All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//October
12 10, 2013

Tracing the Descendants of the Iceman

By | October 12th, 2013|Animal News Stories, Famous Figures|0 Comments

Austrian Scientists Identify Living Relatives of Oetzi the 5,300 Year-Old Iceman

He may have lived during the Neolithic, otherwise known as the New Stone Age, but the frozen corpse of a man found in the Italian Alps back in 1991 has enabled scientists to determine that nineteen Tyrolean men alive today are related to this ancient human.  His body preserved in ice, has enabled scientists to discover a great deal about Europeans in the Neolithic, called Oetzi by the scientists, the genome of this individual has now been fully mapped and studies of the male population of the Tyrol reveals that a number can be identified as living descendants.

The ancestry was established by DNA analysis carried out by researchers from the Institute of Legal Medicine at Innsbruck Medical University (Austria).  The body of a middle-aged man was found in the Italian Alps more than twenty years ago.  At first, it was thought that the corpse was that of a climber who had got into difficulties and perished on the mountain, but tests later revealed that this was the remains of a man who had lived more than five thousand years ago.

International researchers have studied the body and those artefacts found with it, team members at Everything Dinosaur have written a number of articles regarding the progress of the research that reveals such fascinating insights into this person’s eye colour, their lactose intolerance and their predisposition to heart disease.

Oetzi the Iceman – Tracing the Relatives

Ancient body reveals amazing insights into the New Stone Age

Ancient body reveals amazing insights into the New Stone Age

Picture Credit: BBC News

To read a recent article on Oetzi the Iceman: Iceman Reveals His Secrets

As far as Everything Dinosaur team members can tell, the related individuals were identified from tests on blood donors in the Tyrol region.  These men have not been informed about their relationship to Oetzi, whom, according to some researchers may have been a tribal chief.

The Austrian Press Agency states that a particular, distinct genetic mutation was matched between the Iceman and the nineteen men.  Scientists from the Institute of Legal Medicine of the Innsbruck Medical University are confident that more related males will be found when tests are carried out on blood samples from males living in the Swiss region of Engadine and from the South Tyrol of Italy.

The genetic mutation that permitted the connection between a Stone Age man and people living today, is quite rare in modern populations.  Of the 3,700 samples of blood tested less than 0.52% of the population had the mutation.  Women were not included in this particular research project, as a different procedure would have been required to match their genes and confirm the ancestral connection.  Oetzi is the oldest, natural European mummy found to date and as such he has permitted scientists an unprecedented window into the world of New Stone Age people at around 3,300 BC.

Intriguingly, an arrow head was found embedded in his body, was this an old wound or was this how he was killed.? Researchers still debate whether he died approximately where his corpse was found or was he taken up the mountain pass to be buried by members of his tribe?

11 10, 2013

Dinosaur Themed Day at Yorkshire School

By | October 11th, 2013|Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|2 Comments

Pupils at Nessfield Primary Learn All About Dinosaurs

Year 2 pupils at Nessfield Primary have been busy this term studying dinosaurs under the guidance and tutelage of the school’s enthusiastic teaching staff.  A team member at Everything Dinosaur came along to show the children some real fossils and undertook some fossil casting so that the children could have a go at making their very own museum quality replicas.  The classroom was filled with lots of examples of prehistoric animal themed activities, including fact cards, posters, examples of creative writing and lots and lots of colourful dinosaur inspired artwork.

Classroom with its Own Dinosaur Facts Board

Lots of information about dinosaurs on display.

Lots of information about dinosaurs on display.

Picture Credit: Nessfield Primary/Everything Dinosaur

Mrs O’Hara and Miss Powney had taken some images of different types of dinosaur and challenged the children to label the body parts accurately.  Megan’s Allosaurus was particularly impressive, as Megan had labelled it correctly and pointed out which parts of the worksheet were captions and headings.

Dinosaurs as a term topic lends itself to all sorts of extension activities helping young minds get to grips with numeracy and literacy.  Thanks to some Ammonite fossils, including some exceptionally big ones, the children learned how fossils are formed and they even got to see a model of what scientists think Ammonites looked like.

With the assistance of Mrs Hirst and Mrs McNally the children had been exploring dinosaur topic vocabulary, learning about carnivores, herbivores and omnivores, very helpful when it came to looking at different types of dinosaur teeth and helping a long-necked dinosaur to digest its dinner, just one of the experiments the children conducted.

Learning About Dinosaurs

Lots of facts about dinosaurs.

