All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//August
6 08, 2007

First ever Dinosaurs get Grade 1 Listed Monument Status

By | August 6th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Crystal Palace Dinosaurs get Grade 1 Listed Monument Status

In a move welcomed by dinosaur fans young and old the famous Crystal Palace sculptures of prehistoric animals have been granted Grade 1 Listed Monument status by the Dept. of Culture, Media and Sport.

The sculptures of prehistoric animals including Iguanodon, Megalosaurus and Hylaeosaurus (some of the first dinosaurs to be named and described), were originally built for the re-opening of the Crystal Palace in 1854.  The original location for the Crystal Palace had been London’s Hyde Park which, in 1851 was converted into an Victorian theme park highlighting the achievements of the era – The Great Exhibition, the centrepiece of which was the enormous 22 acre glass pavilion – the Crystal Palace.

The task of building huge models of prehistoric animals to populate the landscaped gardens around the glass pavilion was given to Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins.  Sir Richard Owen was appointed to oversee the works to ensure they were sculpted accurately.

Although we know far more about the anatomy and posture of these animals, at the time these models depicted the very latest scientific knowledge.  They were the CGI models of the Victorian era.  Certainly, Hawkin’s sculptures were immense and it was an achievement to have them built and erected.  A contemporary description of the construction of the Iguanodon states “some thirty-five feet long with four iron columns, nine feet long, seven inches in diameter, 600 bricks, 650 five-inch drain tiles, 900 plain tiles and 90 casks of broken stone”.

By the time the permanent Crystal Palace exhibition was opened on June 10th 1854, dinomania had swept the country and over 40,000 spectators came to see the new statues of these prehistoric animals.  As well as the dinosaurs, models were also built of mammals, pterosaurs and marine lizards such as the Plesiosaurs.  In recognition of the work done on these animals by English scientists (aided most notably by Mary Anning).

Painting showing Waterhouse Hawkins Dinosaurs

Picture courtesy of Copyright Expired

These unique sculptures, now over 150 years old were first granted Grade Two Listing in 1973, but the recent Government ruling puts them into the same category as other famous monuments such as Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Eton College.  Grade 1 Listing is the highest, only buildings or monuments of outstanding historical or architectural importance are awarded this status.  This should permit the sculptures to receive funding for repairs and other work from English Heritage.

An Iguanodon 1850’s Style

Iguanodon

Picture courtesy of Brooklyn College, City University NY

As accurate representations of the real animals, they have a lot to be desired but they depict the remarkable progress made in the science of palaeontology and our understanding of prehistoric animals in the 153 years since they first went on show to the public.  The new Grade 1 status should ensure their preservation, the earliest attempts to reconstruct a prehistoric world, safeguarded for future generations.

The sculptures are also testament to the bitter rivalry between Sir Richard Owen and Gideon Mantell.  Mantell, an extremely gifted scientist had described the fore-limbs of Iguanodon as being more slender than the hind-limbs.  He had proposed that they might have been used for grasping and gathering vegetation as well as locomotion.  Sir Richard Owen, always scornful of Mantell’s work overruled him,  preferring to give the sculptures the elephantine stance that his own descriptions favoured.

We now believe that Mantell was right.  However, this does not stop dinosaurs being depicted in different ways.  Below are two models of Iguanodon (I. bernissartensis), one modelled under the direction of the London Natural History museum, the second modelled under the direction of the Museum of Stuttgart.

Same dinosaur, but different depiction.

Dinosaur Models: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

6 08, 2007

Silurian Fossils (Ludlow, Shropshire)

By | August 6th, 2007|Geology, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Fossil Hunting Trip to Shropshire

Everything Dinosaur team members went on a special fossil hunting trip to a quiet location in the heart of the Shropshire countryside.  We found lots of fossils as the picture below shows:

A Successful Fossil Hunting Trip with Everything Dinosaur

Silurian Fossils from Shropshire

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Some Brachiopod fossils (Ludlow Series, Much Wenlock Formation), an example of the fossils found on a recent visit to the Mortimer Forest (south Shropshire, England), by Everything Dinosaur team members.

