All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
13 07, 2007

Dinosaur Diversity

By | July 13th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Dinosaur Diversity

Many times I am told we are entering another “Golden Age” of Dinosaur discoveries.  Certainly, advances in research techniques are permitting palaeontologists to learn far more from each specimen than they ever did before.  The use of MRI and CAT scans, and techniques such as the creation of endocasts (casts of the inside of fossils such as skull cavities) have opened up a whole new window of knowledge.  Our methods have certainly improved since the first “Golden Age” of Dinosaur discoveries – the 1860s and 1870s when the likes of Marsh and Cope competed with each other to excavate dinosaurs from western North America.

To date there has been over a thousand different genera of dinosaurs described, with a new dinosaur being discovered on average every 4-6 weeks.  Scientists are exploring areas that have not been studied before, parts of India, Madagascar, China, Argentina and Antarctica.  The development of CGI and other special effects has enabled prehistoric animals to be depicted in films like the Jurassic Park series and on television with the “Walking with Dinosaurs” compilation.

I am amazed at the diversity of Dinosauria. They certainly had the best part of 160 million years to change, adapt and fill every terrestrial niche.  Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that we will ever discover all the dinosaur genera.  The process of fossilisation and preservation happens only very rarely and certain habitats such as forest environments make the possibility of fossilisation extremely remote.  Still this does not stop scientists trying to imagine what other creatures may have existed or indeed speculating on what we may find in the future.

Considering dinosaur diversity there are many possibilities. Take Titanosaurs (long-necked dinosaurs), for example.  Within this group we see incredible diversity and geographic spread, with fossil Titanosaur remains having been excavated from the USA, Europe, Africa and South America.  The largest dinosaur yet to be fully described – Argentinosaurus may have exceeded 100 feet in length and weighed more than 100 Tonnes, yet, smaller almost dwarf Titanosaurs are also known.  Palaeontologists working in Romania have recovered fossil bones of a relatively small Titanosaur.  It has been named Magyarosaurus (full species name M. dacus).  This late Cretaceous Titanosaur may have only been about 5 metres long as fully grown adults.  Scientists have speculated that at the time this animal roamed about what was to become Transylvania; the area was mostly covered by a shallow sea with small islands dotted about.  Dinosaurs living on these isolated areas of land, found resources limited and gradually evolved into dwarf forms in response to the limitations of the environment.  Dwarfism in island species is quite common with dwarf mammoths and elephants having been reported in the past.

12 07, 2007

New Baby Mammoth Found

By | July 12th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|2 Comments

New Baby Mammoth Found in Siberia

So another baby Mammoth has been recovered from the frozen permafrost of Northern Siberia.  This find of a young female calf is in an excellent state of preservation.  The carcase is virtually complete, although an ear is missing and so is the tail, probably as a result of the body being scavenged by wolves before becoming frozen, or perhaps as the carcass began to thaw out and before it was found by the herder.

Over the years, many remains of Mammoths have been uncovered as the permafrost thaws, indeed Mammoths a very popular animals with children and they have been featured in a number of our blogs already.

To read about Woolly Mammoths in a previous blog

Woolly Mammoths for Breakfast

The 4 foot tall grey and brown carcass was discovered by a reindeer herder in May in the Yamal-Nenets region of Siberia.  Scientists of the Russian Academy of Sciences Zoological Institute have removed it and it was one of the star attractions at the recent Mammoth Science Symposium.  This is a big conference in which many palaeontologists and other scientists gather to discuss the latest Mammoth findings.  I think that this baby Mammoth, named Lyuba (after the reindeer herder’s wife) is going to travel to Japan for further study.

The Perfectly Preserved Baby Mammoth – Lyuba

Picture courtesy of Uppa/Photoshot (Daily Telegraph News)

At the moment the precise age of this specimen has not been determined.  It is estimated to be between 40,000 and 10,000 years old.  During this period Mammoth populations began to go into decline, their demise may have been due a number of factors, over hunting by mankind, disease caused by the introduction of new species by man such as dogs, or due to climate change which led to the eradication of their grazing.

