All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//March
21 03, 2009

Sprechen sie Deutsch at Lyme Regis?

By | March 21st, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Dorset Coast set to see Rise in European Tourists

With sterling (GBP) weakening against most of the major currencies in the world, including the Euro, many tourist destinations are expecting an influx of European visitors as they take advantage of the favourable exchange rate.

The Jurassic coast of Dorset and East Devon is no exception, this World Heritage status coastline has attracted a lot of attention from a number of German media companies in recent months, keen to report back on the unique charms of this part of the United Kingdom.

For Ian and Brandon Lennon who run www.lymeregisfossilwalks.com  they have had to practice their German, as in recent months the have been joined by crews from three German media companies.  Last year, a photographer and a journalist from a German based magazine joined Ian and his son Brandon, on a fossil walk, taking pictures of the fossils that were found.  Recently, a film crew and reporter from NDR television spent a day with the professional fossil hunters, as they toured along Monmouth Beach to Seven Rocks Point, locations that have provided Brandon with some excellent fossil finds over the last few months.  The film crew are currently in the process of completing a television series, due to be screened shortly, highlighting the features to be found when visiting European coasts.

Commenting on the German interest, Ian stated:

“It is always surprising to foreign visitors that collecting is allowed in a UNESCO World Heritage site, so it was good to put on record for the television crew an outline of the Collecting Code of Conduct that applies to this area”.

Whilst out with the film crew, Ian and Brandon’s local knowledge and expertise were to the fore as they found an exceptionally large specimen of a Jurassic nautiloid.  The Nautiloids are cephalopods similar to the extinct ammonites, there are two species of Nautilus still living today, both are found in the Pacific.  Fossil nautiloids and ammonites have coiled shells divided into a series of chambers by thin cross walls called septae.  Only the final chamber was occupied by the living animal, older chambers were filled with a mixture of gas and water.  By changing the proportions of the liquid and gas in these chambers these types of cephalopod could adjust their buoyancy.  The easiest way to tell a fossil ammonite from a nautilus is to try to find the suture lines, these occur when the septae meets the chamber wall.  These suture lines are usually easy to find on any fossils of an internal mould.  The suture lines in nautiloids are extremely simple, whereas the suture lines in ammonites are much more complex and folded into complicated saddles and lobes.  The shells of nautiloids tend to be thicker than most ammonites, it is thought that the complicated folding seen on the suture lines of ammonites helps to strengthen the shells and protect them from the pressure exerted on the animal in deeper water.

Brandon Lennon with the Nautiloid Fossil found whilst with the German Film Crew

Picture Credit: Bridport News

This large fossil specimen was featured in the filming and permitted the German film crew to gain an insight into how fossils are prepared and cleaned up by Brandon and his father at their fossil workshop.

It looks like it is going to be another busy season for Lennon family as they prepare for an increase in Europeans wanting to go out with them on their daily fossil walks.

Brandon’s daily guided fossil walks are already very popular.  Walks take place from Saturday to Tuesday and start at Lyme Bay.  Start times depend on the time of year and the season.  Whilst team members at Everything Dinosaur have been on the beaches at Lyme or Charmouth we have often seen Brandon enthusiastically taking out a party to explore the beach and look for fossils.

To enquire about fossil walks with Brandon: Information about Fossil Walks

To see some of the fossils found by Brandon and his team (and to get the chance to purchase some of his exquisite finds): Lyme Regis Fossils for Sale

20 03, 2009

The Evolution of Feathers – The Bird-Hipped Dinosaurs upset the Apple Cart

By | March 20th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

New Chinese Feathered Dinosaur adds to Confusion over Evolution of Feathers

A paper published in the scientific journal “Nature” is ruffling a few feathers amongst palaeontologists.  A team from the Shandong Tianyu Museum of Nature in China have reported on the discovery of a partial skeleton of a small, potentially bipedal dinosaur with feathers.  The fossil was found in the early Cretaceous sediments of the Liaoning Formation in north-eastern China.

