All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
/2008
11 12, 2008

Surveys the Key is in the Preparation

By | December 11th, 2008|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Most Popular Prehistoric Animals of 2009

Each year Everything Dinosaur reviews its product sales, web page views and a whole host of other data sources to try to identify the most popular prehistoric animals.  We conduct work with schools and students and get the pupils to tell us which are their favourite animals from the past.  In addition, we count up the number of drawings received from dinosaur fans and other items related to prehistoric animals and from our database we produce a top twenty list.

To view last years survey results: The Most Popular Prehistoric Animals of 2008

We would not pretend that our work is particularly valid, or indeed that it would stand up to any statistical scrutiny, but it is only a bit of fun and we do it so as to monitor trends in popularity amongst prehistoric creatures.  It also serves as a handy reference point should we be asked to look at new models or to produce an item of merchandise based on a new dinosaur.

We intend to publish the results of our analysis sometime after Christmas.  This year there has been a major piece of research undertaken into the number of dinosaurs named and identified from fossil remains found in the United Kingdom.  This “doomsday book” of dinosaurs, a research project conducted by the University of Portsmouth has helped consolidate and unify some disparate pieces of research and data.  This work has taken on greater importance as a more general review of genera is carried out.  Data from the census will help reinforce the argument put forward by some scientists for a re-classification of some of the Ornithopod specimens currently grouped under the Iguanodontids.  Likewise, this research may help with the re-definition of the Megalosaur Theropod group.

To read an article on this research work: First Census of UK Dinosaurs

10 12, 2008

Shunosaurus – A Dinosaur goes Clubbing

By | December 10th, 2008|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page|0 Comments

Shunosaurus – A Chinese Dinosaur with a Club on its Tail

The city of Zigong in Sichuan province in south-west China has a population of several million.  The city was once one of the wealthiest in the Orient as it was the centre of the region’s salt trade, and although it has a rich legacy of human history, it is also at the centre of one of the most important palaeontological sites in the world.

Much of the exposed strata in the area dates back to the mid Jurassic, with sediments dating from around 170 million years ago to about 150 million years ago and a number of dinosaur fossils have been found in the area.  In Jurassic times, the region was a lush lowland with rivers slowly meandering across it and wide, scattered shallow lakes.  The forests were dominated by tall conifers and there were groves of cycads and vast amounts of ferns.  The climate and the environment seemed to have remained remarkable unchanged for millions of years, rivers deposited mud and silts and the remains of many different types of animals and plants were preserved in the soft mud.   Dead dinosaurs were entombed in the mud and their skeletons preserved without being broken up so a number of fully articulated specimens have been excavated, permitting scientists to gain a great deal of information on the Sauropods that dominated the ecosystem at the time.

The most numerous fossils of an animal classes as a “mega faunal” creature have been identified as Shunosaurus, sometimes also known as Shuosaurus.  Shunosaurus was named after the term “Shu” which is the old Chinese name for this ancient province.  Shunosaurus is pronounced “Shu-no-sore-us”, it was a relatively small Sauropod when compared to the better known and later long-necked Sauropods from the Morrison Formation of the USA, measuring around 9-10 metres in length.  The most remarkable feature of Shunosaurus was the spiked club on the end of its tail.  When the first fossils of this animal were found it was thought that the tail structure was a deformity in the specimen, but as more fossils were found this club-tail was confirmed as an anatomical feature.  The relatively stiff tail had a large round club at the end, with two pairs of spikes.

An Illustration of Shunosaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

When swung from side to side this would have made a very formidable weapon.  Shunosaurus would have been very capable of defending itself from the large meat-eating Theropods such as Gasosaurus that shared the habitat with this peaceful herbivore.

Many model manufacturers base their production in China, it is refreshing to see a model manufacturer design a Chinese dinosaur model.  American and European dinosaurs normally dominate dinosaur toy and model ranges but the diversity and importance of Chinese dinosaurs has at least been recognised by one designer and a dinosaur model of Shunosaurus has recently been added to the Everything Dinosaur – Dinosaur collection section of our website.

