All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//January
16 01, 2014

Dinosaur Names Help Young Children with their Phonics

By | January 16th, 2014|Educational Activities, Press Releases, Teaching|0 Comments

Dinosaur Names Just Trip off the Tongue – Especially when you are Three

Why is it that your three year old, thinks nothing of stating the names of several dinosaurs when at times they struggle to come to terms with the correct pronunciation of their own name?  What is it about dinosaurs and their long names that seem to have a universal appeal to children?

That is one of the questions put recently to one of our dinosaur experts who writes lesson plans for children at the Foundation Stage level in primary schools.  This phenomena has been observed and commented on by many parents and grandparents, it seems that “Diplodocus” is not a problem whilst “Da-Da” can be quite a challenge to a budding palaeontologist.

Our dinosaur expert was not aware of any research being undertaken to look at this specific element of children’s phonics and their grasp of speech.  However, it is known, that most  young children up to the age of seven years have an extraordinary ability to pick up speech and expand their vocabulary.  Perhaps the sound of the words themselves have a frisson of excitement about them, the longest genus name we know for a member of the Dinosauria, weighs in at twenty-three letters long – Micropachycephalosaurus (mike-cro-pack-ee-sep-hal-oh-sore-us).  Could dinosaur name pronunciation leave a tingle on the lips?  Certainly, most young children learning about dinosaurs seem to relish and enjoy such tasks.

Once said, there might be a strong sense of achievement of being able to pronounce such a long word.  The child could be picking up cues from the parent or grandparent present who no doubt, would be expressing a sense of pride of being able to trip Tyrannosaurus rex off the tongue.  We know of a number of parents and home educators who have exploited a child’s fascination with dinosaurs to help them with their reading, writing and sentence construction.  If the young pupil loves Stegosaurus, then using this Late Jurassic herbivorous dinosaur in a fun activity to look at how to pronounce words and to get to grips with writing is a bit like pushing at an open door.

Stegosaurus Bubble Speech Diagram

A typical teaching resource provided by Everything Dinosaur.

A typical teaching resource provided by Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur have developed a number of teaching aids to help parents, teachers and home educators to teach basic word recognition and reading skills to their young charges.  For example, a speech bubble placed onto a picture of a dinosaur can help the child to consider what the dinosaur might be saying or thinking.  This can also help the child to consider what third parties might be feeling, thinking or saying.  A number of teachers have helped children learn to read using phonics, with dinosaurs and their long names as part of the teaching text.  Many children’s books about dinosaurs contain a handy pronunciation guide or readers are welcome to contact Everything Dinosaur by leaving a comment on one of our many blog posts and we will do our best to help when it comes to those tongue-twisting dinosaur names.

When delivering dinosaur workshops in schools, especially when working with Foundation Stage children, it seems that dinosaur names are tackled and pronounced with relative ease.  Perhaps like most things to do with the Dinosauria, to a three year old, even the animal’s names are exciting.

15 01, 2014

Jurassic India – Scientists Find Prehistoric Tracks in Rajasthan

By | January 15th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Trace Fossils Including Pterosaur Trackways Discovered in Rajasthan

The north-western province of Rajasthan in India has some spectacular limestone formations that represent sediments laid down in the Middle Jurassic.  A number of expeditions have been mounted to this part of India by institutions such as the University of Rajasthan to help map the geology and assess the many different types of marine invertebrate fossils that are associated with some parts of this strata.  The specimens of Ammonites are very useful in helping scientists to accurately date the age of these formations (biostratification) and for comparing the fauna found in these deposits with other sedimentary rock formations found elsewhere on the sub-continent.  Although, the area’s close proximity to the Pakistan border has led to difficulties over accessing some parts of the region, a number of geological surveys have been carried out exploring for reserves of natural gas and oil.  The limestone represent deposition in a marine environment, however, Jurassic sandstones that are also to be found in Rajasthan, most notably in Jaisalmer district, represent material deposited in a fluvial (river) environment.  These outcrops and the fossils contained therein are providing scientists with a fascinating glimpse into life in the Early to Middle Jurassic.