Feathered dinosaurs from Liaoning have been found before, the region is world famous for the remarkable fossils of feathered dinosaurs and birds that have been discovered.  These creatures drowned in a lake, sinking to the bottom and in most cases they were rapidly buried by fine volcanic ash without much disruption to their remains.  Several kinds of feathered Saurischian dinosaurs are known from the Cretaceous sediments of this region, animals such as Sinosauropteryx and Sinornithosaurus for example.  However, there are a number of surprising features about this new discovery that have “ruffled a few feathers” according to an Everything Dinosaur spokesperson or alternatively, “has muddied the waters” in a similar comment made by a leading palaeontologist.

Firstly, although only part of this small dinosaur’s body has been fossilised, the Chinese team were able to identify limb bones, vertebrae, the hip girdle and most importantly the lower jaw and most of the lower and mid portions of the skull.  The animal has been identified as a member of the Heterodontosauridae, a very primitive Ornithischian dinosaur, best known form Early Jurassic deposits from South Africa.

The Heterodontosaurids are believed to be a basal group of the Ornithischian dinosaurs and this is the first time that a fossil of such an animal has been found in China.  This specimen has been dated to the early Cretaceous approximately 140 million years ago (Berriasian faunal stage).  This new fossil indicates that these dinosaurs, the Heterodontosaurids, survived into the Cretaceous.  The Heterodontosaurs are distinguished by their complex teeth.  The name Heterodontosauridae means”different-toothed lizards”, these little dinosaurs had remarkably advanced dentition.  Instead of the simple peg-like teeth seen in other herbivorous dinosaurs of the early Jurassic this group had sharp, pointed, over sized canines and those teeth towards the back of the jaw were flatter and broad, designed for crushing plant matter.  It is thought that these dinosaurs may have been omnivores.  A general, non-specialised diet may be one reason why these little dog-sized dinosaurs persisted so long in the Mesozoic.

This information alone, would be enough to excite most scientists but for the Chinese specimen the fossil reveals an even more intriguing attribute – feathers.

The analysis of the dinosaur named Tianyulong confuciusi by the Chinese scientists has revealed the presence of primitive proto-feathers along the back and front of the animal (dorsal and ventral areas).  Finding a new feathered dinosaur in Liaoning is not that remarkable given the fantastically rich fossil pedigree of the place, but a feathered Ornithischian, that is a different matter.

The fossil found, represents a sub-adult, it was approximately 1 metre long with a long tail, most probably a bipedal stance and the wonderful Heterodontosaurid dentition is very well preserved.  In the main slab of rock from which the fossil was extracted, the impression of long, filamentous, non-branched feather-like structures can be clearly seen.  Tianyulong has been reconstructed as an agile, swift running, mainly bipedal dinosaur that probably had an omnivorous diet catching insects as well as eating plant material.

An Artist’s Impression of Tianyulong confuciusi

Picture Credit: Nature

The artist shows the long, filamentous feathers covering the back and the tail of this dinosaur, however, reference to the scientific report suggests that these long filaments are present along the back, chest and abdomen of this little dinosaur.  The artist has also chosen to portray Tianyulong as being covered in a coat of fine feathers, this is largely speculation as we understand that the one specimen found to date of this new type of dinosaur does not confirm that presence of a soft, downy coat.

One thing for sure, if this Ornithischian dinosaur did have feathers, then it challenges sciences view on the evolution of modified scales (feathers) as most of the dinosaurs known to be feathered are Theropod, Saurischians.

Dinosaurs are classified into two major groups depending on the arrangement of the bones that comprise the hip girdle.

Dinosaurs are divided into two main orders: Saurischians, which have forward-pointing pubic bones, and Ornithischians, which have backward-pointing pubic bones.  The classification of the Ornithischians and Saurischians was first outlined in a scientific paper written by the British palaeontologist Harry Covier Seeley, over 120 years ago.  Seeley remarked on the similar types of pelvis certain dinosaurs had, he commented upon their “bird-like” features, as with modern birds the pubis bone at the front of the pelvis projected backwards.  With birds, this position of the pubis is believed to be related to efficient breathing enabling muscles to be oxygenated for flight.  However, with the Ornithischians, it is believed the backward pointing pubis made room for a large gut – just what you need to digest tough vegetation, as most of the Ornithischians known to date seem to be entirely vegetarian.

