Rocks and Dinosaurs at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School

Year 2 and Year 3 Study Dinosaurs and Fossils

Pupils at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School enjoyed a visit from Everything Dinosaur today.  The visit of a dinosaur and fossil expert was scheduled to take place as Key Stage 1 pupils were starting a topic on dinosaurs and Key Stage 2 classes were beginning a science topic all about rocks, fossils and soils.

The children in Wharfe class (all the classes are named after rivers), had been considering whether a dinosaur would make a good pet.  They had looked at eggs and put up notes on their topic wall about animals that laid eggs.

Identifying Which Animals Lay Eggs

Which animals lay eggs?

Which animals lay eggs?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The visitor from Everything Dinosaur was able to provide quite a bit of evidence about dinosaurs and their suitability for a pet.  Identifying how much a Triceratops probably ate by looking at the jaws and teeth, convinced most of the children that some of the biggest dinosaurs known would not make good pets.  Under the tutelage of the class teacher Mrs Conroy, the children would be learning about living and non-living things, with a focus on life in the past.  One of the learning objectives for this part of the Autumn term was for the children to consider what living things require in order to survive and flourish.  There was a big emphasis on developing a scientific vocabulary, our dinosaur expert helped the class by assisting them when it came to identifying what some prehistoric animals ate and the terms used to describe these types of prehistoric creatures.

To read more about Everything Dinosaur’s teaching work in schools: Everything Dinosaur School Visits

Year 3 (Swale class), had been learning about different types of rocks and their properties.  Mrs Hunt, the teacher was excited to learn about the local geology and all about the rocks that form Swaledale.  The children loved handling the fossils and taking part in the experiments to demonstrate petrification processes such as permineralisation.  On a table in the classroom, the children had lots of rocks to explore and to learn about.  The eager pupils were keen to show the Everything Dinosaur expert their fossils and he was happy to tell them all about these specimens, the class particularly liked learning about “Devil’s toenails”.

Lots of Rocks for Year 3 to Examine

A very full "rock table".

A very full “rock table”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Having left each class with one of Everything Dinosaur’s “pinkie palaeontologist challenges”, we shall see how the children get on and we are all excited to hear the results.

To Clone or Not to Clone a Woolly Mammoth

Documentaries on Woolly Mammoth Autopsy and Cloning Possibilities

Two documentaries focusing on the study of a remarkably well preserved female Woolly Mammoth carcase are due to be shown in the UK and the United States towards the end of this month.  Channel 4 (UK) will show “Woolly Mammoth: The Autopsy” on Sunday, November 23rd at 8pm.  Stateside viewers will be able to see a similar documentary entitled “How to Clone a Woolly Mammoth”, it will air on the Smithsonian Channel on November 29th.

The 40,000-year-old star of the show, is “Buttercup” a mature female Woolly Mammoth.  The frozen carcase was discovered back in 2013, when a research team from the Research Institute of Applied Ecology, the Russian Geographical Society and the North Eastern Federal University was exploring the remote Lyakhovsky islands, part of the Novosibirsk archipelago, situated in the Eastern Siberia Sea in the search for Woolly Mammoth fossil remains.  The scientists found that entombed within the ice, much of the front part of this Mammoth’s body was intact.  This was one of the best preserved specimens ever discovered and the television programme makers examine what these remains can tell us about these long extinct creatures and then the programmes discuss the prospect of scientists producing a clone.

When the body cavity of the Mammoth was examined, in places where it had begun to slightly thaw, a thick, red liquid could be encouraged to flow out of the flesh.  At the time this was described as “blood”. Although it may have contained constituents of blood, the television documentaries will explain in more detail what this was.  However, one thing that the field team could be confident about, this one of the best preserved Woolly Mammoths ever found.  Having a strong stomach is needed for this sort or work.  A nose peg/face mask is recommended, once the body starts to warm up, decomposition and putrefaction are not far away.

Returning a Woolly Mammoth, a species that has not been seen on this Earth for thousands of years, back from the dead.  This might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but the cloning of a Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius), is a distinct possibility although probably not for at least another thirty or forty years – just a blink in geological time.

To read about the discovery of the Mammoth that is now called “Buttercup”: A Woolly Mammoth with Fresh Blood?

Should the Woolly Mammoth be Resurrected?

Will the Woolly Mammoth return?

Will the Woolly Mammoth return?