Baby Mammoths are popular subjects for toys and models, we have recently worked on a range of prehistoric mammals including a soft toy baby Woolly Mammoth, a new prehistoric mammal model tube (mixing cave people and prehistoric animals – why not) and of course there is always the popular baby mammoth model from Schleich.

A hand-painted baby Mammoth model and dinosaur toys: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

Soft Toy Baby Mammoth (although why we put big tusks on him is a mystery to me)

Soft Toys: Dinosaur Stuffed Animals

Only a handful of Mammoth calves are known, perhaps the most famous is “Dima” which was found near the town of Magadan, Siberia in 1977.  There has been a lot of speculation about trying to bring back the Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) by cloning.  In theory it is possible to fuse the DNA of a preserved fossil such as Dima or Lyuba by combining the DNA with an egg cell of an Indian elephant which had been stripped of its original DNA.

Much debate has taken place as to the legitimacy of this, after all, do we have the right to bring back such an animal from extinction.  If we did, where would these animals live, their habitat has already been destroyed.  Many scientists argue that the huge sums of money involved in this project would be better spent preserving the last two species of elephants we have left.

11 07, 2007

The Mystery over Pterodactyls – The Pterosaurs

By | July 11th, 2007|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

The Mystery over the Pterodactyls

Growing up enthusing over dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals I recall referring to flying reptiles using the generic name Pterodactyls (means wing finger).  Unless my memory is playing tricks again there was a Doctor Who episode which featured Pterodactyls and these animals must have appeared  in more television shows and feature films.  The word Pterodactyl seems to have entered our consciousness and become synonymous with any flying reptile.  Pterodactyl is still used by many people to describe flying reptiles, many children who astound us with their knowledge about dinosaurs still use the term Pterodactyl when referring to Pterosaurs (means wing lizards).

Scientists still have a great deal to learn about these amazing flying creatures, due to their delicate skeletons we have relatively few decent fossils and there is a lot we don’t know about these animals.  For example, palaeontologists debate just how these animals flew, did they glide or were they very proficient fliers.  In many Pterosaurs the presence of a head crest raises lots of questions as does determining how these animals moved on land, how they roosted, what they ate and so on.  Were these animals covered in fur?  Could they have been warm blooded?  We have so much more to learn.

What fascinates me is how the term Pterodactyl seems to have become the byword for all flying reptiles, when in fact they should be referred to as Pterosaurs.  Somehow Pterodactyl is still the preferred way to describe these animals in popular science.  I am puzzled as to how this has occurred.  Scientists postulate on all sorts of issues related to these flying creatures that shared the world of the dinosaurs for more than 150 million years, for me the puzzle that perplexes me most is how did the word Pterodactyl become so well known.

A typical flying reptile – a Pterosaur (Pteranodon ingens) part of the Everything Dinosaur range of prehistoric animal models: Dinosaur Toys for Girls and Boys

In fact, Everything Dinosaur stocks a huge range of Pterosaur models and models of flying reptiles.

I have two theories;

Firstly, there is a group of Pterosaurs called Pterodactyls, they are essentially short-tailed Pterosaurs.  One particular genus is called Pterodactylus, remains have been found in Germany, France, England and in Tanzania.  This fossil of this animal (I think the original German fossil) was reviewed in 1784.  This is the earliest record I have of a Pterosaur being mentioned in scientific papers.  This animal was one of the first Pterosaurs to be discovered.  As it was prominent in the minds of the European scientific community which was leading the way with the new science of palaeontology in the 18th and 19th Centuries maybe the name just stuck.

Secondly, Pterosaurs have a unique way of locomotion through air.  On studying the wing bones of flying reptiles scientists noted that a portion of the Pterosaur wing was supported by normal arm bones and the rest of the wing was supported by a single, elongated finger.  The fact that a significant proportion of all Pterosaurs wings are supported by a very long finger gave rise to their common name – Pterodactyls or “wing fingers”.

