All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
21 03, 2013

A New Azhdarchoidea Pterosaur from the Isle of Wight

By | March 21st, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|0 Comments

New Flying Reptile Named after Girl who Found the Fossils

For Daisy Morris and her parents a walk along the beach on a winter’s day was going to turn out to be a rather special event, for the family spotted some fossils that represent a new species of flying reptile.  The discovery made back in November 2008 has led to young Daisy, who was nearly five years old at the time of the fossil find, having the honour of having a prehistoric animal named after her.  The new Pterosaur is called Vectidraco daisymorrisae.  The name means dragon from the Isle of Wight (after Vectis – the old name for the island), the specific name honours Daisy.

An Illustration of Vectidraco daisymorrisae

Pterosaur named after school girl.

Pterosaur named after school girl.

Picture Credit: Mark Witton

The Morris family spotted a collection of small bones that had weathered out of a block of rock and now lay on a scree slope near the foot of the cliff immediately west of Atherfield Point (Isle of Wight), if the family had not discovered the fossils, this precious prehistoric material would have most likely have been lost for ever being washed away at the next high tide.

Daisy Morris – A New Pterosaur Named

Excited about her fossil find.

Excited about her fossil find.

Identified as a specimen from the basal part of the marine Atherfield Clay Formation of the Lower Greensand Group, this new Pterosaur was probably about the size of a large crow and its discovery has helped palaeontologists to understand a little better the diversity of European Pterosaurs from the Early Cretaceous.  The fossil material has been dated to the Aptian faunal stage of the Cretaceous and it has been estimated that this thirty-five centimetre long flying reptile lived some 115 million years ago.

The Lower Cretaceous strata of western Europe has provided scientists with a number of different types of Pterosaur fossils.  On the Isle of Wight itself, the first flying reptile fossil material was found in 1870 and although such discoveries are exceptionally rare, a number of different families of Pterosaur are known from western Europe.  However, finding Pterosaur fossils from strata dated to the Aptian faunal stage of the Cretaceous is a really exceptional event.

For Martin Simpson (University of Southampton) and a highly regarded vertebrate fossil expert on the island, that April day in the following spring when the fossils were brought in to show him, must have been a very memorable day indeed.  Realising their significance, the fossils were taken to the Natural History Museum (London).  The study of the fossils led to the erection of this new Pterosaur genus and the holotype has now been accessioned, (become part of the museum’s vertebrate fossil collection).  The academic paper written by the highly talented Darren Naish (Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Southampton) along with Martin and Gareth Dyke of the University’s Institute of Life Sciences has just been published.

“Fossil Man” – Martin Simpson

Looking for fossils, perhaps another Pterosaur?

Looking for fossils, perhaps another Pterosaur?

This just goes to illustrate the importance of amateur fossil hunters when it comes to discovering significant new finds, a point we often make when we visit schools as the school children being closer to the ground and with their generally keener eyesight than us “oldies” have two big advantages over the grown-ups.  The actual fossil material represents the animal’s pelvic girdle and associated vertebrae (back bones), although no other fossil material has been retrieved, the research team have concluded that this was a small-bodied Pterosaur that had a wingspan of around seventy-five centimetres. It was probably crested and an expert flier in its arboreal dominated habitat.  These deductions have been made by comparing the fossils of V. daisymorrisae to better known Azhdarchid Pterosaur fossil material.

The Fossilised Bones (Pelvic Girdle)

The fossilised bones.

The fossilised bones.

The types of Pterosaurs known from the Lower Cretaceous of western Europe, large Pterosaurs such as the Ornithocheirids and the Istiodactylids, such as Istiodactylus latidens, fossils of which have also been found at Atherfield Point on the island and the generally smaller Azhdarchoids are very similar to the Pterosaur faunas associated with the Liaoning Province of eastern China.  Although still very rare, the Lioaning assemblage represents a greater diversity and number of different Pterosaurs when compared to western Europe.  Most of the European Pterosaur fossils found to date come from fluvial environments and the fossils are usually substantially fragmented.  In contrast, the fossil material associated with the Lioaning Province is exquisitely preserved.  The Yixian and Jiufotang Formations of Lioaning are dominated by finely-grained sediment, an aid in fossil detail preservation.  In addition, there are substantial deposits of volcanic ash, it seems that this part of Asia was subjected to occasional volcanic eruptions which buried the landscape and resulted in the mass die-off of a number of organisms at a time, including numerous Pterosaurs.    The rapid burial in the ash deposits also prevented the carcasses from being scavenged, another reason for the more complete fossil remains.