Picture Credit:  Everything Dinosaur

 It is likely that this elephant became mired in a bog and she probably succumbed to exhaustion, although an attack from predators is not ruled out as much of the rear portion of the skeleton has been lost and that which remains shows feeding damage.   Whether this was post-mortem, we at Everything Dinosaur are unable to say.

Whilst we at Everything Dinosaur are very much in favour of the study of these Siberian giants.  After all, actually examining the slowly thawing out flesh of such a creature provides science with so much more information than just the bones. We remain concerned about the moral and ethical issues involved in any cloning process.  True, scientists from Harvard University and from South Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation are trying to just that, to bring a Woolly Mammoth back by cloning, although both teams are going about it in slightly different ways.

We feel that certain questions have to be asked, for example, what contribution to overall genetic research would such a project make?  Indeed, is it right to focus on trying to resurrect the Mammoth when more resources could be directed at trying to save critically endangered flora and fauna that are still around.

We imagine a scenario, whereby, many Indian elephant females are subjected to experimentation and if a clone could be created, then there is the problem of surviving the lengthy gestation if a successful implanting into the womb of a surrogate mother could be achieved.

If the baby could survive to term, then there is the birth itself, or most likely a Caesarean section, as no commercial company would want to lose their “genetic investment” at this late stage.  If the baby survives, boy or girl (gender will probably be determined for it), then it could end up being rejected by what would already be a traumatised mother.  If the calf lives, we suspect there may be a number of unforeseen medical issues (as has been the case in the cloning a number of extant animals), then what sort of life would this young Woolly Mammoth have.

Could we See a Baby Woolly Mammoth in a Zoo in 2050?

Baby Woolly Mammoth - the New Lyuba?

Baby Woolly Mammoth – the New Lyuba?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Possibly rejected by its own mother and never able to be part of a herd, this elephant, highly social by instinct, part of a species that had a childhood almost as long as a human’s childhood, would be totally isolated and alone.  It would have no references, no role models, no benchmark.  It would be a Woolly Mammoth or something resembling a Mammoth (depending on the proportion of Indian elephant DNA involved), but it would not know how to behave or act like a Mammoth.

We at Everything Dinosaur foresee a heart-breaking scene in a zoo, perhaps in the not too distant future, whereby, a shaggy, rough coated elephant is paraded in front of crowds of visitors to the great satisfaction and economic benefit to the institution that owns this genetic wonder.  For the animal itself, it would most probably be doomed to live an entirely unnatural existence with none of the social interactions that these elephants would crave.  Just as we have captured Orcas and displayed them at theme parks and we are now only being to understand the trauma we put these magnificent creatures through.

Being able to explore the flesh and blood of a long dead creature is of great importance to science.  We accept that one day in future the cloning of a Mammoth may indeed be possible.  But just because we can do something doesn’t make it right to do.  To clone a Mammoth would involve a tremendously dedicated team of scientists who would be pushing at the boundaries of our understanding of genetics, but just as with the study of the carcase itself, when it comes to the moral and ethical implications, a strong stomach will be required.

Let’s hope that the documentaries examine the ethical dimensions of cloning such as a creature as well as providing more information on how these ancient creatures lived and died.

A Fishy Dinosaur Tail from South-western Alberta

Fishermen Spot Duck-Billed Dinosaur Fossil in the Castle River

Palaeontologists at the Royal Tyrrell Museum (Alberta, Canada), have a new Hadrosaur specimen to study, thanks to a pair of keen-eyed fishermen who spotted the fossilised remains of an 80-million-year old dinosaur whilst on an angling trip to the Castle River in the extreme south-west of Alberta.

Back in August, a father and son fishing trip on the river was interrupted when the son, spotted the brownish/black outline of some bones exposed on the surface of a huge boulder that had been washed into the middle of the Castle River.  Last year, the south-west of Alberta experienced some of the worst flooding in living memory.  The devastation caused by the extensive flooding had a silver lining for vertebrate palaeontologists as a number of fossils were swept into river systems. This Hadrosaur specimen, which consists of a partial skull, articulated cervical vertebrae and bones from the upper portion of the chest, could represent an entirely new species.

The Fossilised Bones are Entombed Inside a Sandstone Boulder

The exposed skull (top right) and the articulated neck vertebrae.

The exposed skull (top right) and the articulated neck vertebrae.