Lots of facts about dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Nessfield Primary/Everything Dinosaur

Our dinosaur expert challenged the children to test out their creative writing skills by writing about the things that they had studied on the day.  Under the supervision of Mrs O’Hara the children set about this task with tremendous enthusiasm and some examples of their work were sent to Everything Dinosaur’s office – thanks to Alex, Aidan, Lily, Lewis, Kieran, Emily, Rebecca, Meia and Yasmin for their lovely letters.  Mrs O’Hara even joined in and sent us a short note of thanks for all our hard work in helping to add a new and exciting dimension to the term topic.

Thank You Note From Teacher

Teacher says thanks.

Teacher says thanks.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We get sent lots of letters, pictures, posters and other artwork from young dinosaur fans.  Our team members read them all and then they get posted up on the walls of our warehouse.  We will put up further examples of the children’s work on our Facebook page and such like but below are some examples of the letters the children wrote.

Rebecca Writes a Thank you Letter

Rebecca had fun making the fossils.

Rebecca had fun making the fossils.

Picture Credit: Rebecca (Year 2)

Rebecca enjoyed learning about how fossil casts are made and liked it when her teacher got to handle some of the fossils herself and describe them to the children.

Aidan Recalls His Favourite Bits

Aidan had fun learning about dinosaurs.

Aidan had fun learning about dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Aidan

Young Alex, even sent in a drawing of an Ammonite in with his thank you letter.  A super cephalopod Aidan, well done!

Alex Now Knows All About Ammonites

Alex likes Ammonites.

Alex likes Ammonites.

Picture Credit: Alex

That’s a super drawing of a spiral shelled Ammonite with its very wiggly tentacles.

With the enthusiastic teaching team of Mrs O’Hara, Miss Powney,  Mrs Hirst and Mrs McNally to assist them the children demonstrated their learning and they were eager to share what they knew with our dinosaur expert, who, in turn did his best to answer all their questions.

To discover more about Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools: Dinosaur Workshop in Schools

10 10, 2013

Next Edition of Prehistoric Times Due Out Soon

By | October 10th, 2013|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|0 Comments

Autumn Edition of Prehistoric Times Expected Shortly

Issue 107 (autumn 2013), of the magazine for dinosaur fans and model collectors – Prehistoric Times is due out in the next couple of weeks or so.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur are already swishing their dinosaur tails in anticipation.  This quarterly magazine is going to showcase the artwork of collectors and fans of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.  Creatures featured in this edition will be the formidable Utahraptor and the mighty Uintatherium.  There will also be updates on Jurassic Park, tips on model making, plus a summary of the latest fossil finds and discoveries.

The Front Cover of the Autumn Edition of Prehistoric Times

The autumn (fall) edition of Prehistoric Times magazine.

The autumn (fall) edition of Prehistoric Times magazine.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Look out for a review published by team members at Everything Dinosaur when the magazine arrives.

9 10, 2013

Update on “Wade” the Aussie Dinosaur

By | October 9th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Working on a Titanosaur – It’s a Colossal Job!

The number of huge Titanosaurs (long-necked dinosaurs), known from Australia is likely to dramatically increase over the next few years as palaeontologists get to grips with the huge amount of dinosaur fossil material that is currently being studied, most of which originates from Australia’s unofficial dinosaur capital, Winton (Queensland).  Although, only a handful of Titanosaurs have been named and described to date, scientists studying fossils excavated over the last ten years or so are confident that many more Sauropods will soon be added to the list of dinosaurs known from down-under.

Palaeontologist Stephen Poropat, (Uppsala University, Sweden) presented a paper detailing the research work last week in Adelaide, at the fourteenth biennial Conference of Australasian Vertebrate Evolution, Palaeontology and Systematics.  He commented on the discovery of the pelvis and dorsal vertebrae of a new Titanosaur, one of the most complete large dinosaur fossil founds ever made in north-eastern Australia.

The palaeontologist stated:

“There have been about seventeen dinosaurs named from Australia, many of them are just represented by single bones.  But with this one, all of the vertebrae are very close, sitting just in front of the pelvis.  It’s definitely one animal.”

This dinosaur has been given the nickname of Wade and so many fossils have been found in the Winton area of Queensland the field workers have a very difficult jog of mapping sites and keeping up with all the developments, as reported by Everything Dinosaur in 2008.

