All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//June
20 06, 2012

A Review of the Wild Safari Dinos Dracorex Dinosaur Model (Safari Ltd)

By | June 20th, 2012|Everything Dinosaur videos, Product Reviews|0 Comments

Dracorex Dinosaur Model  Reviewed

Although known from only a few fragmentary fossils and a well-preserved skull, all found in the U.S. state of South Dakota Dracorex has certainly inspired model makers and designers and a number of replicas of this member of the Pachycephalosaur family have been produced.  Safari Ltd have introduced their own version, part of a number of new additions to the Wild Safari Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life model series.

Below is Everything Dinosaur’s video review of this dinosaur model.

A Video Review of the Dracorex Dinosaur Model (Safari Ltd)

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In this short (five minute) video, we explain some of the features that can be seen on this replica and provide further information about the Dracorex fossils.

Although eminent palaeontologists such as Bob Bakker have cast doubt on the validity of the Dracorex genus, claiming that the fossil remains represent a juvenile of an already named and described Pachycephalosaurid, most palaeontologists accept the Dracorex genus as valid, siting such evidence as the fused state of the skull bones and the condition of the cervical vertebrae (neck bones) to suggest that the fossil remains found do indeed, represent an adult animal.

To read more about the discovery of Dracorex: Dinosaurs and Harry Potter

19 06, 2012

Our Euro 2012 Predictions – So How Have we Done So Far?

By | June 19th, 2012|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur’s Euro 2012 Predictions

A few weeks ago before the start of the Euro 2012 football championships team members at Everything Dinosaur put together a series of predictions to see if palaeontology and fossil finds could indicate which of the nations taking part were likely to do well in the tournament.  We stopped packing all those dinosaur toys and studied the form of international football teams instead.

To read our earlier Euro 2012 article, where we tabled our predictions: Everything Dinosaur Euro 2012 Predictions

In essence, using the number of times a country was mentioned in our blog, cross-referenced against famous fossil finds in that country and the total geographical area; we put together a table that outlined where we thought the teams would end up.

Despite this rather bizarre methodology a review of the results to date and the quarter-finalists shows that we have done rather well, certainly better than we expected.

Our predicted quarter-finalists are: Greece, Poland, Germany, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, England and France.  The countries marked in red are those that have actually qualified for the knock-out stage of Euro 2012.  We therefore predicted correctly six out of the eight quarter-finalists, this is statistically significant and better than the fifty percent success rate that would have been expected if the countries had been selected at random.

We went onto predict a Germany versus England final with England coming out as winners… some hope, but you never know, perhaps our palaeontology predictions could have some merit after all.  Maybe we should stick to packing dinosaur models for our customers, probably a better option.

18 06, 2012

A Return of an Old Friend – Mastodonsaurus

By | June 18th, 2012|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products|2 Comments

Bullyland Mastodonsaurus Model

Long time, no see.  It was great to hear that Bullyland have made a few more of their wonderful Mastodonsaurus models.  This model is extremely rare and although we appreciate that not many have been produced in this re-run, team members at Everything Dinosaur have been able to get their hands on some.  The Bullyland Museum Line Mastodonsaurus was officially retired some years ago, since then there have only been a handful of Triassic prehistoric animal replicas made by the main stream model manufacturers.

The Bullyland Museum Line Mastodonsaurus

Bullyland Museum Line Mastdonsaurus Model

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The ruler in the picture helps to provide a scale for this surprisingly large model, after all, the skull was up to 1.4 metres long in some specimens.

This Triassic monster was a predator of the ancestors of the dinosaurs.  It grew to over two metres in length and this large-headed, amphibian was an advanced member of a group known as the Temnospondyls.  It lived close to ponds and lakes and probably acted as an ambush predator in a similar fashion to some types of modern-day crocodile.  Sensory grooves running along the top of the skull helped Mastodonsaurus to detect vibrations in water made by its prey.  Fossils of this type of Temnospondyl have been found in Europe and North Africa.

To view the Bullyland range of prehistoric animal models including Bullyland dinosaur models: Bullyland Museum Line Models

 

17 06, 2012

Australia to Re-introduce Crocodile Trophy Hunting

By | June 17th, 2012|Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Northern Territories Considers Option of Trophy Hunting Tourism to Curb Saltwater Crocodile Numbers

Australian officials are considering plans to re-introduce sport hunting of crocodiles in parts of the country, with proposals for trophy hunting being put forward as a cost effective method of controlling crocodile numbers as well as boosting the tourist trade.

