All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//August
11 08, 2009

Postosuchus – A Hunter of Dinosaurs

By | August 11th, 2009|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Postosuchus – Fierce Predator of the Triassic

The arid plains of late Triassic North America were home to the large and terrifying Postosuchus, a fierce, meat-eating hunter that was the apex predator at this time.  An Archosaur reptile, not a dinosaur but part of the same broad group that contained the dinosaurs and the Pterosaurs.  Reaching lengths in excess of 5 metres and perhaps weighing more than one tonne, Postosuchus was capable of killing almost any other type of animal that shared its habitat.  With a robust skull taller than it was wide, Postosuchus had a powerful bite, indeed some scientists have speculated that it was a distant ancestor of the Tyrannosaurs, as these animals also have a similar skull morphology.

It is more likely that Tyrannosaurs and the likes of Postosuchus both evolved strong, powerful bites and the skull adaptations are part of the process that permitted these strong jaws and fearsome bite strengths to evolve.  However, whether or not Postosuchus was capable of a bipedal stance and upright gait like a Theropod dinosaur is another point debated by scientists.

More often than not, Postosuchus is depicted as a quadruped, moving around on all fours.  These large carnivores probably lived a solitary existence, avoiding other members of its species (except when the urge to breed took over).  Postosuchus was probably an ambush predator, preying on dinosaurs such as young Plateosaurs and the stocky Dicynodont Placerias.

A Scale Drawing of Postosuchus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The model in the picture is the Postosuchus from the Carnegie Safari Wild Dinos collection (Wild Safari Dinos Postosuchus), it is depicted as a quadruped, a stance that many palaeontologists was the natural pose of this heavy animal.  Postosuchus was capable of rearing up onto its hind legs but whether it was fully bipedal is unknown, given the lack of evidence available from the fossil record.

To view the model of Postosuchus: Dinosaur Toys & Dinosaur Models for Boys and Girls

10 08, 2009

Monsters from the Carboniferous

By | August 10th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Amazing Insights into Carboniferous Creepy-Crawlies

The Mesozoic may have the dinosaurs but this era was preceded by the Palaeozoic, the era of ancient life when strange and bizarre invertebrates ruled.  One of the most significant periods in terms of the advancement of plant and animal life was the Carboniferous a time when the vast coal measures now used to support much of human activity on the planet were formed.  The Carboniferous saw the advance of the Tetrapods and their greater adaptation to a life on land.  Vast forests of ferns dominated the landscape, but the vertebrates did not have these huge tracts of forest to themselves, this was the time of large insects and a new technique being used by a team of British scientists is provided new insights into the lifestyle of some of these amazing invertebrates.

A new 3-D analysis of delicate fossil arthropods and insects has provided new clues as to the habits and lifestyles of some of the first creatures to adapt to a sedentary life.

Fighting for survival in the leaf litter of the primeval forests were two arthropods, ancient creatures that are distantly related to modern spiders. Scientists used 3,000 individual x-rays of these two fossilised animals and then a computer model created remarkable 3-D images that provide much more data than an examination of the original fossil.

The animals were two coin-sized creatures called Cryptomartus hindi and Eophyrneus prestvicii, there composite models are shown in the picture below.

3-D Images of Carboniferous Life

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum and Imperial College, London

C. hindi (pictured above on the left) and E. prestvicii (on the right) were two animals that lived in the undergrowth, this new study provides astonishing details of their anatomy and scientists begin how these two particular creatures survived in the flourishing ecosystems of the Carboniferous. The new 3-D computer generated models have revealed new aspects of these ancient creature’s anatomies that has enabled the researchers to draw conclusions about how these animals lived.  For example, the fossil evidence had indicated that E. prestvicii had long legs, probably an adaptation to running through the leaf litter after prey.  However, these digitally dissected spiders have shown more detail, E. prestvicii had rows of spines on its back, possibly an evolved defence against carnivorous amphibians that also roamed around the forest floor.

