Rare Horseshoe Crab Fossil Discovery from Nova Scotia

The Important Role Enthusiastic Amateurs Play in Palaeontology

Last week Everything Dinosaur reported on the concerns being raised over the extensive amount of digging into cliffs on north Norfolk beaches by fossil collectors.  Whilst we frown upon such activities and urge all fossil collectors to follow the fossil collecting code, today, we report on the significant contribution made to palaeontology by a couple of enthusiastic fossil hunters from Nova Scotia.  Their dedication has resulted in a number of important discoveries, the latest being a new species of ancient horseshoe crab, which is known from just two specimens.

To read the article about concerns over coastal Norfolk fossil sites: Experts Fear for Safety of Fossils and Fossil Collectors

Say Hello to Paleolimulus woodae – A 360 million-year-old Horseshoe Crab

Paleolimulus woodae fossil from Blue Beach (Bay of Fundy)

Paleolimulus woodae fossil from Blue Beach (Bay of Fundy)

Picture Credit: CTV News Atlantic

Lower Carboniferous Sandstones and Silts of the Bay of Fundy

The Blue Beach area of the Bay of Fundy (Nova Scotia), is one of the most important Late Palaeozoic fossil locations in the world.  The strata is being constantly eroded by the exceptionally powerful tides (a macro tidal environment) and the eroding cliffs are giving up the fossilised remains of animals and plants that lived in the very Early Carboniferous period (Lower Mississippian Epoch – Tournaisian faunal stage).  The body and trace fossils found here record life in a estuarine environment bordered by dense swamps that existed some 360 million years ago.  Thanks to the efforts of husband and wife team Chris Mansky and Sonja Wood, tens of thousands of fossil specimens have been retrieved from the beach.  The rocks have such significance as they preserve fossils of some of the very first Tetrapods – primitive amphibians that were the first terrestrial vertebrates.  Working in conjunction with scientists from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, an extremely rare horseshoe crab has been identified and described as a new species.  The species name honours Sonja, the ancient Arthropod has been called Paleolimulus woodae (pronounced pay-leo-limb-mew-lus wood-i).

A Natural Goldmine for Fossils

Commenting on the significance of the fossil find, co-author of the scientific paper that has just been published in the academic journal “Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie”, Chris Mansky stated:

“We’re sitting on an unrealised bonanza or mother-load of information.  It’s a very small scarp that shows probably one of the most important pieces of evolutionary information.”

The powerful tides scour the beach and cliffs twice a day exposing fossil material all year round.  The work of Chris and Sonja is vital, as without their help, many important fossil specimens, such as the ten pence sized horseshoe crab fossil would be lost.  The couple have run the Blue Beach Fossil Museum since 2002, and they have amassed a collection of some 90,000 lbs of rocks containing body fossils of early Tetrapods, ancient fish, molluscs, as well as important trace fossils, preserving tracks in the mud made by both back-boned animals and invertebrates.

Sonja Wood of the Blue Beach Fossil Museum Holding One of the Specimens of  Paleolimulus woodae

Sonja Wood Holding a specimen of her namesake - P. woodae

Sonja Wood Holding a specimen of her namesake – P. woodae

Picture Credit: Colin Chisholm – Hants Journal

Romer’s Gap* and All That

Horseshoe crabs are marine Arthropods, (Order Xiphosurida, Family Limulidae), known as living fossils as they seem little changed since their evolutionary origins some 450 million years ago.  A number of genera exist today, but populations are threatened due to habitat destruction and the removal of eggs for human consumption.

An Illustration of a Extant Horseshoe Crab

An illustration of a Horseshoe Crab (a living fossil).

An illustration of a Horseshoe Crab (a living fossil).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Blue Beach location is regarded as one of the most important Lagerstätte (strata with an abundance of fossils), of the Late Palaeozoic.  The Lower Carboniferous rocks are helping to provide scientists with information about vertebrates to fill in “Romer’s Gap”, a discontinuity in the fossil record between the end of the Devonian and the first fifteen million years of the Carboniferous, a time when terrestrial ecosystems were rapidly evolving and the first land animals with back-bones were becoming widespread.  The gap in the geological record is named after the American palaeontologist Alfred Sherwood Romer who first recognised this discontinuity.

Explaining just how rare the horseshoe crab fossils are, Chris Mansky said:

“Out of the tens of thousands of fossils that have been gathered [from the Blue Beach area] only two were horseshoe crab.”

The fossil material including body impressions and tracks made by the horseshoe crabs in the soft mud are helping scientists to piece together more information about this ancient palaeoenvironment.  Today, we pay tribute to Chris and Sonja whose efforts are helping scientists to learn more about a crucial period in the evolution of life on Earth.

