All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
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23 08, 2007

What’s in a Name – The Classification of Dinosauria

By | August 23rd, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

How Dinosauria came to be

The classification of Dinosaurs into a separate and distinct order is shrouded with controversy and although it may be widely known that the term “Dinosauria” was first used by Sir Richard Owen, how the term came into being and accepted by the scientific community is quite contentious.

A number of attempts had been made link the three known ancient land dwelling reptiles – Iguanodon, Megalosaurus and Hylaesaurus in the early 1830s.  The distinguished German naturalist Hermann von Meyer (who was later to name and describe Plateosaurus in 1837), had used the phrase “Saurians” when describing these animals and their mammalian characteristics in a paper published in 1832.

However, it was a fossil unearthed in 1841 that finally provided the evidence to unite all these huge land reptiles into a separate taxon.  A new bone of an Iguanodon had been discovered on the Isle of  Wight.  This new discovery was brought to the attention of Richard Owen and he duly went off to the island to examine it.  The fossil was an Iguanodon’s sacrum (the lower part of the spine).  As Owen studied this new find it dawned on him that the Iguanodon sacrum had an identical characteristic to the sacrum of the Megalosaurus that had been on display at the Ashmolean museum, Oxford for the past twenty years or so.  The five sacral vertebrae forming the lower part of the spine of both the Iguanodon and Megalosaurus were fused in exactly the same way.  Having a fused sacrum strengthens the backbone and is an adaptation for living on land, dinosaurs have it as do mammals and humans (although our lower spines are fused in a different way to dinosaurs).  This fossil vertebrae provided the vital evidence of an anatomical link between the meat-eating Megalosaurus and the plant-eater Iguanodon.  They belonged to the same order.

Prior to this, these reptiles had been loosely grouped together under the term “Lacertians” but now these land animals were seen as a very distinct group from crocodiles, marine reptiles and pterosaurs.  They had characteristics very similar to mammals, with an upright gait, pillar like legs that were held directly underneath the body.  Richard Owen had been engaged by the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) to produce a comprehensive paper on these ancient creatures – his “Report on British Fossil Reptiles”.  He delivered his paper in a presentation made at the annual meeting of the BAAS in August 1941, but extensively re-wrote it before its final publication in April 1842.  Working from his study at the Royal College of Surgeons in London, Richard added the following note to his paper:

“The combination of such characters, some as the sacral ones, altogether peculiar among Reptiles, others borrowed, as it were, from groups now distinct from each other, and all manifested by creatures far surpassing in size the largest of existing reptiles, will, it is presumed, be deemed sufficient ground for establishing a distinct tribe or sub-order of Saurian Reptiles for which I propose the name of Dinosauria”.

Richard Owen had toyed with a number of names for this new classification over the winter of 1841 but after discussing the matter with friends he hit upon the idea of using the Greek words “deinos” meaning terrible or fearfully great and “sauros”  meaning lizard.

Hence the term dinosaurs or terrible lizards came into being.

Perhaps Owen had been pointed in the direction of the Greek poetic style of Homer as the word “Deinos” is found in the work accredited to the ancient Greek poet.   In the prose, the word Deinos is used to mean inconceivable and unknowable, a very apt description; as few scientists could fail to recognise the impact of the establishment of a extinct sub-order of reptiles on the prevailing view about the Creation.

Mystery surrounds the naming of this order, much of the earlier work of Mantell is discredited in Owen’s paper.  Indeed he takes credit for many of the insights made by Mantell and others.  Poor Mantell is ridiculed for his inaccurate estimates of the size of Iguanodon.  Owen takes great delight in belittling Mantell’s comparisons of the fossils of Iguanodon with a modern Iguana.  He almost gleefully, mocks Mantell for naming Iguanodon from the fossil teeth resembling that of an Iguana lizard.  Owen states that the teeth when studied in cross-section under a microscope bare little similarity.  This is a little unfair, as at the time Mantell made his conclusions fewer Iguanodon fossils were known and he did not have access to a microscope.

Ironically, it was Gideon Mantell who first pointed out the bipedal stance of Iguanodon.  He had noted a number of characteristics regarding the limb bones of Iguanodon that led him to conclude that this animal was capable of standing on its hind feet using its forelimbs for grasping vegetation.  Owen completely failed to notice this despite having better access to fossil specimens of Iguanodon than Mantell.  Owen envisaged Iguanodon as an elephantine type quadruped whereas it was Mantell who had given us the first insight into the true nature of anatomy of dinosaurs.

Dinosaur Models: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls

22 08, 2007

So Tyrannosaurus rex could chase down David Beckham

By | August 22nd, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

T. rex able to catch David Beckham

New research shows that Tyrannosaurus rex could out run a professional athelete such as David Beckham, but the fastest dinosaurs of all could top 40 mph!

A very unusual race has just been run by scientists at the University of Manchester, a race between several dinosaurs, modern animals and a human in a bid to see which was the fastest.  The researchers led by Dr Bill Sellers and palaeontologist Phil Manning have just had their work published in the journal of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences.