To read the article: Trying to Keep Up with Aussie Dinosaur Excavations

The Titanosaur known as Wade was first excavated back in 2005 by a joint team of scientists from the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum (Winton) and the Queensland Museum.  The size and delicate nature of the fossil material has meant that it has taken eight years to get the fossils fully prepared and restored.  Wade has some unique features for a Titanosaur.  Titanosaurs generally leave wider tracks than those of equivalent sized Diplodocids, but Wade has extremely wide hips, even for a Titanosaur so this suggests a big animal with massive proportions, resulting in much wider track ways – were any trace fossils of this nature to be discovered.  The first metacarpal bone (part of the thumb) of this dinosaur is much more robust when compared to other Titanosaurs.  This supports the hypothesis that Wade was an enormous dinosaur, the enlarged thumb would have helped to support the animal’s great weight as it slowly crossed its Cretaceous homeland.

With the bones having been prepared, Stephen and his team can begin the job of comparing this specimen with the fossilised bones of already named and described Titanosaurs to try to establish anatomical relationships.

Stephen commented:

“What I’m doing is looking at new and old specimens, trying to get a good idea of how the fauna changes over time.”

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“The substantial amount of fossil material found in this single location may well represent a single individual, this permits scientists the opportunity to learn so much more about this dinosaur, when compared to just having individual bones to study.”

Two already described Titanosaurs, Diamantinasaurus (nicknamed Matilda), Wintonotitan (nicknamed Clancy) and “Wade” all existed at around the same time and in the same area indicating a rich and verdant environment. Certainly, the ecosystem would have had to be exceptionally rich to sustain such a range of giant herbivores.

Examining the Vertebrae – Getting to Grips with Titanosaurs

A "Titanic" jigsaw puzzle.

A "Titanic" jigsaw puzzle.

Picture Credit: (Credit: Judy Elliott/Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum)

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Stephen Poropat examining the Titanosaur fossil bones.

The scientists are also hoping to explore the phylogenetic relationships between the Australian Titanosaurs and their prehistoric counterparts for South America and Africa.  Phylogeny is the study of evolutionary relationships between organisms.  Wade may well shed new light on the evolutionary relationships of Gondwanaland’s biggest residents.

An Illustration of a Typical Titanosaur

An illustration of a typical Titanosaur.

An illustration of a typical Titanosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

8 10, 2013

Cute and Cuddly Dinosaurs – New Range of Dinosaur Soft Toys

By | October 8th, 2013|Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases, Product Reviews|0 Comments

Dino Soft Toy Dinosaurs – Colourful Soft Toys Designed for Young Palaeontologists

As far as we can tell, based on comparisons with the dinosaur’s closest living relatives – the birds and crocodiles, dinosaurs had excellent colour vision.  This means that in all probability colour was very important to this particular group of prehistoric animals and many dinosaurs as a result might have been very colourful indeed.  A new range of dinosaur soft toys has been added to Everything Dinosaur’s website and they certainly support this scientific thinking, young palaeontologists now have a scarlet Spinosaurus and a beautiful, blue Tyrannosaurus rex to play with.

A “Rainbow” Inspired Range of Dinosaur Soft Toys

Dinosaur soft toys available in two sizes

Dinosaur soft toys available in two sizes

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Soft and cuddly dinosaurs, whatever next?  Joining the friendly Spinosaurus and his chum T. rex is a cute and camouflaged Stegosaurus soft toy.  It might be a good idea for the green and stripy Stegosaurus to be able to blend into its forest home habitat with two other big dinosaurs on the prowl.  These dinosaur soft toys did really well on test at Everything Dinosaur.  Their bright and cheery appearance went down well with both mums and dads and young dinosaur fans.  Best of all they come in two sizes with Dino babies (T. rex, Stegosaurus and Spinosaurus), having an overall length of approximately thirty centimetres or so.  The Large Dino soft toys measure around forty-eight centimetres or thereabouts, certainly big enough for budding young scientists to create their very on bedtime “Jurassic Park”.

Large Dino Soft Toys Available from Everything Dinosaur

Cute and cuddly dinosaur soft toys

Cute and cuddly dinosaur soft toys

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The bright red Spinosaurus has a purple, orange and white sail running along his back.  He may be the largest land living carnivore known to science but his super soft material makes him an ideal playmate for children from three years and upwards.  Yes, we know that Spinosaurus may actually have had three-fingered claws and not the two digits depicted here, but this bright and cheery dinosaur won us over.  After all,  no one has ever found the fossilised arm and hand bones of Spinosaurus (as far as we know).