A Picture of the Shunosaurus Model

A dinosaur goes clubbing!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the model of Shunosaurus: Dinosaur Models for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Toys

As well as the club-like tail, Shunosaurus had another strange feature, perhaps not so obvious in the model until it is compared with other dinosaur toys and models of long-necked dinosaurs.  Shunosaurus for a Sauropod, had a relatively short neck.  As Sauropods evolved from their more primitive herbivorous ancestors, the number of vertebrae in the neck increase.  This probably helped them to adapt to a lifestyle of feeding on taller and taller trees.  Shunosaurus however, bucks this trend, so it may have fed on the understorey, on shorter shrubs and bushes – perhaps specialising in feeding on types of plants such as cycads and bennettitales.  This may have been an important evolutionary adaptation to allowed Shunosaurus to co-exist with a large number of different types of Sauropod in the Sichuan province.

9 12, 2008

Update on Last Posting Dates for Christmas

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

Last Safe Posting Dates for Christmas

The staff at Everything Dinosaur are working until 10pm (GMT) every night up until Christmas to ensure that parcels are packed and despatched in good time for the festive season.  We do all we can to ensure that there are as few delays as possible in the despatch of dinosaur toys, dinosaur games and models to customers.

Lots of chocolate and tea is being consumed at the moment, perhaps we should switch over to coffee to help us keep alert as we work late into the night to ensure orders are packed and despatched promptly.

We have organised a rota between us to ensure that as well as covering Saturdays, (permitting us to despatch parcels on a Saturday morning), Sunday is also covered.  This prevents us having to catch up on Monday morning, thus ensuring as little a delay as possible in the preparing and packing of the parcels and other items we send out this time of year.

We have tried to keep our customers informed about last safe posting dates.  We know how hard the Post Office and Royal Mail work this time of year, for example they are handling something like 60 million items of mail a day in the UK.

A couple of important dates this week to remember:

Last recommended posting date for Airmail to USA, Canada, Japan and Eastern Europe is – Wednesday 10th December

Last recommended posting date for Airmail to Western Europe is –

Friday 12th December

We know that the mail handling and delivery staff work exceptionally hard and do all they can to get parcels out to customers in time for Christmas, but these dates are important and we would recommend that they are adhered to where possible to avoid disappointment.

Confirmation of the Last Recommended Posting Dates (Royal Mail)

Source: Royal Mail

Hope this information helps, must go as I am required in the warehouse (more packing to do).

8 12, 2008

Doting Fathers – A Dinosaur Trait passed on to Modern Birds

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

Parental Care – Fathers helping to Brood the Eggs

Parental care is a behaviour strongly associated with warm-blooded animals such as mammals and birds.  From a human perspective, we can perceive a strong emotional tie between a mother and her offspring when we view the behaviour of a female chimp with her baby, we often superimpose human emotions onto our primate relatives.  Whether all the higher apes are capable of exhibiting such a range of emotions is open to debate.  Scientists and anthropologists frequently disagree over the breadth and depth of emotions that apes are able to exhibit, after all, our humanity and ability to express emotions and respond to others and their emotions is one of the defining characteristics of being human.

We perceive most mammals as having a strong bond between themselves and their young.  From a scientific perspective, mammals invest a great deal in the next generation, the females carry the embryos inside them (monotremes excepted), as opposed to the egg-laying birds and reptiles; the other members of the group of animals called Amniotes.  An Amniote is an animal whose young is internally fertilised.  In reptiles and birds the embryo is surrounded by fluid and is protected by a protective shell – an egg.  In virtually, all mammals, the developing embryo is also surrounded by fluid but is retained inside the mother’s body for some time before birth.

Maternal and paternal behaviours are easy to impose on fur covered mammals but with the cold-blooded reptiles it is perhaps more difficult to associate these alien looking, scaly creatures with parental responsibility.  We now know that a number of species of reptile demonstrate some form of parental care, in extant reptiles, this is perhaps developed to the highest degree by the crocodilians, those reptiles alive today that are most closely related to dinosaurs.

For many years, white European explorers did not believe the stories told to them by the native American Indians about Alligators looking after their young.  Scientists now know that Alligators, along with other types of crocodilian show a strong bond between their offspring and even the nest in which the eggs were laid.  Female Alligators guard the nesting sites, protecting the eggs as they incubate.  When alerted by the chirping and pipping sounds made by the young as they are about to hatch, the females will dig the nest out and escort the brood down to a nursery area, carrying many of the newly hatched baby Alligators in her jaws.  When first observed by Europeans, this behaviour was thought to be cannibalism, reinforcing the beliefs about the cold-blooded and uncaring reptiles.  Many text books written as late as the 1970s documented this behaviour and cited it as evidence of the harsh and cruel nature of crocodiles.

