Call for more Work to be Done on Western Australia’s Dinosaur Trails

Research being Carried out on the Dampier Peninsula Dinosaur Tracks

Usually when team members at Everything Dinosaur are asked to write about Australian dinosaur research, the focus is on sites in Queensland or indeed Victoria, however, a series of extensive dinosaur tracks located in Western Australia, along the Dampier peninsula north of the small town of Broome, are rapidly coming to prominence.  In the Early Cretaceous, around 130 million years ago (Barremian faunal stage), Australia was much further south than it is today, it was not a separate continent but attached to the landmass that would become Antarctica.  Coal deposits and plant fossils indicate that the climate at this southerly latitude was much warmer than it is today, there was probably no permanent ice at the poles and the land that was to become Western Australia was a huge flood plain, crossed by large, slow moving rivers.  Dinosaurs flourished in this environment and evidence of the diversity of the dinosaurs has been preserved in a multitude of dinosaur tracks.  The trackways can be found all along the coast north of Broome, where the Lower Cretaceous Broome sandstone is exposed.  The lengths of the tracks are very significant, some of the trackways can be correlated over a tens of metres, they are regarded as “mega track sites”, otherwise known colloquially as “dinosaur freeways”.

Tridactyl Theropod Tracks from the Broome Area

Three-toed dinosaur tracks.

Three-toed dinosaur tracks.

Picture Credit: Government of Western Australia (Dept. of State Development)

In a survey undertaken in 2011 a number of dinosaur trackways were classified and assessed, something in the region of fifteen different types of dinosaur have been identified including Sauropods, Ornithopods, Theropods and armoured dinosaurs (Thyreophora).

Dr. Steve Salisbury (University of Queensland), one of the researchers who carried out the study in 2011 is keen to see further research work undertaken and is enthusiastic about making the dinosaur tracks and trails better known to the public.  However, it is important that any studies are undertaken with the utmost respect for the feelings of the local indigenous people as the tracks and footprints play an important role in local aboriginal art and culture.  Dr. Salisbury commented on the importance of these Cretaceous dinosaur footprints:

“There are some really important ones, scientifically and culturally, that we don’t really want to let everyone know where they are.  But there are plenty of tracks that it would be fantastic to share them with people… Broome should embrace what it’s got on its doorsteps because it’s really special.”

In addition, care should be taken when it comes to publicising the location of some of the tracks, thefts of dinosaur footprints have occurred and in 1996 prints made by an armoured dinosaur were stolen from the Crab Creek area on the north coast of Roebuck Bay.  The theft of dinosaur fossils, even trace fossils such as footprints is an all too often occurrence, to read an article about the theft of a dinosaur footprint from Jurassic aged strata near to the town of Moab in Utah: Dinosaur Footprint Stolen in Utah.

Some of the Sauropod prints (long-necked dinosaurs) are huge.  Individual prints have been measured at over 1.7 metres long.  Although ichnologists (the term used to describe a person who studies trace fossils), are not able to assign a genus to the footprints, it has been estimated that some of the Sauropod dinosaurs that made the tracks were in excess of thirty metres in length.

Giant Sauropod Trackways from Western Australia

Dinosaur tracks from the Broome area of Western Australia.

Dinosaur tracks from the Broome area of Western Australia.

Picture Credit: Government of Western Australia (Dept. of State Development)

The enormous, rounded prints of a Sauropod dinosaur can be clearly seen in this picture taken in the Red Cliffs area.

The scientists hope that their studies will help shed more light on the ecology of this part of the world in the Early Cretaceous.  The large number of different dinosaur species that the tracks potentially represent gives the palaeontologists the opportunity to learn a little more about the behaviour and interactions of the Dinosauria.  The team intend to digitally map the locations using technology similar to that used recently to recreate the famous Sauropod/Theropod tracks preserved in the Paluxy River of Texas.

To read more about the Paluxy River trace fossils: Digitally Mapping a Famous Set of Dinosaur Tracks

Dr. Salisbury explained what the dinosaur footprints and tracks showed:

“Some of them look like they’re on a mission; they’re definitely heading somewhere.  Other ones look like they’re lost, and they’re wandering around in circles… We’ve got a record of what they were doing and it’s a hundred and thirty million years old, so it’s pretty special.  If you could go back in time and look at the Broome area, you would have seen all these different types of dinosaurs wandering around; it would have been really special. It’s your own Cretaceous Park, on your doorstep.”