With a member of a basal Ornithischian exhibiting proto-feathers this throws into question the exact evolutionary origins of feathers.

Commenting on the find, Dr. Phil Currie of the University of Alberta, Canada stated:

“The find pulls the origin of feathers down into the Triassic, when the Saurischian and Ornithischian lineages of dinosaurs split”.

The flight feathers on a bird are flexible, asymmetrical and have a central shaft with vanes that run off either side at angles, the feathers on T. confuciusi are all relatively stiff and lack vanes.

Hai-Lu You, one of the Chinese palaeontologists who described and named  Tianyulong confuciusi, believes that the fossil supports the idea of a single evolution of feathers.

“We still have some missing data between T. confuciusi and feathered Theropod dinosaurs, but I think further discovery will fill these gaps,” he commented.

If this proves to be the case, then many dinosaurs may once have sported feather-like structures, with descendant species losing the characteristic.  The long, filamentous projections may have been used for display, perhaps to deter a rival or attract a mate.  If this dinosaur was covered in feathers then the evolution of feathers may have to be put into the Triassic and not the Jurassic.  Indeed, many other Ornithischian dinosaurs may have possessed feathers, but their poor fossil preservation in many cases has prevented the feathers being recorded in the fossil record.

A Picture of the Main Slab of the Fossil Heterodontosaurid

Ornithopod with feathers?

Picture Credit: Nature

The picture shows the main slab of the fossil, the partial skull material can be seen in the top right of the picture and a limb and a foot can clearly be seen in the centre.

A Close up of the Tianyulong Fossil

Evidence of feathers?

Picture Credit: Nature

The white arrow in the picture is indicating the presence of long, filamentous, proto-feathers, a trait rarely seen in Ornithischian dinosaurs.  One of the few other examples of feather-like structures in “bird-hipped dinosaurs” is found in the mid Cretaceous, Asian dinosaur Psittacosaurus, which is believed to have possessed long, quill-like structures that stuck out from its tail.

The presence of feathers in a bird-hipped dinosaur may indicate that these animals were endothermic (warm-blooded).  This discovery, the genus named after the Shandong Tianyu Museum of Nature, where a number of the scientists are based, adds to our knowledge of feathered dinosaurs.  The species name is in honour of the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius, as just like Confucius, this new dinosaur specimen will challenge conventional thinking.

This discovery may lead scientists to conclude that feathers were a primitive trait, that the common ancestor of both the Saurischian and Ornithischian groups possessed feathers.  Or did feathers evolve independently in the two groups?  Does this fossil indicate that Ornithischian dinosaurs evolved feather-like structures independently of the evolution of the lizard-hipped Theropods?  This could be an example of convergent evolution whereby two not too closely related animal groups evolve a common solution such as the development of feathers for insulation and display.

19 03, 2009

Tiny Canadian Dinosaur hints at Reptilian not Mammalian Predatory Niche

By | March 19th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Canada’s Smallest Dinosaur Hints at Reptilian not Mammalian Predatory Niche

A research paper has just been published announcing the discovery of the smallest dinosaur known to date from North America.  This tiny Theropod, identified from fossilised pelvic bones is believed to have been no bigger than a crow and probably lived in the undergrowth or up trees, filling a niche held by small mammals in today’s ecosystems.

This new dinosaur species, remains of which come from the fossil rich sediments of Alberta, Canada, has been named Hesperonychus is believed to a close relative of the Chinese dinosaur Microraptor gui which some scientists claim is the smallest dinosaur discovered to date.