Officials from the Northern Territories have proposed that hunting of crocodiles be permitted with perhaps as many as three hundred animals, all of which would be mature adults, being culled in this way each year.  Over the last few decades the population of Saltwater or Estuarine crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) has bounced back after a ban on hunting was imposed.  As a result of the growth in the crocodile population; attacks on people from these fearsome predators has increased.

In the Sights of Trophy Hunters

Hunting Crocodiles for Sport – the Debate Continues

Picture Credit: Associated Press

Several years ago, the federal government rejected a similar set of proposals, but as crocodile attacks on people and livestock have increased dramatically, State officials are once again considering this option.  Outline plans have already been drawn up and the concept has been put out to public consultation so that a wide range of views and opinions can be gathered before a final decision is made.

Environment Minister Tony Burke would not be drawn into a discussion on the issue, he stated that it would be prudent to wait until after July 25th which is when the first phase of the public consultation is due to end.

He added:

“There are different views among different traditional (Aboriginal land) owners on this and I really want to make sure I get the opportunity to hear those different views.”

If the plans are approved then a quota system would be introduced permitting a set number of adult crocodiles to be shot for sport each year.  Hunters would pay to kill the crocodiles, a similar system exists in Canada where a few hunters each year are allowed to shoot Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) to help control the numbers of these large, dangerous mammals.

Supporters for the crocodile hunting policy, say that in areas where it would operate, at the moment in the Northern Territory, it would provide jobs for locals and help boost tourism.

Commenting on the proposals, Northern Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson stated:

We have been pushing the government to consider safari hunting for some time as a way to generate indigenous employment and I’m very pleased to see steps taken in this direction.”

Under the proposals, fifty crocodiles would be available for safari hunting for a two-year trial period, taken from the annual sustainable harvest quota of five hundred adults already allocated under an existing crocodile management programme.  Numbers could rise depending on the need to control the population with perhaps as many as three hundred crocodiles over 3.5 metres in length being shot for sport each year.

There are opponents to the plan.  The Australian Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) have put out a statement condemning the proposals saying it would take precision and skill to shoot a crocodile in such a way as to kill it humanely.

The RSPCA’s chief scientist Bidda Jones stated:

“There is no possible conservation benefit to be derived from the killing of crocodiles for trophies, nor does it provide a means of controlling problem crocodiles.  This is nothing more than killing animals for entertainment and there is no justification for that.”

Large crocodiles are a tourist attraction in themselves, with a number of companies offering eco-tourist excursions to see crocodiles and to feed them in the wild.  This may have a negative effect on crocodile behaviour with the animals growing accustomed to human activity and associating boats with food.  This could lead to an increase in crocodile attacks on watercraft.

Karl Hampton the Environment Minister for the Northern Territory has done his best to assure the anti-hunting lobby, pointing out that feral animals such as buffalo and wild pig are already hunted on private land and similar restrictions concerning the trophy hunting of crocodiles would be rigorously applied.

He added:

Just like those safaris, the one proposed as part of our Crocodile Management plan is subject to the Animal Welfare Act and strict humane obligations will apply.”

Scientists estimate that from a low point in the early 1970’s Saltwater crocodile numbers have risen dramatically and there are maybe as many as 150,000 of these reptiles in the wild.  Sightings of large crocodiles near to centres of population are on the increase and on average there are two fatal crocodile attacks in Australia each year.

To read an article about a fisherman’s recent encounter with a Saltwater crocodile: Catching a Crocodile Using Prawns as Bait

The debate is set to continue with a final decision being taken once the programme of public consultation has been completed.

 

16 06, 2012

Which is the Biggest Crocodile Alive Today?

By | June 16th, 2012|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|0 Comments

Questions and Questions on Email into Everything Dinosaur

Team members are catching up on their paperwork and other matters at the moment.  We noted that we received a couple of emails recently with enquiries about extant species of crocodiles (crocodile species alive today).  Both correspondents wanted to know which was the largest species of crocodile living.  Indeed, one person who wrote in with this query wanted us to settle an argument as to whether Nile Crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) ever grew to the same size of the Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus).

Having had the opportunity to review the Guinness Book of World Records 2012 last year, we can assert that the Saltwater or Estuarine crocodile of Asia and Australasia is the largest living species of Crocodile with some individuals in the wild reaching lengths approaching seven metres and weighing more than one tonne.  The largest specimen in captivity is a male known as “Cassius” measuring 5.5 metres in length which is housed at an animal park on Green Island,  off the coast of Queensland, Australia.

