All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
12 05, 2011

Blinking Into the Light that is CS Photoshop 5

By | May 12th, 2011|Adobe CS5, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Our First Attempts at Using the Pen Tool (Everything Dinosaur)

With the introduction of the new Adobe Creative Suite 5 software at Everything Dinosaur, it is time to go back to school.  This new photo and image manipulation software looks a little daunting but we have signed up for a evening class to help us gain confidence and develop our skills.  What a fascinating area of technology the creating and editing of images is – but it is very complicated for us novices more at home with a geology hammer than a mouse.

First steps on the road to creating new and exciting images were taken last night on session one of our evening course.  Like virtually all subjects, even palaeontology, practice and revision makes you better and our first mission is to gain better control of the pen tool.

We have used the pen tool before, we even know the keyboard short cut (press P), but we are far from expert.  Normally, we use the lasso tool in its various guises to cut out shapes, for example the magnetic lasso tool.  From this we have upgraded to using the pen tool to create and select a path.  This is where the fun starts.  We can zoom in using the navigator viewing screen and cut out pictures quite accurately using the pen tool using the straight line format.  After all, this is nothing more than sophisticated join-the-dots.  We can then make our path selection and there you have it the cut out image ready to manipulate.

But what about objects with curves?  Not wishing to make our website or indeed our cyberspace world look like a backdrop for the Disney movie Tron we are having a go at using the “alt” key to manage and manipulate curves – tricky.

Below is our first attempt, not including our attempt at creating a selection path round an apple at last nights tutorial.

Pen Tool Used to Cut Round “Clever Catch” Beach Ball

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We accept it might not be perfect and cutting out a round shape is very easy, although you do need to work out with care when to start and stop the curves (position of the anchor points).  We will continue to practice and with the addition of a vector mask or two we hope to produce some interesting effects over the next few weeks.

We cut round a shape (made a selection path) then duplicated the layer and then manipulated one against the other.  Using a vector mask we were able to make bits of the image at the back appear to be seen through the background image making our “Clever Catch” dinosaur beach ball look an odd shape.  We then added text to see if we could – just for a dare.

From little acorns…

11 05, 2011

Fourteen Hundred Not Out

By | May 11th, 2011|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Blog Publishes 1,400th Article

Ever since the Everything Dinosaur web log started all those years ago, we have tried to publish an article on palaeontology, dinosaur or other fossil discoveries and related subjects every single day.  All our team members contribute and we are grateful for all the advice and suggestions we receive from our customers and readers.  This is our 1,400th article and our humble blog has a Google page rank rating of six, something we are all immensely proud of.

Our aim has always been to inform, to educate and to provide an insight into the Earth sciences and in particular dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.  With such a fascinating subject there is always something to comment upon and to reach this milestone is quite remarkable, especially considering that we now have many thousands of readers each month and our output on this weblog has exceeded two million words since we started.

We look forward to reaching our 2,800th article, by our estimates that would be sometime around March 2014.

10 05, 2011

Prehistoric Sharks Swim into View

By | May 10th, 2011|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page|2 Comments

Safari Ltd Prehistoric Sharks Toob

Not to be mistaken for the vertebrate themed Prehistoric Sealife Toob introduced by Safari of the United States last year, recently arrived at Everything Dinosaur is the new tube of Prehistoric Sharks.  Ten different models representing this ancient lineage makes up the set, with an average length of around eight centimetres.

Safari’s Prehistoric Sealife Toob (Ancient Sharks)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Toob of prehistoric sharks features the following:

Cretoxyrhina, Cladoselache, Edestus, Helicoprion, Hybodus, Ornithoprion, Orthacanthus, Scapanorhynchus, Stethacanthus and Xenacanthus.  Such a wide range of creatures featured from the Mesozoic and Palaeozoic.  The fossil record for sharks is surprisingly poor, especially since they have been around since the Devonian.  Their cartilage skeletons do not fossilise well.  Shark’s teeth readily fossilise and we have hundreds of examples in the Everything Dinosaur fossil collection.  Our particular favourites are Cretoxyrhina, a fearsome predator of the Late Cretaceous seas, about the size of a modern Great White Shark.  This model contrasts nicely with the much more ancient, Devonian shark Cladoselache, which swam over what is the north of America some 400 million years ago.

To view the Carnegie Safari model range and dinosaur models: Dinosaurs for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

There is even a model of one of the very first sharks known from the fossil record – Stethacanthus – nicknamed the “ironing board shark” because of its bizarrely shaped, weird dorsal fin.

9 05, 2011

What is a Coelacanth?

