All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//February
19 02, 2012

The Original “Mr Ed” – Pliocene Aged Horse Skull Found in China

By | February 19th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Chinese Scientists Study Hipparion Skull

Scientists from China’s Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (IVPP) have discovered a skull fossil of a Hipparion, a three-toed horse with a long nose that lived approximately 5 million years ago (Pliocene Epoch).  The very well preserved fossil skull was found in the north-western province of Gansu, at a location where many Pliocene aged mammal fossils have been discovered in recent years.

The fossil, is the most intact and complete Hipparion skull found in China so far, it was unearthed in the city of Linxia a few weeks ago (late January), but it has taken a while to clean and prepare to permit the scientists from the Chinese Academy of Scientists (IVPP) to study it properly.

Deng Tao, a researcher with the IVPP commented that:

“The discovery provided vital clues for the study of structural features of the species, especially for the research of the “nasal notch”.”

The Hipparion Skull found in China

Beautifully preserved prehistoric horse skull

Picture Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences (IVPP)

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur, stated that the Hipparion was a genus of prehistoric horse that evolved in the Miocene and survived right up until the Pleistocene Epoch.  Many species have been ascribed since this genus was first named back in the 1830’s.  This plains dweller thrived in the drier conditions of the Miocene which aided the spread of grasslands – fossils of horses ascribed to this genus have been found in Europe, Asia, North America and China.

Originating in North America, the Hipparion is believed to have spread to the Old World over the Bering land bridge, which used to connect present-day Alaska and eastern Siberia.  The five-million-year old skull will help scientists to understand a little more about how the horses nasal passages became elongated.  The evolution of the relatively long front end of the horse’s skull is believed to be an adaptation to living on open grasslands where fast running to avoid predation became a necessity and the extended nasal openings may have made breathing more efficient.

The publishing of this new discovery coincides with the release of another study into prehistoric horses that postulates that mammals get smaller as world temperatures rise.  Researchers at the Florida Museum of Natural History (Florida University), have been studying the teeth of one of the first types of horses to evolve a genus known as Sifrhippus, a type of horse that lived 56 million years ago in North America at a time when the Earth’s average temperature was much higher than it is today.

In a relatively short period, geologically speaking a rapid increase in carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere and oceans sent global temperatures shooting upwards by about 5.5 degrees Celsius over a period of between 10,000-20,000 years.  Global temperatures rose to approximately 28 degrees Celsius – turning Earth into a “hot house” with rain forests covering many northern latitudes.

Looking at thousands of years-worth of preserved fossils that Sifrhippus left behind in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming, researchers found that the horse shrunk 30 per cent over 130,000 years, from 5.4 kilogrammes to 3.8 kilogrammes on average.  The study that analysed the size of fossil teeth from these ancient, but tiny horses showed that during a period of cooling that followed in the next 45,000 years, this miniature “Mr Ed” grew to be about 6.8kg.

Researcher Jonathan Bloch (University of Florida) commented

“What’s surprising is that after they first appeared, they then became even smaller and then dramatically increased in size, and that exactly corresponds to the global warming event, followed by cooling.”

The scientists conclude that this evidence suggests that miniaturisation in mammals may occur as global temperatures increase.  With the current trend towards a warmer planet, this may lead to the evolution of miniature mammal species (perhaps even a mini H. sapiens) in the future.

What is unclear at this stage, is whether or not the fossil teeth of Sifrhippus or the skull of the Hipparion found in China are able to help explain how “Mr Ed” the horse from the 1950’s television series was able to talk.

18 02, 2012

Our Quirky Interpretation of Dinosaur Extinction (Part 1)

By | February 18th, 2012|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur videos|0 Comments

Wind Up Dinosaur Toys – Bring out the Director in Us

The new wind up dinosaurs are proving to be very addictive.  Since they came into stock about a week ago, we have had them racing against each other, acting out the  David Haye/Dereck Chisora boxing brawl, wandering across the warehouse floor and interrupting our regular Friday afternoon company meeting.   It seems that these little, plastic, blue (or orange) dinosaurs, toys based on a fearsome Theropod, are a big hit amongst team members.

Cute Wind Up Dinosaurs Act out the Munich British Boxing Brawl

Great dinosaur wind up toys try boxing

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

These funky wind ups are quite fun, just turn the lever at the back and watch them waddle all over the place.  Most seem to wander around in circles, a description often applied to me as I scoot round the warehouse trying to find items to fulfill orders.

They have even inspired us to take out the video camera and make a quick movie, our sort of interpretation of dinosaur extinction.

Wind Up Dinosaurs and Dinosaur Extinction

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We think they are cute and fun, making good party gifts and pocket money toys.