The story of this amazing fossil discovery has inspired Martin to write a book.  The book is entitled “Daisy and the Isle of Wight Dragon” and it is aimed at 7-12 year olds (as well as their mums and dads).  The story is based on the actual discovery made by young Daisy.  Not a bad start in life for a child under ten, her name honoured by science and a book published all about her adventures.

The Front Cover of the Book

Read all about the Pterosaur discovery.

Read all about the Pterosaur discovery.

Well done to everybody involved in helping to preserve the 4cm long pelvis and associated bones.  It seems that the Isle of Wight has still many prehistoric animal secrets awaiting discovery – even by a sharp-eyed five year old.

20 03, 2013

Walking with Dinosaurs in 3D set for Cinema Release in December

By | March 20th, 2013|Dinosaur Fans|0 Comments

BBC Earth Films and Partners Prepare for 20th December 2013 Release of 3D Dinosaur Movie

BBC Earth Films, the theatrical wing of the BBC brand “BBC Earth” has been working on an updated version of the Walking with Dinosaurs series, this time as a cinema release and it has been announced that the film will have its world-wide premiers in December.

The BBC has been working on its plans to develop more three dimensional programme formats.  Everything Dinosaur reported on the progress that had been made in an article produced for this blog site last year.  Ironically, much of the programme and output testing for the 3D format had used footage from the BBC television series “Planet Dinosaur” that aired in the Autumn of 2011.

Filming back drops and background footage to help explain the scientific concepts behind the CGI film has already taken place with a number of locations, including the Isle of Wight (southern England), already visited.  The film represents the first 3D cinema release for BBC Earth Films and “Walking with Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie” ,  has been created by Twentieth Century Fox and Reliance Big Pictures working in collaboration with IM Global LLC.  BBC Earth is one of the brands managed by the BBC under the BBC Worldwide corporate umbrella – a part of the BBC dedicated to marketing and distributing the UK based production company’s natural history output.

Walking with Dinosaurs – Set to Walk Again

Set for a December 2013 cinema release - Walking with Dinosaurs is back!

Set for a December 2013 cinema release - Walking with Dinosaurs is back!

The original six-part television series, “Walking with Dinosaurs” was first broadcast in 1999.  It remains one of the most expensive (in terms of monetary cost per minute of footage shown), projects in the corporation’s history.  However, it was a huge success world-wide and provided very significant revenues as a result of global rights, spin-offs and other ventures such as merchandising.

A source has reported that Oscar winning film director James Cameron (Avatar), has been brought in lending  his expertise to the BBC in this project to bring the “Walking with Dinosaurs” franchise up to date with a 3D version.

19 03, 2013

We have Frog Spawn in the Office Pond

By | March 19th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

First Batch of Frog Spawn is Spotted

The first frog spawn has been spotted in our office pond.  This is approximately eight days later than last year and rather on a par with 2011 spawning records.  The frog spawn produced so far is from a single pair, we have not seen the number of frogs in the pond that we saw last year (a record ten), there have been as many as six individuals counted but so far we have not observed the frenetic activity that accompanied last year’s spawning.

The spawn was laid in an extremely shallow part of the pond, so shallow in fact that only about one third of the mass of eggs was covered in water.  We were concerned about the eggs drying out should there be a period of prolonged sunny weather (so hope)!  To ensure the safety of this spawn we have carefully  made sure that the egg mass has been fully submerged.  It now resides in a slightly deeper, adjacent part of the pond.  The spawning probably took place in the early hours of this morning, according to the old folk tale, if frog spawn is found in shallow parts of a pond, that means we are in for a wet spring.  This is bound to please the farmers – not.