Picture Credit: Royal Tyrrell Museum

Hadrosaurs, or more specifically dinosaurs that belong to the Superfamily known as the Hadrosauroidea, were bird-hipped, herbivores that had horny beaks and batteries of teeth to help them cope with tough vegetation.  Known from the Mid Cretaceous to the very end of the Age of Dinosaurs, these reptiles, also referred to as the duck-billed dinosaurs were amongst the most speciose of all the known types of dinosaur and they were particularly numerous and diverse during the Campanian and Maastrichtian faunal stages of Late Cretaceous North America.

Commenting on the significance of this discovery, the Curator of Dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Dr. Donald Henderson explained that the unusual location of this fossil find, just a few miles from the border with British Columbia, makes this specimen extremely important.

He stated:

“It is one of the reasons we were so keen to get it, every time we find something different in another part of the province, it’s something important.  This means we could be finding new dinosaurs in the extreme south-west of Alberta.”

A helicopter was called in to airlift the one tonne boulder onto a low-loader for transport up to Drumheller, where the museum is based.  The specimen will then be carefully prepared in the museum’s laboratory.  Field workers did search the rest of the river bed and along the banks in the immediate vicinity of the fossil in a bid to find other parts of the skeleton, but to no avail.  Last year’s floods may have delivered this partial specimen but the remainder would have most likely been washed away.

It is rare for such a specimen, to be preserved in this manner.  The sandstone rock in which the fossil is entombed is extremely hard, the resistance of this rock to erosion helped preserve the fossil, although extracting the fossilised bones from the surrounding matrix will be a very difficult and time consuming job due to the tough matrix.

Dr. Henderson added:

“It’s in really, really hard sandstone, otherwise it would have been smashed up a long time ago.  It’s [the fossil specimen] sort of coiled up inside, at the time of its death, the neck and head curled back and the body was swept away in a river of sand. “

A Close up of the Skull Showing the Rows of Teeth in the Jaws

Erosion has led to the skull and jaws being cross-sectioned to reveal internal details.

Erosion has led to the skull and jaws being cross-sectioned to reveal internal details.

Picture Credit: Royal Tyrrell Museum

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur said, that the actions of the fishermen should be praised.  It is important for members of the public to alert museums when they come across something unexpected and unusual.  The fossil is probably preserved in three-dimensions, the hard sandstone protecting the bones, normally such bones are crushed, flattened and smashed.  Palaeontologists might be able to learn a great deal about Late Cretaceous Ornithischian dinosaurs as a result of this fossil discovery.

More New Prehistoric Animal Models from Schleich (2015)

New Schleich Dinosaurs Added to World of History Range

Two more large dinosaurs will be added to the World of History model range in July 2015.  New versions of the fierce meat-eaters Giganotosaurus and Spinosaurus are being added to this Schleich model series.  The World of History model range next year is going to feature a lot of carnivores.

Orange Giganotosaurus from Schleich

With articulated jaw.

With articulated jaw.

Picture Credit: Schleich/Everything Dinosaur

Measuring around twenty centimetres in length, this is a beautifully painted Giganotosaurus and it has been given a very interesting pose, with its left leg raised as if this dinosaur is just about to take a step.  As it moves forward, it is balancing on its tail.

In addition to the fearsome Giganotosaurus, Schleich will be introducing another version of Spinosaurus to their model series.  Just like the orange Giganotosaurus, the Spinosaurus has been vividly painted and it too, will feature an articulated lower jaw.  The Spinosaurus is painted very brightly, in a beautiful violet colour.  Both these models will be available from Everything Dinosaur in July 2015.

Violet Spinosaurus from Schleich

Beautiful Spinosaurus dinosaur model from Schleich.

Beautiful Spinosaurus dinosaur model from Schleich.

Picture Credit: Schleich/Everything Dinosaur

Intriguingly, the Spinosaurus dinosaur model is posed in a quadrupedal stance.  This position, that of a carnivorous dinosaur walking on all fours, has recently found favour again after a scientific paper was published that, having reviewed the known Spinosaurus genus fossil material, suggested that this large dinosaur was semi-aquatic and was not capable of walking in a bipedal position.

To read an article on the Spinosaurus research: Spinosaurus – Four Legs Are Better Than Two

With these two new additions (due out in July 2015), the Schleich World of History model range will grow to a total of twenty models.  Eleven of these models will represent Theropod dinosaurs.

