All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
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20 06, 2011

American Scientists Provide Evidence of “Warm-Blooded” Dinosaurs

By | June 20th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Analysis of Teeth Provides Indication of “Warm-Blooded” Dinosaurs

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have been utilising an isotope analysis technique that they have developed to examine the body temperatures of extinct vertebrates and they have come up with some interesting data relating to Sauropods (long-necked dinosaurs).

The debate on whether the Dinosauria were endothermic (warm-blooded) or ectothermic (cold-blooded) has raged since the middle of the 19th Century, but many scientists have now concluded that a number of dinosaur families were active animals and not the ponderous animals envisaged by academics in the last Century and earlier.  The science of palaeontology has certainly come along way since the time of Owen, Mantell, Seeley et al, Alvarezsaurids, Ornithomimids, Oviraptorosaurids are now all thought to be warm-blooded dinosaurs.  However, to find evidence of endothermy in Sauropods, those huge lumbering lizard-hipped dinosaurs is quite remarkable.

In a new paper, published by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), scientists claim that isotope analysis using fossilised teeth from Sauropods provides evidence that these long-necked giants had internal body temperatures as high as modern birds and on a par with our own species and most other mammals.  This new approach to taking a dinosaur’s temperature provides evidence that even the largest dinosaurs may have been endothermic.

Sauropods were plant-eating dinosaurs with small heads, long necks and tails and massive bodies supported by trunk-like legs.  They evolved in the Late Triassic and survived until the very end of the Cretaceous.  Well know Sauropods include Apatosaurus (formerly known as Brontosaurus), Diplodocus and Brachiosaurus.

An Illustration of Apatosaurus (Sauropod)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Robert Eagle, a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech and lead author on the scientific paper commented:

“This is like being able to stick a thermometer in an animal that has been extinct for 150 million years.”

Co-author John Eiler, the Robert P. Sharp Professor of Geology and Professor of Geochemistry stated:

“The consensus was that no one would ever measure dinosaur body temperatures, that it’s impossible to do.”

Yet, using a technique pioneered in Eiler’s laboratory, the team did just that.

The researchers analysed eleven teeth, dug up in Tanzania, Wyoming, and Oklahoma, that belonged to Brachiosaurus (possibly a Giraffatitan) and Camarasaurus. These animals lived during the Late Jurassic.  The team found that the Brachiosaurus had a temperature of about 38.2 degrees Celsius (100.8 degrees Fahrenheit) and the Camarasaurus had one of about 35.7 degrees Celsius (96.3 degrees Fahrenheit), warmer than modern and extinct crocodiles and alligators but cooler than birds. The measurements are accurate to within one or two degrees, Celsius, the researchers claim.  The normal human body temperature is around 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit, putting these dinosaurs definitely in the endothemic group.

Eagle said:

Nobody has used this approach to look at dinosaur body temperatures before, so our study provides a completely different angle on the long-standing debate about dinosaur physiology.”

The fact that the temperatures were similar to those of most modern mammals might seem to imply that dinosaurs had a warm-blooded metabolism.  But, the researchers say, the issue is more complex.  Because large Sauropod dinosaurs were so huge, they could retain their body heat much more efficiently than smaller mammals like us humans.

Caltech Researchers in the Laboratory

Teeth may indicate Endothermic Dinosaurs

Picture Credit: Caltech / Lance Hayashida

John Eiler explained the physics of volume versus surface area in terms of its impact on thermal regulation stating:

“If you’re an animal that you can approximate as a sphere of meat the size of a room, you can’t be cold unless you’re dead.  So even if dinosaurs were “cold blooded” in the sense that they depended on their environments for heat, they would still have warm body temperatures.”

Another author of this study, Assistant Professor at the UCLA and visiting researcher in Geochemistry at Caltech, Aradhna Tripati stated:

“The body temperatures we’ve estimated now provide a key piece of data that any model of dinosaur physiology has to be able to explain.  As a result, the data can help scientists test physiological models to explain how these organisms lived.”