The race was run in virtual reality using a super computer to calculate the running speeds of 5 bipedal, theropod dinosaurs, two extant flightless birds (ostrich and emu) and a human.  The results show that the smallest dinosaur studied, Compsognathus (pronounced komp-so-nay-thus) was able to run at a top speed of 40 mph, making this 1 metre long, Jurassic carnivore one of the fastest two-footed land animals of all time.

Data on each animal’s anatomy was fed into the computer along with estimates of their leg muscle mass, posture and gait.  The computer then used this information to assess how each creature would have moved and then calculated the fastest possible speed for each animal.  For the ostrich, emu and the David Beckhams around today, actual measurements of muscle mass and stride length could be taken.  For the dinosaurs, the team had to be a bit more creative.  Unfortunately, there are no Tyrannosaurs or Compsognathids around for the scientists to take measurements from, but muscle scars on fossilised leg bones can give them an idea of leg muscle mass.  Measurements from fossilised dinosaur trackways can also provide valuable data on gait, posture and stride length.

Once all the bio-mechanical information had been programmed into the computer, the maximum speed of each animal could be calculated and the virtual race run.  Data from a professional sportsman was used to provide the human comparison and from this research, believed to be the most accurate ever produced, Tyrannosaurus rex running at a top speed of just under 8 metres a second could outrun the human athlete.  In the film Jurassic Park, T. rex is shown chasing a jeep at nearly 35 mph but scientists have known for some time that this sort of speed for a 7 Tonne dinosaur was unrealistic.  Still, if T. rex could have run at approximately 18 mph it would have been an extremely impressive effort!

The Results from the Virtual Reality Race

Virtual Race Data

Weight

Metres/sec

Km/hour

Miles/hour

Place

Human

71kg

7.9

28.4

17.7

Dinner!

Emu

27.2kg

13.3

47.9

29.8

3rd

Ostrich

65.3kg

15.4

55.4

34.5

2nd

Compsognathus

3kg

17.8

64.1

39.8

1st

Velociraptor

20kg

10.8

38.9

24.2

4th

Dilophosaurus

430kg

10.5

37.8

23.5

5th

Allosaurus

1.4 tonnes

9.4

33.8

21

6th

Tyrannosaurus

6 tonnes

8

28.8

17.9

7th

Table reproduced from University of Manchester data

The results show that the smaller and lighter the dinosaur the faster it could run.  Whether or not these speeds could be maintained by meat-eating dinosaurs is open to debate.  Ostriches and emus are able to sustain high running speeds over considerable distances whereas, it is not known how long a dinosaur could maintain its top speed and this particular study does not shed any further light on the endurance capabilities of these animals.  Dinosaurs such as Compsognathus were lightweight and speedy.  Compsognathus is one of the smallest dinosaurs known, weighing little more than your average laptop.  Its remains have been found in Bavarian limestone deposits indicating that it lived in a coastal environment.  From its teeth we can guess that it probably chased down insects and smaller reptiles so being speedy would have been a distinct advantage.  It could also have used its fast reactions and powerful hind legs to get away from the many predators in the area at the time – such as crocodiles and the larger dinosaurs such as Ornitholestes.

A lot of work has been carried out by palaeontologists on the relative speeds of various dinosaurs.  This new study moves away from previous techniques which used direct comparisons between dinosaurs and modern creatures such as chickens to work out velocities.  This scaling-up work has attracted some criticism, after all it is hard to compare the speed of 2 kg chicken with a 7 Tonne Theropod.  As this new data uses information based on individual dinosaurs then this data may be able to overcome some of the limitations of the previous work.

However, top speed is one thing, the ability to sustain it is another; and indeed crucial data about running safely has not been considered.  Ostriches are relatively stable at high speed, they are well co-ordinated and balanced.  The same cannot be said for a large meat-eating dinosaur.  The fossilised rib bones of animals such as Allosaurus and T. rex show many signs of being broken.  Are these the result of falls as the animals pursued prey?  The tiny forelimbs on a Tyrannosaur would not have helped much if the animal tripped and fell.  Such an accident could well have proved fatal, depite the protection of belly ribs such as gastralia.  So perhaps, T. rex and company did not rush around at their theoretical maximum too often – it was not worth the risk.

Sadly, the University of Manchester team did not investigate the potential top speeds of any Ornithomimid dinosaurs such as Gallimimus or Ornithomimus.  These “ostrich-like” dinosaurs were the real speed freaks of the Mesozoic with some palaeontologists estimating that they could top 50 mph or perhaps with the wind behind them and on a good day attain Cheetah like speeds.

21 08, 2007

Girls like Pink, Boys like Blue – Why? Because we Evolved this way!

By | August 21st, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Why do Girls like Pink?

The colour preferences of men and women may seem like an unusual subject to merit serious scientific study, but new research published today from Newcastle University points at girl’s preference for pink being as a result of our biological and evolutionary programming.