However, it came about it is certainly true that many children (and their Mums and Dads) still refer to Pterosaurs as Pterodactyls.  We do our best to explain their technical error and to point out that latest fossil trackway evidence from Texas indicates that at the end of the Cretaceous some species of Pterosaur could have had wingspans in excess of 60 feet.

Sadly, since flying reptiles would have led an arboreal existence (up in the trees), many Pterosaurs would have lived in forests and woodland.  Animals living in these environments are less likely to encounter the conditions that will allow fossilisation (try looking for Panda fossils), and as such, it is likely that we may never find the remains of many genera of Pterosaurs.  They will remain unknown to science and gone forever.


10 07, 2007

Working with Photographers – How to shoot Dinosaurs

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Working with Photographers – How to shoot Dinosaurs

In one of our previous blogs “a picture is worth a thousand words”; we mentioned that the team at Everything Dinosaur had gone to Wales to take part in some new photography.  These are quite fun days, it is certainly very different from visiting a school, sorting out parcels in the warehouse or working in the office.

To view our article “a picture is worth a thousand words”

A Picture is worth a Thousand Words

As a mail order company we rely on good photographs to give customers a good view of their potential purchases.  To achieve this we often commission our own product pictures.  Although, the hiring of a studio and a professional photographer is quite expensive, we think it is worthwhile in the long-run as it allows customers to view our products properly.

By taking our own photographs we can also offer combinations of products that competitors may not be able to supply, as they simply don’t have the pictures to display these items properly.  Anyway, having our own product shots is very useful.

Also, the photographer can take pictures that we can use for promotional purposes, this is another reason why we hire a professional and studio.  Although, it is fun to dress up in our digging gear and stomp around the studio pretending to look at fossils whilst surrounded by loads and loads of our products… but that is another story.

Over the years we have learnt some valuable lessons when working with professional photographers, so we thought we would share with you some of our golden rules.  Hopefully, if anyone is thinking of doing some photographic work for their own business then these little tips may prove to be useful.

Everything Dinosaur’s Golden Rules for Professional Photography Work

1.)  Choose your Photographer carefully

We tend to ask for recommendations and testimonials from existing customers.  We check these out and get the views of people who have used the photographer previously as well viewing some of the work that he/she has done.  If time permits, visit the studio.

2.)  Prepare a “photographic brief”

Prior to a shoot we send a brief to the photographer outlining our objectives and providing specific information on what type of photography we require and who the audience is likely to be.  We even provide a short outline on our company so that the photographer can get a “feel” for what we want to achieve.

3.) Follow up the brief to check understanding

Once the brief has been received we then follow up a few days later with a phone call, or occasionally if time permits with a quick visit to the studio, to go over any points and to provide additional information (we have even brought samples of products to show the photographer).

All this preliminary work will save time on the day of the shoot which since most photographers charge you for their time, ultimately means this will save you money.

4.) Allow the photographer to do his/her job.

These people are professional and know what pictures are likely to catch an editor’s eye or to show off a product in its best light.  Encourage and welcome a contribution from the photographer and heed their advice.

5.)  Bring Odd-Job along

No not the villain from Gold Finger but a box with lots of handy items in it such as spare product labels, fishing line, blue tack, sticky tape, drawing pins.  Everything you might need for those odd little jobs on a photo shoot.  Most professional photographers have their own kits, but when you turn up with your own they can recognise that they too are dealing with a pro!

6.)  Build in some Float

Always allow more time than you think you will need.  It is surprising how long it takes to set up studio lights and arrange props.  It would be such a shame to rush a photo shoot, so make sure staff diaries are cleared to allow plenty of time for the photography.

7.)  Shoot the Products first before the People

Studios can be quite intimidating places, full of strange gadgets and great big white spaces.  Even the most brash and confident photo subject can wilt under the lights.  So build people’s confidence up by getting them involved with the shoot and working with the products before setting up the pictures of themselves.  We find people relax, and then seem to be more comfortable in front of the camera.

8.)  Have a Check list and Stick to It

Normally one of the party is delegated the job of ensuring that the photographic brief is followed.  They have a copy of the brief (we usually get them to help write it), and a list of the required shots.  They then work through these.  The running order is agreed with the photographer before hand.  In our case it is small items first, working our way up to group shots and larger products before we move onto any people shots we need.

