All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//November
20 11, 2013

Christmas Gift Ideas for 2013

By | November 20th, 2013|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Newsletters|2 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Sends Out a Newsletter (Christmas Gifts for 2013)

Subscribers to Everything Dinosaur’s mailing list received an update from the company this week, providing readers with information on the team’s social media work as well as information about new products available and Christmas gift ideas.

Over the years, Everything Dinosaur has built up a huge and loyal following of parents, dinosaur fans of all ages, model collectors, teachers, teaching support staff and not forgetting grandparents too.  We do our best to provide advice about gift ideas as well as free learning resources and information about new dinosaur discoveries and fossil finds.

For example, Everything Dinosaur’s team members have been working to help promote anti-bullying week in schools around the country and a number of free, dinosaur themed anti-bullying posters have been developed.  To read more about the company’s work and to see the anti-bullying posters: Dinosaurs Fight the Bullies

Every now and then the team members send out an e-news to their mailing list and we really appreciate all the kind words and comments we receive from our fan base.

Dinosaur Themed Christmas Gift Ideas for 2013

Packed Full of Christmas Gift Ideas

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The newsletter featured some of the new products available from Everything Dinosaur, including new prehistoric animal models, many of them exclusive to Everything Dinosaur, along with an update on the growing number of soft toy dinosaurs and prehistoric animal themed stocking fillers offered by the company.

To request a subscription to Everything Dinosaur’s mailing list so that you to can receive the newsletter and product updates: Email: Everything Dinosaur

Our team members are on hand to advise about dinosaur themed Christmas gift ideas and do all they can to help customers.

19 11, 2013

D-Day for Duelling Dinosaurs

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

Duelling Dinosaurs from Montana – Fossil up for Auction Today

The fossilised remains of two Late Cretaceous dinosaurs that are believed to have died together in mortal combat are due to be auctioned today,  The sale starts at 1pm (Eastern Standard Time), but the duelling dinosaurs, lot number 1032, is just part of an extensive sale of fossil material, everything from crinoids, turtles, fish, marine reptiles and of course dinosaurs.  A number of palaeontologists have attempted to lobby Bonhams of New York,  the auctioneers, in order to delay the sale, but today is the day when science runs the risk of losing a great deal of potentially highly significant fossil material.

The fossils represent a possible specimen of a dwarf Tyrannosaur species called Nanotyrannus lancensis, related to Tyrannosaurus rex.  This specimen may represent the best chance scientists are ever going to get to establish whether Nanotyrannus is a separate genus or whether the fossil material represents a juvenile T. rex.  Preliminary investigations suggest that this fossil material is proof that living alongside the larger Tyrannosaurs was a lithe and scaled down version of T. rex.  A sort of Theropod equivalent of a pocket battleship.

Fossils Up for Auction – Montana’s Duelling Dinosaurs

Going under the hammer.

The other fossils represent a plant-eating dinosaur, what could be a new to science genus of Chasmosaurine horned dinosaur.  The way in which the fossils were found indicate that these animals died together whilst fighting each other, only the second incidence reported in the dinosaur fossil record.  The specimens, discovered in 2006 (Garfield County, Montana), are nearly complete, just about articulated and represent two of the most perfect dinosaur specimens to have been discovered in the famous Hell Creek Formation.  The auctioneers estimate that this lot could fetch in excess of £5.6 million pounds when it goes under the hammer later on today.

The specimens have only been partially prepared, much of the material is still contained in its field jacket of burlap and plaster, but undoubtedly the fossil represent a highly significant find, one that can help scientists to understand more about life in the Late Cretaceous and about predator/prey interactions as the auction lot details goes on to state:

“One of the most valuable features of The Montana Duelling Dinosaurs is the presentation of the dinosaur specimens in preserved taphonomy.  The specimens were removed from the ground in large, plaster-jacketed sections of earth, preserving the spatial relationships in which the bones were found within each block.  This provides, quite literally, fertile ground for scientific study of the individuals, the relationship between the two species, and life during the Cretaceous Age.  Because the dinosaurs are also articulated, scientists will be able to learn about the anatomy and physiology of both Theropods and Ceratopsians.  Also of importance is the presence of a leaf horizon directly beneath the two skeletons.”

It is also possible for stomach contents to have been preserved, giving palaeontologists a rare opportunity to examine what Ceratopsians and Theropods actually ate.  So sad that this auction may result in these specimens being lost to science.

The Duelling Dinosaurs – The Field Jacket can be Clearly Seen in the Photograph

Unique fossils up for auction.

Picture Credit: Bonhams (New York)

The problem is this, if the fossil material ends up in the hands of a private buyer, albeit a very wealthy one, palaeontologists who would want to study the specimens might be denied proper access.  There is also the issue of running into some ethical quandaries, since, if access was restricted then the fossils would not be openly available for others to examine and analyse.

Professor Mike Benton, (Bristol University) explained:

“Nearly all scientific journals require that specimens studied scientifically and published must be freely available for further study by others, and this means an accessible, public collection.  This is a basic tenet of science: the need to make all published work repeatable.”