The tiny fossilised hip bones had been collected many years before, but they had been misidentified as being those from an extinct genus of lizard, it was only when the material was re-examined that the mistake was noticed.  The research paper on this tiny carnivore has just been published in the scientific journal “The Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences”.

This little dinosaur identified from a fused pelvic girdle (indicating an adult specimen, not a juvenile animal), is believed to be a member of the Dromaeosaur family.  These bipedal dinosaurs were relatively common in the late Cretaceous, but this particular member of the “swift lizards” is the smallest found in North America to date.  An examination of other fossil material has revealed some fossil finger and toe bones, including the retractable pedal ungual (toe claw), characteristic of the Dromaeosaur group.

Small is Beautiful Foot Claw of Hesperonychus

Picture Credit: University of Calgary

The picture shows the tiny Hesperonychus toe claw balanced on a Canadian coin for scale.  It is not known whether this small dinosaur would have been covered in feathers, but scientists have speculated that it probably was.  The feathers would have helped insulate this small meat-eater and help prevent it losing too much heat, regulating its body temperature.  They may also have helped it glide from tree to tree as it searched for food.

The specimen helps to confirm that reptiles, such as this tiny dinosaur and not mammals, filled the role of small predators during the Mesozoic.  There were certainly small mammals around at the time but they did not have a monopoly on the small, insect eating niche, perhaps dinosaurs like Hesperonychus hunted during the day and the mammals came out to hunt a night.

Dr. Phillip Currie, palaeontologist from the University of Alberta and co-author of the research paper commented:

“Despite the discovery of exquisitely preserved skeletons of small bird-like dinosaurs in Asia, they are exceedingly rare in North America.”

Despite many major dinosaur finds in formations such as Judith River and the Dinosaur Provincial Park Formation, Dr Currie and his colleagues had been pondering why so few small fossils have been unearthed in Alberta, Canada – one of the world’s richest sites for large-dinosaur bones of the Cretaceous.  The team suspect that there were many small dinosaurs around during the age of reptiles, however, their remains did not preserve well so they are relatively scarce in the fossil record.

Dr. Currie went onto state:

“There were many large dinosaurs running around eating them, and small bones are easily washed away by rivers [common in this region during the Cretaceous period]”.

The new discovery casts more doubt on whether mammals would have acted as small predators in Cretaceous-era North America. The fossilised pelvis came from an animal that weighed no more than 1.9kg (4.2lb) and appears distinctively reptilian.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur have had the opportunity to visit some of the fossil storage sites at Canadian museums such as the Royal Tyrrell Museum and we once calculated that there were so many fossils awaiting cleaning and study that it would take all the staff over 100 years to clear the back log.  Such is the rich diversity of fossils found in formations such as the Dinosaur Provincial Park, an ecosystem closely studied by Dr. Currie and his fellow palaeontologists.

Commenting on the find, identified as an insect eating, bipedal, dinosaur, Dr Currie added:

“This tells us that [as in Asia], North American dinosaurs likely out-competed mammals for both large and small predator niches”.

The authors of the research also suggest that this little dinosaur may provide a clue to help resolve the debate as to whether flight originated in arboreal dinosaurs “tree down” or whether it evolved from dinosaurs that had a cursorial existence “ground up”.  Based on the size of the hip bones and the position of the pubis a bone that makes up the pelvic structure, normally this bone is to be found between the hind legs and with Theropods it has in many cases a characteristic “boot” shape to the tip.  However, with Hesperonychus the pubis is bent, this indicates that it may have had an arboreal existence.

“We know this dinosaur was a tree-climber”, Dr. Currie explained.

“It likely used the long feathers on its limbs to glide or parachute from tree to tree”.

Certainly, it would make sense if this little dinosaur was able to climb trees, it would have required an excellent sense of balance, strong limbs and stereoscopic sight, all qualities believed to have been possessed by Dromaeosaurs.  By climbing trees, it would have been able to catch insects and other invertebrates as well as avoiding many of the larger predators that shared its environment.