Romer’s Gap* An Explanation

The gap in the fossil record that marks the beginning of the Carboniferous geological period.  In sedimentary rocks fractionally older than Romer’s Gap palaeontologists have unearthed evidence of very primitive Devonian Tetrapods , fish with fingers, lots of fingers.  Tetrapod fossils found in slightly younger rocks provide evidence of Carboniferous Tetrapods that all had five fingers and toes and they are much better adapted to terrestrial habitats.

JurassicCollectables Reviews the Colour Variant Papo T. rex

A Video Review of the Papo Colour Variant T. rex

With the arrival of the splendid Papo colour variant Tyrannosaurus rex model at Everything Dinosaur we thought it would be a good idea to mark the addition of this super dinosaur replica to our range by sharing the video review made by JurassicCollectables.  The video reviewing the Papo T. rex dinosaur model by JurassicCollectables really does this 2016 figure justice and the clear, close up photography shows off the fantastic colour scheme of this meat-eating dinosaur.

JurassicCollectables Reviews the Papo Tyrannosaurus rex Colour Variant

Video Credit: JurassicCollectables

Detailed Video

In the twelve minute long video, the narrator starts with the head and points out the details including the fine paintwork on the articulated jaw.  The colour scheme is not quite as purple looking as other re-painted T. rex models made by Papo, but JurassicCollectables describe this model as “exquisite” with “really lovely work by Papo”.  The model is even shown in ventral view (looking at the belly), in this view the wonderful detail of the scales on the body can be made out, this is once again an excellent model from the Papo stable.

To view the Papo dinosaur range available at Everything Dinosaur: Papo Dinosaur Models and Prehistoric Animals

The Running T. rex Colour Variant Dinosaur Model by Papo

Papo Running T. rex new colour version

Papo Running T. rex new colour version

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Splendid Theropod and a Welcome Addition to the Papo Model Range

The video shows the musculature of the sculpt and points out similarities as well as differences with other Tyrannosaurus rex models produced by Papo.  The coloured variant is compared with the Running T. rex model and there is even a brief appearance by the exceptionally rare green standing Tyrannosaurus rex figure that was retired by Papo some years ago.  Off-colour Alan was so impressed by the quality of the video that he was “bowled over” and he could not stand up to provide a scale next to this new for 2016 Papo replica.

Those clever people at JurassicCollectables have produced video reviews of every prehistoric animal replica that Papo have manufactured, to see these videos and to subscribe to their very informative YouTube channel: Subscribe to JurassicCollectables on YouTube

There are still a number of new for 2016 models expected at Everything Dinosaur in the coming weeks, the spring has been a busy time for the UK based company with lots of new prehistoric animal replicas from Rebor, CollectA, Safari Ltd as well as the introduction of the Battat Terra line of dinosaur figures.

Year 2 Classes at Great Wood Primary – Dinosaur Hunters

Year 2 Classes at Great Wood Primary Explore Dinosaurs

Last month, we visited Great Wood Primary in Lancashire to work with the two classes of Year 2 to help them explore dinosaurs and fossils as part of their term topic entitled “Dinosaur Hunters”.  Our thanks to the talented teaching team Mrs Parkin, Mrs Coulthard, Mrs Stroud and Miss Nicholson for their assistance on the day.  A special thank you to Mrs Norman for helping to put the gym mats away once the two dinosaur workshops had concluded.  An extension idea we suggested was to challenge the children to “design their own prehistoric animal” and we received last week a set of beautiful and very creative dinosaur designs.  We loved looking all the different animals and reading the labels that the children had carefully added to their drawings.

A Very Colourful Display of Dinosaur Designs by Year 2 Children

A selection of prehistoric animal designs by a Year 2 class at Great Wood Primary.

A selection of prehistoric animal designs by a Year 2 class at Great Wood Primary.

Picture Credit: Great Wood Primary School

One of the Wonderful Dinosaur Designs (Great Labelling by Great Wood Primary)

Blake_o_saurus by Blake.  An extension activity after a dinosaur workshop.

Blake_o_saurus by Blake. An extension activity after a dinosaur workshop.

Picture Credit: Great Wood Primary School (Blake)

Some very impressive labelling of the dinosaur’s body parts by Blake (Mrs Parkin’s class).

Aidan Designed a Long-Necked Dinosaur with a Sharp Nose Horn

Aidan (Year 2) designed a long-necked dinosaur.

Aidan (Year 2) designed a long-necked dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Great Wood Primary School (Aidan)

Creative Dinosaur Designs

Challenging the class to design their own prehistoric animal is a great way to help reinforce learning.  Labelling of the various body parts helps a child to develop their vocabulary as well as exploring ideas about what the dinosaur might have eaten, its colour and where it might have lived – this leads on to exploring simple food chains and animal adaptations.

