All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//December
21 12, 2009

Still Packing and Despatching Christmas Parcels

By | December 21st, 2009|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur – Still Packing and Despatching Christmas Parcels

Another early start for team members at Everything Dinosaur this morning, with staff braving the cold and frosty conditions to get into the office for 7am to complete the packing and despatching of Christmas orders.

For UK based customers today, (21st December), is the latest recommended posting date for Royal Mail first class deliveries, our team members have made sure that they have kept on top of packing and despatching parcels.  We try to turn around parcels as quickly as possible, in this way we are doing all we can to ensure customers don’t miss out on Christmas gifts.

However, even though the last recommended posting date is today for First Class services, we will still be working up until 12.30pm on Christmas Eve, packing and despatching items for customers who may not be seeing relatives until the New Year.  As for our courier service we will keep going, doing all we can to ensure a rapid turnaround.  A word of caution, a caveat if you will.  We have been notified by our courier service providers that due to the adverse weather in parts of the south and east of the country, some parcels are being delayed by between 24 and 48 hours.   A parcel sent out on Thursday afternoon and scheduled to arrive on Monday, may not actually arrive until Tuesday.

Good job we turn things round efficiently at this end, thus giving the courier and postal services as much help as we possibly can.

20 12, 2009

Prehistoric Koalas Less Reliant on Eucalyptus than Modern Koalas

By | December 20th, 2009|Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

New Study shows Subtle Differences between Ancient and Modern Koalas

One of the iconic animals of Australia, the cute and cuddly Koala bear is having a prehistoric makeover as a result of a new study into prehistoric Koala specimens.  Firstly, although commonly referred to as a “bear” the Koala is not, indeed there are no bear species that are native to Australia.  The extant Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is an endangered species in Australia.  Some still live in the wild but most can be found in protected wildlife areas.  Once hunted for their fur, these sedentary animals spend most of their lives in the trees and eat almost exclusively the leaves of the eucalyptus tree.  The word Koala was believed to have been derived from the aboriginal for “I do not drink”, these marsupials related to the Wombat group, seem to get all the moisture they need from eating eucalyptus, although this word derivation has been questioned.

New research published in the scientific publication “The Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology”, contrasts the fossilised species of Koala with their modern counterparts.  By the late Palaeogene, Australia had become isolated from the rest of the world, leaving the marsupials that dominated the mammal based element of the ecosystem to thrive without competition form placental mammals.  As Australia continued to drift north (it is still moving northwards today), the humid warm conditions began to change and the continent became much drier.  The rainforests began to shrink and many animals had to adapt to the new environmental conditions.  This led to a number of adaptations in the Koala genera leading to distinctive differences between extinct and extant Koala species as published in a joint research paper by the University of New South Wales’s School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences and CSIRO.  CSIRO is the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation.

An Illustration of a Modern Koala (P. cinereus)

Picture Credit: Design Practitioners Ltd

The scientists report that a shift to an eucalyptus diet was probably caused by the change in the climate as Australia moved north.  In the drier conditions it was the Eucalypts that became the dominant tree genera in many areas.  Coping with the new diet caused adaptive changes in the Koala digestive and anatomical structure, as these herbivores adapted to their tough diet.  Differences in the appearance of skulls between extant Koalas and their ancient ancestors, have been revealed with the research team comparing the skulls of modern animals with those found at the Riversleigh Formation in Queensland.

Dr. Julien Louys of the University of New South Wales commented:

“In order to accommodate both mechanical demands of their new diet, as well as maintaining their auditory sophistication, the Koala underwent substantial changes to its cranial anatomy, in particular the facial skeleton”.

The study of ancient Koala fossils dating from the Oligocene and Miocene epochs indicate that the Koala group diversified from the Wombat family some 40 million years ago.  The Koalas are members of the Diprotodontidae Order, named by Sir Richard Owen (he who coined the term Dinosauria), in 1866.  The modern Koala is the sole survivor of the Phascolarctidae Family.  A number of prehistoric genera of Koala are known in the Australian fossil record, two of which from the Miocene and Pliocene epochs do not share the modern Koala’s trait of being almost exclusive eucalyptus feeders.

Fossils of Koalas are extremely rare, most genera are known from fragments of skull, jaw bones and fossilised teeth.  As ancient Koalas lived in woodlands the chances of them being preserved as fossils was extremely small.