The scale of this little biped, is difficult to imagine, so the University of Calgary provided a diagram, illustrating the size of Hesperonychus in comparison with other contemporary Theropods that also roamed Alberta at the time this little dinosaur existed.

Scale Drawing of Late Cretaceous Theropods from Alberta

Herperonychus had huge relatives

Picture Credit: University of Calgary/PNAS

The specimen, Hesperonychus elizabethae – named after its collector Dr Elizabeth Nicholls – was reclassified by palaeontologist Dr Nicholas Longrich, a co-author of the paper, from the University of Calgary.

It has long been suspected that there were large numbers of small dinosaurs living in forest and woodland habitats, but forest environments have very poor fossil preservation potential and any small dinosaur remains on the forest floor would soon have been scavenged or broken up.  Hence, the fact that very small dinosaurs are probably under-represented in the existing fossil record.

18 03, 2009

The Bite Force of a Pliosaur – 33,000 lbs per square inch!

By | March 18th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|1 Comment

Pliosaurs – Terrible Monsters of the Mesozoic Seas

A study into the potential bite force of an extinct marine reptile indicates that it was able to generate a force of around 15 Tonnes per square inch according to research information published by the Natural History Museum of Oslo.

The research summarises work done to date on newly discovered fossils of a Pliosaur, an ancient marine reptile that would have terrorised the Jurassic seas and been an apex predator.

Pliosaurs are a short-necked variety of Plesiosaur, instead of having small heads and long necks adapted to a diet of small prey items like the Plesiosaurs, the Pliosaurs evolved into the top predators of the Jurassic marine environment.  Pliosaurs had relatively massive skulls, armed with long, sharp teeth, that in many cases stuck out from the jaws.  These were truly fearsome predators and would have attacked and eaten any other animals in the sea.  Size estimates vary as most Pliosaurs are only known from fragmentary and disarticulated remains but some of these creatures may have reached lengths in excess of 20 metres.

This new Pliosaur, with the very strong bite, is a specimen found on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, north of the Arctic circle.   The area is well known for marine reptile fossils, several Plesiosaurs have been found and a number of Pliosaurs and the Svalbard discovery may represent a new species.  Palaeontologists have been working with geological survey teams, in a bid to identify coal, oil and gas reserves, buried deep in the rocks, whilst studying the geology of the area a number of marine reptile fossils have been discovered.

To read an article about Norwegian marine reptiles: Is it a new species of Norwegian Marine Reptile or Not?

With only fragmentary fossils and partial skull material to work with; the research teams are having difficulty in establishing the taxonomy of many of their finds.  The Svalbard monster, affectionately nick-named “Predator X” by the scientists may be another specimen of a Pliosaur fossil found on a different part of the island group.  Whatever it is, it would have been a formidable hunter, with an estimated length of 13 metres and a skull as long as a car.

Commenting on the bite force calculations, Joern Hurum, Associate Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the Natural History Museum of Oslo stated:

“With a skull that’s more than 10 feet long you’d expect the bite to be powerful but this is off the scale.  It’s much more powerful than Tyrannosaurus rex”.

Bite force analysis on extinct animals is calculated using mathematical formulae based on the strength and composition of the skull, the morphology of the teeth and the muscle attachments for the jaws.  Comparisons are made with extant animals to give a benchmark for bite forces, as the bite exerted by animals such as sharks, dogs, and humans can all be measured; (a bite force measuring device is called a gnathodynamometer).  Humans can generate a bite force in excess of 250 lbs per square inch across their molars, large dogs have a stronger bite, as do animals such as lions that can generate up to 1,000 lbs of force per square inch.  American Alligators have a bite force in excess of this, up to 3,000 lbs, whilst work with Tyrannosaur skulls indicate a bite force of 15.000 lbs for T. rex.  Still according to the international team of scientists who worked on the Pliosaur fossils, it seems that this brute could generate over twice as much bite force as a Tyrannosaurus rex.