Both classes of Year 2 children wrote letters and these were kindly sent into Everything Dinosaur by the teaching team.  An extension activity such as writing a thank you letter gives the children the opportunity to practice their handwriting and there were certainly some splendid letters sent into us.  The letters and drawings have been posted up on one of the walls in our warehouse.

A Lovely Letter Sent in by Hannah

A thank you letter sent in by Hannah to Everything Dinosaur.

A thank you letter sent in by Hannah to Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Great Wood Primary School (Hannah)

Hannah and her class mates certainly seemed to have enjoyed the dinosaur workshop.  She asked how many years did a Stegosaurus live?  That’s a fascinating question and palaeontologists have been able to use the fossilised bones of dinosaurs to work out how old some dinosaurs were when they died and how quickly they grew.  The most famous Stegosaurus fossils come from the United States and these fossils are more than 145 million years old.   It is likely that some Stegosaurs could live for perhaps as long as twenty years.

A Letter from Charlie

Charlie wrote that he now knew that birds are related to dinosaurs.

Charlie wrote that he now knew that birds are related to dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Great Wood Primary School (Charlie)

A very big thank you to both classes of Year 2 at Great Wood Primary, we are sorry that we can’t answer all the questions but we will post up more examples of the children’s work on our social media pages and email the school to say thank you for sending them all into our offices.   As we post up the letters and drawings it will help to remind us about the fun we had delivering the dinosaur workshop for Year 2.

For further information about Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools: Contact Everything Dinosaur

Stone Tools and Fossil Bones From Sinkhole Revises American History

The Oldest Floridians

The discovery of ancient mammal remains plus stone tools in association with them is helping a team of scientists to redraw the map of human settlement in the Americas.  Evidence suggests that the north-western part of Florida (United States), was inhabited by humans some 1,500 years earlier than previously thought.  The research paper detailing the discoveries and the dating information has just been published in the open access journal “Science Advances”.

Lead author of the scientific paper, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Florida State University Jessi Halligan, had to employ her skills as a diver to reach the site, as the evidence of pre-Clovis existence has come from a sinkhole in the middle of the Aucilla River some ten metres below the water surface.  Radiocarbon dating of the artefacts excavated suggests that humans inhabited this part of Florida some 14,550 years ago.

Assistant Professor Halligan with Some of the Fossil Bones

Scientists state that humans occupied the south-eastern United States 1,500 years earlier than previously thought.

Scientists state that humans occupied the south-eastern United States 1,500 years earlier than previously thought.

Picture Credit: Bruce Palmer/Florida State University

The picture about shows Jessi Halligan and some of the prehistoric mammal bones recovered from the site.  In the foreground (left) is a vertebra from a Mastodon, in the foreground (right) is the lower jaw (dentary) of a prehistoric Llama.

Prior to this research, it had been widely believed that the first people to live in this part of the Americas were the Clovis people which reached this part of the continent some 13,000 years ago.  The Clovis people are believed to have migrated across the Bering land bridge from Asia as the Last Ice Age ended, they moved through Canada and into the northern parts of the United States and over many generations gradually moved further and further south.  The Clovis culture is believed to represent the first widespread human culture in the New World and it is likely that the Clovis people were the ancestors of the native American Indians.  It is from the Clovis culture that the various native American cultures evolved.  Named from the distinctive stone tools such as finely crafted spear points found at Clovis in New Mexico, many Clovis sites have been excavated and DNA evidence suggests that more than three-quarters of all living native Americans in North and South America are directly related to the Clovis people.

Human Migration Through the Americas a Complex Picture

As the last Ice Age ended and the ice sheets retreated, so humans migrated across the Bering Strait land bridge (Beringia) and into the New World.  However, mapping the extent of this colonisation and the journey south has proved extremely difficult, with a range of dates given for different sites.  There has been evidence presented before that suggested humans lived in parts of the Americas earlier than 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, but the evidence had been controversial.  However, at the Aucilla River site, some seventy-one items have been radiocarbon dated and they all support the idea that the stone tools and bones, many of which show cut marks made from tools , indicate human habitation as early as 14,550 years ago.

Commenting on the significance of this research, Assistant Professor Halligan stated:

“This is a big deal!  There were people here.  So how did they live?  This has opened up a whole new line of inquiry for us as scientists as we try to understand the settlement of the Americas.”

The Remarkable Page-Ladson Site

The excavations took place at a site on a bend in the Aucilla River some twenty miles east of the Florida State capital Tallahassee.  Animal bones had been found in this region for many years but it was first explored and mapped extensively by diver Buddy Page who found Mastodon remains and brought the site to the attention of archaeologists and palaeontologists.  The site is owned by the Ladson family and as result the sinkhole and subsequent cores that have been taken from the river bed are collectively referred to as the Page-Ladson prehistory site.  The location represents a water hole that was filled in by deposits and these deposits represent Late Pleistocene material at the bottom, leading up through to younger Early Holocene deposits that are exposed on the river bed.

