All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
/2007
11 12, 2007

Prehistoric Tree Drawings for Use in Schools

By | December 11th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|0 Comments

Mesozoic Flora – Trees for use in Dinosaur Scenes

As well as producing fact sheets on prehistoric animals that team members can send out with every named dinosaur that Everything Dinosaur sells, the dinosaur experts in the company have also been working on the designs for some drawings of prehistoric trees, – cycads, bennettitales and so forth.  These drawings will be used to help our work in schools when we conduct dinosaur workshops.  We can show the young dinosaur fans the sort of plants that herbivorous dinosaurs ate. 

Drawings of Prehistoric Plants

Prehistoric plants.

Prehistoric plants.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

When teaching about dinosaurs in schools, Everything Dinosaur team members build in aspects of the lesson plan that links to parts of the national curriculum such as food chains, food webs and the role of herbivores and carnivores in ecosystems.

10 12, 2007

Did lack of Vitamin D lead to Tuberculosis in early Man as he Migrated North?

By | December 10th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Early Hominid Skull shows signs of Tuberculosis

In science, a breakthrough in one field leads to a better understanding in a whole host of other scientific studies, often ones that on first inspection would have Little to do with the field of science where the break through occurred.

Take our understanding of tuberculosis for example.  Tuberculosis is an infectious disease of the lungs, it is caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis and unless effective treatment is available, this disease can be fatal.  In 2007, a series of papers were published in various scientific and medical journals detailing the outcome of an extensive research project that proved a link between humans ability to produce vitamin D and their ability to fight off tuberculosis.  It seems that vitamin D produced in the skin as it reacts with sunlight can strengthen our immune system and trigger a chain of events that help people fight and kill the infectious bacillus within their bodies.

Now palaeontologists have applied this modern theory to help them examine the skull of an ancient human found recently in western Turkey, a skull which is estimated to be 500,000 years old.  The fossil remains have been identified as belonging to Homo erectus an early hominid that was extremely successful migrating out of Africa establishing humans in parts of the world for the first time.  H. erectus moved north up the Nile valley, through Sinai and onto the region of the Black Sea.  For this poor individual, a male aged between 15 to perhaps 40 years of age, whose skull was found in a block of rock, this was as far as he got.  However, H. erectus continued to spread and colonise new areas of the world including the Himalayas, the jungles of south-east Asia and eventually China.  Hence the alternative name for this particular species of human “Peking Man”.  Indeed, it could be claimed that Homo erectus was one of the most successful species of hominid ever.  They were around for over 1 million years and they spread to virtually every known part of the Old World.

The skull will help scientists understand more about the migration of H. erectus but intriguingly anthropologists from the university of Texas have identified strange pits and lesions on the inside of the cranial material which may indicate that this poor fellow suffered from and probably died from tuberculosis.

The H. erectus skull with the Lesions Highlighted

 

Picture Credit: Marsha Miller  (University of Texas at Austin)

The blue arrow indicates the lesions identified on this piece of skull material.  The lesions are caused by a specific kind of tuberculosis bacillus that infects the membrane surrounding the brain.  Inflamed nodules within the membranes create pressure on the bone surface leaving marks and lesions.

If tuberculosis lesions are present in the skull then it may reinforce the theory regarding the association between vitamin D and the ability to fight off tuberculosis infection.

Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin by exposure to sunlight. Since ultraviolet radiation penetrates only the top layers of skin, people with darker complexions produce less of the vitamin, as the pigment in their skin filters out the sunlight.

Earlier studies have suggested that humans migrating north developed a lighter skin complexion as an adaptive response to maintain their vitamin D levels when exposed to less sunlight.  So it may have been an inability to synthesis vitamin D due to having a dark skin colour that caused the demise of many early hominids as they journeyed north.

Published medical literature about modern people (H. sapiens) who have migrated from southern latitudes—and are more likely to have a darker skin colour—to more northern latitudes show a higher incidence of tuberculosis, and this appears to be linked to an inability to synthesis enough vitamin D.

After a presumably dark-skinned population of Homo erectus had migrated north, this individual male in western Turkey was unable to generate enough vitamin D from the reduced sunlight, and a tuberculosis infection proved fatal.   If more skulls are studied then perhaps more lesions will be found and this could give scientists an insight into the speed of the H. erectus migration.