The popular small dinosaurs range is being retired and replaced with a brand new range of six dinosaurs.  These models will also be available around July of next year.  This new range is also Theropod heavy, with only Triceratops (an Ornithischian dinosaur) a non-Theropod.

Once again these models are very colourful and they range in size from a fraction under seven centimetres in length to around twelve centimetres long.

New for Summer 2015 Schleich Small Dinosaurs Range

A new range of colourful dinosaur models.

A new range of colourful dinosaur models.

Picture Credit: Schleich/Everything Dinosaur

The first models in this new range will be Carnotaurus, Giganotosaurus, Therizinosaurus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor.  These dinosaurs have been wonderfully well painted and we love the vivid, vibrant colours.

The blue Carnotaurus has attracted some controversy.  It has been claimed on some websites and forums that Schleich have omitted the arms.  In the pictures of this model no forelimbs can be seen.  At Everything Dinosaur, we have high resolution images sent into us by Schleich and these too, in the case of the Carnotaurus replica, don’t seem to show any arms on this particular dinosaur model.

A Close up of the Carnotaurus (Forelimbs not Visible)

Arms not visible.

Arms not visible.

Picture Credit: Schleich/Everything Dinosaur

To help resolve the situation, we chased up Schleich for an official comment.  We have been told that this model does indeed have arms, but they are very small.  Carnotaurus did have minute arms, why these Theropods had very much reduced forelimbs remains a mystery.

Here is the official statement from Schleich:

“Carnotaurus belongs to the family Abelisauridae and is the one with the most distorted extremities.  Additionally, its arms are directed backwards.  We had to apply the right arm to the body due to release properties.  It may be that you cannot see this arm in the product image.  But it is there.”

Schleich have made a number of Carnotaurus models in the past.  A Carnotaurus model featured in the now retired “Saurus” range of prehistoric animal models and a Carnotaurus was included in the company’s World of History model range back in 2013.  Both these replicas had the small arms, so typical of an abelisaurid.

Comparing Schleich Models of Carnotaurus

Schleich Carnotaurus models from different ranges.

Schleich Carnotaurus models from different ranges.

Picture Credit: Schleich/Everything Dinosaur

We have yet to see a sample of the new, blue Carnotaurus that is included in the small dinosaurs model series.  Once we actually get to handle the model and photograph it ourselves, the “missing arms” mystery will be resolved.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s current World of History Model range: World of History Prehistoric Animals

Looks like Schleich and Everything Dinosaur have some interesting times ahead.

New from Collecta for 2015

Temnodontosaurus and Moropus Models

The last two Collecta models to go into production for 2015 are the remarkable Ichthyosaur replica depicting a Temnodontosaurus giving birth and the Chalicothere replica – Moropus).  These will be available in the late Spring of 2015, we suspect around May/June.

The Ichthyosaur replica (Temnodontosaurus platyodon), is we believe, a world first for a mainstream model manufacturer.  The replica depicts a female at the moment of giving birth.  Viviparity in the Ichthyosauria was just one of their adaptations to a fully marine existence.

New for 2015 The Collecta Temnodontosaurus Ichthyosaur Model

Detailed Ichthyosaur figure.

Detailed Ichthyosaur figure.

Picture Credit: Collecta

 This model measures around twenty centimetres long from the tip of the snout to the tail flukes.  The baby is being born tail first and it is not detachable from the mother. There have been some remarkable fossils found which show Ichthyosaurs preserved in the process of giving birth, we are not aware of any such specimens which feature T. platyodon, but it is fitting that Collecta should choose to produce their first Ichthyosaur based on Temnodontosaurus, as this was the first Ichthyosaur fossil to be described, when a specimen showing a nearly complete skull and articulated cervical vertebrae was discovered in Dorset back in 1810.

An Ichthyosaur Fossil Showing Viviparity (Live Birth)

Viviparity in Ichthyosaurs

Viviparity in Ichthyosaurs

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum

 In the picture above, a baby can be clearly seen emerging tail first from the mother.  Being born tail first prevented the youngster from drowning before it had time to free itself from its mother.  A number of Temnodontosaurus species have been described, at around twelve metres in length, T. platyodon was one of the largest of all the Ichthyosaurs known to science.  It would have been an predator (but not likely an apex predator) in the Early Jurassic seas of Europe. Everything Dinosaur team members thing that this marine reptile specialised in hunting Cephalopods.   Based on a length of twelve metres we estimate that this figure would be in 1:60 scale.