The tracks are sacred to the local indigenous people.  The Aborigine tribes in the area believe that the tracks help explain their creation story and the scientists are keen to record the fossils, take latex rubber copies of the prints but to leave all the tracks in situ.  The first recorded description of a print made by non-indigenous people dates back to the 1930′s but the entire region has not been fully studied to date.  The survey undertaken in 2011 highlighted the importance and the significance of the location, now scientists are hoping to learn more by walking in the footsteps of dinosaurs.

Earliest Cardiovascular System Described from Chinese Cambrian Arthropod

Oldest Known Cardiovascular System Identified – Fuxianhuia protensa

The fossil of an Arthropod found in rocks laid down around 520 million years ago with an exquisitely preserved cardiovascular system has been described by a team of scientists led by researchers from the Natural History Museum in London.  The specimen represents the oldest known fossil showing a rudimentary heart and blood vessels known to science.  Thanks to remarkable fossil sites such as the Burgess Shale deposits in British Columbia and beautifully preserved remains of Cambrian creatures from highly fossiliferous strata from south-western China, palaeontologists have built up an astonishing amount of data on life in the seas and oceans of the world around 520 to 500 million years ago, a period in the geological history of planet Earth known as the Cambrian explosion due to the range and diversity of organisms that had evolved at that time.

The exquisitely preserved specimen represents Fuxianhuia protensa from the Middle Cambrian aged strata of the Chengjiang Formation (the Moatianshan shales of Yunnan Province, south-west China).  Fossils of this shrimp-like creature are very common in these marine shales, sixteen different phyla that have been identified from the Chengjiang Formation, a location that rivals the Burgess Shales in terms of the rich fossil record that has been preserved, although the material from the Chengjiang Formation is slightly older than the fossils from the Walcott Quarry section of the Burgess Shale deposits.  Until this particular specimen had been studied, it has been assumed that most of the internal organs of early Arthropods would not survive the fossilisation process.  Some fossils had been found that indicated the presence of a digestive tract and back in October 2013, Everything Dinosaur reported the discovery of an Arthropod (Alalcomenaeus spp.) from the same region of Yunnan Province that showed signs of a brain and the soft tissue preservation of a nervous system, here we report on the discovery and mapping of a complete cardiovascular system in a 520 million year old Arthropod.

To read more about this earlier discovery: Ancient Arthropod Brain and Nervous System Studied

Although many fossils of F. protensa are known, its taxonomic position with the Arthropoda remains unclear, it is thought to be a basal member of this phyla, which today is the largest phylum of animals and includes crustaceans, insects, spiders, mites, scorpions, centipedes, king crabs millipedes and a number of extinct Orders such as the Trilobita.  The external skeleton is most commonly preserved, either as parts shed as the animal grew or as complete specimens that represent animals that died, however, due to the exquisite degree of preservation in some specimens from the Chengjiang Formation, scientists now have a much better understanding of the internal anatomy of early Arthropods.  What is remarkable, is that sophisticated cardiovascular and nervous systems seem to have evolved in the Arthropoda at an early stage in the history of life on Earth.

Fuxianhuia Fossils that have been used in the Study

Cardiovascular system in 520 million year old Arthropod preserved.

Cardiovascular system in 520 million year old Arthropod preserved.

Picture Credit: Journal of Nature Communications

The photograph shows examples of the F. protensa fossil material used in the study.  Diagram (a) is a view of specimen YKLP 11336 from above (dorsal view), the location of the digestive tract running down the centre of the body is indicated by the black arrows.

Illustration (b) shows the head and the front of the animal (anterior view), specimen number YKLP 11337, the white arrows indicate the mouth of the creature.  Part (c) shows the filled gut within the abdominal segments, the gut has been preserved as carbon in this specimen (YKLP 11338).  Diagram (d) shows empty gut area marked by arrows in abdominal segments Ab9 to Ab14.

