All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//September
21 09, 2007

Scientists Claim Evidence found for Feathered Velociraptors

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

American Scientists Claim that Velociraptor was Feathered

Palaeontologists have speculated that many of the Maniraptorians such as Dromaeosaurus and Velociraptor may have been covered in downy feathers.  The feathers would help to keep these small, active animals warm and help them to conserve heat.  A number of superbly preserved small Theropod fossils have been discovered (mainly in Liaoning province, China), which show traces of proto-feathers and true feathers.  Now a group of American scientists claim to have found evidence of feathers on the forearm of a Velociraptor.

In research published in the journal “Science” by Alan Turner and Mark Norell of the American museum of Natural History assisted by Peter Makovicky of the Field museum Chicago; evidence for Velociraptor having at least some feathers has been presented.

The team studied the beautifully preserved ulna (forearm) of a Velociraptor found in Ukhaa Tolgod, Mongolia in 1998.  The fossil ulna most likely belonged to V. mongoliensis which roamed this part of Asia between 90 – 80 mya.  Most people imagine Velociraptors to be at least two metres tall, but this has to do more with their depiction in the Jurassic Park films than with palaeontology.  There were certainly some very large Dromaeosaurs around but Velociraptor was only about the size of a turkey, perhaps weighing as little as 15 kilos.

No fossil of a feathered Velociraptor has yet been found, the sediments in which these animals fossils have been discovered to date are not fine enough to produce such detail and to permit the preservation and fossilisation of such delicate structures.  However, the American team claim that the ulna shows signs of regular bumps along its leading edge, these might be “quill knobs”.

Quill knobs are found in many living bird species and are most evident in birds that are strong flyers.  Finding evidence of quill knobs on a Velociraptor ulna may confirm that this animal did indeed have feathers.

The fossil had six of these bumps about four millimetres apart and the researchers conclude that the bumps would have held the quills of secondary feathers, equivalent to the flight or wing feathers of modern birds.  A total of 14 such quill knobs and feathers may have been on the forearm of a Velociraptor, from the size and spacing of the bumps they would have been more than just downy feathers perhaps they were similar to contour (body) feathers on birds which are not designed to assist flight but are downy at the bottom to provide insulation and coloured at the top to provide camouflage or display plumage.  The feathers on the forearm could have been asymmetrical, like the flight feathers of modern birds, but the anatomy of Velociraptor rules out any attempts at flight and the feathers would not have helped much if the animal had wanted to jump further.

If Velociraptor did have substantial feather adornments on its arms, the question arises what they might have been used for.  This could be an encumbrance whilst hunting, as the feathers could have impeded the action of the arms as they grabbed prey – unless of course you take into account the half-moon shaped wrist bones.  The curved wrist bone would have permitted sweeping and folding movements of the hands making Velociraptor very effective at grabbing small prey.  Perhaps the feathers were used for display purposes, to obtain a mate or deter rivals.

This research adds to the view that dinosaurs did not entirely die out at the end of the Cretaceous, but the feathered, avian dinosaurs (birds) survived and continued to flourish. Today there are still more species of bird in the world than mammals.

Perhaps after all Dinosaurs are survivors…

Close up Velociraptor Ulna and cast compared to Turkey Vulture

Picture credit: Mick Ellison

Image above caption:

(A) View of right ulna of Velociraptor  (fossil reference: IGM 100/981).
(B) Detail from cast of red box in (A), with arrows showing six evenly spaced feather quill knobs.
(C) View of right ulna of a turkey vulture (Cathartes).
(D) Same view of Cathartes as in (C) but with soft tissue dissected to reveal placement of the secondary feathers relative to the quill knobs.
(E) Detail of Cathartes, with one quill completely removed to reveal quill knob.
(F) Same view as in (E) but with quill moved to the left to show placement of quill, knob, and follicular ligament. Follicular ligament indicated with arrow.

20 09, 2007

What was the biggest Crocodilian of all time?

By | September 20th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Recent discoveries of Fossil Crocodiles in Cuban re-ignite “Biggest Crocodile” Debate

Scientists from Cuba have discovered  a series of fossils that they claim are from a number of giant crocodiles.  The ancient crocodile remains, mixed up with fossils of dugongs (marine mammals), were found in a cave in the central Cuban province of Sancti Spiritus, approximately 220 miles east of Havana.