Palaeontologists and geologists visiting this part of India as part of their participation in the ninth annual International Congress on the Jurassic System, organised by the Geology department of Rajasthan University, have been taking the opportunity to explore the area and to look for fossils.  An outcrop of exposed Jurassic aged sediments on the Jodhpur-Jaisalmer highway, close to the village of Thaiat has yielded a number of trace fossils including Pterosaur and three-toed dinosaur footprints.

The thirty-four strong party, including researchers from France and Germany have been staying in this area, with a view to mapping the formations and recording evidence of Jurassic vertebrates.  Little is known about the evolution of the Dinosauria and the Pterosauria (flying reptiles) in this part of the world during the Early Jurassic.  The footprint fossils may potentially belong to species that are new to science.  Dr. Jan Schlogl of Slovakia working in collaboration with Professor Gregory Pienkowski (Poland), identified the footprints, preserved in finely grained, sandstone sediments as those belonging to a Pterosaur (flying reptile).  Something like over 120 different Pterosaur species are now known, mostly via fragmentary fossil remains.  Finding Pterosaur tracks in these sediments, believed to date from around 180 million years ago, will help scientists to understand better the evolution and radiation of these vertebrates.

Amongst the footprints representing Jurassic dinosaurs at least two kinds have been identified.  Firstly, there are the small three-toed prints of a little Theropod dinosaur known as Grallator.  The name Grallator is an ichnogenus, a name given to a genus of animal that is only known from trace fossils.  Some of the prints, representing the hind feet of this biped are five centimetres in length.  It is likely that this little dinosaur was about the size of a chicken.

Larger three-toed prints have also been identified.  These tridactyl (three-toed) prints measure approximately thirty centimetres long and must have been made by a much larger creature.  It is difficult to speculate what sort of dinosaur made such prints, but similar prints found in European strata of roughly the same geological age have been assigned to Tetanurae Theropods such as Megalosaurs, whereas, it is possible that these prints could represent another type of Theropod such as a member of the Neoceratosauria or a Coelophysid.  During the Early Jurassic the Theropoda group of meat-eating dinosaurs rapidly evolved and a number of  new families evolved.  If body fossils of meat-eating dinosaurs can be found in these sediments then this would add greatly to our knowledge of Theropod dinosaurs from the southern super-continent of Gondwana.

Large Three-Toed Dinosaur Footprints Discovered

Evidence of Jurassic dinosaurs from India.

Evidence of Jurassic dinosaurs from India.

Picture Credit: University of Rajasthan

The larger, tridactyl prints have been assigned to the ichnogenus Eurontes (Eurontes giganteus).

Associate Professor P. K. Pandey (Geology department of the University of Rajasthan), has studied a number of Jurassic aged fossils from these sandstone deposits.  He has already recorded the presence of small Pterosaurs after finding fragmentary fossilised bones in these deposits.   A source close to Everything Dinosaur commented that these discoveries of dinosaur footprints and Pterosaur footprints were very significant.

14 01, 2014

Scientists Get to Grips with Tiktaalik’s Rear End

By | January 14th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Larger and More Developed Pelvic Girdle in Tiktaalik

A team of scientists based in the United States have published research on the pelvic girdle of a transitional Sarcopterygian known as Tiktaalik (Tiktaalik roseae).  The research team have determined that, much to their surprise, the pelvic girdle of this Late Devonian creature, although primitive, is much more robust than expected.  A big, robust pelvis suggests that the hind limbs/fins of this 375 million year old animal were much bigger than previously surmised, this has significant implications for the evolution of Tetrapod locomotion.

Fossil material, collected from Canada’s Ellesmere Island in 2004 led to the naming and describing of Tiktaalik in 2006.  The fossil specimens are highly significant as they represent a transitional form from a fully aquatic fish to a terrestrial animal (Tetrapod).  At approaching three metres long, Tiktaalik was a sizeable animal.  It had a twenty centimetre long skull, which consisted of a long snout and relatively short rear portion of the skull.  The shoulder girdle was not joined directly to the back of the skull as seen in contemporaneous fossil material (Panderichthys et al), giving this animal a neck.  The front limbs were robust and had a wrist-like structure and the finger-like bones contained within the lobe of a fin.  These bones were strong and the wrist-like joint capable of a wide degree of movement suggesting that this half-fish/half amphibian could propel itself along the bottom of a body of water by “walking on its fins”.  Analysis of the first fossils also indicated that Tiktaalik had ribs.  These ribs could have helped to support the animal as it clambered around on land.