5 08, 2007

The Everything Dinosaur Mystery Tour – Our visit to the Silurian

By | August 5th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

Our Visit to the Silurian – Shropshire (UK)

So off we all went, with our knapsacks, dinosaur backpacks and geological tools back to the Silurian courtesy of some ancient sediments that are exposed in the English county of Shropshire.  This part of the Midlands is famous for its Silurian aged fossils and we found plenty.  Such a great day, out in the wonderful English countryside.  We saw less than a dozen people all day and everyone went home very happy.  We all had a wonderful time on the Everything Dinosaur fossil hunting trip.

4 08, 2007

Roll up for the Mystery Tour – Time to visit the Silurian

By | August 4th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur – Fossil Hunting Trip

With the weather in the UK finally improving (it has been the wettest June and July on record), we have the opportunity to go on a field trip to Shropshire looking for invertebrate fossils.  Today we are going to Ludlow, a small, market town in Shropshire.  Not to sure how far it is from the office, but we have plenty of provisions to keep us going.

We have yet to decide which area we are going to prospect, but a study of our geological maps of the Midlands shows the area around Mortimer forest to be a likely place.  We will pack our hand lenses, light hammers (although we do not encourage hammering away at rock faces or bedrock) and our eye goggles.  The area has Silurian sediments laid down when this part of England was a warm, tropical sea.  The Silurian epoch dates from approximately 443 mya to 417mya.  We are hoping to find bivalves, brachiopods, corals and perhaps even if we are lucky we may find some partial trilobites or some evidence of trilobite moulds (like crabs trilobites shed their exoskeleton when they wanted to grow).

Mike has organised the picnic (so expect lots of sweets then)!  Sue has been given the task of remembering the camera so we can take some pics.

Wish us luck.

3 08, 2007

Can Snails and Oysters provide a Clue to Mass Extinctions?

By | August 3rd, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Can Molluscs help Solve the Riddle of a Mass Extinction?

Popular culture has covered the mass extinction event that marked the end of the Cretaceous period and saw the demise of the dinosaurs, pterosaurs, marine reptiles, ammonites and a host of other species.  However, it appears that extinction events have occurred at regular intervals throughout pre-history.  When they happen, they provide opportunities for other groups of animals to evolve and dominate.

This can allow whole new clades to develop, such as the ancestors of the dinosaurs which took advantage of the lack of competition to establish themselves.

To read an article on how new discoveries at the famous Ghost Ranch site in the USA is helping our understanding of the evolution of dinosaurs, click below:

New Ghost Ranch Discoveries cast light on Dinosaur Ancestors

One of the biggest mass extinctions occurred around 250 mya and marks the end of the Permian epoch.  Scientists remain divided over the cause of the Permian mass extinction; an event that wiped out 95% of life on Earth.  Some scientists believe in the “impact theory”, like the end-Cretaceous extinction event which was caused by the impact of an extra-terrestrial body such as a meteor, comet or asteroid.  Certainly, there is some evidence for a huge impact at around this time.  Papers published provide evidence of a 300 kilometre wide crater in what was the super-continent of Gondwanaland (southern continents), this crater is believed to be 50% bigger than the crater made at the end of the Cretaceous by the Chicxulab impact.

Other scientists claim that the Permian mass extinction was a more gradual event – the “slow death syndrome”.  This theory is backed up by recently published research from a joint US and Canadian team.  This team studied the fossils of marine molluscs from sediments located as far apart as Thailand, China, Greece and the USA.  Molluscs are soft tissued invertebrates, usually with a protective outer shell.  Snails, oysters, mussels and clams are molluscs.  In a 4-year project the team reviewed the density and diversity of mollusc fossils from 258 mya to approximately 250 mya.  They noted that the number of mollusc fossils increased as the Permian came to an end.  Molluscs are known to adapt better to worsening environmental conditions than other creatures, so could the increase in mollusc follows indicate an increase in shellfish populations due to a slow, gradual decline in the environment?