A spokes person from Everything Dinosaur added:

“Peer review of published material is not enough in this instance, palaeontologists need to repeat the work, look at the foundation for any conclusions drawn by previous investigations and if necessary, pick apart any arguments made by establishing their own lines of scientific enquiry.

A Close up the Front of the Jaws of the Tyrannosaur

Science goes up for auction.

Picture Credit: Bonhams (New York)

This is not the first time dinosaur fossils have been put up for sale at auction, we at Everything Dinosaur have reported on a number of high profile auctions on this blog .  Clayton Phipps, the person responsible for the discovery and for organising the removal of the fossil material did offer this exhibit to a number of museums but none of them could match the sale price and so the fossils have ended up in an auction.  The activities of commercial fossil hunters are important and they can prove to be a very reliable source for new fossil discoveries.  Many of the specimens excavated by private companies and individuals would simply have eroded away to dust without intervention, museums and universities cannot afford to mount expeditions to retrieve all the potential fossil material available.
Let’s hope that this particular auction has a happy ending and that whoever does purchase the fossils, or indeed any of the many hundreds of lots in the sale, they do permit proper scientific access.

News Update:

The duelling dinosaurs lot failed to sell at the auction, this evening (GMT).  It did not reach its reserve price so the future of these fossils remains uncertain.  A spokes person for Everything Dinosaur who had been monitoring the auction as it progressed in New York, commented that although the fossils attracted a lot of interest, the high reserve price was not exceeded so the lot remains unsold.  It is quite likely that a deal will be done over the next week or so that will see these fossils going to a new home.

18 11, 2013

Dinosaurs Fight the Bullies

By | November 18th, 2013|Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Press Releases, Teaching|0 Comments

Anti-Bullying Week November 18th-22nd 2013

Everything Dinosaur team members have spent a busy few days preparing posters and sending them out to schools  in readiness for anti-bullying week which starts today.  Many of the educational establishments that we visit have got a robust policy towards bullying prevention and awareness.  A school’s anti-bullying strategy is in operation throughout the year and we salute the dedication of those teachers, higher learning teaching assistants, learning support staff and all those other stakeholders in the school community who work so hard to develop and implement an anti-bullying programme.  There are many organisations delivering a creative anti-bullying message throughout this week and Everything Dinosaur is pleased to play a small role in helping to raise awareness of this important issue.

Team members have designed three anti-bullying posters using dinosaurs as a theme. They have been inspired to do so after seeing all the very colourful and creative anti-bullying posters designed by children during school visits by Everything Dinosaur.

One of the Dinosaur Inspired, Free Anti-Bullying Posters Available

Stop the Bullies!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

As many children love dinosaurs, we thought it appropriate if we could utilise some of our prehistoric animal drawing materials to create posters with an anti-bullying message.  The dinosaur depicted in the poster above is a fearsome meat-eating dinosaur, we could not think of a better way to get the message across.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In total three posters were created.  They are designed to be printed off onto A4 sized paper and can be laminated if required.  Hopefully, with a few of these posters pinned up around the school and any bullies will soon get the message.

Dinosaurs Fighting the Bullies

Stop bullies in their tracks!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

These posters have already been circulated to a large number of schools.  Everything Dinosaur has been proactive and through its links with the National Autistic Society (N.A.S) in the UK, these posters have been made available free of charge to the head teachers of all the schools registered with the N.A.S.

If you would like to get one of these posters for yourself, or indeed all three, it could not be more simple.  Just email us (see link below), and one of our team members will email you back with the posters available as downloadable attachments.

Contact us: Email Everything Dinosaur

Or simply visit Everything Dinosaur’s school web pages and download dinosaur themed posters: Download from this Website

A spokes person from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“With our vast library of dinosaur pictures, drawings and images we thought it a good idea if we used some prehistoric animals to help get the anti-bullying message across.  Let’s hope that we can all work together to help make bullying extinct.”

It is important that bullying prevention and awareness is taught throughout the school year, but during this week, Everything Dinosaur is proud to be involved and hopefully helping to make a difference.

17 11, 2013

Every Month is “Dinovember” For Everything Dinosaur

By | November 17th, 2013|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|0 Comments

Everything Dinosaur Contributes to “Dinovember”

Over the last few days, team members at Everything Dinosaur have been made aware of the internet phenomenon which is called “Dinovember”.  Each year, a husband and wife convince their children that their toy dinosaurs come alive for a month and get up to all sorts of adventures around the house and neighbourhood.  We have thoroughly enjoyed looking at all the pictures that contributors have sent in and we congratulate all those who were involved in the concept and in developing the idea as it is a wonderful way to encourage creative, imaginative play.

Some of our Dinosaurs Explore the Shrubbery

Dinosaurs play chase in the shrubbery.

Dinosaurs play chase in the shrubbery.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

For our part, we took some of our vast collection of various prehistoric animal models that we use in school visits, educational programmes and other such activities and decided to take some pictures of them outside as they were let out to roam around.  The dinosaurs seemed quite at home in the Cenozoic, although one or two of the grumpy Tyrannosaurs did not seem to get along very well with each other.  The herbivores seemed very happy but the meat-eaters, especially Tyrannosaurus rex started roaring, which is what we suppose these large carnivores probably did back in the Late Cretaceous.

