All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
21 05, 2009

The Jurassic Park Finger Puppet Theatre Company

By | May 21st, 2009|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Dinosaurs as Thespians – Walking on Stage with Dinosaurs

Over the years we have supplied all sorts of dinosaur themed items to theatres, television studios and performing arts societies.  Dinosaur models for use in a stage play, to advice on dinosaur footprints to cover the stage, even drawings to be blown up and used as back drops for various avant-garde theatre productions.

Now young dinosaur fans can have a go at forming their very own theatrical company with these bright and colourful dinosaur finger puppets.   An ideal and inexpensive party favour bag item, a plastic, dinosaur finger puppet, or to be more precise a prehistoric animal finger puppet as a Pterosaur (Pteranodon longiceps) is included.

The Dinosaur Finger Puppets

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Also featured are finger puppet interpretations of Theropods, Hadrosaurs, Pachycephalosaurs and Sauropods – quite a few different designs, more than enough to help form your very own Jurassic theatre troupe, a great idea for schools.  Suitable for children from aged 3 years and upwards, they are durable and fun, just the thing to get children’s imaginations going.

Dinosaur Finger Puppets: Dinosaur Party – Dinosaur Birthday Party Supplies

All the favourites are there with puppets representing T. rex, Parasaurolophus, Triceratops and so on.  Now all we need to do is think of some dinosaur or palaeontology themed plays.

How about  – “The Mouse Lizard (Mussasaurus) Trap” or “A Winter’s Tail” featuring an Ankylosaurus, I’m sure William Shakespeare would not have minded a little bit of poetic licence on our part.  Indeed to follow the Shakespearean theme a little longer how about “Much ado about Nothronychus”.

These plastic dinosaur finger puppets are sure to steal the scene.

20 05, 2009

The Relationship between Hominids and Lemurs – Darwinius masillae

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

The Evolution of Primates and Hominids in the Popular Press

Much publicity has surrounded the publication of information on the fossilised remains of a Palaeogene lemur-like animal.  The phrase “missing link” has once again found its way into the popular media, although from a scientific perspective this particular term is regarded as not valid and indeed often misleading.

The fossil representing the remains of a young, female is from the famous Messel shales, near Frankfurt in southern Germany.  It is regarded as one of the best locations in the world for Eocene fossils, although the importance of this area was not recognised until the early 1970s.  The site was originally an iron ore mine, although later the area was exploited for its coal reserves.  Despite numerous spectacular fossil finds such as crocodiles, early mammals and birds the Messel pits were almost converted into a land fill and rubbish dump but a campaign to save the site and permit further scientific exploration was successful.  It is pleasing to note that the Messel shales area has been purchased by the German Government, in a move that should secure the location and permit more research and long-term scientific study.

The area is often called “Marvellous Messel” by palaeontologists, this is because of two main reasons, firstly the diversity of fauna and flora represented by the fossil record and secondly because of the exquisite detail preserved in many of the fossils.

The shales at Messel were formed by layers of fine, soft mud at the bottom of a deep, stagnant freshwater lake.  This lake was fed by numerous streams and animal and plant remains washed into the lake quickly sank to the bottom and were slowly covered by sediment.  The still water conditions at the bottom prevented a lot of oxygen building up and crucially the bacteria which normally is responsible for decomposing organic matter was virtually absent.  The remains were largely untouched and as a result the Messel fossils show amazing detail.  Fossils of leaves and insects have been preserved and show remarkable detail.  Many of the larger animals such as miniature horses, bats, and primitive hedgehogs show traces of fur and even the remains of their stomachs can be analysed.

The fossils date from approximately 15 million years after the Cretaceous mass extinction event and the demise of the dinosaurs.  The world is enjoying something of a renaissance with mammals beginning to dominate ecosystems and establish themselves as the main constituents of the mega fauna.  The world is dominated by flowering plants and tropical rainforest.  At its peak, the rainforest stretched from the tips of South America and Africa right up to southern Canada, China and the middle of Europe.  Even the UK basked in a tropical climate.   Scientists believe that the global average temperature during this particular period in the Earth’s history was a balmy 28 degrees Celsius.  This compares to the 14-15 degrees Celsius today.  It is in this hot house like atmosphere that the lemur-like animal and her kind lived out their lives.