Speaking about the bite force calculations, Greg Erickson (evolutionary biologist), stated that this was probably the biggest bite force ever calculated.  This Pliosaur lived during the late Jurassic and the fossils have been dated to around 147 million years ago (Tithonian faunal stage).  Some of the fossil teeth from this animal have been estimated to be over 30 cms long, making the teeth nearly twice as big as any known meat-eating dinosaur.

The scientists have reconstructed the marine reptile from a partial skull material and 20,000 fossilised fragments of skeleton and used the fossils of other Pliosaurs as a template.

A Picture of a Pliosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Pliosaur, estimated to have weighed 45 Tonnes, was similar to but had more massive bones than another fossil sea monster found on Svalbard in 2007, also estimated at over 50 feet long and the largest Pliosaur specimen discovered to date.

Some scientists have developed the bite force measurements in extinct and extant animals and correlated them to brain size.  After all, as well as providing anchorage for the jaw muscles the skull is essentially a protective box housing the brain.  The scientists found that the larger the bite force the smaller the brain.  This Pliosaur from the Norwegian territory of Svalbard, seems to back up this particular theory.  From examinations of the brain case it is thought that this particular marine reptile had a small brain, with much of the brain volume being made up of areas dedicated to sight and the sense of smell.  Very little of the brain was dedicated to problem solving (cerebrum).

When you have a bite capable of crushing metal, perhaps you don’t need to be that smart.

To view a model of a Pliosaur (Liopleurodon) and Dinosaurs: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

17 03, 2009

Six Hundred Not Out!

By | March 17th, 2009|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Six Hundredth Article Posted on Everything Dinosaur Web Log

Today marks a special day for the Everything Dinosaur web log or blog.  This is the 600th article that we have posted up.  The blog was started on May 27th 2007 and since then we have tried to put an article up on items related to palaeontology every day.  We have included information on new discoveries, updates on research, new products and company information, comments from readers, all sorts of stuff and our readership keeps growing and growing.

In our Christmas 2008 predictions for 2009 we discussed whether or not the web log would reach a target of 100,000 page views per month by the end of this year.  At the time of compiling our ten predictions for 2009, we had 540 articles published, now the total has reached 600.

To read our predictions for 2009 in full: Everything Dinosaur Predictions for 2009

The predictions concern things that we think will happen to our business and palaeontology over the next 12 months or so.  As for seeing whether we will get to 100,000 page views per month (and keep increasing thereafter), we shall see, but our site statistics show that we are well on the way to achieving this.

Thanks to all our readers, we really appreciate the time people take to view our blog.

Seventy-three days have passed since we made those predictions.  In that time we have added sixty more articles, some reviews and a few more pictures and photos.  However, as part of our predictions for 2009 we suggested that our blog would exceed 850 articles by the end of the year, so we do have a little bit further to go to achieve this target.

In fact we need to write another 250 if we are to achieve this objective.  At least with palaeontology there are lots and lots of things to write about.

16 03, 2009

Teaching Exercise – You have to hand it to Dinosaurs

By | March 16th, 2009|Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Novel Teaching Exercise (Key Stage 2)

With the announcement of the discovery of clearly preserved Theropod hand prints, our innovative teaching team have come up with an exciting class room activity involving the very latest scientific thinking about dinosaurs fore-limbs and hands.

Theropods, are a diverse group of lizard-hipped (Saurischian) dinosaurs.  They walked on their hind-limbs, trace fossils of their footprints and trackways are quite well researched but evidence of the posture adopted by their hands and fore-limbs, well that is a different matter.

Thanks to some new fossil data from a site in Utah, USA, scientists have gained further insight into the posture and position of these bipedal dinosaur’s fore-limbs.  Interpretation of trace fossils from the site indicate that one particular dinosaur left resting hand prints in the early Jurassic mud next to a lake, some 198 million years ago (Sinemurian faunal stage).  The prints made in the sediment indicate that these dinosaurs may have held their hands differently to ours, the prints demonstrate a link to the evolution of the wings of birds.