The T. rex is a colourful character too.  Patterned with stripes and with light blue spines running down his back that match the colour of his flanks.  His underbelly is an off-white colour and we were informed by one young reviewer that Tyrannosaurus rex was rather ticklish on his tummy!

To view the Large Dino Dinosaur Soft Toys: Large Dino Dinosaur Soft Toys

Everyone just loved the cute expression on the dinosaurs especially on the Large Stegosaurus soft toy.  He seemed to be a very happy, relaxed looking Stegosaurus, or perhaps he is nodding off, just the sort of encouragement your little ones might need when it’s time to close their eyes and to dream of dinosaur adventures.

A Relaxed Dino Stegosaurus Soft Toy

A very laid back, cute dinosaur

A very laid back, cute dinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Our baby dinosaurs are the spitting image of their parents and just as cute and cuddly.  It was hard for us to pick a favourite amongst such a colourful collection.

Baby Dino Dinosaur Soft Toys

Bedtimes just got a whole lot more colourful.

Bedtimes just got a whole lot more colourful.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of Baby Dino Dinosaur soft toys: Baby Dino Dinosaur Soft Toys

7 10, 2013

Royal Mail Issues New Prehistoric Animal Stamps

By | October 7th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans|11 Comments

British Prehistoric Animals are First Class – Official

They may have been delayed but in just a few days time Royal Mail will unleash a set of commemorative stamps celebrating two hundred years of prehistoric animal studies in the United Kingdom.  Ten first class stamps are being introduced on Thursday October 10th featuring Mesozoic creatures whose fossilised remains are associated with strata found within the UK.  The stamps which showcase the artwork of that renowned palaeo-artist John Sibbick have been designed to show some of the animals “breaking out” from their self adhesive stamp frames.  The stamps have been produced under the guidance of palaeontologists from the Natural History Museum, including the wonderful Angela Milner, Dr. Milner, along with Alan Charig, her colleague at the Natural History Museum (London), named and described Baryonyx, one of the dinosaurs featured in the set.

Royal Mail Prehistoric Animal Stamps

A set of first class stamps.

A set of first class stamps.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

When asked about the release of these new first class stamps, Andrew Hammond, Director of Stamps and Collectibles, Royal Mail, stated:

“Britain has played an important role in the discovery of dinosaurs for over 200 years and our Dinosaurs issue is a fitting tribute to these creatures.”

The list of extinct animals portrayed is as follows: Baryonyx, Polacanthus, Iguanodon, Cetiosaurus, Megalosaurus and Hypsilophodon.  These six are dinosaurs, the other four remaining stamps feature reptiles but certainly not members of the Dinosauria.  There are two marine reptiles Ichthyosaurus and the long-necked Plesiosaurus. There are also two Pterosaurs (flying reptiles) depicted, Dimorphodon and the much later and larger Ornithocheirus.

19th and 20th Century academics and scientists based in the United Kingdom have made significant contributions to the nascent branches of the Earth sciences now known as palaeontology and geology.  We at Everything Dinosaur are delighted to see such wonderful extinct animals such as the armoured Polacanthus and the mighty long-necked Cetiosaurus featured on a set of stamps.

 Iguanodon and the “Whale Lizard” Cetiosaurus are Featured

dinosaurs featured in stamp set.

dinosaurs featured in stamp set.

Picture Credit: Royal Mail

However, we do take issue with some of the inaccuracies regarding the prehistoric animals featured that have been included in various press releases and web sites from Royal Mail.   We at Everything Dinosaur, have pointed out that it is not appropriate to call this stamp set “British Dinosaurs”.  It could be argued that a number of the animals featured are associated with fossil remains found elsewhere within Europe as well as the United Kingdom, but our main bugbear lies in the fact that 40% of the set are not actually dinosaurs.  Yet these stamps are being constantly referred to as “British Dinosaurs” or “Dinosaur Stamps”, these titles are inaccurate.

The stamp set was originally scheduled for release last year, to mark the centenary of the publication of  “The Lost World”, a novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that tells the story of an exhibition to South America  led by Professor Challenger that discovers a whole host of prehistoric animals surviving on a remote plateau.  Ironically, a number of animals featured on the stamps such as the Iguanodon along with the Pterosaur Dimorphodon and the marine reptiles are featured in this book.

Prehistoric Animal Stamps – Baryonyx and a Plesiosaurus

British prehistoric animals beautifully illustrated.

British prehistoric animals beautifully illustrated.

