All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//July
13 07, 2010

Safari Prehistoric Life Models

By | July 13th, 2010|Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page|0 Comments

Safari Prehistoric Life Series Models

For some years, the American model company Safari Ltd has offered a small range of prehistoric mammal models to accompany its Carnegie and Wild Dinos ranges.  Like many manufacturers, the emphasis on dinosaurs and animals of the Mesozoic is clearly seen in the model portfolio, but it is refreshing to note that some of the more unusual and lesser known prehistoric mammals are included in this part of their range.

The recent retirements of a couple of the prehistoric animal models has diminished the number available, but they do still manufacture the Amebelodon (prehistoric elephant) and an Andrewsarchus model.  Andrewsarchus was a bizarre, hoofed carnivore, regarded by many palaeontologists as the biggest mammalian land carnivore of all time.

Known only from fossilised jaws and elements of the skull, the overall size and shape of Andrewsarchus has been based on the fossils of a smaller but closely related animal Mesonyx.  This particular prehistoric beast, estimated at being more than 5 metres long and weighing perhaps as much as a small car, was named in honour of Roy Chapman Andrews, the American explorer and naturalist who led the expedition on which the fossils were found.

To read more about the adventurer Roy Chapman Andrews: Remembering Roy Chapman Andrews

A Scale Drawing of Andrewsarchus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view a model of Andrewsarchus and other dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys for Boys – Dinosaur Models

It is always a pleasure to see some of the more unusual prehistoric animals represented in a model series.  For example, as well as the Andrewsarchus, the Safari Prehistoric Life series (Wild Safari Dinos) boasts an Amebelodon model elephant amongst its collection.

Like most primitive elephants Amebelodon had tusks in both its upper and lower jaws.  This ancient elephant, whose remains have been found in the USA, as well as Africa, Asia and Europe lived during the Late Miocene Epoch (9-6 million years ago).  It is usually spelt Amebelodon, however, the label on the Safari model carries the American spelling Ambelodon (the missing “e”).  This is a good way of determining whether the company or individual selling or showing the model knows their stuff.  As technically the accepted form for the name is Amebelodon (A. fricki).  Any company with a missing “e” as it were, does not know their prehistoric elephants.

12 07, 2010

Surrounded by Baby Frogs

By | July 12th, 2010|Animal News Stories, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Baby Frogs Leave the Office Pond

Over the last few days, we have been watching the exodus of baby frogs from the office pond.  If any of the Everything Dinosaur team members have been out in the back yard, behind the office, we have had to keep a careful look out for baby frogs.  We have been able to watch as many as nine at time venture out onto land, leaving the relative safety of the office pond.

These tiny creatures have no real defence against their many predators, their only real hope is to rely on their excellent camouflage.  If they are disturbed they can hop (a surprisingly long distance for such a small animal), but they would soon get caught by a sharp eyed blackbird or similar predator.

We have thought about undertaking a survey to see how many frogs we can find in the office yard and surrounding area, this might give us an idea of the fluctuating numbers of amphibians year on year.  Perhaps we could do this next spring to see if the resurrection of the pond in the yard is helping.

In the meantime, we shall keep a look out for any baby frogs making sure we don’t tread on any accidentally.

11 07, 2010

Prehistoric Life Models from Safari

By | July 11th, 2010|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page|0 Comments

Safari Prehistoric Mammal Models

It was with some sadness that we heard that a number of the Prehistoric Life series of models manufactured by Safari of the United States were to be retired.  We were informed sometime late last year, and we were particularly saddened to see the demise of the Doedicurus model, otherwise known as “Pestle Tail” because of the bizarre, medieval club on the end of this prehistoric mammal’s armoured tail  This model was to stop being made.

An Illustration of the Glyptodontidae Doedicurus clavicaudatus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Prehistoric Life series of models featured a number of Cenozoic prehistoric mammals, the well-known ones such as a Smilodon and a Woolly Mammoth but also some more unusual models, that are not normally seen in other collections.  The hand-painted, scale replicas (we think 1:20 scale), were not as famous as the Carnegie Dinosaur model series also manufactured by Safari but they were fine quality models in their own right.