The cave which is adjacent to the banks of the Cayajana river was slowly revealing its fossil treasure as its sediments were eroded away by the river.  The fossils have been dated to between 20 mya and 18 mya, the early Miocene epoch.  No estimates of the length of these crocodiles has yet been given by the research team but they claim them to be “giants”.

These ancient crocodilians may be related to the Purussaurus genera, a group of extinct crocodiles from south America.  Measurements taken from one specimen in Brazil give an estimated length of 17 metres.  Fortunately, for us these huge reptiles that once roamed the swamps of Peru, Venezuela and Brazil became extinct towards the end of the Miocene approximately 8 mya.

Scientists debate which of the ancient crocodiles was the biggest.  Many fossil crocodiles are far from complete and articulated skeletons are very rare.  Size is usually estimated by measuring the length of the skull and comparing the proportions of extant crocodiles to give an approximate size.  Unfortunately, the skull : body proportions of all 23 existing species of crocodilians vary widely, so fossil skull length may not be an accurate method of estimating the total length of a particular crocodile specimen.

As crocodiles live close to water, they are good candidates to have their remains preserved as fossils, unfortunately processes such as turbination occur and the fossil bones are mixed up or lost.  Currents or floods can disperse remains making the preservation of a complete carcase unlikely.  Crocodile bones from the Mesozoic were often subjected to “Dinoturbination”.  Their bones were trampled, broken and scattered by dinosaurs as they congregated on the river or lake bank to drink.

Cuban has one indigenous species of crocodile, appropriately called the Cuban or “pearly crocodile” – C. rhombifer.  Reports of Cuban crocs, reaching lengths of 5 metres when raised on farms have been made, but in the wild lengths of more than 3.5 metres are rare.

They get the name “pearly crocodile) as their hides have a distinctive yellow and black mottling.  Unfortunately, this has been their downfall as they have been hunted nearly to extinction by poachers after their valuable skin.

Many scientists debate whether Deinosuchus (means terrible crocodile) or Sarcosuchus (means flesh crocodile), were the biggest crocs around during the age of reptiles.  Estimates of body length put these animals around the 10-12 metre mark.  However, the jaws of Sarcosuchus are narrow and slender and seem more suited to catching fish. Whereas. the big broad jaws of Deinosuchus may indicate that this beast was an ambush predator, preying on dinosaurs as they came down to the water to drink.

To see a scale model of Deinosuchus: Dinosaur Toys for Girls and Boys – Dinosaur Models

19 09, 2007

Parental Behaviour shown in 260 mya Fossil

By | September 19th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

South African Fossil Pelycosaur may show Parental Behaviour

Dr Jennifer Botha-Brink from the National Museum of Bloemfontein in the Free State Province of South Africa has published a paper on a remarkable fossil recovered from upper Permian strata near Fraserburg in the Northern Cape.  The fossil is of a group of unknown and yet to be fully described Pelycosaurs, one –  assumed to be the adult, has its tail tucked around three of the four smaller animals in an almost protective posture.  Could this fossil show a parent trying to protect its offspring as they perished in the late Permian?  If this is the case then this is the earliest evidence found of parental behaviour in an ancestor of mammals.

The fossil was first unearthed in 1995 from a sequence of sedimentary rocks known as the Beaufort Group, but was only recently identified as a synapsid and from the Order Pelycosauria, it has been dated to the late Permian (260 mya).

The Beaufort Group makes up a large proportion of the Karoo basin and covers the mid Permian to the middle Triassic periods.  Many mammal-like reptiles and primitive dinosaur fossils have been found in this sequence.  This area is extremely important for palaeontologists and geologists as the rock strata provides an almost unbroken fossil record covering 50 million years as the Palaeozoic gave way to the Mesozoic.

Ironically, Pelycosaur fossils are rare in the Karoo Basin, most fossil Pelycosaurs are discovered in the northern hemisphere (USA and Europe), this find is only the fourth Pelycosaur fossil to be discovered south of the Equator.  Perhaps the environment or the climate of the interior of Pangaea prevented these animals from spending across the whole of the super-continent.  Pelycosaurs were certainly very successful on the western side of the Pangaea, where by the end of the Permian they made up approximately 50% of the large land animal population.

