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3 05, 2018

The First Beak Under the Noses of Scientists

By | May 3rd, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Inspiring Ichthyornis – Top of the Pecking Order

As a very young boy, I remember eagerly striving to complete my Brooke Bond “Prehistoric Animals” card collection.  This was a set of fifty cards to collect,  given away free with packets of tea.   One of the cards featured a pair of toothed, prehistoric birds, a large, reddish coloured Hesperornis which was being mobbed by a couple of tern-like birds, this was my first introduction to Ichthyornis.  Perhaps, the first time that I realised that birds (at least primitive, toothed birds), lived alongside dinosaurs.  How wonderful to read this week that Ichthyornis, thanks to a pieced together three-dimensional skull, may be providing palaeontologists with fresh insights into avian evolution.  The Hesperornis/Ichthyornis picture card may have been burned into my conscience long ago, but it is refreshing to think that this ancient bird may represent a pivotal moment in the transition from dinosaurs to modern-day birds and its significance has only just come to light.  A team of international scientists have published a paper proposing that Ichthyornis may have had one of the first, true bird-like beaks.

The Brooke Bond Picture Card

Hesperornis and Ichthyornis

Hesperornis catching a fish, with Ichthyornis in close attention.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Brooke Bond

Toothy Bird with the Beginnings of a Beak

Writing in the journal “Nature”, researchers report on the analysis of beautifully preserved three-dimensional Ichthyornis (I. dispar) fossil skull that is providing new evidence on the evolution of the avian head and how the skull and beaks of birds evolved from their dinosaurian ancestors.

A Three-Dimensional Image of Ichthyornis Skull Material Indicates the Tip of the Premaxillary Formed the First Beak

The tip of the premaxillary forms the first beak.

A computer generated image showing the life position of the fossil bones in the three-dimensional Ichthyornis skull.

Picture Credit: Yale Office of Public Affairs and Communications

Ichthyornis dispar

Known from fragmentary fossils from Kansas and named back in 1872 by Yale University’s Othniel Charles Marsh, it seems fitting that this new study into one of the first toothed birds described, has been led by scientists from Yale University.  Working in conjunction with colleagues from the University of Kansas, Fort Hays State University, Alabama Museum of Natural History and the McWane Science Centre (Alabama), the team report on new specimens with three-dimensional cranial remains, including one example of a complete skull and two previously overlooked cranial elements that were part of the original Yale specimen examined by Marsh.

Using CT scans and sophisticated computer modelling, individual skull and jaw bones were scanned and reproduced in three-dimensions.  This allowed a complete skull to be constructed revealing new details about the transition from dinosaur skull to a more modern bird skull.

Yale University palaeontologist and lead author of the study Bhart-Anjan Bhullar commented:

“Right under our noses this whole time was an amazing, transitional bird.  It has a modern-looking brain along with a remarkably dinosaurian jaw muscle configuration.”

Ichthyornis is part of the biota of the Western Interior Seaway, a shallow sea that split North America in two during the Late Cretaceous.  It has been regarded as an early version of a tern or gull, but its size is unknown as the few fossils found represent individuals of different sizes, however, it probably had a wingspan of no more than sixty centimetres, making Ichthyornis slightly smaller than today’s Common Tern (Sterna hirundo), a bird which fills the same ecological niche as the Mesozoic Ichthyornis.

Using the Latest Research, a New Reconstruction of Ichthyornis dispar was Produced

Ichthyornis life reconstruction.

A life reconstruction of Ichthyornis.

Picture Credit: Yale Office of Public Affairs and Communications

The Evolution of a Beak

Having built a three-dimensional model of the skull and jaw bones, the researchers were able to note that the premaxillary bone in the upper jaw had become elongated and this, working in conjunction with a keratinous tip on the lower jaw formed the first “proto-beak”.  Ichthyornis dispar shows scientists what the first type of bird beak looked like.  This beak may have evolved as the function of the hands was increasingly limited as they were adapted to form a more effective wing.  The grasping hands of the maniraptoran dinosaurs were no longer able to grasp and manipulate objects so the jaws had to take on an additional function, secondary to their main function – dispatching and consuming prey.

The Beak of Ichthyornis

The beak of Ichthyornis.

The beak of Ichthyornis evolving to replace grasping, functional hands and fingers.

Picture Credit: Yale Office of Public Affairs and Communications

Although maniraptoran dinosaurs may not have been able to pronate their hands like us and they lacked an opposable thumb, as forelimbs and hands evolved into wings, so the jaws took over the function of the digits and manus.

Bhart-Anjan Bhullar stated:

“The first beak was a horn-covered pincer tip at the end of the jaw.  The remainder of the jaw was filled with teeth.  At its origin, the beak was a precision grasping mechanism that served as a surrogate hand as the hands transformed into wings.”

The research team conducted its analysis using CT-scan technology, combined with specimens from the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History; the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, Kansas, the Alabama Museum of Natural History; the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research (South Dakota).