The measured temperatures are lower than what’s predicted by some models of body temperatures, suggesting there is something missing in scientists’ understanding of dinosaur physiology.  These models imply dinosaurs were so-called gigantotherms, that they maintained warm temperatures by their sheer size.  To explain the lower temperatures, the researchers suggest that the dinosaurs could have had some physiological or behavioural adaptations that allowed them to avoid getting too hot.  The dinosaurs could have had lower metabolic rates to reduce the amount of internal heat, particularly as large adults.  They could also have had something like an air-sac system to dissipate heat.  There is certainly evidence for this in lizard-hipped dinosaur fossilised bones.   Alternatively, they could have dispelled heat through their long necks and tails.  These parts of their body could have acted as radiators, as indeed could the long spines, frills and spikes associated with some Sauropod genera.  For example, could the extended neural spines on the fossilised vertebrae of Amargasaurus point to being supports for a thermal regulation structure.

Casting Amargasaurus and other Sauropods in a New Light

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The illustration above shows an Amargasaurus, a Diplodocid could the large, spines jutting up from the backbone support a thermal regulation device such as a sail-like structure?

Previously, researchers have only been able to use indirect ways to gauge dinosaur metabolism or body temperatures.  For example, they infer dinosaur behaviour and physiology by figuring out how fast they ran based on the spacing of dinosaur tracks, studying the ratio of predators to prey in the fossil record, or measuring the growth rates of bone.  But these various lines of evidence were often in conflict.

Eiler said:

“For any position you take, you can easily find counter examples.  How an organism budgets the energy supply that it gets from food and creates and stores the energy in its muscles—there are no fossil remains for that.  So you just sort of have to make your best guess based on indirect arguments.”

But Eagle, Eiler, and their colleagues have developed a so-called clumped-isotope technique that shows that it is possible to take body temperatures of dinosaurs—and there’s no guessing involved.

A Brachiosaurus Tooth used in the Analysis

Tooth used in the study

Picture Credit: Thomas Tütken (Bonn University)

Eiler went onto state:

“We’re getting at body temperature through a line of reasoning that I think is relatively bullet proof, provided you can find well-preserved samples.”

In this method, the researchers measure the concentrations of the rare isotopes carbon-13 and oxygen-18 in bioapatite, a mineral found in teeth and bone.  How often these isotopes bond with each other, or “clump”, depends on temperature.  The lower the temperature, the more carbon-13 and oxygen-18 tend to bond in bioapatite.  So measuring the clumping of these isotopes is a direct way to determine the temperature of the environment in which the mineral formed, in this case, inside the dinosaur.

Eiler explains:

“What we’re doing is special in that it’s thermodynamically based.  Thermodynamics, like the laws of gravity, is independent of setting, time, and context.”

Because thermodynamics worked the same way 150 million years ago as it does today, measuring isotope clumping is a robust technique.  Identifying the most well-preserved samples of dinosaur teeth was one of the major challenges of the analysis, the researchers say, and they used several ways to find the best samples. For example, they compared the isotopic compositions of resistant parts of teeth, the enamel, with easily altered materials, dentin and fossil bones of related animals.  Well-preserved enamel would preserve both physiologically possible temperatures and be isotopically distinct from dentin and bone.

A Camarasaurus Fossil Tooth used in the Study

Carmarasaurus tooth used in the study

Picture Credit: Thomas Tütken (Bonn University)

The next step would be to take temperatures of more dinosaur samples and extend the study to other species of extinct vertebrates, the researchers say.  In particular, taking the temperature of unusually small and young dinosaurs would help test whether dinosaurs were indeed gigantotherms. Knowing the body temperatures of more dinosaurs and other extinct animals would also allow scientists to learn more about how the physiology of modern mammals and birds evolved.

Drilling into a Fossil Teeth in Preparation for the Isotope Analysis

Looking for evidence

Picture Credit: Caltech / Lance Hayashida

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the German Research Foundation and this article has been prepared using a California Institute of Technology press release.

19 06, 2011

The Return of Kronosaurus

By | June 19th, 2011|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Carnegie Collection Kronosaurus Model Back in Stock

After a short delay the large Kronosaurus model manufactured by Safari of the United States is back in stock.  This model of a short-necked Plesiosaur (called a Pliosaur) is part of the Carnegie Collectibles model range.  Meticulously painted all the models in this range are approved by the palaeontologists at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of he four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh (USA).