The study, recently published in the scientific journal Biology Letters also concludes that the front legs of C. hindi were angled forward, presumably so it could grasp prey.  The angle of the leg suggests that this particular ancient arachnid hid in logs or under leaf fronds, waiting to ambush smaller creatures as they came by.  This adaptation is similar to the leg positions of a modern crab spider that ambushes prey in this manner.

Commenting on the new discoveries, the lead author of this study, Russell Garwood, a PhD student at Imperial College, London stated:

“Our models almost bring these ancient creatures back to life and it’s really exciting to be able to look at them in such detail.  Our study helps build a picture of what was happening during this period early in the history of life on land.  We think one creature could have responded to increasing predation from the amphibians by growing spikes, while the other responded by becoming an ambush predator, hiding away and only exposing itself when it had to come out to eat”.

Garwood and his colleagues are hoping that this new imaging technique will be used to help bring back to life from the Carboniferous more amazing creepy-crawlies.

9 08, 2009

Evidence of Cannibalism Amongst early Britons

By | August 9th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Could our Ancestors have been Cannibals?

Scientists at Oxford University have published a paper on a human arm bone found in a Devon cave that may indicate that our ancestors were cannibals.  The scientists believe the marks on the 9,000-year-old human bone are evidence that flesh was removed from it or that the body was cut up shortly after death.  The bone from Kents Cavern, near Torquay in Devon was spotted amongst a collection of animal bones from the site by Torquay museum curator Barry Chandler.  A closer examination of the bone revealed that it had several cut marks in the bone, evidently these had to have been made by a human using a stone tool of some sort.  The study showed that the bone had also been fractured at or around the time of death.

Other evidence of cannibalistic practices has been found at a number of sites in England, evidence of possible cannibalism has been found at the Cheddar Gorge caves in Somerset and at Eton in Berkshire, human bones were found split open, perhaps to get at the nutritious marrow inside.

The Human Arm Bone – Evidence of Cannibalism?

Picture Credit: Ian R Cartwright/School of Archaeology/PA

The arrow in the diagram is pointing towards a cluster of three, fine vertical marks scored into the bone, other marks can be seen to the left of this group.

Dr Rick Schulting, of the School of Archaeology at Oxford University, sated:

“There are cut marks, and it seems the bone has been intentionally split.  These two together can raise the possibility of cannibalism”.

However, Dr Schulting and his colleagues were quick to point out that cannibalism was just one possible explanation, the markings could be signs of a complex ritual burial.  Perhaps by scoring the bones our ancestors thought that the spirit of the dead person would be more quickly released so that they could join other spirits of the departed.

The bone from Kents Cavern was first discovered by archaeologist and geologist William Pengelly more than 100 years ago.  It had been stored in a collection of miscellaneous animal bones that had been collected from the cave.

8 08, 2009

Fourth Anniversary – Say it with Flowers

By | August 8th, 2009|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|1 Comment

Fourth Anniversary of Everything Dinosaur

This week marks the start of our fifth year in business, supply dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed merchandise all over the world.  Most of our team members have been involved in palaeontology in some form or another for too long for them to care to remember, but Everything Dinosaur has its official fourth birthday a few days ago.

The occasion was marked by extra special biscuits available at the coffee breaks, we really know how to push the boat out.  Petty cash was a bit low after we splashed out on a works outing to the “Dinosaurs Live” event earlier on in the month.

The traditional gift to mark a fourth anniversary is flowers, or as palaeontologists refer to them – angiosperms.  The angiosperms or flowering plants are the most recent major group to evolve, having their origins sometime in the Jurassic.  They have become highly diversified in a relatively short period of geological time.  Today there are something like 250,000 species belonging to approximately 450 families and most of our food crops are angiosperms.