Diagram (e) shows the preserved outline of the cardiovascular system (YKLP 11335), A1 in the photograph marks the position of the left antenna and ey marks the position of the right eye.  The black triangles towards the top of the picture indicate the position of the bottom portion of the animal’s headshield.  The white outlined triangles towards the bottom of photograph (e) show the end of the thorax portion of the animal’s body.

Scale Bars

Most complete specimens of F. protensa are around 30 mm in length, the scale bars in the photographs are:

(a) = 5 mm

(b, c and d) = 1 mm

(e) = 4 mm

Commenting on the significance of this fossil discovery, palaeontologist Xiaoya Ma (Natural History Museum, London), one of the authors of the scientific paper published in the journal “Nature Communications” stated:

“It is an extremely rare and unusual case that such a delicate organ system can be preserved in one of the oldest fossils and in exquisite detail.  However, under very exceptional circumstances, soft tissue and anatomical organ systems can be preserved as fossils.”

Scientists now have an excellent understanding of the internal organisation of the anatomy of this Arthropod.  Usually, soft tissue decays rapidly after death and fossils typically only preserve the hard parts of an organism, such as the exoskeleton in the case of the Arthropoda.  With Fuxianhuia protensa the fossils show a tubular heart in the middle of the body with a complex system of blood vessels leading to the creature’s antennae, eyes, brain and limbs.  The cardiovascular system consists of the heart and the blood vessels.  It allows blood to circulate and to deliver oxygen and nutrients around the body.  Most higher forms of life in the Kingdom Animalia have such a system, although those organisms without a real body cavity such as flatworms and jellyfish do not.

The specimens studied suggest that as early as 520 million years ago, Arthropods had evolved a complex internal anatomy which is very similar in structure to the internal anatomy found today in extant Arthropods such as shrimps.

Like the Burgess Shales, the Chengjiang Formation material has preserved much of an ecosystem that thrived in a shallow marine environment more than half a billion years ago.  It seems that these two ancient environments suffered much the same fate as each other even though just like today, in the Cambrian, these two locations were thousands of miles apart.  Both the Burgess Shale Formation and the Chengjiang Formations represent shallow marine environments which were on slopes.  From time to time mudflows, buried entire ecosystems and as a result, a wealth of organic material has been preserved.  A large number of Fuxianhuia fossil material is known from Yunnan Province, scientists believe that this Arthropod was benthic (living on the sea floor), although it is not known whether this animal was an active hunter or a scavenger.

A Schematic Diagram of the Internal Anatomy of Fuxianhuia protensa

Digestive tract and cardiovascular system of Fuxianhuia protensa

Digestive tract and cardiovascular system of Fuxianhuia protensa

Picture Credit: Journal of Nature Communications

The diagram above shows the internal anatomy of F. protensa.  Diagram (a) shows the cardiovascular system (red) shown in relation to the brain and central nervous system (blue).  Diagram (b) shows the whole reconstruction, with brain and segmental ganglia (blue) overlaid against the external skeleton of the animal.  Diagram (c) shows the cardiovascular system in relation to the digestive tract (green).  In all three diagrams, the tubular heart organ can be seen running down the central region of the thorax.

Thanks to highly detailed fossils from British Columbia and south-western China, scientists have been able to acquire a lot of knowledge about life in the oceans of the world during the Cambrian geological period.  Although, advanced and highly evolved cardiovascular systems were present in many organisms, the paucity of the fossil record that pre-dates the Cambrian prevents scientists from calculating when key structures such as hearts and brains first evolved.  Given the degree of sophistication seen in the Fuxianhuia material two competing theories have been put forward.  Firstly, such specialised internal structures such as hearts, brains and a cardiovascular system must have evolved gradually with incremental changes many millions of years before the Cambrian.  Secondly, the evolution of such specialised internal organs occurred relatively quickly in response to the development of predator/prey interactions and the increased availability of food resources.

The research team are able to conclude that organisms had cardiovascular systems before Fuxianhuia, but evidence of lacking in the fossil record so no further light on the subject can be cast for the time being.