Tiktaalik (Late Devonian) A Transitional Fossil

Titaalik Fossil Material (Late Devonian)

Tiktaalik Fossil Material (Late Devonian)

Picture Credit: University of Chicago/Harvard/Academy of Natural Sciences

Intriguingly, although Tiktaalik was named and described nearly eight years ago, the genus was erected based on a study of the front portion of the animal.  The first fossils studied consisted of just the front portions, now the research team behind the first scientific descriptions have examined other material excavated from the same location on Ellesmere Island back in 2004 and these fossils have provided them with evidence as to what the rear end of this iconic animal looked like.

In a paper published in the scientific journal “The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”, the research team that included the late Professor Farish Jenkins (Harvard University), one of the last papers that this esteemed professor of vertebrate palaeontology contributed to, outline evidence to suggest that that Tiktaalik had a large pelvis and strong tail fin.  This suggests that this animal was able to propel itself around using its four proto-limbs.  Such a form of locomotion, often referred to as “four-wheel drive” was thought to have evolved only in later, true Tetrapods.

The authors of this paper, include Dr. Neil Shubin (University of Chicago) and Dr. Edward Daeschler (Drexel University, Philadelphia), these scientists along with Professor Jenkins, were responsible for the scientific description of Tiktaalik back in 2006.  Only now, once other specimens have been fully prepared can the team describe the rear end of this important transitional vertebrate.  The fossils show that Tiktaalik had a thick, powerful rear fin, but the real surprise came when the scientists took a look at the pelvic area.  The pelvis area, indicated by impressions preserved in the ancient fossilised sediments and several fossilised bones from the hind portions indicate that the rear fins were comparable in size to the front fins.  The shape and size of the hip socket also suggest that the rear fins were capable of a wide range of movement.  The rear fins could have been used to help support the animal’s weight as well as help it to swim through water.  Although, the overall structure of the pelvis is substantially more developed than that seen in other types of Devonian fish, it is still very primitive when compared to the early Tetrapods like Acanthostega and Ichthyostega.  The pelvis is still more-fish like, it consists of just one bone, whereas, the pelvis of Tetrapods (even ours for example consists of three bones – the ilium, the pubis, and the ischium).

Unfortunately, no evidence of a femur (thigh-bone) has been found but it is very likely that Tiktaalik had a pair of femurs.  Tiktaalik is termed a Tetrapodomorph – a transitional form between an aquatic creature and one capable of living on land.

Commenting on this latest research, Dr. Daeschler stated:

“The pelvis is as large as the shoulder girdle, and that’s not what we would have expected in this finned stage in the fin-to-limb transition. We would have expected the pelvic fins to be smaller.”

Based on this research, the team conclude that the basic, quadrupedal locomotion once thought to have evolved with the first true Tetrapods seems to be present in anatomies of fishes like Tiktaalik.

Dr. Daeschler added:

“Tiktaalik probably had the ability to use those fins as props to move along, using them to push along the shallow bottom, to work its way through plants and, who know, maybe it got out of the water briefly if it needed to move over to another watercourse.  But in no way was it specialised for getting out of the water.  It may have had some ability to do that, but everything about its reproduction, its sensory system, its hunting and breathing – all these things tied it to the water.

Recently, Sir David Attenborough presented a two-part BBC television programme “Rise of the Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates”.  This programme documented the evolution of animals with backbones from the earliest forms that swam in Cambrian seas to the evolution of mammals, primates and ultimately ourselves.  Tiktaalik featured prominently in the first part of the documentary, some wonderful animation showed how vertebrate palaeontologists imagined Tiktaalik used its appendages to get itself about.  Interestingly, in the clip the rear limbs are featured, but they do not play any part in the locomotion of the animal.  This new research suggests that Tiktaalik used its four proto-limbs in a quadrupedal motion.

Tiktaalik (T. roseae) A Life Reconstruction

Tiktaalik roseae life reconstruction.

A life reconstruction of Tiktaalik roseae.