The Kronosaurus (Kronosaurus queenslandicus) is one of the largest models made by Safari, it measures over thirty centimetres long, a scale model of a marine reptile that may have reached lengths in excess of ten metres. The huge jaws of Kronosaurus measured over 2.5 metres in length.  This animal was a formidable predator, probably the apex predator of the early Cretaceous.

The Kronosaurus Model from Carnegie

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the Kronosaurus model and the rest of the Carnegie Dinosaurs and other prehistoric animal models, click on the link below:

Carnegie Models including dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

Fossils of Kronosaurus have been found in Australia and South America, scientists believe it preyed on large fish, Ichthyosaurs and other smaller Pliosaurs.   We are glad to have this particular model back in stock at Everything Dinosaur.

18 06, 2011

Getting to Grips with Adobe Creative Suite 5

By | June 18th, 2011|Adobe CS5, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Up, Up and Away with Some New Banners

Oh, the joys of Adobe Creative Suite 5, it certainly is a powerful piece of software, one that can be quite baffling, especially for us dinosaurs.  However, we are persevering and slowly but surely becoming a little more confident about using it.

Being able to open and browse in the “bridge” function has been a revelation.  We have so many pictures and other images that this facility makes finding exactly what we want extremely easy.  No more exasperating searches before we can start work on a project.  The split screen/multi image screen view is also helpful, making it easy to toggle from one image to another.  Simply being able to save our work “specifically for the web or other devices” is also very handy, this will help with the Everything Dinosaur blog a great deal.

One of our Newly Created Banners

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We would not regard ourselves as competent, not by any means, but with a little effort we are beginning to make progress.  We have created a number of small banners and uploaded them to the main Everything Dinosaur website, our next project will be to try a new large banner for the site.  The banners need to be a specific size and we have had fun learning how to cut out shapes (especially the curves) but we are slowly and surely getting there.

17 06, 2011

Tiny Vertebra Re-writes the History of Australian Dinosaurs

By | June 17th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Australia’s First Spinosaur

Spinosaurids are a group of carnivorous dinosaurs that flourished during the early Cretaceous.  These creatures, with their distinctive crocodile-like, kinked jaws are believed by scientists to have been specialised fish-eaters.  No fossil of a Spinosaur had ever been found in Australia, suggesting that these dinosaurs did not make up part of the mega fauna of that continent.  However, the discovery of a tiny, fossil bone in 2005 and a paper published in the scientific journal “Biology Letters” suggest that Spinosaurs did live “down under”.

A number of carnivorous dinosaurs are known from Australia, in 2007, near the town of Inverloch scientists from the Monash University reported upon the discovery of distinctive three-toed dinosaur footprints – a trace fossil of a meat-eating dinosaur (Theropod) that had been found in strata dating from approximately 115 million years ago.  An ankle bone, found in the Otway Range, near Melbourne suggests the presence of Allosaurs on the land that was to become the isolated continent of Australia and in the rocks surrounding the town of Winton, a new, agile Theropod dinosaur was discovered two years ago. This dinosaur was named A. wintonensis and has been described as “the Cheetah of its day” by Australian palaeontologists.

To read about the discovery of meat-eating dinosaur footprints: Meat-eating Dinosaur Footprints discovered in Australia

To read more about A. wintonensis: A Trio of Dinosaurs from Down Under

This new discovery, that of the fossilised neck vertebra (cervical vertebra) suggests that Spinosaurs were present in the area that was to become Australia.  No evidence of these type of meat-eating dinosaurs has been found in Australia before.  This suggests that the land bridge between Australia and South America (where a number of Spinosaurid fossils have been discovered) may not have been broken as early in the geological record as previously thought.

To read an article on the changing theories relating to land bridges on Gondwanaland: Dinosaur Discovery “Knocks” Continental Drift

Some scientists believe that African species of Spinosaur were the largest meat-eating dinosaurs that ever lived, with lengths in excess of sixty feet being claimed.  Unfortunately, these fossils found by a German led expedition to North Africa were destroyed in WWII.

