All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
11 05, 2008

Smuggled Fossils Returned to Argentina

By | May 11th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Smuggled Fossils Returned Home to Buenos Aires

In a cultural repatriation ceremony held last week nearly 4 tonnes of fossils were returned to Argentina by US Customs and Immigration Enforcement officials who had seized the items in raids back in 2006.

The fossils, believed to date from the Mesozoic era,  otherwise known as the Age of Reptiles, include an unspecified number of dinosaur eggs, plus shell fragments, fossilised pine cones and rare fossil prehistoric arthropods.  They were seized during a raid on a fossil dealer at the 2006 Tucson Gem and Mineral show.  The US Customs and Immigration officials were following a lead provided by Interpol, a reflection on the sad fact that the smuggling of rare artifacts such as fossils is an international business, one that is growing all the time.

The US officials raided a vendor at the show and subsequently impounded a number of other specimens at a nearby warehouse, suspecting that these objects had been illegally imported into the USA.

Posing as buyers, US Customs officials conducted surveillance, taking photos of suspicious specimens and making detailed notes about the artifacts for sale.  Using the evidence that the team had gathered a federal warrant was issued and the consignment of fossils impounded.

Lisa Fairchild, the US special agent supervising the case, said at the time that the agency considered the fossils priceless.

“It’s the property of another government and it can’t be replaced,” she commented.

US Customs issued a statement to coincide with the official ceremony handing the fossils back to the Argentine Government stating that the investigation is continuing.  Julie Myers, Assistant Secretary for the US Customs department stated:

“We think these historical artifacts rightly belong to the people of Argentina, so I’m very proud to be able to formally hand them back”.

Unfortunately, the smuggling of fossils and other rare items out of countries like Argentina, China and Thailand is a common occurrence.  State authorities are attempting to clamp down on such activities, however the relative lack of specialist knowledge hampers many such investigations.  In addition, the rapid rise in auction prices for rare fossils has added greater impetus to illegal smuggling of such items.

There have been a number of cases recently concerning the smuggling of Mesozoic fossils, including a number of incidents involving the smuggling of rare Titanosaur eggs.  A number of consignments have been seized by Government authorities, many contained complete or nearly complete eggs believed to have come from a Titanosaur nesting site in Argentina.  It is not entirely clear which genus of dinosaur may have laid the eggs but it is likely they came from a dinosaur such as Saltasaurus.

Fossils of Saltasaurus have been found in Argentina and Uruguay, an extensive nesting site associated with this animal was unearthed in Patagonia (southern Argentina).  Fossil trackways indicate that Saltasaurus lived in herds.  The eggs were about the size of footballs, the animals had excavated shallow holes, then laid their eggs before covering them with sand and vegetation, in a similar fashion to American Alligators.

An Illustration of Saltasaurus (Scale Model)

An illustration of Saltasaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur
The picture above is of a scale model of the Titanosaur, Saltasaurus to view the model within the Everything Dinosaur range: Dinosaur Models for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Toys
Much of this activity is being directed by organised criminal gangs, however, fraud in the sell of fossils and other items such as gemstones and minerals is quite common.  Whether this is due to a genuine mistake on behalf of the vendor or whether it is a deliberate attempt to mislead the buyer is often unclear.
A typical example of how people can be deceived occurred just the other day when one of the Everything Dinosaur team members went to the Post Office to drop off some parcels ready for despatch.
As the parcels were being processed and receipts printed off, the Post Office Manager mentioned that his partner had recently purchased a necklace that contained a gemstone made from Dinosaur poo that was over 40 million years old.  The technical term for fossilised droppings is coprolites and indeed there are a number of legitimate sources of such items.  The coprolite specimens are usually small fragments that have been further cut by diamond bladed saw, then shaped and polished to produce a shiny, smooth gemstone.
It can be difficult to identify the genuine article once it has gone through such a transformation and indeed, our colleague’s suspicions were further aroused when the wrong date was given by the buyer of the piece.  Mistakes do happen, it is very difficult to identify coprolite to the genus of animal that produced it in the first place, especially if no provenance is provided with the item.  Often if the gemstone is a coprolite it may have actually have been produced by a crocodile or turtle rather than a dinosaur.  By claiming it is dino poo, the price can be bumped up a little.
10 05, 2008