The mainly black pigmentation of the model is based on recently published research (Lund University, Sweden) that suggested that most Ichthyosaurs were dark coloured, although the conclusions made by the Swedish researchers have been challenged.

To read about the research into marine reptile skin colour: Marine Reptiles Dressed in “Little Black Numbers.

To view the article that challenges the colouration proposed for marine reptiles: Working out the Colour of Long Extinct Animals Just Got Harder.

Now let’s turn our attention to the Chalicothere model that Collecta will also be bringing out in the summer of 2015 (July 2015).  This is a model of the North American “knuckle-walker”, known as Moropus.

Collecta Deluxe Moropus Model Available in Summer 2015

Wonderful prehistoric animal model.

Wonderful prehistoric animal model.

Picture Credit: Collecta

Intriguingly, this replica has attracted a lot of attention, after all, there are not that many top quality prehistoric mammal replicas to be found and this model of a Miocene  herbivore is superb.  Everything Dinosaur intends to produce a fact sheet on this model, we intend to focus on Moropus elatus (named by Marsh).

There may also be confusion over to the scale of the Deluxe Moropus figure, some paperwork from Collecta states 1:12 scale, whilst other notes refer to the Moropus being a 1:20 scale model.  The Moropus figure measures a fraction under fourteen centimetres long from the snout to the tip of the tail and it stands a little over sixteen centimetres high (top of the head). Based on M. elatus with a shoulder height of around 2.4 metres we estimate that this figure is nearer to 1:20 scale than 1:12, although this calculation does depend on which species  and which fossil specimens are used as references.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s existing stock of Collect Deluxe: Collecta Scale Prehistoric Animals

Either way it is a super, new addition to the Collecta range and we look forward to adding both these replicas to our inventory.

Kind Words from an Everything Dinosaur Customer

Praising Everything Dinosaur

We all work very hard to help our customers at Everything Dinosaur.  Whether it is packing a last minute order that is needed urgently for a birthday gift, or helping to advise a school on a fossil themed lesson plan, or even providing prehistoric animal models for a scientist, these are all typical activities covered in the last two hours or so.  We have thousands and thousands of customers all over the world, we are grateful for all the support that our little team receives.  Many of our delighted customers take the trouble to telephone us or email to say how good our customer service is (they also really appreciate our products and our prices).

Thought we would post up today an email sent into us this morning by Paula, a mum who was very pleased with her parcel and was delighted with the way we looked after her.

Paula wrote:

“I received my order and I am absolutely delighted with it, thank you!  I thought I must write and congratulate you on your outstanding service.  The email below that you sent to me when I placed the order was so refreshing.  I knew that my order had been received and that there was a real person I could contact if I needed help.  Also the information sheets you sent were fantastic.  My son is going to love them.”

It is always a pleasure to hear from our customers, glad we were able to help.
Paula concluded her email by stating:

“Keep up the excellent work. You definitely have the right approach to doing business! I wish you all the very best.”

Even our boss “Tyrannosaurus Sue” was pleased.  When it comes to dinosaur models and toys, people know where to visit: Everything Dinosaur.

 

A “Brummie-saurus”

Birmingham School Children Learn All About Dinosaurs and Fossils

It was an early start today for an Everything Dinosaur team member as they set off to visit a school in Birmingham (West Midlands), to work with the Year 3 classes who had just started their topic on dinosaurs and fossils.  The focus for the day was to help each class get to grips with working scientifically and to support the intended learning outcomes of the teaching team.  One of the things we had been asked to do was to help explain what the world looked like during the time of the dinosaurs and how the location of land masses has changed.  Time for us to bring in some of our collection of Permian plant fossils, specifically fossils of various Glossopterids to assist us with this aspect of our work.  A map of the world stuck onto the wall of the dance studio where we were based for the day came in very handy.

This is the first time a dinosaurs and fossils topic had been introduced at the lower Key Stage 2 level at this school, however, our sharp-eyed photographer spotted a wonderful paper mache Sauropod that was lurking in a corridor.  Apparently, this dinosaur had been part of a art project a few years ago.  It was certainly a very striking sculpture.

Diplodocus Inspired Artwork on Display at School

A school's very own version of "Dippy".

A school’s very own version of “Dippy”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur 

We conducted various experiments (hopefully, our experiment with 3PW will demonstrate tomorrow how fossils can form), we were asked some amazing questions by the budding young scientists and we set each class one of our “palaeontologist challenges” as part of the extension activities.