By | May 9th, 2011|Animal News Stories, Educational Activities, Main Page|0 Comments

Ancient Fish Question Swims into View

Whilst on a school visit the other day, one of the Everything Dinosaur team members was explaining how the natural world can surprise us and was illustrating his point by telling the story of the re-discovery of the Coelacanth.  Having explained how this strange fish was re-discovered by science in the last Century, the question was asked what is a Coelacanth?

Coelacanths belong to an ancient class of fish the Sarcopterygians (lobe-finned fishes).  These fish have muscles and large bones at the base of their fins and it was once thought that Coelacanths used their fleshy fins to “walk” on the seabed, providing scientists with a link to those vertebrates that were the first back-boned animals to walk on land.

The Coelacanths were thought to have become extinct approximately 65 million years ago, however, in 1938, a trawler fishing off the Chalumna river estuary (South Africa), caught a strange looking fish and once the catch had been returned to port, Marjorie Courtney-Latimer, the curator of the nearby East London museum was notified and it was from her sketches and information that led to this specimen being identified as a Coelacanth.  It was not until 1952 that a second Coelacanth specimen was captured.

The two known species that survive to day belong to the genus Latimeria, named in honour of Marjorie Courtney-Latimer.

An Illustration of the Coelacanth

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Safari Ltd have produced an excellent model of a Coelacanth as part of their “Wild Safari Dinos” series, to view this model (Wild Safari Dinos Coelacanth)  and the other creatures in this range and dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

8 05, 2011

Happy Birthday Sir David

By | May 8th, 2011|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Many Happy Returns to Sir David Attenborough

Today, May 8th, is the birthday of Sir David Attenborough, that distinguished naturalist and broadcaster.  We won’t embarrass Sir David by telling you how old he is today, but let’s just say that for someone in their eighties their energy and enthusiasm for the natural world is astonishing.

Happy Birthday Sir David Attenborough

Picture Credit: BBC

In the picture, Sir David is doing a piece to camera about that most ancient of life forms – sponge.  This was a scene filmed for the recently aired “First Life” documentary that told the story of the development of the first life on Earth.

Currently, Sir David can be heard on BBC Radio 4 (Friday evenings at 8.50pm or thereabouts) providing his personal view of natural events in the “Life Stories Series”.  Very enjoyable they are to.  You can catch the repeat on Sunday mornings at 8.45am and they are well worth a listen.  Sadly, none of us at Everything Dinosaur will be around to hear Friday’s episode, but more about that later (hunting in the Ordovician).  However, thanks to the internet we can tune into this programme anytime up to seven days after it has been broadcast.

Many happy returns to you.

7 05, 2011

Inostrancevia Makes Its Debut

By | May 7th, 2011|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

New Gorgonopsid Model from Safari (Wild Safari Dinos Inostrancevia)

After the appearance of Gorgonopsids on television programmes such as Primeval (ITV) and the sequel to “Walking with Dinosaurs” – “Walking with Beasts”, these advanced Therapsids had become quite well known, but until now finding a detailed model of such an animal would have proved difficult.

However, anybody wanting a model of these Sabre-Toothed beasts can now get their hands on Inostrancevia, one of a number of new models manufactured by Safari of Florida (United States) and marketed under their Wild Safari model series.  It is great to see the Wild Safari Dinos Inostrancevia model.

The Inostrancevia Model from Safari

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the Everything Dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys – Dinosaur Models

Such a pleasant change to see a Late Permian predator added to a model range.  Inostrancevia is the largest genus of Gorgonopsid known to science, it being roughly the size of a Siberian tiger, which is apt as the fossils of this particular carnivore have been found in northern Russia.  The models shows the usual Safari attention to detail, especially in the open jaws which are nicely painted and show evidence of the different types of teeth this creature had in its powerful jaws – including those sabre-like fangs.

A welcome addition to the Wild Safari range.

6 05, 2011

Ichthyosaur Snout Shows Signs of Prehistoric Battle

By | May 6th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Tell-Tale Gouges in Fossil Jaws indicate Ichthyosaur Fight

This week it is the Ichthyosaurs that have dominated the articles on our blog site.  Firstly, there were lots of Jurassic Ichthyosaur fossils to see at the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival, we commented on the fear of accidents as people wandered to closely to the dangerous cliffs as they searched for fossils.  Then we had to locate a particular Ichthyosaur model for one of Everything Dinosaur’s customers – we ended up going on a hunt for Ichthyosaurs in our own warehouse.  Now we have the published information on the evidence of a fight between an Ichthyosaur and an unknown assailant.  The attacker left tell-tale scratches and marks on the fossilised snout of its victim.  This fossil provides evidence of behaviour, two fossils in one as it were.  We have the body fossil (the bones) plus the bite marks, evidence of activity and therefore a trace fossil.