Fossil Detectives Coming to Television

By | May 10th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, TV Reviews|1 Comment

New BBC Television Series set to Inspire next Generation of Geologists and Palaeontologists

Coming to BBC4 in June is a brand new television series that highlights the rich fossil legacy of the British Isles.  The new series is to be called “Fossil Detectives” and its aim is to explore the various ancient landscapes that make up the British Isles, visiting some of the best fossil locations in the country.

Using a similar format to highly successful Open University/BBC format on “Coast” which took viewers on a tour of the coastline of the British Isles, Fossil Detectives will transport viewers from the north of Scotland down to the Isle of Wight, as well as taking them back in time hundreds of millions of years.

When it comes to enthusing the British public about rocks and fossils few people are better suited than Hermione Cockburn, the presenter chosen to front this set of programmes.  Hermione has a background in Earth sciences and has studied landscapes all over the world including Africa and Antarctica.  Although heavily involved in television work since she won the BBC Talent “Science on Screen” competition in 2002, she is still an Open University tutor on the OU science course S216 (Environmental Science).

Hermione Cockburn – Fossil Detective Presenter

Picture Credit: BBC

Currently residing in Edinburgh, a city famous for its fantastic geology, this latest BBC series involved Hermione travelling the length and breadth of the country to illustrate the rich fossil and Earth Science heritage of Britain.  For fossil hunters there is no need to invest in expensive equipment, a keen pair of eyes and a little bit of knowledge is all that is required to uncover traces of our ancient past.  Naturally, famous fossil sites such as the “Jurassic coast” of southern England and the Isle of Wight will feature in the TV series as well as some of the less well known but just as spectacular finds such as the West Runton Elephant.

For Hermione making the series was great fun, but even though she got to travel to some amazing places the highlight for her was when she met her hero David Attenborough and viewed his private fossil specimens, collected on his travels all over the world.

She commented: “we spent an hour talking through his fossil collection.  I was so excited – I almost feel that I can retire happily now”.

The fossil detectives will be shown next month, with so many new discoveries it might not be too long before a second series is required.

9 05, 2008

Some of our Fossil Finds from Charmouth

By | May 9th, 2008|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

Fossil Finds from Charmouth Beach

It is always a pleasure to visit the Dorset coast and meet up with some of our fossil hunting friends.  We had some fun over the Bank holiday weekend ending our fossil hunting trip on Charmouth beach on the Monday and despite the rain we were able to visit the Belemnite beds adjacent to the Heritage centre and find plenty of specimens for use in our various school projects and classroom exercises.

Some of the samples we found are shown below, with a £1 coin shown for scale.  On the top right of the picture there are some examples of the pyritised Ammonites from the foreshore in front of the Black Ven Marl from the Charmouth Mudstone Formation.  These little Ammonites are locally known as “Proms” as they are from the genus Promicroceras.  In the centre there are the remnants of a partially calcified larger Ammonite and at the bottom there are a range of Belemnite guards, including some nice “arrows”, the pointed ones that represent the rear portion of this part of the animal’s internal skeleton.

A Selection of Fossils from Charmouth

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In the bottom left of the picture there is a shiny, glossy black object.  This is a piece of fossil bone found by an Everything Dinosaur team member below the Black Ven Marl sediments amongst the pebbles and rocks on the beach.  The cavities that make up this type of bone (cancellous bone), otherwise known as “spongy bone” can still be clearly seen.  Fragments of fossil bone such as this piece are quite common on Charmouth beach, over the 3 days that we were in the area, Everything Dinosaur team members found several pieces.  All have been heavily eroded and it is impossible to relate these finds to any particular genus but it is likely they are fragments of Ichthyosaur.  These marine reptiles are more common as fossils compared to Plesiosaurs for example, but due to the highly eroded nature of the finds, it is not possible to identify these fossils accurately.