Our dinosaur expert got some lovely feedback from the children.

“I loved learning all about dinosaurs” – AB

“It was fantastic!” – AM

One of the Year 3 teachers told us:

“The children’s reaction to the workshop was fantastic.  They were all engaged and amazed by the facts and the artefacts!”

The dance studio, where we set up for the day, was also the place where a number of volcano models that had been built by children at the school were being stored.  We felt very much at home.

Models of Volcanoes Built by School Children

Geology on display in the dance studio.

Geology on display in the dance studio.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To contact Everything Dinosaur to learn more about our outreach work in schools: Contact Everything Dinosaur for Further Information

As part of the agreed extension activities, we set up a little bit of work for the children which links into their ICT studies this term.  We can’t wait to see the results.  Perhaps these Birmingham based school children will design their very own dinosaur, could we have a “Brummie-saurus” on our hands?

Everything Dinosaur Stocks Rebor Yutyrannus Model

1:35 Scale Yutyrannus Model Added to Everything Dinosaur’s Range

For some time now, team members at Everything Dinosaur have been working with Rebor and the people behind this brand of new, highly collectible prehistoric animal replicas.  The first of the models in the Rebor series, the Yutryannus (Yutyrannus huali) is going to be in stock at Everything Dinosaur very shortly.  A few weeks ago, we made a quick video in our boardroom which introduces the Rebor range and looks at the Yutyrannus replica in detail.

The Rebor Yutyrannus (Y. huali) Video 

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

 In this short video, five minutes and forty-seven seconds, we examine the packaging, discuss our involvement with Rebor and look at this beautiful tyrannosaurid model in more detail.  We comment on the integument that can be seen on the replica and explain a little about what is currently known about this particular feathered Chinese Tyrannnosaur.  Team members are finalising a fact sheet on this dinosaur, it is our intention to include this fact sheet with this new model, thus helping to provide collectors and dinosaur fans with a little additional information about this dinosaur, that was only formally named and described in 2012.

The Rebor 1:35 Scale (YREX) Dinosaur Model

1:35 scale replica

1:35 scale replica

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

 Everything Dinosaur intends to offer this limited edition model at a special introductory offer price.

For further information and for more pictures, simply email Everything Dinosaur: Contact Everything Dinosaur

Researchers Report on Cretaceous Trace Fossils From Angola

Important Prehistoric Animal Tracks Discovered in Angola

Amongst the many exciting news stories that have come out of the annual Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology meeting held this week in Berlin, is the report from the Paleo Angola Project about the discovery of extensive vertebrate tracks preserved in sediment that now makes up part of a diamond mine in north-eastern Angola.

Angola is one of the new frontiers for palaeontology.  This vast, yet underdeveloped country in southern Africa is believed to contain a number of Mesozoic aged, highly fossiliferous deposits and it is likely that any dinosaur fossils excavated from this country are likely to be species new to science.

Researchers Map the Trace Fossil Locations

Mapping the fossil locations.

Mapping the fossil locations.

Picture Credit: Paleo Angola Project

The picture above shows an aerial view of some of the trace fossils with their locations highlighted by the research team.  Dinosaur tracks are highlighted in the centre and on the right of the photograph, whilst the mammalian tracks can be seen highlighted towards the bottom left portion of the picture.

To read an article from Everything Dinosaur about Angolan fossil exploration: Angola Starts to Share its Fossil Secrets

In a report to the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology, researchers from the Paleo Angola Project described a location in the silt and sand deposits that represents a lacustrine (lake) environment dating from approximately 118 million years ago (Aptian faunal stage).  Approximately, seventy distinct footprints have been identifed so far.  These trace fossils represent footprints made by Sauropod dinosaurs, crocodiles and a relatively large prehistoric mammal.  The mammal print is particularly intriguing.  Most mammals during this part of the Cretaceous were very small, no bigger than rats, but the five-toed print measuring more than three centimetres across indicates that a mammal the size of a Bedlington Terrior dog or a North American Raccoon.  The scientists stated that the tracks were probably made over a substantial period of time, as the lake dried out over several seasons.

A Close Up and Line Drawing of a Single Mammalian Print

Five digits can be clearly seen.

Five digits can be clearly seen.

Picture Credit: Paleo Angola Project

The mammalian track suggests that in at least this part of Africa, mammals were much larger than previously thought.  The mammal track has been described as “a very rare find.”