First an quick reminder, Ichthyosauria is an Order of extinct marine reptiles that evolved in the early Triassic and became extinct approximately 80 million years ago, towards the end of the Cretaceous Period.  With their streamlined bodies, many members of the Ichthyosauria looked like dolphins, although the resemblance was only superficial, they are not closely related; although scientists have speculated that many marine reptiles, including the Ichthyosaurs were warm-blooded just like dolphins.

A Model of an Ichthyosaurus (Carnegie Safari Ichthyosaurus)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above is of an Ichthyosaurus model, the Carnegie Collectibles Ichthyosaurus model.

To view the Carnegie Safari Models and other dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys Girls and Boys – Dinosaur Models

The fossilised snout of this particular Ichthyosaur was discovered in South Australia, near the town of Marree.  The fossil has been dated to approximately 120 million years ago (Aptian faunal stage), the early Cretaceous a time when much of the landmass we now know as Australia was at the bottom of a vast sea that teemed with prehistoric life despite being close to the South Pole.

The gouged and scratched jaw indicate that this animal was involved in a fight with another sea monster, but scientists writing in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica remain uncertain as to who the attacker was.  The fossil snout suggest that this individual ascribed to the Ichthyosaur genus of Platypterygius may have been more than five metres in length – a sizeable beast but the snout shows that in the Cretaceous seas, being big did not keep you out of trouble.  The series of scratches and gouges with some more than a centimetre long are testament to this.
This individual, spanning about 16 feet in length, is a member of the genus Platypterygius.

Researcher Benjamin Kear of Uppsala University (Sweden) commented:

“The bone itself was not broken, rather it was scored, suggesting that the bite was strong but not ‘bone puncturing’ like that of a predator.”

The research team suggest that this Platypterygius survived its encounter, as the wounds show signs of healing and a there is evidence on the bone of a callus forming – part of the healing process.

The Fossilised Ichthyosaur Snout Showing Signs of Battle

Picture Credit: Jo Bain/South Australia Museum

Although, the Cretaceous Period was generally much warmer than today, the sea temperatures at such a latitude would have been much colder than the habitats normally associated with marine reptiles – such as the Jurassic aged Ichthyosaur fossils found in Dorset.  These animals swam in a warm, shallow sea, a similar environment to the Caribbean sea of today.  Whereas, the marine reptiles living around the coast of what was to become Australia, had to cope with extremely cold winters, prolonged periods of darkness for much of the year a sea so cold that icebergs would have been common – hence the belief of many palaeontologists that many types of marine reptile were actually warm-blooded.

A Close Up of the Damaged Snout

Picture Credit: Jo Bain/South Australia Museum

The large red arrow in the picture is highlighting the indentation in the bone caused by the tooth of another animal.  Scientists are confident that these teeth marks and scratches were not made as scavengers fed on the corpse of the dead Ichthyosaur as the wounds show signs of healing indicating that the animal was very much alive when it was attacked.

But which animal was responsible for the marks on the Ichthyosaur’s snout.  Palaeontologists have been turning detective to find clues as to the identity of the attacker as they investigate a case of grievous bodily harm (gbh) from 120 million years ago.

Sharing the seas with the Ichthyosaurs were strong-jawed, giant Pliosaurs such as Kronosaurus.  Many of these Pliosaurs were the apex predators in this environment, animals like Kronosaurus (K. queenslandicus) reached lengths in excess of ten metres, and their jaws were over two metres long.

An Illustration of Kronosaurus – A Suspect in the Ichthyosaur Assault?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To read more about this fierce Pliosaur: The Fearsome Kronosaurus

Benjamin Kear stated that this prehistoric animal was a huge predator “with a head the size of a small car and teeth as big as bananas”, however, the marks on the Ichthyosaur jawbone don’t indicate an attack from a Pliosaur, even a small one.  An accidental encounter with a long-necked, fish-eating Plesiosaur could have resulted in the damage seen.  Perhaps, these animals corralled fish into bait balls, just like some marine predators do today and in the resulting feeding frenzy the Ichthyosaur got bitten by a Plesiosaur, whose teeth would have been conical in shape and would have left wounds similar to those seen on the fossil.  This would be an example of interspecific competition, when two different species, in the case the Ichthyosaur and a Plesiosaur come into conflict.

The research team have also suggested that the damage seen on the jawbone was as a result of intraspecific competition – a fight between two animals of the same species, possibly over mates, food or territory.

Whatever the cause of the injuries, this fossil provides scientists with evidence of behaviour, making this fossil particularly significant.