The genus name Fuxianhuia is after Lake Fuxian in Yunnan Province, the specific or trivial name “protensa” means “elongated” a reference to the elongated thorax of the creature.

Dinosaurs Beginning with “Z”

Dinosaurs Whose Names Start with the Letter “Z”

With a number of new Chinese dinosaur fossil discoveries being announced over the last few years or so, the number of dinosaurs, whose names begin with the letter “Z” has increased dramatically.  For example, the Thyreophoran (armoured dinosaur) from China called Zhejiangosaurus and the Hadrosaur called Zhuchengosaurus.  These are both examples of Ornithischian dinosaurs known from Cretaceous aged strata.  However, Jurassic, lizard-hipped dinosaurs (Saurischians) get a look in to at the end of the alphabet thanks to the discovery of Zigongosaurus (long-necked Sauropod dinosaur from the Jurassic).

It is not just dinosaurs from China that dominate the very last letter of the alphabet.  Our experts at Everything Dinosaur can think of two dinosaur genera from Argentina that both begin with the letter “Z”.  Firstly, there is the poorly known Triassic Theropod called Zupaysaurus, whose fossils date from the Middle Triassic.  Then there is the much larger Zapalasaurus, a Diplodocid Sauropod from Cretaceous aged strata.

Our favourite dinosaur beginning with the letter “Z” is the horned dinosaur from North America called Zuniceratops (Zuniceratops christopheri) which was formally named and described in 1998.

An Illustration of the North American Ceratopsian Zuniceratops

Reconstruction based on the likes of Zuniceratops.

Reconstruction based on the likes of Zuniceratops.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In 2011, a giant Tyrannosaurine dinosaur was named and described from a bone bed found in Shandong Province in China.  This dinosaur was named Zhuchengtyrannus magus.  Unfortunately, the press releases announcing the discovery were sent out by the Chinese press agency on March 31st and they arrived in UK news rooms the next day.  Many media groups thought the story some kind of elaborate April Fool’s joke.  However, roaming north-eastern China in the Late Cretaceous was a very large, Tyrannnosaurine dinosaur that may have been about the same size as Tyrannosaurus rex.

To read more about Zhuchengtyrannus: New Tyrannosaur Named and Described from China

With so many new Chinese dinosaurs, we can expect many more dinosaurs to have names starting with the twenty-sixth letter of the western alphabet.

Papo Archaeopteryx Model – A Review

A Review of the 2014 Papo Archaeopteryx Model

The first of the new for 2014 prehistoric animal replicas to be released by Papo is this excellent model of the Late Jurassic “dino bird” known as Archaeopteryx.  Although no longer regarded as the “earliest bird” from the fossil record, as recent discoveries from north-eastern China have challenged Archaeopteryx’s taxonomic position in the Aves Order, the dozen or so fossils of this Late Jurassic creature remain some of the most studied vertebrate fossils to have ever been found.

Named  and described back in 1861, just two years after Charles Darwin had published the first edition of the “Origin of Species”.  Archaeopteryx is described as a transitional fossil between the reptiles and birds.  The fossil evidence reveals that Archaeopteryx had characteristics associated with a bird but it also retained a number of reptilian features.

Papo Archaeopteryx Model (New for 2014)

Ready for take off!

Ready for take off!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The design team at Papo have been keen to reflect a lot of what is known about Archaepteryx in their hand-painted replica and to also mirror some of the very latest research into this creature whose fossils have been found in southern Germany (Solnhofen).  For example, the figure is posed with its jaws wide open, permitting the teeth, so reminiscent of a small Theropod dinosaur to be prominently displayed.  The three-fingered claws on each wing are clearly visible and the claws themselves are strongly curved just like in the fossil material.

As for mirroring some of the very latest research, a close up of the dinosaur-like head reveals that the eyes are quite large, again reflecting the fossil data, but also the pupils are rounded.  Recent studies of the sclerotic rings, the ring of bones found in the eye socket of Archaeopteryx, indicate that this animal was very probably diurnal, that is, it was active during the day and it very probably had excellent colour vision.  Hence the bright, quirky plume of red coloured quills that project from the back of the skull – great for species recognition when you possess colour vision in what was largely still a green and brown world.