When the role of mammal parents is considered, the burden of responsibility for the brood and the rearing of young lies very much with the female.  In many species of mammals, the male has nothing further to do with the parenting process after mating.  Male tigers, for example, leave the impregnated female to fend for herself, give birth and to raise the cubs.  These cubs may stay with their mother for as long as two years.  The male plays no real role in raising the family – although they may offer protection indirectly by maintaining a territory and keeping rival males at bay.

With modern species of birds, in contrast, the male usually plays a role in brooding the clutch of eggs and helping to feed the hatch-lings.  Indeed, with some species of birds such as the Ostrich, it is the male who carries out the greater portion of the parental duties.  A new research paper, published in the professional journal “Science” suggests that birds may have inherited their brooding behaviours from Theropod dinosaurs.

A Place for the Father – A Fossil Theropod Nest

Picture Credit: Associated Press

The picture above is of a fossil nest of a dinosaur.  By studying the unborn, baby dinosaurs preserved inside the eggs, scientists have been able to determine that this was the nest of a Dromaeosaur dinosaur – a member of the Theropod group.

In more than 90% of modern bird species (neornithes), it is the male parent that volunteers to sit on and incubate eggs in the nest.  By comparison, males contribute to parental care in fewer than 5% of mammals and even more rarely among crocodiles, lizards and snakes.  With the majority of the mammals and reptiles it is the girls that do all the work when it comes to raising the youngsters.

However, the remains of several types of Cretaceous Theropods, bird-like dinosaurs have been found in association with fossil nests.  Scientists believe that these dinosaurs were brooding the clutch of eggs, adopting what we would recognise as bird-like incubating and protecting behaviours.  The research paper, puts forward evidence to suggest that the animals brooding the nest were actually the males – but how can a scientist be certain of the sex of an animal when they only have the fossilised skeletal remains to go on?

It is thought that Theropod dinosaurs laid their clutches of eggs all in one sitting, laying eggs using both their oviducts, hence the eggs are laid in pairs and this can be seen in the picture of the fossilised Theropod nest above.  In contrast, birds only have one oviduct this is believed to be an adaptation for flight, the birds evolving a lighter skeleton and losing an oviduct to save weight.  To produce the eggshells the female needs a source of calcium and phosphorous to help her make the protective shell for her embryos.  These minerals are sourced from her own bones.  Specialised reproductive bone tissue is laid down inside the bones of the female during ovulation. This extra bone tissue is converted into the resources required to produce the eggshells.  The bone used in this process is called medullary bone.  Once the temporary tissue has provided the necessary calcium and other minerals for eggshell formation; it is completely reabsorbed into the body but tell-tale bone cavities are left behind for a time after the egg-laying and if identified within a fossil bone, this is strongly indicative of the fossil bones belonging to a female dinosaur.

Medullary bone is only found in modern female birds, no other egg-laying animals, including crocodiles produce this special bone tissue naturally.

The researchers led by Dr David Varricchio of Montana State University examined the fossilised bones of three species of Theropod dinosaur – Troodon formosus, Oviraptor philoceratops and Citipati osmolskae, (another Oviraptorid dinosaur from Mongolia).  The fossils had all been found in association with nests and many of the specimens had been preserved in a brooding like posture.  The researchers examined the internal structure of the fossilised bones, looking for bone cavities that would have been left after the process of egg formation.  The lack of any evidence for bone cavities, led the scientists to conclude that these fossils represented males.  The assumption being that these were the fathers and that they were brooding the nests, a behaviour seen in most types of modern bird.

Generalising for a moment, in birds, large clutches of eggs are associated with paternal care (the male doing most of the brooding work).  Small clutch volumes are associated with care by both parents and medium clutch volumes with maternal care, the female doing the majority of the sitting on the nest.

Commenting on the conclusions drawn from this study Dr. Varricchio stated:

“Paternal care in both Troodontids and Oviraptorids indicates that this care system evolved before the emergence of birds and represents birds’ ancestral condition”.

