All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//February
9 02, 2012

The Appalling Quality of Some Dinosaur Themed Merchandise

By | February 9th, 2012|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Teaching|1 Comment

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.

8 02, 2012

Papo New Prehistoric Animal Models (2012)

By | February 8th, 2012|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur videos|0 Comments

Encountering Papo Prehistoric Animal Models at a Trade Show

Everything Dinosaur team members met up with staff from the French model and figure manufacturer Papo the other day.  Whilst with the Papo team we took a look at their trade stand and viewed some of the new, exciting 2012 model releases in the Papo “Dinosaures” range.

Encountering Some of the New Papo Models (2012)

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We wanted to give an idea of the size and scale of the new models such as the running T. rex figure, the new baby T. rexes as well as the two juvenile Woolly Mammoth replicas, so we shot some quick video footage.  We promised Papo that we would post it up as soon as we could and within a day or two it is up on the Everything Dinosaur web log, as well as posted onto our Facebook page and Youtube channel.

We are looking forward to receiving these models shortly, they should be with Everything Dinosaur in a few days or so.  Great to see some new additions to the Papo dinosaurs model range.

To view prehistoric animal models including the Papo range: Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models

7 02, 2012

Charles Dickens and Dinosaurs

By | February 7th, 2012|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|0 Comments

Famous English Author Writes about Dinosaurs

Today, February 7th, is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the English author Charles Dickens.  A number of events are being held around the world to commemorate the birthday of one of the most famous of all English writers – the writer of such works as “Oliver Twist”, “Great Expectations”, “David Copperfield” and of course the universally popular “A Christmas Carol”.  From a dinosaur enthusiast’s perspective, Dickens lived through a most exciting period of science history, a time when the study of fossils was being placed on a more professional footing and by the end of his life dinosaurs were a worldwide phenomenon.

Dickens was born in Portsmouth (Hampshire, England) in 1812.  Throughout his life he wrote about the nascent development of Earth sciences that we now know as Palaeontology and Geology.  He lived during a time of great scientific discovery, a time when strange rocks found in the Earth came to be studied and understood for what they were – the remains of long, extinct animals and plants that had once been part of the fauna and flora of prehistory.

In the journal “All Year Round”, with which Charles Dickens was very much associated, there were reports on the discovery of marine reptile fossils found in the Dorset area (southern England).  He did much to publicise and popularise the discoveries of Ichthyosaurs, Plesiosaurs and flying reptiles.  Dinosaurs even make a brief appearance in one of Dickens’s most famous novels – “Bleak House”.  This novel, written in 1852, in common with many other books by Dickens, mirrored much of what was going on in the country at the time.  Dinosauria and other prehistoric animals were catching the general public’s imagination and a contemporary author such as Dickens was almost obliged to write about them.

In “Bleak House” he writes:

“Implacable November weather.  As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the Earth, and would it not be wonderful to meet Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill.”

At the time of his birth, the term Dinosaurs and the science of Palaeontology was virtually unknown.  By the time Dickens died in June 1870, the Order Dinosauria had been established and a number of genera had been recognised and other prehistoric creatures such as the marine reptiles and Pterosaurs (flying reptiles) were becoming much better understood.

6 02, 2012

New Papo Re-painted T. rex and Juvenile Tyrannosaur

By | February 6th, 2012|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Product Reviews|5 Comments

Introducing a Tyrannosaur Family Photograph

Amid speculation from palaeontologists as to whether members of the Tyrannosauroidea lived in family groups and perhaps hunted in packs, Papo, the figure and replica manufacturer from France, have introduced two models of juvenile Tyrannosaurs to accompany the adults in the company’s “Dinosaures” model range.

There are actually two baby T. rex models being released by Papo this year (expected with Everything Dinosaur in May).  One of these is painted green, we think as a companion piece to the new running T. rex sculpt.  The second, a dusky, brown coloured replica which works well with the new re-painted version of the original (dark green) T. rex replica.  The two brown Tyrannosaurs can be seen in the picture below – a sort of  T. rex family “snapshot”.  They are to be added to the Papo dinosaurs model range.