Very few fossils of early primates have been found, they are extremely rare in the fossil record.  Indeed much can be said of all the simian and hominid fossils too.  The trouble is our arboreal (tree-dwelling) or open plains ancestors lived in the wrong environments as far as palaeontologists are concerned.  Forests and open grasslands are locations where fossilisation and preservation are most unlikely to occur on any large scale, the conditions are not right to permit rapid burial of any corpse and preservation.  For example, we once calculated that all the skull material from early African hominids could be quite easily stored in one of our small vans.

Despite the vast expanse of rainforest and the abundance of environmental niches in such a habitat for monkeys and primates, only eight fragmentary specimens of primates are known from the Messel shales.  The primitive lemur-like Godinotia (Godinotia neglecta) is one of the better known primates from this period.  It had limbs that were adapted to grasping branches and large orbits in its skull (indicating large eyes).  Perhaps this particular animal was nocturnal.  This would have made sense as at only 30 centimetres long (most of that represented by tail), this animal would have been very vulnerable to attack.

However, the discovery of a new species of primate at Messel, an almost complete specimen; has enabled scientists to learn more about primate evolution and ultimately, although the press always blows this out of proportion, to learn a little more about the origins of man.  Messel has yielded up the almost complete skeleton of another lemur-like creature, a young female probably less than a year old but the completeness of the specimen and the exquisite preservation has permitted scientists to study the beginnings of the primates in much more detail than ever before.

This new primitive creature represents a new genus and has been named Darwinius masillae, quite appropriate as 2009 is so heavily associated with Charles Darwin what with the 200th anniversary of his birth.

The Messel Fossil (Darwinius masillae)

Picture Credit: Franzen et al

Like many very special fossils, this specimen has an unusual excavation history.  It was apparently discovered in 1983 by private collectors who decided to split the specimen in half and sold the fossil on separate plates.  Although they had the part and counterpart of the fossil, they thought that more money could be obtained if the part and the counterpart were sold separately.  These specimens ended up in different museum collections.  In addition, in order to enhance the value of one of the plates, it was embellished a little by the restoration team before being offered for sale.

One part of the fossil was sold to a private museum in the USA, the second more complete and entire fossil (including the tip of the animal’s tail), now belongs to the Natural History Museum of the University of Oslo (Norway).  Once it was realised that these two specimens were the part and counterpart of each other and that they represent the same specimen, a much more complete and thorough study could be carried out.  Fortunately, x-ray analysis of the American portion of the specimen revealed how much of this fossil had been fabricated, but the two plates together have yielded some remarkable data about early primates.

Both fossils are now on display at the American Museum of Natural History (New York), amidst much fuss over the “missing link”showing our earliest ancestor and all that hyperbole.  No doubt it is a superb specimen, even the outline of fur and stomach contents have been preserved, the study was led by John Hurum of the Natural History Museum (Oslo).

Commenting on the fossil’s completeness he stated that it was “a dream come true” and said that the fossil was “the closest thing we can get to a direct ancestor”.

This fossil, like so many others was nick-named during the preparation, she was called “Ida” and although clearly an animal on the road to human evolution with her poseable thumbs and other primate-like characteristics, she does not represent a direct human ancestor, but a sub-branch of our evolutionary tree – a sort of “Aunt Ida” if you will.

Dr Jens Franzen, an expert on Germany’s Messel shales,  stated:

“She belongs to the group from which humans developed, but my impression is she is not on the direct line”.