The Papo Archaeopteryx model measures approximately twelve and a half centimetres in length, from the tip of the jaws to the end of its fan of tail feathers.  The head itself, is around seven centimetres off the ground.  We estimate that this replica is in approximately 1 to 5 scale, based on fossil measurements that indicate that this creature was around the size of a modern day Magpie.

The paintwork is excellent, and a wide variety of colours have been used.  This marks a change for Papo as the rest of their prehistoric animal model range tends to be painted in one or two dominant colours.  Here we have bronze coloured feathers, contrasting with feathers painted white and light grey, even feathers showing a flash of azure blue with the top of the scaly neck painted an almost navy blue colour.

The detailing is superb with individual scales and feathers picked out on the model.  Perhaps, the quality of this model is best demonstrated by examining the underside of the tail, an area often neglected by other model making companies.  Here even the individual structure of feathers can be made out.

Unlike the majority of Papo’s carnivorous dinosaurs the jaws do not move, the reason for this is simple, when working with Papo we were told that the jaws proved too small to articulate, however, the fine detail of the mouth and the skull more than makes up for this.

An Excellent Papo Archaeopteryx Prehistoric Animal Model

Papo Archaeopteryx

Papo Archaeopteryx

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

All in all, this is an excellent model of an Archaeopteryx and one that is a welcome addition to the Papo model range, it does have a great deal to commend it.

To view the Papo prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur: Papo Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals

Schematic Story Maps Help Children Remember Facts

Dinosaur Extinction Explained using Schematic Story Maps

When it comes to helping Year 1 recount what they have learned during their term topic on dinosaurs, the class teaching team at Wroxton Primary School utilise a simple technique that helps “map out” facts into a straight forward story for the children.

Being able to demonstrate evidence of learning at the end of a term topic is extremely important.  It is essential that the teaching team with the support of their learning support providers and teaching assistants can monitor the progress made by pupils.  At Everything Dinosaur, we recommend using the KWL technique to help plan and record the achievement of various learning objectives, however, there are a number of different techniques and methodologies available to teachers.

The KWL technique involves working with the class at the start of the topic to establish what the children know, what they would like to learn and this provides the foundation for the scheme of work and permits that all important recall and checking of learning once the topic has been concluded.

A Typical KWL Chart Prepared for a Dinosaur Teaching Topic

A chart to help kick-start a teaching topic about dinosaurs.

A chart to help kick-start a teaching topic about dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Essentially, KWL permits the following:

K= Know (test what the children known, brainstorming/discussion activities) log results

W = What (during the first stage questions will be raised, ideas to be tested proposed, these can form the basis of the teaching work)

L = Learn (the recounting stage or the recall stage, review at the end of the term topic what the children have learned (check learning, summarise learning)

During a school visit to a primary school in Oxfordshire, one of Everything Dinosaur’s dinosaur experts came across some excellent examples of story maps being used to help create visual cues to stimulate learning and recall for use in creative writing activities.  Our expert saw several examples of such “story boarding” maps, one covering the extinction of the dinosaurs, another telling the story of Mary Anning (1799-1847).

Visual Story Map for use in Year 1

Visual cues to help young children recall facts about dinosaurs.

Visual cues to help young children recall facts about dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Wroxton Primary School

A level of knowledge regarding possible causes of the extinction of the dinosaurs was clearly demonstrated by the Year 1 pupils who were eager to explain all about an object from outer space crashing into the Earth and what happened to the dinosaurs as a result.  This was a most impressive demonstration of learning using a technique which would appeal to those children who prefer a visual learning style.

Digitally Reconstructing a Famous Dinosaur Trackway

Dinosaur Tracks Lost to Science for Decades Recreated Using Digital Technology

A set of dinosaur tracks, one from a large Sauropod dinosaur, the second set from a meat-eating dinosaur, have been digitally recreated permitting scientists to study the complete tracks for the first time in more than seventy years.  The footprints, which cover a distance of approximately forty-five metres, are part of a number of dinosaur trackways preserved in near marine sediments that were laid down between 113 and 110 million  years ago (Cretaceous geological period).  The Theropod dinosaur’s three-toed prints overlie the larger Sauropod prints and this indicates that the large herbivorous dinosaur passed first, perhaps the carnivore was stalking the Sauropod.  The tracks, now forming part of the bed of the Paluxy River in Texas are often referred to as the “dinosaur chase tracks”, although scientists cannot be certain whether or not the Theropod was stalking its prey.