The unique position of the fossilised animals may indicate a degree of parental care in these animals – a trait that they passed onto their mammal descendants.  This could be a fossil of a family group who died when they were buried together in a sandstorm.  However, the corpses may have shifted position and orientation during the preservation and fossilisation process so the degree of care shown by an adult to their offspring can only be speculated upon.  Indeed, there is no evidence to suggest that this is a family group, but the fossil certainly provides scientists with the opportunity to theorise on the development of a parental behaviour in early mammal-like reptiles.

Fossils that may reveal aspects of social behaviour are extremely rare, although this fossil was discovered 12 years ago, it was never completely prepared and studied, so only now is it revealing a tantalising glimpse into what may have been family life before the dinosaurs.

Mammals and their extinct relatives are called synapsids.  These animals are named after the fenestra (opening) in the skull behind the eye socket.  Diapsid reptiles have two skull openings on either side.  The diapsids include the dinosaurs, birds, snakes, lizards, crocodiles, marine reptiles and pterosaurs.  These openings may have evolved to help anchor jaw muscles as animals developed more sophisticated and powerful jaws.  In humans, this single synapsid opening has now closed up as our skull has expanded to protect our brains.

The two best known Pelycosaurs are Dimetrodon and Edaphosaurus – known collectively as “sail-back” reptiles due to the arrangement of a long frill or sail that ran along their backs.  Scientists are not sure what function these structures performed as the spines that support the sail are different between these two genera.  However, it is commonly believed that these sails were thermo-regulatory devices helping to maintain these large animal’s body temperature in the extremes of the late Permian climate.

To see a scale model of carnivorous Dimetrodon: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

18 09, 2007

Fancy a Baryonyx in your Back Garden?

By | September 18th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Gloucestershire man builds Dinosaur Sculpture in Garden

Dinosaurs are a source of fascination for young and old alike, but one Gloucestershire man has taken his interest in palaeontology to new heights by building a 14 ft high model of a Baryonyx in his back garden.  Russell Batten, 49, from the town of Brockworth (just outside Gloucester), carved the sculpture out of polystyrene, using electronically charged hot wires.

His sculpture depicts this large Theropod in an aggressive posture with its head facing up to the sky, as if it was roaring to ward off rivals and defend its territory.

Russell next to his Back Garden Baryonyx

Picture courtesy of the Gloucestershire Echo

Russell has always been fascinated with prehistoric animals, especially dinosaurs and as he stood proudly by his statue he dedicated his work – the first Baryonyx seen in southern England for a few million years, to his children.

Baryonyx is nick-named the “English” dinosaur by many palaeontologists, as its remains were first found by an amateur palaeontologist – William Walker whilst he was exploring a Surrey clay pit.   The animal dates from 125-120 million years ago and maybe the ancestor of the Spinosaurs.  Estimates for the size of Baryonyx vary, as the fossil unearthed in the Surrey clay pit was of an immature adult, but this fierce dinosaur could have grown to over 10 metres in length.  The distinctive “kinked” jaws indicate that this animal was a piscivore (fish eater).  Using its long, straight neck, Baryonyx may have looked out over water and hooked fish out with its massive thumb claws.  The thumb claw actually gives Baryonyx its name (means heavy claw).  These claws could be up to 30 cm long and would have been very effective at grabbing fish.

The fish hunting theory has gained credence as in the Surrey specimen, scales belonging to a fish called Lepidotes were found in the area where the stomach would have been.  Fossil bones of a small Iguanodon were also found, suggesting that this large carnivore did not always stick to the fishy diet but was a bit of an opportunist.

Never-the-less, great to see a fishing dinosaur in Gloucestershire.

To view a model of Baryonyx designed by palaeontologists at the Natural History museum in London: Dinosaur Models

17 09, 2007

Everything Dinosaur and Shopping Portals

By | September 17th, 2007|Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

New website – Shopping Portals

Saturday morning saw everyone at Everything Dinosaur working as usual sorting out orders, despatching parcels and devising the running order for our new 2008 calendar (coming soon, we promise)!  We had a team meeting and amongst matters debated such as the expected shipping dates for our new clothing range and the organising of our blackberry picking expedition (more of this in a later blog); an e-mail that we had received was discussed.

The e-mail had been received late on Friday night (14th September), it was from a gentleman based in Northamptonshire (East Midlands of England) stating that he had linked our website to the dinosaur page on his shopping site.  The site aims to provide a resource for busy people to find on line toys and gifts under one electronic roof as it were.  Our IT expert calls this a shopping portal/shopping directory and although the site is relatively new, it has already built up an impressive list of mail order businesses.