The fossil does represent the most complete primate discovered to date, although the light and delicate nature of the fossil and the bones having been crushed during the preservation means that individual portions cannot be handled.  Radiographs (x-rays) have revealed a lot of information, for example, the jaw has adult teeth emerging giving an indication of the age of the animal.  The pelvic girdle suggests female and so the scientists studying “Ida” have concluded that she was an independent, fully weaned sub-adult that died in her first year of life.  She did not possess claws but had nails (just like we do) and would have been quite at home in the trees of the Messel rainforest.

Ida was approximately 50 centimetres long, half of this length was made up of the tail.  If she had reached full adult size she would have still weighed less than 2 kilogrammes.  Darwinius masillae is a very significant discovery.  It is the most complete primate fossil found to date and will permit scientists to study her life history, diet and locomotion.  Any future study of early Palaeogene primates will benefit from the work done on “Ida”.

This animal is not just a fossil lemur, the fossil shows no evidence of a grooming claw (toilet claw) or indeed a tooth comb.  The tooth comb, otherwise known as a dental comb is an arrangement of incisor and canine teeth found in the lower jaws of lemurs and other prosimians. The tooth comb is used to help lemurs groom themselves and others in their social group, but Darwinius masillae did not possess these features, placing her amongst a larger group of primates, the Adapoidea.  Unfortunately, we fear that “Ida” will be associated with the phrase “missing link” for a long time to come.   This term is not really valid, as in essence there is no such thing as a specific missing link between species, merely occasional finds of exceptional fossil material that represents transitional forms between genera and species.

19 05, 2009

“Dino Van” becomes a Reality

By | May 19th, 2009|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

“Dino Van” Takes to the Road

Everything Dinosaur is a very unusual company, that’s for sure.  Being made up of teachers and dinosaur experts we consider ourselves very lucky to be able to do what we do – helping young people learn more about Earth sciences through their fascination with prehistoric animals.

The way we manage the company may be a little unconventional, perhaps a reflection on the unconventional nature of our business.  For example, when it was decided to get a new van, rather than have a plain, white van it was agreed to make the vehicle a mobile advertisement for us and use it to promote Everything Dinosaur.

A competition was held amongst ourselves, family friends, school children and well wishers as to what sort of signage our van should have to promote what we do.  We had some wonderful suggestions, sticking a model of a dinosaur on the roof, was a particular (although somewhat impractical), favourite of mine.

However, armed with a basic idea about the image we wanted to create we set about finding a talented, enthusiastic design team that could take our suggestion and make it a reality.

We have posted up in the past some of the initial artwork from the design company involved, a Cheshire based business called Intent Signs, a business that specialises in creating signage and graphics including vehicle livery.

I am not quite sure how many clients this dynamic company has, but I’m sure not many of their prospective customers turn up one afternoon, simply knock on the door and enquire about their services with nothing formal in writing, no brief or anything other than some letterhead and a couple of pictures of dinosaurs.  This rather unorthodox approach did not phase the young team at Intent, in fact they seemed to relish the chance to show off their expertise and help turn our ideas into reality.

Within half an hour or so, Dean Elliott, the Graphics Manager had sketched out an idea for the signage, a budget had been agreed and the brief (if you could call it a brief) had been completed.

For a company with many years of experience in the sign making industry, putting a dinosaur concept together was not a problem, you could say it was like water of a duck-billed dinosaur’s back and before long Steven Weir, and his team of designers had come up with the first interpretations of our ideas.

Using state of the art digital printing and CAD cutting facilities a series of photo quality vinyl graphics were produced in readiness for their application to our little van.  A day for the vehicle to go in and have its “make over” as the girls called it, was arranged and 24-hours later, out from the Intent Signs custom built workshop came our new vehicle – “Dino Van”.

Getting Up Close and Personal with a Tyrannosaurus rex

Picture Credit: Intent Signs/Everything Dinosaur

The skilled operatives soon had our white van completely transformed and we think the graphics are pretty cool.