So perhaps, next Spring, when you see a male garden bird dusting his feathers or taking a dip in a puddle to refresh himself as he takes a break from his incubating duties you could dwell on that behavioural trait being a direct link between the birds you see in the garden and their dinosaur ancestors.

Deducing behaviour patterns from the fossil record is an extremely difficult process.  Many theories can be put forward, but the trouble is, it is very difficult without the living species to prove a behaviour conclusively.  The role of males and females in rearing dinosaurs will debated for many years to come, perhaps more fossils of dinosaur nests will be found and more evidence gathered.  One of the problems with relying on bone cavities to assess the sex of a fossil is that it is often difficult to analyse the internal structure of the bone in its permineralised (fossilised state).  Another problem is that their is no real chronological record left in the fossil record when it comes to studying dinosaur nests.  It is unclear how long the incubation period would be.  With birds for example, the gestation period can be 3 weeks with a reptile, such as an Alligator it can take up to 75 days for eggs to hatch.  With limited information available on the gestation period for dinosaurs, it is possible that the bone tissue could have returned to normal and bone cavities would not be present after a period of brooding on the nest.  If this is the case then the fossil specimens found in association with dinosaur nests could be female, the cavities could simply be no longer present by the time the animal died.

7 12, 2008

The Ultimate Dinosaur Sticker Book

By | December 7th, 2008|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Dinosaur Book Collection from Everything Dinosaur

Team members at Everything Dinosaur have been busy reviewing all sorts of dinosaur books and dinosaur themed activity books over the last few months.  Putting our teaching hats on as it were, we are keen to source books about dinosaurs and prehistoric animals that educate and can help young dinosaur fans with their reading.

Dinosaur Books including Dinosaur Sticker Books

The Ultimate Dinosaur Sticker Book

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A spokesperson for the company that includes trained teachers as well as dinosaur and fossil experts stated:

“Some children become disillusioned with reading.  However, if they like dinosaurs and you encourage them to read books about dinosaurs then you are really pushing at an open door.  It’s all about finding the right dinosaur books for kids.”

The UK based company intends to continue to source books about prehistoric animals aimed at younger readers, even dinosaur sticker books, in a bid to help motivate children to gain an interest for reading.

6 12, 2008

Cute or perhaps not so cute Polacanthus

By | December 6th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

A British Armoured Dinosaur – Polacanthus

Polacanthus was a slow-moving, heavily armoured herbivore characterised by rows of spines sticking out from the neck, shoulders and back. Along each side of the tail there were thin, sharp plates pointing outwards. Scientists believe that the tail when swung from side to side would have been a very effective defensive weapon. This dinosaur is known from one skeleton and several other fragmentary remains, including isolated pieces of the armour. This armour plate is often referred to as scutes.  Unfortunately, no skull of this animal has ever been found, so interpretations of what this animal actually looked like can vary, and indeed the placement of the armour and spikes associated with this dinosaur is also based on assumptions.

An Illustration of Polacanthus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The lack of specific evidence such as an articulated skeleton has not prevented model makers from creating dinosaur toys and models of this one tonne Ornithischian.  In fact a new model has been added to the Dinosaur Collection range recently.

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

Polacanthus was named and described by the English scientist John Whitaker Hulke in 1881. Two species of Polacanthus are recognised, P. foxii was named after the Rev. William Fox who discovered the first fossils of a Polacanthus on the Isle of Wight in 1865, neither species has an associated skeleton.  Holotypes, the fossil from which the original specimens are described, are fragmentary.

It is thought that Polacanthus may have happily co-existed with Iguanodonts, grazing side-by side with these huge herbivores.  The keen eyesight of the Iguanodons, coupled with their tall bipedal stance would have made them excellent look outs, able to spot approaching predators.  The squat Polacanthus may have gained protection by associating itself with a herd of Iguanodonts and would have happily browsed on low bushes and the trampled remains of trees and other plants left behind by the Iguanodons.

5 12, 2008

Tyrannosaurus rex Soft Toys

By | December 5th, 2008|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Soft Toy Dinosaurs – Soft and Cuddly Tyrannosaurus rex

When it comes to dinosaur soft toys, one of the most popular of the prehistoric plush that we supply at Everything Dinosaur is the Tyrannosaurus rex soft toy.  Hand-crafted and sponge washable, the T. rex soft toy is very cute and cuddly and it certainly appeals to young dinosaur fans.

