All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
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21 07, 2008

Review of Summer Edition of Prehistoric Times (Edition 86)

By | July 21st, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Magazine Reviews, Main Page|0 Comments

Review of Summer Edition of Prehistoric Times (Edition 86)

Another fact filled edition of Prehistoric Times is just out, this is the Summer edition of the quarterly magazine for Dinosaur enthusiasts and model collectors.  As always the standard of editing and article writing is high with lots of information about new models and the latest developments in palaeontology crammed into the magazine’s 60 colour pages.

The front cover features a Carcharodontosaurus “shark-toothed lizard”, an Allosaurid Theropod from mid-Cretaceous North Africa.  A representative of a family of dinosaurs that may well turn out to be the largest meat-eating dinosaurs of all.

The Front Cover of Prehistoric Times (ed. 86)

Issue 86

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks

There is an extensive article that brings together the latest research on these particular carnivores, informing the reader about the first discoveries of Carcharodontosaurids as well us providing updates on the latest interpretations of recently found meat-eaters which may also be classified a members of this dinosaur family.

In addition, there is a super and very practical article written by William Stout on how to become a paleoartist plus amongst all the other product reviews and news stories there is the first part of a feature by Tracy Ford on swimming dinosaurs.

Pleasing to see those early pioneers of the Sabre-Tooth look the Gorgonopsids are included in this edition.  There are lots of drawings of this fierce animal which have been sent in by readers and the article provides readers with further details on some of the 40 different species of family Gorgonopsidae.  Gorgonopsids had their profile raised when one of their kind, Gorgonops was featured in the BBC TV series “Walking with Monsters” and the first series of ITV’s action adventure series “Primeval”.

To subscribe to Prehistoric Times: Prehistoric Times Magazine

20 07, 2008

Happy Birthday Sir Richard Owen

By | July 20th, 2008|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Famous Figures, Main Page|0 Comments

Happy Birthday Sir Richard Owen

Sir Richard Owen, English anatomist and palaeontologist was born this day in 1804.  Born in Lancaster, in the north west of England, he rose from relatively humble origins as a university educated surgeon’s apprentice to become one of the most prominent and eminent scientists of the 19th Century.

He pioneered the science of vertebrate palaeontology conducting extensive research into extinct mammals, reptiles and birds.  Perhaps he is best remembered for two particular contributions to the world of science.  He coined the phrase “Dinosauria” meaning “Terrible Lizards” or “Fearfully Great Lizards”, hence the term Dinosaur was created.

Sir Richard Owen

Picture Credit: The Natural History Museum

Note

The bones in the picture are the giant leg bones of the huge flightless bird the New Zealand Moa.

A manipulative and skillful person, Owen was keen to promote himself and his achievements, often to the detriment of his scientific rivals.  The naming of Dinosaurs as a separate and distinct order of reptiles illustrates his scheming.  It has been claimed that when the paper describing the similarities of Megalosaurus and Iguanodon and identifying them as a distinct order of reptiles – the Dinosaurs was published, many were wrongly dated as August 1841 and not April 1842 (the actual date of publication).   As a result Sir Richard Owen was able to claim that he had come to these conclusions much earlier than any of his peers.

Courted by aristocracy and royalty Sir Richard Owen (he was knighted in 1884), rose to the highest echelons in Victorian society and he is regarded as a brilliant anatomist and scientist with perhaps his most important work being the four volume “History of British Fossil Reptiles” first published in 1849.  His second major contribution to popular science was his determination to unite all the various fossil and anatomical collections under one roof.  He was the driving force behind the creation of the British Museum of Natural History (now the Natural History Museum), in South Kensington, London.  This museum opened up science to the public and gave ordinary people access to knowledge, indeed the museum has often been cited as model for the later museums that were to follow in other major cities in the world.  There is some irony to this as Owen based much of his plans for the London museum on the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris.

Although often criticised for his willingness to discredit fellow scientists and there is some evidence to suggest that he wrongly claimed scientific discoveries as his own, Sir Richard was instrumental in developing the science we know today as palaeontology.