The Graphics on the Rear of the Van

Everything Dinosaur’s Dinosaur Van

Picture Credit: Intent Signs/Everything Dinosaur

The Finished Article – our “Dino Van”

Everything Dinosaur’s “Dino Van”

Picture Credit: Intent Signs/Everything Dinosaur

It certainly is a unique vehicle, a one of a kind and our van has been transformed into a very eye-catching mobile advertisement for our business.  The local newspaper sent a reporter round to take some pictures as the “Dino Van” was unveiled, hopefully it will feature in the paper this week.  This should give both Intent Signs and ourselves some valuable publicity, now if only I could pluck up the courage to get behind the wheel and drive it…

18 05, 2009

We Love Early Mornings!

By | May 18th, 2009|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Early Mornings Don’t you Just Love Them!

In the United States, if you are approximately 45 miles away from  your destination and driving in a car you can roughly calculate that, you should, in most cases arrive within an hour or so.  We have friends who live and work in Europe and here too, drivers can estimate with a degree of accuracy how long a particular journey will take.  Unfortunately, Britain’s roads and traffic congestion does not permit us to do the same.  A journey on trunk roads and motorways that should normally take just 30 minutes, can indeed, last for half an hour.  At other times, the same journey could take you much, much longer.

Recently, when driving to a nearby university to deliver a lecture, one of a number of lectures delivered over a period of several weeks, a journey that could easily be accomplished in thirty minutes took nearly two hours to complete.  Such is the congestion and traffic problems that can be encountered on our roads.

Today we had a teaching assignment at a school about 80 miles away.  This school is located on the other side of a major traffic blackspot on the M6 motorway through the city of Birmingham.  To ensure we got to the school in plenty of time, we were up at 4am and on the road for 5am.  This gave us three and a half hours to drive 80 miles.  On a good day we would have avoided much of the rush hour traffic and had time to have breakfast before arriving at the school to start our teaching sessions.  The journey could be expected to last perhaps as much as two hours, unfortunately, this was not the case and it took nearer three hours to complete.

Only by allowing plenty of “float” in case of traffic problems can we endeavour to arrive on time for meetings, teaching sessions and so on.  The drawback to doing this is that we have to get up very, very early.  There are something like 22 million cars in the United Kingdom and with the forecasted growth in the population many more cars will probably be on our roads in the future.  Public transport is often not an option due to the inadequacies of the service offered, so we just have to grin and bare it.

We do try to cut down on our car journeys, share cars to help with our carbon footprint and where possible take trains, but often when going to a school these are not options.

So I guess we will simply have to get used to early starts.

17 05, 2009

Northern Alberta once again in the Dinosaur Spotlight

By | May 17th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Evidence of New Dinosaur Species from Northern Alberta

When palaeontologists discuss the late Cretaceous dinosaur discoveries in Alberta, most automatically consider the fantastic fossils that have been found in the south of the Canadian State, from locations such as the Dinosaur Provincial Park and Drumheller.  However, a team of scientists from the University of Alberta are determined to put the north of the State on the dinosaur “hot spot” map.

The Peace River County, approximately 300 miles northwest of the city of Edmonton could benefit from dinosaur tourism if a museum is built in the area to exhibit all the exciting late Cretaceous fossils being discovered.  With the Royal Tyrrell Museum at Drumheller attracting over 400,000 visitors a year, the local authorities in the northern parts of Alberta hope that the dinosaurs from their part of Canada could one day attract significant numbers of tourists too.

A team of researchers from the University of Alberta in association with the Palaeontological Society of the Peace (PSP), believe they have discovered at least one new species of dinosaur.  This find coincides with the discovery of a dinosaur nesting site at nearby Grande Prairie, remains of baby dinosaurs were found along with the teeth of Dromaeosaurs which probably preyed on the young animals.

Tetsuto Miyashita, a University of Alberta student from Japan, and Frederico Fanti, a palaeontology graduate student from the University of Bologna, Italy, along with members of the Palaeontological Society of the Peace (PSP), made the discovery that indicates dinosaurs nested further north than believed.