Bird Beaks versus Bird-hipped Dinosaur Beaks

The modern bird beak is a unique organ amongst vertebrates, although notably most derived Ornithischian (bird-hipped) dinosaurs possessed a beak, formed from the unique predentary bone in the lower jaw and a roughened, extension of the premaxilla (or the rostral in the case of Ceratopsians), in the upper jaw, which allowed the attachment of a keratinous tip which in conjunction formed the beak-like structure – believed to be an adaptation to assist with cropping vegetation.

This study of Ichthyornis suggests that the first bird beak was not the long organ seen in modern birds, but a little pincer tip to grasp and manipulate objects.

A Chasmosaurine Ceratopsian with the Roughened Rostral and the Predentary Forming a Plant-cropping Beak

The bones forming the beak of a horned dinosaur.

The beak of a horned dinosaur is highlighted.

Picture Credit: Rapid City Journal with additional notation by Everything Dinosaur

Fresh Insight into the Evolution of Extant Bird Skulls

The scientists conclude that their study offers new insights into how modern birds’ skulls formed.  Along with its transitional beak, Ichthyornis dispar had a brain similar to that seen in extant birds but a temporal region of the skull that was reminiscent of a dinosaur.  This suggests that during the evolution of Aves, the brain transformed first, possibly to adapt to a volant (aerial) lifestyle, whilst the remainder of the skull retained the ancestral features associated with the Dinosauria.  Ichthyornis retained a large adductor chamber bounded at the top by substantial bony remnants of the ancestral reptilian upper temporal fenestra (hole in the skull).  This combination of features indicates that important attributes of the avian brain and palate evolved before the reduction of jaw musculature and the full transformation of the beak.

The Beak of Ichthyornis Grasping a Mollusc

Holding a mollusc in its beak.

An illustration of an Ichthyornis holding a mollusc in its beak.

Picture Credit: Michael Hanson/Bhart-Anjan Bhullar

I may never have completed my Brooke Bond card collection, but at least, thanks to this new Ichthyornis study, our understanding of the evolution of the beak in birds is more complete.

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2 05, 2018

Jinzhousaurus by Zhao Chuang

By | May 2nd, 2018|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Jinzhousaurus Illustrated

Renowned Chinese palaeoartist Zhao Chuang has produced stunning illustrations of many dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.  It is great to see that a lot of his work depicts dinosaurs that once roamed China.  Today, we feature an illustration of the Ornithischian dinosaur Jinzhousaurus (J. yangi) being attacked by a flock of dromaeosaurids.

Jinzhousaurus yangi Ambushed by Dromaeosaurid Dinosaurs

Jinzhousaurus being attacked (illustration by Zhao Chuang).

Jinzhousaurus from the Yixian Formation of China being attacked by a pack of dromaeosaurids, probably Sinornithosaurus.

Picture Credit: Zhao Chuang

Jinzhousaurus yangi

The picture (above) shows a very colourful Jinzhousaurus being attacked by a trio of Theropod dinosaurs.  Jinzhousaurus is known from a single, highly compressed specimen which includes most of the skeleton and skull.  It lived around 122 million years ago (early Aptian faunal stage of the Early Cretaceous) in north-eastern China and is one of the Ornithischian constituents of the Yixian Formation palaeobiota.   This herbivorous dinosaur measured around five metres in length.  Where Jinzhousaurus sits on the dinosaur family tree remains uncertain.  Despite well preserved (if somewhat flattened remains), the exact taxonomic position of this dinosaur is contentious.  When first described in 2001, it was regarded as a member of the iguanodontids (hence the prominent thumb spike painted by Zhao Chuang).  Recent studies have proposed that it was more closely related to the duck-billed dinosaurs.  Jinzhousaurus shows a number of primitive and more derived anatomical characteristics so its placement within the Ornithopoda remains problematic.  Current thinking is that it was a member of the Hadrosauroidea, a clade of Ornithischian dinosaurs that includes duck-billed dinosaurs (hadrosaurids) and all dinosaurs more closely related to them than to Iguanodon.

Which Raptor?

The trio of feathered raptors engaged in combat could represent a number of dinosaur species.  Our notes on Zhao Chuang’s illustration do not define the dinosaurs concerned.  Several dromaeosaurids and troodontids are known from the Yixian Formation. If we were to guess, then the three attacking Theropods illustrated by Zhao Chuang could represent Sinornithosaurus as fossils of this dromaeosaurid come from the same bedding planes (Dawangzhangzi Bed) of the Yixian Formation.

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1 05, 2018

Unlocking the Secrets of the Insect in Amber Fossilisation Process

By | May 1st, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|1 Comment

Preservation Bias in Amber Fossilisation Examined

Fossils preserved in amber can give scientists unique insights into ancient ecosystems.  Petrified tree resin can provide a record of some of the smaller members of a prehistoric woodland habitat such as the insects, mites and spiders.  Spores and pollen grains trapped inside a nodule allow palaeobotanists the opportunity to assess the composition of the flora of a 100 million-year-old Cretaceous tropical forest, but all may not be as it seems.  Fossils in amber appear, on their surface, to be perfectly preserved, which in turn suggests that the amber fossil record is perfect and unbiased.  This is not the case, all that glitters inside an amber nodule may not be hidden palaeontological treasure.