I suppose it makes sense to include Everything Dinosaur if you are going to create a dinosaur page on a site such as toy-shelf.co.uk.  After all, we are a company that specialises in prehistoric animals and with staff that are parents, teachers and dinosaur experts we certainly fit the bill.

We are very lucky to get registered on a lot of directories and shopping portals, we are a very credible company that has been around for a number of years and with all the new products, our blog and the new websites we are planning our online presence is growing all the time.

We wish the team behind this new website.

This new website heralds from Northamptonshire.  This county, situated in the middle of England has a fascinating geology.  Underneath towns such as Daventry and Northampton there may well lie the remains of dinosaurs, many of them totally new to science.  There are also likely to be a number of marine reptile fossils lying under the ground awaiting discovery.  The truth is Northamptonshire has some remarkable geology.  Much of the underlying and exposed strata is sedimentary rock albeit mixed in with a good deal of Quaternary (late Pleistocene) glacial melt water deposits and alluvial concentrations in the Nene valley in the direction of the Wash basin.

The majority of the sedimentary rocks found in the county date from the Jurassic period (208-144 mya), including rocks dating from the lower and mid Jurassic.  For most of this time, the land that was to become Northamptonshire was underwater, it was covered by a shallow sea.  Overtime as sea levels rose and fell (transgressive phases), the influence of river deltas and the deposition of sediments from the land was felt.  These sediments make up part of the great Jurassic belt that runs from Dorset in the south to Cleveland in the north, but unfortunately so far no noteworthy dinosaur fossils have been discovered.  If we do find any dinosaur fossils in strata such as the lower lias (dating from the early Jurassic)then they are likely to represent new genera as the fossil record for this particular part of the Mesozoic is very poor.

Finding dinosaurs in Northamptonshire could be tricky, as the geology represents a predominantly marine environment.  Dinosaurs were purely terrestrial so unlikely to swim far out to sea and end up deposited as bones ready to be fossilised in the middle of the sea – but many dinosaur fossils have been found in marine sediments.  For example, on many of our visits to our chums at Charmouth and the Visitor Centre on the Jurassic coast we marvel at the remains of several Scelidosaurs that they have.  This little armoured dinosaur lived in the early Jurassic and is only known from fossils recovered from in and around the Charmouth area.  Although very much a “land-lubber” it seems that flood events occasionally washed animals and carcases out to sea and this is how a small, quadrupedal, herbivore was found in these marine sediments.  Only 8 Scelidosaurus fossils are known in the world, all of them having been found within one mile of the Charmouth visitor centre.

So for the people of Northamptonshire, you never know what might be lying just underneath the top soil in your garden!

16 09, 2007

Teenage T. rex ends up in Court

By | September 16th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Teenage Tyrannosaurus rex gets Trial Date

It seems that humans teenagers are not the only ones capable of getting themselves embroiled with the law but in the case of a teenage T. rex, the dinosaur is the innocent party caught up in a legal wrangle.

The fossil Tyrannosaurus, excavated from a secret site in South Dakota was initially excavated by Mark Eatman, a commercial fossil collector.  He removed a partial dentary (lower jaw bone) before selling on his discovery to a group of Texas based business people.  The new owners contacted the Tyrannosaur expert and leading palaeontologist Bob Bakker, who was able to examine vertebrae, ribs, gastralia, tibia, fibia and a complete humerus.  He concluded that this was potentially a female and one that was as yet fully grown – a teenage Tyrannosaurus!  Approximately 60 fossil bones have been recovered making this one of the most complete immature Tyrannosaurs ever found.

Fossils of juvenile and sub-adult animals help scientists understand how such creatures grew and developed.  An appreciation of the ontogeny of a Tyrannosaurus rex can provide an insight into social behaviour.  For example, was a young T. rex able to hunt or did it depend on its parents to bring it food.

An assessment of the vertebrae and the disproportionately large leg bones have led Bob Bakker and his team to deduce that this was indeed a young T. rex, perhaps the equivalent of a teenager.  The animal has been nick-named “Tinker”.  The well developed jaws indicate that even at this young age, it had a lethal and powerful bite, but the long limb bones would have given this animal a clumsy almost gangly appearance.  This phenomenon is known as “distal growth” and is a process whereby animal’s bodies grow at different rates.  This can be seen on young calves and foals as their legs are much longer in proportion to the rest of their bodies.  These animals need to be able to run from a very young age to escape predators.  T. rex also exhibited these characteristics, perhaps it needed to be able to keep up with its parents as they followed herds of migrating Hadrosaurs.  Or perhaps young Tyrannosaurs needed to be fleet footed to escape the attentions of their brothers and sisters who might have wanted to practice fraticide.