The nesting site is significant as there is very little evidence of dinosaur nest sites in the fossil record, especially nest site at high northern latitudes.  Only one other part of the world has produced evidence of dinosaurs raising young at such high northern latitudes (Alaska).  The climate in the late Cretaceous was much warmer than today, but even so the winters would have been long with little daylight and the average summer temperature may have been no more than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

To read more about the dinosaur discoveries in the far north: Chilly Dinosaurs – Dinosaurs did not mind the Cold

Commenting on the nesting site discovery, Miyashita stated that until this find there had been no significant areas of dinosaur fossils located between southern Alberta and Alaska, these new discoveries will help fill in that gap.

He commented:

“It established [this new site] that dinosaurs were nesting at this high latitude.  Alberta is dinosaur country, but all the dinosaurs we had previously showcased came from the southern part of the province.  Now we’ve showed there is a lot of potential for the northern part as well”.

The significance for the tourist trade in this part of northern Alberta cannot be underestimated, the rugged beauty of the landscape coupled with some late Cretaceous dinosaur attractions could be a winning combination.

Miyashita added:

“By saying dinosaur country, now you mean the entire province, not only Drumheller and Brooks.  Also this is a high-latitude locality.  The dinosaurs were pushing the climatic limit in Grande Prairie”.

Although the amazing dinosaur finds at sites such as the Dinosaur Provincial Park Formation are known throughout the world, Frederico Fanti pointed out that 70 million years ago much of that area was covered by a warm, shallow sea.  The possibility of finding many more types of dinosaur and other prehistoric animal from the rock strata of northern Alberta is much more exciting he stated.

The young, Italian scientist went onto comment:

“It was a joy to work in the Grande Prairie area verifying the significance of the fossils collected from the Wapiti [geological] Formation.  This small northwest area was basically the only portion of Alberta and Saskatchewan that was above sea level 73 to 75 million years ago, providing habitat for land animals whose remains we collected, studied and described”.

Bert Hunt, a science professor at Grande Prairie Regional College and the programme co-coordinator for the PSP, stated that dinosaurs nesting in northern Alberta showed how different the climate was back in the Cretaceous.  Winter temperatures in northern Alberta can drop to as low as -20 degrees Celsius and summer temperatures rarely exceed 25 degrees Celsius.

Professor Hunt exclaimed:

The interesting thing is that’s the way the Earth has been for most of its history.  There was no cold, no poles, it was weather suitable for living.  Those animals inhabited every piece of land they could inhabit.  They all had to move and eat and migrate.  They ate a lot and had big bodies they had to feed, so they had to travel to find food”.

The recent discovery occurred in the well-known fossil-rich Kleskun Hills area northeast of Grande Prairie during the 2007 digging season.  Fanti and Miyashita were out with Hunt, PSP president Katalin Ormay and PSP member Sheldon Graber, when Hunt spotted some fossils.  Soon everyone was working on the site, trying to find more material.  The bones have been identified as belonging to newly-hatched herbivorous dinosaurs, they represent animals no bigger than a rabbit, but when fully grown they would have weighed several tonnes.  The dinosaurs are members of the Hadrosauridae family, at least one species, may be new to science.

A number of teeth indicative of the presence of Dromaeosaurs were also found.  The scientists believe that these relatively small animals may have been the dominant predators in the far north and would have preyed on the young dinosaurs in the nesting colony.  Perhaps the Dromaeosaurs were the Cretaceous equivalent of Arctic foxes.  These animals have a “boom time” in terms of food availability when enormous flocks of Snow Geese arrive to exploit the long daylight hours in order to raise a brood.  For the rest of the year, the foxes have meagre pickings in comparison.

The Italian and Japanese palaeontologists also discovered the bones of freshwater fish and other reptiles (believed to be cold-blooded).  The young scientists believe that this is evidence that this part of northern Alberta had an ecosystem which was a mixture of more hardy species from Alaska mixing with fauna from the warmer south.  Very few late Cretaceous, non-Dinosauria reptile bones have been found in North America at higher latitudes, indicating that in the north, it was too cold for cold-blooded reptiles.  By studying the climate information and piecing together a picture of life in northern Alberta towards the end of the Mesozoic, the scientists hope to find some answers to the question of how dinosaurs responded to changes in climatic conditions.