The Famous Dinosaur “Chase” Tracks (Paluxy River, Texas)

Famous dinosaur tracks - Theropod and Sauropod tracks.

Famous dinosaur tracks – Theropod and Sauropod tracks.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows a potential interpretation of the Paluxy River tracks, with the huge, plant-eating dinosaur being stalked by the bipedal, Theropod dinosaur.  It is difficult to assign a genus to these dinosaur footprints, but it has been speculated that the Theropod may have been a member of the Acrocanthosaurus genus, as fossils of this large predator have been found in similar aged rocks and a dinosaur bone from the Glen Rose Formation, has been assigned to Acrocanthosaurus.

Using a technique called photogrammetry, scanning and combining photographs taken during research at the location back in the 1940′s, the scientists were able to build a digital model of the site.  The computer model created is the only complete record available to study as some of the physical tracks themselves have been lost.

The Paluxy River dinosaur tracksite is among the most famous in the world.  In 1940, Dr. Roland T. Bird, a American palaeontologist from the American Museum of Natural History (New York), described and excavated a portion of the site containing associated Theropod and Sauropod trackways, the so-called “dinosaur chase tracks.  As the river flow was in danger of completely eroding away the dinosaur footprints, it was decided to remove the tracks in a serious of carefully excavated blocks.  The trackway was thus broken up into a number of sections.  Split up as it was, the fossil specimens were housed in different museum collections and over the years the slabs have deteriorated and a portion of the track has been lost.

The research team, which included scientists from Liverpool University, the Royal Veterinary College (London) and Indiana-Purdue University, Indiana, applied state-of-the-art photogrammetric techniques to seventeen black and white photographs of the tracks that had been taken by Dr. Bird during the 1940 trace fossil study.  By producing highly detailed scans of the original photographs and their corresponding negatives the researchers were able to digitally reconstruct the site prior to its fateful excavation.  Furthermore, the three-dimensional study was able to corroborate sketches drawn by Dr. Bird when the trackway was first scientifically described.

Sixteen of the Photographs from the 1940 Expedition Used to make the 3-D Digital Map

Some of the original photographs used to create the 3-D image.

Some of the original photographs used to create the 3-D image.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

This new mapping technique demonstrates the exciting potential for digitally recreating palaeontological, geological, or archaeological specimens that have been lost to science, but for which photographic documentation still exists.

Using dinosaur footprints made back in the Aptian/Albian faunal stage of the Cretaceous, this work has dramatically illustrated the potential for the technique of historical photogrammetry, permitting the creation of highly detailed and precise 3-D maps of sites that may have been physically lost and just preserved in photographs.  In this instance, the last time the set of dinosaur tracks was complete was back in 1940 prior to the removal of the footprint blocks.

A Digital View of the Reconstructed Tracks

Video Credit: PLOS One

Commenting on the significance of this study, lead researcher Dr Peter Falkingham (Royal Veterinary College) stated:

“Here we’re showing that you can do this to lost or damaged specimens or even entire sites if you have photographs taken at the time.  That means we can reconstruct digitally, and 3-D print, objects that no longer exist.”

The World’s Most Northerly Dinosaurs

Duck-Billed Dinosaur Bone from Axel Heiberg Island

Much has been discovered about the northern ranges of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs over the last two decades or so.  Palaeontologists now recognise that during the last few million years of the Cretaceous geological period a number of different dinosaur genera adapted to living at high latitudes, year round residents of territory which today is well within the Arctic Circle.  There have been a number of important fossils finds at locations such as those from the Prince Creek Formation (North Slope Borough, Alaska), only recently a new genus of pygmy Tyrannosaur was scientifically described – Nanuqsaurus hoglundi.