Grumpy T. rexes Have Trouble Getting Along

"I'm Tyrant King of the Castle"!

“I’m Tyrant King of the Castle”!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Suppose it is quite surprisingly really, as many palaeontologists believe that Tyrannosaurs such as T. rex  may actually have been pack animals.  The Giganotosaurus and the Brachiosaurus played quite well together and the Ankylosaurus liked playing hide and seek.  For such a heavy dinosaur, one that lived in the Late Cretaceous of North America, Ankylosaurus was quite good at hiding.  We had trouble finding it at the end of the day, so well hidden this dinosaur was.  Not too bad for a ten metre long beast that probably weighed more than an African elephant and for a dinosaur that has been described as a “living tank”.

To view the range of dinosaur and prehistoric animal models available at Everything Dinosaur: Models of Dinosaurs

Unusual Play Mates – Giganotosaurus and Brachiosaurus are Chums

Prehistoric play mates!

 Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Ankylosaurus Plays Hide and Seek with Dinosaur Models

Hide and seek in the back yard.

Hide and seek in the back yard.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Perhaps we will invite one or two of “dino chums” into our next company meeting, we have an idea generating session planned for later on this month, all about our plans for 2014.  Dinosaurs are famous for having small brains compared to the size of their bodies, as a consequence we can’t really call it a “brainstorming meeting”, we ought to refer to it as a “brainstemming meeting” instead.

16 11, 2013

The Colours and Markings on Xenoceratops

By | November 16th, 2013|Dinosaur Fans|1 Comment

A Mainly Monochrome Dinosaur Model – Clever Collecta!

With the release of the images of the Collecta Xenoceratops dinosaur model, this is an ideal time to discuss colouration on prehistoric animal replicas.  This horned dinosaur, which should be available early in 2014, has striking and contrasting markings, providing an opportunity to consider the colour choices made by designers as they create prehistoric animal model figures.

The choice of colour for any model is extremely important for designers.  They have to consider how the palette chosen might work with the shape and the texture of the figure.  In addition, the right hue would draw the eye, even the absence of colour in some places can be used to create the right effect adding authenticity to their handiwork.  Colours can convey mood and emotions, great care is taken when it comes to selecting the right colour chart to use with any Collecta figure.

One of the problems with painting dinosaurs, is that with no living non-avian dinosaurs around today, it is very hard for the designer to balance the need for a sense of realism and scientific accuracy with a creative licence.   Some preserved feathers from small Theropod dinosaurs have provided hints as to feather colouration, but scale pigmentation is unknown in the Dinosauria fossil record.

The Collecta Xenoceratops Dinosaur Model

The dinosaur with "alien" headgear

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Collecta

Team members at Everything Dinosaur have been lucky enough to work with a lot of Tyrannosaur skull material.  When endocasts of the brain cavity are made it can be deduced that a significant proportion of a Tyrannosaur’s brain is dedicated to processing information from the optic nerve (large optic lobes).  The exit from the brain case for the optic nerve in an adult T. rex  in some specimens we have seen, can be nearly 20 mm in diameter.  This suggests that a mature Tyrannosaurus rex had an optic nerve running from its eye into the brain that was thicker than my thumb!  This evidence, combined with the position of the orbits (eye sockets) on the skull permitting stereoscopic vision and that the head was held upwards of fourteen feet off the ground suggests that big Theropod dinosaurs had excellent vision.  There is also a substantial amount of data available to suggest that other lizard-hipped dinosaurs and those from the Ornithischian Order, (dinosaurs such as Xenoceratops), also had excellent eyesight.

But could they see in colour?

As primates, our vision is very different from the majority of mammals where colour vision is in most genera somewhat limited.  Dogs for example, may have an extremely well developed sense of smell, but they see the world very differently from us.  For many years, scientists thought that dogs could only see in black and white.  We now know, thanks to a recent Russian study, that dogs can see in colour, although they lack the ability to perceive greens and reds in the same way that we do.  Dogs have dichromatic colour perception, they have only two types of colour interpreting cone cells in their retinas, we primates have three.

Great Sense of Smell but Dogs See the World Differently

A diurnal hunter like our species but with different colour perception

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The brightness of objects and the degree of contrast that most mammals can see differs from our own vision, but when we look at the closest living relatives of the dinosaurs, the birds and the crocodiles a different picture (literally), emerges.  Birds and crocodiles have excellent colour vision.  Based on the anatomical evidence from dinosaur skulls and comparative studies taken on extant relatives of the Dinosauria, most palaeontologists agree that colour vision came as standard amongst the dinosaurs array of highly developed senses.  After all, our mammalian ancestors were creatures of the undergrowth or most probably nocturnal, niches taken up to avoid being eaten by the keen-sighted, largely diurnal dinosaurs.

So why have Collecta opted to give their new Xenoceratops model a paint job based mainly around white, or the absence of colour, what is termed black?

Oscar Wilde, the Irish poet, wit and writer stated:

“Mere colour, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways”.

He had a point to make when it comes to the colour scheme chosen for Xenoceratops.  Not bad, when you consider that Mr Wilde died only a few years after the very first types of horned dinosaur were described by scientists. For Wilde and other late 19th Century writers, they would have been aware of the dinosaur discoveries both in Europe and those reported by Cope and Marsh from the United States, but they most certainly could not have imagined the diversity and the variance in the Ceratopsids that we know today.