A Tyrannosaur Family Photograph

A Tyrannosaur Family?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In our picture, the juvenile is looking up to the adult Tyrannosaur, the detail on the models can be made out and these 2012 additions, keep up the excellent quality that can be found in the rest of the Papo model range.  The two baby rexes are the same model (both have articulated jaws, just like the adult replicas), but they have been painted in different colours.  Great to see another Papo T. rex figure.

To view the range of prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur: Dinosaur Models

The juvenile rexes, each measure approximately 11 centimetres in length and stand 9 centimetres tall.

5 02, 2012

Tyrannosaurus rex versus Spinosaurus

By | February 5th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|12 Comments

Battle of the Killer Giants

This weekend saw Everything Dinosaur team members delivering a series of family themed dinosaur presentations at Liverpool World Museum.  One of the prehistoric animal topics covered was an update on the research and study into the Spinosaurids.  Was for example, Spinosaurus aegyptiacus the biggest Theropod known to science, indeed the biggest terrestrial carnivore known in the fossil record?

The audience are invited to make up their own minds, if an imaginary battle took place between a Tyrannosaurus and a Spinosaurus.  We collated all the votes from the many hundreds of visitors who took part in our workshops, the results from this weekend’s activities are summarised below:

Battle of the Killer Giants T. rex versus S. aegyptiacus

Two Heavyweight Theropods slug it Out

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The audience votes were quite close but when all the information was compiled 54% of the theatre goers who voted thought that T. rex would win in  a fight with Spinosaurus compared to 46% who thought that Spinosaurus would come out on top.

To view other survey results from this Everything Dinosaur presentation: Museum Visitors Take Part in Dinosaur Study

4 02, 2012

Prehistoric Times Issue 100

By | February 4th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Prehistoric Times|0 Comments

Prehistoric Times Reaches its Century

Prehistoric Times, the magazine for dinosaur fans and prehistoric animal merchandise collectors is celebrating its 100th edition.  Yes, in a feat not matched by any English batsman in the current Test series against Pakistan, Prehistoric Times (PT to its friends) has reached 100 not out.

First of all we should congratulate all those dedicated people involved in producing such an excellent quarterly magazine.   Issue 100, in common with all the other editions of this magazine is absolutely jam-packed full of interesting articles, updates and Dinosauria related data.

Mike Fredericks, the dedicated editor of the magazine published the last issue with two different front covers, a boon for collectors, and in keeping with this very special publication, the 100th issue has also been produced with two front cover versions.  Spanish artist Raul Martin has provided the artwork for one of the covers.  His picture depicts an encounter between Deinosuchus and the Tyrannosaur; Albertosaurus.  However, we received at Everything Dinosaur’s office the second front cover version.  A beautiful illustration done by our chum Fabio Pastori entitled “The Airbender”.  Fabio’s front cover picture features Albertosaurus, Gorgosaurus and a prehistoric bird known as Enantiornithes.   Super artwork – both pictures are worthy of gracing issue 100 of PT

 The Two Front Covers of Prehistoric Times

Celebrating 100th Issue with Two Front Cover Versions

Picture Credit: Raul Martin/Fabio Pastori

Inside this issue, palaeontologist Steve Brusatte provides a review of the last twelve months from a palaeontology perspective, there is a fascinating interview with the highly talented and entirely self-taught Australian artist Peter Schouten – some amazing prehistoric artwork indeed.

Another highlight is a thought provoking article by Tracy Lee Ford – asking the question “Could some Dinosaurs Perch?”.  For the answer, as to whether the likes of Dromaeosaurs were arboreal – well, you will have to buy a copy and see for yourself what conclusions can be drawn.  Talking of drawings, lots of wonderful readers artwork in the features covering one of the front cover stars – Albertosaurus.  There is also a well-written article on our favourite Pelycosaur – Dimetrodon, produced by Phil Hore.

Look out for the feature on the Royal Belgian Museum (Iguanodontids a plenty) and an update on the Dinosaur discoveries of Portugal plus lots more (thanks for the Origin of the Series article to Anthony Beeson), and the Coelodonta replica masterclass by Steven B. DeMarco.

All in all, a super edition of PT, ten out of ten (or should that be 100 out of 100)?