The oldest flowering plant known in the fossil record is Archaefructus from north-eastern China.  This plant has been dated to approximately 140 million years ago (Berriasian/Valanginian faunal stages of the Cretaceous).  It has the main, distinguishing features of a flowering plant, with fruits enclosed in a female reproductive structure (carpels) that developed from a pollinated flower.

Say it with Flowers Archaefructus sinensis

Picture Credit: National Museum of Natural History

This fossil was found in mudstone, indicating that this particular plant, lived in shallow water, with the stalks being supported by the water.  The plant may have had a similar habit as a water lily.  The scientific name for this species Archaefructus sinensis means “ancient fruit from China”.

An Illustration of Archaefructus

Prehistoric Flowers for Everything Dinosaur’s 4th Birthday

Picture Credit: Associated Press

It may not have been the most spectacular flower to have evolved, but its significance in the fossil record is duly noted.  It is fitting we should mark the end of our fourth year with an article on such an important fossil.

7 08, 2009

Bird Brains – Feathered Friends Capable of Complex Problem Solving

By | August 7th, 2009|Animal News Stories, Educational Activities, Main Page|0 Comments

Bird Brains – Corvidae proves Aesop Fable could be True

The term “Bird Brain” is often meant as an insult, but in reality some members of the Order Aves (the birds) are known to be remarkably intelligent and able to demonstrate the ability to solve complex problems.  For example, members of the crow family (Corvidae) are regarded by scientists as being remarkable adaptable and have been used in a number of studies providing an insight into how the cerebrum (the problem solving part of the brain) functions.

Clever crows and rooks are not new to science but a new study by a team of British researchers has demonstrated the problem solving abilities of these birds and perhaps, proved that one of Aesop’s ancient fables may be based on truth.

In one of Aesop’s fables (morality tales from ancient Greece attributed to writer Aesop who lived some 600 years before the birth of Christ), a thirsty crow finds a pitcher of water.  Unfortunately, for the crow, the neck of the pitcher is quite narrow and the water cannot be reached, as the pitcher is not filled up to the top.  The crow solves this problem by dropping stones into the water, thus raising the water level via displacement.  As more stones are dropped in, so the water rises, until the crow is rewarded with a drink.

The moral of this particular story might be necessity is the mother of invention, but now a team of scientists from Cambridge University have demonstrated that there may be some truth behind this story.

Several rooks, at the University’s aviary have quickly mastered the technique of stone dropping to enable them to raise the level of water within a plastic tube so that they can catch a worm floating on the surface.  This “brains trust” amongst “bird brains” consists of four rooks, named Cook, Fry, Monroe and Connelly.  The scientists have observed the birds carefully examining the problem before dropping in the right number of stones needed to allow them to bring the tasty worm within reach.  Although, is is very difficult to attempt to assess the level of cognitive reasoning involved the birds did seem to wait until the water level was high enough to be reached before attempting to grab the worm with their beaks.

In addition, the birds did not add any more stones after eating the worms, suggesting the pebble dropping was a means to the end and not just a form of play.

Aesop Fable based on Truth?  Clever Bird Brains

Picture Credit: Cambridge University

The ingenuity of the feathered friends was shown when they were presented with a pile of stones of varying sizes. The rooks quickly learnt that picking the bigger ones would speed up the task, allowing them to snack more quickly and showing an efficiency of effort.  When given a choice of a worm floating in a tube part-filled with water and one half-packed with sawdust, they grasped that adding stones to the part filled tube with sawdust would not bring the treat within reach.

The study was led by the appropriately named Christopher Bird, a PhD student studying zoology, it has been published in the latest edition of the scientific journal “Current Biology”.

Commenting on his study, Christopher stated:

“Corvids are remarkably intelligent, and in many ways rival the great apes in their physical intelligence and ability to solve problems. “This is remarkable considering their brain is so different to the great apes”.