Picture Credit: Kalliopi Monoyios, (University of Chicago).
14 01, 2014

Ancient Neanderthal DNA and US

By | January 14th, 2014|Key Stage 3/4|Comments Off on Ancient Neanderthal DNA and US

We May have the Neanderthals to Thank for Some Modern Human Diseases

Some of the diseases that plague our own species (Homo sapiens) may be as a result of our ancestors the Neanderthals (H. neanderthalensis).  A new study undertaken by a joint German and U.S. based team which has been published in the academic journal “Nature” suggests that our inherited genetic make-up has made us more susceptible to some types of disease.  In addition, for those of us who smoke, you can blame the Neanderthals for your inability to give up.  Genes passed down to our species from our very close relatives, may be responsible for our poor record when it comes to giving up addictions.

The Neanderthal In All of Us

Inherited genes from Neanderthal ancestors may make us more susceptible to certain types of disease.

Inherited genes from Neanderthal ancestors may make us more susceptible to certain types of disease.

The research team, comprising of scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology (Germany) and the Harvard Medical School (USA) also revealed that other traits such as strong nails, hair colour and the ability to cope better in cold climates might be as a result of our species partial Neanderthal heritage.

What is Inheritance?

Children inherit their genetic information from their parents (half from the mother, half from the father).  Genetic information is information which is inherited from the parents of organisms by the offspring.  Certain characteristics of all organisms are determined by genetic information and this research team has identified a number of traits that has been passed onto our own species by Homo neanderthalensis or our shared common ancestor.

What Proportion of our Genetic Make Up is Neanderthal?

In those members of the human population who are described as non-African in origin, (particularly non-sub-Saharan African), there is a small amount of Neanderthal DNA present in their genome.  A genome is an organisms complete set of genes, all the information and instructions required to build and maintain that organism.  The level of identifiable and traceable Neanderthal DNA varies from approximately 2% to around 4%, a small amount, but this is not surprising since it is believed that the Neanderthals and our species common ancestor lived around 500,000 years ago.  The amount of DNA we share with Neanderthals is still higher than expected given the estimated length of time since our common ancestor lived.  Two main theories have been proposed:

  • Firstly, the dating of the split from a common ancestor may be earlier than previously thought, around 350,000 years ago for example
  • Or, that cross-breeding between these two very closely related species occurred resulting in the higher level of Neanderthal inherited DNA

To read a more detailed article about this research: Study Suggests That Some Human Diseases Linked to Inherited Neanderthal DNA

13 01, 2014

Marine Reptiles – Dressed in “Little Black Numbers”

By | January 13th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Study Suggests Some Marine Reptiles May Have Been Black in Colour

Although, technically “black” is an absence of colour, a study into the organic signatures of the hides of ancient marine reptiles indicates that these creatures may have been coloured black, or at least dark-skinned.  The inability to detect evidence of other pigments does not necessarily mean that the likes of Mosasaurs, Ichthyosaurs and ancient marine turtles were all coloured black, but an intriguing report published in the scientific journal “Nature” sheds light on the possibility that extinct marine monsters could have been black or at least partially black.

Recent research by vertebrate palaeontologists has provided an insight into the potential colouration of a number of extinct animals.  Perhaps most notably members of the Dinosauria.  Such research conducted by institutions such as Bristol University has opened up the possibility of pigments in preserved impressions of dinosaur skin being analysed (melanosome analysis) and some measure of colouration determined.

To read more about identifying the colour of dinosaurs: Ginger Dinosaurs?

The team of scientists from Lund University (Sweden) set out to investigate the potential colouration of marine reptiles, by examining fossils of a marine turtle, related to today’s extant Leatherback turtle along with the fossilised remains of a species of Mosasaur (Tylosaurus nepaeolicus) and an Ichthyosaurus.  Although these reptiles are only distantly related, they all represent organisms that evolved from terrestrial ancestors, at least according to most researchers, although the evolution of the Chelonia (tortoises, turtles and so forth) and how many times various branches of this particular reptilian family tree took to life in a marine environment remains open to speculation.