A Mosquito Preserved in Amber – But How Much of the Insect is There?

Mosquito fossil preserved in amber.

Amber can provide a window into ancient ecosystems, but what factors affect the preservation process?

Picture Credit: Oregon State University

However, recent advances in three-dimensional imaging techniques, specifically synchrotron tomography, have allowed researchers to look inside amber-entombed fossils and observe that preservation is highly variable.  Many specimens are lacking some or all internal soft tissues, and some specimens are even lacking the more decay-resistant cuticle and are simply empty moulds stained in a life-like colour by remnant organic carbon.

With so many amazing discoveries being made, particularly in burmite from Myanmar, a team of scientists set about examining the amber fossil record in order to assess any potential preservation bias that might exist, with a focus on prehistoric insects.

In the project, the researchers used a serious of laboratory experiments to test the effect of three variables, resin (the un-fossilised precursor to amber) chemistry, gut biota, and dehydration prior to entombment, on the decay of a fruit fly engulfed in resin to better understand the controls on the fossil record of insects in amber.  The team discovered that resin chemistry has a large effect on decay: flies entombed in Wollemia (W. nobilis) tree resin retained essentially all of their external and internal morphology even after one and a half years, whereas flies entombed in Pinus (Scots Pine P. sylvestris) tree resin, were nothing but empty moulds after the same length of time.

Fruit Flies Being Entombed in Tree Resin

Fruit flies (arrowed) become trapped in tree resin.

Part of the experiment – fruit flies being embedded in tree resin.  The fruit flies are indicated by the arrows.

Gut biota had a smaller effect on decay: flies with an intact gut microbiota showed more rapid decay, as indicated by more extensive production of decay gases, than flies that were treated with an antibiotic prior to entombment.  Dehydration prior to entombment also enhanced decay, presumably because resin has very effective decay-inhibiting properties, and therefore any delay in embedding a carcass in resin enhances decay.  These three variables influence the preservation of fossils in amber, and therefore can impart a bias on the fossil record of insects in amber.  Writing in the academic journal “PLOS One”, the researchers concluded that, in particular, resin chemistry and gut biota may strongly influence the amber fossil record.

Synchrotron Images and a Three-Dimensional Reconstruction of the Fruit Fly Being Constructed

A synchrotron was used to scan the fruit flies entombed in the tree resin.

A synchrotron scan of the experiments, showing three different planes of the scan, and a 3-D reconstruction in progress.

Resin chemistry is the most likely control on whether or not a specific fossil site preserves the most decay-prone morphological features on the most decay-prone components of an ecosystem.  This could be a particularly confounding bias in the amber fossil record because the composition of the herbivore fauna (including herbivorous insects) is thought to be one control on the composition of resin chemistry; therefore, the composition of a faunal assemblage may influence whether or not it fossilises in amber.  Gut biota variations may also influence preservational variation, particularly among amber sites or specimens with similar chemistry.

Most importantly, the amber fossil record should not be viewed as a perfect record of an ancient ecosystem.  Rather, it must be viewed with a critical eye, and an understanding that information about an extinct organism can be lost during fossilisation in amber.

The scientific paper: “Unlocking Preservation Bias in the Amber Insect Fossil Record Through Experimental Decay” by Victoria E. McCoy , Carmen Soriano, Mirko Pegoraro, Ting Luo, Arnoud Boom, Betsy Foxman and Sarah E. Gabbott published in PLOS One.

Link to the paper open access paper: The Scientific Paper

Everything Dinosaur would like to thank Victoria McCoy (School of Geography, Geology and Environment, University of Leicester and the Steinmann-Institut für Geologie, Mineralogie und Paläontologie, Universität Bonn, Bonn, Germany), for her assistance with the compilation of this article.

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30 04, 2018

Prehistoric Times Issue 125 Reviewed

By | April 30th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Magazine Reviews, Main Page|1 Comment

Prehistoric Times Magazine Spring 2018 Reviewed

The latest edition of Prehistoric Times, the quarterly magazine for fans of dinosaurs and collectors of prehistoric animal models, has arrived at Everything Dinosaur.  A veritable cornucopia of long extinct creatures is included in issue 125, from the false sabre-toothed cat Barbourofelis, to giant Titanosaurs (Patagotitan), Burian’s Ichthyosaurs, Tracy’s Tyrannosaurus rex and a dramatic Pleistocene tar pit diorama with a Smilodon feeding on a trapped Mastodon.

The Front Cover of Issue 125 Features Barbourofelis

Prehistoric Times magazine (spring 2018).

The front cover of Prehistoric Times magazine (issue 125).

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks/Photograph by Everything Dinosaur

The artwork for the front cover was provided by the talented Spanish, palaeoartist Mauricio Anton and this issue features lots of reader art too.  A special mention to Phil Wilson for a superb depiction of a pair of Carnotaurus causing mayhem and a big dinosaur thumbs-up to Marcus  Burkhardt for highlighting Mesozoic plant life with a beautiful illustration of a cycad (Cycadeoidea family).   Cycads were globally distributed during the Age of Dinosaurs, the contributors to this, the 25th anniversary edition of Prehistoric Times, are also spread world-wide with articles from New Zealanders, residents of Brazil, Englishmen, Canadians and an interview with the American palaeontologist Steve Brusatte, currently based at Edinburgh University (Scotland).