To see for yourself scroll through Everything Dinosaur’s dinosaur party products: Dinosaur Party Supplies

17 02, 2012

Review of the Papo Tylosaurus Replica

By | February 17th, 2012|Dinosaur Fans, Press Releases, Product Reviews|2 Comments

“Protuberance Lizard” a new Addition to the Papo Model Range

A replica of the fearsome marine reptile Tylosaurus has been added to the Papo “Dinosaures” model range.  The umbrella branding – “Dinosaures” is proving to be more and more inappropriate for this French manufacturer’s range of prehistoric animal models.  A significant proportion of the models this company now produces are not actually dinosaurs at all.  The new Tylosaurus model is an example of this.  Tylosaurus was not a dinosaur, in fact although a reptile it and its kind (the Mosasaurs) were more closely related to lizards and snakes than they were to the Dinosauria.

Tylosaurus was formally adopted as the scientific name for a group of large, apex predators of the Late Cretaceous in 1872.  Since this is the 140th anniversary of the naming of Tylosaurus, it is pleasing to see Papo introduce a model to commemorate this event.  The Mosasaurs were a very successful group of marine reptiles.  Mosasaur fossils have been found all over the world – in the Americas, Africa, New Zealand, Antarctica and in Europe.  A number of different species of Tylosaurus are now recognised by scientists, Tylosaurus proriger (upon which the Papo model is based) was one of the largest and it hunted in a large inland sea that split North America in two.  This seaway is known as the Western Interior Sea.

The Tylosaurus Model (Papo Tylosaurus)

Fearsome Predator of the Western Interior Seaway

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

View Papo Prehistoric Animal Models: Papo Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals

The model itself, measures a little over 24cm in length, with the skull measuring an impressive 4.5cm.  The largest species of Tylosaurus were up to fourteen metres long, this makes this replica approximately 1:60 scale.  Tylosaurus is depicted with its jaws open wide showing an array of sharp, pointed teeth.  The tail has a flattened appearance and sports a long, thin frill that runs almost the length of the tail.  Scientists believe that Tylosaurus used its powerful, muscular tail to propel itself through the water, using only its four flippers to steer and to change direction.  The Papo model is painted a brown/bronze colour and the texture of the model is quite rough.  The scales are clearly marked and the replica, as a result has an almost crocodilian appearance.  This contrasts with other Mosasaur models from manufacturers which depict these marine lizards as streamlined creatures with smooth-scaled bodies.  The available fossil material ascribed to Tylosaurus does not provide palaeontologists with a clear indication of the skin texture of these fearsome reptiles.

It is a robust replica, well suited to creative, imaginative play and as a result, Tylosaurus will probably be equally popular with children as well as professional prehistoric animal model collectors.  It is likely that this model will prove to be an asset to the Papo dinosaurs model series, even though it is a marine reptile.

16 02, 2012

First of the New Papo 2012 Models have Arrived

By | February 16th, 2012|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Press Releases|0 Comments

Woolly Mammoths and Tylosaurus from Papo

The first of the new Papo models have arrived at Everything Dinosaur.  Papo are intending to add a number of new replicas to their highly successful “Dinosaures” model range this year, ironically the first to arrive are not dinosaurs but two young Woolly Mammoths and a model of that fearsome, Late Cretaceous marine reptile – Tylosaurus.

New 2012 Papo Prehistoric Animal Models

New Additions to the Everything Dinosaur Product Range

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We are expecting the new Tyrannosaur models to arrive shortly followed by the huge Brachiosaurus replica later on in the year.

Papo Models: Papo Prehistoric Animal Models

These new additions to the Papo replica range, Papo Woolly Mammoths and a Papo Tylosaurus model keep up the high standards we have come to expect from this French figure manufacturer.

15 02, 2012

A Snowy Stegosaurus

By | February 15th, 2012|Dinosaur Fans|0 Comments

A new “Polar Dinosaur” is Discovered

The recent cold snap brought out the artistic and creative side of a group of dinosaur fans.  We were sent a couple of photographs of a super Stegosaurus snow sculpture that they had made, complete with “thagomiser” tail spikes.

Stegosaurus in the Snow

A New Type of “Polar Dinosaur”

Picture Credit: Supplied

A very clever snow sculpture indeed.  It gives the expression “polar dinosaur” a whole new meaning.

14 02, 2012

Untangling Dinosaurs – A spot of Paint does the Trick

By | February 14th, 2012|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|0 Comments

Preventing Dinosaur Toy Confusion

Children often have friends over to play.  With the spring term, half-term holiday Mums and Dads may be glad that chums have come over to help play, anything to keep their young charges occupied.  Playing with dinosaur toys can be fun, but when another child brings his or her dinosaurs with them, then this can lead to problems.