The paper on this unusual discovery has been published today in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

9 12, 2007

Is it a new Species of Norwegian Marine Reptile or Not?

By | December 9th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Confusion over Norwegian Pliosaur Excavations

To the north of Norway, half-way between the Norwegian coast and the North Pole lies the archipelago of Svalbard.  Over the last few summers the local population of under 3,000 has been swelled by the arrival of a number of teams of palaeontologists keen to study the rich fossil bearing strata of the islands.  Following in the footsteps of geologists who have been exploring the island’s geology in search of further coal measures as well as reserves of oil and natural gas, on behalf of Norway’s state run coal mining company.

The strata consists mainly of marine deposits.  A number of marine reptiles have already been found, particularly Plesiosaurs and their short-necked relatives the Pliosaurs.  These finds are helping scientists to learn more about the fauna in the seas of the Mesozoic and for Norwegian scientists starved of dinosaur remains to study, these discoveries are helping to put Mesozoic Norway on the palaeontological map.

With much of Norway consisting of igneous and metamorphic rocks, dinosaur fossils are exceptionally rare.  To date only one small dinosaur bone has been found in the country and that was down to an incredible piece of luck!

Read about Norway’s first dinosaur:  Norway’s First Dinosaur – say hello to Plateosaurus

To view a model of Norway’s first dinosaur: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

A team of scientists from the university of Oslo are currently working on a number of sites, one of which is a dig site that is slowly revealing the remains of a huge predator that swam in the sea that covered this area 150 million years ago in the late Jurassic.

An initial excavation of this dig site has unearthed teeth, partial skull material and a number of vertebrae of a Pliosaur.  As yet, the size of the animal has not been accurately calculated but estimates indicate that this animal may have been 40 feet (13 metres) long.  It has been nick-named “Predator X”.

There does seem to be some confusion as to whether or not this particular find relates to a new species of Pliosaur.  A number of news releases have claimed that these remains are those of a new species, but there seems to be some doubt as to this.  Attempting to clarify the situation a spokesman for the university of Oslo stated that this new find was not new to science, early indications are that it is the same species as a Pliosaur discovered last year at a different location in the Svalbard islands.  The Norwegian team intend to return to this dig site next year and to carry out further excavation work.  It will be some time before the site is probably studied as the inclement weather can disrupt work, but at least at such high latitudes, the Svalbard summer permits the team to work virtually all night if required as the sun hardly dips below the horizon.

Once the site has been cleared and the remains studied and any papers peer reviewed the team should be able to publish further information on their discovery.

8 12, 2007

Triceratops Dinosaur Model

By | December 8th, 2007|Dinosaur Fans|0 Comments

Clever Photograph of a Triceratops Dinosaur Model

At Everything Dinosaur, we get sent lots of drawings and pictures of prehistoric animals.  We even get sent pics of dinosaur fans with their extensive dinosaur model collections.  We are always delighted to hear from our many customers and those, who like us, are fans of palaeontology and prehistoric animals.  Whilst looking at some recent mail, we came across some delightful photographs of dinosaur models that had been skilfully posed outdoors to give the impression of a prehistoric scene.  Our thanks to Alan for sending in examples of his work.

A Clever Picture of a Triceratops Dinosaur Model

Clever use of photography.

Clever use of photography.

Picture Credit: Alan

The clever use of light and the staging of the shot gives the impression of a much bigger animal.  The choice of vegetation in the background adds to this clever effect.  This is a carefully staged photograph and one that shows off the excellent Triceratops model and the clever use of photography in equal measure.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of dinosaur models: Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models

7 12, 2007

Dinosaur Models – On a Grand Scale!

By | December 7th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Australian Museum Provides sneak Preview of new Dinosaur Exhibit

Preparations for the new permanent dinosaur exhibit at the Australian Museum in Sydney, New South Wales, are well advanced and the star exhibit, a life-sized model skeleton of a huge dinosaur has just been installed in the new exhibition hall.

The model of the fossilised remains of a Cretaceous sauropod named Jobaria tiguidensis stands over 10 metres tall and its 22 metres just about fits into the newly erected exhibition hall of the museum.  At the moment the model is still covered in protective wrapping and the scaffolding surrounding it indicates that the project team have one or two finishing touches to add, but when the new hall opens in March this exhibit will make an impressive centrepiece.