Picture Credit: Royal Mail

The South American Spinosaurid Irritator, a dinosaur from the same branch of the Theropoda family tree as Baryonyx has a link to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel.  The specific name for Irritator (Irritator challengeri) is a reference to Professor Challenger, the central character in the book.

Polacanthus and Dimorphodon

Polacanthus and Dimorphodon

Polacanthus and Dimorphodon

Picture Credit: Royal Mail

Some of the information that accompanies images of these ten stamps that we have viewed on various websites and other media, including those under the domain of Royal Mail contain other factual errors.  For example, in the information surrounding the Baryonyx stamp it is claimed that this animals was named and scientifically described in 1987,  however, we at Everything Dinosaur have always believed that this dinosaur was named and described a year earlier.

Ichthyosaurs Make a Splash Along with Hypsilophodon

New stamps celebrate prehistoric animals.

New stamps celebrate prehistoric animals.

Picture Credit: Royal Mail

The final pair of stamps we are going to illustrate on this blog posting features the fearsome carnivore Megalosaurus and the Early Cretaceous Pterosaur called Ornithocheirus.  All these stamps will be available later on this week along with souvenir collectors packs, a wall chart and other items marking our continuing fascination with all things prehistoric.

Ornithocheirus and Megalosaurus

Magnificent British prehistoric animals.

Magnificent British prehistoric animals.

Picture Credit: Royal Mail

These stamps are worth collecting not least because of  Mr Sibbick’s beautiful artwork.

A spokes person from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“It is disappointing to note some of the misleading statements that have been made in association with these fine stamps.  Ironically, our experts at Everything Dinosaur have researched and written a fact sheet on all of the prehistoric animals featured in this set.  Perhaps, we can assist philatelists who want to get a little more information on these wonderful Mesozoic creatures.”

6 10, 2013

Text on Dinosaur Themed Products – Misleading

By | October 6th, 2013|Educational Activities|0 Comments

Looking at the Accompanying Text on Dinosaur Themed Products

At Everything Dinosaur, our dedicated team members have been organising reviews and testing of various potential new products.  With the help of mums and dads we have been looking at all sorts of games, craft activities and jigsaws, just part of our continuing commitment to live up to our company name.  We come across all to frequently these days, misleading information about prehistoric animals included in many of the items we are testing.  We admit to being far from perfect ourselves, after all mistakes do get made, but every now and then we come across a gem that makes us smile.

On the back of a dinosaur model making kit that was on test, we discovered some wonderful text attempting to provide the purchaser with a little more information on the evolution of the Dinosauria.  We admire such well-intentioned efforts from the manufacturer, but sometimes well intentioned efforts such as this can confuse more than they inform.

Well Intentioned Text That Misses the Mark

A well-intentioned effort highlights a more serious concern in schools.

A well-intentioned effort highlights a more serious concern in schools.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Under the heading “The Lost World” the text reads as follows:

The dinosaur is large reptiles that lived in the earth for one hundred and sixty million years.  dinosaur lived in the Mesozoic and it divided into 3 geologic ages.  The first dinosaur showed up in the Triassic period, the 1st period of the Mesozoic, for the first time.  As all continents became tropical rain forests in the Jurassic period, The 2nd period of the Mesozoic, the dinosaur got bigger and had various looks.  The golden age of the dinosaur was the Cretaceous period, the 3rd of Mesozoic.  As the earth was changed to similar with present various environments, the dinosaur evolved into many species.  The dinosaur, which lived on earth for a long time, died out suddenly at the end of the Cretaceous period.  It is constantly studied about interesting dinosaur’s world and extinction reason.”

It is certainly a good try and we suspect that if we were to attempt to translate English into Mandarin or some other such language we would fail miserably, but this text does raise an important issue.  We do find lots of errors on text both grammatical and factual errors.  Very often such well intentioned efforts can be forgiven , but we are finding a lot materials used in school which are also inaccurate.   Teachers and teaching assistants rely on suppliers and third parties to provide resources so that they can teach.  With our school visits, we have come across many instances and examples where resources contain a number of misleading items of information.  This is not the fault of the teaching profession, schools rely on these third parties to provide appropriate teaching materials, sadly, in many cases we see examples of glaring errors and mistakes.  Naturally, once spotted, our team members are happy to provide supporting materials to schools as free downloads to help address this situation.

We won’t name the manufacturer or indeed the product concerned, it did not make our approved list and therefore it will not be added to Everything Dinosaur’s product range.