Patagotitan Profiled

The huge Titanosaur Patagotitan (P. mayorum) is profiled in this issue.  Phil Hore does an excellent job on telling the story of one of the largest terrestrial animals known to science, yet another giant from South America.  Look out for the interview with palaeontologist Steve Brusatte, which along with Tracy Lee Ford’s feature on illustrating T. rex is a highlight of this edition.

The Giant Titanosaur Patagotitan Features in Issue 125

Patagotitan mayorum at the American Museum of Natural History (New York).

Titanosaur exhibit (Patagotitan mayorum).

Picture Credit: D. Finnin/American Museum of Natural History

For further information about the magazine and details on how to subscribe to Prehistoric Times: Subscribe to Prehistoric Times Magazine

Silver Jubilee Edition

The spring edition of Prehistoric Times marks twenty-five years of publication.  A lot has happened in palaeontology and dinosaur model making since this magazine first came out in 1993.  Some of these developments are covered in the Mesozoic media section, which includes an excellent review of “The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs” penned by Steve Brusatte.  The latest fossil finds and dinosaur discoveries are collated in the “Paleonews” section and there is the first part of a series of articles about prehistoric animals that have featured on stamps by Jon Noad.  British model collector Mike Howgate outlines the origins and the evolution of the Dinocrats range of toys.

Tucking in to Prehistoric Times

The first edition of "Prehistoric Times".

Subscribe to “Prehistoric Times”.

Picture Credit: © 2018 Studiocanal S.A.S. and The British Film Institute

As always, this issue of the magazine is jam-packed with lots of fantastic articles, illustrations, news and features.  A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented on the silver jubilee of Prehistoric Times.

“Our congratulations to everyone who has contributed to Prehistoric Times magazine.  We are looking forward to reading the 50th year anniversary issue.”

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29 04, 2018

“Puncture and Pull” Theropod Teeth Provide Insight into Dinosaur’s Diet

By | April 29th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Dinosaur Teeth Provide Information on the Diet of Theropods

Palaeontologists have speculated on the preferred prey of Theropod dinosaurs for decades.  These mainly meat-eating dinosaurs did not chew their food but bit into their victims and tore off chunks of flesh, a feeding technique named “puncture and pull”.  In newly published research, scientists have looked at the serrations on the sides of Theropod teeth and assessed their role in feeding.  An analysis of microscopic scratches and wear patterns on the teeth of several different types of Canadian and Spanish carnivorous dinosaur has revealed that the troodontid dinosaurs with their large, broad and hooked, serrations (denticles) may have specialised in hunting smaller, softer prey as their teeth might have been damaged if they had bitten into a struggling, large animal.

Study of Dinosaur Tooth Serrations Suggest Differences in Preferred Prey

Various Theropods involved in the tooth study.

The serrated teeth of Theropod dinosaurs provides evidence of preferred prey.  The teeth in the picture have been scaled to the same crown height for comparative purposes.

Picture Credit: Current Biology

The Ziphodont Teeth of Theropods

The teeth of meat-eating dinosaurs tend to be curved, with sharp, serrated edges (ziphodont), the shape and size of the tooth serrations (the denticles) varies considerably between different species.  Tyrannosaurids such as the North American Gorgosaurus and dromaeosaurids such as Dromaeosaurus both have rounded, almost rectangular denticles, despite these animals being very different sizes, with the Gorgosaurus having much larger teeth.  In contrast, the dromaeosaurid Saurornitholestes has more pointed denticles that, over time can become worn and then they resemble the serrations found on the tooth of Dromaeosaurus.  Troodontids, such as Troodon have unique hooked denticles, that are proportionally much bigger than the denticles found on similarly sized Theropods.  Troodon means “wounding tooth”, a reference to the large, distinctive serrations on its teeth.

This new study under taken by University of Alberta scientists, along with colleagues from the Universidad de Zaragoza and the Universidad de La Rioja (Spain) and the Royal Ontario Museum, examined the strength of the teeth and their serrations to see whether they provided any clues about potential prey as these dinosaurs fed using the “puncture and pull” technique.

Microscopic Scratches on Dinosaur Teeth Identified by Scanning Electron Microscopy

Scratches and microwear support the idea of a "puncture and pull" feeding technique.

Tiny scratches (highlighted in yellow) support the idea of puncture and pull feeding in Theropod dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Current Biology

The picture (above), shows microwear patterns on three different Theropod teeth (scale bar = 100 um).  Each pair of pictures shows the same section of tooth with the microwear and scratches highlighted in yellow on the picture (right).  Two scratch orientations were present on all studied teeth, one oriented parallel to the border of the tooth, and one oriented 30°–40° to the tooth border, this supports the idea of “puncture and pull” feeding behaviour.