An Illustration of a Model Giant Spinosaur (S. aegyptiacus)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Researchers from London’s Natural History Museum, the University of Cambridge, Museum Victoria and Monash University were thrilled when they were able to identify the fossil.

Commenting on the discovery, Dr.Thomas Rich, an eminent palaeontologist, who has discovered a number of new Australian dinosaurs himself stated:

“Spinosaurs were previously known to be from Europe, Africa and South America.  The fact that they existed in Australia changes our understanding of the evolution of this group of dinosaurs.”

The tiny, vertebra fossil was discovered by Michael Cleeland and George Caspar near Victoria’s Cape Otway Lighthouse in 2005.  It was then painstakingly prepared at Museum Victoria until it could be identified as Australia’s first-ever member of the Spinosauridae.  The researchers was able to deduce the neck vertebra belonged to a small juvenile, around two metres long, which lived 105 million years ago (Albian faunal stage).

The Four Centimetre Cervical Vertebra Identified as Spinosaurid

Backbone from the Outback – Spinosaurid?

Picture Credit: Jon Augier/Museum Victoria

But another co-author on the paper on this new dinosaur, Professor Patricia Vickers-Rich, palaeontologist at Monash University, says it isn’t possible to draw conclusions about the type of newly announced Spinosaur, whether it was male or female or its body structure when there is only a 4 centimetre neck vertebra to go by.  These details can only be fleshed out if more Spinosaur fossils are discovered.

At the time the Spinosaur lived, Australia was not an isolated landmass, making it easier for dinosaurs to move around.

Explaining the impact of continental drift on dinosaur distribution a spokesperson commented:

“When the Earth evolved into separate continents, the various families of dinosaurs had already reached those landmasses, which explains why the same ones have been found in places now far apart from one another.”

Patricia says this challenges the idea an endemic fauna was present in Australia 110-120 million years ago.
She believes there could be many more dinosaur groups still to be discovered in Australia and certainly from the evidence so far, with lots of new dinosaur discoveries having already been made – she is probably on the right track (should that be a three-toed track)?

Discussing the problems of finding dinosaur fossils in Australia, Professor Patricia Vickers-Rich stated:

“The record is so sparse and these fossils are so difficult to find. Every bone has the chance to be something different, [this vertebra] could have been from something more common, but Spinosaurs are carnivores, which are usually very rare in population.”

16 06, 2011

Industrial Action Hits Canadian Mail

By | June 16th, 2011|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Strikes Halt Mail to and from Canada

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has been carrying out industrial action across some parts of the Canadian postal network.  As a result, UK Royal Mail has decided not to despatch parcels destined to Canada via Airmail and Surface mail, these will lead to delays in the post.  In addition, as the strike action has been going on since June 10th, no mail is being despatched from Canada  bound for the UK and elsewhere overseas.  No mail handled by Canada Post bound for the UK will be sent out at present.  Everything Dinosaur team members are doing their best to make other arrangements for Canadian customers.

Royal Mail has stopped accepting mail for Canada with immediate effect, customers are advised that Royal Mail is not able to accept any mail for Canada and there may be delays if they are waiting for mail from Canada to arrive.  International Parcel Force operations are not affected at this time and this service can still be used.  Check the Everything Dinosaur blog for further updates.

15 06, 2011

A Review of Safari’s Wild Dino Edmontosaurus Model

By | June 15th, 2011|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Product Reviews|0 Comments

The Lizard from Edmonton

Perhaps somewhat overshadowed by the introduction of an excellent replica of Kaprosuchus, the crocodile that thought it was a lion, Safari have also introduced a model of an Edmontosaurus into the Wild Dinos model range.

Named and described by the famous Canadian palaeontologist Lawrence Lambe nearly one hundred years ago, it is a pleasure to see a model of one of the very last duck-billed dinosaurs to evolve to be included once again in a mainstream model range.  After all, this animal was one of the largest Hadrosaurs known, reaching lengths in excess of perhaps forty feet.