This is not the first big dinosaur discovery made in northern Alberta.

Al Lakusta, a Montrose school teacher, stumbled across a new species in a bone bed at Pipestone Creek; a species that would later be named after him – Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai.  As a result of the extensive bone bed discovery, this particular Ceratopsian (horned dinosaur) is one of the best known of all the horned dinosaurs of North America.

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

Professor Hunt went on to comment that scientists have only scratched the surface as far as the northern dinosaur remains are concerned.

“Probably in this Wapiti Formation that’s up to a kilometre thick around the Grande Prairie area, every single dinosaur, mammal or reptile will be a new species”.

Members of the PSP and local officials have stated that the development of major palaeontological dig sites in the area could provide a huge boost for the local economy.  The creation of a dinosaur attraction such as a museum could be a huge draw for tourists.

When asked about how many fossils the area could provide, Professor Hunt stated that in his opinion they were “sitting on a gold mine”.  The northern Alberta tourist board are hoping that this is indeed the case and that the area will get a much needed boost to its economy from the increase in tourists.

16 05, 2009

Cyril Walker – An Obituary

By | May 16th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Cyril Walker – 8th February 1939 to 6th May 2009

The Natural History Museum in London is a remarkable institution.  Visitors to the museum marvel at the wonderful exhibits on display in the galleries, but in reality they only see a fraction of the collection.  Indeed, most members of the public are not exposed to the immense amount of academic work carried out by the dedicated scientists, researchers and curators.  The Museum is a bit like an iceberg, only a small portion of the vast body is visible, for example, much of the collection is stored away from the South Kensington location, it is simply too big to store at one location.

It was sad to hear of the passing away of Cyril Walker, a palaeontologist and scientist, a dedicated bird watcher and someone who had spent his entire working career at the Natural History Museum.  Cyril Walker joined the museum in 1958 (called in those days, the British Museum), as a scientific assistant.  Through a series of promotions he rose to the position of a senior scientific officer and was appointed curator of fossil birds at the museum.  He retired in 1999.

He is perhaps best known for his seminal work on late Mesozoic and early Cenozoic birds.  He is credited with the discovery and classification of a subclass of primitive birds called the Enantiornithes from fragmentary fossil material excavated in South America.  The Enantiornithes were a part of the ancient bird group the Ornithothoraces, it is believed the Enantiornithines were a Cretaceous radiation of this large group.  Cyril Walker was one of the co-authors who refuted claims made regarding the authenticity of the Archaeopteryx fossils when the fossil evidence of link between dinosaurs and birds was challenged.  Indeed, he had a number of taxa named after him, several birds of course, reflecting his great knowledge in this area but also other animals including a species of Mosasaur.

15 05, 2009

The Dinosaur Mummy “Dakota”

By | May 15th, 2009|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

The Dinosaur Mummy “Dakota”

As we were leaving the dinosaur presentation (speaker Dr. Phil Manning – Manchester University), which took place last Tuesday, part of the excellent Bollington Festival, we were approached by a young dinosaur fan with a question.

We were asked by the keen, junior palaeontologist, what sort of dinosaur the “dinosaur mummy” discussed by Dr. Manning in the presentation was.  That was a very good question, not the sort of thing we are used to answering in a car park but we were able to provide some information on this particular dinosaur as we have read quite a lot about it and indeed, written a couple of blog articles.

The fossil is of a member of the Hadrosauridae (duck-billed dinosaur), specifically a Edmontosaurus.  When the specimen was first discovered, the scientists were unsure as to what the genus was but during the excavation and preparation it was confirmed that the dinosaur specimen nick-named “Dakota” was an Edmontosaurus.

This particular Hadrosaur was formerly named and described by the famous Canadian palaeontologist Lawrence Lambe in 1917.  It was one of the largest type of flat-headed Hadrosaur, perhaps one of the largest of all the duck-billed dinosaurs.  It has been estimated that fully grown adults would have been 13 metres in length and weighed perhaps as much as 4 Tonnes.