The predominantly black colouration on the body, the limbs and on the tail of Xenoceratops conveys power and strength.  In western cultures, black is strongly linked to foreboding, menace, power, death and ferocity.  Depicting this 2,000 kilogramme,  horned herbivore largely in black conveys an impression of invulnerability to Collecta’s latest horned dinosaur figure.  Those long, black brow horns, do indeed look very menacing.  Tyrannosaurids around in what was to become southern Alberta (Canada), approximately 80 million years ago would have thought twice before they took on one of these plant-eaters.

The body colouration contrasts starkly with the white rump bristles, the banding on the forelimbs and the flashes of white on the skull and the immense neck frill.  Whilst no one can be certain, such bold use of black and white would permit the head to stand out markedly from the surrounding vegetation and the dark bodies of herd mates.  Such a set of markings on the head would provide the animal with a very powerful visual signalling device, ideal for intraspecific combat to help settle disputes amongst rivals as well as offering any predator brave enough to confront a mature individual, a frightening visual threat display.

A Close of the Head of Xenoceratops

"Alien horned face" from Collecta

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Collecta

The shelf of bone over the naris (nose) has been coloured red.  This would have made this bony lump clearly visible against the black and white facial markings.  Palaeontologists are unsure as to whether this lump was the base of a large horn comprised of keratin, which has not been preserved in the fossil record.  Other related, later Centrosaurines from North America share this bony characteristic, animals such as Pachyrhinosaurus and Achelousaurus.  Collecta have also made not to scale models of these two dinosaurs as well.

The fossils of Xenoceratops (the name means “alien horned face”), have been found in southern Alberta.  Although this part of the world was much warmer in the Cretaceous than it is today, the land where Xenoceratops roamed would still have been at a high latitude.  It would have been cold, not as cold as Alberta today but certainly chilly for a significant proportion of each year.  A large black body would have helped this animal maintain its body temperature as black colouration absorbs heat.  Perhaps the designer at Collecta envisaged a Mid Campanian scene in which vast herds of Xenoceratops turn their stocky bodies to face the early morning sun, so that the sun’s rays can help warm these dinosaurs up.  Dark colouration in combination with a covering of fine, feathery bristles would have helped these heavy dinosaurs keep warm, it’s a thought.

Collecta have coloured one of the earlier models almost entirely black.  It was a model of  the South American Spinosaurid Irritator (Irritator challengeri).

The Irritator Dinosaur Model (Collecta)

Was the Black Heron the inspiration behind the colour choice?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Collecta

Everything Dinosaur team members wrote an article about this fish-eating dinosaur and proposed a reason for its dark colouration, to read the article:

Why is the Irritator Dinosaur Model Painted Black?

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Colour can convey a lot of subtle information when it comes to considering the markings and patterns seen on a dinosaur model.  Manufacturers are looking to convey realism and use colour to help interpret fossil material in such a way as to permit animal  behaviours to be inferred.  The Collecta Xenoceratops model certain stands out visually and it is clear that a lot of thought and care has gone into selecting the colour scheme.”

Looks like 2014 is going to a busy year for sales of Collecta dinosaur models, the evidence is there for all to see, after all its in black and white.

15 11, 2013

Palaeontology at Painsley Catholic College

By | November 15th, 2013|Educational Activities, Teaching|0 Comments

Primary School Children Track Down Dinosaurs at Painsley Catholic College

Year four and five students attending local primary schools in Staffordshire had the opportunity to visit the well-appointed science labs at Painsley Catholic College and to take part in some dinosaur themed studies.  The pupils all from Federation Primary schools which are feeder schools for the College, were invited to join an expert from Everything Dinosaur as part of the College’s outreach programme as teaching staff help to prepare children for the challenges and opportunities of secondary education.

The morning’s activities focused around teaching the fundamentals of scientific methodology with the pupils given the opportunity to examine fossils, look at evidence and to come up with their own ideas and theories.  As a warm up exercise, the school children were challenged to come up with an explanation as to why there are so few fossils of Triceratops limb bones available for scientists to study.  Toby from St Mary’s (Leek) suggested that the size of the bones could affect the way that some of them might get turned into fossils, whilst Georgina, who was attending from St. Filumena’s (Caverswall, Stoke), thought that the limbs of Triceratops might have been eaten (you might be onto something, Georgina).

Pupils Puzzle over Triceratops

Three Horned Face on Display

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The children learned that the dinosaur that they had just been studying was called Triceratops horridus, the name means “horrible three horned face” and young Max (St Giles Catholic Primary),  demonstrated his considerable knowledge about dinosaurs by explaining the reasons for Triceratop’s name.

Next up came a quick comparison of brain sizes with a cast of part of the skull of an Ankylosaurid (armoured dinosaur) used to explain a little about the size of dinosaurs and their brains.  Early arrivals, John, Elliot and Holly had looked at the fossilised teeth of a giant marine reptile and they were amazed to learn that if they all laid down head to toe, the length of all three of them would be roughly equivalent to the size of one of this animal’s enormous flippers.  Using such examples can help young scientists understand the sheer scale of some of these prehistoric animals, helping to bring to life what they may have read about dinosaurs or learned at school.