Toys tend to get mixed up and even our dinosaur experts cannot tell which dinosaur toy belongs to which child.  This can lead to problems, but a suggestion provided by a busy Mum who did not want to have her daughter’s “herd” of dinosaurs mixed up with her friend’s collection may provide the answer.

Taking some water-based paint from one of her daughter’s paint sets, she applied a dab of green paint to the underneath of the dinosaur models.  She chose an area on the underside of the toy so that this little spot of paint did not spoil the look of the model.   She took care not to obscure any writing on the underside, as sometimes the prehistoric animal’s name is printed on the base or on the tummy of the beastie in question.  Now her daughter’s friends can bring over their own dinosaur toys and models without fear of them getting mixed up.  All the adults have to do when tidying up is to look at the underside of the toy and identify which is which by the dab of paint.

This simple idea works well, most children have a paint set of some sort and by painting on a colour key, dinosaur toys should not be confused in future.  Blue or red works quite well when it comes to choice of colour.  Avoid yellow if you can, as often the belly of a dinosaur toy is a light shade and a yellow spot of paint might be more difficult to see.

If the child wants to take some dinosaur toys (or indeed any plastic toys), away with them as the family visits relatives then this is fine.  The paint job on the underside should ensure that all the child’s toys can be identified and returned home safely without any getting mixed up.

With all the robust, creative play that dinosaur toys can encourage, the use of a spot of paint to help identify which models belong to which budding palaeontologist can save a lot of confusion and prevent tantrums.  The only thing that needs to be checked is to make sure that the Mum of the child you are visiting hasn’t had the same good idea.  After all, it would be hard to separate two sets of dinosaur toys, with each one having a red blob of paint on the belly – perhaps two dabs of paint is required, just to make sure.  Hopefully this little tip will avoid any difficulties when it comes to dinosaur toys for children.

13 02, 2012

Papo Mammoth Model Dimensions

By | February 13th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

The Low Down on the Mammoth Model Family (Papo)

Whilst other mainstream model manufacturers may be retiring prehistoric mammal models from their range, it is always pleasing to report one figure and replica maker bucking the current trend.  Papo of France have added two new Woolly Mammoth replicas to their “Dinosaures” range.

In addition to the adult Woolly Mammoth, there is going to be a juvenile and a baby Mammoth added to the product line up, permitting collectors to make up their own Mammoth family group.  This is very apt as just like extant elephants today, scientists believe that Woolly Mammoths did move in herds made up of family members.

The  Mammoth Models

A “Memory” of Elephants

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

As far as we know there are a number of terms for a group of elephants, the collective noun as it were.  There is a “parade” of elephants, a “herd” and our favourite a “memory” of elephants.

The Sizes of the Papo Models

A “Papo” of Mammoths?

Table Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The measurements in the table above have been taken by Everything Dinosaur team members.  All models sold by the company are carefully measured and comments on potential scale and size relationships are available to customers on request.

The English language has many quirks, one of which is the myriad of terms used to describe of group of animals or objects.  We are not aware of a collective noun in use for a group of Woolly Mammoths – how about a “Papo” of Mammoths.

12 02, 2012

Oldest Animal Fossils Discovered

By | February 12th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Namibian Desert Discovery Dates First Animals to 700 million years ago (Approximately)

An international team of scientists think they may have discovered the microscopic fossils of the earliest known animal life form on Earth.   The researchers including geologists from St Andrews University (Scotland); have identified sponge-like fossils found in ancient Namibian rocks.  The strata, laid down at a time when the area now known as Etosha National Park, was a marine environment, preserve the delicate, minute calcium carbonate based skeletons of sponges pushing back the origins of the Animalia by tens of millions of years.

Sponges are classified into their own distinct phylum by scientists – the Porifera.  They are amongst the most simple of all multi-cellular life forms.  Water passes through pores at the surface of the organism, often to a central cavity which represents the sack-like body, the water is filtered and tiny organic particles trapped and absorbed by the sponge with the rest of the water being ejected out of a large hole out of the top (active or passive ejection).  Sponge fossils are known from around 600 million years ago, the rocks that the international team of scientists have been studying are known to be at least between 760 and 550 million years old.