Bone fossils are notoriously difficult to spot.  Sitting about the Blue Lias sediments at Lyme Regis (these are the oldest Jurassic rocks exposed at Lyme), there is a band of sediments known as Shales with Beef.  These rocks are so called as they have a marble pattern to them.  In cross section they look like fossilised pieces of meat.  It can be quite hard to distinguish between these shales and real fossil bone when scouring the foreshore.

To help some of our team members “get their eye in” as it were, we carry fossil bones that we had found on the beach on previous visits.  We can use these as a quick reference when examining other potential fossil bones.  These fossils look very different when wet, sometimes as an aid to finding more pieces one of our team members will dip a bone fragment into a nearby rock pool.  The fossil seems to come alive, it takes on a much more glossy, black and shiny appearance which makes them much more distinctive then the grey, dull shales with beef.  This to can provide a useful reference for those team members not yet used to telling the difference between the fossil bone and the other, numerous types of pebbles to be found on the beach.

I quick examination with one of our trusty magnifying lenses (we carry 6x and 10x lenses on most trips) and that should just about confirm the piece’s identification.  One thing that we do keep forgetting to bring with us is our knee-pads, it can be quite uncomfortable getting down onto all fours to scramble around looking for these relatively small fossils.

8 05, 2008

New Interpretation of Evidence from Cretaceous mass Extinction

By | May 8th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Geology, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

New Zealand led Team shed new light on Dinosaur Extinction

Research published this week in the scientific journal “Geology”, puts a different interpretation on evidence from the famous K-T boundary.  This new research which has involved an international team of geologists studying a number of marine and non-marine sites on the Mesozoic/Cenozoic boundary sheds new light on the cause of the forest fires resulting from the asteroid impact on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico.

Around 65 million years ago, a huge extraterrestrial object crashed into the Earth, blasting a crater over 200 kilometres across and throwing huge quantities of material up into the atmosphere.

The research team, headed by New Zealand geologist Mark Harvey has contradicted conventional theory concerning the Chicxulub impact that is believed to have hastened the demise of the dinosaurs.

According to Mr Harvey, the impact itself did cause extensive forest fires that destroyed the planet’s ecosystems.  This new work blames the large carbon deposits in the sediments that were struck.  In this newly published paper it is claimed that the extraterrestrial object smashed into oil or coal deposits with such force that the carbon was liquefied and hurled skywards, forming tiny airborne beads that blanketed the Earth in soot.

Up until now, many scientists believed that the carbon resulting from the impact was ash resulting from global forest fires.  The international team, consisting of researchers from the USA, New Zealand, Italy and Britain, found some particles among the soot had formed carbon “cenospheres”, tiny beads similar to ones produced in modern times by intense industrial combustion.

“Carbon cenospheres are a classic indicator of industrial activity,” Mark Harvey, the lead author stated. “The first appearance of the carbon cenospheres defines the onset of the industrial revolution.”

Some burnt vegetation has been found in the layer close to the impact site, but scientists think these fires broke out as molten rock and super-hot ash fell from the sky and on to forests.

Researchers had suggested mass extinctions came as global forest fires pumped enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to cause a period of runaway global warming, or they spewed enough soot to block out the sun and kill off the plants that disrupted and destroyed global food chains.

Mr Harvey’s team found cenospheres were smaller the further the sample site was from the Chicxulub Crater – consistent with heavier particles produced by the impact falling to earth sooner than lighter particles. It is estimated that 900 billion tonnes of carbon cenospheres were ejected by the collision.

Conventional theory had speculated that soot in the form of charcoal particles found in the strata at the K-T boundary was thought to be evidence for fires that initially swept across the Americas, and then extended world-wide, sparked off by electric storms setting alight to dead and dying vegetation.