Technically, Sir Richard Owen was not the first person to classify dinosaurs as a separate group from the extant reptile orders, The German palaeontologist Hermann von Meyer viewed the dinosaurs as a separate group as early as 1832.  He classified dinosaurs as “Saurians”.  During the early 1830s only a few dinosaurs had been named and described, Owen was able to identify a number of anatomical characteristics that showed that genera such as Megalosaurus and Iguanodon were related.  Although only a few bones and teeth of Megalosaurus had been found, it had been classified as a meat-eating quadruped.  More remains of Iguanodon had been discovered and this animal had been classified as a four-footed herbivore.  The breakthrough came for Owen when he was able to study  a newly discovered Iguanodon sacrum and compare it to a Megalosaurus sacrum that was in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford.  The five sacral vertebrae forming the lower part of the spine of these animals were fused in exactly the same way.  It was Owen who grasped the significance of the adaptation, as it would have enabled these animals to carry their huge bulk on land.  This and other anatomical features led Owen to conclude that these animals deserved a distinct classification from other reptiles and this led him to develop the Dinosauria classification.

19 07, 2008

One of our favourite Dinosaurs – Protoceratops

By | July 19th, 2008|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Protoceratops – A Favourite Dinosaur amongst Palaeontologists

A few years ago whilst relaxing after a hard day’s work on a fossil site in Alberta, Canada, the topic of conversation moved away from the merits of the Hadrosaur log jam that we had been mapping to a discussion of what were the most important vertebrate fossil finds of all time.

Each team member was given the opportunity to choose a particular specimen and then to put forward a coherent argument as to why their choice should be awarded the accolade of being designated an important vertebrate fossil.  A number of candidates were put forward, fossils such as both the London and Berlin Archaeopteryx fossils, for example.  Another contender was the Ichthyostega fossils (evidence of a late Devonian tetrapod) described by the Swedish palaeontologist Gunnar Säve-Söderberg.

After much discussion and lively debate, eventually a consensus amongst us was reached.  It was decided that although the nominations were all valid candidates for the accolade as important vertebrate fossils; one particular suggestion stood out when compared to the others.  One of our group had not put forward a single fossil specimen as their nomination but instead had suggested an entire genus, or at least one dinosaur species as a representative of that genus.  The genus suggested was Protoceratops and the particular species was Protoceratops andrewsi.   They argued that Protoceratops, as one of the best known of all dinosaurs, deserved to be considered as an important part of the vertebrate fossil record.

Many hundreds of fossil skeletons of Protoceratops have been found, in China and Mongolia, so many specimens that palaeontologists have nick-named this little dinosaur as “the sheep of the Cretaceous”.  The first fossils of this member of the horned dinosaur family were found in 1922, on one of the many American Museum of Natural History backed expeditions to Mongolia, led by the famous American adventurer Roy Chapman Andrews.

It was Protoceratops that finally provided definitive proof that dinosaurs laid eggs, with the discover of Protoceratops nests.  A number of nests were discovered at the bottom of a cliff and this provided evidence that these dinosaurs may have nested in colonies.

An Illustration of Protoceratops

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Protoceratops was a herbivore, living in the late Cretaceous of China and Mongolia.  The large number of vertebrate fossils found have enabled scientists to build up a detailed knowledge of the ecosystem, an ecosystem dominated by dinosaurs but one that shows the rise and diversity of mammals as well.  The herds of Protoceratops shared their world with the Ornithomimid Gallimimus, as well as Maniraptorans such as Velociraptor and Oviraptor.  The top predator was the Tyrannosaur – Tarbosaurus baatar.  Living in the shadow of the dinosaurs were many types of early mammal, not only placental mammals such as Kennalestes but the ancient mammal group of the multituberculates were also represented.  The habitat seems to have been quite dry and arid, but the fauna and flora of the area was diverse.  However, in some sediments 75% of all the vertebrate fossils found are fossils of Protoceratops, such is the abundance of the particular dinosaur’s remains.

As well as providing evidence of nesting, a Protoceratops has been preserved in a battle with a Velociraptor, the only example of dinosaurs fighting in the fossil record to date.  This fossil, comprising a tangle of bones showing the two animals in their duel to the death was unearthed in Mongolia in 1971.  Perhaps more importantly from a palaeontological perspective is that scientists have fossils of this dinosaur from embryos to mature fully grown adults so they have been able to obtain some understanding of how these animals grew and developed.  Not only has an appreciation of the ontogeny of Protoceratops been possible but the different sizes and shapes of the head crest has also helped provide information on sexual dimorphism in dinosaurs.