Under the guidance of one of the paper’s lead authors, Johan Lindgren (Lund University), the research team studied an early Jurassic Ichthyosaur fossil (specimen number YORYM 993.338) dating from around 196 million years ago, along with the fossils of a Late Cretaceous Mosasaur (Tylosaurus spp.) from around 86 million years ago (Santonian faunal stage) and the preserved remains of a distant relative of today’s Leatherback turtle (Eosphargis breineri) which dates from the Palaeogene – 56 million years ago.

Could Ancient Ichthyosaur Fossils Yield Further Data on Animal Pigmentation?
Ichthyosaur Fossils

Ichthyosaur Fossils Hiding Colour Secrets?

Picture Credit: CGC

Scientists know that adaptive colouration (the colour of organisms) plays many critical roles, from providing camouflage, to a visual display to attract a mate or to settle disputes amongst rivals, as well as to ward off potential attackers, or to indicate to any predator that they are poisonous or unpleasant to eat and so on.  One of the most common pigments found in the animal kingdom is melanin.  It too serves a multitude of functions including permitting dark colouration that helps cold-blooded animals regulate their body temperatures.

Black tends to absorb heat from the sun, much more efficiently than lighter colours which can reflect heat away.  The higher absorption rate can help dark-skinned reptiles to warm up more quickly at the start of the day and retain heat for longer when the sun sets.  For example, marine iguanas feed by diving into the cold sea that surrounds their Galapagos Islands home.  Their black skins with large amounts of the biochrome (biochrome is another term for a natural pigment), melanin present help them to absorb heat quickly from the sun.

In the study, the scientists used a scanning electron microscope to identify minute, traces of the shape of biochromes preserved within the fossil material.  These “organic signatures” were then analysed using a highly sensitive spectrometer to assess the likely composition of the individual molecules preserved in the specimens.

Commenting on the findings of their research, Lindgren stated:

“The most sensational aspect of the study is that it can now be established that the analysed ancient marine reptiles were, at least partially, dark-coloured in life.”

Being dark in colour offers marine animals a number of advantages, especially if they are cold-blooded.  Leatherback turtles can be found in relatively cold waters, certainly outside of the tropics.  For example, these turtles, the largest turtle species in the world, have been sighted off the coast of Cornwall and further North up the Irish Sea in the height of summer.  These turtles with their dark backs are known to bask at the surface, absorbing heat from the sun.  Their colouration helps them to warm up quicker and to reach a higher body temperature.  Such colouration might help these creatures exploit food sources in otherwise inaccessible habitats, they can extend their habitable range.  The research team was able to demonstrate that dark traces of soft tissue preserved in the fossil material had large amounts of the degraded remains of eumelanin present, in intimate association with the fossilised melanosomes.  The eumelanin, which is a naturally occurring,  common form of melanin refracts light in such a way that objects appear dark brown or black.  Based on this data, the scientists concluded that at least part of the turtle, the Mosasaur and the Ichthyosaur were coloured black.

In addition, in contrast to counter shading seen in many pelagic animals (pelagic – refers to an organism living above the sea floor), such as Great White Sharks, where the top part of the animal is dark contrasting with a lighter underside some types of Ichthyosaurs may have been black all over.

Typical Example of Counter Shading Seen in a Marine Animal
Counter shading - light undersides contrasts with the darker "top side".

Counter shading – light undersides contrasts with the darker “top side”.

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd

The model above is from the 2014 releases by Safari Ltd.  It represents a C. megalodon, an enormous, extinct shark.  Scientists believe that this fish was an active hunter of the open sea and therefore the design team at Safari Ltd have given their replica classical counter shading of a nektonic (actively swimming) marine predator.

The detection method used failed to identify any notable amounts of other biochromes, notably ones responsible for yellow and red colours.  This does not mean to say that scientists can rule out the possibility of yellow Mosasaurs for example.  These biochromes are perhaps less likely to survive the fossilisation process, they may also be present but not able to be detected given our current technology.  All that can be suggested from this study is that there is evidence to suggest that some types of Ichthyosaur may have been dark coloured, whilst the Mosasaur and the fossil Leatherback turtle provide evidence of these animals being dark coloured on the top parts of their bodies with perhaps lighter shading underneath (as seen in extant Leatherback turtles).