Working up to Ten Metres Underwater to Find Traces of Human Activity

Underwater excavation reveals evidence of the earliest humans from the south-eastern United States.

Underwater excavation reveals evidence of the earliest humans from the south-eastern United States.

Picture Credit: Florida State University

There are a cluster of sites dotted all over North America that date to around 13,200 years ago, but there are estimated to be only about five in all of the New World that are believed to provide older evidence of human habitation.

Assistant Professor Halligan worked in collaboration with Michael Waters from Texas A&M University and Daniel Fisher (University of Michigan) to excavate the site.  The research team were aware that a number of fossil bones and other finds had already been excavated from the site, but between 2012 and 2014 the Page-Ladson prehistory site was once again opened up and explored.  One of the team’s most significant finds was a biface, a stone tool flaked on both sides to produce a knife-like instrument with two cutting edges.  Daniel Fisher (vertebrate palaeontologist), also took a close look at the Mastodon tusk that had been retrieved in the 1980’s and he was able to identify cut marks indicating that the tusk had been removed by people.  The scientists are not certain whether the Mastodon was killed by humans or its carcase was scavenged.

Michael Waters ( Texas A&M’s Centre for the Study of the First Americans) explained:

“The new discoveries at Page-Ladson show that people were living in the Gulf Coast area much earlier than believed.”

Examples of Stone Tools Recovered from the Page-Ladson Prehistory Site

Examples of stone tools excavated from the Page-Ladson site (Florida).

Examples of stone tools excavated from the Page-Ladson site (Florida).

Picture Credit: Science Advances with notation by Everything Dinosaur

The picture above show examples of the stone tools recovered from the Page-Ladson location.  The biface stone tool “top” has two flaked cutting blades and would have performed the role of a small knife, similar to the type of tool that created the butchery marks in the animal bones.  The stone tools (middle and bottom) are typical flakes, the middle flake shows signs of wear (use).

Pleistocene Marine Transgression

Florida in the latter stages of the Pleistocene Epoch was much drier than it is today.  Sea levels were over one hundred metres lower.  The Page-Ladson site represents a spring fed waterhole that existed in a ravine.  It may have been the only reliable water source for miles around and as such, it attracted animals and people to it.  With the rise in global temperatures, the great ice sheets that covered much of the northern hemisphere began to melt.  This led to a rise in global sea levels resulting in low-lying areas becoming flooded (the Late Pleistocene marine transgression).  The Page-Ladson site was buried with an influx of sediment and left submerged.  This location in north-western Florida is helping anthropologists to understand more about the migration of humans into the New World and also provides further information with regards to the megafauna that shared this Late Pleistocene habitat.

An Illustration of the Page-Ladson Prehistory Site

An Illustration of the Page-Ladson Prehistory Site (Florida 14,500 years ago).

An Illustration of the Page-Ladson Prehistory Site (Florida 14,500 years ago).

Picture Credit: Greg Harlin

Egerton Primary School and Dinosaurs

Reception Class Learn All About Dinosaurs

Last month a team member from Everything Dinosaur visited Egerton Primary School (Cheshire), to conduct a dinosaur themed workshop with the Reception class.  The children really enjoyed handling all the fossils and learning about prehistoric animals such as Tyrannosaurus rex, Ammonites and Triceratops.  As part of our work with schools we always try to provide extension materials and ideas for activities to help the teaching team reinforce learning.  For example, our fossil expert challenged the children to have a go at writing a dinosaur fact within a dinosaur footprint.  This morning, amongst all our correspondence we found an envelope from the school and within it there was a set of wonderful dinosaur footprints, showcasing the handwriting of the children.

A Dinosaur Footprint Themed Writing Exercise

A collection of dinosaur footprints sent in to Everything Dinosaur by Reception children.

A collection of dinosaur footprints sent in to Everything Dinosaur by Reception children.

Picture Credit: Egerton Primary School

Helping to Gain Confidence with Writing

 The dinosaur footprint exercise helps to build confidence with writing.  Using a cut-out dinosaur footprint, the challenge for the children is whether they can produce a piece of writing within the confined area of the footprint.  This helps develop hand-to-eye co-ordination as well as helping the children develop their concentration.  A simple handwriting exercise such as this assists with finger spacing of words and enables the children to write about a fact they had learned or perhaps something that they did during the dinosaur workshop.

Thank You Very Much Everything Dinosaur

A thank you note from a child in Reception class.

A thank you note from a child in Reception class.