There may be an evolutionary advantage in the old adage of “pink for a girl and blue for a boy”.  Tests results produced by the Newcastle University team and re-printed in this month’s edition of the magazine “Current Biology” show that women have a strong preference for red tones.  Using a representative group the researchers recorded people’s reactions to a series of flash cards that were shown to them.  Blue proved to be the most popular colour amongst the men and women test subjects but real differences between the sexes showed up when reactions to different hues and blends of colours were tested.

Whilst the male subjects showed no real preference for different hues and tones shown to them across the colour spectrum, women overwhelmingly plumped for the red end of the red-green colour spectrum.  The differences between the sexes in the results recorded were so significant that just by analysing the data produced; the research team were able to accurately predict the sex of the respondents.  Chinese subjects were also included within the study, in a bid to remove any possible cultural differences in colour preference, but their results were in line with the overall findings.  Females preference for the red spectrum seems to go beyond cultural and nurturing influences.

The research, led by Professor Anya Hurlbert says more about Homo sapiens, than females liking for reds, pinks and lilacs.  Their love of the red spectrum may influence the clothes they wear and the colour of their handbags but this fascination may go deeper and reflect an important evolutionary trait of our ancient ancestors.

As hunter-gatherers, a long held view is that the women took on the role of finding food whilst the men were the hunters.  Certainly, there is strong evidence to suggest that our brains are wired differently to assist with these tasks.  We have only to look at what goes on in our company; Everything Dinosaur; to see evidence of this.  For example, the girls are better able to remember where things are kept in the warehouse.  Perhaps this is a manifestation of their evolutionary trait of being able to remember where to find food sources as they wandered around the Pleistocene landscape.  Or perhaps it is because they are just cleverer than us boys!

Prehistoric women who were able to find ripe fruits would have been greatly appreciated by the other  members of the tribe.  In nature, the colour red is often an indication of ripeness and readiness to eat, so being able to see reds well may have been a significant evolutionary advantage.

At Everything Dinosaur we too have found that females have a strong preference for pinks and lilacs.  We recently introduced a range of dinosaur themed items especially for girls.  Their preference for the colour pink was reflected in our choice of products and helped in the design of things like the Utahraptor soft toys (they have a pink crest on them).

Some of the Everything Dinosaur – “Pink Influenced Products”

Picture courtesy of Everything Dinosaur

We introduced a special range of products in recognition of the need to get more young girls interested in science.  Girls as well as boys seem to be fascinated with dinosaurs, although strangely when we carry out our prehistoric animal surveys dinosaurs such as Triceratops and Stegosaurus seem to be more popular amongst the girls than the boys.

Dinosaur Models: Dinosaur Toys for Girls – Dinosaur Models

At the time we thought this was just a cultural thing, but perhaps the work of nurture rather than nature but Newcastle University have revealed that this perceived colour preference is a much more deeper held belief.

We have written about the Dinosaurs for Girls in two previous blog posts to read them click here:

Dinosaurs for Girls (Part 1)

Dinosaurs for Girls (Part 2)

So there you have it, the next time you see a woman in a pink top, or a girl with a pink teddy bear you are not observing a modern cultural phenomenon but you may be looking through a window into our own past and catching a glimpse of an affinity for a colour that may have led to the survival and eventual success of our species.

20 08, 2007

Celebrating 100 years of Tyrannosaurus rex

By | August 20th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Tyrannosaurus rex 100 Years Old

Our knowledge of Tyrannosaurus rex (tyrant lizard king) has certainly increased over the last twenty years or so as new more complete fossils are found.  We now have a better understanding of the Tyrannosaurid clade as more Tyrannosaur fossils are discovered.   For example, if the recently discovered Avityrannis jurassica turns out to be a true ancestor of T. rex then palaeontologists are going to have to revise the Tyrannosaur family history, as Avityrannis would indicate this group evolving in southern Europe (Portugal) and not North America or Asia as previously thought.  Even more startling Avityrannis has been found in late Jurassic strata, pre-dating other early Tyrannosaurus by something like 30 million years.

Looks like T. rex has a few surprises under its tail…

In total there are less than 30 Tyrannosaurus rex partial skeletons known.  Barnum Brown had an incredible run of luck at the turn of the Century locating several specimens from 1900 to 1906.  It was from this collection that Henry Fairfield Osborn was able to name and describe this new dinosaur and the “King of the Tyrant Lizards” officially came to be.

Using the T. rex remains collected by Brown (most notably BM-R7995 and CM-9380), Osborn produced the first interpretation of this dinosaur.

The First Scientific Drawing of Tyrannosaurus rex (1905)

Picture courtesy of Lindahall.org

Osborn used a human figure to depict the scale (a method he had used before in 1899 with a Diplodocus reconstruction).  Note the comments made regarding the size of the forelimbs i.e. “the association of the small forelimbs is probably incorrect”.  At the time it was thought that T. rex had forelimbs in the same proportion as the much better known Allosaurus fragilis.  Scientists at the time could not believe that the tiny arm bones found in association with T. rex fossils actually belonged to this animal.

In 1906 a more complete T. rex skeleton was discovered (also by the incredibly skilfull; or should that be lucky Barnum Brown), enabling a second, more detailed drawing to be made.