Nile crocodiles can grow to very large sizes, reports of individuals approaching six metres in length have been made in places such as Kenya and Botswana and there have been some hard to validate claims of seven metre long individuals but if a Nile Crocodile is shot and then measured to be in excess of sixteen feet in length, it is regarded as a very large specimen.

A number of extinct Crocodylians were much larger, including members of the Eusuchia (true crocodiles).  One of the largest was a distant relative of the Nile Crocodile, which lived in Africa during the Pliocene, this beast may have reached lengths in excess of eight metres long and may have preyed on early hominids.

Amendment:

A crocodile caught in the Philippines in 2011 has been officially declared the largest crocodile in captivity (July 2012).

To read about this animal: Lolong a World Record Holder

15 06, 2012

Ancient Amphibians Possessed Bites as Strong as a Crocodiles

By | June 15th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Research suggest that Capitosaurs were the “Crocodiles” of the Permian and the Triassic

Long before the reptilian ancestors of crocodiles evolved, ancient lakes and swamps had there own set of aquatic ambush predators – amphibians, members of a group known as the Temnospondyls.  Fossils of this type of amphibian have been found world-wide and it is believed these animals evolved in the Carboniferous, evolving into a myriad of terrestrial and aquatic predators.

A study by researchers at the Catalan Institute of Palaeontology in association with their colleagues at the University of Catalonia has assessed the bite force capabilities of number of these animals and challenged a hypothesis regarding the strength of these animal’s bites that had been put forward more than forty years ago.  It seems that both basal and more advanced forms of Temnospondyls were capable of biting down onto prey with considerable force. In contrast to the earlier theory, that postulated that the shape and size of the bones that supported the muscles responsible for generating a strong bite force, it seems that muzzle shape and dimensions are more significant when it comes to assessing how strong a bite force one of these predators could generate.

Temnospondyls were a large and diverse group of amphibians with stout limbs, strong bodies and big, wide mouths.  Some of these creatures could grow to lengths in excess of three metres and many of them occupied environmental niches similar to modern-day crocodiles.

An Illustration of a Typical Aquatic Predator (Temnospondyl)

Amphibians that thought they were Crocodiles.

Picture Credit: Mauricio Anton (Catalan Institute of Palaeontology)

It had been thought that the last of the Temnospondyls died out at the end of the Triassic but Australian fossils suggest that some of these amphibians survived into the Jurassic and into the Early Cretaceous, living in parts of the world that were too cold for the Crocodylomorphs to survive in.  The study focused on members of the Capitosaur taxon, advanced active, predatory members of the Temnospondyls.  Seventeen taxa were studied and the research suggests that many of these animals could generate bite forces similar to those of modern crocodiles.

Extant species of amphibian such as the Salamanders, although they possess wide mouths, do not have strong bites.  They suck prey items into their mouths.  This research suggests that at least some of the Capitosaurs had masticatory capabilities similar to Crocodylians, an article detailing the research has been published in the scientific journal “The Anatomical Record”.

Josep Fortuny (Catalan Institute of Palaeontology), along with colleagues has shown that changes to the shape of these animal’s skulls influenced the way that they fed.  These large, carnivores had a wide range of different bite strengths.

The Catalan-based researchers studied the evolution of different morphological features in the Capitosaurs’ skulls using computer models and careful scans of the actual fossil material to determine the stress distribution across the skull bones for different types of bite.

Commenting on their research, Josep stated:

“Apart from explaining how Capitosaurs fed, we also wanted to validate the theory by palaeontologist A. Howie from the 1970s, and here are results were somewhat surprising.”

Primitive Capitosaurs  had posteriorly directed tabular horns, (bony struts associated with the back of the skull that pointed rearwards), these are the bones that anchor the muscles responsible for opening and closing the mouth.  In more derived, advanced forms, however, they moved laterally to create a small island in the back of the skull, known as the otic notch.  Howie argued that this evolution facilitated a more optimal bite, at the biomechanical level.  However, the Spanish research refutes this demonstrating that the most primitive tabular horns were also optimal for the opening of the mouth.  Therefore, the evolutionary mechanisms that led to the closure of the otic notch do not have much to do with improved biomechanics of this movement, but the scientists state that more studies are needed to better understand these morphological changes.

Illustration of Capitsosaur Skull Types

Snout size and Skull Widths better Determinants of Bite Force

Picture Credit: Catalan Institute of Palaeontology

In the images of these two Capitosaur skulls shown above, Parotosuchus left and Eocyclotosaurus right, tabular horns (A) and the Otic Notch (B) are observed.

In its most basal, primitive forms, as is the case of Wetlugasaurus, skulls are weaker.  As forms radiate, Capitosaurs seem better able to generate a more powerful bite, perhaps in response to the evolution of their prey and increased competition from the rapidly evolving reptiles.