The New Model of Edmontosaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The model is up to Safari’s usual high standards.  It measures seventeen centimetres long and has been painted a sandy brown colour with lighter tan stripes running along the flanks.  Ironically, the colouration of this particular duck-billed dinosaur has been quite toned down compared to the Carnegie Corythosaurus with its bright green colouration and blue spots that came out a few years ago.  The individual hooves on the feet are well picked out and the face of Edmontosaurus has been painted very well.    The model is not to scale but it works well in association with the Procon/Collecta T. rex and Ankylosaurus, both of which were contemporaries of this last of the Hadrosaurs.

The new Kaprosuchus model from Safari may have taken a lot of plaudits, but the Wild Safari Dinos Edmontosaurus dinosaur model  must not be underestimated, it makes a welcome addition to the Wild Dinos range.

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

14 06, 2011

Amateur Fossil Collector Finds Europe’s Smallest Dinosaur

By | June 14th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

British Fossil Collector Kept Specimen in Bedside Draw

An amateur fossil collector who kept one of his fossil finds in his bedside draw has had it identified as cervical vertebrae from one of the smallest dinosaurs known to science.  In a paper published in the scientific journal “Cretaceous Research”, scientists from the University of Portsmouth have identified the specimen as being from one of the smallest dinosaurs known in the fossil record.

The fossil was found at the site of an old brickworks, near Bexhill in Sussex.  This location has yielded a number of vertebrate specimens dating from the Mesozoic, including some large dinosaur bones, but nothing as important as this tiny dinosaur fossil.  However, unaware of its importance, the amateur fossil collector kept this item in his bedside draw.

Palaeontologist Dr Steve Sweetman commented:

“It represents the smallest dinosaur we have yet discovered in the European fossil record.”

Although the fossil is fragmentary, comparisons made between this specimen and other Theropod dinosaurs indicate that this animal was between 33cm and 40cm in length, about the size of a Magpie.  The fossil was found by local fossil collector David Brockhurst who actually works on the brickworks site.

An Artist’s Illustration of the “Ashdown Maniraptoran”

Picture Credit: AFP

Nicknamed the “Ashdown Maniraptoran”, it is not known whether this dinosaur was carnivorous or omnivorous although it was believed it was a member of that group of dinosaurs that included all the two-legged meat-eaters known as Theropods.

Experts also said the new dinosaur had clear similarities with Maniraptorans, a group of Theropods including birds, making it likely to belong to this group.

They found the fossilised remains were from a fully-grown dinosaur because the main body of the neck vertebrae was fully fused to the arch-shaped part of the vertebrae that sits on top, meaning that it was skeletally mature.  Equally small dinosaur fossils are known but these are believed to belong to sub-adults or not fully grown animals.

13 06, 2011

Whithaven’s Beacon Welcomes Dinosaurs

By | June 13th, 2011|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|2 Comments

BBC Walking with Dinosaurs Exhibition at the Beacon

The innovative Beacon museum at Whitehaven (Cumbria) has opened its summer exhibition and the theme is dinosaurs as they will be hosting the Walking with Dinosaurs exhibit – an opportunity for young palaeontologists and dinosaur enthusiasts of all ages to get up close to the likes of Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex.

Heralding the official opening, the enthusiastic staff at the Beacon held a press event last Friday evening, part of which involved testing the museum’s sound system and the roars of dinosaurs could be heard across the historic quayside.

Saturday was the official opening and television presenter and broadcaster Steve Leonard was on hand to perform the opening ceremony, cutting the red ribbon across the Beacon’s doors and an exhibition sixty-five million years in the making was underway.  Team members from Everything Dinosaur had brought some fossils with them to show visitors and did their best to answer the many questions that were posed by the young and young-at-heart dinosaur fans.

The Beacon Museum at Whitehaven Promotes the Exhibition

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Beacon museum is a fascinating place to visit, with five floors jam packed with artefacts and relics that show Whitehaven’s past, there is even a super activity centre on the ground floor to accommodate school visits and permit lots of extension activities such as dinosaur crafts and mask making, which have been organised to accompany this dinosaur themed summer event.  It must have been quite a job trying to shoe-horn the Walking with Dinosaurs exhibition into the galleries, but the Beacon staff have managed to do it and they display the dinosaurs and the interactive elements associated with the exhibition in an imaginative way.  For example, placing the cast of a skeleton of a peaceful, plant-eating Plateosaurus next to a Roman legionnaire in full battle dress.