19 03, 2013

Saltwater Crocodile Shot after Fears of Attacks on School Children

By | March 19th, 2013|Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Community Lived in Fear of Crocodile

The remote community of Palumpa located in the Daly River Reserve (Northern Territory, Australia), can breathe a sigh of relief after local wildlife rangers and police officers trapped and shot a four and a half metre long Saltwater crocodile that had been threatening to attack school children.  The crocodile, the second four metre plus specimen to be captured in the Northern Territory this week, was trapped and shot at a small billabong on the outskirts of the town.  Locals had reported that the crocodile had been in the area for about two years and it sometimes took up residence at a river causeway crossing used by children on their way to school.

Having to dodge the attentions of a large predator, getting on for fifteen feet in length would have been enough to deter all but the most determined scholar.  Unfortunately, attacks by Saltwater crocodiles (sometimes also referred to as Estuarine crocodiles), are becoming increasingly common in the Northern Territory as the crocodile population continues to increase after the imposition of a hunting ban some forty years ago.

The Dead Crocodile Being Taken Away by Officials

Local officials remove the crocodile.

Local officials remove the crocodile.

A number of Government officials have called for a reinstating of the permit system to hunt crocodiles, others favour a formal crocodile cull to reduce the threat of crocodile attacks.  For the school children at the small community of Palumpa, some 150 miles south-west of Darwin, their daily school run just got a little safer.

18 03, 2013

Papo Carnotaurus – What Everything Dinosaur Customers Think

By | March 18th, 2013|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products|4 Comments

High Praise for Papo Carnotaurus Dinosaur Model

Since its launch just a few weeks ago the Papo Carnotaurus dinosaur model (Carnosauria) has been receiving a lot of complements with dinosaur fans and model collectors raving about this new Papo replica.  The French manufacturer seem to have surpassed themselves with their interpretation of an Abelisaurid.  We at Everything Dinosaur reviewed this model when it was first introduced, producing a written review and a short video about this new addition to the Papo “Dinosaures” range.

The Papo Carnotaurus Dinosaur Model (Introduced in Early 2013)

"Meat-eating Bull" from Papo.

"Meat-eating Bull" from Papo.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To read Everything Dinosaur’s review of the Papo Carnotaurus: A Review of the Papo Carnotaurus Dinosaur Model by Everything Dinosaur

Here are just a few of the comments we have received so far from Everything Dinosaur customers:

“Amazing! – This model is nothing short of astounding. Papo has ‘taken inspiration’ from Sideshow’s Dinosauria range Carnotaurus sculpture, but made subtle changes by widening the snout a little and placing the left hind leg on the ground. Outside of that, the model is just gorgeous.  The amount of detail packed into this model, particularly on the head, is amazing.   As an added bonus, since this was inspired by the Sideshow sculpture, this model may go down as one of Papo’s most scientifically accurate models to date and easily their best figure since the Papo Allosaurus.  I highly recommend this model for any dinosaur collection. Papo may ruffle some feathers with their lack of originality, but the amount of detail put into each model is worth the money, and only Papo seems to possess that organic believability. Other figures may be more accurate, but only Papo’s look alive!   Add this to your collection. You won’t regret it!”

Michael – New Mexico (United States)

Hot on the heels of the running T-Rex and the Allosaurus comes this little beauty, another triumph of detail and dynamism which can stand proudly alongside the best models in the collection!  The precariously yet exquisitely balanced form is sculpted in a lunging position with beautiful attention to the detail of the muscles and skin.  Carnotaurus was such an odd-looking animal this model could easily have missed the mark but Papo have hit it dead-on.  Even the realistically funny, stumpy little arms and fingers do not detract from how impressive this model looks.  Its expression is suitably cunning and oozing with menace, and the detail on the head is superb.  It is generally VERY well painted, there even seems to be a slight difference in the paint used within the model’s mouth to make it more glossy and moist-looking. Excellent! I really, really hope Papo have more ideas for their dinosaur series in the pipeline. I can’t get enough of them! Thank you Papo!

Rhiannon – Newcastle upon Tyne (United Kingdom)

Papo keep outdoing themselves with amazing models, and this Carnotaurus proves it.  What surprised me is that the model itself is small, but filled with so much detail.  The pose it is displayed in make it feel like a real animal on the prowl.  The jaw moves as well, showing off a deadly set of teeth.  This Carnotaurus is the best I’ve seen in a long time. Hopefully, Schleich’s will be just as good. Would definitely recommend.   An amazing and beautiful model.