The photographs at the top show the denticles of Pyroraptor, a dromaeosaurid from Laño, Spain.  The middle photographs represent the tyrannosaurid Gorgosaurus from the Dinosaur Provincial Park (Alberta, Canada).  The photographs (bottom) show the denticles of Troodon (T. inequalis), also from the Dinosaur Provincial Park (Alberta, Canada).

Microwear and Finite Element Analysis

The researchers used scanning electron microscopy to map the wear and scratches on individual serrations in conjunction with a statistical method (finite element analysis), to identify stress patterns in teeth as they were involved in feeding.

Commenting on the research, one of the authors of the scientific paper, Ryan Wilkinson (University of Alberta), explained that their study supported the idea of “puncture and pull” feeding:

“We found the microwear patterns were similar in all of the teeth we examined, regardless of the size of the dinosaur, the size of the tooth or the shape of the denticles.”

It was concluded that the shape and strength of the dinosaurs’ teeth made them more or less vulnerable to breakage, forcing them to select different types of prey.  For troodontids, their tooth serrations were particularly prone to stress and therefore not suited to coping with struggling prey.  This suggests that although troodontids were of a similar size to many dromaeosaurs, they may have selected much smaller, less mobile prey, hinting at niche partitioning in those environments were dromaeosaurs and troodontids may have been coeval.

Stress Tests on Different Theropod Teeth

Stress tests on different Theropod dinosaur teeth.

Stress assessments of different Theropod teeth.

Picture Credit: Current Biology

The picture above shows plotted stress tests on three types of Theropod dinosaur teeth – Dromaeosaurus (top), the dromaeosaurid Saurornitholestes (middle) and a troodontid (bottom).  The “hotter” the colour ie. red, orange, yellow, the greater the stress on that part of the tooth during a bite.

The teeth of troodontids were identified as being particularly susceptible to breakage when biting into struggling prey.

Ryan Wilkinson added:

“The large hooked denticles of troodontids acted like a lever and caused high stress within the denticles and the tooth, which may cause the tooth to break.”

Implications for Feeding Troodontids

The researchers, which included renowned Ankylosaur expert Victoria Arbour of the Royal Ontario Museum and a former student at the University of Alberta working with Professor Phil Currie, who also contributed to the study, conclude that the microwear evidence supports the idea of “puncture and pull” feeding in Theropod dinosaurs and that troodontids may have favoured smaller prey than dromaeosaurids, as their teeth did not stand up so well to the stresses and strains of coping with struggling prey.

The “Puncture and Pull” Feeding Technique as Demonstrated by the Dromaeosaurid Saurornitholestes

The Theropod puncture/pull feeding technique.

Saurornitholestes demonstrates the puncture/pull feeding technique of Theropod dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Sydney Mohr with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

Dromaeosaurus and Saurornitholestes were well-adapted for handling struggling prey, whilst troodontid teeth indicate that these dinosaurs may have had a different diet.

Troodon May Have Tackled Small Prey

Beasts of the Mesozoic Troodon.

The Beasts of the Mesozoic Mountains accessory pack, features Troodon.  New research suggests that Troodon may have fed on different prey when compared to dromaeosaurids.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The scientific paper: “Puncture-and-Pull Biomechanics in the Teeth of Predatory Coelurosaurian Dinosaurs” by Angelica Torices, Ryan Wilkinson, Victoria M. Arbour, Jose Ignacio Ruiz-Omeñaca and Philip J. Currie published in “Current Biology”.

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28 04, 2018

Dinosaur Facts Compiled by Year 1 Children

By | April 28th, 2018|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Dinosaur Facts Compiled by Year 1 Children

Children in Year 1 compiled lots of facts about dinosaurs and prehistoric animals as part of a term topic on life in the past.  The enthusiastic teaching team had challenged the pupils to conduct some independent research into dinosaurs and other creatures that lived before people.  The children were given a choice, they could research a single animal such as Brontosaurus, Triceratops or Tyrannosaurus rex, or they could create a poster about dinosaurs in general.  The only prerequisite stated by the teachers was that the children’s work had to include lots of information, lots of facts.

Children in Year 1 Compile Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Posters

Children in Year 1 design dinosaur posters.

Year 1 children design dinosaur posters.

Picture Credit: Newport Infant School (Squirrel Class)/Everything Dinosaur

Demonstrating Knowledge

During our visit to the school to conduct a series of dinosaur workshops with the Year 1 classes, the children were keen to demonstrate their knowledge confidently asserting that dinosaurs laid eggs and that dinosaur fossils could be found all over the world, even in Australia!  We provided a number of extension resources to help support the school’s scheme of work, including a challenge to the children to create a non-chronological report on the life and times of the famous scientist Sir Richard Owen, highly appropriate since one of the children was called Owen.

Producing Dinosaur Posters for Display at the School

Lots of dinosaur and prehistoric animal facts on a poster.

Dinosaur facts compiled by Year 1 children.  This poster features a lot of different dinosaurs including herbivores and carnivores.  To date, something like 1,300 dinosaur genera have been described.