9.)  Specify the Format

Make sure that the photographer knows exactly how you want to receive the contacts (first set of pictures you receive), how you will select what pictures you want and which you will discard.  Get agreement on format dpi (dots per inch) and such like.  This can save a lot of hassle for both parties.

10).  Ensure you Agreement on Copy-write and Intellectual Property.

Put in writing how you want to use the images, and check permissions if you end up using the photos for other purposes such as a request for a picture being sent to a publisher and such like.  This is a courtesy, after all, the photographer earns his/her living from their camera work.  Having an understanding and covering this point early on will prevent any difficulties over copy-write and permissions from emerging.

We hope our top tips are of some help to you, I am sure there are lots of other tips on how to work with professional photographers, but with a bit of luck we may have helped you avoid some pitfalls.  Check out the Everything Dinosaur blog for further updates and advice.

9 07, 2007

Dinosaurs Visit Fashion Show

By | July 9th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Dinosaurs Visit Fashion Show

Earlier this week, a number of Everything Dinosaur team members visited a fashion show to look at dinosaur themed clothing for children.  We had a lovely time meeting all the friendly designers and chatting to them about dinosaur T-shirts and socks.  It certainly was an interesting trip out for people more used to digging around the bottom of cliffs to find fossils.

Dinosaurs at the Fashion Show

Looking for dinosaur themed clothing for children.

Looking for dinosaur themed clothing for children.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Team members at Everything Dinosaur visited a fashion show to search for new additions to the company’s clothing lines.  We saw lots of exciting dinosaur T-shirts and we were most impressed with the quality and the care taken in their manufacturer.  For Everything Dinosaur, the clothes have to appeal to mums and dads as well as children.  For example, they must be hard wearing, easy to wash and made from fine quality materials.

To view dinosaur themed clothing for children: Dinosaur Themed Clothing

9 07, 2007

Dinosaurs at the Fashion Show

By | July 9th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|1 Comment

Dinosaurs at the Fashion Show

One of the benefits of running a small business like Everything Dinosaur is that we all get the chance to have our say how the company should go forward.  In response to feedback from our customers, it has been decided to extend our range of dinosaur clothing items.  We have been working with the Natural History museum in London and we will be able to supply some more T-shirts, sales of which help fund the museum.  In addition we will be able to add some new lines in the near future.

However, it was decided at our team meeting Sunday afternoon, (we all met up after attending a school event) and none of us wanted to watch the Mens Singles Tennis final on the television anyway, that one of us should attend a trade fair on children’s clothing.

Since Sue had been helping me at the school it was thought only fair that I should go to the trade fair on Sue’s behalf.  So I was packed off this morning to the NEC in Birmingham to see if I could find any dinosaur fashion items.  As a team we had agreed to look for dinosaur pyjamas, and more T-shirts plus dinosaur swimming trunks.

Today turned out to be my first exposure to the world of fashion retail.  I must admit I felt a bit out of place walking round the trade fair in my hiking boots ( I wear them because they are very comfortable and I take them on digs with me), and my anorak.  Dressing as I did I found it very useful to avoid all the show staff handing me leaflets and flyers.  This was not a deliberate ploy on my behalf to stop myself being bombarded with information, leaflets and product catalogues, but it certainly worked.  I was left very much alone to get on with my mission – to seek out new dinosaur themed clothing.

It can be very easy to get lost in a big trade show. There are so many stalls, and exhibits to view, but I had a plan.  Using my palaeontological field training I pretended the trade show was a dig site and one of the first things we do at a dig site is plot it, then plan a route so that the area is thoroughly walked over.  I sat down with a map of the exhibition then planned my route so that I would cover all the exhibits on view.

Meticulously, I covered the show, checking my progress against my map and ticking off the areas I had “explored” thus ensuring I didn’t cover the same ground again.  I am glad I spent a little time planning before I entered the trade fair as after a while each stall holder with baby grows on it started to look exactly the same as the one I had passed just seconds earlier.  How many different types of baby grow are there?