Computer Generated Images Indicate Bite Strengths of Various Capitosaurs

Different shaped snouts and skulls equals different bite force capabilities.

In the images deformations (top) and stresses (bottom) are observed from simulations of a bilateral bite for several capitosaur species.  The more primitive, basal form such as Wetlugasaurus (far left) had a weak bite, but Parotosuchus with its large tabulate horns had a powerful bite, challenging the theory first put forward by Howie.

The elongation of the tabular horns, with the consequent closure of the otic notch, was taken for years as an indicator of a more powerful bite.  This study shows, however, that Paratosuchus had one of the most powerful bites of the study group, along with Cyclotosaurus, although the otic notch is open and the tabular horns are not particularly long.  From the computer generated data, it seems that other factors such as the width of the skull and the snout length are equally or perhaps more important factors in generating bite force as opposed to the tabular horns or the otic notch closure.

This research suggests that these predators evolved to take advantage of a number of ecological niches as land vertebrate food chains became more complex.

14 06, 2012

Getting to Grips with the “Thunder Beasts”

By | June 14th, 2012|Adobe CS5, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Trying to Round up a Megacerops

We have been experimenting with some of the backdrop pictures that Collecta have kindly provided for us.  The picture team members at Everything Dinosaur have created shows a Neanderthal man bravely trying to corral a fearsome Megacerops (Thunder Beast).  The Brontotheres were extinct by the time the Neanderthals (H. neanderthalensis) evolved but we thought we would practice our photoshop skills by trying to create this image.

Rounding up a Megacerops (Collecta Megacerops)

Horns versus Spear

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Fossils of Neanderthals show a considerable amount of pathology.  The sort of injuries identified match those seen in modern day rodeo riders, so palaeontologists think that these hominids tackled large prey at close quarters.  They must have been very tough, the Collecta Neanderthal figure certainly looks very tough.

13 06, 2012

Deinotherium in our Boardroom

By | June 13th, 2012|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Press Releases|0 Comments

Rare Bullyland Prehistoric Animal and People Models Arrive

All hands to the pump!  The rare Bullyland models have arrived and we have been busy unpacking them and sorting them in the Everything Dinosaur warehouse.  Just time to take some pictures of the models, many of which, as they had been retired for years, we have not seen for a very long time.

Take for example, the Deinotherium replica, or as Bullyland themselves call it; the “tusked elephant”.  This is a beautiful, hand-painted model of this prehistoric member of the elephant family.

Bullyland Prehistoric World Deinotherium Model

“Terrible Beast” arrives

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Deinotherium tusks, unlike those of many other types of elephants, including those of extant species alive today, grew from their lower jaws.  African elephants and Asian elephants in contrast have tusks that are modified incisors from the upper jaw.  Together with its short trunk the tusks of Deinotherium were used to strip bark of trees.   Many species of Deinotherium are synonymous with locations where early hominid remains have been discovered.  Fossil teeth and tusks have been found throughout East Africa, including famous early hominid fossil locations such as Olduvai Gorge, Lake Turkana and Laetoli.

To view the Bullyand models available from Everything Dinosaur: Bullyland Prehistoric Animal Models

These were large and powerful animals, which, when fully grown had no natural predators.  They were browsers of vegetation and not grazers like the Mammoths.  The males were larger than the females with the biggest, weighing around six tonnes and standing over four metres high at the shoulder.

It is great to see some of the long-retired Bullyland models once again.

12 06, 2012

The “Thunder Beast” Megacerops

By | June 12th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|0 Comments

Megacerops – A Brontothere otherwise known as a “Thunder Beast”

Just time to post up a drawing of Megacerops, a member of a family of prehistoric mammals known as Brontotheres, or “Thunder Beasts”.  This drawing was commissioned by Everything Dinosaur so that a fact sheet on this prehistoric animal could be produced to mark the creation of the Collecta Megacerops model.

An Illustration of Megacerops

“Large Horn Face” – Megacerops

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Although this animals superficially resembled modern-day rhinos, they are in fact more closely related to horses.  Our thanks to Mike Fredericks who we commissioned to create this drawing for Everything Dinosaur.

To view the Collecta model range: Collecta dinosaurs and Collecta prehistoric mammal models

11 06, 2012

The Evolution of Birds Ended the Chances of Flying Insects Growing Big

By | June 11th, 2012|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

The Aves Prevented the Evolution of Giant Flying Insects during the Mesozoic

Scientists at the University of California (Santa Cruz) have set about analysing the fossil record of flying insects in a bid to determine the affect on insect size as a result of the evolution of other flying creatures such as the birds and the Pterosaurs.  The largest flying insects in the fossil record are found in Carboniferous aged strata, they include examples of the giant dragonfly Meganeura which had a wingspan of seventy-five centimetres.

