certainly an impressive beast and it is great to see CollectA add a 1:40 scale model of this dinosaur to their Deluxe range.

To read an article by Everything Dinosaur about the discovery of Torvosaurus gurneyiThe Largest Meat-Eating Dinosaur Known from Europe?

New for 2016 a CollectA Deluxe 1:40 Scale Torvosaurus Dinosaur Model

Available from Everything Dinosaur mid 2016.

Available from Everything Dinosaur mid 2016.

Picture Credit: CollectA

Both the original fossils from Colorado and the recently named second species (T. gurneyi) have been found in strata associated with a number of other types of Theropod dinosaur.  Dinosaurs such as Allosaurs and Ceratosaurs.  It has been suggested that these large, carnivorous dinosaurs were able to co-exist as they did not directly compete with each other for food.  Torvosaurus for instance, had strong forelimbs perhaps these played a role in its preferred hunting strategy.  The co-existence of several different types of meat-eating dinosaur has been cited by many academics as an example of “niche partitioning” amongst Theropods.

Explaining his reasoning for opting for a Torvosaurus model, designer Anthony Beeson explained:

“I chose the Theropod Torvosaurus gurneyi from Portugal as it is European and, at the moment, the largest land predator known from that part of the world.   I have always been keen on making Europe’s dinosaurs better known, most people generally know more about North American species.  The European Torvosaurus differs from the American species (Torvosaurus tanneri) mostly in its dentition.  It is named after the James Gurney, the splendid palaeoartist who created the Dinotopia books.”

The CollectA Deluxe Torvosaurus has an articulated lower jaw and the model measures twenty-four centimetres in length and the head stands some twelve and a half centimetres high.  It was scheduled for production and release in the spring of 2016, but the latest information received by Everything Dinosaur suggests that it will be available around the middle of next year.

A Model of a Member of the Elasmosauridae

Joining the  Pliosaur and the Rhomaleosaurus in the CollectA Deluxe range next year is this super 1:40 scale Thalassomedon replica.  Thalassomedon swam in the Late Cretaceous seas of Colorado around 95 million years ago (the American species of Torvosaurus comes from strata that was laid down in what is now Colorado, however, the Theropod lived some 55 million years before, this elasmosaurid evolved).  Like its more famous close relative Elasmosaurus, Thalassomedon had an enormous neck.  The neck contained more than sixty cervical vertebrae and this long, but quite inflexible neck made up over half of the animal’s entire body length.

New from CollectA in 2016 a 1:40 Scale Replica of Thalassomedon

Available from Everything Dinosaur mid 2016.

Available from Everything Dinosaur mid 2016.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The model measures thirty centimetres in length and when measured from the top of that deep body, the model is just over three and a half centimetres high.  It is splendid to see another marine reptile added to the CollectA Deluxe model range and it is great to see Thalassomedon rather than a model of an Elasmosaurus, after all the Elasmosauridae is made up of a surprising number of Cretaceous, long-necked Plesiosaur genera.  Expect this model to be in stock at Everything Dinosaur by mid 2016.  The model is one of the very first large scale production replicas to show evidence of a tail fluke that at least some species of Plesiosaur may have possessed.  The name Thalassomedon is from the Greek, it means “sea lord”.

Talented designer Anthony Beeson, gave us his reasons for choosing to create a Thalassomedon model.

“The marine reptile Thalassomedon (sea lord), is another favourite of mine, and not only for the animal itself.  As a somewhat singular and quirky aside, I have to admit that its name is special to me as I have always loved that Greek word “Thalassa” since, as a child, reading about the March of the Ten Thousand and of Xenophon’s army crying out joyously “Thalassa! Thalassa!”  The sea! the sea! after sighting the Black Sea at the end of their perilous march”.*

To view the current CollectA range of Deluxe models available at Everything Dinosaur: CollectA Deluxe Models

To view the remainder of the CollectA Prehistoric Life range: CollectA Prehistoric Life Not to Scale Models

A number of other websites and other media sources might be announcing the addition of two mini prehistoric animal model sets to the CollectA range today.  For Everything Dinosaur, these two sets of mini prehistoric animal models, with each box set containing ten very well crafted replicas, have been in stock for a while now.

The CollectA Mini Prehistoric Animal Box Set 1 (A1101)

Ten super prehistoric animal models in the set.

Ten super prehistoric animal models in the set.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

 The CollectA Mini Prehistoric Animal Box Set 2 (A1102)

A set of ten beautiful prehistoric animal models.

A set of ten beautiful prehistoric animal models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view these model sets and other dinosaur box sets and collections available from Everything Dinosaur: Dinosaur Model Box Sets

*Xenophon was a Greek historian, writer and soldier who chronicled the conflicts that occurred in the late 5th and early 4th Centuries B.C.