After considering all these factors, our group decided that the humble “sheep of the Cretaceous”  should be considered in the same august company as the other more spectacular finds such as the Solnhofen Archaeopteryx fossils.

Unfortunately, there are not many models of Protoceratops around at the moment, although the American Museum of Natural History included a model of a Protoceratops within their Feathered Dinosaur range, presumably as Protoceratops would have known feathered dinosaurs as many feathered Dromaeosaurs shared its world.  Also the set of models in this series includes a Psittacosaurus, a dinosaur often associated with Protoceratops.  Indeed, many dinosaur books illustrate Psittacosaurus and Protoceratops together however, although they are both associated with the evolution of the later Ceratopsians such as Styracosaurus and Chasmosaurus, Psittacosaurs lived millions of years before Protoceratops.

The Protoceratops Model alongside a Psittacosaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the Feathered Dinosaur tube: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

18 07, 2008

Shedding Light on Titanosaur Trackways – Literally

By | July 18th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Laser Beams help Scientists Interpret Dinosaur Footprints

Trackways left by dinosaurs as they wandered across soft mud millions of years ago can provide palaeontologists with information on long extinct animal’s behaviour.  Trackways are trace fossils, these preserve evidence of the activity of animals.  Such sets of footprints can help scientists calculate the travelling speed, stride length and other characteristics of the animals that left them.  If there are a group of footprints fossilised, they can provide clues to dinosaur herding behaviour.  Trackway evidence suggests that Sauropods (long-necked dinosaurs), moved about in closely knit and tightly grouped herds, with mature animals on the outside and younger, smaller animals on the inside.  Large footprints on the perimeter of the group and smaller footprints towards the middle provide the scientific evidence to show that Sauropods moved around like this to give some protection to the younger animals within the herd.

Signs of heavily churned up sediments which contain Mesozoic fossils could have been caused by the trampling of large numbers of dinosaurs, for example, at what was a waterhole, or lake shore.  This phenomenon is known as “dinoturbation”.

However, problems arise when geological processes lead to the movement of the strata so that they are no longer presented in a horizontal plane.  There are a number of examples of this within the known fossil record, some of them are classified by Ichnologists (scientists that study footprints), as “megatracks”.  A megatrack site is an area where dinosaurs have left footprints that have become fossilised across huge areas of land.  Some palaeontologists believe that these sites represent migration routes, prehistoric trackways that may have been used by groups of dinosaurs following the rains, searching for fresh feeding or heading for breeding grounds.  Some of these routes may have been created over hundreds of migrations.

One such dinosaur trackway site is at Fumanya in the south-east Pyrenees in Spain.  Here the Cretaceous sediments have been raised up to a slant of 60 degrees and the trackways cover a distance of nearly 2,000 metres.  The footprints have preserved the passage of a group of enormous Titanosaurs as they crossed a muddy plain, (long-necked dinosaurs, the last type of Sauropod to evolve).

Unfortunately, the footprint layer is very soft and crumbling and any attempt to climb the rock face to get a close look at the tracks could result in irreversible damage.  To examine the tracks at a safe distance would have proved problematical but thanks to the ingenuity of the University of Manchester team given the job of analysing the prints, this difficulty has been overcome.  The Manchester team scanned the rock surface and the prints using LiDAR, a laser mapping system that produces detailed 3-D images.  The LiDAR system (termed LiDAR – Light Detection and Range), provided an accurate 3-D contour map of the site.  This digital process represents a huge leap forward (no pun intended for the Ichnologists), compared to more traditional methods of study involving close physical examination and plaster cast copies.

The higher resolution and the accuracy of the images will help palaeontologists to better understand how these huge animals walked, which part of the foot was lifted from the ground first as a step was made and the role of the claws in helping to provide support and grip as these dinosaurs moved.  The use of LiDAR in this way is an interesting application of the technology.  It is used in geology and archaeological excavations as well as for traffic enforcement, where this system is used by a number of police forces to detect speeding motorists.  LiDAR is able to detect and calculate the speed of a single car within a group of moving vehicles and in certain situations, it is the system of choice when compared to the more traditional RADAR gun.