Picture Credit: Egerton Primary School

“Dinosaur Mike” enjoyed working with the children.  They were very enthusiastic and eager to learn.

Design a Dinosaur

As well as the examples of handwriting we also received some beautiful dinosaur and flying reptile drawings.  We challenged the children to have a go at designing their very own prehistoric animal.  Could they label the body parts such as the skull, the teeth and the claws?

A Wonderful Dinosaur Design by Emily (Reception Class)

A colourful drawing of a flying reptile (Pterosaur).

A colourful drawing of a flying reptile (Pterosaur).

Picture Credit: Egerton Primary School

The picture above shows a very colourful drawing of a flying reptile (Pterosaur) by young Emily in a Reception class.  We love the name “Emilyosaurs” – very creative.

These children at Foundation Stage 2 (Reception), produced some fantastic prehistoric animal drawings and many of them had wings, it seems that Pterosaurs are particularly popular at Egerton Primary this year.  Super labelling of the body parts – well done all!

New Species of Fossil Dog Identified from Tooth

Tooth Reveals New Dog Species

A PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania has identified a new species of prehistoric dog based on the analysis of a single tooth found by an amateur fossil hunter exploring a beach on the Maryland coast. The tooth provides new evidence to help support the scarce fossil record of carnivores from the Middle Miocene of eastern North America and it extends the fossil record of these types of canids in the United States by several million years.

An Illustration of a Prehistoric Dog Similar to the New Species (Cynarctus wangi)

An illustration of the Miocene canid Cynarctus wangi.

An illustration of a typical Mid Miocene canid such as Cynarctus wangi.

Picture Credit:  Mauricio Antón from “Dogs, Their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History.”

The fossil tooth, thought to be second molar from the right side of the upper jaw. comes from a type of prehistoric dog that would have been roughly the same size as an English Springer Spaniel.  It was a member of the extinct subfamily of the Canidae called the Borophaginae.  These dogs are referred to as “bone crushing dogs” as they possessed short, but very strong jaws and they probably could deliver a very powerful bite.  The species name erected honours Xiaoming Wang, the Curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and an expert on extinct mammalian carnivores of the northern hemisphere.

Lead author of the scientific paper published in the “Journal of Paleontology”, student Steven Jasinski, explained the shape of the dog’s jaw:

“In this respect they are believed to have behaved in a similar way to hyenas today.”

The Choptank Formation

The fossil tooth was found on a beach which underlies cliffs representing the Choptank Formation, (part of the Chesapeake Group), it was stored at the Smithsonian Institute.  Measuring a little over one centimetre in length it had not been studied in great detail, however, the fine details on the surface of the tooth (the biting surface) enabled the researchers to distinguish this tooth from the fossils of another, older member of the Borophaginae known as Cynarctus marylandica.

A Picture and Accompanying Line Drawing Showing the Fossil Tooth

A fossil molar from the newly named dog species Cynarctus wangi.

A fossil molar from the newly named dog species Cynarctus wangi.

Picture Credit: The University of Pennsylvania/Journal of Paleontology

Working in collaboration with co-author Professor Steven C. Wallace (East Tennessee State University), Jasinski was able to establish that their initial assumption about the tooth being from an already described species of prehistoric dog was incorrect.  They had presumed that the tooth represented material from another borophagine dog called Cynarctus marylandica, fossil teeth of which had been found in the same area but from much older strata (the Calvert Formation, also part of the Chesapeake Group).  C. marylandica is only known from teeth associated with the lower jaw.  It was when the researchers compared the features on the occlusal surfaces (the biting surfaces) of the teeth, where the top and bottom teeth would have met, they found significant differences, enough to suggest that, in all probability this tooth from the upper jaw was an entirely new species.

Speculating on the importance of their research, Steven Jasinski said:

“It looks like it might be a distant relative descended from the previously known borophagine.”

The Demise of the Borophaginae

Once widespread in North America, the fossil record of the Borophaginae covers a period of approximately twenty-eight million years (Oligocene Epoch to the Late Pliocene).  Once a diverse sub-family of the Canidae, represented by numerous species, it seems that the migration of predatory cats into North America from Asia along with the evolution of modern canids, the ancestors of today’s wolves and domestic dogs may have led to the decline and eventual extinction some 2.5 million years ago.

The shape of the tooth and from what has been inferred from other borophagine fossil material, it is likely that this prehistoric dog was not entirely reliant on meat to sustain itself.

The student stated:

“Based on its teeth, probably only about a third of its diet would have been meat.  It would have supplemented that by eating plants or insects, living more like a mini-bear than like a dog.”

PhD Student Steven E. Jasinski Working on a Fossil Site

Student Steven Jasinski of Pennslyvania University.

Student Steven Jasinski of Pennsylvania University.