Matthew – Wiltshire

Just some of the comments we thought we should share with our readers.  Feedback like this is passed back to Papo and their design team, this helps them to continuously improve the models and replicas.  Any suggestions as to future prehistoric animal models that Papo should make are also passed on by our team members.

17 03, 2013

A Review of Deposits Magazine (Spring 2013)

By | March 17th, 2013|Magazine Reviews|0 Comments

Deposits Magazine (Issue 33) Reviewed

The spring edition of the magazine for geologists, mineralists and fossil fans has duly arrived and this UK produced magazine certainly packs a punch with issue 33.  The front cover shows an artist’s interpretation of the palaeoenvironment of Russia during the Late Permian.  This is an example of the artwork of Lyme Regis based illustrator Richard Bizley and inside there is a highly informative article all about Richard’s work re-creating prehistoric and alien landscapes.  Richard likes to focus on some of the unsung heroes from the fossil record.  His landscapes feature a whole range of prehistoric animals and plants, the fauna and flora depicted all painstakingly researched to ensure accuracy.  The artwork is truly stunning and the detail simply exquisite.

The Front Cover of Deposits Magazine (Spring 2013)

A huge array of topics covered inside.

A huge array of topics covered inside.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Visitors to Holland can perhaps be inspired about an article about hunting for Ice Age fossils on the Dutch beach of Hoek van Holland. It seems that land reclamation and construction work to prepare sea defences leads to a lot of material being dredged up from the bottom of the North Sea – amongst the sand there are many fossils of prehistoric mammals that get deposited on the beaches of this low-lying country.  Fossil hunters can find teeth of Woolly Mammoths, bones from Woolly Rhinos (Coelodonta) and even Mesolithic spear tips and fishing harpoons.  Further afield, there are very well illustrated articles on fossil hunting for Mesozoic aged fossils including beautiful Ginkgo fossils in southern Sweden and a fascinating article on Jamaican fossil crabs.  Decapod crustaceans (crabs) have got their own army of dedicated fossil collectors who specialise in collecting specimens of these Arthropods.  The article outlines the types of fossil crabs that can be found on the Caribbean island of Jamaica.  The handy glossary of terms presented at the end of the article helps the uninitiated to gain an insight into just how fascinating collecting fossils of crabs can be.

Arachnids, the likes of spiders, mites, scorpions and their near relatives have a large article dedicated solely to them in this issue of Deposits magazine.  This feature jointly written by Dr. David Penney (University of Manchester) and Dr. Jason Dunlop, the curator of Myriapods and Arachnids at the Berlin Natural History Museum is extremely comprehensive and packed with beautiful photographs and computer enhanced images.  As artist Richard Bizley loves to incorporate Arachnids into his artwork it makes perfect sense to include a detailed review of the Arachnid fossil record in the same issue as a feature on the artistic reconstruction of palaeoenvironments –  a unique fusion of science and art.

The magazine provides book reviews, including a couple on the volumes published to help walkers explore the Jurassic coast of southern England, lots of news stories and there is even a feature on fossil amber found in Scotland.  For those prepared to get out and about this spring there are articles on hunting for Middle Eocene sea urchins and a detailed review of the fossils to be found on a visit to Herne Bay in Kent.

For readers who live in Colorado (United States of America), there is an update on some of the rare, recent fossil discoveries from the famous Morrison Formation of western North America.    A rare fossil of a Gastropod (snail) has been discovered, it has been turned to agate over millions of years (shell replaced by the mineral agate).  Dinosaur fossils may make the headlines but this snail fossil provides scientists with valuable evidence to help reconstruct life in freshwater habitats during the Late Jurassic.

All in all, this is an excellent magazine that covers a whole range of subject areas of interest to palaeontologists, geologists, mineralists and fossil fans.  The articles are written in a way that allows the layperson to follow what is being said with scientific terms reduced to a minimum.  Issue 33 of Deposits magazine is well worth reading.