Incidentally, the layer, rich in the rare Earth element Iridium called the K-T boundary is so called because the “K” is short for kreide, the German word for chalk vast amounts of chalk were formed during the end of the Cretaceous.  The “T” is short for Tertiary.

7 05, 2008

Biggest Land Slip for 99 Years at Charmouth

By | May 7th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|1 Comment

Huge Landslide on the Jurassic Coast

At around 10.30pm on Tuesday night (6th May), a 400 metre section of the coastline between Lyme Regis and Charmouth on the English Jurassic coast collapsed.  The section of cliff, approximately the length of four football pitches slipped at high tide, this is very fortunate as nobody was on the beach at the time.  Team members of Everything Dinosaur had been in that very spot just 24-hours before, scouring the beach picking up pyritised Promicroceras Ammonites and fossilised Belemnite guards (the landslide was not our fault – honest)!  We had noticed how saturated the cliffs were, both to the east of Lyme Regis and at Monmouth beach, which we had visited the day before.  There were streams of water pouring out from the cliff face and signs of recent rock falls.  Despite the obvious dangers we observed a number of tourists, looking for fossils very close to the cliffs and even climbing over some of the mudflows on the Charmouth side of the beach.  This is very dangerous, Tuesday’s landslide is testament to this.  The best place to find fossils is on the beach itself.  The soft mud and clay gets washed out from the cliffs and deposits fossils along the shoreline.  It is best to keep away from the cliffs, after Tuesday’s landslip there were reports of boulders the size of cars tumbling down onto the beach.

A View of the Dangerous Cliffs at Lyme Regis

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture shows a view of Monmouth beach looking back towards Lyme Regis.  This beach lies to the west of Lyme Regis, the actual land slip occurred to the east of the town, between Lyme Regis and the village of Charmouth.

Fossil hunters and amateur palaeontologists are going to have to be patient before they can get access to any fossils that may have been exposed as a result of the landslip.  The local authorities are working hard to assess the condition of the site and whether more landslides are likely to occur.  A number of people have ignored the warnings about the dangers and ventured onto the beach in search of specimens.

Unfortunately, the landslip has exposed an old rubbish dump and debris such as old bottles, car batteries and radiators now litter the beach.  Coincidentally, we were chatting to one of the Charmouth Heritage centre staff and they were commentating how dirty the Charmouth beaches were becoming.  A few weeks ago a number of the Charmouth Heritage centre staff were involved in a voluntary rubbish collection event, they team filled 56 bags with rubbish, much of which had been left by careless tourists, but some would have come from the recently grounded ship – the Napoli, which floundered off Lyme Bay.

Commenting on the land slip Graham Turner, the station manager for Lyme Regis coastguard, said:

The dump has been closed for 25 years and was 300ft inland. The landslide has taken the cliff edge back to the start of it and the place is strewn with litter.   There are thousands of bottles, broken glass, plastic, tyres and even immersion heaters lying among the mud. When it was in use, the dustmen did not have carts to compact the rubbish and it was thrown into the ground raw.  We don’t think it will get washed away by the tide but at the moment we have no idea how we are going to get rid of it.”

Some of the Rubbish on Charmouth Beach

Jurassic rubbish

Picture Credit: Times Online

Local police and coastguard officials are urging members of the public to keep off the beach as the area is still not safe, but this will not stop many hardy fossil hunters looking for the discovery of a lifetime.

Landslips are common in this area, as the cliffs are very unstable, and although a lot of investment has been carried out to reduce the damage in and around Lyme Regis itself funding is still being sort from DEVRA to help stabilise the land to the east of the town.

Sally Holman, the Mayor of the town, said that the landslip was a warning that funding had to be found for the next stage of the coastal stabilisation programme – estimated to cost at least £21 million. “It was very lucky this happened at high tide so that no one was on the beach,” she stated. “What it shows is how urgently the next phase of the protection scheme needs to be carried out.”