17 07, 2008

Update on Lyme Regis Landslide

By | July 17th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Geology, Main Page|1 Comment

Latest news on Lyme Regis Landslide

Late on the evening of 6th May this year, there was a major landslide at the cliffs between Lyme Regis and the village of Charmouth, on the Dorset coast.  A section of cliff, approximately 400 metres long slipped and this led to the biggest landslide in the area for nearly 100 years.  Everything Dinosaur team members had been at that very spot just 24-hours before scouring the beach looking for fossils, they had commented on the excess water within some sections of the cliff and there was evidence of recent rock falls both on the Black Ven side of Lyme Regis and further to the west on Monmouth beach.

Despite the dangerous nature of the cliffs, we observed a number of tourists (after all it was the Bank Holiday weekend), venturing very close to the base of the cliffs, even one fool hardy group started to climb up a section a few hundred yards to the west of the Charmouth visitor centre.

The Dangerous Cliffs at Lyme Regis

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above was taken at Monmouth beach in early May, evidence of a recent rock fall can clearly be seen.  The cliffs are extremely dangerous and they are best avoided, as the beach itself can provide plenty of opportunities to find fossils.  The soft mud and clay gets washed out of the cliffs and deposits fossils on the shoreline, so there is a constant supply of new fossils to find.  This is a much safer option, especially when you consider that after the landslide on the 6th May there were boulders the size of cars tumbling down onto the base of the cliffs.

According to Brandon Lennon, a professional fossil collector, the landslip has cut Black Ven in half, from a fossil collector’s perspective the landslide affected the wrong section of cliff, if the Church Cliffs section closer to Lyme Regis had collapsed then many more vertebrate and invertebrate fossils would have been exposed.  It is highly likely that more Ichthyosaur and Plesiosaur remains would have been discovered with maybe one or two Pterosaur fossils.

Unfortunately, the landslip laid bare the old town rubbish dump, and a lot of rubbish and debris has ended up on the beach.  The cliffs remain unstable and for a few days after the main landslide a number of smaller slips occurred, one of which was filmed by Brandon.

To view the 4 minute clip of Lyme Regis landslip: Lyme Regis Landslip May 2008

Our thanks to Brandon for permission to link to this clip.

Immediately, following the main landslide many local fossil collectors gathered in expectation of finding spectacular new Jurassic fossils, unfortunately, so far the results have been disappointing.

Brandon comments: “The odd vertebra has been found on a very low tide and this is the only safe time you can go out to the Black Ven.  There is a lot of broken glass all over the place and even big lumps of metal work, if the fall had occurred a few hundred feet nearer to Lyme Regis we would be finding just great stuff everywhere”!

Perhaps the safest way to explore the beaches at Lyme Regis is to go out with a professional fossil collector who will be able to guide you across the beaches and show you the best places to find fossils.  Local knowledge can be extremely useful and indeed if you want to get the most out of a trip to this part of the Dorset coast, a guided fossil work is a must.

For instance, Brandon and his team have modified their guided fossil collecting trips in the light of the recent landslide.  At the moment he is leading trips to Monmouth beach to the west of Lyme Regis, taking in a visit to the world famous ammonite graveyard and to see the sunstone a little further beyond the Blue Lias Limestones at Seven Rocks Point towards Pinhay Bay.  This area has also suffered from rock falls recently.  The rough weather has led to the cliffs in this area becoming saturated and the landslip at Seven Rocks Point has moved forward a bit.  Under the guidance of a professional such as Brandon, tour parties are escorted to areas where scouting for fossils can be safely carried out.  Visitors also have the opportunity to view items that they themselves would not necessarily spot, for example, just beyond Seven Rocks Point the recent erosion has exposed a big Arietites sp. ammonite.  It is sticking out of the cliffs by a waterfall and will fall onto the beach in the near future.  Large Arietites are relatively rare although this genus of ammonite is very important to geologists as a number of species act as zonal fossils and assist with the process of biostratigraphy (fossils used to date the relative age of rock strata).

To book a guided fossil walk with Brandon, walks take place daily from Saturday to Tuesday, for most of the year: Lyme Regis Fossil Walks with Brandon Lennon

16 07, 2008

Dinosaur Sounds

By | July 16th, 2008|Educational Activities, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

What sort of sounds did Dinosaurs Make?