16 03, 2013

Scientists on the Isle of Wight Announce New Dinosaur Fossil Find

By | March 16th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans|2 Comments

Fossil Location Kept Secret as Palaeontologists Plan to Excavate

Palaeontologists on the Isle of Wight (off the coast of southern England), are hoping that the discovery of an almost perfectly preserved set of fossilised dinosaur bones will help them to solve a mystery that is itself more than 100 years old.  The fossil material has been tentatively described to a genus of Ornithopod (bird-hipped) dinosaur called Valdosaurus.  Up until now most of the fossil specimens, including the holotype material from which this plant-eating dinosaur was named, have been disarticulated and fragmentary.  These new fossils described by Isle of Wight palaeontologists as “absolutely amazing” represent a single individual but the fossils are articulated and much more of the skeleton has been preserved.

Caudal Vertebrae (Tail Bones) on Display

Articulated caudal vertebrae (tail bones) of Valdosaurus.

Articulated caudal vertebrae (tail bones) of Valdosaurus.

Picture Credit: BBC News

The fossils were found last Autumn by a walker who observed a series of bones slowly eroding out of a block of rock on a cliff face on the island’s south-west coast.  The exact location is being kept a closely guarded secret as scientists hope to be able to return to the site to look for further fossil evidence.  The land is owned by the National Trust and permission was granted for the palaeontologists to remove several large blocks of sandstone from the site so that the fossils could be carefully extracted from their surrounding matrix under laboratory conditions.   The seven sandstone blocks contained much of the rear end of the skeleton including articulated caudal vertebrae (tail bones), elements from the pelvis, hind limbs and parts of the backbone.

At first the scientists thought that the fossils represented a prehistoric, Early Cretaceous crocodile, but as the bones were revealed with the removal of the surrounding sandstone it soon became clear that they had an exceptionally well-preserved example of a Valdosaurus, perhaps the most complete specimen of this type of dinosaur discovered to date.

Scientists have remained uncertain as to the size of Valdosaurus and how closely it was related to other Ornithopods.  It is hoped that these fossils will help to answer the many questions surrounding this herbivore from the Early Cretaceous.  Fossils ascribed to Valdosaurus have been found on the Isle of Wight and also from Weald Clay material located in West Sussex (southern England).  This new specimen suggests a body length of around 3.6 metres (12 feet), although some fragmentary remains now housed at the Natural History Museum in London suggest that a fully grown Valdosaurus could have reached a length in excess of five metres.

Everything Dinosaur’s Interpretation of Valdosaurus

Everything Dinosaur's interpretation of Valdosaurus.

Everything Dinosaur's interpretation of Valdosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Once thought to be a type of Theropod (meat-eating) dinosaur, Valdosaurus has been described as being a light, fast running, medium-sized browser feeding from the ground level to up to around two metres.  In Everything Dinosaur’s illustration we have given our Valdosaurus slightly longer arms than in representations of other Dryosaurids.  It is thought that this dinosaur was a facultative quadruped.

Although it will take some months to complete the preparation of the fossil material, palaeontologists are hopeful that this specimen will be able to go on display at a dinosaur museum on the island, forming part of a new exhibit about the plant-eating dinosaurs that once roamed this part of the world.

To read an article highlighting the importance of the Isle of Wight to palaeontologists: Isle of Wight Declared the “Dinosaur Capital” of the British Isles

The fossil material has been dated to approximately 128 million years (Barremian faunal stage of the Early Cretaceous).  Valodosaurus has been classified as a Dryosaurid, although it remains uncertain as to the exact taxonomic relationship this dinosaur genus has to Dryosaurus (best known from Upper Jurassic strata of the western United States) and to Camptosaurus.

It is not known whether this specimen represents a new species of Valdosaurus.  The name of this dinosaur means “Weald lizard”, reflecting the fact that much of the material ascribed to this genus has come from the Weald Clay of West Sussex.

15 03, 2013

Everything Dinosaur’s Clothing Range Coming Soon

By | March 15th, 2013|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Press Releases|0 Comments

Preparations for the Clothing Range – Something to Get your Teeth Into!

Another busy day in the office, with team members sorting out all our dinosaur themed tasks and duties.  On top of the usual workload we have been busy with our new range of dinosaur themed clothing.  The logo has been going backwards and forwards between our team and the production company and this has now been signed off.  The image on the front, based on a real fossilised Tyrannosaurus rex skull, (we have the specimen number somewhere), has also been approved.