Working out what kind of mammal left the rare footprints may not be possible, after all, no body fossils have been found.

Commenting on the discovery, Marco Marzola, one of the palaeontologists with the Paleo Angola Project explained:

“We cannot narrow down to a species but we can say what they [the footprints] do belong to.  They were made by an exceptionally large mammal, that we can say for sure.”

In the same location, eighteen Sauropod tracks have been discovered, the Paleo Angola Project team have already named and described one giant, long-necked dinosaur that once roamed Angola.  The fossils of this dinosaur were found in marine sediments.  It is likely that the corpse floated out to sea and there is evidence preserved on the fossilised bones of feeding from sharks, that were scavenging the carcase.

To read about the discovery of Angola’s first dinosaur: Angolatitan – Dinosaur that Ended Up as Fish Food

Praising the action of the consortium which owns the diamond mine (Catoca mine, the fourth largest diamond mine in the world), the scientists said that the mine owners stopped all activity at the mine to allow the researchers to map and plot the trace fossils.  The mine owners put the promotion of vertebrate palaeontology in Angola ahead of their own desire to make money.

Ankylosaurs with Air Conditioning

Complicated Nasal Passages Helped Keep Ankylosaurs Cool

Animals have a number of ways of controlling their body temperatures and cooling down.  Some warm-blooded animals like kangaroos and antelopes seek shade during the heat of the day.  Elephants cover themselves with mud or take a cooling dip.  Dogs pant and humans sweat, but how did the heavily armoured dinosaurs keep cool?  These “living tanks” with their huge, armoured bodies could have been in danger of overheating as they wandered around in the Mesozoic.  A new paper suggests that their complicated nasal passages not only would have helped these animals with their sense of smell, but they would have acted as very efficient heat transfers.

Ankylosaurids with Built in Air Conditioning

Armoured dinosaur models.

Armoured dinosaur models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A team of scientists based at Ohio University used CAT scans of ankylosaurid cranial material to map the anatomy of the complex nasal passages in two different North American Ankylosaur species.  The team then modelled the air flow in three dimensions using a computer programme that interpreted the CAT scan data.  Palaeontologist Jason Bourke, one of the authors of the scientific paper stated that the complex nasal passages would have given the inhaled air more time to warm up to body temperature by drawing heat way from blood vessels in the nasal cavity.  This would have helped cool the blood and in turn this would have cooled vital organs such as the brain.  The brain of even the largest ankylosaurids was extremely small when compared to their body size.  The dinosaur experts at Everything Dinosaur regularly compare the brain of a large Ankylosaur such as Euoplocephalus tutus to the size of a child’s fist.  The nasal passages would have helped to keep the brain in its heavily armoured skull cool and stable.

Mammals and birds use scroll-shaped bones called conchae, otherwise known as turbinates to warm air that is breathed in, but the armoured dinosaurs seem to have achieved the same result with a completely different anatomical configuration.

Commenting on the study, Jason Bourke stated:

“There are two ways that animal noses transfer heat while breathing.  One is to pack a bunch of conchae into the air field, like most mammals and birds do, it is spatially efficient.  The other option is to what lizards and crocodiles do and simply make the nasal airway much longer.  Ankylosaurs seem to have taken this second approach to the extreme.”

Doctor Lawrence Witmer (Ohio University), who was also involved in this research explained:

“Our team discovered these “crazy-straw” airways several years ago, but only recently have we been able to scientifically test hypotheses on how they functioned.  By simulating airflow through these noses, we found that these stretched airways were effective heat exchangers.  They would have allowed these multi-tonne beasts to keep their multi-ounce brains from overheating.”

Ohio University researchers had previously studied the complex nasal passages of another group of Ornithischian dinosaurs – the Pachycephalosaurs.

To read this earlier article: Nosing Around Pachycephalosaurs

Just like noses in humans, (Homo sapiens) ankylosaurid noses are likely to have served more than one function.  As the complex nasal passages helped condition the air that was breathed in and out, water may have been removed from exhaled breath helping these dinosaurs to retain water, important when you live in arid environments.  In addition, the convoluted passageways may have added resonance to the low-pitched sounds this dinosaur made.  The nose could have amplified these sounds acting as a resonator, making the noises made by Ankylosaurs  heard over greater distances.

Staypressed theme by Themocracy