To read more about this new Tyrannosaur: The “Polar Bear” Tyrannosaur

Although the climate was much milder, the weather at these very high latitudes would have been seasonally extreme.  There would have been long periods of total darkness with the sun never ascending over the horizon with snow falls and temperatures close to or below freezing for prolonged periods.  In the summer, the high latitude would have have guaranteed twenty-fours of daylight for a number of weeks and the overall climate, based on studies of plant fossils and pollen suggests an environment similar to the state of Oregon in the United States or perhaps British Columbia (Canada).  The fossils found in the Prince Creek Formation are certainly important, but they do not represent the most northern dinosaur discovery to date.  That honours goes to a single, fossil bone found during a geological survey of the remote Axel Heiberg Island in 1992.  Axel Heiberg Island is seventy-nine degrees north and is one of the larger islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.  It is uninhabited, although some research teams set up seasonal summer camps.

The highly abraided dinosaur bone was determined as being a Hadrosaurine veretebra (back bone), although the genus remains uncertain.  It was found in the Kanguk Formation which consists of marine strata laid down during the Late Cretaceous.  A number of other vertebrate fossils have also been found but to date only one dinosaur bone.  It is likely that this fossil was deposited during the Campanian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous (around 83 – 74 million years ago).

During the Campanian, the eastern Canadian Arctic was likely isolated both from western North America by the Western Interior Seaway and from more southern regions of eastern North America by the Hudson Seaway.  This fossil suggests that large-bodied Hadrosaurid dinosaurs may have inhabited a substantial polar insular landmass during the Late Cretaceous, where they would have lived year-round.  Being effectively marooned on the land mass, these dinosaurs were unable to migrate southwards  to escape the worst of the winter weather.  It is possible that the resident herbivorous dinosaurs could have fed on non-deciduous conifers, as well as other woody twigs and stems, during the long, dark winter months when most deciduous plant species had lost their leaves and others would have died back due to the lack of sunlight.

It is likely that other dinosaur fossil discoveries await on the islands that make up the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, however, the difficulty in reaching them, the extreme climate and the lack of a road network or suitable airstrip means that much more research has been carried out in Alaska than on the islands of the high Arctic.  Palaeontologists are confident that further research will establish a rich and diverse Late Cretaceous ecosystem that was dominated by dinosaurs.

A Morning Studying Dinosaurs

Christ Church Primary School Pupils Study Dinosaurs

Year 1 pupils at Christ Church Primary School (Stoke on Trent, England), got the chance to get up very close to some dinosaur fossils as they studied prehistoric animals as part of their term topic.  Under the tutelage of one of the school’s Key Stage 1 tutors Miss Bryant, ably assisted by teaching assistant Mrs Dyer, the children have been learning about life in the past and how fossils are formed as they study dinosaurs over the spring term.  A team member from Everything Dinosaur had been invited into the school to assist with the teaching work and to undertake a whole morning of dinosaur themed activities and exercises as part of a dinosaur workshop.  The classroom was very colourful with lots of dinosaur artwork and posters on display and the children were very keen to complete morning registration so that the dinosaur themed teaching activities could start.

The children were challenged to have a go at casting museum quality replica fossils from Everything Dinosaur’s own fossil collection and with one group of children led by Mrs Dyer and the second group supervised by Miss  Bryant, two lovely replica fossils were cast.  The size and scale of some dinosaurs was considered and the children were encouraged to compare bones in their body to those of famous dinosaurs.  The brain of an armoured dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous being confirmed as being about the size of a six-year old child’s fist, whilst the same dinosaur could happily sit five Year 1 pupils in its body cavity.

Thank you Letter Sent in by Ocean

Ocean says thank you to Everything Dinosaur for school visit.

Ocean says thank you to Everything Dinosaur for school visit.

Picture Credit: Ocean (Christ Church Primary School)

There were lots of questions asked and the pupils showed a good degree of independent learning as the Everything Dinosaur team member discussed meat-eating dinosaurs and compared them to plant-eating dinosaurs.  Over the course of the morning, a lot of different types of fossil were examined and at the end of the visit an Everything Dinosaur “pinkie palaeontologists challenge” was set before the class.  Could the children demonstrate the ability to recall information and write a thank you letter to our dinosaur expert?