The researchers drew their conclusions about the changes to Koala diets and lifestyles after making a detailed study of the possums and extant/extinct Koala species.  The two fossil species analysed (Litokoala kutjamarpensis and Nimiokoala greystanesi) have been found at the Riversleigh site and although there are similarities between ancient and modern species there are substantial differences in the teeth, palate and jaws.

The researchers believe that the prehistoric Koalas also shared with their modern cousins the ability to produce loud “bellows” based on similar large bony prominences — the auditory bullae — that enclose structures in the middle and inner ear.  However the auditory bullae of the extinct Nimiokoala and Litokoala species are not as exaggerated as in the modern koala, according to team member Professor Mike Archer.

Professor Archer stated:

“Modern Koalas are extremely sedentary and vocal animals.  They produce low frequency vocalisations that pass through vegetation and can be heard up to 800 metres away, far exceeding the home range limits of male Koalas.  The fossil Koalas share similar large bony ear structures to the modern Koala and would have been well adapted to detecting vocalisations in the rain-forest environment of Riversleigh in the Miocene era.”

The unique structure of the skull of the modern Koala is a result of having to compromise in terms of evolutionary adaptations between the need to vocalise and change to a tougher diet of eucalyptus leaves claim the researchers.

19 12, 2009

A Mention for Macrauchenia

By | December 19th, 2009|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Macrauchenia – A Bizarre South American Hoofed Mammal

The ungulates (hoof-bearing mammals) are very familiar today, they include very well known groups of animals such as deer, pigs, cows and horses, but since they originated in the early Palaeocene, plenty of time has elapsed to enable some very unusual forms to evolve.

One such unusual ungulate was the 3-metre long Macrauchenia, a native of South America.  This type of herbivorous camel-like animal is believed to have survived up until about 20,000 years ago.  Darwin commented on the finding of some strange fossils, later identified as Macrauchenia; when he explored South America as part of his epic voyage with the British survey ship the Beagle.  Darwin thought the fossils were from an ancient Llama, an animal he would have been very familiar with as a result of this extensive travels, but Macrauchenia was a member of a primitive, placental group of mammals called Litopterns.

Macrauchenia, was a nimble quadruped with a short skull and a long camel-like neck.  The name means “big Llama”.  It lived in large herds and probably migrated across the Argentinian plains following the pattern of the seasonal rainfall.

A Model of the South American Mammal Macrauchenia

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view models of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

Fossils of this large ungulate are associated with the Lujan Formation of Argentina.  Palaeontologist think that Macrauchenia possessed a trunk (proboscis); like that of the modern South American tapir.  This would have helped these browsers to grab leaves and twigs from the scrub-like vegetation that covered the South American pampas.

18 12, 2009

Time to Salt the Roads Again

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

Cold Snap Hits Southern and Eastern England – Time to Salt the Roads

The first really cold weather of winter has arrived.  Last night the temperature dropped to well below freezing, when we arrived at the warehouse this morning we found that the pond in yard had completely frozen over, this is the first time it has happened this winter.  Although we in the north-west of England have not experienced the snow storms and really cold weather of southern and eastern England it is certainly chilly in the warehouse.  Gloves and hats are the order of the day.

The gritting and salting lorries were in action across the country last night, spreading rock salt and grit to help make driving conditions easier.  This is the first time these vehicles have been out in force across the UK.

Much of the rock salt that is used on Britain’s roads is mined from Cheshire.  The salt and grit that is spread on our roads that originates from Cheshire is approximately 245 million years old.  It dates from before the time of the dinosaurs, a time when the Palaeozoic was giving way to the Mesozoic and the Permian period was ending and the Triassic period beginning.  The salt deposits were laid down during the late Permian and early Triassic when rising sea levels led to the encroachment of seawater forming large areas of shallow sea and salt marshes.  At this time in the Earth’s history, the land that was to become the UK and Europe made up part of a huge land mass called Laurentia, a spur of the super-continent of Pangaea.  Britain was much nearer the equator and the shallow seas were surrounded by deserts (hence the sandstone deposits that dominate Cheshire’s geology).

Slowly much of the area covered with sea was evaporated and huge areas of salt lakes and evaporites (minerals deposited from the evaporation of water) were formed.  Some were eroded away as they remained on the surface, but other deposits were buried and these rock salt deposits are the source of the grit we use on our roads.  Rock salt mining also occurs in Poland and Germany, so you can get an idea of the extent of the shallow seas that formed during this time.