Mysterious Token Linked to Mary Anning

Could Metal Disc Found on a Lyme Regis Beach Once Have Belonged to Mary Anning?

A small, round metal disc about the size of a ten pence piece has been identified as having once been the property of Dorset’s most famous resident Mary Anning.  The object may have lain buried for more than two hundred years on a Lyme Regis beach very close to where Mary found fossils of marine reptiles and Pterosaurs.

A Picture of Mary Anning (left) and the Small, Metal Disc

Did this once belong to Mary Anning?

Did this once belong to Mary Anning?

Picture Credit: Lyme Regis Museum with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The discovery was made by sixty-nine year old Phil Goodwin, a key metal detectorist who has explored the beaches surrounding the Dorset town on numerous occasions turning up such exotic finds as musket balls, old coins and a bayonet that dates from the time of Napoleon.  Experts at the Lyme Regis Museum, which is situated on the site of Mary’s home close to the sea-front at Lyme Regis, have identified it as a metal disc probably given to Mary by her cabinet maker father.

On one side of the disc the words “Lyme Regis” and “Age XI” – eleven can be clearly made out.  On the reverse, Mary’s name is stamped into the disc, along with the date 1810 in Roman numerals.

Mary Anning Disc “Mary Anning 1810″

Stamped on the disc are the words "Mary Anning and the year 1810 marked in Roman numerals.

Stamped on the disc are the words “Mary Anning and the year 1810 marked in Roman numerals.

Picture Credit: Lyme Regis Museum with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

Speaking about his serendipitous find, Mr Goodwin stated:

“I had been there about an hour or so picking up Victorian coins and musket balls when I saw something different.  It didn’t look like a coin so I rubbed it between my fingers to clean it up and read what it said.  I saw the name and date, but it didn’t mean much to me at first.  Then I showed it to a friend who said it could have belonged to the famous fossil hunter Mary Anning.  Imagine, what are the chances of that?”

Did This Disc Really Belong to Mary Anning?

The disc could have been stamped out by Mary’s father, perhaps as a birthday gift as Mary reached eleven.  He would certainly have possessed the tools and the skills required to complete this fiddly task.  However, the disc looks in remarkable condition and as we at Everything Dinosaur can testify, the tides regularly scour the beach and if the disc had lain on the beach for more than two hundred years, then surely it would have been washed away.

Mr Goodwin and those who believe that the retired antiques dealer really has unearthed an object that once belonged to Mary Anning, explain the disc’s condition and its presence on the beach as Mary could have dropped the disc on the cliff above the beach during one of her many fossil hunting trips.  Alternatively, it could have been thrown out and ended up in the local rubbish dump.  A Victorian rubbish dump is slowly being exposed in the area of the Church cliffs to the east of the town and the frequent rock falls often deposit Victorian bottles and other debris onto the shoreline.

David Tucker Proudly Displays the Metal Disc

David Tucker, the Director of Lyme Regis Museum with the Anning token.

David Tucker, the Director of Lyme Regis Museum with the Anning token.

Picture Credit: Maisie Hill

The disc has been put on display at the Lyme Regis museum, the picture above shows the Museum’s director David Tucker proudly showing off, what might be a link to arguably,  the most famous female fossil collector in the world.

Historians and archivists consulted by the Lyme Regis museum are convinced this disc was once a gift given to Mary Anning.  The disc is very similar to the metal circles used by Georgian craftsmen to attach handles to drawers and other pieces of furniture.

Richard Anning

Mary’s father Richard, passed away in November 1810, six months after his daughter’s eleventh birthday.  He had been in poor health for some time.  It is quite a romantic thought to consider that this small disc was a token of affection presented to Mary by Richard, who knew that he did not have long to live and that he, her father would not see another birthday for his daughter.

Commenting on the discovery, David Tucker stated:

“He [Richard Anning] had a long term illness and she was his only surviving daughter, he would have had the tools around the house.  If he knew he wasn’t going to live long, it just seems like the kind of thing a dad would do.  We’ve discounted the idea it could have been made later as a souvenir once she became well known, as it’s rather basic and crude.”

Sadly, Richard Anning would never know of his daughter’s fame.  Mary Anning spent most of her time exploring the beaches and cliffs of Lyme Regis and nearby Charmouth.  She and her brother had a remarkable record of important fossil finds.  Mary and Joseph (her brother), found the fossilised remains of an Ichthyosaurus, the first to be scientifically studied and described.  Mary also discovered a wonderfully well-preserved Plesiosaurus specimen and in 1828 the UK’s first example of a Pterosaur.

Recently a New Species of Ichthyosaurus was Named In Honour of Mary Anning

A new species of Ichthyosaurus.

A new species of Ichthyosaurus.