No dinosaur film or TV documentary is complete without the roaring and bellowing sounds of the animals being portrayed.  However, the noises and calls added by the dubbing team to the soundtrack are based on assumptions and scientific guesswork.  The sound an animal makes is not preserved within the fossil record, so palaeontologists have to turn detective to try to work out what sort of sounds long extinct creatures would have made.

Most reptile species around today are largely silent, however, herpetologists (people who study reptiles) are beginning to understand more about the complex communication between individuals of the same species and how reptiles react to their surroundings using their senses.  For example, for many years, scientists thought that as snakes show no signs of an external ear structure they were deaf.  However, research has shown that snakes are sensitive to vibrations of the ground and that they do possess a sense of hearing although the mode of its operation is unique to the Squamata order.  The quadrate, a bone located towards the back of the skull is able to respond to airborne sounds which are transmitted through the skin.  The vibrations that are produced are transmitted to the cochlea, converted to electrical signals which can then be interpreted by the brain.  It is believed that snakes can pick up low frequency airborne sounds in this manner, having a hearing range of around middle C to high C.  Indeed, some scientists have claimed that snakes are more sensitive to sounds in this frequency range than domestic cats.

Snakes are related to lizards and lizards have a sense of hearing so it would be logical to assume that this sense has not been lost by the snakes, merely that the external ear has disappeared and modification to the receipt of sounds has evolved.

The noisiest reptiles in the modern world are the Crocodilians – the crocodiles, alligators, caymans and gharials.  The noise levels generated varies between the species, from hissing noises that are made as a threat gesture to the low-frequency sounds made by males to attract mates in the breeding season.  A lot of work has been done on the sounds made by American Alligators.  Studies have shown that the sounds produced by the males (called bulls), varies depending on the size of the animal.  Deeper and more penetrating sounds are made by the larger males.  The larger the male the louder the sound and the greater distance it will travel.

American Alligator Bellowing

Picture Credit: Larry Linton, Florida

Alligators have no vocal cords as such but make noise by sucking air into their lungs and then forcing it out again.  The low frequency sounds produced are so intense that the water dances on their backs due to the vibration.  The sounds travel for long distances underwater (water is a better transmitter of sound than air).

Animals can use sounds for a variety of purposes, to keep in touch with their family group, to call to their parents (such as the beeping noise made by baby crocodiles), to ward off rivals and to attract a mate.  This kind of communication amongst dinosaurs would have been common place, however, the fossil record provides little actual evidence of the sounds dinosaurs made or indeed how their sense of hearing would have operated.

It is not clear whether dinosaurs had vocal cords, soft tissues are rarely preserved as fossils, perhaps the recently discovered Hadrosaur mummy, nicknamed “Dakota” will shed some further light on the sounds dinosaurs were capable of producing.

To read more about the discovery of this dinosaur fossil complete with skin and some internal organs preserved: Dinosaur Mummy unlocks Duck-Billed Dinosaur Secrets

Birds, like crocodiles are relatively close relatives of dinosaurs.  They can produce an extraordinary arrange of sounds, from beautiful, lilting birdsong to harsh cries and shrieks depending on the species.  Birds can also vary the tone and pitch of the noises they produce as well as controlling the volume of their calls.  Birds do possess a larynx, a small organ located near the top of the windpipe, but it is believed to have only a rudimentary role in sound creation, merely helping to control the flow of air.  The sounds we make are made by the larynx and our vocal cords, birds have a specialised sound producing organ (called the syrinx) at the base of their windpipe (trachea).  It is from the syrinx and the elasticated membranes within it that the sounds birds make are largely controlled.

It has been assumed by scientists that vocalisation would have been very important to dinosaurs, with different species, and indeed different individuals within a species making distinct sounds.  The cheeks and beaks found in many Ornithopods such as Iguanodonts would have altered and helped modify the sounds these animals produced.  Perhaps, quieter, frequent chirps between herd members to keep in contact with each other and then louder, bellows to warn of danger.  The larger the animal the lower the frequency of the sound likely to be produced.  Compsognathus, a small bipedal dinosaur of the Jurassic, no more than 3 feet long would have probably produced high pitched squeaks and squawks, whilst a giant Sauropod such as Apatosaurus would have produced very deep, low frequency sounds beyond the range of human hearing.  The sounds these huge animals produced would have caused vibrations (similar to the low frequency vibrations produced by alligators).  It is possible that these animals could have detected these vibrations through their feet.  Another method through which these large animals could keep in contact with each other.