Cute and Cuddly Tyrannosaurus rex Soft Toy

Soft and cuddly T. rex soft toy.

Soft and cuddly T. rex soft toy.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The dinosaur soft toy (pictured) stands over thirty centimetres tall and at Everything Dinosaur we send out a T. rex fact sheet with every single one we supply.  Sales of this dinosaur help support the Natural History Museum (London).

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of soft toy dinosaurs: Dinosaur Soft Toys

4 12, 2008

Brazil’s 115 Million Year Old Pterosaur Fossil

By | December 4th, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Introducing Lacusovagus magnificens

Classified as a member of the Chaoyangopteridae (chow-yang-op-teri-day) and members of the Neoazhdarchia (nee-oh-az-darr-key-ah), these Cretaceous Pterosaurs have been somewhat overlooked when it comes to the huge Azhdarchid Pterosaurs that survived until the very end of the Late Cretaceous, giants such as Quetzalcoatlus for example.

True, these animals were widespread with fossils assigned to the Chaoyangopteridae from China, the Lebanon and with the discovery of L. magnifens – Brazil.  Unlike much of the Chinese fossil material, which has revealed a number of nearly complete specimens.  The fossil from Brazil is only represented by a large, but broken snout (Brazilian Crato Formation).  It is likely that this Pterosaur material dates from the Aptian faunal stage of the Cretaceous.

To read more about this new Pterosaur fossil discovery: New Pterosaur Fossil From Brazil

Little research has been done to date on the palaeoecology of this group of Pterosaurs, despite the excellent Chinese fossil material.  The small feet associated with a number of the Chinese specimens rules out some sort of wading habit.  It is most likely that these flying reptiles were generalists catching small prey items, feeding of plant material or perhaps scavenging carrion.

3 12, 2008

New Pterosaur Discovery Announced (Despite the problem with the Car Filler)

By | December 3rd, 2008|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Discovery of new Cretaceous Pterosaur Announced

The latest edition of the scientific journal Palaeontology contains a paper on a new type of Pterosaur, written by a team of researchers from Portsmouth University.  This new type of flying reptile has been named and described, despite the compressed nature of the specimen and the fact that car body filler was used in the excavation to hold all the fragments of bone in place.

The animal has been named Lacusovagus magnificens (means magnificent lake wanderer), a flying reptile with an estimated wingspan of 5 metres and standing as tall as a grizzly bear.  Although, a very imposing creature, the hollow bones and other anatomical adaptations for flight would have made this animal extremely light, perhaps weighing less than a 12 year-old child.

The fossil was discovered in the Araripe Basin, in north-east Brazil.  This specimen is providing a fresh insight into the evolution and spread of Pterosaurs as this particular creature’s nearest relatives originate from China.  The skull material is the most important part of the fossil, allowing palaeontologists to establish taxonomic relationships between different species and genera.  Lacusovagus is the biggest Pterosaur of this type found to date, most of the Chinese specimens had wingspans of less than one metre.

An Illustration of Lacusovagus magnificens

Picture Credit: Mark Witton/University of Portsmouth

This toothless Pterosaur (the technical term for flying reptiles – the name means winged lizard), has been dated to approximately 115 million years ago (Aptian faunal stage), but the Pterosaur fossil record dates back much further into the Triassic.  These animals were the first vertebrates to develop powered flight.  Unfortunately, the remains were first discovered were so fragile that it was decided to protect them by covering them with car filler.  This certainly helped strengthen the fossil and aided the recovery process but the preparation of this specimen has proved to be extremely difficult as researchers tried to remove filler so that they could study the fossil bone.

The car filler was so difficult to remove, that the research team had to make do with examining the small pieces that were exposed out of the limestone and car filer matrix and rely on CAT scans of the block of stone to reveal more internal detail.