Although I felt a bit like an Eusthenopteron* (get it, my attempt at a weak palaeontologists joke), I began to grow in confidence and I chatted away to a number of manufacturers and I may have unearthed some new leads for our retail team to pursue.  We may end up with more dinosaur clothing to add to our ranges as a result of my little expedition.

Working for Everything Dinosaur, certainly takes you to some funny places, one minute I can be at a school, the next I am walking round a big children’s clothing fashion show.  Still I suppose that is one of the benefits of working the way we do, everyone gets the chance to try new things.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s clothing range: Everything Dinosaur

Eusthenopteron* – my joke explanation.

I felt a bit like a fish out of water at the fashion show.  Eusthenopteron was  a member of the lobe-finned fish group otherwise known as sarcopterygians.  These group of fishes were one of the dominant fish groups of the Devonian period (410 to 355 mya).  Scientists believe that it was from this group of fish that the first land vertebrates evolved.  It has been speculated that the lobe-finned fish could use their fleshy fins to move clumsily around on land – hence my “fish out of water” analogy.  Eusthenopteron means “good strong fin” and it may be our direct ancestor.  There are still a few remnants of this once huge group of fish around today.  The Coelacanth is a member of this group and there are still six species of lung fish around, these too belong to the ancient lobe-finned group.

Frightening to think that basically we are nothing more than highly evolved fish.  This is only slightly more unnerving than having to attend a children’s clothing show on your own!

8 07, 2007

Chinese Dinosaur Bones used as Medicine

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Chinese Dinosaur Bones used as Medicine

Reports of earlier this week of local Chinese people using dinosaur fossils of medicine are difficult to believe in the West, but this practice of using fossils in traditional medicine is actually quite common.  Indeed, there is quite a trade in various dragon bones and other such items within the Far East.  Most of the fossils are ground up into fine powders and then these are added to herbs, animal remains, seeds and fruits to make up local remedies. These medicines are used to “cure” a number of ills from tummy upsets, headaches and even colds and flu.  It may seem bizarre to us but as dragons are very important to the local mythology of the more remote parts of China.  Dragons are supposed to have magical powers and it is these properties that persuade locals to take them in potions to cure what is ailing them.

Ironically, the ancient Chinese who first discovered dinosaur fossils were pretty accurate in their assessment of them belonging to dragons – giant, monstrous reptiles.  Not a bad hypothesis, a theory that did not take hold in the West until the 19th Century.  Grinding up these fossils for use in medicine may also sound odd, I shudder to think what priceless discoveries have ended up ground into powder by a shaman.  However, fossils are generally only found in sedimentary rocks like limestone.  These alkaline rocks, once ground down into a fine powder and swallowed may actually assist in easing certain stomach complaints such as acidosis and indigestion.  Although, I would never recommend anyone to try this – stick to the prescribed indigestion remedies.

Perhaps we could learn a trick or two from these ancient apothecaries.

It is not just dinosaur bones that have been lost to science due to the practices of Chinese medicine.  The German palaeoanthropologist Ralph von Koenigswald was wandering around the back streets of Hong Kong in 1935 when he happened upon one of these pharmacies.  Curious, he wandered in and he found on one of the many shelves, a very large molar (a tooth) labelled as a dragon’s tooth.  He knew that this was a fossil and that it was unlikely to have come from any known reptile but what strange animal could possess such a huge molar?  Doctor Koenigswald purchased the tooth and persuaded the proprietor to show him exactly where the tooth had come from.  The fossil tooth was traced back to a remote cave, in which, was found more teeth and some bones.  Ralph von Koenigswald had discovered a new fossil primate species – the largest ape ever known.  He named this new animal Gigantopithecus (Gigantic Ape), it is believed that the males weighed over 550 kgs and if they could stand their two feet they would have been over 3 metres tall.

A Scale Drawing of a Male Gigantopithecus

Giant ape

Gigantopithecus from China.