The plastic model was cast from the real fossilised bones of this dinosaur, by a Chicago based organisation called Project Exploration which specialises in providing educational exhibits and materials.  Light weight plaster casts have replaced the real fossil bones erected in museums, as being lighter they do not need the ugly looking steel girders to support them and to permit palaeontologists to depict animals in more life-like poses.  Besides, the fossils themselves are very valuable and are more likely to preserved in the storage rooms away from public display.

Purchasing casts like this for museums is very common, although it is quite unusual to have such a large model kit to be put together  by the museum staff.  Casts cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, whereas to purchase the actual fossilised bones would cost millions of dollars – a sum that even the Australian museum with its AUD $41 million budget would find hard to justify.

The Huge Model Dinosaur – Waiting to be Unveiled

Picture Credit: Steven Siewart

The hard-hat wearing worker examining the neck vertebrae gives some idea of the scale of this new exhibit.

The bones of this long-necked dinosaur, a relative of Brachiosaurus as classified by Paul Sereno who placed Jobaria in the Macronaria clade of sauropods, lived in the Niger Republic area about 135 million years ago.  Sauropods that belong to the Macronaria clade are distinguished from other long-necked dinosaurs as they have large nostrils high on their skulls.  These may have been covered in fleshy, folds of skin to provide an enhanced sense of smell or to act as call resonating chambers.

A model of a typical Macronarian sauropod: Dinosaur Models for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Toys

Quite a lot is known about this giant plant-eater as an almost complete skeleton of Jobaria was unearthed by a team of palaeontologist led by Paul Sereno about ten years ago.  To find a complete skeleton is exceptionally rare, even the huge bones of these dinosaurs are rarely found together.  It was from this skeleton that the model bones were cast.  Jobaria lived in a lush, swampy area in what is now the Sahara desert.  The name Jobaria comes from local Tuareg mythology – Jobar in the local dialect refers to a mysterious animal.  Jobaria is one of the best understood genera of sauropods as fossil bones from adults and juveniles have been found.  For a Cretaceous sauropod it was quite primitive with a disproportionately short neck compared to the length of its body and more primitive, chisel like teeth.

The Jobaria model arrived in ten large crates and the museum team then set to putting the display together.  It is not known how long the process took to erect the huge beast but the work was certainly worth it as this exhibit will form the main attraction on an new exhibition based on evolution when the new hall opens in March 2008.

6 12, 2007

Thank You letters after Dinosaur Workshop in School

By | December 6th, 2007|Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Receives Thank You Letters from School Children

After a recent visit to a school to teach Year 1 children about dinosaurs and fossils, the team member at Everything Dinosaur who conducted the dinosaur workshop, was delighted to receive a number of thank you letters from the children who had taken part.  Team members visit a lot of schools to help children learn about fossils, palaeontology and of course dinosaurs and we work hard to ensure that our lesson plans include important topic areas as outlined by the National Curriculum.

The school children (and their teacher) were clearly impressed and we were delighted to receive this “fan mail”.

One of the Thank You Letters Sent into Everything Dinosaur after a School Visit

Thanks for coming to see us and delivering your dinosaur workshop.

Thanks for coming to see us and delivering your dinosaur workshop.

Picture Credit: Rebecca (age 7)

We do get a lot of letters such as this, in fact, we encourage the teaching staff to undertake a creative writing task with their classes after one of our school visits to teach about fossils and dinosaurs.  In this way, our dinosaur workshops can support other areas of the National Curriculum such as literacy.

5 12, 2007

Dinosaur Mummy Unlocks Duck-Billed Dinosaur Secrets

By | December 5th, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|2 Comments

“Mummified Dinosaur – the Holy Grail of Palaeontology”

Dinosaur bones are rare, well preserved ones are exceptionally rare and for some palaeontologists the discovery of fossilised bones in association with each other or bones in articulation are the find of a life-time.  However, for one young, American scientist, Tyler Lyson, his discovery of a remarkably well-preserved duck-billed dinosaur, complete with fossilised skin, ligaments and tendons is a discovery to beat most other discoveries.

Tyler, who is currently completing his Doctorate in Palaeontology at Yale University, found the amazing fossil whilst on a fossil hunting expedition in a remote part of North Dakota.  The animal, a Hadrosaur, when it died was buried very quickly by fine sediment and this has preserved parts of the soft body tissue, the dinosaur’s skin scales have even been preserved on parts of the skeleton.