Many palaeontologists believe that large flying insects could evolve during the Carboniferous because the atmospheric levels of oxygen were very high.  Scientists have suggested that the oxygen levels reached around 28-30% in the atmosphere, much higher than today’s figure of approximately 21%.  The denser air would have made powered flight easier and the high concentration of oxygen would have permitted giant flying insects to get enough oxygen to their flight muscles through their spiracles.  Oxygen concentration level is a key physiological factor in the control of insect body size, particularly in groups that have high oxygen demands, such as those that undertake powered flight.

Fossil Dragonfly Wingspan Compared to Extant Species

Giant flying insects of the Palaeozoic

Picture Credit: Wolfgang Zessin

The picture shows the fossilised impression of a Carboniferous-aged dragonfly (Stephanotypus schneideri) compared to the wing of the largest type of dragonfly alive in more recent times.

However, in this study, the research team postulate that the relationship between insect body size and atmospheric oxygen levels is disrupted in part, and that during the Mesozoic and the later Cenozoic, despite fluctuations in oxygen levels and an increase in atmospheric O2 concentration, large flying insects did not evolve.

To read more about the research identifying the relationship between oxygen levels and insect body size: High O2 levels led to Super-sized Flying Insects

Matthew Clapham, an assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences at the University of California (Santa Cruz) and Jered Karr, a graduate student compiled a huge database of fossilised insect wing measurements.  They were then able to use this data, in conjunction with information about prehistoric atmospheric oxygen levels to plot insect size and O2 concentrations.  Their paper has been published this week in the scientific journal “The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”.

Commenting on the results of the study, assistant professor Matthew Clapham stated:

“Maximum insect size does track oxygen surprisingly well as it goes up and down for about 200 million years.  Then right around the end of the Jurassic and beginning of the Cretaceous period, about 150 million years ago, all of a sudden oxygen goes up but insect size goes down.  And this coincides really strikingly with the evolution of birds.”

The analysis shows that insect body size becomes less dependent on atmospheric oxygen concentration, it seems that other factors begin to impact on this relationship.  With the evolution of the birds, insects were no longer aerial masters and the need for maneuverability or the need to be small may have taken over as the driving force of insect evolution with oxygen levels becoming less pivotal.

Interestingly, the analysis provided only weak support for an effect on insect size with the evolution of the Pterosaurs in the Triassic.  The first Pterosaurs are believed to have evolved around 225 million years ago.  The fossil record shows that there were larger flying insects in the Triassic than in the Jurassic but the lack of Early Jurassic aged insect fossils prevents the scientists from making any firmer conclusions about the impact of Pterosaur predation on flying insects.  A drop in global oxygen levels during this Triassic/Jurassic part of the Mesozoic further complicates the analysis.

Another transition in insect size occurred more recently at the end of the Cretaceous period, between 90 and 65 million years ago. Again, a shortage of fossils makes it hard to track the decrease in insect sizes during this period, and several factors could be responsible.  These include the continued specialisation and rapid diversification of neornithes (modern birds) the evolution of bats, and the mass extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous.

When asked to provide an explanation for the decline in insect size towards the end of the Mesozoic, Clapham said:

“I suspect it’s from the continuing specialisation of birds.  The early birds were not very good at flying but by the end of the Cretaceous, birds did look quite a lot like modern birds.”

The researchers stressed that this study focused on changes to the maximum size of insects over time.  The average insect size in any geological period was much more difficult to calculate due to a bias for larger insect remains to be preserved in the fossil record.  Larger insects are more likely to be preserved as fossils and found by fossil hunters than smaller insects.

Commenting on this aspect of the research, Matthew added:

“There have always been small insects.  Even in the Permian when you had these giant insects, there were lots with wings a couple of millimetres long.  It’s always a combination of ecological and environmental factors that determines body size, and there are plenty of ecological reasons why insects are small.”

This study that suggests a decoupling of insect size and atmospheric O2 concentrations in favour of other factors such as the emergence of vertebrates capable of powered flight has implications for scientists trying to predict the consequences of extinction rates in our own time.

If the competition from the Aves (birds) was removed due to extinction then if the Earth’s oxygen levels were to rise, those organisms left could well face the possibility of sizeable flying insects evolving once again.  The insects could once again become the masters of the air.

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