Dinosaurs as a teaching topic lends itself to all sorts of innovative learning activities that dove-tail into the outcomes and aims expected from the National Curriculum.  Creating a thank you letter permits the teaching team to introduce a recounting element into the teaching work.  This helps to check understanding and reinforce learning.

Often a problem when developing literacy exercises for Year 1 pupils is how to give the children  a purpose for writing, a thank you letter to a school visitor fits the bill nicely.

School Children Send In Thank You Letters

Wonderful writing from Year 1.

Wonderful writing from Year 1.

Picture Credit: Phoebe (Christ Church Primary School)

 All the letters that we received were carefully read by our team of dinosaur experts and we have posted them up onto a big display board, a special thank you to all the budding palaeontologists who wrote thank you letters.  It seems that the teaching staff had fun teaching about dinosaurs in school and the school children loved learning all about prehistoric animals.

To read more about Everything Dinosaur’s teaching about dinosaurs in school: Dinosaur Workshops

Bullyland Lambeosaurus Dinosaur Model in Stock

New for 2014 the Bullyland Lambeosaurus Replica

Everything Dinosaur has just received its stock of the new Bullyland Lambeosaurus dinosaur model.  Over the next few days, our team members will be busy contacting all those customers and dinosaur model fans who requested that we let them know when this new duck-billed dinosaur model arrives.

The Bullyland Lambeosaurus Dinosaur Model

New Lambeosaurus from Bullyland

New Lambeosaurus from Bullyland

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The model is very well painted (all Bullyland models in the company’s “Prehistoric Life” range are hand-painted), and we love the bright red crest on the skull of “Lambe’s Lizard”.  The Lambeosaurus is posed in a quadrupedal position and it gives the impression of a dinosaur trotting along, this herbivore is depicted as a dynamic, active creative.  This model is an improvement on other replicas that depict duck-billed dinosaurs in a “kangaroo-like” posture.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of Bullyland prehistoric animal models: Bullyland “Prehistoric Life” Model Range

The Lambeosaurus is the only Hadrosaur currently represented in the Bullyland range, it joins the Europasaurus as the second and final new prehistoric animal model introduction by Bullyland for 2014.

Australia Rejects Controversial Saltwater Crocodile Hunting Ban

Crocodile “Trophy Hunting” Plan Turned Down

A controversial plan to allow safari hunters in Australia’s Northern Territory state to kill crocodiles, has been rejected by the federal government in Canberra.  This is the latest set back for campaigners demanding a sustained and extensive cull of the many large, Saltwater crocodiles that inhabit water courses in the Northern Territory.

Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt said “trophy hunting” would not be appropriate.  The proposal, which was backed by the authorities and governors in Northern Territory, would have permitted up to fifty crocodiles to be shot for sport.  Currently, around five hundred crocodiles are culled in the region every year.

Those campaigners that put the proposal forward in the first place, argue the plan would bring in much-needed income for some of the indigenous people in the region.   The ability to put on such hunts would attract a lot of interest from shooting enthusiasts and this would give the State a considerable boost to its tourist incomes, but Greg Hunt’s decision to reject the plan has angered some Territorians living in some parts of Australia’s remote outback.

Australia’s Top Predator – The Saltwater Crocodile

Call for a re-introduction of hunting.

Call for a re-introduction of hunting.

Picture Credit: The Press Association

Bess Price, Minister for Wildlife and Parks commented:

“Greg Hunt has made a decision which will do nothing to improve the lives of indigenous Territorians living in remote communities.”

Saltwater crocodiles, otherwise known as Estuarine crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) can grow to a length in excess of seven metres and large males can weigh more than a tonne.  They are responsible for a number of attacks on people, pets and livestock in Australia each year, their numbers having bounced back dramatically since a hunting ban was imposed in 1971.  A number of these attacks prove fatal, once these crocodiles are over five feet in length they are regarded as man-eaters.  In January, two crocodiles were shot by park rangers as they tried to recover the body of a twelve year old boy that had been attacked.  In August of last year, team members from Everything Dinosaur reported on the recovery of the body of a twenty-six year old man who had been killed by a crocodile whilst attempting to swim across the Mary River during a birthday party.

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