This animal had no flamboyant head crest so it was probably a member of the Hadrosaurine group, placing it in the same clade of dinosaurs as animals such as Edmontosaurus and Kritosaurus and dates from 67 million years ago, the Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian faunal stage).

This find has been called a “Mummy” as like the Egyptian mummies soft tissue has been preserved, allowing scientists to shed new light on how these animals looked.  Dr Phil Manning (Manchester University), the chief researcher on this specimen has supervised a CAT scan of this amazing fossil.  CAT scans enable scientists to see inside fossils without intrusive and damaging extra preparatory work.  The CAT scan was only possible due to the fact that the animal was able to be extracted from the site in one complete block of stone.  Only a small part of the tail, was contained in a second block.

The CAT scan and other assessments have provided the researchers with a wealth of new material.  For example, the vertebrae seem to be further apart in this specimen than previously thought.  This may mean that scientists are going to have to amend their estimated sizes for this type of Hadrosaur.  They may actually have been bigger than we think.  Animals such as Edmontosaurus have been estimated at lengths in excess of 13 metres, now this new find may lead to scientists having to revise these estimates.

The CAT scan has also revealed that this Hadrosaur had larger hind quarters than previously thought.  The powerful back legs would have helped this animal take up a bipedal posture and run quicker than earlier studies had shown, perhaps helping to escape from predators such as Tyrannosaurus rex which were around in this part of Dakota 67 million years ago.

A Close up of the Fossilised Skin

Picture Credit: Xinhua/Reuters

The picture shows some of the fossilised skin, the degree of preservation is remarkable.

According to Dr Manning, patterns identified in the skin scales indicate that this animal had stripes along its tail.  It has been speculated that the strips were a form of camouflage to help this plant-eater blend into its surroundings.  Stripes may have also served another purpose.  In herd animals such as zebras, the strip pattern helps the animals merge into each other, preventing predators from singling out an individual.  Palaeontologists believe that Hadrosaurs lived in large herds, so perhaps the stripped pattern was designed to confuse potential attackers.

As with many special finds, this specimen has been given a nick-name by the research team, the dinosaur has been named “Dakota”, named after the US state where the fossil was found.

Other “mummified” dinosaur remains have been found, notably in the USA, Canada, Italy and China.  What makes this specimen so rare is that the soft tissue has actually been preserved, other mummified fossils such as the beautifully preserved Hadrosaur unearthed by Charles Sternberg in 1908 have the impression of soft tissue such as skin preserved as an impression in the surrounding rock matrix.

4 12, 2007

Deinonychus – Fearsome “Swift Lizard”

By | December 4th, 2007|Dinosaur Fans|0 Comments

Deinonychus antirrhopus – A Ferocious Member of the Dromaeosauridae

It was the great American dinosaur hunter, Barnum Brown who discovered the fossilised bones of a fast-running, fearsome looking dinosaur at an excavation in Wyoming (United States), in 1931.  The animal, although clearly a new species of predatory dinosaur was not formally studied, this prehistoric animal was not properly studied or described by Brown.  It was the influential and highly respected John Ostrom who found more fossils of this dinosaur in the 1960s and it was Ostrom who went on to name and describe Deinonychus (D. antirrhopus).

Standing around 2.5 metres tall and with a length of 3-4 metres, Deinonychus was a new type of meat-eating dinosaur.  It inspired Ostrom and his contemporaries to depict dinosaurs not as sluggish, slow-witted beasts but as dynamic animals as active as warm-blooded mammals and birds.  Indeed, much of Ostom’s work on the Dromaeosauridae was directed at challenging the accepted doctrine that the Dinosauria were all cold-blooded.

An Illustration of Deinonychus by a Young Dinosaur Fan

Fast-running, active, warm-blooded dinosaurs

Fast-running, active, warm-blooded dinosaurs

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Intriguingly, a number of highly curved teeth, obviously the teeth of a predator, have been excavated from time to time from strata of the famous Hell Creek Formation of Montana.  It has been speculated that these are the teeth of a new type of Dromaeosaurid dinosaur whose fossils have yet to be found.  It has also been suggested these are the teeth of young Tyrannosaurs (T. rex) as Tyrannosaurus rex fossil material is also associated with the member of the Hell Creek Formation.