It is a shame to see the likes of Doedicurus retired, however, the Wild Safari Dinos and Prehistoric Life model range remains an excellent model series.

To view the current range of Safari/Carnegie models including dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

10 07, 2010

Dramatic End to Dinosaur Hunting by Boat Expedition

By | July 10th, 2010|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Illness to Expedition Leader causes Scow Red Deer River Voyage to Postponed for Twelve Months

The Dinosaur Hunting Expedition by Boat Expedition, an attempt to re-create the epic 1910 voyage of Barnum Brown and a team of scientists from the American Museum of Natural History along the Red Deer River has been abandoned.

The brave and dedicated crew of the scow (a flat bottomed boat, specially built for this journey on the Red Deer River) had already overcome a series of daunting challenges in the first few days of their expedition but the collapse and hospitalisation of the expedition’s leader Darren Tanke (Royal Tyrrell Museum) has led to the decision to call off the voyage this year.

Writing in the Dinosaur Hunting by Boat blog Darren Tanke explains:

“I have been dizzy for several weeks and quite stressed out during the trip.  This morning I was hiking to a higher spot in order to update this blog when I felt my health declining rapidly.  I was alone in the badlands and staggering along like a drunken man, with my head very dizzy and not thinking properly.  I saw some vehicles heading for the day use area in the Dry Island Park, and knowing I needed medical help, headed that way.  I approached a group of hikers getting ready to set out.  As I reached the first person, I gather I collapsed into some tall grass.  Don’t remember much after that, but it resulted in an ambulance being called and me being rushed to the Three Hills Hospital.  This effectively ended my involvement in the scow trip and shortened it considerably.  Blood tests revealed low potassium levels and low haemoglobin so I was anaemic.  That and the stress and exhaustion of the trip combined to bring me down.”

The Scow “Peter C Kaisen” on the Red Deer River 2010

On the river

Picture Credit: Darren Tanke

The beautiful scow, named after one of the original 1910 expedition members moored in the exact spot where Barnum Brown anchored in 1910.  Unfortunately, the illness suffered by Darren has led to the cancelling of the rest of the expedition.  However, the team are undaunted and are keen to attempt the voyage next year, Darren comments:

“The scow was pulled out of the river at Newcastle Beach in Drumheller late in the afternoon [7th July].  It is in storage on a farm in Consort, Alberta with plans to try again next year.  Next year we will use larger crews at all times – this way we can get the scow off rocks when it is stuck on one.  We will also explore some system (inflatable?) to lift the scow off rocks.  Thin steel on the bottom will no doubt help slide over protruding rocks.  Also considering bringing a support boat with a powerful motor.”

These sound like very sensible precautions, perhaps a medical check up on the crew members before they start out next year as an extra safety measure – just in case.

We have left a message of support on the Dinosaur Hunting by Boat web log and no doubt the brave Canadian/American team will try again next year – we will keep you posted on their progress.

9 07, 2010

Herrera’s Lizard – Herrerasaurus

By | July 9th, 2010|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Herrerasaurus – Dinosaur or not?

The first fossils of this prehistoric animal were found in 1959 by a goat herder (Victorino Herrera) – and this animal was named after him.  It was not until 1988 that skull material of this Triassic prehistoric animal was found and the name Herrerasaurus formerly assigned.

Known from strata close to the city of San Juan, the same formation that yielded evidence of the early Saurischian dinosaur Eoraptor (E. lunenesis), scientist have struggled to place Herrerasaurus within the Dinosauria clade.  It as been assigned basal Theropod status.  The animal, although one of the largest terrestrial vertebrates known from the mid Triassic (approximately 228 million years ago) may not have been a dinosaur at all.  One of the diagnostic features of Dinosauria are the number of sacral vertebrae that are attached to the hip bones.  Dinosaurs have at least three vertebrae attached to the sacrum, Herrerasaurus only had two.  Three vertebrae attached to the sacrum is a trait shared between Dinosauria and some other Archosaurs, but Herrerasaurus seems to be the exception to this rule.