Such behaviour has not been observed in the wild, but the crow family with their relatively small brains (encephalisation quotient not withstanding), have gained a reputation in many societies for being clever.  For example, in Finland we were told stories by fisherman that when they went ice fishing and left their lines in the water overnight, ravens soon learnt to examine the holes early in the morning before the men returned and to pull up the lines that had a fish hooked on them.  The encephalisation quotient is a simplistic measurement of an animal’s intelligence and allows comparisons across genera.  It examines the ratio between body weight and brain size.

This study could help palaeontologists to assess the relative intelligence of Theropod dinosaurs, the closest relatives to birds in the animal kingdom fossil record.

6 08, 2009

Back to School Ideas from Everything Dinosaur

By | August 6th, 2009|Main Page|0 Comments

Back to School Ideas from Everything Dinosaur

At last a decent day in terms of the weather, sunny spells and it is lovely and warm.  After a wet July let us hope that August is considerably better.  However, just as the fine weather returns it is time to think of the end of the school holidays and the return to school.  Get your young dinosaur fans ready for the start of the school term with this range of super quality dinosaur themed stationery available to buy on line from Everything Dinosaur.

To help ease into the start of the Autumn term, how about a stylish and practical dinosaur themed lunch bag plus a matching dinosaur back pack now available Everything Dinosaur.  Made from 100% hard-wearing polyester and polyurethane linings, these handy, robust accessories are the ideal equipment for a young dinosaur fan going to school.

Everything Dinosaur Lunch Box and Matching Backpack

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the dinosaur lunch box: Back to School Stationery & Other Supplies

The backpack and lunch box are just two items from the extensive Everything Dinosaur – back to school range.  Whether it is pens, pencils, erasers, stationery or books, Everything Dinosaur has it covered.

Back to School range: Back to School with Everything Dinosaur

5 08, 2009

Start of the Everything Dinosaur Fossil Casting Activities

By | August 5th, 2009|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Summer Activities – Casting your own Fossil

Today, marks the start of our Summer activities programme, at this time of year we get bombarded with requests to support local authority summer play schemes and other organised play activities.  We do try to support as many as we can but these day with all our other events, and projects it is quite difficult to do.

However, our road show kicks off today with an afternoon of dinosaur themed activities at a leisure centre.  We are going to bring over some of our museum replicas and real fossils to do a sort of show and tell element.

After this, we have a dinosaur dig to organise (using real fossils we have collected on our many fossil hunting trips), before we get down to making some plaster casts of fossils for the young dinosaur fans to take home.

An Indoor Fossil Hunt

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To round off the afternoon’s activities we are going to be playing a version of our dinosaur run-around game, with lucky contestants able to take home their own set of prehistoric animal top trumps we have created especially for this year’s road trips.

These are events take some organising but they are lots of fun, although when they have finished and we have packed everything into the “dino van” to take back to the warehouse we are shattered.

Still it’s all in a days work.

4 08, 2009

New DNA Coding Technique may Help Deter Fossil Thieves

By | August 4th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Associating Fossil Bones to their Surrounding Matrix may Prevent Thefts

A new technique that ties fossil bones to their site of origin may help deter raiders of dinosaur dig sites.  With the number of incidents of looting on the increase, then this new “finger printing” system that helps identify the source of any fossil put up for auction may act as a deterrent for would be thieves.

The theft of fossil bones and other ancient relics from dig sites is an increasingly common occurrence.  Thieves recently stole several important Sauropod fossils from a dig site in the state of Utah, this particular dig site held the fossilised bones of a young Diplodocus that lived 150 million years ago.

Commenting on the theft, Scott Williams the Collections and Exhibits Manager at the Burpee Museum of Natural History stated:

“It’s like pieces of a puzzle that are now gone”.

Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that these fossils will ever come to light again, stolen fossils end up being sold for large amounts of money in a black market of illegal fossil sales.