The debate will no doubt continue.  The mass extinction that marked the end of the Palaeozoic era may have been caused by a combination of factors.  The climate during the Permian was very harsh, with very cold, dry seasons, followed by hot, dry ones, punctuated by monsoon rains.  During this time there was a lot of volcanic activity.  The formation of the giant super-continent Pangaea would have led to a loss of shallow sea habitats and the Panthalassa ocean currents (otherwise known as the Panthalassic ocean); from the Greek meaning “all the seas”, would have been altered and disrupted.  This may have depleted the seas of oxygen and led to stagnation conditions which together with the other factor of a meteorite impact could have resulted in the mass extinction.

2 08, 2007

Did the Birds wipe out the Pterosaurs?

By | August 2nd, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|1 Comment

Did Birds out compete the Pterosaurs and force them to Extinction?

We have been recently reviewing some papers on Late Cretaceous Pterosaurs written by Phil Currie and Stephen Godfrey.  The papers refer to the examination of flying reptile finds in the Dinosaur Park Formation (DPF) of Alberta, Canada.  Phil is the curator of Dinosaurs at the nearby Royal Tyrrell museum and Stephen works in the department of Palaeontology at the Calvert Marine museum.  Much of these authors work has been condensed and reproduced in the excellent volume “Dinosaur Provincial Park”.  This provides a review of the finds from this area and attempts to reconstruct the ecosystem that existed in this part of the world during the Campanian (rocks aged between 76.5 mya and 74.8 mya in the DPF).

Despite this being an area rich in fossils, there are very few remains of Pterosaurs. Pterosaur bones are thin-walled and full of air cavities. This makes them light, ideal for flying creatures, however, they do not preserve very well.   The fossil record for Pterosaurs from this region is poor and only a few isolated large bones such as femurs, tibias (leg bones); and an ulna (arm bone) have been found, plus some phalanxes.  The phalanx bones are the digits and in the case of flying reptiles these formed the wings.

From the limited evidence the scientists have been able to note that the vast majority of the remains seem to belong to a group of Pterosaurs called Azhdarchids.  These were the extremely large flying reptiles, with long necks, rounded neck vertebrae and relatively long skulls.  The largest flying reptile known – Quetzalcoatlus belonged to this group – the Azhdarchidae.

For a scale model of Quetzalcoatlus, the largest flying reptile yet described:

Pterosaur Models etc: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

It seems that the only flying reptiles left at the end of the Cretaceous were the extremely large, soaring types.  We still don’t know how these animals lived, perhaps since many of the fossils have been found in marine sediments they were ocean going fish eaters that roosted on the tops of cliffs, like modern day gannets.  It has even been suggested that Quetzalcoatlus was a specialist; feeding on crabs and other burrowing shellfish, using its long-snout to probe in the mud a bit like an oyster-catcher.

No skulls are known from the DPF so identification is difficult but it has been speculated that some of the remains belonged to Quetzalcoatlus northropi, the biggest Pterosaur so far described.  This would extend this animal’s range from Texas right up to northern Canada.

A Scale Drawing of Quetzalcoatlus northropi

Drawing courtesy of Everything Dinosaur

The DPF has also provided evidence of birds, although once again the fossil record is poor.  Post cranial bones indicate that there might have been birds as big as modern hawks present in the Park area at the end of the Cretaceous.  At least three types of neornithine birds have been reported.  Neornithines have saddle shaped, articulating faces on their neck vertebra and usually lack teeth.  These are effectively modern birds.  As feathers tend to function better than flaps of skin, perhaps the birds dominated all the other aerial niches in the ecosystem and only the large soaring Pterosaurs were left.