This animal does possess some primitive Dinosaurian features but also a number of other strange aspects of anatomy – such as the fenestra (hole) in the lower jaw and the numerous fenestrae in the skull.  The size of this meat-eater has also been the subject of considerable conjecture with estimates ranging from 2 metres in length right up to lengths in excess of 6 metres.

An Illustration of Herrerasaurus

Herrerasaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Most scientists now place Herrerasaurus in the Theropoda, ascribing it to a basal Theropod.  It lived during a time when the dinosaurs were yet to establish themselves as the dominant large terrestrial animals, only about 5% of vertebrate fossil material recovered from the mid Triassic rocks of north-western Argentina has been assigned to the Dinosauria, the bulk of the fossils found are from synapsids or other Archosaurs.

8 07, 2010

Nightmare Whale from Prehistory

By | July 8th, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|3 Comments

New Species of Cetacean Reveals Fearsome Ancestry of Sperm Whales

A mystery that has puzzled scientists for many years may have finally been solved.  In parts of the arid and desert region of southern Peru, a number of strange teeth, obviously a meat-eaters and very big, have been found by locals and scientists from time to time.  These fossils are associated with marine deposits and date from the early Pliocene Epoch, but nobody was sure what sort of animal the teeth represented.  During much of the Pliocene a considerable portion of what was to become the northern part of South America was submerged under a warm, shallow tropical sea.  A number of super marine predators are known from Pliocene deposits from this part of the world, an example being Megalodon (Carcharodon megalodon), a giant shark, so big that it could fit an adult Great White shark into its mouth.

However, the strange, fossilised teeth from Peru did not resemble the triangular and serrated teeth of a shark, there must have been something else lurking in the water, perhaps a predator capable of tackling Megalodon.

The discovery of a 3-metre long partial skull, complete with elements of the jaws and more teeth have solved this particular palaeontological puzzle.  It seems there was a giant killer whale, an ancestor of the modern Sperm Whale that swam in the shallow waters that were to become Peru.  Some of the teeth are nearly 30 cms long making them as big as the teeth of the biggest carnivorous dinosaurs.

The animal has been dubbed Leviathan melvillei (after Herman Melville, the American writer who wrote the fictional account of Moby Dick).  A description of the fossils has been reproduced in the scientific journal “Nature”.  These fossils represent the largest fossil Sperm Whale ever found, and unlike modern, extant Sperm Whales which prey mainly on soft bodied creatures such as squid and have relatively weak jaws and teeth usually restricted to the lower jaw only L. melvillei was equipped with a formidable array of teeth and was probably a hunter of other large whales, Cetaceans and even Megalodon.

An Illustration of Leviathan melvillei

Picture Credit: Associated Press

Commenting on the discovery, Dr. Oliver Lambert of the Natural History Museum in France stated:

“This Sperm Whale could firmly hold large prey with its interlocking teeth, inflict deep wounds and tear large pieces from the body of the victim.  With their large size and robust jaws, Leviathan adults were surely free from predation.”

Dr. Lambert went on to add:

“It was a kind of sea monster.  It’s interesting to note that at the same time in the same waters was another monster, which was a giant shark [Megalodon] about 15 metres long.  It’s possible they may have fought each other.”

Based on the fossils recovered from the Peruvian desert, it seems likely that L. melvillei may have been up to 15 metres long itself.

A Comparison of the Teeth with the Lower Jaw Teeth of a Modern Sperm Whale

A comparison of whale teeth

The teeth labelled A, B and C are fossil teeth from the lower jaw of the Pliocene Sperm Whale these are compared to D and E, teeth from the lower jaw of an extant Sperm Whale.  Compare these teeth to the typical, triangular and serrated tooth of a large shark in the picture below.

A Replica of a Tooth from Megalodon (Carcharodon megalodon)

Giant Shark Tooth

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This new discovery has attracted the attention of a number of institutions and academics, Anthony Friscia, a palaeontologist at the University of California (Los Angeles), commented on the fact that finds of large teeth had hinted at the existence of an ancient super predator, but without further fossils such as the skull bones, scientists were not able to pinpoint precisely what the animal was.

Calling this huge beast the “killer whales of their time, although on a much grander scale”, the palaeontologist added:

“The fact that they [the researchers] have found the entire jaw – well, almost the entire skull, is what’s unprecedented.”