Rather than conflict with each other, these two contrasting museum items seem to be getting along well.  We did point out to the Beacon staff that Plateosaurus was a very geographically dispersed dinosaur, it roamed a significant proportion of what was to become the Roman Empire.  We also explained that Roman legionnaires were blamed for littering much of the Italian landscape with the remains of their lunches – oyster shells and such like.  These were actually fossils of brachipods and bivalves that had eroded out of the limestone formations from the surrounding hillsides.  There is even a type of fossil brachiopod nick-named the “Roman Lamp” as the fossil resembles an oil lamp which was in widespread use during Roman times.

To us, it seems almost appropriate to station the Plateosaurus next to the Roman soldier.

The museum staff have laid out the dinosaur exhibits in chronological order, as much as possible.  Starting on the fourth floor (the viewing gallery), there is a display of models from the television series that represent prehistoric animals from the Triassic, the dawn of the dinosaurs.  In the display cases, beautifully preserved, carbonised plant fossils found around the Whitehaven area can be seen.  These fossils pre-date the dinosaurs, they are actually over 300 million years old – (Pennsylvanian Epoch of the Carboniferous Period).

Descending down from the fourth floor it is like travelling forward in time some 150 million years.  On the third floor, the remains of giant Sauropods (long-necked dinosaurs) can be seen; giant Jurassic herbivores like Diplodocus and Brachiosaurus.  On the second floor, you enter the early Cretaceous, visiting the polar forests of Antarctica meeting the likes of the cute Leaellynasaura and the massive plant-eating Iguanodontids, as well as Pterosaurs such as Tapejara and Ornithocheirus.

One of the Giant Dinosaur Exhibits on Display at the Beacon (Life-size Megalosaurus)

“Mega Lizard”

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

On the first floor, you get the chance to see the last of the dinosaurs, those types of prehistoric animal that lived at the very end of the Cretaceous.  Look out for the huge Triceratops skull and the T. rex lurking in readiness to ambush the unwary visitor.   If you are lucky enough to visit the museum when Everything Dinosaur’s experts are on hand, you might get the chance to handle some real fossils and to pick the brains of our team – if there is something you have always wanted to know about dinosaurs – here’s your opportunity to find out.  We might even let in on one or two secrets, such as why do we call young dinosaur fan’s “munchkins” and Ankylosaurus’s claim to fame that you will not find publicised in any dinosaur book.

Everything Dinosaur team members will be at the museum on the following dates:

July – 9th and 10th

August – 13th and 14th

Contact the Beacon museum for further details: Email the Beacon Staff

The Beacon museum is open daily from 10am to 5.30pm, with a last entry forty-five minutes before closing.  Meals, snacks and refreshments are available from the Bistro which is on site and the Beacon museum staff have lots of dinosaur themed activities planned to help entertain (and educate) visitors to the museum over the next two months.  For further details check the Everything Dinosaur blog.

The Walking with Dinosaurs exhibition runs until the 4th September, so catch it quick before the dinosaurs once again become extinct.

Everything Dinosaur’s Sue with one of the Animatronics on Display at the Museum

Sue next to Robotic Dinosaur (Everything Dinosaur)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture shows Sue, standing next to one of the robotic frameworks used to bring to life the dinosaurs for the award winning television series – in this case a fearsome Utahraptor.  Visitors to the Beacon can get the chance to operate this animatronic dinosaur themselves, just one of the many interactive elements to the exhibition.

For further details regarding the Walking with Dinosaurs exhibit or indeed to find out more about the Beacon museum: The Beacon at Whitehaven

12 06, 2011

The Demise of Dilong

By | June 12th, 2011|Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page|0 Comments

Safar Ltd to Retire Dilong Model from their Carnegie Dinosaur Collectibles Range

Team members at Everything Dinosaur have been informed that the Dilong model, part of the Carnegie Dinosaur Collectibles range is being retired.  The 1:40 scale model of this feathered dinosaur, was introduced some years ago, it was one of the first feathered dinosaur models introduced by Safari.  The “Emperor Dragon” has proved to be a popular replica.  Dilong is believed to be an ancestor of the Tyrannosaurs, the fossils of this little dinosaur that probably reached lengths of not more than two metres long, have been found in north-eastern China (Liaoning Province).