Unfortunately, further study of this specimen is not possible as the fossils have become the centre of a legal row over ownership.  A federal lawsuit was filed in August 2004 against the Texas team, accusing them of illegally removing the fossil from County property.

A trial date has been set for February 5th 2008, which will hopefully settle ownership and permit this valuable fossil to be studied more closely.

In June 2006, U.S. District Judge Richard Battey (a veteran of T. rex court cases after his involvement with the famous “Sue” fossil and the Black Hills Institute court case), ruled the original lease between the County and the fossil collectors was invalid.  This ruling was overturned in April by a federal appeals court, thus setting up the showdown in February which should decide ownership rights.

“Tinker” is in storage in Pennsylvania.  After being in the ground for 65 million years the fossils are now locked away in store cupboards.  The case has been complicated as the man hired to restore the fossils has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.

Dinosaur fossils are big business and a museum quality specimen can sell at auction for very large sums of money.  The large Tyrannosaurus rex fossil “Sue” – BHI2033; was auctioned at Sotheby’s on October 27th 1997, she fetched $8.36 million!

15 09, 2007

Palaeocommunities in upper Campanian stratigraphy of Alberta

By | September 15th, 2007|Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Abundant Ornithischian Fossils shed light on Late Cretaceous mega-fauna

With the re-examination of many of the lost quarries within the Dinosaur Provincial Park of Alberta more data on the palaeocommunities from this region has been collected.  This has provided some intriguing information that may indicate a succession line of ornithischian genera (both ceratopsia and hadrosauridae) and lead to a greater understanding of the type of habitats preferred by many types of dinosaur.

Between 1898 and 1954 nearly 40 large palaeontological expeditions were sent out into the Dinosaur Provincial Park many led by the famous Charles Sternberg and his sons, collecting museum quality specimens for institutions such as the Royal Ontario museum, the American museum of Natural History and the then British museum (London Natural History museum).  However, poor and incomplete field documentation as well as incorrectly catalogued field photographs has led to a number of these sites being “lost”.  The rapid erosion of the messas and buttes within the local landscape has further complicated the finding of these fossil sites from just the photographic evidence alone.

Researchers from the Royal Tyrrell museum have been playing detective and gathering evidence so that these old quarries can be located and mapped using modern global positioning technology.  Re-visiting these sites once they had been found again has yielded more specimens and important micro-fossils, overlooked by the scientists during the first excavations.  It is a good job some palaeontologists are untidy, many of the sites have been found again as site rubbish dumps have been located.  Dates when expeditions first visited a site have been calculated by studying old newspapers left behind by the original scientists.  During the early to mid part of the 20th Century, expeditions would carry bundles of old newspapers with them to wrap fossils.  Fragments of newspaper recovered from the dumps and from around old quarries has helped the Royal Tyrrell team to accurately date when these quarries were first explored.

Modern palaeontological techniques have helped produce more finds and the sites have been properly numbered and accurately recorded.  This helped provide a clearer picture of the changes in environment and the resulting fauna over the 2 million years or so that the Dinosaur Park Formation represents (believed to cover 76 million – 74 million years ago).

Using this new information and the stratigraphic distribution of ornithischian dinosaurs, a time frame for major genera can be plotted.  For example, no Chasmosaurines have been found in the Oldman Formation, but Chasmosaurs have been found in upper Campanian sediments dating from 76 million years ago, with Chasmosaurus russelli being found in the earliest strata with Chasmosaurus belli being found in later strata, indicating a succession.  Another ceratopsian group, the Centrosaurines are confined to a zone of sediments about 40 metres deep dating from 76.5 mya to about 75 mya, after this their place in the fossil record seems to be taken by Styracosaurs.

A similar pattern of succession can be seen in the main hadrosaur types around at the time when these sediments were laid down.  In earlier sediments, roughly equating to the time of Centrosaurine dominance in the ceratopsia fauna, Corythosaurus genera dominate.  These give way to increasing numbers of Lambeosaurs such as Lambeosaurus magnicristatus.