3 02, 2012

Remembering Gideon Mantell

By | February 3rd, 2012|Dinosaur Fans|0 Comments

Happy Birthday Gideon Mantell

Today, February 3rd, marks the birthday of Gideon Algernon Mantell, an English doctor, avid fossil collector and amateur geologist who made a considerable contribution to the early science of palaeontology.

Born on the 3rd of February in 1790, he was responsible for naming and describing two of the three dinosaurs that made up the Order Dinosauria as proposed by Sir Richard Owen. 

An illustration of the Hylaeosaurus

Gideon Mantell’s Important Contribution to Palaeontology

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

These dinosaurs were Iguanodon and the armoured dinosaur Hylaeosaurus.  Despised by Sir Richard Owen, Mantell’s contribution to the nascent science of palaeontology is today, regarded as very significant by academics and enthusiasts alike.  We suspect that there will be little media coverage of this, but for us Gideon Mantell was a pioneer of palaeontology and his contribution will never be forgotten.

Happy Birthday Gideon Mantell.

2 02, 2012

Children with a Dinosaur Obsession – Money saving Tip

By | February 2nd, 2012|Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|0 Comments

A Special Set of Travel Dinosaurs to Avoid Expensive Models getting Lost

Children as young as two years of age can develop an obsession with dinosaurs.  Their keen, young minds seem to absorb dinosaur and prehistoric animal information and many young palaeontologists, the next generation of fossil hunters, can reel off the names, sizes and diets of an amazing number of these ancient reptiles.  With many schools using dinosaurs in teaching topics to help young children learn to read, improve their numeracy skills and to get an understanding of basic scientific concepts, a child with a healthy interest in dinosaurs can gain a considerable advantage.

One consequence of being a parent, guardian or grandparent of an enthusiastic “dino fan” is that there is a tendency to build up an extensive collection of dinosaur models and toys.  Many children’s bedrooms end up resembling a miniature version of a dinosaur theme park, but this is no bad thing as dinosaur toys can help develop imaginative, creative play as well as proving to be an aid to learning at school.

Such is the obsession, especially with young boys, that many dinosaur models are taken literally everywhere by their young owners.  This can lead to problems, especially when favourite dinosaur models are taken out of the house and as a result, end up being lost.

One useful money saving tip, that was passed onto me by the Mum of a young child who was obsessed with dinosaurs (child was about three years of age) is to do what you can to ensure that an expensive dinosaur toy is not lost.  This particular young boy kept insisting on taking his dinosaurs with him everywhere he went.  Inevitably, models would keep getting lost.   It can be difficult for an adult to keep track of all the dinosaurs out with their young palaeontologist when heading out to visit relatives or going on a shopping trip.   Trying to reduce the number of models being taken can help, even attempting to prevent toys from leaving the house altogether but  this can lead to tantrums.

To overcome this problem, and to provide both Mum and son with a “win-win” situation, the Mum set about compiling a special set of “travel” dinosaurs.  This was a collection of inexpensive dinosaur models that the boy could take outside and since they were cheap it did not matter a great deal if now and then one of these was lost.

The resourceful Mum got together a collection of cheap, pocket money priced dinosaurs and these became the “outdoor” dinosaurs.  The little boy was happy as he had his “special dinosaurs” to take with him and Mum was happy too, not having to keep replacing expensive dinosaur models every few weeks or so.

With a cheap set, the Mum even got into the habit of buying two models at once, but keeping back the duplicate.  This way if any of these inexpensive items was lost, it could easily be replaced without too many tears.   Keep the expensive dinosaurs for play in the house, cheaper models can become the “travel” dinosaurs for your young dinosaur fans and if one or two are misplaced you don’t have to break the bank replacing them.

Turns out that the set she used was from our party products range – a set of 20 different, inexpensive prehistoric animal models

Potential “travel” dinosaur model set: Set of Dinosaur Models

 A Solution to “Lost Dinosaurs”

Special “travel” dinosaurs

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Using inexpensive dinosaur models for outside play or for taking on trips can save money if any models have to be replaced.  After all, it is not too expensive to replace them if any should become extinct!