The Second Scientific Drawing of T. rex (1906)

T. rex the Second

Picture courtesy of Lindahall.org

To  mark 100 years research on this the most famous and perhaps fiercest of all dinosaurs Schleich of Germany have introduced a new model Tyrannosaurus rex.  This animal has been modelled in the more traditional pose, the so-called “kangaroo pose” with the heavy theropod tail resting on the ground.  We had the chance to put some questions to the Schleich modellers about this new introduction, a Schleich Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur model,  to their range.

Schleich had withdrawn an earlier version of T. rex back in 2006 and replaced this with a modern interpretation of the Tyrannosaur with a more horizontal posture.  Tyrannosaurus rex is one of the company’s top selling models so it was thought that this animal justified the expense of designing two sculptures to make into models.  The new modern looking Tyrannosaurus (Everything Dinosaur model code: MOSA021 – Schleich number 16448) depicts the animal with its tail held clear of the ground.  It was christened the “moving Tyrannosaurus rex“.

The more Animated “Moving T. rex” (MOSA021)

Schleich T. rex Model

Picture courtesy of Everything Dinosaur

Click here to see Schleich T. rex dinosaur model: Dinosaur Toys and Models

The latest T. rex model (Everything Dinosaur code MOSA031- Schleich number 16454) is due out in late September.  We should have our first models in stock by September 15th.  This new model depicts the animal in the traditional posture first postulated by Osborn 100 years ago.  The model shows the sloping back and the tail tip resting on the ground.  The latest fossil evidence has been used to produce the mottled skin effect on the model bringing some parts of this design right up to date but the posture is a homage to the very first interpretations of this huge meat-eater.

The Latest T. rex from Schleich (MOSA031)

Traditional T. rex Pose (Osborn)

Picture courtesy of Everything Dinosaur

The more traditional posture with the tail on the ground does have one huge advantage for the sculptors, modellers and designers.  It is far easier to get a bipedal model such as this to stand upright when the tail is used as a third support.  Perhaps Osborn  had an eye on future merchandise sales when he produced the first scientific drawings of this animal.

Tyrannosaurus rex still has lots to tell us no doubt and you can bet more models of this famous extinct animal are bound to follow.  One point about the new Tyrannosaurus from Schleich it is slightly larger than the very first T. rex model they produced.  I believe this is in deference to the recent discovery by Keith Rigby of the allegedly bigger Tyrannosaurus.  The skull measurements of this North American find indicate that it had a skull at least 30 cm longer than any other Tyrannosaurus rex.  Is this a new Tyrannosaurus species as Rigby an his team claim (they have a nomen dubium of T. imperator) or is it just a really big example of Tyrannosaurus rex?  We will have to wait until more research is done (and the legal battle over ownership and rights is resolved).

19 08, 2007

Where on a Diplodocus was its Nose?

By | August 19th, 2007|Main Page, Palaeontological articles|3 Comments

Sauropod Nostrils – Where do they belong?

Dinosaurs are so ubiquitous these days sometimes it is worthwhile reminding ourselves just how little we actually know about them.  Certainly, our knowledge is improving all the time and many commentators have claimed that we are presently in another “golden age of dinosaur discoveries”.  With all the new techniques available, more work can be done on the existing fossil record and with more parts of the world being opened up to exploration the number of dinosaur fossils is increasing rapidly.  However, despite huge advances we still know relatively little about many of these creatures.  As the Walking with Dinosaurs – Live experience tours Canada we could all be mistaken for thinking that there is no more to learn, but this is far from the reality.

For example, where on a long-necked dinosaur was its nose?

The long-necked dinosaurs (sauropoda) have been known for a very long time, Apatosaurus (formerly known as Brontosaurus) was named and described by Othniel Charles Marsh 130 years ago, Brachiosaurus was named and described by Riggs in 1903 and thanks to the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie fully mounted skeletons of Diplodocus (albeit in the wrong posture) have adorned the main halls of many Natural History museums all over the world for nearly a Century.

When fossils of these huge animals first came to light, scientists could not imagine them as purely terrestrial creatures, surely such huge reptiles, many estimated to have weighed 50 Tonnes or more would be much more comfortable living in water, where their huge bulk could have been supported by the water.  Certain skeletal features supported this view, such as the arrangements of claws on the feet, supposedly to stop these sauropods slipping on the muddy lake floors, the arrangement of the their weak peg like teeth – surely only suited to cropping soft vegetation found in lakes and on their margins.

Scientists assumptions about these dinosaurs and their aquatic lifestyles were reinforced in 1884 with the discovery of an almost intact skull of a Diplodocus.  This showed a large hole at the top of the head, which scientists interpreted as the entire nasal cavity.  After all, if  you spent all  your time under water, a blow-hole type structure at the top of the head would make a lot of sense.   It was argued that these animals were as big as whales and whales lived in water with a nostril arrangement at the top of their heads so the dinosaurs had evolved a similar structure to assist them with their underwater lifestyle.