An Illustration of Edmontosaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view articles related to this particular fossil discovery:

Dinosaur Mummy unlocks secrets of Duck-billed Dinosaurs

Update on “Dakota” the recently found Hadrosaurine Mummy

14 05, 2009

Nature on your Doorstep

By | May 14th, 2009|Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Nature on your Doorstep – Chrysalis by our Front Door

For some months now, I have been keeping a watchful eye over a chrysalis that we noticed had attached itself to the paintwork of the frame of our front door.  The chrysalis was spotted in January and ever since we have been careful not to disturb it as we went to and fro.  A chrysalis is the pupa of a butterfly or moth, not being very knowledgeable as to what this creature might actually be we kept up our vigil to see what would emerge.

This morning, we got our answer, a butterfly had emerged one of the Cabbage White variety, probably the common Small White (pieris rapae), although we cannot be certain.

The Butterfly on our Doorstep

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture shows a rather fuzzy close up of our butterfly, the pupa case can be seen in the background.  Unfortunately, our little friend has timed his/her emergence badly.  Bad weather, (cold and wet) has been forecast for 72 hours.  Hopefully, our butterfly will be able to hang on for a few days before it can take flight, find a mate, end up being responsible for caterpillars in our vegetable patch etc.

Who needs to go into the countryside to view nature, when nature comes to your own front door.

13 05, 2009

Bollington Festival Gets of to a Roaring Success

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

Bollington Festival in Full Swing

The annual Bollington Festival has reached its halfway stage with the organisers and volunteers determined to make the Festival bigger and better than ever.  For the first time, there are a number of science events taking place, with prestigious speakers from a number of scientific disciplines providing entertaining and very informative presentations over the course of the Festival, which itself runs from May 8th to May 25th.

The first presentation on the science programme, the SCIBAR event – Can Humans grow new Limbs? led by the speaker for the evening Professor Enrique Amaya, of the Healing Foundation Centre, the University of Manchester, was a big success with a reported 85 people attending.  SCIBAR stands for science bar, and these events provide people with the opportunity to learn more about a specific scientific subject in an informal, relaxed environment such as a bar in a pub.  What a winning combination, a fascinating insight into a scientific topic and the chance to have a drink or two.  This type of event is building on the success enjoyed by the Knutsford SCIBAR.  Knutsford like Bollington, is a town in Cheshire, it seems that the county is becoming quite well known for its innovative science events.

The second science event took place last night.  Dr Phil Manning from the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (University of Manchester) gave a presentation entitled “Hunting Dinosaurs in the 21st Century”.  This event took place at the Bollington Arts Centre and an estimated 120 people attended.  It certainly was packed, even the balcony area had to be opened to accommodate the audience, which comprised of academics, teachers, parents and of course a lot of young dinosaur fans, or as Phil calls them “munchkins”.

The Audience Settles In

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture shows the hall filling up prior to the start of Dr Phil Manning’s talk.  The capacity of the hall is approximately 120 persons, so the venue was just about filled to its capacity.

Dr Phil Manning gave a highly entertaining and informative presentation providing the audience with further information on his work on the superbly preserved Hadrosaurine mummy “Dakota”.  It looks like this amazing specimen will provide scientists with a whole array of fresh dinosaur data and some incredible, ground breaking insight into Dinosauria.  With Phil’s easy going, engaging style the time seemed to fly by.  He discussed some of the very latest analytical techniques, reviewed the work carried out at Manchester University on dinosaur locomotion, talked in detail about the deep-scanning techniques that had been employed to help analyse the matrix surrounding the duck-billed dinosaur fossil he had been working on.  Even Darwin, Huxley and Argentinosaurus were covered, in what was a super presentation.