The fossils have been found in the famous Yixian Formation, their excellent preservation include the impression of simple proto-feathers on the body, indicating that this little dinosaur was warm-blooded.

The Model of Dilong that is Being Retired

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Although the body may resemble a primitive Coelurosaur, the skull is definitely Tyrannosaurid, with strongly bonded front bones and characteristic D-shaped in cross section teeth.  The fossils which showed body feathers were the first indisputable proof that scientists had that early Tyrannosaurids were covered in feathers.

Safari are still able to offer a wide range of dinosaur and prehistoric animal models, many of which are replicas of dinosaurs not seen in other mainstream model series.

To view the Safari Dinosaurs and other dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys for Girls and Boys – Dino Models

11 06, 2011

The Exquisite, Endangered Kakapo – World’s Largest Parrot

By | June 11th, 2011|Animal News Stories, Main Page|1 Comment

The Bird that has Forgotten that it Cannot Fly

New Zealand has a number of flightless birds, one of the country’s national symbols is the bizarre Kiwi and until very recently this remnant of Gondwanaland was home to one of the largest members of the Aves that ever existed – the Moa.  Whilst reading the excellent “The Greatest Show on Earth – the Evidence for Evolution”, a book written by Richard Dawkins, we came across a passage about another one of New Zealand’s indigenous, flightless birds – the Kakapo.

The lack of mammals on the islands that make up New Zealand led to birds, that has reached this isolated landmass taking up those niches in the food chains that were occupied by mammals elsewhere in the world.  The Kakapo is a parrot, its ancestors could fly but it adapted to a life on the ground and as a result it lost the ability to fly.  With large adults weighing as much as 3 kilogrammes, these birds are rather ungainly.  They are slow moving and can manage to waddle around, but flying as their ancestors did is out of the question.  The Kakapo’s wings cannot support the weight of such a heavy and cumbersome bird, indeed, the Kakapo is the world’s largest parrot.

It may also be the longest-lived bird in the world, with a suspected life expectancy of about 90 years. None of the Kakapos known to scientists have yet died of old age and the chances are that some of the youngsters will out-live the people who are studying them.  Perhaps this is because they seem to do everything more slowly than other birds, these creatures tend to live life in the “slow lane”.

The Endearing New Zealand Kakapo

Picture Credit: BBC (Last Chance to See)

As the picture shows, these strange birds still venture into trees, it seems that the Kakapo has forgotten that it cannot fly.  Richard Dawkins, quotes the writer Douglas Adams who commented on this bizarre parrot for a television series called “Less Chance to See” thus:

“It is an exceptionally fat bird (a good-sized adult weighs roughly six or seven pounds) and its wings are just about good enough to waggle about a bit if it thinks it’s going to trip over.  But flying is completely out of the question.

Strangely, not only has it forgotten how to fly, it also seems to have forgotten that it has forgotten how to fly.  Legend has it that a seriously worried Kakapo will sometimes run up a tree and jump out of it, whereupon it flies like a brick and lands in a graceless heap on the ground.”

The birds are almost entirely nocturnal and are one of the slowest breeding birds none to science.  Not a problem when once there were hundreds of thousands of them living all over New Zealand but Maori hunters and the white settlers took their toll on these birds who were very easy to catch.  The Kakapo’s habitats were destroyed to make way for farming and the human settlers introduced mammalian predators to New Zealand – cats, dogs and rats.

The Kakapo was driven to the point of extinction, numbers got as low as perhaps forty.  However,  in 1989, a remarkable preservation strategy was put in place by the New Zealand government to try to prevent this unique animal from dying out.  The Kakapo Recovery Plan was developed to translocate all the remaining Kakapos to carefully-prepared, predator-free islands for safe-keeping.  It seems to be working – the population has reached a total of nearly one hundred so far. It’s a positive first step towards recovery, albeit a tentative one.

Natural selection led to the Kakapo losing its ability to fly, this left it vulnerable to predators once they were introduced to its island home.  With luck and care (and the dedication of a team of hard-working scientists), this strange, night parrot might just have a future.

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