17 12, 2009

Before you can Exhibit, first you must Insure your Woolly Mammoth

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

Baby Mammoth known as Lyuba is Insured for €1.1 million Euros

These days it is important to insure valuable items and prized possessions against any accidents or any other sort of misadventure.  It is not just everyday items such as buildings and contents that need to be insured, sometimes baby Woolly Mammoths require insurance too.

The 40,000 year-old baby Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius), known as Lyuba has been insured for the princely sum of €1.1 euros ($1.47 million USD) in preparation for its 10-date museum tour.  The little Mammoth, no more than a month old when it drowned in a muddy pit, is one of the best preserved young Mammoths ever discovered in Siberia and it is of great importance to science.  So well preserved was this little female calf, that scientists were able to find traces of her mother’s milk inside the preserved stomach, this elephant’s last meal before her untimely death.

To read an article about the discovery of the baby Woolly Mammoth known as Lyuba:

New Frozen Baby Woolly Mammoth Found

Lyuba is important to scientists for a number of reasons, firstly, the specimen is remarkably well preserved and almost complete, secondly, the baby was healthy when it died, other examples of baby Mammoths found such as Dima; represented individuals that were in poor health and under nourished when they met their deaths.  The well-conditioned body of Lyuba has helped scientists piece together more clues about how Mammoths survived the cold, the discovery of a fat store at the back of the head provided a breakthrough in scientist’s understanding of how young Mammoths survived their first winter.

Lyuba the Baby Mammoth

Picture Credit: Uppa/Photoshot (Daily Telegraph)

The remains of this Mammoth are still being studied at the Russian Academy of Science’s Zoological Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia, but she is going to tour a number of museums starting in 2010 and the insurance has been taken out as part of a risk assessment process before she starts her travels.  First stop on the Lyuba world tour will be the famous Field Museum in Chicago, where she will be the star attraction in a new exhibit called “The Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the the Ice Age”.  This exhibition is scheduled to run from March through to September 2010.

Woolly Mammoths are evocative of animals that did not survive dramatic climate change, much debate has occurred regarding the extinction of the mega fauna on an around the commencement of the Holocene.  Was it climate change, or perhaps the influence of humans hunting these large animals to the point of extinction?

To view a model of a baby Woolly Mammoth and dinosaur models: Dinosaur Models for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Toys

Part of the work being undertaken in St. Petersburg at present is to preserve the body of the Mammoth to enable it to be displayed without refrigeration.  A scale model of the carcase of Lyuba is also being prepared so that visitors to the various museums can have a closer look at this baby Mammoth.

Proposed Tour Dates for the Mammoth and Mastodons Exhibition

Book your tickets for Lyuba

Source: Field Museum

 Note

Dates Reserved* May 10th 2014 through to September 14th 2014 are provisionally held by the Natural History Museum in London, as yet this venue for the tour, the last on the schedule has yet to be confirmed by the Natural History Museum.

Now that little Lyuba has been insured, that is one less thing to worry about as plans begin to come together in preparation for the Field Museum leg of her world tour.

16 12, 2009

The First French – 200,000 Years Earlier than Expected

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

French Site Indicates Prehistoric Frenchmen 1.2 million Years Ago

The origins of our species, Homo sapiens and indeed all hominids can be traced back to Africa.  However, fossil evidence indicates that various species of early human migrated out of Africa and began to exploit new environments elsewhere in the world.  From Africa, the first humans migrated into the Arabian peninsular and into Europe, probably through the Gibraltor strait as well as via Turkey.  The question of when the first humans arrived in Europe is difficult to pin down in the fossil record.  Human fossils are extremely rare and the evidence from stone tools for example, can be open to misinterpretation.  Much of the evidence for stone tools and other objects come from sediments deposited by rivers, the problem is; were some of these items shaped by our ancestors or are they merely shaped by the attritional action of the water.

The earliest European hominids are associated with a particular species of ancient human H. ergaster, it had been thought that this type of hominid migrated into Europe around 1.2 million years ago.  However, a new hominid site in southern France indicates that humans may have reached the Montpellier region approximately 1.57 million years ago, 200,000 years earlier than previously known.

A team of scientists and anthropologists are studying a number of artefacts and fossil bones recovered from various strata in a basalt quarry at Lezignan la Cebe, in the Herault valley.  Stone tools found in the deepest layer of strata explored indicate that humans were around this area over 1.5 million years ago.