Picture Credit: Newport Infant School (Squirrel Class)/Everything Dinosaur

For further information about Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools and to enquire about our dinosaur workshops: Contact Everything Dinosaur, Request a Quotation

Dinosaurs as a Teaching Topic

Learning about dinosaurs provides plenty of opportunities for cross-curricular activities.  For example, the children had been exploring the properties of different materials by making prehistoric animal models and this topic has lots of scope to include writing activities (fiction and non-fiction writing).  Everything Dinosaur’s workshop leader challenged the classes (and their teachers), to produce a dinosaur themed poem.  A piece of prose that features a prehistoric animal, an intriguing idea that helps the children explore different types of writing and gives them the opportunity to develop their vocabulary, introducing the idea of stanzas, cadence, verses and iambic pentameter.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Our workshops provided the ideal provocation to kick-start the children’s term topic.  Dinosaurs and prehistoric animals certainly enthused the pupils and they were eager to demonstrate their pre-knowledge and to show their visitor all the posters, fact sheets and non-chronological reports on life in the past that they had created.  The teachers too, were very enthusiastic and eager to learn, taking lots of notes and photographs during the sessions with the three classes.”

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27 04, 2018

Everything Dinosaur’s May Newsletter (2018)

By | April 27th, 2018|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Newsletters, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

May Newsletter – Model Retirements and New Figures Back in Stock

Subscribers to Everything Dinosaur’s newsletter received their latest bulletin this week.  They were the first to know about the arrival of more stocks of the Rebor Velociraptor 1:18 scale replica “Winston”, as well as the arrival of more of the Rebor Yutyrannus huali figure, the Rebor Y-REX, the first 1:35 scale model produced by Rebor.

Back in Stock at Everything Dinosaur the Rebor Y-REX and the Rebor Velociraptor Figure “Winston”

May newsletter Rebor Y-REX and "Winston" back in stock.

Everything Dinosaur May newsletter announces Rebor models back in stock.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur customers who had requested a model be reserved for them have already been contacted by team members.

To view the range of Rebor replicas available from Everything Dinosaur: Rebor Scale Models and Figures

Model Retirements

In a meeting with the senior management of Safari Ltd a few months ago, Everything Dinosaur was informed that the model making company was going to slim down its inventory.   Three models have been retired, the Edmontosaurus, Inostrancevia and the Nigersaurus, expect more retirements to be announced by Everything Dinosaur in the near future.  Also, rumoured to be consigned to extinction, is the Battat Terra Amargasaurus figure, this Sauropod dinosaur model, is believed to be out of production.

Newsletter Readers were Amongst the First to Find Out About Model Retirements

Everything Dinosaur announces model retirements in its May 2018 newsletter.

Everything Dinosaur announces model retirements in its May 2018 newsletter – three Safari Ltd models (Inostrancevia, Nigersaurus and Edmontosaurus) plus one retirement from Battat (Battat Terra Amargasaurus).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Safari Ltd Retirements

The model of the gorgonopsid Inostrancevia, part of the Wild Safari Prehistoric World model range was introduced along with the Edmontosaurus back in 2011.  It is a shame to see these three figures out of production, but we can expect to hear of new model introductions to this award-winning range in the autumn.

Models Out of Production

Safari Ltd model retirements.

Safari Ltd model retirements in 2018.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Battat Terra Amargasaurus

Rumours abound about the retirement of the Amargasaurus dinosaur model from the Battat Terra range.  It is proving very difficult to find stocks, however, model collectors and dinosaur fans can rest assured, Everything Dinosaur has plenty of stock of this figure that is believed to have been withdrawn from production.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“One of the benefits of subscribing to our newsletter is that you can find out about model retirements and figures going out of production before most other collectors.  This enables dinosaur fans who have subscribed to complete their model collections.”

To request a subscription to Everything Dinosaur’s regular newsletter, simply drop us an email: Email Everything Dinosaur

Giant Squid Soft Toys and New Papo Models

One of our more unusual soft toys features in the May newsletter, the cute and cuddly giant squid soft toy.  This colourful plush Cephalopod measures over eighty centimetres long from the tips of the tentacles to its rear end.  We also had to mark the arrival of the first for 2018 Papo figures by giving the Papo cave man with spear, the Papo young Spinosaurus and the Papo Amargasaurus a mention.

New Papo Figures and a Giant Squid Soft Toy

May newsletter, new for 2018 Papo models (young Spinosaurus, cave man with spear and an Amargasaurus) plus a giant squid soft toy.

May newsletter 2018 – Papo models and a giant squid soft toy.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

With the disappearance of the Battat Terra Amargasaurus and the arrival of the Papo Amargasaurus model, it seems fans of this South American, long-necked dinosaur will be able to collect a replica of this dinosaur after all.

To view the range of Papo prehistoric animals and figures available from Everything Dinosaur: Papo Prehistoric Animal Models and Figures

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26 04, 2018

Clever Cretaceous Lacewings

By | April 26th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Evidence of Insect Mimicry and Camouflage in Burmese Amber

Researchers from the China Agricultural University, the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, have discovered a new species of lacewing preserved in 100 million-year-old Burmese amber (burmite).  The scientists have identified two lacewing larvae that show adaptations for mimicking liverwort plants.  Mimicry and camouflage is relatively commonplace in the natural world, but evidence of this within the fossil record is extremely rare.