A Snorkeling Brachiosaur

Picture courtesy of Lindahall.org

The picture above was drawn by Zdenck Burian in 1941, the idea of aquatic sauropods was first postulated in the late 19th Century, most famously by the American palaeontologist Edward Drinker Cope.  This type of illustration featured in numerous books, magazines and publications right up to the 1980s.  However, the modern interpretation of sauropod fossils depict them as largely terrestrial creatures, but despite this seismic shift in our perception, the nostrils of these animals are still placed at the top of head.  This can be clearly seen in many drawings and artistic impressions as well as in many scale models.

Lawrence M. Witmer famously challenged this view and placed the nostrils of Diplodocus in a much more anterior position on the skull.  Working as an associate professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Ohio, Witmer had access to a number of late Jurassic sauropod specimens and conducted an analysis of sauropod skulls with an emphasis on the Duplicates.  Soft tissue scars found on skull bones were studied, along with 62 animals from 45 species of crocodile, birds and schemata, which were x-rayed and dissected, the soft tissue making up the nasal cavities and naris were mapped and the extant species were compared to the fossil evidence.

From this work, Witmer re-modelled the skull of Diplodocus putting the nose much closer to the mouth at the front of the beast.  What’s more the conclusions from this work led palaeontologists to acknowledge the existence of quite sophisticated and highly vascular, taking up to 50% of the space available in an Diplodocus skull.

An Artist’s Impression showing the Evolution of the Diplodocus Nose

Artists impression drawn by Michael Skrepnick

The pink skull at the top of the diagram clearly shows the large naris opening at the top of the head (now believed to only part of this animal’s complicated nasal system), using Witmer’s work as a guide the nostrils have no been placed at the front of the skull.

The position of the nostrils has considerable implications for a number of biological and physical processes in Diplodocoid physiology.  If the nostrils were placed at the front then they alter our perceptions of the role of sense of smell for this animal.  Did sense of smell help these huge animals find a mate, avoid danger or to find food?  The close proximity of these sensory organs (mouth and nose) in Witmer’s model does make sense from a morphology and physiological standpoint.  With a better understanding of the structure of the nasal passages palaeontologists can speculate on how these passages may have helped humidify and filter air on the way to and from the lungs.  With a head exposed to the sun could these nasal passages play an important role in cooling the brain and regulating body temperature.  Losing heat for an animal of such volume would not necessarily have been an issue but thermal regulation of the brain could have been a problem as these beasts wandered the hot Jurassic landscape.

Witmer and his team have more work to do, especially on the role of these complicated nasal airwaves on body and brain temperature regulation.  Although the naris at the top of the skull in sauropods is seen as part of the nasal system it seems that the passages were much more complicated than first thought.  However, the scientific community remains divided on some of the more controversial findings from Witmer’s work.  Some scientists still place a greater emphasis on the naris at the top of the skull and if the work of Witmer is to be accepted it has implications for other types of dinosaurs, the ornithischia, for example.  If these concepts are developed this could lead to a whole new interpretation of the crests on Hadrosaurs.

Modellers still depict sauropods with nostrils in a more posterior position.  Although more modern interpretations are coming to the fore.  We recently worked on the Brachiosaurus for the dinosaur collection preferring to opt for a more posterior position for placement of the nostrils.  As a member of the “macronarians”, the big nostril sauropods we thought this was appropriate.

Dinosaur Collection Brachiosaurus (the Collecta Brachiosaurus and the Collecta rearing Diplodocus model): Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls

The lack of sauropod skull material still continues to frustrate palaeontologists, perhaps the recent discoveries of new well preserved diplodocoid skulls in Western North America well shed further light on this anatomical puzzle.

18 08, 2007

Dinosaur Themed Board Games – Dino-opoly

By | August 18th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur Products, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|2 Comments

Dinosaur Themed Board Games – Dino-opoly

Everything Dinosaur stocks a number of dinosaur board games, including this super dinosaur dino-opoly game.

Dinosaur Dino-opoly

Dino-opoly Game

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

There are lots of dinosaur board games available to purchase from Everything Dinosaur.

To see the range of educational, dinosaur themed games available from Everything Dinosaur: Educational Dinosaur Themed Games

18 08, 2007

Fancy Playing Dinosaur Dino-opoly?

By | August 18th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page|2 Comments

New Dinosaur Themed Board Game – Dino-opoly

Amongst all the usual jobs we have of running a company, dealing with suppliers, sorting out new printer cartridges for the office printers (a perennial task), office administration and so on we do have some really interesting and fun things to do.

One fun thing and a favourite of ours is checking out new products to add to our shop.  These days we get lots of approaches from manufacturers and designers with requests for Everything Dinosaur to stock their new line, sometimes we get bombarded with offers and e-mails.  When we first started we all agreed that parents and children would make the best stock control officers.  None of us have a lot of experience of retailing toys and games, after all most of us come from a teaching or science background so we thought why not let the customers have a say as to what products and services we sell?

We  are lucky, one of our team members has had quite a lot of experience with setting up Hall tests and focus groups, which involve inviting groups of parents and children (and the occasional aunt, uncle and grandparents), to a village hall or hotel room and testing out new products.