Much of the original fossil material will remain in Peru, but reconstructions of the fossilised teeth will be on exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Rotterdam (Netherlands).

7 07, 2010

Going to the Movies – Did Ancient Humans Enjoy the “Cinema”?

By | July 7th, 2010|Educational Activities, Main Page|0 Comments

Did Prehistoric Man enjoy a Primitive version of the Cinema?

We live in an age where TV screens are getting bigger and bigger.  High definition, surround sound, home cinema experience, these are the modern “buzz” words when it comes to choice of a television set.  It seems that these days, at least in terms of televisions that “bigger is best”, or are the advertisers tapping into a primeval instinct held deep within the most primitive part of our brains for a feast of the senses experience when it comes to home entertainment?

A new study by a joint British/Austrian team of researchers studying rock art and cave paintings from around the world suggests that our ancestors created these images as part of a more holistic story telling experience – a feast for the eyes and the ears in the darkness.  Could this be the prehistoric equivalent of going to the cinema to sit in the dark and watch a film with Dolby sound?

Could Cave Paintings and Engravings be a form of Audio-Visual Experience?

Picture Credit: French Ministry of Culture

Carvings in rock found all over Europe dating back to approximately 6,000 years ago share common symbols and images and, what is more they tend to be drawn in the darkest, most hidden of locations perhaps suggesting this artwork was more than mere pictorial illustrations of these ancient people’s lives and environment.

Researchers from Cambridge University (UK) and Sankt Poelten’s University of Applied Sciences (Austria) state that there may be more to these pictures than just simple illustrations.

Frederick Baker of Cambridge University commented:

“The cliff engravings… in our opinion are not just pictures but are part of an audiovisual performance.  There were still no moving image but [the pictures] created sequences like in animation… this was not just a treat for the eyes but also for the ears, as these rock engravings are especially found in locations with particular echoes”.

He went onto add:

“In this sense, the rock engravings are not just static images but pictures that created a story in the mind of the viewer – just like at the cinema.”

In a bid to recreate this audio-visual experience the researchers have teamed up with Weimar’s Bauhaus University in Germany and intend to use computer technology to establish the sequence of images and animate them just like a modern cartoon.

To read a previous article exploring the relationship between cave paintings and sounds: The Link between Sound and Images in Palaeolithic Art

The images, some of which pre-date the Bronze Age, depict scenes such as fights, hunting, animals and dances.  Strangely, women are very rarely portrayed and the team have yet to find a illustration of death.

This animation project is being centred around the northern Lombardy region of Italy, a location with a large cluster of ancient cave art and engravings.  Previous studies have concluded that the siting of such drawings may have been significant.  They are often drawn in the most inaccessible parts of caves, perhaps the locations added to the experience.  Tests on the acoustics in caves also indicate that the illustrations were located in the best place to produce eerie sounds and echoes – perhaps all part of the audio-visual experience for our ancestors.

Wide screen cave painting anybody?

6 07, 2010

Digging up a Fossilised Elephant in your Backyard

By | July 6th, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Tennessee Homeowner Gets a “Jumbo” Surprise when Excavating Swimming Pool

Contractors excavating a new swimming pool for a resident of Brighton (Tennessee, United States), got a shock when they uncovered the fossilised jaw bones of an ancient elephant.

Elephants may be strongly associated with Africa today, but in prehistory this particularly diverse and widespread group of mammals were present in Europe, Asia and the Americas as well as Africa.

For homeowner Jim Leydon, approximately 2.5 metres under the area due to be dug out to become a swimming pool, was the last resting place of an prehistoric animal, not the sort of thing you would expect to find in your backyard.

Recalling the discovery, Mr Leyden commented:

“My wife called and said, your’e not going to believe it… they found a dinosaur”.

The Fossils found in the Brighton Backyard

Picture Credit: whec images

The picture shows elements of the jaw with a badly worn but still very visible molar tooth to the left of the picture.  Reports on the internet have misrepresented this find as being that of a dinosaur.  This is not the first instance of large, prehistoric animal remains being misidentified by the media.