Sponges are essentially organised colonies of cells.  Different cells have different functions, forming simple tissues and other structures.  Most sponges are marine, but some do live in freshwater.  All our sessile, living on the sea or lake bed, some have stalks for helping them to adhere to a rock or a piece of seaweed.  Sponge fossils start to become abundant in Cambrian aged strata (around 540 million years old), although some Protospongia (first types of sponge) fossils believed to be sponge spiricles have been dated to the end of the Ediacaran Period around 560 million years ago, however, these new discoveries could push the origins of the first animals back to the geological period before the Ediacaran, a time known as the Cryogenian Period – a time when planet Earth was plunged into a global Ice Age.

Dropstones (rounded boulders transported by glaciers and deposited) provide evidence of a global glaciation event around 700 million years ago.  Although, still controversial,  many scientists now believe that most of the planet was covered in ice for a significant part of the late Neoproterozoic.  This theory “Snowball Earth” was popularised by the likes of the British-Australian geologist Sir Douglas Mawson, who postulated that at sometime during Earth’s ancient past ice sheets covered almost all of the Earth’s surface, even at the equator.

“Snowball Earth”

Did these extreme conditions assist the evolution of complex life forms?

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

University of St Andrews’ geologists Donald Herd, Stuart Allison and Dr. Tony Prave played an important role in the discovery and analysis of these tiny structures.  The fossils described as “hollow globs”, could be classed as examples of Protospongia, essentially the ancestors of all animals, including our own species.

Electron Scanning Image of a Microscopic Structure

Meet our earliest ancestor

Picture Credit: University of St. Andrews

The picture reveals evidence of different sized holes, to pass sea water through and to expel it – evidence of a primitive sponge-like organism.

The Scottish based scientists worked closely with colleagues from the Ditsong Museum (South Africa) and Mr Karl-Heinz Hoffmann of the Namibian Geological Survey to study the sedimentary rock samples and classify the minute fossil remains.  The scientific paper, written by fellow researchers from the University of Witwatersrand (S. Africa), has been published in the South African Journal of Science.

Named Otavia antiqua, (the name translates as “old one from the Otavia Formation”) the sub-millimetre-sized fossils may have existed before the great glaciation of our planet.  If these organisms evolved before “Snowball Earth”, they survived its extremes, challenging contemporary scientific theory that suggests that complex life did not evolve until after the Earth thawed out.

This new research suggests that the Porifera (sponges) may have evolved as much as 100 million years earlier than previously thought.  A team of Australian and American scientists studying microscopic fossils from the Flinders Formation of Australia identified sponge-like fossils that may have been laid down between 650 and 640 million years ago.

To read more about the Australian discovery: South Australian Fossils indicate “Earliest Animals”

Until the discovery, it was thought that the first animals emerged between 600 and 650 million years ago,  as calculated, in part by the study of rocks in the Flinders Formation of South Australia.   The international team’s findings echo the predictions of the key dates of early life forming by geneticists studying the ‘molecular clocks’ of other species.

The idea of a molecular clock is based on the concept the evolutionary advances occur at regular time intervals.  If it is assumed that the rate of mutation in an organism’s DNA has not changed over time, scientists can work out the “genetic distance” between two types of animal and then work backwards to calculate the approximate time when these two types of organism diverged from a common ancestor.

Commenting on the discovery, Dr. Prave, a co-author of the research paper stated:

“The findings are a tribute to the labours of Bob Brain who has worked tirelessly for the better part of two decades hunting for such fossils.  It was deeply satisfying to hold them in the palm of your hand and realise that these could mark the advent of animals.”

The work of the ten-person team has led to the identification of tiny sessile, sea creatures pierced by different-sized openings that were probably used to pass nutrients into their bodies.  The scientists also found a “network of internal passageways”  believed  to be the remains of a primitive gut.

Dr. Prave also stated:

“What is remarkable is that this organism appears to have evolved before, and survived through, the environmental extremes of snowball Earth.  This implies that the causes and conditions for the evolutionary leap from bacteria to animals have to be searched for much deeper in time than previously thought.”

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“This new research could push back the origins of the Animalia into the Cryogenian Period, but the consequences of this study could have implications beyond our own planet and suggest the intriguing possibility of Metazoan-like organisms existing elsewhere in the solar systems such as on the frozen moon of Jupiter known as Europa.”

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the University of St. Andrews material in helping to put together this article.

11 02, 2012

Marvellous Miragaia Model Scoops Award

By | February 11th, 2012|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Carnegie Dinosaur Collectible Miragaia Model – Best Prehistoric Animal Model Toy 2011

The model of the Portuguese Stegosaur known as Miragaia (M. longicollum) made by Safari Ltd has been award the accolade of the “Best Prehistoric Animal Toy in 2011” by readers of Prehistoric Times.  The model that came out last year, was one of just two Safari Ltd additions to the popular Carnegie Dinosaur Collectibles replica range. Congratulations to the makers of Carnegie Collectibles dinosaur models.