To read the article about this discovery: Dinosaur Hand prints Reveal Link to Birds

It is from Theropod dinosaurs that birds (Aves) are believed to have evolved.  Although much is known about the anatomy of Theropod arms due to the fossil bones found, this new evidence indicates that they held their fore-limbs very differently to ours.  Being humans, we have very sophisticated arms and hands, long since adapted to other tasks rather than locomotion.  For example, we are able to pronate (twist) our arms very effectively and we have much more mobility in our arms and hands in general, when compared to a bipedal dinosaur.

It is not known for sure which type of dinosaur left the prints, but scientists suspect that this 4.5 metre long animal was some sort of Dilophosaur.  This new research has enabled us to develop a lesson plan in which we can carry out simple experiments to prove that the “bunny” position for Theropod fore-limbs, seen on many models and even in museum exhibits could be wrong.

An Illustration of A Dilophosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view a model of a Dilophosaurus: Dinosaur Toys – Dinosaur Models

Yet another teaching activity to add to our repertoire.

15 03, 2009

Frog Blog 2009 – The Frog Spawn has Moved

By | March 15th, 2009|Animal News Stories, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Moving Frog Spawn

We were checking back on last year’s notes and articles made about the frog spawn in our office pond.  Interestingly, the frog spawn was laid on March 16th last year and this year it has arrived a little earlier.

To read last year’s article about the sighting of frog spawn: We have frog spawn in the office pond!

Yesterday we commented upon the folklore which stated that depending on where in ponds frogs spawned was an indicator of either a wet or dry spring.  If frogs spawn in the shallow margins, this, according to the old-time sayings of country folk, meant that the spring was going to be wet.  If frogs spawned in the deeper parts of the pond, this meant that the spring was going to be dry.

Our frog spawn has moved, it has sunk down to a deeper part of the pond.  How it has done this remains a mystery.  The eggs are inert and cannot move themselves, so we suspect that either the natural buoyancy of the spawn has changed and the spawn has sunk or the activity of the frogs in the pond may have moved it.  It was quite windy last night so there is a possibility that the wind may have had an effect on the spawn and caused it to move.

So our spawn has been transferred from a shallow part of the pond to a deeper part, so much for the folklore, or did the frogs change their minds over the weather forecast?

14 03, 2009

Frog Blog 2009 – We have Spawn in the Pond again

By | March 14th, 2009|Animal News Stories, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Frog Blog 2009 – Frog Spawn in the Office Pond Again

For the second year running we have got frog spawn in the office pond.  We had noticed a number of frogs around and in the pond over the last few days, but today on a quick tour of the office yard we have discovered a small amount of spawn close to the edge of the pond.  There are three frogs in the pond at the moment, they are relatively small and all are croaking.  We think these are males, calling for females, however, one frog has already spawned in the pond and we think that only male common frogs croak.  The spawning probably took place yesterday or very early this morning.

We shall leave the frogs alone and see if the males can attract any more females to come and lay their eggs.

The Frog Spawn laid in the Office Pond

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The spawn has been laid in a different part of the pond this year.  The frog spawn laid last year was in the centre of the pond over a deep part of the pond, this year the spawn has been laid in a shallow part.  Folklore states that if frogs spawn in the shallow part of the pond it is going to be a wet spring.  The suggestion is that if frogs lay their eggs in the shallows they believe that there will be plenty of rain to keep the pond topped up and their eggs will not dry out.   We shall have to wait and see.  Hopefully, other frogs will spawn in the pond in the next few days.

13 03, 2009

New Dating Technique Puts Back Peking Man by 200,000 Years

By | March 13th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Peking Man Fossils much Older than Previous Thought

Famous fossils of an early hominid (Homo erectus), commonly referred to as Peking Man may be much older than scientists think, according to new research using a refined fossil dating technique.

The research, which has just been published in the scientific journal “Nature”, dated fossils of these ancient hominids using a new radiometric technique involving the measuring of the decay of aluminium and beryllium in quartz associated with the fossils.