5 05, 2011

Giant Ants Provide Clue to Ancient Global Warming

By | May 5th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Educational Activities, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

Queen Ant Fossil the Size of a Humming Bird Sheds Light on Eocene Climate Change

The fossilised remains of a giant ant which grew to over 5 centimetres long is helping researchers to understand how the climate changed in northern latitudes during the Eocene Epoch.  The fossil suggests that giant ants were able to cross continents via the Arctic and this was probably only possible due to global warming.

A North American team of palaeontologists have discovered the fossil of a huge ant, whose presence sheds light on the spread of such insects after the demise of the dinosaurs.  The distribution of fossils of these large members of the Hymenoptera and providing scientists with valuable data on times of global warming over the last fifty million years or so.

Fossils of gigantic ants have been found elsewhere in the world, perhaps most notably in the Messel shales and Eckfeld Maar Eocene aged strata of Germany (Formicium giganteum).  However, writing in the British based, Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biology) the four scientists have linked these fossil finds to a climate change study deducing that since large extant species of ants are only found in the tropics today, then the fossil species must also have lived in tropical environments.  Charting the spread and distribution of these fossils with a cross reference to their geological age would provide scientists with a better understanding of periods of global warming during the Palaeogene Period.

In a paper entitled “Intercontinental dispersal of giant thermophilic ants across the Arctic during early Eocene hyperthermals“, the authors Bruce Archibald and Rolf Mathewes from the Simon Fraser University (British Columbia, Canada), David Greenwood from Brandon University (Manitoba, Canada) and Kirk Johnson from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in Colorado (USA) describe a new species of giant ant.

The species has been formally described and named Titanomyrma lubei. This winged queen ant lived in the Eocene Epoch about 50 million years old.  It had a body just over five centimetres long — comparable to a hummingbird — a size only rivalled today by the enormously large queens of an ant species found in tropical Africa.

As Big as a Humming Bird – T. lubei

Picture Credit: SFU

Dr. Archibald found the ant fossil in a drawer when visiting Johnson at the Denver Museum.

He commented:

“What is surprising is that this ant scurried about an ancient forest in what is now Wyoming when the climate there was hot like the modern tropics. In fact, all of the closely related fossil giant ants have been found in Europe and North America at sites that had hot climates.”

The North American research team looked at the habitats of the largest modern ants, and found that almost all live in the tropics, indicating that there might be something about being big that requires ants to live in hot climates.

During the Eocene Epoch, many plants and animal species migrated between Europe and North America via continuous land across the Arctic, bridging the two continents.  Scientists have puzzled over the mystery of how did these ancient members of the Hymenoptera cross through a temperate Arctic climate which is believed would have been simply to cold for them.

The researchers suspect that the key is in the brief, but intense episodes of global warming that happened around this time.  These events appear to have created periodic opportunities for life forms more suited to a warmer climate to pass between continents through the Arctic.  Dr. Archibald calls them brief openings of a physiological gate to cross the physical land bridge.

After the mass extinction of the Dinosauria, the Earth experienced a prolonged period of global warming with global temperatures steadily rising and this led to extensive tropical rain-forest forming in latitudes as high as Canada and northern Europe.  For much of this period, even the Poles were free from ice, instead they were covered by dense conifer forests.

Dr. Archibald added that these findings will help scientists gain a better grasp of the impacts of global warming on life. He concluded:

“As the Earth’s climate changes, we are seeing tropical pest species extend their ranges into mid-latitudes and dragonflies appear in the Arctic.  Understanding the details of how life forms adapted to global warming in the past will be of increasing importance in the future.”

Reproduced from Simon Fraser University source.

4 05, 2011

Extracting Mosasaur Protein

By | May 4th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Swedish Scientists Extract Collagen from 70-million-year-old Sea Monster

A team of scientists from Lund University (southern Sweden) have published a paper in the online scientific journal PLoS One on their work to extract the traces of preserved protein molecules from a marine reptile from the Late Cretaceous.

The animal in question, is a Mosasaur, specifically the fossilised remains of Prognathodon. Mosasaurs were a group of large and powerful sea-living lizards which thrived in marine environments from the Mid to the Late Cretaceous.  It is believed they are closely related to Monitor Lizards.  They were the only family of lizards to become extinct at the end of the Mesozoic.  Some Mosasaurs were apex predators and grew to lengths in excess of 12 metres long.

An Illustration of a Typical Mosasaur (Tylosaurus)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The scientists analysed at a microscopic level traces of collagen protein found inside the fossilised upper forelimb (humerus) of this long, extinct marine reptile.  The density of the bone may have helped preserve the protein fragments over seventy million years.  Collagen is an important protein as it forms connective tissues such as ligaments.