This does not mean that the animals that preceded the later ones are directly ancestral to them, but it might indicate that certain genera were better able to adapt to the changing environment in this part of western North America during the latter stages of the Cretaceous.  The Dinosaur Park Formation was deposited in the last stages of the transgressive phase of the Bearpaw cycle.  Rising sea-levels would have made the area much more coastal and the climate would have been greatly affected by the encroachment of the sea.   Perhaps the Centrosaurs and Corythosaurs were less able to adapt to the changing environment and preferred more inland habitats.  This allowed the Styracosaurs and the Lambeosaurs to move in and out compete these other dinosaurs.

Ornithischian Faunal Zones within upper Campanian Stratigraphy of Alberta

74 mya “Pachyrhinosaurid” – L. magnicristatus – C. irvinensis faunal zone?

Styracosaurus – Lambeosaurus faunal zone      C. belli

76 mya –  Centrosaurus – Corythosaurus faunal zone      C. russelli                   

78 mya –  New Centrosaurus Species         No Chasmosaurines found

Ref: Dinosaur Provincial Park (Ecosystem Revealed) – P. J. Currie and E. B Koppelhus

14 09, 2007

The Universal appeal of Inflatable Dinosaurs – its all Dutch to me

By | September 14th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Inflatable Dinosaurs (Opblaasbaar Dinosaurs)

Whilst reviewing the website data that our Everything Dinosaur statistics package provides we have come across an odd keyword string that keeps cropping up.  This phrase had been noted in the past but recent upgrades to our statistics software has allowed us to drill deeper into the data to review an ascending list of keywords and meta tags used by surfers to find our site.

Although, we are based in the UK, we have customers all over the world.  Like dinosaurs themselves, dinosaur fans are ubiquitous and can be found on every continent.  However, one common search phrase puzzled us; we did not know what this search term referred to.

The phrase, or rather word in question is“opblaasbaar”.  It kept turning up in our search engine logs.  We have some language skills between us but no one could work out what this word meant and in what context concerning a company made up of teachers, parents and dinosaur enthusiasts.

So far we have not found any direct translation for opblaasbaar, however we think it is either Dutch or Flemish for “inflatable”, as in inflatable dinosaur.  Blow up dinosaurs are very popular and we are lucky to have three different ones available on the Everything Dinosaur website.  Just how popular they are has surprised us, as it seems that people from all over the world log onto our website looking for inflatable dinosaurs.

We receive pics of our inflatables (particularly Tyrannosaurus rex), in fancy dress and pictures taken in places far and wide.  We even have been sent pictures of a T. rex inflatable wearing a blond wig and sunglasses a la Marilyn Monroe.  If we get any more e-mails with pictures we will have put some up onto this blog.

Even professional photographers are quite taken by our inflatables.  A journalist had been asked to write an article about our company and the accompanying photographer insisted on using an inflatable Tyrannosaurus as a prop in the pictures.

One of us is Full of Hot Air – but Which One?

Picture courtesy of Everything Dinosaur

It is not just T. rex hogging the limelight, Stegosaurus and Triceratops are getting in on the act too.  We have received lovely letters from children telling us all about their adventures with these animals.  When you are five years old a 90 cm long Stegosaurus is quite the thing to take to the swimming baths.

Which brings us back to this strange keyword – “opblaasbaar”; it seems that either Dutch, Belgium or Flemish people have been looking for inflatable dinosaurs on the world wide web and through the magic of search engines they have found their way to us.

We are pleased that our products give so much pleasure to people.  It is nice to know that we are appreciated – thank you, or should that be “dank je” as they say in Holland.

To visit the Everything Dinosaur website: Everything Dinosaur

13 09, 2007

Tendons connecting the heel to the calf muscles – Not our Achilles heel?

By | September 13th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Could the Development of an Achilles Tendon give Hominids an Edge?

Recently, a team of scientists from the University of Manchester led by Dr Bill Sellers presented new evidence on the locomotion of bipedal theropod dinosaurs.  Their study involved the use of a powerful computer programme that analysed extant and extinct animal data and then calculated the top running speed of each animal tested.  The results did not reveal too many surprises.  The larger the Theropod the slower it could run.  The fastest dinosaur in this study proved to be the chicken-sized Compsognathus.  Measurements from the fossilised skeleton led the Manchester university computer to calculate that this tiny dinosaur could run at an impressive 40 mph.  A six tonne T. rex on the other hand could run at just 18mph (still fairly striking considering the size of the animal).