5 10, 2013

In Praise of those that Protect the “Beautiful Ugly”

By | October 5th, 2013|Animal News Stories|1 Comment

Attempts to Save the Habitat of the Atlantic Bushmaster

Back in the mid 1970s one of Everything Dinosaur’s team members took part in a project to raise awareness on the plight of some of the less loveable animals and plants that we share our planet with.  Conservation groups have little trouble getting support for the cute and cuddly Panda or indeed the magnificent Amur Leopard et al, but when it comes to less attractive, non-fluffy endangered animals and plants things can be a little more difficult.  Today we acknowledge and honour the work of Dr. Rodrigo Souza from Brazil.  Dr. Souza has dedicated much of his spare time to helping to save the rare and endangered creatures that inhabit the ever shrinking rainforests of eastern Brazil.

The doctor moved to the north-eastern state of Bahia twelve years ago and over time he has developed a deep understanding and fascination of the creatures that call the Atlantic coast rainforest home.  His passion is for one particular animal, a member of the Squamata, which regularly top the list of the most hated creatures when people are surveyed on such matters.  For the doctor, the Atlantic Bushmaster (Lachesis muta), a snake and one of the most venomous in South America is the creature that he devotes the majority of his time to.  This snake is a member of the Pit Viper family and as it grows to lengths of more than two and half metres, it is one of the largest vipers on Earth.  Two sub-species are recognised and the Atlantic Bushmaster with its often lethal bite has a number of  local myths and stories associated with it throughout its range.  It is also known as the “Mapepire”.  It resembles a warty rattlesnake and it prefers primary, undisturbed rainforest where it hunts its preferred prey of small mammals.  The sensory heat-seeking pits under the snake’s eyes help it to detect warm-blooded mammals at night, the time when this snake is most active.  As a result, of this viper’s ability to detect heat, it is also known as the “fire extinguisher” as locals say that it is attracted to naked flames.

Dr. Souza Handling one of the Atlantic Bushmasters

The doctor and the venomous Bushmaster.

The doctor and the venomous Bushmaster.

Picture Credit: Dr. Rodrigo Souza/Serra Grande Centre

Doctor Souza keeps nearly three dozen of these venomous snakes at his own private sanctuary.  He has been able to successfully breed these reptiles in captivity and to “milk” them of their venom so that an antidote for bite victims.  The good doctor’s work is vitally important.  Not only is he raising awareness regarding the threat to the Atlantic rainforest habitat but he has also managed to educate the local people into seeing the wildlife and the rainforest as a precise natural resource that needs protecting.  In addition, he has been able to product substantial quantities of snake venom antidote, no mean feat as each “milking” requires him to handle a potentially lethal animal and in captivity the snakes are notorious for stopping production of venom when under stress.

The BBC Radio 4 programme “From our Own Correspondent” has featured the work of Dr. Souza, it also raised the problem of the continuing industrialisation of this part of Brazil.

There are now plans by ENRC, a British-Kazakh mining company, to build a railway right through one of the few remaining areas of virgin Atlantic rainforest.  ENRC’s aim is to transport iron ore from a mine in the interior to the port of Iheus, despite the region being named by UNESCO as a priority region for conservation.  The railway would of course bring jobs.  But for Dr. Souza, who has been battling for years to preserve this unique ecosystem, it’s a slap in the face.  For him the railway would be an ecological disaster for the rainforest and his beloved Atlantic Bushmasters.

This venomous snake with its fearsome reputation deserves our help, it is definitely a member of the “beautiful ugly” as one of the locals who was working with our colleague back in the 1970s stated.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of the BBC in the compilation of this article.

Little known fact about the Atlantic Bushmaster, the species name muta means “dumb”, not a reference to this viper’s intellectual ability, it has an array of super senses.  In this instance, the “dumb” refers to the fact that although it rattles its tail when threatened it lacks the hollow “rattle scales” of a true rattle snake and therefore in the laboratory the threat is silent or mute.  When an Atlantic Bushmaster is threatened in its native habitat the swishing and rapidly vibrating tail disturbs leaves and other debris and the “rattling” sound can be heard.

4 10, 2013

Articulated Dinosaur Tail Found by Pipeline Construction Team

By | October 4th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Articulated Caudal Vertebrae of a Hadrosaur Uncovered in Alberta

A construction worker excavating using a mechanised digger got a bit of a surprise when his back hoe smashed through a piece of rock revealing a set of dinosaur bones.  The worker, a member of a construction crew digging a pipeline on behalf of Tourmaline Oil Corporation, uncovered what appears to be the articulated tail bones of a Hadrosaur (duck-billed dinosaur), a member of the Ornithischian group of dinosaurs that roamed northwestern Alberta around seventy-five million years ago.