Dr Manning has that rare ability in a speaker to be able to engage with all the members of the audience, from the serious academics to the young children who had come to meet someone who actually digs up dinosaurs.  Although he has an extremely busy schedule, Phil took time out to answer questions from the audience at the end of his talk.  It is surprising how young children in particular, seem to be able to think of really difficult questions to ask, but Phil took them all in his stride.

Dr Phil Manning (University of Manchester)

Dr. Phil Manning

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

There are a number of other science events planned for the Bollington Festival, covering such diverse subjects as astronomy, family science workshops, and the science of smells.  There truly is something for everyone at the Bollington Science Festival.

To visit the Festival’s website: Bollington Festival

12 05, 2009

Dinosaur Footprints go on Display

By | May 12th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Dinosaur Footprints Go on Display in Oxfordshire

Fossilised dinosaur trackways discovered at a landfill site north of Oxford have gone on display at a new exhibit at the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock (Oxon).  The trackways, one of a Theropod (meat-eating, bipedal dinosaur), the second, a set of prints from a large, quadruped herbivore (a Sauropod) had to be moved to protect them and now make up a new “Dinosaur” themed garden at the museum.

The tracks were discovered at the nearby Ardley quarry and landfill site in 1997, team members at Everything Dinosaur reported on the tricky problems of transporting the limestone rock slabs containing the fossilised footprints in an article written last year:

To read the article: Megalosaurus Makes its Mark

Scientists believe that the trackways date to the mid Jurassic and are approximately 160-170 million years old (Aalenian to Bajocian faunal stages), a time when much of southern England was a tropical paradise.

Commenting on the opening of the Dinosaur Garden, Tom Freshwater, of the museum sated:

“The footprints are very ephemeral remains that you get from dinosaurs, usually people think of bones”.

Footprints and trackways are trace fossils.  Trace fossils preserve evidence of the activity of animals and other organisms.  Unlike body fossils such as bones, most trace fossils are direct evidence of the environment at the time and place the organism existed.  The dinosaur trackways, reveal information about the environment and ecosystem of the mid Jurassic.

To view the model of Megalosaurus and other dinosaurs: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls

The Theropod trackways are particularly interesting, as the space between the prints increases part of the way along the track.  This is an indication that the animal changed its velocity – it broke out into a run.

Tom Freshwater went onto add:

“We’re very lucky that these fleeting momentary impressions have been preserved. The trackways at Ardley showed the dinosaurs running and that’s very rare thing.  They’re the longest trackways in the world showing dinosaurs running.  So that’s why they’re so important.”

Although scientists cannot be sure, it is believed that the Theropod tracks were made by a Megalosaurus, a fierce, carnivorous dinosaur, fossils of which are associated with this area and rock strata.

An Illustration of a Megalosaurus Footprint

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Very little is known about European meat-eating dinosaurs of the Jurassic due to the paucity of the fossil record, although Megalosaurus does have the distinction of being the first dinosaur to be studied scientifically and named.

An Illustration of Megalosaurus

A scale drawing of Megalosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The carefully re-created “Dinosaur” themed garden depicts a Megalosaurus and contains typical plants that would have comprised part of the flora of the environment at the time the Megalosaurus roamed Oxfordshire.

The “Dinosaur” Themed Garden Exhibit

Dinosaur in the Garden (Megalosaurus)

Picture Credit: Oxfordshire Museum

The Sauropod tracks have been ascribed to a Cetiosaurus, a long-necked dinosaur and primitive member of the Sauropod group.  It is not known whether the Megalosaur was stalking the Cetiosaurus.  Interestingly, Cetiosaurus was one of the first Sauropods to be formerly named and described (Sir Richard Owen, 1842).  As well as sharing the limelight at the Oxfordshire Museum with Megalosaurus, Cetiosaurus has another thing in common with its meat-eating contemporary.  For a long time after Megalosaurus and Cetiosaurus were discovered any fossil remains of a carnivore or long-necked herbivore were ascribed to these genera.  They became known as “taxon wastebaskets”.  Only with further study and more fossil material has the Megalosaur/Cetiosaur muddle begun to be unravelled.

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