The landslip has actually just missed the best fossil beds on that part of the Jurassic coast, although there will no doubt be a large number of new fossils deposited onto the beach as a result of this event.  Such land slides are a natural process and eventually the whole of the Lyme Regis area will be washed away.  This process is constantly exposing new specimens for the enthusiastic fossil hunters to find.

A Close up of the Cliffs on Monmouth Beach

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture shows part of the cliffs on Monmouth beach to the west of Lyme Regis, debris from a recent rockfall can clearly be seen.

Our team members will get to hear of any interesting finds amongst the broken bottles and car tyres, we will be able to report them on the web log.

6 05, 2008

School Children Make Dinosaur Notebooks for Display

By | May 6th, 2008|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Teaching|0 Comments

Year 1 Children Display their Dinosaur Notebooks

Engaging Year 1 children (aged 5-6), with writing activities can be a challenge for teachers and their teaching assistants, however, if the term topic is dinosaurs and fossils, then it can be more of a case of getting them to stop writing about dinosaurs.  A team member at Everything Dinosaur, came across some marvellous notebooks and workbooks that had been prepared by Year 1 children as part of the study of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.  With so many extension activities coming out of the lesson plans, the children ended up producing a notebook each all about their favourite prehistoric animal.

Children’s Dinosaur Notebooks on Display in the School Corridor

Helping to encourage young children with their writing.

Helping to encourage young children with their writing.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Teaching about dinosaurs in school can certainly help and enthuse young children with their writing.  Our member of staff saw books about Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, Plesiosaurs and even one about Mary Anning.  Just like real scientists the children had been keen to put their own names on the workbook and it was fun reading them as our team member took a quick break from delivering a dinosaur themed workshop in the school.

To read more about Everything Dinosaur’s teaching about dinosaurs in school: Dinosaur Workshops in School

5 05, 2008

Oh we Do Like to be Beside the Seaside… Visit to Lyme Regis

By | May 5th, 2008|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

Visit to Lyme Regis

With the first of the May day Bank holidays approaching, some members of the Everything Dinosaur team took the opportunity to visit Lyme Regis in Dorset, part of the “Jurassic coast”.  This part of the coastline of East Devon and Dorset has held UNESCO World Heritage Site status since December 2001.  This stretch of beach and cliffs extends for approximately 95 miles, explorers can travel back in time to the Triassic on the Devon side, with the spectacular red sandstone cliffs laid down in a desert environment at places like Orcombe Rocks.  As visitors head eastwards the geological formations exposed on the coast become progressively younger, in fact if you were to travel along the entire length of the UNESCO site you would eventually reach Old Harry Rocks, the fabulous chalk stacks, formed as the sea works its way into weaknesses in the chalk strata.  These were formed at the end of the Mesozoic, during the Cretaceous period which ended 65 million years ago.

In essence, visitors can experience 185 million years of the history of the Earth on this part of the south coast of England.

For Everything Dinosaur staff, a few days in and around Lyme Regis was planned.  With the cancellation of the Fossil Festival, they had a some days in the calendar already booked to visit the area, so why not spend the time visiting old fossil hunting friends and doing a bit of fossil hunting on the beaches themselves.

Before setting out to explore Monmouth beach (to the east of Lyme Regis), the team visited  the grave of Mary Anning.  Mary Anning (1799-1847) lived all her life in Lyme Regis, she was a pioneering fossil collector, perhaps she could be regarded as the world’s first professional fossil collector.  The continual slipping and erosion of the sea cliffs around the town exposed fossils all the time and in 1810, when Mary was only 11 years old she helped collect one of the first articulated specimens of an Ichthyosaur.  In 1824 she discovered the first articulated Plesiosaur and four years later she found the remains of the first British Pterosaur.

Her discoveries were sold to many institutions and wealthy individuals and although largely shunned by the male dominated world of science during her life time; her work in the fields of palaeontology and geology is now recognised and she is held in high regard.