Everyone is involved in supervised play, Often to help these events run smoothly refreshments are brought along.  The dinosaur biscuits and cakes that we make help keep a prehistoric theme.  The recipes are available on our weblog and they are quite easy to make (even I have had a go).  We thought it would be a good idea to post up some recipes for dinosaur themed cakes and biscuits so that parents could make some of the food for dinosaur parties and such like.  They have proved to be very popular and this part of the Everything Dinosaur blog is one of the most visited according to our site statistics.

Search our blog using terms such as “cake”, “biscuit” and “party” for lots of helpful articles, recipes and ideas.

Lots of Dinosaur Themed Recipes and Party Food Ideas can be Found on the Everything Dinosaur Blog

Dinosaur themed recipes on the Everything Dinsoaur blog.

Dinosaur recipe ideas – dinosaur themed cakes, biscuits and other snacks, visit the Everything Dinosaur blog.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Involving All Team Members with our Plans

The Hall tests and focus groups take a bit of planning, it is important to involve all the team members in the preparations, but after doing so many most people are quite comfortable organising them and become quite professional, even if we say so ourselves.  New products and items are selected for testing, it is best to divide them up into clearly defined age group categories and after a brief warm up session (called an ice-breaker), to get everyone relaxed, the testing can begin and feedback gathered.

We have designed a questionnaire that is mostly tick-box (Sue calls these closed-ended questions) but there are spaces for respondents to provide a bit more detail and information.  These questionnaires are then filled out and once collected and reviewed they provide valuable information.  We have used the FREEPOST forms and envelopes to get feedback as well.  We used to send out these feedback forms to our customers with every purchase.  This is a form of market research and it did provide us with important insights into what might sell well and what items we should avoid.

Sometimes the testing process takes us to some funny places, for example when we introduced the Dinosaur Backpacks we took a group of parents and children to the local zoo for the day to see if the backpacks would stand up to a “rigorous field test”.  We sponsored the crocodiles at the zoo so we got some discounted tickets and off we all went with the children carrying their lunches and drinks in their Dinosaur Backpacks.  Everyone had a good time, even the crocodiles seemed pleased to see us.  The feedback we received from our “Backpack road test” was so positive that we added this item to our shop.  One 8-year-old girl pointed out that as the backpack was soft and cuddly she wanted to use it as a nightie case.  None of us had thought of this, the zipped pocket in the back was ideal for storing pyjamas and nighties so in addition to selling the backpack as a conventional children’s’ outdoor pack we added the bit about using it as a pyjama case – clever girl!

Visit Everything Dinosaur to view our products: Visit the Everything Dinosaur Website

Feedback from customers is very important to us.  Fortunately, we get lots and lots of helpful comments and suggestions.  The questionnaires are supplemented by the comments made to the team about the products, mail order and shopping on-line generally when we get the chance to mingle.  We often get some very good insights that would have been missed had we relied solely on the questionnaires.  The development of our dinosaur toy tidy came out of one such off the cuff remark, made by a Mum who was tired of picking up her little boys toy dinosaurs from the bedroom floor.

Anyway, one of our recent testing sessions involved trying out a new board game based around learning about dinosaurs. The game is called “Dino-opoly” and is a variation on a traditional board game, except you don’t purchase houses and hotels but dinosaur bones to put into your museum.  The game was devised in the USA (hence all the rents and fines are in dollars) but they have chosen a wide range of dinosaurs to feature in the game from tiny Compsognathus right up to the huge Sauroposeidon and Seismosaurus.

New Dinosaur Dino-poly Board Game

Picture courtesy of Everything Dinosaur and Sudhir (thank you Sudhir)

The game has been designed for 2 to 6 players and the box instructions says that it for children 8 years to adult, but we found that dinosaur fans as young as six took to it and soon were telling us how to play!

Choose your character, not the boot, the car or the Scottie dog that we were used to but shiny silver counters decided especially for dinosaur fans.  You could choose from a Stegosaurus, pick-axe, a T. rex skull, a baby dinosaur hatchling an enormous raptor claw or a Trilobite.  Taking turns, you roll the dice and proceed round the board but in this version you have to pass “Dig” before you can collect $200 for supplies and “Chance” and “Community Chest” have been replaced by two different sets of cards called “Discover” and “Explore”.  Fortunately, there is no Jail and no get out of jail card, this has been replaced with a “nearly extinct” square so the creators of the game have really thought about how the game should be put together.

We liked the variety of dinosaurs that the designers had chosen to feature in the game (on the back of every dinosaur deed, there is information about the particular animal which was cool.   The Mums and Dads were very impressed when their children were able to pronounce the names of the new dinos they had not heard of before.

The most valuable exhibit on the board is not Tyrannosaurus rex, that honour in this dinosaur dino-opoly board game goes to Giganotosaurus at a whopping $425 (if only the real fossils were so cheap)!

All in all, the game got a big thumbs up, it is an interesting variation on traditional family board games with the bonus of lots of dinosaur facts and information to keep the youngsters informed as well as entertained.  There is even a whizz round the board 1-hour quick play version for those dinosaur buffs who want to play hard and fast with dinosaur evolution.

