Visit to a Trade Show – Guaranteed to Upset Us

One of the saddest sights for us as dedicated teachers and dinosaur enthusiasts is to see inaccurate dinosaur themed merchandise.  It is depressing to recall just how many of the prehistoric animal influenced toys, games, books and other products that we come across contain information that at best can be misleading, or at worst entirely wrong.

A recent visit to a trade show in the UK only served to highlight this problem once again.  Dinosaurs and other creatures preserved in the fossil record, animals such as the marine reptiles and the Pterosaurs are universally popular with children.  We use dinosaurs as a teaching topic, helping to motivate young people to learn more about general science, mathematics and history.  At Everything Dinosaur, we are far from perfect and we tend not to be too pedantic over binomial conventions and other such matters, but when we come across products on sale to the public which purport to have some educational value, and facts/statements they contain are wrong – it makes us very upset.

Company’s are all too eager to exploit the public’s interest and fascination with dinosaurs.  Many firms take great care in how they go about producing merchandise, facts are checked and re-checked, and experts are appointed to oversee the development work, but we encounter examples all the time when perhaps through ignorance or perhaps just because of incompetence, information about prehistoric animals is provided that is just incorrect.

For example, team members went to a trade show recently.  Amongst the many hundreds of exhibitors there were a few stands that had dinosaur themed products and merchandise on display.  A gift card manufacturer was launching a range of new cards which featured drawings of animals from prehistory.  One of the cards featured T. rex.  Like many businesses, this particular firm had attempted to provide some information about this famous Theropod on the back of the gift card.  The attempts have to be commended, helping to provide information, to educate, is important.  However,  the brief paragraph of information they had provided on the “King of the Tyrant Lizards” contained a number of inaccuracies.  Every  young, budding palaeontologist knows that the dinosaurs died out approximately sixty-five million years ago.  The information on the back of the gift card stated that Tyrannosaurus rex existed around fifty-eight million years ago.  The fossil record suggests that this is completely inaccurate.

Sadly, such mistakes are not uncommon, one of these days we will go through our data files and produce a top ten of prehistoric animal themed merchandise blunders, but for the moment we will provide a couple of other examples from our more recent researches.

Archaeopteryx may be one of the world’s most famous prehistoric creatures.  Fossils of this creature with reptilian and avian traits from Upper Jurassic strata have intrigued scientists for over one hundred and fifty years.  This “early bird” is the subject of intense research even today, but on numerous occasions we have encountered products that have got the spelling of this famous creature from the fossil record wrong.  Letters are missed or even added – such a shame, especially when firms are trying to add credibility to their various products by attempting to provide some information about the prehistoric animals they depict.

Products based around flying reptiles (Pterosaurs) are also a happy hunting ground for those of us who spot these “bloopers”.  We are going to have to think of a better term to describe such mistakes on dinosaur toys and other items.  At the same trade show, we found a product which depicted a Pterodactyl.  We don’t want to go into the issue surrounding the use of the word “Pterodactyl” in this article, we have covered that treacherous ground for the uninitiated when it comes to providing information before, however, the picture of the flying reptile was no Pterodactylus, more like a member of the family Pteranodontidae, except that this creature had some very prominent teeth in its jaws.  If the objective was to produce an image of a Pteranodon, something like Pteranodon longiceps, then we think this particular drawing left a lot to be desired.

Whether it is duck-billed dinosaurs with their names spelt incorrectly, members of the Tyrannosaur family from the Late Cretaceous with four-fingered hands or indeed a picture of a prehistoric animal in a dinosaur book with the wrong annotation attached to it, all these mistakes and inaccuracies can be avoided.

Many children have a passion for dinosaurs, their enthusiasm for all things prehistoric can provide a platform for them to go on to have a life-long interest in the natural world and science.  It is such a shame that there seems to be an increasing amount of inaccurate dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed merchandise available.  Some firms seem only too willing to exploit this interest, we do our best to provide support and to help stem the tide.

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