Mary died in 1847, her grave can be found on the landward side of the little church (St Michael’s church) which sits on a hill overlooking the beaches and the Philpot museum, which was built on the site of Mary’s house and fossil depot.

The Grave stone of Mary and her brother Joseph Anning

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The engraving is hard to make out now, like most things in and around Lyme Regis the writing has suffered from erosion.  The inscription reads:

“Sacred to the memory of Joseph Anning who died July 5th 1849 aged 53 years.  Also of three children who died in their infancy also of Mary Anning sister of the above who died March 9th 1847 aged 47 years”.

The churchyard is well worth a visit, it is very peaceful and quiet and an appropriate place to reflect on how our knowledge of the world has changed since Mary’s time.

We have written a number of articles about Mary Anning, click on the link below to read an article written on 9th March this year, the anniversary of her death:

In Memory of Mary Anning

Her true memorial is the collection of fossils which are on display as national treasures in places such as the Natural History museum in London, many specimens are still used in research today.

Sometimes, whilst we are scanning the beach for fossils we get asked by tourists why after 200 years of fossil hunting are there still fossils to be found?  This part of the Jurassic coast is being constantly eroded by storms and high tides. The cliffs surrounding Lyme Regis are very unstable and many landslides occur.  These natural forces are constantly depositing fresh material on the beaches.  If the shoreline was not constantly searched any fossils recently exposed would soon be destroyed by the natural processes that exposed them.

Over the weekend, our team members explored Monmouth beach to the east of the town finding one or two nice Ammonite fossils.  About 3/4 of a mile outside the town visitors to the beach at low tide can see the famous “Ammonite Graveyard” an area of Blue Lias pavement that is full of fossils of Ammonites, mainly from the genus Coroniceras.  There are two main theories put forward as to why such a large number of one type of Ammonite are found fossilised together, perhaps this is fossil evidence of a mass death after mating.  Alternatively, the “graveyard” could have been formed as a result of a local extinction event, perhaps an algal bloom occurred changing the environment and killing off this one type of Ammonite, the bodies of the dead and dying creatures settled together in a still, shallow area of sea and became fossils producing the spectacular fossil bed that can be seen today.

The Ammonite Graveyard on the Foreshore of Monmouth Beach

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture shows a small section of the famous Ammonite graveyard on Monmouth beach, these fossils can be found in the Blue Lias pavement that is exposed at low tide.

It is certainly an awesome sight, occasionally the odd fool hardy visitor will try to remove a fossil.  It is virtually impossible to do so without destroying the specimen, these fossils are best left in situ so that everyone can enjoy them.

4 05, 2008

Dimetrodon was not a Dinosaur

By | May 4th, 2008|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page|0 Comments

Confusion over the Pelycosaur Dimetrodon

Although found in a lot dinosaur model sets, the sail-backed reptile known as Dimetrodon was not a dinosaur.  Dimetrodon was a synapsid, a member of a group of reptiles that has a single opening (fenestra) just behind the eye socket in the skull.  Dinosaurs, lizards, crocodiles, Aves (birds) and marine reptiles such as the Plesiosaurs were diapsids.  Diapsid vertebrates have two holes on each side of the skull.  Mammals are also synapsids, so Dimetrodon was actually more closely related to the mammal line than to the Dinosauria, although the term “mammal-like” reptile that is often applied to this genus is misleading.

An Illustration of Dimetrodon

Sail-back reptile with ferocious teeth.

Sail-back reptile with ferocious teeth.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view models and replicas of Dimetrodon: Prehistoric Animal Models and Toys

A number of species have been described, one of the largest Dimetrodon grandis measured up to 3.5 metres in length and would have weighed about as much as an African lion (Panthero leo).  Fossils have been found in North America and Europe with the last species of Dimetrodon becoming extinct around 250 million years ago.

3 05, 2008

Frog Blog (week 8) And then there were None

By | May 3rd, 2008|Animal News Stories, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

No sign of Tadpoles in the Pond

Spring has finally arrived and we have been enjoying a period of settled, warm weather with temperatures up to 20 degrees Celsius (not bad for our part of the world, at this time of year).