By way of a quick exploration of Ammonite specimens, the school children were provided with a brief guide as to how most fossils are formed and what fossils can tell us about extinct creatures.  Rebecca and Ben were able to work out why palaeontologists think that female Ammonites were generally bigger than the males.  A great example of using knowledge to explore a new concept, to relate what they already knew to a fresh challenge.

The Size and Scale of the Dinosauria

The next generation of scientists!

Picture Credit: Painsley Catholic College

Next came the opportunity to study a set of dinosaur tracks that date from the Early Jurassic.  Scientists have uncovered a number of fossilised footprints of animals that congregated around a lake that was drying up. The fossils date from around 190 million years ago and the teacher visiting the school from Everything Dinosaur challenged the pupils to look at the evidence and to come up with a theory as to what a section of tracks might show.

Strange Fossilised Footprints for School Children to Study

Mystery Prehistoric Prints

Each of the budding young palaeontologists was given a worksheet, could they work out what the strange set of 190 million year old tracks might be revealing?  This was a real example of “Walking with Dinosaurs”.

Tasha and Leia (St Josephs Primary School, Uttoxeter) worked out the direction of travel by identifying the marks left by the toes.  Isabel calculated that the animal that made the tracks in the mud by the lake, must have had at least three toes.  Ellie (St Mary’s) came up with a theory the proposed either a three-toed or four-toed animal had walked that way.

When asked to explain why scientists put a scale bar on their drawings, Niall, Edward  and Chris (St. Thomas’ Catholic Primary School), correctly pointed out that scale bars helped scientists to measure the actual size of the prints.

Students Learn About Scale and Scale Bars in Dinosaur Study

The importance of scale bars

The black lines next to the photograph help scientists to appreciate the actual size of the prehistoric tracks.

Having examined the evidence and worked through the information the children were then challenged to come up with a theory to explain the unusual prints preserved in the Lower Jurassic sediments.  Lots of different ideas were put forward, Joshua and Millie thought that the animal, probably a dinosaur was scratching around in the mud, perhaps it had got stuck and it was trying to free itself.  Peter from St Marys suggested that the tracks might have been made by a wounded dinosaur and perhaps it was limping and staggering – interesting theory Peter.  Harriet and her chums from St Giles Catholic Primary School proposed that this dinosaur must have been quite lazy and the tracks represent the places in the mud where it dragged its feet – another intriguing interpretation.  Having looked long and hard at the evidence, Ben and Roman came up with the theory that these were the tracks of a dinosaur that had gone for a swim.

School Children Interpret Fossil Tracks from the Jurassic

Pupils tackle palaeontology

All in all, some fascinating theories put forward and a great introduction to some of the methods involved in scientific enquiry.  There was even time for Mrs Johnson to organise a set of school photographs of the children holding some of the fossils of prehistoric fish that Everything Dinosaur had brought in.  Not too bad for a morning’s work, exploring Late Cretaceous herbivorous dinosaurs, marine reptiles, prehistoric invertebrates and examining strange tracks made in the mud as a Jurassic lake dried up, with the chance to get up close to the teeth of primeval sharks.

Some of the Children with the Shark Teeth that they Studied

Getting their Teeth into Science.

Picture Credit: Painsley Catholic College

A typical day working with the science teaching team at Painsley Catholic College helping to enthuse and inspire the next generation of scientists with a dinosaur workshop.

14 11, 2013

C. megalodon and Maths

By | November 14th, 2013|Adobe CS5, Educational Activities, Press Releases, Teaching|0 Comments

Using Shark Fossils to Help Primary School Children with Maths

Another day and another free download for teachers and educationalists.   Everything Dinosaur team members had been approached by a number of primary school teachers and HLTAs (Higher Learning Teaching Assistants), to help key stage 1 pupils get to grips with some of the symbols used in mathematics that they will encounter as they progress to key stage 2.  In particular, we were asked to come up with novel ways of helping young children from five years of age to recognise and remember what certain symbols used in mathematics stand for.

Much of the emphasis of the mathematics part of the national curriculum in the United Kingdom is based around young learners making connections between numbers, shapes and symbols.  During key stage 1, pupils develop their knowledge and understanding of mathematics through practical activity, exploration and discussion.  Many children are keen on dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures so if team members at Everything Dinosaur could build in a prehistoric theme, then all the better to help with the learning.  Children at key stage 1 learn to count, read, write and order numbers to 100 and beyond.   They develop a range of mental calculation skills and should be able to use these skills confidently in different settings.  Children learn about shape and space through practical activity which builds on their understanding of their immediate environment.  They begin to grasp mathematical language, using it to talk about their methods and explain their reasoning when solving problems.  It is developing a familiarity with mathematical symbols where Everything Dinosaur comes in, why not use some images of fossilised shark teeth to help children learn about the “greater than” > and the “less than” < signs.

Using Fossils to Help Children Learn About Mathematics

Greater than and less than thanks to C. megalodon.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur team members used pictures of the huge, fossilised teeth of a giant prehistoric shark called Carcharodon megalodon to create the mathematical symbols.  As children move onto key stage 2, they are expected to be able to recognise that the position of a digit gives its value and to use correctly the <> symbols.