The site was first discovered back in the mid 1990’s by a local man called Jean Rouvier, he had discovered strata containing a number of fossilised animal bones.  It was only in the summer of 2008 that he mentioned his discovery to Jerome Ivorra, an archaeological researcher at France’s prestigious National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).  The site was subsequently explored and partially excavated leading to the discovery of the fossilised bones of wild cattle, deer, ancient horses and a number of carnivores.  However, 10 metres below this layer the dig team found in a layer of strata twenty stone objects that bore signs of having been worked and shaped by early humans.

When the strata was mapped and dated it was found to be approximately 1,570,000 years old, making this the earliest evidence of humans in Europe ever recorded.  The French research team’s findings have been reported in the scientific journal “Comptes Rendus Palevol”.

A statement sent out by those organisations that had funded the excavation programme commented:

“A discovery as rich as the one in the Herault Valley offers a real opportunity to better understand the Europe of this period”.

Further work at the site is planned for 2010, perhaps the research teams will uncover evidence of human remains, H. ergaster at the site, proving beyond doubt that more than 1.5 million years ago, human species lived in France.

15 12, 2009

New Dinosaur Fossil Site Discovered in Argentina

By | December 15th, 2009|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Scientists from Argentina announce Discovery of new Dinosaur Fossil Site

A team of scientists from Argentina have announced the discovery of a potentially very important site with fossils dating from the Early Cretaceous in the southern Argentine province of Neuquen.

The site is located close to the small town of Las Lajas, which itself is approximately 500 miles south east of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina.  A deposit in the Bajada Colorada Formation of strata, has been dated to around 130 million years (Barremian faunal stage) and it is hoped that dinosaur fossils excavated from this site will help provide information on the diversification of Dinosauria during the Cretaceous.

The rocks at this point relate to the Lower Cretaceous, these are some of the most ancient Cretaceous aged rocks exposed in this region and scientists are confident that new species of dinosaur and other prehistoric animals will be discovered.

Commenting on the find, palaeontologist Rodolfo Coria the head of the Carmen Funes Museum stated:

“The important thing is that we’ve got a deposit in the Bajada Colorada formation, from the Lower Cretaceous period, that is to say, the most ancient that exists”.

Stating that the site had “enormous potential”, the palaeontologist went onto explain that although many different types of dinosaur were known from Argentina, this new location opened up the possibility of retrieving even more fossil evidence relating to the dinosaurs of South America, particularly the ones from the Early Cretaceous.

Already the team have discovered fragmentary remains of as yet an unknown Ornithopod (possibly an Iguanodontid).  The fossilised bones of a hind foot, part of the arm and some vertebrae have been discovered.  It is estimated that these bones are part of an animal that would have exceeded six metres in length.

Professor Coria went on to state:

“We’ve found a lot of fossil material from dinosaurs in that area and up to now we’ve been able to recover part of one of them.  We’ve found very informative material and we will examine it in the next few months, during which time we will look for anatomical characteristics that allow us to propose a new species of dinosaur”.

We look forward to hearing about future discoveries from this new dinosaur fossil location.

14 12, 2009

Still Despatching in Time for Christmas

By | December 14th, 2009|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur – Still Despatching in Time for Christmas

With just nine more working days before Christmas to go, staff at Everything Dinosaur are working as hard as ever to ensure orders are packed and despatched as quickly as possible.  With our extra staff and postal collections now up to four times a day we are doing all we can to get parcels sent on their way as quickly as possible.

Although, the safe, guaranteed and recommended despatch dates from the UK to overseas have now been passed, it is worth re-stating for those UK based customers the advice on deliveries from Royal Mail.

Royal Mail Last Safe and Recommended Posting Dates (UK)

Royal Mail Standard Parcel Service: Tuesday 15th December

Everything Dinosaur Subsidised Postal Service: Tuesday 15th December

Royal Mail Second Class Post: Friday 18th December

First Class Post: Monday 21st December

Everything Dinosaur Courier Service: Tuesday 22nd December

For further information, customers are welcome to email our team and we will do our best to help where we can.

Contact Everything Dinosaur: Email Everything Dinosaur – Contact Us

13 12, 2009

Darwin Alludes to a Different Opinion – Cosmogony

By | December 13th, 2009|Famous Figures, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

Darwin uses Cosmogony to Argue against Independent Creation of Species

Our tea stained and well-worn copy of the “Origin of Species” the seminal work by Charles Darwin has been well-thumbed this year, what with 2009 being the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of this books first publication.

In chapter five, of our edition (based on the third edition published), Darwin attempts to map put the laws of variation in nature, covering areas such as the effect of climate and environment on natural selection and the reversion of long-lost characters through successive generations.