17 08, 2007

New Dinosaur Species Announced in Eastern China

By | August 17th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

New Dinosaur Species Found in Eastern China – Zhejiangosaurus

A joint Japanese and Chinese team of palaeontologists have announced the discovery of a new dinosaur species that roamed eastern China approximately 100 mya (the Albian stage mid Cretaceous).  The animal was found in the south-western region of Zhejiang province, when workmen building a road in 2000 close to the city of Lishui unearthed the first of a series of well preserved bones.

Map Showing Location of Zhejiang Province

The red area marks Zhejiang Province, a coastal region bordering the East China Sea.

Post cranial bones, parts of the pelvis, the two hind-limbs plus tail and back vertebrae were recovered from the site, enough to permit the scientists to identify this as a brand new species of dinosaur.  The animal has been named Zhejiangosaurus lishuiensis (in honour of the province and the nearby city).  It was a Nodosaurid, an armoured dinosaur similar to the better known Ankylosaurs but without the characteristic tail club.  The animal believed to be a fully grown adult was over 6 metres long but with a squat gait, typical of a Nodosaur only reaching a height of 1 metre at the shoulders.

A Drawing of a Typical Nodosaur

Typical Nodosaur

Drawing courtesy of Everything Dinosaur

This peaceful herbivore is a rare find.  Nodosaurs are much better known from North America with very finds from what was eastern Laurasia, the only other Chinese Nodosaur remains found to date are from the Henan province in central China.

The team’s work has just been published in an English language academic quarterly magazine produced by the Geological Society of China.  The fossils (classification code ZNHM M8718), are on display at the Zhejiang Provincial Museum of Natural History and it is hoped that a life size reconstruction of Zhejiangosaurus will be added to the exhibit in the near future.

16 08, 2007

New Discounted Postal Deliveries from Everything Dinosaur

By | August 16th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Three new Postal Services to help reduce UK Delivery Charges

At Everything Dinosaur we constantly try to improve our customer service, we are fortunate to receive a lot of very favourable feedback from our customers but we have been aware of rising UK postal charges.  Over the last 18 months there have been three separate price increases from Royal Mail and a change in the pricing structure to pricing parcels on size as well as weight.   The Royal Mail and the Post Office (we have fantastic help and support from our local Post Offices and their staff), still represent good value but we wanted to help customers further and provide more choice when it comes to UK delivery options.

At Everything Dinosaur we don’t believe in charging excessive fees for postage and shipping.  The team come from a variety of backgrounds be they parents, teachers or palaeontologists, looking on-line there are a number of companies that offer special monthly promotions on postage and other delivery gimmicks.  We started a project back in the spring to review delivery options and to see if we could find a better way to support our customers.

Special offers and such like, we felt, were not really for us.  One minute they are there and the next gone.  We wanted to offer genuine discounts and support.  A lot of different pricing models and ideas were tested, Sue as the financial brains behind the company was given the final say so, after all there would be little point in offering a fantastically quick and heavily discounted delivery service if we were no longer in business to provide it!

As well as offering Airmail, Surface Mail and Parcel Force services to our international customers we have increased the choices customers have for UK deliveries.

At the moment, UK deliveries can be sent by First Class, Second Class, or Standard Parcel Service.  Where possible we have tried to subsidise delivery charges offering a discounted courier service (signed for 3-day parcel service) for deliveries to the UK mainland.  This service can delivery parcels in about three days and requires a signature for receipt of the delivery.  This is operated via a courier company and provides an additional option for customers who might request larger items being delivered to a work address or school for example.

Courier service (for UK mainland and southern Scotland) is priced at just £7.99

New Saver Rates and Super Saver Rates Introduced

In addition, we have introduced two new subsidised UK postal options for orders totalling more than £25.00.

The Saver Rate and the Super Saver Rate (not the most catchy of names we have to admit but these are the best that we could come up with – not bad for teachers, parents and palaeontologists).

These two new services will work like this; our postal charges are based on Royal Mail, Parcel Force or Carrier service rates, depending on the most appropriate and cost effective service.  All the postage options available to customers are displayed by our clever computer systems when placing an order.  Simply tick the box for the service that you require.  As well as having all the existing options, UK deliveries will be able to take advantage of these discounted postal services.

– the Saver Rate for orders between £25.00 and £49.99 delivery charge is just £4.94

– the Super Saver Rate for orders over £50.00 delivery charge is just £6.94

We continue to work very hard to ensure goods are despatched efficiently and promptly, this is Everything Dinosaur customer service.  We still check by hand all mailing addresses and orders received by 1pm are usually despatched on the same working day. Orders placed on a Saturday/Sunday will be despatched on the next working day. To assist with the rapid turnaround of orders; we pack and despatch orders on Saturday mornings.  Delivery times given are estimates only and cannot be guaranteed but we do try our best. In the event, that ordered items are out of stock, a member of staff will contact you to confirm a delivery date.