To request a free download of the fossilised sharks symbols: Email Everything Dinosaur

The teeth are part of Everything Dinosaur’s fossil collection.  Some of these fossils are brought into schools to help pupils learn about animals that lived in the past.  The shark teeth are particularly spectacular and these specimens are bigger than the typical hand of an nine year old child.  Such objects always intrigue and fascinate the children and they get a great deal out of the dinosaur workshops in schools that the staff conduct, so why not use some of the fossils to help children with other aspects of their education.

13 11, 2013

Scientists Create Detailed Map of the Dinosaur Brain

By | November 13th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|1 Comment

Study of the Brains of Alligators and Birds Leads to the Inference that Dinosaurs were Capable of Complex Behaviours

Palaeontologists have got the bones of dinosaurs to study, but it is rare for any soft tissues of dinosaurs to be preserved in the fossil record.  True, scars on bones can provide scientists with information on musculature and ligament placement but it is only through comparative analysis of animals alive today that any understanding of the layout, placement and size of organs of the Dinosauria can be deduced.  For example, much work has been done regarding the study of dinosaur brains, even though no fossilised Dinosauria brain material is known from the fossil record.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur have been fortunate to work with endocasts of the brains of ancient reptiles.  Endocasts are internal moulds of the brain cavity and other areas of the skull.  By piecing the skull bones carefully together, scientists can work out the size, shape and volume of the spaces left inside.  For example, the shape of some Tyrannosaur brains have been calculated using this method.  However, endocasts do not provide much information on the brain’s internal structures or what sort of behaviours dinosaurs were capable of.

Last month, Everything Dinosaur team members reported on the research being undertaken concerning an attempt to map the neural pathways and nerve structure of a Cambrian-aged Arthropod fossil that had been discovered in China.

To read more about this research: Ancient Arthropod Brain and Nervous System Revealed

A new study, conducted by a team of international researchers at Duke University in North Carolina (USA), has enabled neuroscientists to create a detailed map of the brain of Theropod dinosaurs.  From this work the team have deduced that these animals were capable of complex behaviours and perhaps even used sounds to communicate with each other just as some birds do today.

Were Dinosaurs Like T. rex Capable of Sophisticated Behaviours?

T. rex - bird brained?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Dr. Erich Jarvis, a neuroscientist and one who specialises in looking at how brain function can help vocalisation and learning commented:

“In the popular mind, dinosaurs may be underrated in the complexity of their behaviour.”

For Dr. Jarvis, a lead author of the dinosaur brain study that has just been presented at the Society of Neuroscience meeting in California , added that as soft tissues were rarely preserved in the Dinosauria and that fossilised brain material was unheard of then researchers had to infer dinosaur brain function and morphology by studying extant species that represent close relatives of the dinosaurs.  Having conducted such a study on alligators and birds it can be inferred that dinosaurs were capable of complex behaviours with parts of the brain specialising in processing visual data, auditory information and assisting with vocalisation.

Asked to comment on the team’s findings, Dr Jarvis said that amongst other skills, dinosaurs had sufficient brain complexity to communicate with sounds but, “did it really happen?  That we do not know.”

To gain an insight into how dinosaurs thought and communicated, the U.S. based research team studied the brains of alligators, as crocodilians are thought to be the most closely related to the dinosaurs of all the types of living reptile today. In addition, the scientists analysed the brains of birds.  Birds are essentially avian dinosaurs, the Aves being very closely related to parts of the Theropod group of the Dinosauria.  From the work on extant creatures the team could piece together an approximation for a typical Theropod dinosaur brain and infer its capabilities.

Using a technique that involves mapping gene activity in different parts of the brain as the animal is subjected to certain stimuli, the researchers were able to gain an insight into the function of alligator brains and those of birds.  From this work the map of the dinosaur brain was re-created.  Some genes are permanently on in the brain, whilst others are only switched on in response to certain stimuli, for example, some genes are only activated for a fraction of a second in response to sounds, particularly in that part of the brain associated with the hearing function and interpretation of sounds.

To plot  the auditory regions of the brain, Dr. Jarvis and his team quietened the animals down in a darkened room and then played bird songs to birds and alligator calls to the alligators.  The team then swiftly removed their brains, froze them, sliced them, and looked at the genes that had switched on in different regions.  Naturally, this was what we palaeontologists term a “destructive” form of research, unfortunately the animals had to be killed before the second phase of the research could be undertaken.

The genetic data that had been retained in the brain slices enabled the research team to make highly detailed maps of the bird and the alligator brains.  They could work out how the brain was organised and which parts had been stimulated by the earlier experiments.  Using the bird and alligator models as templates, the researchers created an amalgam of the two to represent the brain of a typical Theropod dinosaur using endocasts from Tyrannosaurus rex and a Late Jurassic Theropod called Allosaurus fragilis.  In addition,  the bird brain of Archaeopteryx lithographica was re-created.

The result of this research enabled the scientists to identify six distinct regions within the dinosaur’s brains and a similar structure in that of the early bird Archaeopteryx.  One of these regions, called the mesopallium, would have been involved in processing complex data, given the Dinosauria the capacity for sophisticated behaviour.