At the time of Darwin’s research and writing of his most famous book, most scientists believed that species existed forever and that even though similarities in species and genera were recognised, all types of organism had been independently created.  Darwin and a number of other academics and scientists were beginning to challenge this view and Darwin on his chapter detailing the laws of variation comments on the beliefs of cosmogonists as he draws this particular part of this argument for natural selection to a close.  We had not come across this word – cosmogonists before.  An explanation is not provided in the book’s glossary, so we had to look up the definition in a dictionary.

Cosmogony is the study of the origin of the universe, a cosmogonist is someone who studies cosmogony or believes in these principles.  The word is derived from the Greek “kosmogonia” from the word kosmos meaning world and gonia meaning begetting.

Darwin compares the beliefs of cosmogonists to those views held by himself after his research into the origin of species and natural selection.  He describes the re-emergence of striped features in types of horse as an indication that all these diverse and geographically widespread equines shared a common ancestor.

Darwin writes: “He who believes that each equine species was independently created, will I presume, assert that each species has been created with a tendency to vary, both under nature and under domestication, in this particular manner, so as often to become striped like other species of this genus; and that each has been created with a strong tendency , when crossed with species inhabiting distant quarters of the world, to produce hybrids resembling in their stripes, not their own parents, but other species of the genus.”

He goes on to write: “To admit this view is, as it seems to me, to reject a real for an unreal, or at least for an unknown ,cause.  It makes the works of God a mere mockery and deception; I would almost as soon believe with the old and ignorant cosmogonists, that fossil shells had never lived, but had been created in stone so as to mock the shells now living on the sea-shore.”

One of the important aspects of Darwin’s work, is the way in which he uses prose to get his message across.  He had studied the works of many poets and other writers, the long voyage on the Beagle gave him plenty of opportunity to do so and his use of words and his ability to express himself eloquently has been admired by many modern writers.

12 12, 2009

Samson Goes on Display – T. rex Skeleton on Display

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

Tyrannosaurus rex “Samson” goes on Temporary Display

The mounted T. rex skeleton known as “Samson” is about to go on temporary display at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland (Oregon) starting from December 17th.  This forty feet long, reconstructed exhibit was put up for sale at a Las Vegas auction in early October by the private owner who had purchased the fossils not long after they were first excavated.  At the time of the auction, Samson, as this T. rex is known failed to reach its reserve price and remained unsold.  However, the auctioneers, Bonhams and Butterfields were able to negotiate a sale with an undisclosed buyer.

At the auction which we reported upon earlier, the mounted and virtually completely restored fossil skeleton failed to reach its reserve sale price. The bidding stalled at $3.6 milllion USD, so at the time this T. rex skeleton remained unsold.

To read about the auction of Samson: Samson fails to bring the house down at auction

Last month, we had reported on the negotiations that had taken place between Bonhams and Butterfields and a private buyer, who had promised to put this rare specimen on display if the purchase was successful.

To read more about the T. rex specimen called Samson: Samson to go on display in museums

Bonhams and Butterfields have refused to identify the new owner of this particular dinosaur exhibit, but co-director of the natural history auctions, Thomas Lindgren did state that the agreed sale price was “somewhere in the $5 million USD area”.

This sum is not the highest price paid for a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, on October 27th 1997 “Sue” specimen number  SUE-BHI2033 was sold at Sothebys for $8.36 million USD.

The Tyrannosaurus rex Exhibit Known as “Samson”

Picture Credit: Bonhams and Butterfields

The Portland museum was able to arrange the Samson exhibit with the help of the unidentified buyer, who had promised to put the mounted T. rex on display to the public, with the assistance of a number of sponsors.

This particular Tyrannosaurus is considered to be one of the most complete fossilised Tyrannosaur skeletons found to date.  The specimen consists of 170 bones almost 56% of the skeleton has been recovered.  Although this specimen has been given a masculine name, it has been suggested that this fossil actually represents a female.  Female Tyrannosaurs were believed to have been larger and more robust than the males, a wider pelvic area being required to permit the passage of eggs.  Difference in size between the males and females of a species is a common trait of birds especially the raptors.

Samson is of special significance as much of the skull material was excavated and it is in a good state of preservation.  The subtle differences between this skull and the skulls of other Tyrannosaurs may indicate that this specimen represents a sub-species of T. rex.

The skull also shows evidence of pathology, a number of head injuries and signs of disease.

The Reconstructed and Mounted Skull of “Samson”

Samson skull material (T. rex)

Picture Credit: Bonhams and Butterfields

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