This post has been put up in response to a question received at a recent dinosaur workshop in a school organised by Everything Dinosaur, as part of the company’s work in educational establishments teaching about dinosaurs and fossils in schools.  We used a number of Dromaeosaurid fossils and casts to illustrate the size of some predatory dinosaurs.  The term Dromaeosaur means “swift lizard” an apt title for these fast, active dinosaurs.

3 12, 2007

Recommended Last Posting Dates before Christmas 2007

By | December 3rd, 2007|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Recommended Last Posting Dates for Christmas

December is here already and 2007 is nearly over, it does not seem like 12 months, but Christmas will soon be upon us and none of the team members at Everything Dinosaur have completed their Christmas shopping.

To help our UK customers here are the latest safe posting dates published by the Royal Mail.  These dates are the recommended last posting dates to ensure parcels and letters arrive in time for Christmas.  Remember, Royal Mail staff are put under tremendous pressure at this time of year and the earlier you can send items out the better.

Last recommended date for Standard Parcels = Friday 14th December

Last recommended date for Second Class = Monday 17th December

Last recommended date for First Class = Thursday 20th December

Last recommended date for Special Delivery (Saturday guarantee) = Friday 21st December

Last recommended date for Special Delivery = Saturday 22nd December

As always the team at Everything Dinosaur will do all they can to ensure that orders are prepared and packed as quickly as possible.  We will be working on the Saturdays up to Christmas and dispatching on Saturday mornings to help speed deliveries on their way.

If customers have left it too late to use regular postal services and Special Delivery is the only option left, then please feel free to contact us (details below) and we will do our best to provide the Royal Mail Special Delivery service to help prevent disappointment on Christmas Day.

You can e-mail the team at Everything Dinosaur at:

sales@everythingdinosaur.com

For further contact options: Email Everything Dinosaur

2 12, 2007

Fancy a Mosasaurus for Christmas? Prehistoric Animals under the Hammer

By | December 2nd, 2007|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|3 Comments

Why not Purchase your very own Marine Reptile for Christmas!

Hammers have long been associated with fossils as palaeontologists carefully chip away at rocks with their geological hammers to reveal the remains of prehistoric animals.  Today, Sunday 2nd December, one particular fossil is being associated with a very different type of hammer – the auctioneers gavel as a virtually complete fossil Mosasaur goes up for auction.

Bonhams the world famous auction house is selling the 30-foot mounted skeleton at a special sale a their Los Angeles sale rooms.  This unusual collectors item is expected to fetch $400,000 dollars (£200,000).  However, the purchaser will also have to pay for the removal and transportation of this delicate exhibit and the costs for getting this 10 metre long fossilised specimen which includes skull, flippers, ribs and 126 vertebrae back home could be considerable.

Fossils being auctioned is not a new phenomenon, many wealthy people including celebrities and film stars have purchased rare finds and curios over the last few years and this has pushed up the price of many fossils, especially those from the age of reptiles (Mesozoic).

The Mosasaur up for Auction

Picture Credit: Bonhams

Bonhams sale catalogue describes this lot as a Mosasaurus baugei, a graceful predator of the late Cretaceous; dining on fish, squid and other marine reptiles.  Mosasaurs were not dinosaurs but marine reptiles related to modern snakes and lizards (order Squamata).  They were named after the Latin name for the river Meuse “Mosa” in the Netherlands, as it was in a limestone mine at Maastricht close to this river that the first remains of Mosasaurs were discovered back in 1780. The naming of Mosasaurs pre-dates the founding of  Bonhams by just 13 years as this now famous auction house with venues in London, San Francisco and Los Angeles was established in 1793.

Mosasaurs were a very successful group of marine reptiles, appearing in the early Cretaceous, these animals were to establish themselves as the most diverse group of large marine reptiles by the end of the Mesozoic with some of them such as the Russellosaurines evolving into giant, long-skulled predators that terrorised the other creatures of the deep.

This particular Mosasaur fossil was found in Africa, it is a very complete and well preserved specimen, the picture above shows the large eyes and the and the ring of bones that surrounded the eye ball.  This is called the sclerotic ring, it helped support the large aqueous mass of the eyeball and may have assisted with focusing of the eye, improving the animal’s vision under water.

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