Two views (Dorsal and Ventral) of a Preserved Lacewing Larva Camouflaged to Look Like a Liverwort

Fossil lacewing larva preserved in amber from Myanmar. Scale bar - 1 mm.

New green lacewing larva Phyllochrysa huangi in (A) dorsal view and (B) ventral view.

Picture Credit: the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology 

Lacewings and Liverworts

Lacewings are insects which are characterised by their very fine, reticulated wings.  They are globally widespread and something like 2,000 living species have been described to date.  As larvae and adults, they are voracious hunters and are popular with farmers and growers as they eat lots of pests, such as aphids.  Fossils of these delicate insects are rare but specimens are known that date from the Jurassic.  Liverworts are much older, they lack a vascular system and true roots tending to grow very close to the ground.  Liverworts are thought to be similar to the very first land plants that evolved in the Silurian geological period.  Despite liverworts having existed since the Palaeozoic, mimicry between insects and liverworts is extremely rare in both modern and fossil ecosystems.  This discovery, reported in the academic journal “Current Biology” represents the first record of liverwort mimicry by fossil insects and brings to light an evolutionary novelty, both in terms of morphological specialisation as well as plant-insect interaction.

Lacewing Larvae and Liverworts Preserved in Amber

Liverworts and lacewing larvae preserved in amber.

New green lacewing larva and potential model plants from Burmese amber. (B, E, G are larvae, the others are liverworts)

Picture Credit: the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology 

Camouflaged to Look Like Liverworts

The larvae have broad flanges on their abdomen and thorax that resemble the fleshy, ribbon-like fronds of liverworts.  The insect which has been named Phyllochrysa huangi, is the only known species of lacewing with distinctive foliate lobes on the larval body.  These newly described insects are the first evidence of direct mimicry in lacewing larvae.  This camouflage may have helped the vulnerable larvae to avoid detection by predators, or they might have used this body bauplan to help ambush potential prey.

Two Phyllochrysa huangi Larvae Hide Out Amongst the Liverworts

Phyllochrysa huangi camouflaged on the liverworts (highlighted by arrows).

A life reconstruction of two Phyllochrysa huangi hiding amongst liverworts.  The larvae are highlighted by red arrows.

Picture Credit: Yang Dinghua

The researchers conclude that these fossils preserved in amber demonstrate a hitherto unknown life-history strategy amongst these types of insect, a strategy that apparently evolved from a camouflaging ancestor but did not persist into modern times with this lineage.

A Hot and Humid Cretaceous Jungle

The amber from Burma (Myanmar) has provided palaeontologists with an astonishing insight into life in a Cretaceous tropical rainforest.  Numerous types of invertebrate have been named, including damselflies, spiders and blood-sucking ticks that may have fed on the blood of dinosaurs.  The remains of larger creatures have been found preserved in amber too, including the feathered tail of a dinosaur and a baby enantiornithine bird.

To read about the blood-sucking Cretaceous parasites: Blood-sucking Dinosaur Parasites

Fossilised baby bird preserved in amber: Watch the Birdie!

Prehistoric spiders with whip-like tails: Spiders with Tails

Dinosaur tail trapped in tree resin: The Tale of a Dinosaur Tail

The globally widespread extant liverworts consist of over 9,000 named species.  Although, like the lacewings, their fossil record is very poor, it seems likely that they began to become much more diverse during the Cretaceous as the rapidly evolving angiosperm trees provided new habitats for them.  Just like their modern counterparts, Cretaceous liverworts grew on the leaves and bark of trees as well as on other plant surfaces.  It is logical to assume that the camouflaged lacewing larvae also probably lived on trees which were densely covered by liverworts, with the lacewing’s liverwort mimicry aiding their survival.

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25 04, 2018

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Feathered T. rex Wins Award

By | April 25th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|2 Comments

Accolade for Wild Safari Prehistoric World Feathered T. rex

Readers of Prehistoric Times magazine have voted the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Feathered T. rex model the best dinosaur toy of 2017.   The figure faced tough competition, but it had a number of factors in its favour.  Firstly, it is a model of a Tyrannosaurus rex, the most popular of all the prehistoric animals and secondly, this skilfully crafted replica depicted T. rex with a shaggy coat of feathers, a modern interpretation of this iconic dinosaur.

Voted the Best Dinosaur Figure of 2017 by Readers of Prehistoric Times Magazine

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Feathered Tyrannosaurus rex.