Birds do seem to have diversified very rapidly during the Cretaceous many modern genera that we would easily recognise were around in the last years of the dinosaurs.  Evidence has been uncovered for owls, rails, cormorants and tern-like sea birds.  Perhaps the rapidly expanding and diverse bird population led to the demise of the smaller Pterosaurs.

1 08, 2007

Happy Birthday Everything Dinosaur – the origins of Cotton

By | August 1st, 2007|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur’s Second Anniversary – How old is Cotton?

Time flies when you are having fun.  Today, August 1st marks the second anniversary of the formal setting up of Everything Dinosaur.  The company had been around for sometime prior to this but we had to provide a a formal date of start-up for our accountants and August 1st seemed to be as good a day as any.

The last two years have really flown by, the business had taken nearly 5 years to plan and now that we are into our third year it is hard to believe how far we have come.  We are lucky, as collectively the Everything Dinosaur team members have a lot of experience in dinosaur research and information, as well as the all important knowledge of retail and customer service.

Traditionally, in occidental countries, the second anniversary is associated with cotton.  Marking the second anniversary of a dinosaur company’s formal establishment with cotton is very appropriate.  Cotton is one of the most important crops grown and it has been associated with clothing our species for thousands of years and with Everything Dinosaur’s range of dinosaur themed clothing, it seems a good subject to discuss on our second anniversary.  Palaeontologists and archaeologists excavating Bronze Age settlements in Mexico dated from 5,000 BC have found evidence of cotton fibres in ancients furs.  Perhaps our ancestors were wearing cotton as early as 7,000 years ago.

The family that the cotton plants belong to Malvaceae, this is a very ancient group of angiosperms (flowering plants) and cotton may date back to the age of Dinosaurs.  So it is apt to celebrate our second anniversary with an article on this fascinating plant.  Cotton belongs to a sub-division of the Malvaceae called Gossypieae and there are a number of different species of cotton plant.  The great diversity of cotton species has led some scientists to speculate that this family must be very ancient and perhaps it dates back to the later part of the Mesozoic, the time of the dinosaurs.  Cotton is also native to both the Old World (Asia) and the New World (America).  Scientists have used this fact to speculate that the ancestors of modern cotton must have been around before the break up of the super-continent Gondwanaland – again this evidence points to early cotton plants being around during the Cretaceous.  Who knows, early cotton shrubs could have been grazed upon by long-necked Sauropods or Iguanodontids.

The fossil record does not quite support these theories.  To the best of our knowledge no pollen associated with early types of Gossypieae have been discovered in Cretaceous sediments.  The micro-fossil evidence we have for cotton plants is extremely poor.  The earliest pollen remains date back to approximately 40 mya (Eocene epoch).  Fossilised impressions of the actual plants are even rarer.

The lack of fossil evidence does not disprove the theory that herbivorous dinosaurs could well have grazed on ancient cottons.  Cotton is a shrub and it is native to tropical and sub-tropical forests.  Forest habitats do not lend themselves to the process of fossilisation.  If cotton’s ancient ancestors also lived in forests then the conditions to allow preservation to occur would only happen very rarely – perhaps this explains the lack of evidence.

Our best hope to prove that cotton was around in the Cretaceous is to look at the micro-fossils, perhaps some keen, bright eyed, young palaeontologist is about to make an amazing discovery…

Even something as everyday as cotton, a substance we all take for granted is capable of confusing palaeontologists.

To mark our second anniversary Everything Dinosaur has added a new range of 100% cotton dinosaur T-shirts to our clothing range.  They come in a range of sizes from 3 years to 8 years and lots of bright colours.

Our new T-shirts feature animals like Diplodocus and T. rex, we even have a dinosaur ABC.  Sales of these items help support real palaeontologists and researchers at the Natural History museum London.

Everything Dinosaur T-shirt range:

Dinosaur Clothing: Dinosaur Clothing

It is hard to believe but the great, great, great etc. grandparent of the cotton plant that produced the fibre which went to make that T-shirt you are wearing could well have been munched on by a hungry dinosaur.

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