Although other scientists have claimed to have recovered proteins from Cretaceous dinosaurs, this is the first find of preserved tissues from a marine environment and the first time they have been found within a fossilised forelimb.

Close Up Analysis of the Mosasaur Proteins

Picture Credit: Johan Lindgren

The picture shows a close up analysis of tiny fibres (matrix fibrils) preserved in the Mosasaur fossil bone.  Top left, histologic preparation that show how the fibres surround a vascular duct in the bone.  Top right, SEM-picture that reveals etched fibres (extreme magnification).  Bottom left, close up of histologic preparation showing fibres encapsulated in bioapatite.  Bioapatite is a phosphate based mineral complex made as a result of microscopic biological processes.  Bottom right, histo-chemical stain (blue vein effect) indicating that the fibres contain biological matter.

To read an article on Manchester University’s work on the analysis of “Dakota” a beautifully preserved Edmontosaurus dinosaur, know as a dinosaur “mummy”, click the link below:

Manchester University article: Amazing Dinosaur Mummy Yields More Secrets

The Swedish researchers note that the earlier ancient protein extractions have been controversial, but note that their new research is backed up by several tests to corroborate the tissue’s authenticity.  The research team used infrared microspectoscopy, mass spectrometry, and a chemical analysis on the ancient sea-going predator’s remains to make sure what they had found was not contamination from bacteria or other modern sources.

Despite this new scientific study, the researchers are quick to state that they are a long way from creating living tissue from these remains.  Creating a watery “Jurassic Park” ruled by giant sea lizards is still very much in the realms of fantasy.

For fishermen, sailors and swimmers this is probably a very good thing.

3 05, 2011

In Search of an Ichthyosaurus

By | May 3rd, 2011|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

The One that Got Away – In Search of a “Fish Lizard”

Ichthyosaurs or to be more precise, Ichthyosauria were an Order of marine reptiles that evolved in the Triassic and become extinct towards the end of the Cretaceous Period, approximately 80 million years ago.  These animals superficially resembled Dolphins and many of these predatory marine reptiles were fast swimmers.  Of all the reptile groups that returned to a marine environment to live, the Ichthyosaurs became the most highly adapted, losing their ability to move around on land.

An Illustration of a Typical Ichthyosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

These marine creatures are very popular with young palaeontologists; and staff at Everything Dinosaur get asked lots of questions about them.  However, it is rare for us to have to go on an Ichthyosaurus hunt in our warehouse – on the north Yorkshire coast, or in Dorset,  yes, but in our own warehouse this is a rare event indeed.

The Ichthyosaurus hunt started when we were contacted by a customer, who had purchased a tube of marine reptiles from us.  The set contained ten prehistoric animal models, unfortunately, not an Ichthyosaurus model, one of the items that the young dinosaur fan who was to receive this gift item particularly wanted.

The set they had purchased contained a duplicate of the Mid Jurassic monster – Metriorhynchus.  This reptile was an ancient crocodile that had adapted to a marine environment, distantly related to modern crocodiles, these sea creatures were hunters of fish, ammonites and perhaps even snatched the occasional unwary Pterosaur from out of the air, as these flying reptiles glided over the sea looking for a fish to snap up in their jaws.

An Image of the Safari Ltd Sealife Prehistoric Animal Toob

Ten prehistoric marine animals make up the set

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Unfortunately, the Metriorhynchus was no Ichthyosaur and the customer contacted us so as to return the duplicate model and to request a replacement Ichthyosaurus be sent out to her eager young palaeontologist.

And so the hunt commenced, all our staff ended up being involved – opening the boxes and checking the contents of each set to see if other duplicates were in any of the packs and whether an Ichthyosaurus could be found.  It took a while but eventually an Ichthyosaurus model was located and our dedicated staff got it ready to be sent on its way to be reunited with the rest of the models in the Safari Prehistoric Sealife set.

The Missing Ichthyosaurus Model (close up)

The “Missing” Ichthyosaurus Model

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Incidentally, before the Ichthyosaurus was despatched, we sent a picture of it to the customer.  This was done so that we could get confirmation that we had indeed found a suitable replacement.  We think we know what an Ichthyosaurus looks like, the customer may know what an Ichthyosaurus looks like, but in these situations it is always best to check.  After-all, if such a distinguished naturalist and broadcaster as Sir David Attenborough can confuse Plesiosaurs with Ichthyosaurs as he did in a recent radio programme when discussing the Loch Ness Monster, it is better to be safe than sorry.

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