You can read the full article here:

Tyrannosaurus rex could run down David Beckham

The Manchester team went on to present a second study, this time with the focus on human evolution, their work suggests that if early hominids lacked an Achilles tendon, then they would have managed little more than an amble.

However, if the likes of Homo ergaster had evolved an Achilles then their ability to run would have been greatly enhanced.  Being able to run away from potential predators is an effective survival strategy, particularly in the dry Savannah environments where early hominids, such as H. ergaster lived.  But if they could run, could our direct ancestors have hunted?  Fossil remains of Homo ergaster have revealed teeth worn away in a pattern that indicates a diet of chewing at flesh.  Does this indicate that evolutionary advantages such as Achilles tendons allowed them to hunt?  If the likes of Homo ergaster were able to hunt or indeed to roam around their habitat efficiently so they could locate carcases and scavenge them, this would have permitted them to obtain a lot of protein from the meat they ate.  Lots of protein is essential if you are going to develop a big brain, is the reason for our eventual success to be found in the tendon that links our heel to our calf muscles?

The Achilles tendon acts as a spring whilst running.  It stores and releases energy and greatly improves the running action.  Strong tendons can make a huge difference to how fast an animal is capable of moving, they are after all what gives the kangaroo its bounce.

The study by Dr Sellars involved inputting the anatomical details of an early human ancestor Australopithecus afarensis, postulated from the limited fossil evidence we have (the well-known “Lucy” fossil) plus additional evidence from footprints, preserved in volcanic ash at Laetoli (Tanzania).  The powerful bio-mechanical computer then analysed the evidence and came up with an efficient form of bipedal locomotion for our 3.5 million year old ancestor.  The research indicates that Lucy and her kind were already efficient walkers but their gait, limb bone measurements and the lack of an Achilles tendon would have severely hampered their ability to run.

This study contradicts in part, the work done by Patricia Kramer of Washington University.  Her work focused on the relationship between the wide pelvis and shorter legs of A. afarensis.  According to this research, A. afarensis was actually a more efficient walker than modern humans.  Patricia and her team calculated that these early hominids “wiggled” rather than “waddled” when they walked and concluded that just because H. sapiens is the only surviving species of bipedal hominid; this did not mean that our way of walking was the best.

This Manchester team’s work, presented to the British Association for the Advancement of Science sheds new light on the cursory abilities of the earliest ape-men.  The problem is, the evolution of hominids is still poorly know, the lack of fossils is a real drawback.  Virtually all the material on the origins of mankind going back 6 million years could be easily fitted inside a single transit van, the fossil record of our own evolution is so poor.

Scientists still debate how the various hominid species are inter-related, this new work which shows the importance of the Achilles tendon in terms of effective running speed does little to shed further light on how the hominid family tree shapes up.  Indeed, in apes the origins of the Achilles tendon is a very confusing issue.  Our closest living relatives chimps and gorillas lack an Achilles tendon, whereas gibbons the least closely related great ape to Homo sapiens has one.

It may be misleading to use the extant apes to review the evolutionary importance of running.  Chimpanzees and gorillas adopt a quadruped stance and spend a lot of their time on the ground.  Gibbons are largely arboreal and it may be this difference that is the real reason for the absence/or presence of the Achilles tendon in these genera.

The Manchester University model shows that early hominids were quite efficient walkers, but were poor runners.  Effective running followed much later on our evolutionary path, once we could walk upright we had an advantage but the development of an Achilles tendon permitted our ancestors to run and perhaps hunt more effectively.

It seems that the old adage is true – “you must walk before you can run”.

12 09, 2007

Schleich Dinosaur Models

By | September 12th, 2007|Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Schleich Dinosaur Models from Everything Dinosaur

A Picture of Schleich Dinosaur Models

T. rex, Stegosaurus and Parasaurolophus dinosaur models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

There are a wide range of Schleich dinosaur models available for sale from Everything Dinosaur.  The model range includes a Stegosaurus, Parasaurolophus and the fearsome carnivore Tyrannosaurus rex.

To view the extensive range of Schleich prehistoric animals available from Everything Dinosaur: Schleich prehistoric animal models and dinosaurs

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