Diagram courtesy of Everything Dinosaur

Gigantopithecus is the largest known ape, a peaceful, herbivore it probably was mainly ground dwelling due to its size.  They existed throughout South-east China and Vietnam, finally going extinct around 200,000 years ago.

8 07, 2007

Everything Dinosaur (Gigantopithecus Drawing)

By | July 8th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings|0 Comments

Gigantopithecus Drawing

The original King Kong film was released in 1933.  Merian C Cooper (who produced the film) along with Edgar Wallace (a crime fiction writer responsible for the screen play) wrote the story.  The 1925 film “The Lost World”, based on the book of the same name by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, heavily influenced their tale.  An expedition explores a mysterious island “Skull island” with a gigantic ape known as Kong.  Kong falls for the beautiful actress, who accompanied the expedition, when she is offered to Kong as a sacrifice.  She is rescued, Kong is captured and taken to New York where the ape breaks from his shackles and meets his end on top of the Empire State building.  “Beauty killed the Beast”.

The fossil record for primates and early human ancestors is very incomplete although there is no evidence to suggest that giant gorillas roamed the Earth.  However, sometimes real life can reflect fiction, two years after King Kong was released a German palaeoanthropologist Ralph von Koenigswald purchased a very large molar (back tooth) from a Hong Kong pharmacy.  Chinese doctors used “dragons teeth” fossils and bones found in remote caves in their traditional medicines.  Koenigswald correctly identified that the tooth belonged to a new primate species.  He went onto name the animal Gigantopithecus blacki.  Gigantopithecus means “gigantic ape”, the scale drawing below gives an impression of the estimated size of a male G. blacki.

Gigantopithecus Illustrated

A scale drawing of the giant ape.

A scale drawing of the giant ape.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

7 07, 2007

Pictures from our Offices (Everything Dinosaur)

By | July 7th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Press Releases|0 Comments

A Photograph of Everything Dinosaur in the Office

Team members at Everything Dinosaur took the opportunity to take some pictures around the company’s offices the other day.  A chance to show off some of the fantastic pictures on the walls around the offices.

Pictures from the Office

Ready for work!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Creating the right image is important for a young company and whilst offices were being refurbished we took the chance to take some photographs of team members at work.  To purchase dinosaur toys and dinosaur themed games from Everything Dinosaur click on the link below:

Visit Everything Dinosaur: Everything Dinosaur’s website

7 07, 2007

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

By | July 7th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

No sooner does the team at Everything Dinosaur get into the swing of Summer events then it seems time to begin planning for the Autumn.  On Thursday, some of the team members went off to Wales for the day to take part in some product and promotional photography.

We headed out passed Chester around the ring road then we travelled south down the A483 skirting round Wrexham before arriving at our destination Cefn-Mawr, which is a small village in North Wales about 8 miles from Llangollen.  Cefn-Mawr has an industrial heritage with sandstone quarries, coal mining and chemical works.  The geology of the area is quite interesting, the region is mainly Carboniferous limestone, with scattered coal mines and of course the famous Cefn stone (the sandstone), which was used to build most of the houses in the area.   The industrial development has left its mark on the area with the beautiful viaduct built by Thomas Telford dominating the valley.

The area is receiving a considerable amount of European Union funding, helping to revitalise the village after some years of decline.  A local told us that something like £3.5 million had been invested in the village, with grants available to help restore buildings and set up new businesses in the area.  It was certainly looked impressive as we left the car in one of the many free car parks on the high street and wondered up passed the newly opened business centre to find the premises of the photographer that we were working with.  There may be lots of exciting and new things happening in Cefn-Mawr but I would guess that we would be the first people to carry cuddly dinosaur toys and fossils up the high street.

The photography went well.  We were using a brand new photographic studio that had only just opened, it was very impressive.  We took pictures of some new products and did some shots of ourselves and other items that we will require for promotional purposes.

It was a fun day, working under the direction of Michael (the photography), suspending Pteranodon’s from pieces of cotton and posing with various fossils and such like.  Most of the pictures will go up on our website and we will put some of the other pictures up on this blog.  In the meantime, I have loaded up a shot of the team working to set up a product shot – lots of concentration required.

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