However, a new fossil identifying technique being pioneered in the USA could give state officials and regulators the edge when it comes to tracking down fossil thieves.  Scientists are testing a number of methods designed to chemically match a fossil with naturally occurring elements that seep into the bones during the fossilisation process from the surrounding matrix.  Although the work is in its early stages, the techniques could help identify the unique “chemical fingerprint” of a fossil site and help link any fossil bones up for auction to a particular site.  Using this information it would be possible to determine whether the bones and other relics had been obtained for sale by legal means.

Testing on the chemical analysis of fossil matrices is continuing in the western United States.  So far, results indicate these new methods could tie 85% to 98% of fossil samples back to their original sites.  The theft of fossils from a dig site is extremely frustrating for the palaeontologists, not only are valuable fossils removed but often the sites are damaged as the thieves recklessly dig out the bones.  Valuable information is being destroyed or lost, limiting the amount of information a fossil site can yield.

Vincent Santucci, the Head of the National Park Service Palaeontology Programme put it succinctly when he stated:

“We’re not making T. rexes any more”.

Although the impact of the recession has dampened down the prices paid for rare fossils at auction, dinosaur bones, especially those of famous dinosaurs such as T. rex or Triceratops still fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction.  Wealthy private collectors keen to add a “prize specimen” to their collection will gladly pay a high price to obtain a rare and precious dinosaur fossil.

In Utah, which is rife with dinosaur quarries and regularly the source of newly found species, the losses to scientific knowledge can be dramatic, commented Jim Kirkland, the state palaeontologist.  He said he’s terrified that vandals will hit a significant site before scientists can meticulously go through it.  Hopefully, this new labelling technique that associates fossils with a particular site will deter any would be thieves and looters.  With several hundred reported incidents each year, any new method of helping to preserve dig sites and protect fossils is most welcome by the scientific community.  The new mapping techniques, in association with stronger legislation could help protect many important palaeontological sites, helping to preserve them so that they can be properly studied.

With looting and even vandalism of fossil sites on the increase, let’s hope that this new technique provides an effective deterrent.

Author: Mike (ezine compliance)

3 08, 2009

The Mystery of Dunkle’s Bones

By | August 3rd, 2009|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

A Puzzle about Dunkleosteus – A Bony Problem

The apex marine predator during the late Devonian was the huge Placoderm Dunkleosteus.  Placoderms (the term means plated or armoured skins), were a hugely successful group of primitive jawed fish.  They evolved in the Silurian and rapidly diversified to become the main predators along with the first sharks during the Devonian.  Ranging in size from a few centimetres to giants like Dunkleosteus at over 8 metres long, the Placoderms were extremely successful.  However, the Placoderms became extinct at the end of the Devonian and as far as the fossil record shows, no Placoderms survived into the Carboniferous.  A number of marine families became extinct at the end of the Devonian (approximately 354 million years ago), many fish species become extinct and also organisms such as corals, brachiopods, bivalve molluscs and sponges.  Tropical reef-dwelling animals seem to have been the most badly affected.  The exact causes of the Devonian mass extinction are unknown.

One of the mysteries surrounding the huge, carnivorous Dunkleosteus (the name means Dunkle’s Bones, as this animal was named after the American palaeontologist D. H. Dunkle), is exactly what this animal looked like.  Scientists believe that is lived in the open ocean, and was pelagic (lived above the sea floor).  It is likely that it was also nektonic (an active swimmer), however, only the head and thorax of this fish were covered in bony plates.   A number of these bony plates have been preserved as fossils and scientists have a good idea of what the front end of Dunkleosteus looked like. As for the rest of the animal, the lack of fossil remains (rest of the skeleton probably made of cartilage, like sharks) means that scientists have to make an educated guess as to what the animal actually looked like.

Did Dunkleosteus have a shark-like habit? Was it an active hunter, swimming constantly as it lacked a swim bladder like sharks?  Or was the bus-sized fish more like an eel with a long slender body, fringed with ribbon-like fins swimming sinuously?

Scientists have used the complete remains of smaller Placoderms as the basis for their reconstructions of Dunkleosteus.