1 02, 2012

Dinosaur Death Throes – Updated Research

By | February 1st, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

An Explanation of Dinosaur “Death Postures”

Many Theropod dinosaur fossils if they are discovered as a reasonably complete and articulated specimen depict the animal in a twisted posture, with the neck and tail arched over the spine.  In the past these unusual positions have been interpreted as the “death spasms” of the animal.  Such postures are not restricted to dinosaurs, fossils of birds and other reptiles, especially those with long tails and necks show a similar stance as it were.  New research suggests that these positions are a result of decomposition and bare no relation to the “death throes” of the animal concerned.

More or less complete and articulated skeletons of dinosaurs with a long neck and tail often exhibit a body posture in which the head and neck are recurved over the back of the animal. This posture, also known from Late Jurassic “proto-bird) Archaeopteryx (A. lithographica) , has been fascinating palaeontologists since the first Theropod (mainly meat-eating), dinosaur fossils were discovered.  The pose is often referred to as the  “opisthotonic posture”.

To read an earlier article on dinosaur “death throes”: Death Throes – Not Quite What they Seem

The opisthotonic posture relates to an accessory symptom of tetanus, well known to doctors and to veterinarians.  Usually, an “opisthotonic posture” like that is the result of vitamin deficiency, poisoning or damage to the cerebellum.

The cerebellum is a brain region that controls fine muscle movement, which includes the body’s antigravity muscles that keep the head and tail upright.  If the cerebellum ceases to function, the antigravity muscles will clench at full force, tipping the head and tail back, and contracting the limbs.

A syndrome like that as a petrified expression of death throes was discussed for the first time about 100 years ago for some vertebrate fossils, but the acceptance of this interpretation declined during the following decades.  In 2007, this “opisthotonus hypothesis” was newly posted by a veterinarian and a palaeontologist.

Five years later, two scientists from Switzerland and Germany have re-evaluated the revitalised “opisthotonus hypothesis” and examined one of its icons, the famous bipedal dinosaur Compsognathus longipes from the “Solnhofen Archipelago” (Germany).  An area of Upper Jurassic strata, laid down in what was an extensive lagoonal network.

 A Picture of a Compsognathus Dinosaur Fossil Showing the Death Posture

A result of Bio-mechanics not of “Death Throes”

Picture Credit: G. Janßen, O. Rauhut, Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie)

Sedimentologist Achim Reisdorf from University of Basel’s Institute of Geology and Palaeontology comments:

“In our opinion, the most critical point in the newly discussed scenario of the preservation of an opisthotonic posture in a fossil is the requirement that terrestrial vertebrates must have been embedded immediately after death without substantial transport.  But consigning a carcass from land to sea and the following need of sinking through the water column for only a few centimetres or metres is nothing else.”

Convinced that the back arching was generated, not by death throes, but by postmortem alterations of a decaying carcass, the researchers made experiments with plucked chicken necks and thoraxes, immersed in water.  Submersed in water, the necks spontaneously arched backwards for more than 90 degrees.  Ongoing decay for some months even increased the degree of the pose.  Thorough preparation and dissection combined with testing revealed that a special ligament connecting the vertebrae at their upper side was responsible for the re-curved necks in the chickens.  This ligament, the so-called Ligamentum elasticum, is pre-stressed in living chickens, but also in dead ones.

One of the scientists involved in carrying out this, somewhat unusual and macabre research, palaeontologist Michael Wuttke from the Section of Earth History in the General Department for the Conservation of Cultural History Rhineland Palatinate in Mainz (Germany) stated:

“Veterinarians may often have to deal with sick and dying animals, where they see the opisthotonic posture in many cases.  Vertebrate palaeontologists, however, who want to infer the environment in which the animals perished and finally were embedded have to elucidate postmortem processes and bio-mechanical constraints too”. 

It is this tensile, ligament, essential for the effective support of a Theropod dinosaur’s long tail and neck that could be responsible for the classic – “dinosaur death pose”.

Michael went onto add:

“The preloaded ligament helped them [dinosaurs] saving energy in their terrestrial mode of life.  Following their death, at which they were immersed in water, the stored energy along the vertebra was strong enough to arch back the spine, increasingly so as more and more muscles and other soft parts were decaying.  It is a special highlight that, in the Compsognathus specimen, these gradual steps of re-curvature can be substantiated, too.  Therefore, bio-mechanics is ruling the postmortem weird posture of a carcass in a watery grave, not death throes.”

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