Although some news reports have claimed that the fossilised caudal vertebrae indicate a reptile more than one hundred feet long, these claims are erroneous, with most palaeontologists, including those from the Royal Tyrrell Museum at Drumheller (Alberta), that were called in to examine and excavate the fossils, estimating an overall body length of around ten metres or so.  Work on the pipeline has been halted to permit the scientists to map and examine the site to see if they can find further evidence of this herbivorous dinosaur.

 A Photograph of the Articulated Dinosaur Bones at the Construction Site

Discovery of the tail bones from a dinosaur.

Discovery of the tail bones from a dinosaur.

Recently, Everything Dinosaur team members reported the discovery of another Hadrosaurid dinosaur articulated vertebrae from Mexico.

To read more about this discovery: The Tale of a Hadrosaur’s Tail

Although, the Canadian province of Alberta is famous for its Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossils, the discovery of articulated caudal vertebrae (tail bones) is an exceptionally rare event.  Hopefully other elements of the skeleton will be uncovered, as trying to identify the genus from just the caudal vertebrae may prove to be exceptionally difficult.  Post cranial skeleton material, elements such as the caudal vertebrae are relatively uniform in Hadrosaur fossils, however, if parts of the skull can be found then a stab at identifying the genus or even the species can be made.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented that if other parts of the back bone can be found then the presence of tall spines (neural processes) could indicate that the remains are that of a Lambeosaurine Hadrosaurid known as Hypacrosaurus, which is known from several specimens excavated from Upper Cretaceous strata of Alberta.

3 10, 2013

Conditions at Lake Urmia shed Light on Palaeozoic Environments

By | October 3rd, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Geology, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Salt Lake in northwestern Iran Mirrors Permian Environmental Crisis

Observations made as environments change today can sometimes provide scientists with valuable insights when it comes to studying the fossils of extinct creatures.  Studies into the way climate change affects animals and plants can provide researchers with helpful information when it comes to interpreting fossil evidence.  One such example of this concerns comparisons being made by scientists as Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran dries up to the plight of an ancient ecosystem that was to form part of South America.

For Iranian biologist Amin Khaleghparast and Dr. Graciela Piñeiro (from Uruguay), breeding stress observed amongst Lake Urmia’s Flamingo population might be mirroring stress amongst a population of ancient Parareptiles as their environment changed.  Lake Urmia was the third largest salt water lake on Earth, and the largest body of salty water in the entire Middle East.  However, over the last fifty years or so the volume of the Lake has been much reduced.  Dams constructed across the rivers that feed Lake Urmia, the increasing demand for water for agriculture and the impact of severe droughts have reduced the Lake to a fraction of its former size.  The Flamingos are filter feeders and rely on brine shrimp (Artemia urmiana) as a food source.  As the water volume of the Lake is reduced, much of what was formerly open water is changing into a salt marsh.  This has led to a reduction in suitable habitat for the Flamingos and a decline in brine shrimp numbers.  With the drying up of Lake Urmia the scientists have witnessed a severe decrease in Artemia populations which has had dire consequences for other animals further up the food chain, including the Lake’s Flamingos.  Many Flamingos have failed to breed, a number of eggs have been aborted and a substantial number of Flamingo hatchlings have died.  The scientists have drawn parallels between these observations and a similar situation that may have affected a population of reptiles, (Mesosaurs) in South America some 280 million years ago.

To read a short article on the drying up of Lake Urmia: The Ecological Crisis at Lake Urmia

Dr. Piñeiro and her colleagues produced an academic paper, published in 2012 (International Journal of Paleobiology), that highlighted the discovery of a number of Mesosaurus fossils including Amniotic embryos, some of the earliest evidence yet of reptile embryos and possible viviparity (live birth) in the Reptilia Class.  Intriguingly, the discovery of an isolated embryo might suggest breeding stress in the population that led to the abandonment of this egg or a possible miscarriage.

Mesosaurs such as Mesosaurus were small aquatic reptiles that lived during the Permian.  They had elongated jaws lined with very fine, needle-like teeth that would have helped them to strain arthropods such as brine shrimps out of the water in which they lived.  These reptiles were perhaps the first group of Amniotes to adapt to living in marine habitats.  Although Mesosaurs are descended from terrestrial reptiles, their long, flexible bodies, paddle-like tails and webbed digits indicate adaptations to a nektonic, marine lifestyle.  These reptiles had thickened ribs which palaeontologists believe was an adaptation to help these small animals counteract their own buoyancy and helped them to remain underwater.