An Endocast of the Brain of Archaeopteryx (A. lithographica)

The brain cast of Archaeopteryx lithographica, one of the earliest known birds, partitioned into neuroanatomical regions: brain stem (yellow), cerebellum (blue), optic lobes (red), cerebrum (green), and olfactory bulbs (orange)

Picture Credit: AMNH/Dr. Balanoff

Dr. Jarvis explained:

“It suggests that the dinosaur brain had the capacity for complex sensory motor processing, just like we see in birds and alligators.”

However, whilst a large number of today’s birds, the passerines (perching birds), have the ability to produce very complicated vocalisations and even learn shared “songs”.  It can only be inferred that members of the Dinosauria were also able to do this as all the brain sub-divisions that support such vocal learning seem to present.

Dr. Jarvis, went onto to state:

“We don’t have any evidence that there was a dinosaur out there that did this, that shared vocal learning with songbirds.  But all the brain subdivisions to support vocal learning are there, so I’d argue the capacity to evolve vocal learning did exist in dinosaurs.”

Crocodiles have some of the most sophisticated and complex behaviours of all the reptiles known today.  Certainly, male Alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) are capable of making very loud noises as they ward of rivals and call to attract a mate in the breeding season, perhaps Tyrannosaurus rex did something similar.

12 11, 2013

New Schleich Models for 2014

By | November 12th, 2013|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|3 Comments

Four New Additions from Schleich for 2014

Schleich the Germany model manufacturer are going to produce four new prehistoric animal models next year.  Dimensions for these models have yet to be finalised, but we think two of them Pentaceratops and Therizinosaurus, will be added to the company’s World of History model range.  The other two models, a Velociraptor and a Tyrannosaurus rex are likely to be added to the Schleich’s smaller sized “dinosaurs” range, or as Schleich calls them “die kleinen Dinos”.

The Schleich Pentaceratops Dinosaur Model

A colourful, horned dinosaur replica.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A relative of Triceratops, this model of Pentaceratops looks most impressive.  The red and black markings are particularly striking.  We will be looking to see whether the front feet have five toes and the back legs only four, a test of a model’s anatomical accuracy when it comes to members of the Ceratopsians.  Named by Osborn back in 1923 from fossil material discovered in New Mexico, this is a model of a spectacular dinosaur.  The name Pentaceratops means “five horned face”, although this dinosaur only had three horns not five.  The reasons for the name will be explained in the Everything Dinosaur fact sheet that is being prepared by our experts.

Therizinosaurus Dinosaur Model

The "Freddy Krueger" of the Dinosaur Family

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Nicknamed by team members the “Freddy Krueger of the Dinosaur Family”, because of its immensely long claws, Therizinosaurus is a member of the Theropods, but a very odd member indeed.  The Therizinosaurs, otherwise known as the “Scythe Lizards” for obvious reasons, seem to be exclusively found in Cretaceous rocks.  Therizinosaurs may have been carnivorous but over millennia adapted to eating plants.  They may have been omnivores or entirely herbivorous, scientists remain uncertain.  One thing for sure, Therizinosaurus (T. cheloniformis) is the largest of this type of dinosaur known to science.  It may have reached lengths in excess of eleven metres and the largest fossil claw found so far  measured nearly a metre in length.   These dinosaurs are thought to have been the sloths of the Cretaceous.  Those huge, powerful arms equipped with three, roughly equally sized claws could have been used to grab and pull down branches of trees, thus permitting these bulky creatures to feed on the leaves.

Therizinosaurus (T. cheloniformis) walked on its hind legs, animals like this dinosaur have left four-toed footprints for scientists to study.  In the picture of the dinosaur, the four toes on each hind foot can be clearly seen.  It is another very colourful model, the choice of colour scheme may have been influenced by a picture of a Therizinosaurus that can be found on the Feathered Dinosaurs poster sold by Everything Dinosaur.  Take a look at the picture of the model above, and this image from the poster below – what do you think?

Inspiring Model Makers?

Therizinosaurus - depicted as a very colourful creature.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur from the Feathered Dinosaurs Poster

Schleich have not announced any model retirements for next year, but we suspect the new green “raptor” and the T. rex are being brought in to replace the existing Velociraptor and the Tyrannosaurus rex  from the company’s “die kleinen Dinos” range.

The New Raptor from Schleich

Green terror!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

2014 Tyrannosaurus rex Model from Schleich

T. rex (Schleich 2014)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Velociraptor has been given little feathers running along the length of the ulna, reflecting some evidence from the fossil record.  The T. rex model is similar to the 2012 Tyrannosaurus rex model introduction that can be found in the larger World of History model range.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s current range of World of History Schleich dinosaurs: Schleich prehistoric animal and dinosaur models

We shall wait and see what other announcements are going to be made by this German manufacturer with regards to 2014 dinosaur models.