Mark Witton, the University of Portsmouth academic who identified the specimen, broke several tools trying to cut through the filler, unfortunately, this is not the first time an inappropriate material has been used in the fossil preservation process.  Another Brazilian fossil, this time of a dinosaur from strata dating from the the later Albian faunal stage proved extremely difficult for the scientists to research properly.  A skull of an unknown type of dinosaur was researched by British palaeontologist David Martill, also from the University of Portsmouth.  Unfortunately, the 80 cm skull had been doctored, with bits of filler and plaster added to make the specimen look more exciting and hence more valuable.  So frustrated by the “extra bits” added by the finder hoping to make more money from the sale, that the team reflected their angst in the naming of this particular dinosaur – it was called Irritator.

Commenting on the preservation status of this new Pterosaur find, Mark Witton stated:

“The specimen was quite fragile so the guys who were collecting it – probably quarrymen – very sensibly decided to put a large slab of limestone underneath to strengthen it.  Unfortunately, they used car body filler as the glue. The infernal car filler was a real cow to get through. I don’t know how many tools I broke trying to cut it”.

Unlike the Irritator case, Mark does not believe that these people intended to defraud.

“I’m sure it was used with the best of intentions but the person who did it perhaps hadn’t thought it through,” he added.

Further problems in interpreting the remains were encountered because the skull was misshapen and compressed.  The distorted skull fragments make interpretation very difficult, the position of this fossil in the matrix was quite unusual and this added to the preparation problems.

“Usually fossils like this are found lying on their sides, but this one was lying on the roof of its mouth and had been rather squashed, which made even figuring out whether it had teeth difficult.”

The skull of this particular flying reptile was much wider than is usual for Pterosaurs and Mark Witton has suggested that it had a wide throat, which would have vastly increased the range of prey available to it. Pterosaurs are widely thought of as fish-eaters, but he said it was likely that the new species would have eaten small dinosaurs, which it would have swallowed whole.  The toothless beak and wide throat would have enabled it to catch and swallow various prey animals – perhaps moving in groups across the fern plains flushing out lizards, mammals and even small dinosaurs a bit like the lifestyle of the Marabou stork in Africa.

This particular habit has been proposed for Pterosaurs before.   In an earlier blog article we reported on Mark Witton’s work on the late Cretaceous Pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus and speculation about these extremely large creatures having a more terrestrial lifestyle than previously thought.

To read this article: Getting stalked by a flock of Quetzalcoatlus

For Mark and his team, fossils such as this one from Brazil are providing new insights into these amazing animals.

Brazil is becoming quite famous for Pterosaur finds, a number of new genera have been identified from the Santana Formation of Brazil, a series of rock strata dating from the early to mid Cretaceous.  Both toothless and toothed types of Pterosaur have been found in the upper layers of the Santana Formation, including the toothed flying reptile Anhanguera (name means old devil).  Those Pterosaurs with teeth in their beaks were probably fish-feeders, swooping low over the sea (the early Atlantic ocean) and catching fish in their toothed beaks.

An Illustration of Anhanguera (Toothed Pterosaur)

Anhanguera illustrated

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the model and dinosaur toys: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models and Replicas

2 12, 2008

The Last Stand of the Gharial

By | December 2nd, 2008|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Critically Endangered Crocodile Species – The Gharial on the Brink of Extinction

In a web log article back in February we reported on the mysterious deaths of a number of adult Gharial crocodiles in their last remaining sanctuaries in northern India.    This long-snouted fish-eating Crocodilian can trace its ancestry back to the dinosaurs but the species is facing extinction.

To read the first article: Time Running Out for the Indian Gharial

Analysis of the bloated corpses of these crocodiles show high levels of lead, but the fish that they eat don’t show any significant levels of this toxic metal.  The demise of the Gharial in one of the last natural habitats remains a mystery.

In another one of the few places in India where these animals can still be seen in the wild, their last nesting sandbank is under threat from construction companies anxious to commandeer the sand for use in building projects.

The plight of this extremely rare reptile and the work of a remarkable group of conservationists as they attempt to save it is highlighted in a BBC 2 programme this evening – part of the Natural World series.

Herptologist Romulus Whitaker in collaboration with other conservationists has set up a “crocodile bank” (Madras Crocodile Bank Trust), this conservation centre has managed to start a breeding programme for gharials (the first time this has been achieved).  Thanks to efforts of Romulus and his dedicated team this magnificent creature may have a future after all.

The Natural World is broadcast tonight at 8pm GMT on BBC2.

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