Picture Credit: The University of Pennsylvania

This new borophagine canid expands the sparse fossil record of this group in north-eastern North America and extends further our knowledge of the fossil record of terrestrial taxa in the eastern part of the United States.  The PhD student explained that most of the vertebrate fossils associated with this strata represent marine animals as they have a higher probability of becoming fossilised than land animals.  He explained that fossil finds such as this tooth, are very rare but they help scientists to understand more about the terrestrial ecosystems that existed during Miocene Epoch.

Ancient dog fossils have not been the sole preoccupation of the student from the Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences, last year Everything Dinosaur reported on Steven’s research that led to the identification of a new type of North American predatory dinosaur: Sniffing Out a New Dinosaur Species

Concerns for the Coastal Norfolk Fossil Sites

Experts Fear for Fossils and Safety of Fossil Hunters

Scientists at the Norfolk Museums Service along with British palaeontologists and geology societies have expressed concern over the rise in unscrupulous fossil hunting activities being reported from parts of the Norfolk coast.  These famous Pleistocene age deposits have yielded an extensive array of vertebrate fossils including many large mammals such as rhino and elephant.  One of England’s most important fossil finds, the spectacular West Runton elephant (more correctly termed a Steppe Mammoth – Mammuthus trogontherii), was found in the cliffs.  The discovery, the first bones were found in 1990, represents the largest and oldest nearly complete fossil mammoth from the UK.  Bones and teeth can still be found on the foreshore but sadly, there has been a rise in reports of fossil hunters digging into the cliffs in a bid to find more specimens.

A spokesperson for the Norfolk Museums Service advised against such excavation, not only would the digging potentially damage any fossil material but as the cliffs were unstable, working so close to the cliffs was very dangerous.  He expressed grave concern following reports of a rise in the number of fossil hunters “hacking into the cliff tops”

The Foreshore and Cliffs at West Runton (North Norfolk)

A view of the famous West Runton beach, a great place to find fossils.

A view of the famous West Runton beach, a great place to find fossils.

Picture Credit: ukfossils.co.uk

The freshwater Pleistocene deposits and associated Cretaceous chalks yield a large number of different types of fossil.  As well as freshwater molluscs and mammal remains from the freshwater beds, the chalk is highly fossiliferous and different types sea urchin and fossil sponges can be found.  The picture above shows a view of West Runton beach and the dangerous cliffs, the pier at Cromer can be seen in the background.

A team member from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“This part of the Norfolk coast is subject to high levels of erosion, we would urge all fossil collectors to stay on the beach and look for fossils at low tide along the foreshore, the rapidly eroding cliffs are delivering lots of fossil material onto the beach area and this is a wonderful location for a family fossil hunt.  However, please don’t dig into the cliffs and we urge all visitors to follow the fossil collecting code.”

For an article on the fossil collecting code and a guide to safe collecting: Everything Dinosaur’s Guide to Fossil Collecting Safely

Register Fossil Finds with the Norfolk Museums Service

A partial Mammoth tooth was found nearby last month and no doubt other finds will be reported over the summer at this popular tourist attraction.  Palaeontologist Dr. Waterhouse of the Norfolk Museums Service and the leader of the Cromer Forest-bed Fossil Project reminded fossil hunters that it was good practice to report finds to the Norfolk Museum Service, the museum at Cromer just a few miles from West Runton, was a good place to take any fossil finds and team members from the Norfolk Museums Service would be happy to assist with identification.  As Mammoth fossils, especially tusks and teeth are very popular with collectors, it is likely that many of the overzealous fossil hunting activities have been driven by the high prices such fossils make on auction sites.

A Model of a Woolly Mammoth (M. primigenius)

A model of a Woolly Mammoth.

A model of a Woolly Mammoth.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Dr. Waterhouse said:

“Norfolk is the best place in the country and probably Europe to find Mammoth remains because they went through about six sets of teeth in their lifetime, so there is a lot more teeth than there were Mammoths.  Something that I think needs highlighting is poor and even dangerous fossil collecting by people hacking into the cliffs at places like West Runton.  Ethical collecting is high on my agenda, and also recording fossil finds as part of the Cromer Forest-bed Fossil Project, so that important scientific information isn’t lost forever.”

At Everything Dinosaur we echo the views of Dr. Waterhouse and we urge fossil hunters to take care and to abide by the fossil collecting code as well as local bye laws and regulations.

Is this Four-Year-Old the “Youngest Dinosaur Educator”?

Australian Four-Year-Old Dinosaur Expert in the Guinness Book of Records?

During Everything Dinosaur’s daily trawl of news channels looking for prehistoric animal related media releases and dinosaur news stories we came across this piece from the Australian media outlet 9news.com.au.  Sydney based Hill Wang and Qing Zhang have put forward their four-year-old son to the Guinness World Records organisation in a bid to have him recognised as the “Youngest Dinosaur Educator”.