11 11, 2013

DNA Study Suggest “Man’s Best Friend” Domesticated in Europe

By | November 11th, 2013|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

European Origin of “Domesticated Dogs” At Least 18,000 Years Ago

The results of an extensive study of wolves and domesticated dogs including analysis of fossil material has led a team of scientists to conclude that dogs were first domesticated in Europe.  The likes of Charles Darwin did not know, after all, genetics was a branch of science that was unknown to the co-author of the theory of natural selection (Darwin and Wallace jointly presented their ideas in 1858 to the Linnean Society), but it is now widely accepted that all domesticated dogs are descended from the Grey Wolf (Canis lupus).  Just when dogs became a part of people’s lives and started to work in partnership with humans is a hotly debated subject.  The emergence of a form of “domesticated” dog has now been mapped and this new study points to an origin from Europe and at least 18,000 years ago.  It all depends on where you are in the world as to whether 18,000 years ago is classed as the Mesolithic “Middle Stone Age” or the Old Stone Age (Palaeolithic), as these time periods are defined by the development and use of tools and other artefacts by indigenous populations, either way, mankind’s relationship with dogs goes back a very long way.

The team of researchers from Turku University (Finland) have somewhat “muddied the waters” when it comes to assessing when and where dogs began to have a much closer relationship with our own species.  Earlier studies had indicated that wolves began to attach themselves with human settlements in the Middle East or perhaps in the near Asia region as recently as 15,000 years ago.  This new data, based on the DNA samples, pushes our relationship with “man’s best friend” further back into prehistory and locates the first domestication as being in Europe.

Scientists Looked at Fossil Evidence from Dogs Buried Close to Human Settlements

Analysis of DNA may hold the key to unravelling the mystery of dog domestication.

However, fossil evidence has challenged this earlier research and indeed, a remarkable excavation site in southern Siberia, dated to around 33,000 years ago (definitely Palaeolithic but who’s counting), puts the date of dog domestication, or at least descendants of wolves having a close relationship with mankind, much further back in time than even this new Finnish study suggests.

To read an article about the discoveries from the southern Siberian dig site: It’s a Dog’s Life!

One of the problems associated with trying to identify exactly where and when dogs began to live alongside humans is that palaeontologists have found some distinctly dog-looking fossil evidence in various sites around both the Old and the New World.  For this research, the scientists looked at the mitochondrial genomes from present-day dogs and wolves, as well as from eighteen fossil Canids, whose remains date from between 1,000 and more than 36,000 years old.

Dr. Olaf Thalmann (Turku University) and his colleagues used genetic sequences from a wide range of fossil and extant sources in order to gain an understanding of the great diversity of dog breeds around today and how they relate to the remains of dogs excavated from various fossil sites.  The analysis revealed that modern dogs are most closely related to ancient European wolves or dogs, they are not closely related to any of the wolf groups from outside Europe.  Intriguingly, the research suggests that domesticated dogs have a link with a strain of ancient European wolf, one that is extinct.  The proposed “start point” for domestication going back beyond 18,000 years is certainly fascinating.  It suggests that dogs began to separate out of wolf populations when our species was nomadic.  Dog domestication may actually have occurred long before we began to settle in farming communities.  It seems that dogs may have come “walkies” with us when we were very much hunters and gatherers.

A spokes person from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Both wolves and ourselves are diurnal hunters, perhaps the wolves that were the ancestors of the first domesticated dogs followed human hunting trips, to feed off the scraps that we left behind from the hunting of large, herbivorous mammals like Elk, Ox, Mammoth and Woolly Rhino.  Or indeed, it could have been the other way round with human hunting parties scavenging the kills of wolf packs.”

Over time, wolves and humans began to tolerate each other’s presence and the first steps on the long road to mutual co-operation and subsequent domestication were taken.

Explaining some of the reasoning behind the team’s work, Dr. Thalmann stated:

“You can see how the wolves benefitted from living near humans because they got to the carcases, but humans too would have benefitted.  You have to remember that 18,800 to 32,000 years ago, Europe had much bigger predators than even the wolves, animals such as bears and hyenas.  You can imagine that having wolves living close to you might prove to be a very useful alarm system.  It is a plausible scenario for the origin of the domestication of dogs.”

The precise details surrounding the origin of today’s domesticated canine remain unclear.  The genetic markers that can be traced are extremely difficult to interpret, not helped that due to mankind’s movements, dog populations have become very mixed over time.  In addition, it seems that some populations of dogs may have back-bred with wild wolves causing further confusion.  This particular study and indeed, the majority of the earlier studies, relied on so-called mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), a small sub-packet of genetic material in cells that is normally passed down through the generations solely on the maternal line, although incredibly useful,  mtDNA does not represent the fullest information possible.  The much larger DNA retrieved from the cell nucleus (nuclear DNA), could provide a lot more genetic information, but the DNA’s poor preservation ability, the risk of cross-contamination and the difficulty of retrieving substantial amounts from fossils are formidable barriers to progress.

The findings of this research, published in the academic journal “Science”, suggest that an ancient, extinct central European population of wolves gave rise to the domestic dog.  In addition, evidence from the mtDNA indicates that several other types of ancient dog found in the fossil record may represent ultimately doomed previous domestication attempts.   If enough nuclear DNA is recovered from the fossil record, a clearer understanding of our relationship with dogs can probably be obtained, but for the moment it looks like the origins of today’s pets and working dogs are in central Europe and the bond between man and dog goes back into the Palaeolithic.

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