We think these new services represent genuine discounts and will help safeguard customers from rising postal prices.  Naturally, we will continue to review our pricing policies and monitor the situation but rest assured we will always strive to improve our customer service.

Links to Everything Dinosaur website: Everything Dinosaur

UK Deliveries – Further Details
For deliveries within the UK, customers can choose which carrier service they would like to use – First Class, Second Class, Standard Parcels service or a discounted Courier service (signed for parcel service).  To help save customers postage; Everything Dinosaur has introduced two additional UK postage rates.  For orders between £25.00 and £49.99 a subsidised postal service – the Everything Dinosaur Saver Rate; charging just £4.94 for delivery.  For orders over £50.00 Everything Dinosaur offers a further subsidised postal service – the Super Saver Rate; charging just £6.94 for delivery.

The Everything Dinosaur Saver Rate and the Super Saver Rate are available for UK retail deliveries only, our aim is to deliver within 3-5 working days.  The maximum weight of parcel for this service is 20KGs.

Subsidised Courier service (signed for 3-day parcel service) covers mainland UK and southern Scotland only, for any other UK areas please contact Everything Dinosaur for advice:

E-mail: Email Everything Dinosaur

15 08, 2007

Pterosaurs Feeding Habits – Could they Skim Water for Fish?

By | August 15th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|1 Comment

Could Pterosaurs really use Water Skimming Techniques to catch Fish?

Almost since the first Pterosaur fossils were studied closely scientists have speculated about how good they were at flying and how these flying reptiles might have fed.  Since many Pterosaur fossils have been found in coastal or marine deposits it is believed that many were piscivores (fish-eaters).  The teeth in many primitive Pterodactyloids such as Criorhynchus and Rhamphorhynchoids like Eudimorphodon seem well suited for grabbing and holding slippery fish.  The dentition supports the theory that these animals fed on fish, but how these animals actually captured fish remains a bit of a mystery.  The question is, how did Pterosaurs feed?

It had been thought that some Pterosaurs used fishing techniques similar to the black skimmer (Rhynchops niger), a tern-like sea bird from the Americas.  This bird skims the surface water of lakes and lagoons with its lower mandible ploughing through the water.  When a small fish is detected the bill snaps shut.

A Black Skimmer in Action

Could Pterosaurs hunt like this?

Picture courtesy of hoganphoto.com

The lower mandible is larger than the top part of the bill and the skull and jaws are quite robust, able to withstand the stresses of this type of feeding behaviour.

In the past, Pterosaurs were thought to be clumsy fliers, little able to do more than glide, but more recent studies have shown that these animals were accomplished fliers. For example, on the front of a Pterosaur’s long wrist bones (carpus) there was a small bone that curved back towards the shoulder.  This is called the pteroid bone and is unique to Pterosaurs.  At first, palaeontologists thought this to be the atrophied remains of a digit but this extension of bone is now thought to have supported a smaller flight membrane in front of the arm.   This smaller wing-like structure in front of the main wing would have helped control the flow of air over the wing, thus controlling speed and altitude.  This supports the view that these animals were sophisticated fliers.

Recently scientists at the University of Reading (UK) led by Stuart Humphries have studied the proposed feeding habits of Pterosaurs.  Using models of the jaws of Pterosaurs and a black skimmer, Stuart and his colleagues set up a series of experiments to test whether Pterosaurs could use their lower jaws to plough through water hunting for fish.

Results from the experiments show that up to 20% more power is required for the animal to keep flying straight when the jaw is immersed in water.  As the models skimmed the water in this way, they produced drag which compromised their ability to fly and demanded more muscle activity to keep them airborne.  This need for increased power for this type of flight may have prevented flying reptiles from hunting in this way.  This evidence, coupled with close studies of Pterosaur skulls and jaws which do not show the expected modifications required such as thicker bones to cope with the stresses of this type of foraging makes this team doubt whether Pterosaurs fed by skimming.

Perhaps Pterosaurs used their relatively keen eyesight to spot prey in the surface water and then swooped down on it plucking the fish out of the water.  Jerking the head downwards to permit the jaws to enter the water may provide one of the reasons why many Pterosaurs developed complicated crests.  These crests could have acted as aerial stabilisers as well as display items for courtship and to intimidate rivals.  The Rhamphorhynchoids had their heyday in the Jurassic but were replaced with the long-necked Pterodactyloids by the Cretaceous.  Perhaps the longer necked Pterodactyloids had an advantage when feeding by plucking fish from the sea.

Click here to see a crested Pterodactyloid:

Dinosaur Toys – Dinosaur Models

More study is required, but as more and more remains of Pterosaurs are discovered so we may one day be able to solve this mystery.

One of the anomalies with Black Skimmers is that it is easy to get the wrong idea about how these bird feed.  When they are featured in nature programmes they are often shown skimming the water.  This is certainly a spectacular sight, but documentaries can be misleading.  Black Skimmers are just as likely to be seen feeding by wading and stabbing their bills into the water to catch fish, but as this is not as “photogenic” as their aerial acrobatics, it is rarely seen in photographs or TV programmes

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