A Clever Little Boy But Is He the “Youngest Dinosaur Educator”?

Makan Wang has memorised details of more than 30 prehistoric animal species.

Makan Wang has memorised details of more than 30 prehistoric animal species.

Picture Credit: Ehsan Knopf/9NEWS

Young Makan Wang has managed to memorise a lot of facts about prehistoric animals, especially dinosaurs.  His parents claim that he has learned about more than thirty different species, hence their bid to have four-year-old Makan officially recognised by the Guinness World Records organisation as the “Youngest Dinosaur Educator”.

Makan’s mother Ms Zhang explained to a reporter at 9news.com.au that her son had memorised the information about these long extinct creatures by watching television programmes and as a result, with the aid of illustrated prompt cards, he can now recall a number of names and dinosaur facts on command.

Impressive But Not Exceptional

Given Everything Dinosaur’s extensive outreach work in schools and museums, our team members get to meet thousands of young people every year and although Makan has an impressive amount of knowledge, in the opinion of team members at the Cheshire (UK) based company, his ability to recall dinosaur facts and figures is not out of the ordinary.

Mike Walley, one of the teaching team members commented:

“It is always great to hear that dinosaurs are capturing the imaginations of young children and helping them to develop their vocabulary and their understanding of the world, but we meet dozens and dozens of children every year who demonstrate an astonishing level of knowledge and whilst Makan’s recall of facts and figures is impressive, based on what information we have from the news story, he is not exceptional.”

A Very Big Fan of the Dinosauria

Makan clearly loves learning all about prehistoric animals.

Makan clearly loves learning all about prehistoric animals.

Picture Credit: Ehsan Knopf/9NEWS

Proud Parents

Makan’s parents should be very proud of their clever little boy.  His fascination for dinosaurs is clearly evident but is he the “Youngest Dinosaur Educator”?  This title is an epithet that the parents themselves came up with, but we have met many equally enthusiastic dinosaur buffs who could give Makan a run for his money.

His mum, Qing Zhang explained:

“He’s got an amazing memory.  He can tell what each dinosaur’s traits are, what period they lived in, whether they’re omnivores or herbivores.”

Makan’s dinosaur expertise at such a young age is admirable, especially when you consider that the little boy can’t read, however, in our experience working with Nursery and Reception-aged children, most classes tend to have a classroom dinosaur expert with an equally impressive ability to recall dinosaur facts and figures.

With an application submitted to the Guinness World Records, we wish Mr Wang, Ms Zhang and young Makan all the very best with this endeavour and we wholeheartedly agree with their sentiments when mum comments:

“We wanted recognition that he is young and is doing an amazing job.  Whether he wins it or not, for us, it doesn’t really matter that much.  We want him to continue to learn and this is encouragement for him.  We’re so proud of him and we’re happy to see where he goes from here.”

Do You Know of a Young Dinosaur Expert?

Mums and dads, grandparents and guardians, do you know of a budding palaeontologist that could take on the title of being the “Youngest Dinosaur Educator”?  Our team members are constantly amazed by the level of pre-knowledge that very young children demonstrate when it comes to introducing a dinosaur topic at school, our dinosaur experts have even been corrected on a few occasions when we ourselves have tripped up over our dinosaur facts and figures – we would be delighted to hear from other proud grown-ups who might have their very own resident dinosaur expert in the family.

Now there’s a challenge!

JurassicCollectables CollectA 2016 Unboxing (Part 2)

JurassicCollectables and CollectA 2016 (part 2)

Over the weekend Everything Dinosaur team members were able to catch up with their correspondence and time was found to view some of the prehistoric animal videos that we had been looking forward to seeing.  One such video was this excellent review of the next batch of CollectA prehistoric animals to hit the shelves in our warehouse.  This was a sort of “peep behind the scenes” by JurassicCollectables, the five models featured in this short review are not yet released and they won’t be available for a few weeks yet, so we are grateful to the talented team at JurassicCollectables who took time out to make this ten minute video – just enough to whet the appetites of dinosaur fans and model collectors.

New for 2016 CollectA Unboxing by JurassicCollectables (Part 2)

Video Credit: JurassicCollectables

The models featured are (in appearance order) the majestic marine reptile Thalassomedon (pronounced Fal-lass-so-me-don), the “ostrich mimic” Struthiomimus, a tyrannosaurid Lythronax and last but not least the deluxe 1:20 scale Andrewsarchus and the Deinocheirus figure.   The narrator takes the viewer through each replica in turn and takes care to point out the details, such as the splendid feathers on the Theropods and the air brushing on the fearsome Andrewsarchus.  Particular attention is paid to the  Deinocheirus replica, a model of a dinosaur that recently (2014), received a makeover following the publication of a new scientific paper reporting on a study of more complete fossil material, first muted a few months earlier at the annual Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology meeting.