Staff have been keeping a close watch on the pond, after the virtual disappearance of the tadpoles just a few days after hatching.  The last sighting was on Tuesday morning (April 29th) when one tadpole was seen swimming close to the large clump of Elodea towards the centre of the pond.  The pond looks very healthy, the water is clear, well oxygenated and there is certainly plenty of invertebrate life in the pond, but no tadpoles.

We suspect that the tadpoles may have been eaten, it is certainly true that we would expect only a very few to reach the adult stage and leave the pond as little froglets.  According to informed literature mortality rates for these animals can be as high as 99.95% but it is slightly shocking to have to contend with the thought that hundreds of tadpoles met an untimely death just a few days after hatching and finally freeing themselves from their protective jelly.

Some team members had hoped that the tadpoles had simply concealed themselves amongst the pond weed and were remaining inconspicuous, but as the water has warmed up due to the higher temperatures we would have expected to find more signs of tadpole activity.  No tadpoles have been observed for over a week.

As for what might have caused the demise of our tadpole population, we are still debating a number of theories.  Frustratingly we have no evidence to work with, the tadpoles were around in profusion a couple of weeks ago and now there are virtually no signs of them.  Many could be hiding in the weed or silt at the bottom of the pond but if this is not the case then we have to consider what might have wiped them out.

Tadpoles have many predators and succumb to fungal and viral infections.  The absence of any bodies to be seen, coupled with the relatively healthy state of the tadpole population and the healthy state of the pond itself leads us to discount these theories.

We think they have been eaten, but by what?  Certainly, Blackbirds and Robins eat tadpoles and catch them by wading into the shallows.  We have seen Blackbirds in particular around the pond, we are away of a nest site nearby and we have observed these birds taking a bath in the pond but no one has seen them catching and eating the tadpoles.

The majority of us suspect that the other pond life has decimated the tadpole population.  Once out of their protective jelly and swimming freely they would have been easy prey for the newly emerged water-boatmen.  However, the main culprits may be the numerous damsel-fly larvae that can be seen in the pond.  There are a large number and these are known to be voracious predators.  We suspect that many tadpoles may have ended up being eaten by these creatures.  We have a number of damsel-fly nymphs in the pond, they can be distinguished from other larvae by the three appendages that stick out like fans from the back of the thorax.  These are not part of the tail but the caudal lamellae, a set of gills.  There are a number of different sized larvae in the pond, this is not surprising considering that they can spend up to 5 years at this nymph stage

These larvae are ambush predators and hunt mainly at night and at the moment they are the number one suspects as we set out to investigate our tadpole disappearance.

2 05, 2008

Those Nasty Velociraptors

By | May 2nd, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Vicious Velociraptors

Although much smaller than the “Velociraptors” depicted in the Jurassic Park trilogy, this little Theropod dinosaur was armed with a seven centimetre long, strongly curved second toe claw and it possessed about eighty sharp teeth in its jaws.  Described by some palaeontologists as being “poodle-sized”, it may have been one of the smaller “raptors”, but its vicious reputation as so successfully portrayed in the cinema was strongly deserved.

An Illustration of Velociraptor

Vicious Velociraptor.

Vicious Velociraptor.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Like all members of the Dromaeosauridae (swift lizards), this dinosaur had a long, stiff tail.  The tail could not be raised very high, but it could be moved from side to side.  It has been speculated that the tail functioned like a rudder to help the animal to balance as it ran.  It probably fed on small lizards, mammals, baby dinosaurs and even dinosaur eggs, but in a pack it would have been capable of mobbing and bringing down much larger prey.

As for its vicious reputation, this is well deserved.  It was probably a cannibal too.  A baby Velociraptor skull has been discovered with two little holes in the top.  The teeth of an adult Velociraptor fit perfectly into these holes – nasty critter that Velociraptor (Velociraptor mongoliensis).

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