Fossils of this type of Stegosaur were found in Upper Jurassic strata of the Lourinhã Formation of western Portugal, a part of the world, where a number of new Jurassic genera have recently been discovered including a number of dinosaurs.  Most of the front portion of this dinosaur was found, including elements of the snout, the first Stegosaur skull material to have been discovered in the whole of Europe.

The Carnegie Collectibles Miragaia Dinosaur Model

Top Prehistoric Animal Model of 2011

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This beautifully designed and very colourful model is a worthy winner of the Prehistoric Times magazine award.  This replica was given hot competition by the second Safari Ltd Carnegie Collectibles introduction – a model of the fierce Abelisaurid – Carnotaurus (C. sastrei).

To view the Safari Ltd models and other prehistoric animals: Dinosaur Models

We can expect a tough competition this year with a number of manufacturers adding to their ranges, but for the time being lets allow Miragaia (the long-neck from Miragaia) to bask in the limelight.

10 02, 2012

Tokyo’s New Dinosaur Bridge to Open this Weekend

By | February 10th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Japan’s Dinosaur Shaped Bridge

Tokyo’s new “Dinosaur Bridge” will open to vehicles this weekend.  The bridge, whose official name is the Tokyo Gate Bridge is a four-lane road bridge that links the city to a man-made island in Tokyo Bay that has become the location for a huge container port.  Government officials were spurred on to do something about the city’s traffic congestion problem after Tokyo lost out on the award of the Olympics (2016) and the existing road infrastructure was criticised by the International Olympic Committee.

The bridge has got its unusual nickname due to the shape of its support structures, they resemble two large dinosaurs facing off at each other.  At more than one and a half miles long and weighing in excess of 36,000 Tonnes this ten-year man-made construction puts even the biggest dinosaurs in the shade.

A View of Tokyo Gate Bridge (The Dinosaur Bridge)

Two Dinosaurs facing off against each other

Picture Credit: Tokyo Port Authority

Officials hope that the new bridge will cut driving time from the city to the container port by nearly half and the bridge is forecast to carry something like 32,000 vehicles a day.  This development is just one of a number of new construction projects the Japanese Government has planned to help tackle the congestion caused by Japan’s rising urban population.

The rather unconventional design for the bridge has come about as far as we at Everything Dinosaur can understand, because of three major considerations the architects had to take into account.  Firstly, a suspension bridge was ruled out as it would have been too high causing problems for planes coming in and out of the nearby Haneda airport.  Secondly, the bridge’s design had to be strong enough to withstand the shock waves and forces that occur during an earthquake.  Thirdly, the bridge has to permit the passage of large container ships underneath it.  This led to the final design described by observers as two dinosaurs facing off against each other.

The architects have certainly produced a radical looking bridge, one that incorporates the very latest in bridge design technology.  These metal monsters would not look out of place in a Godzilla movie.  A film franchise that originated in Japan and remains one of the country’s biggest film franchise successes to date.

A View of the Bridge

Inspired by too many Godzilla movies?

Picture Credit: Bloomberg/T. Ohsumi

Sauropod dinosaurs may not have been particularly fast but with their huge, column-like legs they were at least very stable, although just how “Earthquake proof” a Sauropod such as Diplodocus or Apatosaurus was; is hard to judge given the fact that we have only their body and trace fossils to go on.

Ironically, Sauropods have a second link with bridge construction.  A number of Diplodocids have been described as having the “anatomy of a suspension bridge” with their long necks, long tails and bodies supported by four massive legs.  The new bridge built at a cost of something like 140 billion yen represents a considerable investment, although the improvements in travel times and the reduction in congestion will provide a welcome boost to the nation’s economy.

Local construction company Kawada Industries spent two years building the dinosaur-shaped supports for the Tokyo Gate Bridge.  According to a company spokesperson, three super-sized cranes were used to position the road sections onto the support structures – a nerve racking experience for the construction crews as one mistake could have led to whole portions of the new build being dropped into the bay.

The bridge also incorporates a walkway for pedestrians, and officials are hoping the unusual prehistoric animal shaped bridge will help to encourage tourism in the area.  Sight seeing cruise ships have reported that tickets for boat trips around the Tokyo Gate have been selling very well.  Whether or not this construction will become as well-known as some of the dinosaurs it is supposed to resemble remains to be seen.

One cruise ship operator seems to have got confused over the prehistoric animal connection.  In a press interview the president of Zeal Cruises stated:

“We want overseas tourists to come and see Japan’s new mammoth bridge.”

Now a bridge with large tusks, small ears and a long, shaggy coat – that would be a tourist attraction!

 

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