Coming Soon the New Interpretation of Deinocheirus (D. mirificus)

Available from Everything Dinosaur in 2016.

Available from Everything Dinosaur in 2016.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the range of CollectA not to scale models available at Everything Dinosaur: CollectA Prehistoric Life Models

For the CollectA Deluxe and the Supreme range of replicas: CollectA Deluxe Scale Models and Supreme Range

This is the second CollectA unboxing video that JurassicCollectables have shot in the last few months.  In their first CollectA unboxing video, posted up on the Everything Dinosaur blog in the last week of April, the earlier 2016 CollectA releases featured including the splendid Torvosaurus dinosaur model.  To see this video: JurassicCollectables CollectA Unboxing (Part 1)

JurassicCollectables can be found on YouTube and their channel is packed with lots of amazing and extremely informative prehistoric animal videos, check out this most professional YouTube site, we urge you to take a look and we suggest that blog readers may like to subscribe: Check out the JurassicCollectables YouTube Channel

Happy 90th Birthday Sir David Attenborough

Happy 90th Birthday Sir David Attenborough

On this day in 1926, the English naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough was born.  Today, we celebrate Sir David’s (he was knighted in 1985), ninetieth birthday.  His contribution to our understanding of the natural world has been immense.  He can now add the title of nonagenarian to his array of awards and accolades.  On behalf of everyone at Everything Dinosaur we would like to wish Sir David “many happy returns”.

Happy Birthday Sir David Attenborough

Happy 'Birthday Sir David Attenborough.

Happy ‘Birthday Sir David Attenborough.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur with images from the BBC

Today, a lot of media outlets will be paying tribute to the body of work with which Sir David Attenborough has been associated.  He has been a part of so many people’s lives and documented our rapidly changing world.  Through his eyes and his narration we have seen and heard about this remarkable ecosystem that we are very much a part of, but sadly, most of us have lost touch with.

In the office over this weekend we have been sharing our thoughts about some of the amazing programmes, many of which were ground-breaking documentaries that this stalwart of British broadcasting has worked on over a BBC and programme making career that extends to more than six decades.  Some of us remember watching a programme called “Fabulous Animals” which was broadcast in the mid 1970’s and (if we recall correctly), was shown during the summer holidays.  In this series, David (not to be knighted for another ten years or so), explored stories relating to mythical creatures such as mermaids, griffins and the Loch Ness monster.  These programmes have not been seen by any of us for half a lifetime, but we can recall the enthusiastic presenter explaining and enthralling us with tales of these astonishing creatures.

Life on Earth (1979)

The documentary series “Life on Earth” was to follow, a joint venture between the BBC and Warner Bros/Reiner Moritz Productions, a thirteen-part documentary series that charted the story of life and evolution.  This seminal and highly influential television series was to form the basis of a body of work that, in our opinion has not been surpassed.

A Fascination for Fossils

As a young boy growing up in the county of Leicester, Sir David was passionate about fossil collecting, an enthusiasm he still has, although sadly with dodgy knees and a pacemaker, his days of clambering over rocks in search of petrified evidence of ancient life might be behind him.  Nonetheless, as a presenter and narrator he has still played a pivotal role in enthusing the next generation of budding palaeontologists and fossil collectors.

Sir David Discusses Trilobites with Professor Richard Fortey

Sir David Attenborough discussing Trilobites with Professor Richard Fortey.

Sir David Attenborough discussing Trilobites with Professor Richard Fortey.

Picture Credit: BBC

Over the next few days the BBC will be showing a number of programmes and documentaries that celebrate the work of this much admired naturalist and broadcaster and last week it was announced that Sir David’s first foray into television “Zoo Quest” was to be broadcast in colour for the first time.

Attenborosaurus

Sir David has been honoured on numerous occasions and has a number of living and extinct species named after him as well as a polar research vessel.  For example, back in 2008, when Sir David was a sprightly eighty-two year old, Everything Dinosaur reported on the discovery of a placoderm fossil in Australia that showed evidence of viviparity (live birth).  The animal was named Materpiscis attenboroughiA Fishy Tale Indeed and fans of marine reptiles will know that the Pliosaur Attenborosaurus conybeari honours Sir David and the 19th Century English geologist William Conybeare.

The CollectA Attenborosaurus Model

Named in honour of Sir David Atttenborough.

Named in honour of Sir David Attenborough.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To purchase a model of Attenborosaurus (Attenborough’s lizard): CollectA Attenborosaurus model

From all of us at Everything Dinosaur, happy birthday Sir David.

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