The greatest amount of research into dinosaur sounds and hearing has involved studies of the duck-billed dinosaurs, known as the Hadrosaurs.  The reasons for this are two-fold, there are a lot of Hadrosaur fossils, particularly skull material to study and many of these animals had strange, hollow crests associated with their skulls (the Lambeosaurine Hadrosaurs had the most spectacular crests).

Advances in our understanding of dinosaur hearing were made when a very well preserved skull of a Corythosaurus (Lambeosaurine), revealed an intact hearing bone – the columella.  Although, the Corythosaurus was over 9 metres long, the columella measured just 50 mm in length and was extremely delicate being only 2.5 mm wide at its widest part.  Such a delicate bone would have been extremely sensitive to airborne vibrations and this evidence in conjunction with studies of Hadrosaur brain-cases which show a large part of the brain dedicated to hearing, indicates that these dinosaurs had a very good sense of hearing.

A Scale Drawing of Corythosaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A group of scientists at the Sandia National Laboratories in collaboration with palaeontologists at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science took the study of dinosaur vocalisation to a new level when they used computer modelling to recreate the voice of a dinosaur.    The work, although now ten years old, represents one of the most sophisticated studies into the airways and nasal passageways of dinosaurs.

A skull of another type of Lambeosaurine duck-bill, a Parasaurolophus (P. walkeri) had been discovered in 1995, the skull was carefully cleaned and prepared before a series of CAT scans were taken to provide evidence of the internal structure of the skull.  From the analysis of the internal airways and nasal passages a computer model was constructed that would interpret the flow of air forced through the skull crest by the animal.  This enabled the team to generate sounds that the dinosaur would have made.  The result was a series of low-pitched growls and rumblings, the first dinosaur calls to have been heard for 65 million years.

It is not clear how accurate the sounds made were, but the notes produced were typical of the sounds made by a large animal with a long windpipe such as Parasaurolophus possessed.  Many scientists believe that the crests of Hadrosaurs helped them make distinctive calls as well as being used as visual signalling devices, hence the trend to show brightly coloured crests in the latest models of duck-billed dinosaurs.

The Orange Crest of a Model Parasaurolophus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys for Girls and Boys – Dinosaur Models

15 07, 2008

Government of Tanzania Calls for Return of Fossils

By | July 15th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|1 Comment

Tanzania’s Government Calls on Germans to Return Fossils

Ministers in the Government of Tanzania have called on their counterparts in Germany to repatriate dinosaur fossils so that the people of Tanzania can benefit from them and tourism revenues can be boosted.  The fossils collected by expeditions to what was then German East Africa (Tendaguru), include the Brachiosaur specimen on show at the Humboldt Museum in Berlin.  This exhibit first went on display in 1937 and has been the centre piece of the museum’s dinosaur collection ever since.  The skeleton at 22 metres long and standing 13 metres tall, is one of the largest mounted dinosaur fossils on permanent exhibit anywhere in the world.  This particular Brachiosaurus is actually a composite of at least 5 individuals found at the Tendaguru site.  In total, the German expeditions between 1909 and 1912 brought back the remains of 34 Brachiosaurs, as well as fossils of other spectacular late Jurassic dinosaurs.

It was the German palaeontologist Werner Janensch who led the expeditions, an attempt to demonstrate German imperial ambitions in Africa and compete with the dinosaur discoveries of North America.  Now the Tanzanian Government wants its dinosaurs back.  The Governors of the Humboldt Museum are likely to put up a fight as the Brachiosaur and other exhibits have just been the subject of extensive restoration and re-modelling, part of a large investment programme being undertaken by the museum.  The Brachiosaur has been re-built using the latest scientific interpretations and data, this has resulted in the animal being put into a new anatomical posture, increasing the height of the mounted exhibit to 13 metres.

The Brachiosaur Exhibit at the Humboldt

Picture Credit: Speigel Online International

To read more about the re-building of this exhibit: Humboldt Brachiosaurus gets a Face Lift

Scientists have been debating whether or not the Tanzanian specimens are representatives of the Brachiosaurus genus.  Several palaeontologists have published papers highlighting significant anatomical differences between the African Brachiosaurs and those relatively few Brachiosaurs found in America.  It is possible that the more gracile Brachiosaur from Tanzania may be reclassified as anther genus – the name Giraffatitan “Giraffe Titan” has already been proposed.