Radiometric dating of fossils and rock strata is based on the amount of time it takes for certain radioactive substances to decay.  Atoms with identical chemical properties, but different atomic weights, are called isotopes.  Most elements are mixtures of different isotopes and radiometric dating measures the percentage decay of certain chemical isotopes over time within rocks and minerals.

Every isotope decays at a known rate and by measuring the amount of decay an age of the rock or fossil can be calculated.  This concept of radiometric dating based on the constant radioactive decay of isotopes was first studied in this country by physicists Ernest Rutherford and Arthur Holmes.  An American Bertram Boltwood was engaged in similar work in the USA.

Every radiometric date for a fossil calculated is dependent on the validity of certain assumptions, information tends to be provided allowing a range of dates to be proposed, + or – a few thousands or millions of years, depending on the object of study.  The revised date for the Peking Man fossils, is very different from the one using other isotope measures.  This new research, led by a team of Chinese scientists places the fossils over 280,000 years earlier, dating them to around 780,000 years ago (Pleistocene Epoch).

Little is known about hominid evolution as the fossil record is so poor.  H. erectus is not thought to be the direct ancestor of our own species (H. sapiens), but from the fossil record of H. erectus it has been calculated that this human species persisted longer on the planet than any other species of hominid.  Fossil evidence indicates that the likes of Peking Man survived for approximately 2,000,000 years, eventually going extinct a mere 50,000 years ago.

The new data could effect our current understanding of the migrations of hominid species out of Africa and their spread throughout the Old World.  A lot of controversy has surrounded the discovery and excavation of H. erectus fossils.  When the first evidence of this ancient species of human was found in Java in the 19th Century, the fossils were used to provide support for Darwin’s assertion that mankind was descended from apes.  Many of the best hominid fossils from China were lost during the Second World War, but scientists such as palaeoanthropologists continue to study the existing fossils and look for new discoveries to help improve their understanding of human evolution.

This new research dates some Chinese H. erectus material recovered from  a famous set of caves in which over 40 individual early hominid skeletons were found.  The new dates will have an impact on the dates attributed to the spread of this human species out of Africa, through southern Europe and the Middle East and finally into Asia.  The research also indicates that Peking Man was able to survive in China during the much colder glacial periods that occurred during this part of the Pleistocene Epoch.  Previously, scientists had thought that Peking Man must have only migrated extensively during warmer interglacial periods, now this new data indicates that this adaptable species was able to cope with long periods of intense cold.

To read an earlier article on Peking Man: Signs of disease in fossils of early hominids

12 03, 2009

Paying Tribute to Collecta’s Anthony Beeson

By | March 12th, 2009|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Famous Figures|0 Comments

Anthony Beeson The Designer Behind Collecta Prehistoric Animal Models

Collecta might make a number of model ranges, after all they don’t just make dinosaur models, they have a “Sea Life” collection, “Farm Life” and a “Woodlands” collection as well.  However, for us at Everything Dinosaur, it is the company’s “Prehistoric Life” model series that most appeals.  This particular part of Collecta’s portfolio has expanded rapidly over the last couple of years or so and today we pay tribute to Anthony Beeson one of the leading lights behind the design of the Collecta prehistoric animal models.

Anthony  Beeson – Expert in Palaeo-imagery

Anthony Beeson

Anthony Beeson

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Collecta

Each prehistoric figure sculpture is approved by Anthony, a highly regarded expert in palaeo-imagery.  Anthony has many strings to his bow, not just model making.  He is a well-respected librarian, archaeologist and collector.  He is based in the historical city of Bristol (south-west England).  Collecta currently manufacturers two ranges of prehistoric animal models, the deluxe scale model series and a more numerous not-to-scale model range.

To see Everything Dinosaur’s range of Collecta scale model dinosaurs: Collecta Deluxe Scale Models of Prehistoric Animals

We look forward to hearing about Collecta’s plans for new additions to their growing model ranges.

As Anthony himself says, when it comes to these dinosaur models:

“Wishing you all a happy and educational year of play and collecting.”

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