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Feathered T. rex.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Feathered T. rex and the other models in this range available from Everything Dinosaur: Wild Safari Prehistoric World Models and Figures

A Feathered Tyrannosaurus rex Figure

Standing a little under fifteen centimetres high and measuring an impressive 32 centimetres long, this Tyrannosaurus rex figure depicts the “Tyrant Lizard King” with a coat of reddish-brown protofeathers, with more prominent quills on the top of the formidable skull and the running down the back of the neck.  The feathers on the back of the head and neck suggest that these quills might have played a role in visual display, the body feathers as shown in this replica, would have made a very effective coat, helping to keep this reptile warm.  The designers at Safari Ltd chose to make the snout and the underside of the neck bare, a similar characteristic is seen in extant vultures.  Many species of vultures such as the Lappet-faced (Torgos tracheliotos) and the White Rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis) have heads and necks which are devoid of feathers.  A mistake often made, is to assume that this lack of feathers on the neck and head prevents the bird from getting caked in blood as it reaches inside carcasses to feed.  This adaptation may assist in helping the vulture to keep clean, but it is now known that the bare head and neck play a role in thermo-regulation, helping the bird to cool down.  Perhaps the design team at Safari Ltd had considered this research before finalising the feathery features on their 2017 dinosaur model.

A Close-up View of the Head of the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Feathered Tyrannosaurus rex

Feathered T. rex model.

The back of the neck of the T. rex model has prominent feathers.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Previous Winners (2015 and 2016)

Safari Ltd have won this accolade on several previous occasions, in 2015 the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Sauropelta model was voted number one, whilst last year the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Iguanodon figure was honoured.

Previous Winners the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Iguanodon and Sauropelta Models

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Iguanodon and Sauropelta.

Previous award winners (top) the Iguanodon figure in 2016 and the Sauropelta, winner in 2015 (bottom).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Safari Ltd

Attention to Detail

It is the attention to detail that impresses.  This product line has a deserved reputation for the excellent painting of models, but it is the fine details that really make the feathered T. rex figure stand out from the pack.  Take, for example, the scratches and scars on the muzzle of the dinosaur model.  Face biting amongst Tyrannosaurs has long been suspected and the sculptors at Safari Ltd were keen to incorporate evidence of this behaviour into this T. rex model.

Note the Scars on the Maxilla and the Beautifully Painted Head of the Figure

The Wild Safari Prehistoric World T. rex Dinosaur Model

Note the prominent scars on the muzzle of the T. rex figure (face biting).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“We congratulate Safari Ltd for winning the Prehistoric Times best dinosaur model of the year award for three years running.  Given the fantastic quality of prehistoric animal replicas available at the moment winning this hat-trick is some achievement.  The feathered T. rex model is truly spectacular and a worthy winner.”

The Artwork Depicting the Safari Ltd Feathered T. rex when it was Launched in 2017

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Feathered T. rex artwork.

The concept art linked with the 2017 launch of the T. rex model.

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd

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24 04, 2018

Congratulations to Prehistoric Times Magazine

By | April 24th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Magazine Reviews, Main Page|0 Comments

Twenty-Five Years of Prehistoric Times Magazine

Congratulations to Prehistoric Times magazine it has just published issue number 125 (Spring 2018).  The 125th edition of this quarterly publication marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of this magazine, a firm favourite amongst dinosaur fans and model collectors.

The Front Cover of Prehistoric Times (Issue 125)

Prehistoric Times magazine (spring 2018).

The front cover of Prehistoric Times magazine (issue 125).

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks/Prehistoric Times

Just Arrived in the Mail

Everything Dinosaur’s copy has just arrived in the post and we are looking forward to publishing a full review of this issue in the very near future.

For a review of the previous edition (winter 2017): Everything Dinosaur Reviews Prehistoric Times Magazine (issue 124)

A lot has happened in the fields of palaeontology, fossil hunting and prehistoric animal model production since the magazine’s first issue was published way back in 1993, but the magazine continues to act as forum for palaeoartists to highlight their work.  The front cover features a pair of squabbling Barbourofelis, an illustration by the amazingly talented Mauricio Anton.  Over the years, a large number of world-renowned palaeoartists have had their work grace the front cover of Prehistoric Times.  The front covers are a real “who’s who” in this specialist area of artwork.  Don’t let the image of the Barbourofelis duel on the front cover, fool you.  Just because the genus Barbourofelis (false Sabre-Toothed cat), was endemic to North America, do not think this magazine is only for those who reside in the USA and Canada.  The publication has a world-wide (and growing) readership.

Celebrating 25 Years – Prehistoric Times Magazine

Prehistoric Times Silver Jubilee Edition.

Prehistoric Times magazines celebrates 25 years.

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks/Prehistoric Times

Prehistoric Times Magazine

The magazine is aimed at prehistoric animal enthusiasts and collectors of dinosaur merchandise.  Every full colour issue has around sixty pages and it includes updates on the latest research, news and reviews of models and model kits plus interviews with artists and palaeontologists.  Readers can submit their own dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed artwork and illustrations too.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We congratulate Prehistoric Times magazine for reaching this landmark.  We do appreciate how much work is involved in producing this quarterly bulletin.  We would like to thank all those involved in its production and we wish all the staff and contributors every success.  We are looking forward to another twenty-five years of Prehistoric Times.”

For further information on Prehistoric Times magazine and to subscribe: Prehistoric Times Magazine

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