Mesosaurus Specimens

Ancient reptiles adapted to marine environments.

Ancient reptiles adapted to marine environments.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The scale bar in the picture is approximately seventy-five centimetres long.

Although, these animals were not the most spectacular looking of the Permian reptilian fauna, their fossils, which have been found in Uruguay, Brazil as well as in western Africa helped to reaffirm the theory of continental drift first proposed by the German meterologist Alfred Wegener.   Wegener observed that the coastline of west Africa fitted neatly into that of South America’s east coast, even though the Atlantic Ocean separated these two landmasses.  He proposed that some time in the past these two continents had been joined together.  His observations were supported by fossil evidence of creatures such as the Mesosaurs which have been found in rocks on now widely separated continents.  Mesosaurs were unlikely to be capable of crossing such vast bodies of water as today’s oceans, so such fossils supported the idea that some time back in ancient history South America and Africa were joined together.  Such evidence helped to establish the theory of plate tectonics (continental drift).

The Fossil Record Provides Supporting Evidence for Plate Tectonics

Fossils support evidence of plate movements.

Fossils support evidence of plate movements.

The diagram above shows where fossils of Mesosaurus, Lystrosaurs (a terrestrial Dicynodont), Cynognathus (a terrestrial Cynodont) and Glossopteris (a Pteridosperm [seed fern]) have been found.  These discoveries provide supporting evidence for the theory of these disparate land masses once being joined into a super-continent.

In the Carboniferous, a group of terrestrial animals evolved that would eventually dominate vertebrate life on our planet. These were the Amniotes a group that includes mammals, birds and reptiles today.  The early Amniotes evolved a unique way of protecting embryos inside their eggs.  Amniotic eggs have a semi-permeable shell that protects the egg from drying out.  An internal membrane known as the Amnion surrounds the yolk and the embryo, this effectively means that the free-swimming larval stage seen in the Amphibia could be dispensed with.  Later synapsid Amniotes evolved the ability to retain embryos internally thus affording the embryo greater protection (as seen in extremis in marsupial and placental mammals today).

Amin Khaleghparast and Dr. Graciela Piñeiro postulate a relationship between an ancient salt lake in Pangea and Lake Urmia:

“There is it some similarity between intense evaporation of the ancient Great Salt Lake where Mesosaurus lived and conditions that lead to the drying Lake Urmia, a great salt lake in northwestern Iran, turning large part of it into a salt marsh in last decade. Like Flamingos filter-feed on brine shrimp (Artemia urmiana) in the salt lake, Mesosaurus filter-fed on an extinct group of crustaceans (Pygocephalomorpha) in waters poorly oxygenated and highly saline during the Early Permian. With the drying Lake Urmia,unfortunately, we witnessed severe decrease of Artemia, Flamingos’ abortion, death of many Flamingo young and at last Flamingo migration.”

The discovery of an isolated fossilised embryo could demonstrate that the population of Mesosaurs was under environmental pressure as their habitat changes.  According to the scientists this fossil could represent “either a miscarried embryo or an aborted egg”.

The bodies of the animals perished in hypersaline conditions, the degree of preservation is exceptional.  This can be explained by the fact that hypersaline states are associated with very low concentrations of oxygen which in turn creates an environment in which bacteria, responsible for the decomposition of organic matter cannot act.  These Amniotic Mesosaur embryos provide some of the earliest evidence yet of reproduction biology of vertebrates preserved in the fossil record.  In some specimens, the absence of a recognisable eggshell in association with articulated well-preserved embryos within an adult suggest that Mesosaurs may have been viviparous or at least that they laid eggs in an advanced state of development.

Mesosaurus Embryo Fossils – Did they Face the Same Fate as Lake Urmia’s Flamingos?

Sharing the same fate as Lake Urmia's Flamingos?

Sharing the same fate as Lake Urmia's Flamingos?

The picture above shows on the left the fossil of the Meosaurus embryo curled up within its Amniotic membrane (no egg shell preserved).  The middle component shows a stylised tracing of the fossil, with a life-size drawing of the Mesosaurus embryo on the right.

To read more about the South American fossil discoveries: Early Evidence of Viviparity from South America

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of Amin Khaleghparast in the compilation of this article and for pointing out the relationship between Lake Urmia and the drying up of shallow seas in the Carboniferous.

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