Picture Credit:  Dean Lomax and Judy Massare

To read about this new Ichthyosaur discovery: New Ichthyosaurus Species Honours Mary Anning

The beaches of Lyme Regis attract thousands of fossil hunters every year, although visitors do have to be mindful of tide times and the risk of rock falls from the dangerous cliffs.  One of the best ways to follow in Mary’s footsteps is to take a guided fossil walk, for details of such walks: Lyme Regis Fossil Walks

Tracing the Family Tree of the Brachylophosaurini

New Dinosaur Species from Montana – Probrachylophosaurus

The Hadrosaurs, commonly referred to as the “duck-billed” dinosaurs were a highly successful group of Cretaceous ornithischian dinosaurs that dominated the mega fauna of most of Asia, North America and Europe towards the end of the Mesozoic.  Many different types of genera are known and there is a general consensus amongst palaeontologists in terms of the taxonomic relationships between most species.  However, even though these large herbivores were abundant and the fossil record of these animals as collected from famous formations such as Hell Creek, Dinosaur Provincial Park (North America), and the Jingangkou Formation of eastern China, is quite detailed when compared to other types of dinosaur, there is still a lot we don’t know about these animals.

The “Super Duck” Probrachylophosaurus

Talented artist John Conway was commissioned to produce this illustration for the press release.

Talented artist John Conway was commissioned to produce this illustration for the press release.

Picture Credit: John Conway

The publication of a paper announcing the discovery of a new “duck-billed” dinosaur, nick-named “super duck”, in the prestigious journal PLOS One, sheds new light on how one particular group of these prehistoric animals evolved over time.  The new dinosaur has been named Probrachylophosaurus bergei, it translates as “before short-crested lizard” in reference to the fact that this new genus was found in strata that was laid down earlier than the very closely related Brachylophosaurus canadensis.  Indeed, in the paper written by Professor Elizabeth Freeman Fowler (Montana State University) in collaboration with her mentor and fellow Montana State University palaeontologist Jack Horner, the authors outline the anatomical similarities between these two members of the Brachylophosaurini clade that suggest that Probrachylophosaurus was ancestral to the later Brachylophosaurus.  This newly named dinosaur could be regarded as a “missing link” neatly fitting in between a much older type of “duck-billed” dinosaur (Acristavus) and Brachylophosaurus.  In addition, when all three skulls of these related dinosaurs are studied, they reveal an evolutionary link towards the development of evermore elaborate crests as display structures.

Tracing the Timeline Showing Evolutionary Transition in the Brachylophosaurini

Mapping the evolutionary transitions that led to more elaborate crest development.

Mapping the evolutionary transitions that led to more elaborate crest development.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The diagram above shows the relative positions of fossil finds of dinosaurs that are grouped into the Brachylophosaur clade (Brachylophosaurini).  Acristavus gagslarsoni, from the lower portion of the Two Medicine Formation of western Montana lived around 81 million years ago.  It had no nasal crest.  Brachylophosaurus canadensis is known from Canada, the Oldman Formation of the Belly River Group, these fossils date to around 78 million years ago.  B. canadensis had a flattened, almost paddle-shaped nasal crest which projected backwards over the skull roof.  The very well known and more recent Maiasaura peeblesorum is also a member of the Brachylophosaurini.  The fossils of Maiasaura are associated with the upper portions of the Two Medicine Formation of western Montana and it had quite a substantial bump on its snout, a much larger more striking crest.

Commenting on the significance of Probrachylophosaurus, Professor Freedman Fowler stated:

“The crest of Probrachylophosaurus is small and triangular and would have only poked up a little bit on the top of the head, above the eyes.  Probrachylophosaurus is therefore exciting because its age – 79 million years ago – is between Acristavus and Brachylophosaurus, so we would predict that its skull and the crest would be intermediate between these species.  And it is.  It is a perfect example of evolution within a single lineage of dinosaurs over millions of years.”

Skull Comparisons between Probrachylophosaurus and the Later Brachylophosaurus

Skull comparisons between Hadrosaurs.

Skull comparisons between Hadrosaurs.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The picture above compares  some of the known cranial material from P. bergei with a crest of the later Brachylophosaurus canadensis (left lateral and dorsal views).  The green arrow indicates the extension to the naris and other bone changes that led to the evolution of a more prominent and pronounced crest in Brachylophosaurus.

Professor Freedman Fowler with the Probrachylophosaurus Illustration and Cranial Fossil Casts

Professor Freedman with an illustration, and casts of the skull material.

Professor Freedman with an illustration, and casts of the skull material.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

This newest member of the “duck-billed” dinosaurs was nick-named “super duck” after it emerged although not fully grown, this dinosaur would have measured close to ten metres in length.  Body mass estimates suggest an adult weight in excess of five tonnes.  The fossils, including substantial post-cranial material were discovered in 2007, near to the town of Rudyard in north central Montana.  The species name honours Sam Berge one of the landowners who allowed access to the site to excavate the exposed fossils.