It was a real labour of love working on the design for the clothing range, the image of the T. rex skull has something like 20,000 stitches in it – good job there is a machine to sew them onto the sweatshirts that have been chosen.  To begin with there are going to be three or four colours of sweatshirt available red, sky blue and royal blue.  A big thanks to all the people who helped us with the choice of sweatshirt colours and we are still on the look out for a pink sweatshirt as promised.

The T. rex Design for the Sweatshirts is Signed Off

Here's hoping our new clothing range is a "Roaring Success"!

Here's hoping our new clothing range is a "Roaring Success"!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Designed to complement the company’s existing range of dinosaur themed clothing, a spokesperson close to the team responsible for this project at Everything Dinosaur, let slip (during tea-break), that the sweatshirts will be available in a few weeks.

14 03, 2013

Building Your Own Dinosaur Land

By | March 14th, 2013|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Photos|0 Comments

Clever Customers Show off their Jurassic Park Building Skills

We are always pleased to hear from our customers and it never ceases to amaze us how creative and clever they are.  Take Mark from Essex (England), for example, he wanted to build a play set for his dinosaur mad son.  Purchasing a play set can be quite expensive and we have tested quite a few with our young dinosaur fans, but sometimes it can be better to create one yourself.  It is certainly cheaper and you don’t have to be Steven Spielberg to create your very own “Jurassic Park”.

The Dinosaur Land Made by Mark

Getting creative and making dinosaur play sets.

Getting creative and making dinosaur play sets.

Mark set about making a dinosaur landscape complete with erupting volcano and a waterfall.  There are lots of habitats for his son’s dinosaurs and prehistoric animal figures to explore.

Water a place where dinosaurs congrugated.

Water a place where dinosaurs congrugated.

Creating a pond or other water source as part of the dinosaur play set makes a lot of sense.  A number of dinosaur species would have congregated around water sources such as lakes and ponds, especially during the dry season.  Herbivores would have been attracted to the area as there would probably have been plenty of lush vegetation for them to eat.  Predatory dinosaurs would have staked out the water source in the hope of ambushing an unwary plant-eater.  The ground that was churned up by all the dinosaurs as they walked over the area even has a special name – dinoturbation!

The creatures swimming in the water come from the Prehistoric Sealife Toob, (Safari Ltd), a set of ten prehistoric animal models which was supplied by Everything Dinosaur. This detailed model set includes a turtle-like Placodont called Henodus, plus Elasmosaurs and even a model of a prehistoric whale.

As Mark says himself:

“The Park didn’t cost me anything – only wallpaper paste for the papier mache, the wood is natural, the rocks real and the trees are eucalyptus stems.”

It was very inventive of Mark to use stones and natural wood to make his prehistoric scene that more authentic.  It was interesting to note that Mark chose to use eucalyptus stems in his dinosaur land.  Intriguingly, the eucalyptus family are a very ancient group.  Fossils discovered recently in South America indicate that this tree, now strongly associated with Australia, may actually have first evolved in Argentina.  Whether there were ancient true eucalypts around during the Age of Reptiles is uncertain but the ancestors of the eucalypts probably would have been part of the Late Cretaceous landscape.

To read more about ancient eucalyptus trees: Fossils Show the Origins of Eucalyptus Trees

In addition, Mark decided to add an erupting volcano to his dinosaur landscape.  The papier mache volcano has been painted with lots of red to indicate lava flows – very creative.

Volcanic Eruption in the Land of the Dinosaurs

An active volcano in the dinosaur landscape

An active volcano in the dinosaur landscape.

Making such a play set is relatively easy, it just takes a little planning and time.  It can be great fun to involve your young palaeontologist in the project, especially when it comes to painting or moulding the rocks and other features.  Best of all you dinosaur land is unique, there is not one in the world quite like it – your own portrayal of life in prehistoric times.

For help and advice on how to make dinosaur play sets, check out this article written by Everything Dinosaur team members, a step by step guide to building a dinosaur themed landscape.