To view a model of Brachiosaurus:  Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism within the Tanzanian Government, Mrs Shamsa Mwangunga, told her Parliament that she was holding talks and hoping to use the likes of UNESCO to put pressure on the Germans to release the fossils and other artefacts.  It is her intention to bring the Brachiosaurs back to Tanzania or at the very least to conclude an agreement whereby the Tanzanian Government benefited financially from all the tourists attracted to the German museum.

The Minister also commented that there were moves to start the process of bringing back early hominid skeletons that were found in Olduvai Gorge and Laetolia that are preserved in Kenya.  Most of the early hominid remains were discovered by Mary and Louis Leakey, a husband and wife team whose fossil finds proved that human evolution was centred on Africa.

A number of precedents have already been set as to the return of ancient items, relics, human remains and fossils to the lands where they were found.  It is likely that the debate will continue for some time, although regarded as national treasures and valuable sources of income, it is important to consider the preservation and safe keeping of these exceptionally rare items.  It would be a great loss to science if these precious fossils were damaged in transit back to Tanzania or indeed access to them for study was restricted as a result of an ongoing dispute.

14 07, 2008

Review of Journey to the Centre of the Earth

By | July 14th, 2008|Main Page, Movie Reviews and Movie News|0 Comments

Movie Review – Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Out this week is the new Brendan Fraser vehicle – “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, a film that attempts to update the classic Jules Verne novel by placing the story in the 21st Century and using the latest 3-D digital effects.  For Brendan Fraser fans this movie whets the appetite before the latest “Mummy” movie is released later on this Summer.  Fraser seems to be in danger of becoming typecast as the macho, “laugh in the face of danger”, action hero as he basically reprises his “Mummy” role in this Eric Brevig directed adventure.

Playing a Professor who along with his nephew (played by Josh Hutcherson), the inevitable child sidekick, and the film love interest Anita Briem, our hero travels to Iceland to find out what has happened to his brother (the father of Sean, the character played by Josh Hutcherson).

Falling through a convenient volcanic fissure, the brave band find themselves in a lost, underground world and that the novel penned by Verne is not a work of fiction at all but a factual account.  Naturally, they have to battle all sorts of creatures and survive various scrapes in order to get themselves back to the surface.  The film is short on plot (no real explanation is given as to how the Verne novel has been transferred to modern times), and long on special, digital effects.  It is almost if the film itself is swamped by the need to show off the 3-D technology, for example does the audience need to be treated to Brendan Fraser rinsing and spitting water on them.

The original novel (published in 1864, in French as “Voyage au Centre de la Terre), was based on a published scientific text, and at the time little was known about the properties of the Earth’s crust, mantle and core.  These days the emphasis is on adventure and the special effects.  Having watched the film it is possible to imagine a theme park ride being created to entertain tourists at one of the many resorts in the USA.  Indeed, one is left with the feeling that the movie may have been written especially to accommodate the technical requirements of a theme park attraction.

Dinosaurs make an appearance, along with ferocious flying piranha fish, birds that glow and strange floating rocks.  The Tyrannosaur chase scene is a little reminiscent of many of the T. rex scenes in films such as Jurassic Park 1 and 2, we have sort of seen this all before but at least the 3-D adds a new dimension (no pun intended).  Professor Anderson (Fraser’s character) is asked in mid chase “haven’t you ever seen a dinosaur before”, in the typical understated tones of our action hero he replies “yes, but never one with its skin on”!  The trouble is we have all seen CGI dinosaurs before and much of the spectacle is lost as the characters are hurled from one predicament to the next.  It is all good, wholesome family fun, although it does contain one or two scary moments that might upset very young children (hence the PG rating).

Fine film to view on a Summer afternoon, a reasonable way to entertain the children for a few hours over the long Summer break, but if they want real excitement and adventure, try the original Verne novels – much more enthralling.

13 07, 2008

Summer Holiday Activities – Baking with Dinosaurs

By | July 13th, 2008|Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Teaching|1 Comment

Summer Holiday Activities – Baking with Dinosaurs

I am sure many young Dinosaur fans would have watched the ground breaking BBC Television series “Walking with Dinosaurs” first aired on BBC1 in 1999.  This ground-breaking television series used CGI imagery and animatronics coupled with the latest scientific research to bring back to life dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures.