A Model of Dunkleosteus (Wild Safari Dino Dunkleosteus)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In this illustration, Dunkleosteus is modelled on the anatomy of a sleek, predator with a powerful tail providing bursts of acceleration to help it catch prey.  The body is broader than in other depictions of this particular Placoderm and the tail flukes wider at the bottom to give thrust.

This is the model of Dunkleosteus created by Safari Ltd of the USA and is part of the model series entitled Wild Safari Dinos.

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

2 08, 2009

Review of the Wild Safari Dinos Dilophosaurus Model

By | August 2nd, 2009|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Review of the Wild Safari Dilophosaurus Model

With the release of the movie Jurassic Park, the early Jurassic Theropod Dilophosaurus became quite a familiar sight in dinosaur model series.  Despite the very dubious representation of this member of the Coelophysoidea in the film, Dilophosaurus models have appeared in the Carnegie Collectibles series, Bullyland, Schleich Dinosaurs and recently in the Procon/Collecta range.

Dilophosaurus was badly misrepresented in Jurassic Park, first of all it was undersized, the animals depicted in the film were much smaller than an adult Dilophosaurus (D. wetherilli) would have been.  In truth, Dilophosaurus could attain lengths in excess of 6 metres, making it one of the largest predatory dinosaurs around during the Sinemurian faunal stage of the early Jurassic (approx. 200 million years ago).  There is no evidence of a neck frill that could be extended to scare or intimidate other dinosaurs.  The neck frill idea was just part of the film designer’s imagination, perhaps they had been observing the Australian frill-necked lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii).  Another feature of Dilophosaurus depicted in the film, again a result of an over active imagination of the film designers, was the poison glands.  The fossil record has yielded very little evidence of any poisonous Theropods and certainly not with a Dilophosaur.  However, the delicate and light jaws of Dilophosaurus seem unsuited to coping with struggling prey so we can see where the design team got their idea from.  A disabled victim, poisoned by venom from a Dilophosaurus would present little danger to the light and delicate jaws.

The genus Dilophosaurus seems to be quite widespread with fossils found in western North America and China.

A Scale Drawing of Dilophosaurus wetherilli

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

One of the newest models of this particular dinosaur is the Wild Safari Dilophosaurus (Safari Ltd of the USA).  This new model is an updated representation of this meat-eating dinosaur and presents Dilophosaurus as a more lithe and lighter creature with a long slender tail.  This contrasts with the early representation of this dinosaur as depicted in the Carnegie Dinosaur Collectibles range.  In this earlier model, introduced in 1994, a pair of Dilophosaurs are portrayed together, a homage to the fact that since three skeletons of this dinosaur have been found in close proximity, they may have lived in packs.

The Wild Safari Dilophosaurus

Dilophosaurus (Carnegie Collectibles)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Wild Safari Dilophosaurus shows a terrific amount of detail, the neck is much more slender in appearance and the two skull crests (after which this dinosaur is named), are narrow and delicate looking.  These crests are much more accurately reproduced when this particular model is compared with earlier versions such as the Schleich Dinosaurs series or the Bullyland Dilophosaurus model.  The legs are much thinner than on earlier models, although care has been taken to give the impression of a strong runner, after all, Dilophosaurus was probably quite agile and fast.    The model is painted in a dark brown pigment with a lighter tan under-body, with only the head showing any flashes of colour; flesh covering the anteorbital fenestra is coloured blue and the skull crests are a reddish hue.

A View of the Wild Safari Dilophosaurus Head

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In the close up view of the head of the model, the blue flash on the side of the head can clearly be seen, the crests are prominent and the fine paintwork around the mouth is revealed.  The distinctive, kinked upper jaw of this particular dinosaur is visible on this replica.

This new addition to the Wild Safari Dinos model series is probably one of the best depictions of Dilophosaurus around at the moment.

To view the model: Dinosaur Models and Dinosaur Toys

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