How to build your own “Jurassic Park” – a cheat’s guide: Create your own Table Top Jurassic Park

With the Easter holidays coming up, this might be just the thing to keep your young dinosaur fans occupied.

13 03, 2013

The Large Eyes of the Neanderthals May Have Helped See Them Off

By | March 13th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Large Orbits = Large Eyes = Less Brain Space Dedicated to Higher Functions Therefore Neanderthal Extinction

Adapted to living “up north” when compared to their close relatives the Homo sapiens may have led to the demise of the Neanderthals according to a new study published in the academic journal “The Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biology)”.

A study of the size of the orbit (eye socket) in Neanderthal skulls indicates that these hominids had larger eyes than our own species, perhaps an adaptation to the shorter day length of northern latitudes where Neanderthals lived.  The long, dark European and near eastern Asian nights may have inadvertently led to the eventual extinction of the Neanderthals, a species of hominid believed to be most closely related to ourselves.

Looking at the Demise of the Neanderthals

Seeing off the Neanderthals.

Seeing off the Neanderthals.

Most palaeoanthropologists believe that H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis shared a common ancestor (Homo heidelbergensis).  The Neanderthals thrived in Europe and they are the best known of all the fossil hominids, with fossils having been found in much of Europe and into the near east.  The Neanderthals are believed to have evolved around 350,000 years ago and are thought to have persisted until around 28,000 years ago (although recent studies have suggested that Neanderthals may not have survived until as recently as 30,000 years ago).  If these sophisticated and highly intelligent hominids had large eyes, than more of their brain space would have been dedicated to processing optical information and therefore, perhaps, less of their brain volume could be dedicated to higher functions such as social interaction, communication, thinking and planning.

In contrast, the larger frontal brain portions of our own species allowed us to create clothing sewn together through the use of cleverly fashioned bone needles, better than the clothing and simple fur wraps worn by Neanderthals (we think).  Larger anterior portions of our brain may have helped us to develop wider social networks, a bigger circle of friends to help us when times were hard.

The British research team considered the idea that as the ancestors of Neanderthals left Africa and moved into higher latitudes, so they had to adapt to longer, darker nights and much shorter day lengths so typical of living in the United Kingdom today.  This resulted in a greater portion of the posterior part of the brain being dedicated to processing visual data.

For those hominids that remained in Africa (the ancestors of our own species), they lived in a much brighter environment with long, sunny days with a rapid deterioration of daylight and a brief dusk period, so typical of living in parts of the world much closer to the Equator.

DPhil student Eiluned Pearce of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology (Oxford University) examined the skulls of thirty-two specimens of H. sapiens and thirteen specimens of H. neanderthalensis.  She found that the Neanderthal skulls had significantly larger orbits.  The eye sockets were larger by an average of 0.6cm when measured from top to the bottom.  In evolutionary terms, this difference, not recognised until now as a morphological difference between type specimens of these two species of humans, may have been enough for the Neanderthals to dedicate more of the brain’s processing power to analyse, interpret and process visual data.

Commenting on the significance of her research, Ms Pearce stated:

“Since Neanderthals evolved at higher latitudes, more of the Neanderthal brain would have been dedicated to vision and body control, leaving less brain to deal with other functions like social networking.”

The Neanderthals were very well adapted to living in a cold, harsh climate, much better than our own species.  However, scientists have puzzled over the reasons for the demise of the Neanderthals.  They seem to have co-existed with modern humans in some parts of their habitat for a few thousand years, but the Neanderthals did eventually become extinct, leaving modern humans to ponder over the reasons for their decline and eventual extinction.

The more visually-focused brain structure might have affected the Neanderthal’s ability to innovate and to adapt to changing climatic conditions.

Neanderthals – Extremely Well Adapted to their Environment

Did the large eyes of Neanderthals eventually lead to their extinction?

Did the large eyes of Neanderthals eventually lead to their extinction?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated that a number of theories had been advanced over recent years to help explain the extinction of the Neanderthals and the survival of H. sapiens.  Although, Neanderthals may have had a slightly larger cranial capacity when compared to our own species, their brains may have been “wired” differently.  Smaller family groups, shorter childhoods and a greater reliance on hunting megaherbivores may have all been contributory factors that led to the decline and eventual extinction of this species of hominid.

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