Back in 2008, we reported on the discovery of large fossilised bones being found on a bus in Peru.  At the time these too were claimed as being “from a dinosaur” but they were most probably from a prehistoric elephant – part of the fossil smuggling that takes place in some parts of the world.

To read more about this story: “Dinosaur” Bones Found on a Bus in Peru

The jaw is definitely Proboscidea (animals with trunks) but the exact classification remains uncertain.

The animal has been tentatively described as a Trilophodon, an extinct Mastodon, a prehistoric elephant with four tusks.  No accurate date for the fossils has been determined, with estimates from two million years to as little as 30,000 years old for the remains.  The Leydon family intend to donate the fossils to the museum.

A conservator from the Memphis Pink Palace Museum was called in and carefully excavated the bones before work on the swimming pool could be resumed.  Experts at the museum have stated that Trilophodon bones have been found in Texas but this is a first for the mid-south area of Tennessee.

Prehistoric mammal fossils are not uncommon in the United States, as recently as 12,000 years ago there was an extensive and diverse array of mega fauna mammals.  However, finding the remains of a prehistoric elephant underneath your swimming pool is an exceptional discovery.

We resisted the urge to write anything about “trunks”.

5 07, 2010

Everything Dinosaurs Bedding and Matching Curtains Now Available

By | July 5th, 2010|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Newsletters, Main Page|14 Comments

Exclusive Bedding and Matching Dinosaur Themed Curtains from Everything Dinosaur

New from Everything Dinosaur, our dinosaur themed bedding with matching dinosaur curtains.  British made from 100%, heavy duty cotton these new items are a welcome addition to our extensive dinosaur range.  The single dinosaur duvet set (measuring 200cm x 140cm wide) has a matching dinosaur pillow case and the curtains (made from the same dinosaur inspired fabric), measure 135cm with a 140cm drop.

The Dinosaur Themed Duvet Set and Matching Curtains

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The material features four famous and very important dinosaurs, each one carefully chosen by our experts.  The sets are also supplied with fact sheets on the dinosaurs featured and scale drawings so that young dinosaur fans can add their own, unique finishing touches to their dinosaur themed room.

To view the Dinosaur Bedding and Bedroom Accessories: Dinosaur Bedding and Dinosaur Bedroom Accessories

The beautifully illustrated dinosaurs are Apatosaurus – chosen because young palaeontologists will know that this dinosaur used to be called Brontosaurus (we explain how this happened in the fact sheet that comes with these items), also included is Herrerasaurus, a big meat-eating dinosaur that represents dinosaurs of the Triassic and an ancestor of all the big, carnivorous dinosaurs that were to come later.  The design also features Protoceratops, known as the “sheep of the Cretaceous”, after all, what do you do when you go to sleep, count sheep or count dinosaurs!  We just had to have this all important and perhaps the most extensively researched dinosaur in our design.  Finally there is Troodon, perhaps the smartest dinosaur known in the fossil record, reflecting that clever young dinosaur fans will be able to spot this dinosaur and know exactly what it stands for and why it is important.

The fact sheets supplied with these items will help explain things for those adults who may not be as perceptive as the young palaeontologists in their family.

4 07, 2010

No News on the Dinosaur Hunting by Boat Expedition

By | July 4th, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

No Updates from the Dinosaur Hunting by Boat Expedition

Sunday, July 4th and no update available from the Dinosaur Hunting by Boat web log.  This plucky group of modern-day adventurers led by Darren Tanke of the Royal Tyrrell Museum (Alberta, Canada), were attempting to re-create the famous expeditions of Barnum Brown and the American Museum of Natural History that took place one hundred  years ago.

The team had built a special, flat-bottomed vessel that was designed to replicate the boat used by Barnum Brown and his expedition to explore the Red Deer River for signs of dinosaur fossils.  The voyagers had run into difficulties on the first leg of their epic trip, and after several mishaps they were forced to abandon the first stretch of water and move to a different part of the river system, in a bid to find calmer conditions.  Plagued by mosquitoes and with the ever present fear of becoming stranded on submerged rocks we hope everyone is OK.

We will continue to monitor the situation and post updates as and when we can.

We are keeping our fingers crossed for you guys!

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