A nearby dig site revealed a fragmentary juvenile of the transitional Probrachylophosaurus, which suggests that successive generations of the Brachylophosaurus lineage grew larger crests by changing the timing or pace of crest development during growth into adulthood.  This change in the timing or rate of development is called heterochrony, a process which is being increasingly recognised as a major driving force in evolution.

Explaining the importance of heterochrony and how fossils of juvenile dinosaurs can assist scientists in piecing together evidence regarding change in populations, the professor said:

“Heterochrony is key to understanding how evolution actually occurs in these dinosaurs, but to study heterochrony we need large collections of dinosaurs with multiple growth stages, and a really precise time framework for the rock formations that we collect them from.”

The well-documented and accurately dated Campanian-Maastrichtian faunal stages as mapped out in the exposed Upper Cretaceous strata of North America provide palaeontologists with an opportunity to map heterochroneous relationships between animals of different ages but of the same species.  These in turn can permit the analysis of how these changes influenced the macro-evolution of the entire lineage.

An Illustration of the Closely Related (But Later) Brachylophosaurus

Brachylophosaurus illustrated.

Brachylophosaurus illustrated.

Picture Credit: Houston Museum of Natural Science

Celebrating South African Dinosaurs

Poster Celebrates  South African Dinosaurs

Earlier this week, scientists from the Evolutionary Studies Institute of Witwatersrand University (Johannesburg) put on display the fragmentary fossils of a huge dinosaur which roamed South Africa.  The fossils date from the Early Jurassic and represent an plant-eating dinosaur, a Sauropod that measured perhaps in excess of sixteen metres.  There have been a number of remarkable fossil finds over the last two years or so in South Africa.  These discoveries have helped to shed new light onto the fauna and flora of the Late Triassic and the Early Jurassic geological periods.  The announcement of the latest dinosaur discovery the “Highland Giant” coincided with the celebration of UNESCO’s World Science Day for Peace and Development.  A special poster has been commissioned to celebrate South African dinosaurs and other prehistoric life.  This poster was designed by artist and poet Maggie Newman.

Celebrating the  Prehistoric Life of South Africa

The prehistoric life of South Africa.

The prehistoric life of South Africa.

Picture Credit: The Evolutionary Studies Institute (Witwatersrand University)

The beautiful and very detailed poster depicts South Africa some 200 million years ago (Hettangian faunal stage of the Early Jurassic), a time when the continents were formed into a super-sized landmass that was beginning to split apart.  Dinosaurs were becoming the dominant terrestrial fauna but they shared the land with a wide range of other bizarre reptiles as well as some synapsids that were from the branch of the Tetrapoda that would lead to modern mammals.

Poster Key

This poster shows a scene in South Africa between 200 and 183 million years ago.  At the time the continents were splitting apart and there were many volcanic eruptions (1).  The climate was drying and there were sand dunes (2), tree ferns (3), yellowood (4), monkey puzzle (5) and ginkgo trees (6) formed patches of forest.  Early dinosaurs like this egg-laying Massospondylus (7) are shown fending off a hungry Coelophysis (8).  Heterodontosaurus (9) was different from other dinosaurs because it had incisor, canine and molar type teeth for cutting, biting and grinding up their plant food.  The name Heterodontosaurus means “different types of teeth” and this interesting small animal may have had quills like a porcupine.  In the scene, three Heterodontosaurus are fleeing a kill made by a crested dinosaur called Dracovenator (10), a relative of Dilophosaurus.  The Dracovenator is being threatened by a Ceratosaur (11).  The herbivorous Aardonyx dinosaurs (12) in the background are foraging peacefully.  Dinosaurs were not the only animals alive at this time.  Megazostrodon (13) was a small insect eating animal closely related to the earliest mammals.  Tritylodon (14) was a mammal ancestor with teeth like a dassie (Rock Hyrax – Procavia capensis).  The animal that looks like a lizard (15) is a small armoured land-dwelling crocodile called Protosuchus.

The original fossils of the dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals depicted in the poster are on display at institutions and museums around South Africa.

Dr. Jonah Choiniere (senior researcher at the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Witwatersrand University) stated:

“We think that this poster will show young learners…. ‘yes, South Africa does have dinosaurs’.  We hope that it will get them excited about studying the science behind South Africa’s incredible palaeosciences heritage.”

The poster is available for free and upon request to all visitors to the Origins Centre while stocks last and it will also be distributed to science centres, museums and visiting schools in the country.

To read an article all about the latest addition to the dinosaur dominated fauna of South Africa: South Africa’s “Highland Giant”

Everything Dinosaur would like to take this opportunity to thank those institutions involved with the commissioning of the poster, helping to inform and to educate people about life in the past.

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