In total, six episodes were made, starting with “New Blood” which depicted the Late Triassic and showed the rise of the dinosaurs to “Death of a Dynasty” which covered the extra-terrestrial impact that marked the end of the Cretaceous.  This work was a collaboration between a number of universities, museums and designers to recreate as accurately as possible the world as it was during the Mesozoic.

The subsequent TV rights, merchandise, video and DVD sales have helped to swell the coffers of the BBC to a considerable extent.  The “Walking with” programmes have provided the BBC with very welcome revenue, these programmes have been some of the best-selling of all the BBC’s output.

Unfortunately, even the most avid home movie fan is unlikely to be able to recreate the BBC TV series, at least we at Everything Dinosaur can offer an alternative that might keep your little ones occupied for a part of the long summer holiday – Baking with Dinosaurs.

Our team has carried out a great deal of research and testing of home baking products in the late winter and early spring and they recommended several types of dinosaur shaped cookie cutters – ideal for making simple dinosaur shaped snacks or biscuits.

As well as testing the cookie cutters and such like, the team have published a number of recipes for making dinosaur themed biscuits.  This blog has published lots of recipe ideas including making dinosaur gingerbread and birthday cakes.  All the recipes have been tried out by our team members and our weblog provides pictures of the finished biscuits along with ingredients and instructions.

The recipes are simple to follow and are ideal to help pass a little bit of the summer holiday time, with a grown up supervising the cooking activities.  The biscuits are a great addition to any dinosaur party food and they are fun and easy to make.

We have also used dinosaur shaped cutters for modelling work using clay and other materials, the cutters work equally well whether making food or simply having fun with plasticine or other materials.

The dinosaur puzzle cookie cutter is a particularly clever product.  Made from robust, sturdy plastic, it consists of several pieces that fit together to make a large motif for a long-necked dinosaur (Sauropod).  You can make your own edible dinosaur puzzle.  The set even comes with a smaller long-necked dinosaur biscuit cutter that allows you to make smaller, dinosaur shaped biscuits and snacks.

The Dinosaur Puzzle Cookie Cutter

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

When some of our team members organised tests with this particular product, shortbread biscuits were made.  The young children we were working with found the cutters easy to use and had great fun decorating the biscuits once we had allowed them to cool.

As I recall, we simply made up some small amounts of icing sugar in several pots, a few drops of food colouring enabled our young chefs to colour the icing sugar and we had red, green, yellow and even pink dinosaurs.  These biscuits were then decorated in a variety of ways.  It was certainly a fun way to spend an afternoon, and once washed the biscuit cutters were ready to use again.  There were plenty of recipes for us to try in the little recipe book that was provided in the box.

Some of the Results of our Labours

Baking with dinosaurs, a fun activity for the summer holidays.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur is a UK-based supplier of dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed models, toys and merchandise, check-out our website: Everything Dinosaur

12 07, 2008

Confirmation of Tadpole Sighting in Pond

By | July 12th, 2008|Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Tadpole Sighting Confirmed

After the unconfirmed sighting of a tadpole in the pond at the back of our offices on Monday (July 7th), when we had thought that all the tadpoles in our pond had perished, we set a competition to see if anyone could prove some tadpoles were still alive.

The last tadpoles had been seen way back at the end of April, for the whole of May and June not a single tadpole had been observed by any of the Everything Dinosaur staff so we had assumed that none of them had survived.  However, last  Monday afternoon, one of our team members claimed to have seen a single tadpole in the shallows.

The prize for proving that at least one tadpole remained was to choose the biscuits we purchase for our tea breaks.  Team members have been taking turns to observe the pond life and no evidence had emerged by Friday so we thought that this little contest would run for a few more days.  However, a tadpole was watched for a few seconds by two members of staff before it disappeared again into the pond weed.

A sighting that had been verified by a second person is good enough so the biscuits for the week are going to be Viennese Whirls.  We debated for a while whether Viennese Whirls are biscuits or not, after all they described my many as “shortcake fancies” but we are not going to argue over a technicality.

Now all we need is photographic evidence, perhaps as the remaining tadpoles develop limbs and develop into the “froglet” stage, we may be able to see them more frequently in the pond shallows.  Perhaps, this will give us the best chance of taking a photograph.

 

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