Evolutionary, behavioural ecologist Ted Stankowich (California State University) commented:

“While the presence of other undetected pigments cannot be ruled out, particularly dark pigmentation in these fossils suggests that they might have been able to live in more extreme environments or have used pigmentation patterns as camouflage in dark waters.”

Looking at extant Leatherback turtles, with their dark backs, the scientists suggest that dark pigmentation evolved separately amongst these ancient species which are not closely related.  This could be a case of convergent evolution with different organisms evolving the same adaptive solutions to help them survive.  That is why the streamlined bodies of Ichthyosaurs, superficially resemble modern-day dolphins.  Ichthyosaurs and dolphins are not closely related but they have developed similar features.   The dark pigmentation in these marine reptiles could have evolved to help regulate internal body temperatures, as protection against sunburn and camouflage.

Lindgren added that the ancient Leatherback turtle studied probably had a similar colour and lifestyle to extant Leatherbacks.  Similarly, Mosasaurs and Ichthyosaurs may have benefited from their dark skins helping them to warm up between dives and to camouflage them in the darker depths of surface waters.

Other scientists are more cautious, asserting that care needs to be taken before jumping to conclusions based on limited sampling of the fossil record.  Indeed, more needs to be learned about the benefits of dark colouration for extant marine organisms before too much can be inferred with regards to the inhabitants of ancient marine ecosystems.

A spokes person from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“This study extends our understanding of pigmentation preserved in the fossil record, beyond that of analyses related to proto-feathers and other examples of integumentation.  However, if we take the Order Ichthyosauria (Ichthyosaurs), this is a very diverse assemblage of marine animals.  These highly successful reptiles evolved into a number of different forms, with different sizes, body shapes and methods of feeding.  Although a uniform, dark colouration might be supported from the evidence of this study, this does not mean that all types of Ichthyosaur were coloured black.”

Some Ichthyosaurs May have Been Dark Coloured
Dark coloured Ichthyosaurs according to new study.

Dark coloured Ichthyosaurs according to new study.

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd

The Ichthyosaurus pictured above from the Carnegie scale model collectibles range made by Safari Ltd.  The design responsible for creating this 1:10 scale model of a “fish lizard” have intuitively given their replica a dark back. A team of researchers have postulated that a number of marine reptiles, including Ichthyosaurs may well have been dark coloured.

Knowing a little about the potential colour of an animal can give palaeontologists the opportunity to obtain information on how an animal might have lived, what particular ecological niche it was adapted to.  These three disparate lineages of marine reptile (turtles, Mosasaurs and Ichthyosaurs), provide evidence of convergent evolution in the form of increased melanism.  Based on extant examples, such as Leatherback turtles today, this study suggests that this colouration evolved to assist with thermoregulation and/or to help these creatures adapt to living in more extreme climate conditions such as much colder waters.

Marine reptiles sporting “little black numbers” as one of our colleagues referred to this study.

12 01, 2014

In Praise of David Attenborough’s Life on Earth

By | January 12th, 2014|Animal News Stories, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Press Releases|0 Comments

BBC Television Series “Life on Earth” Still Impresses

The BBC are repeating on Saturday morning (BBC 2), the ground breaking television series “Life on Earth”.  This thirteen part television series was first broadcast in 1979, the first episode entitled “The Infinite Variety” was first aired in the United Kingdom on the 16th January 1979.  In essence, this television series, voted one of the best television programmes of all time by British viewers, is celebrating its 35th birthday this week.

“Life on Earth: A Natural History”, narrated by David Attenborough may have reached middle age but the amazing imagery, fantastic photography and superb commentary makes it as fresh today as it was all those years ago.  It was the first in a long-line of natural history programmes made by the BBC and narrated by Sir David.  The format is very simple, the programmes, designed to fit into a typical quarter-year for a scheduler (hence thirteen episodes), traces the history of life on our planet with each programme telling the story of a major group of organisms or major evolutionary development.

Life on Earth Celebrates Its 35th Birthday This Week

Life on Earth first shown in 1979.

Life on Earth first shown in 1979.

Picture Credit: BBC

The series sees, Sir David travelling the world and it was made in conjunction with Warner Bros. and Reiner Moritz Productions.  The soundtrack music, which itself was highly regarded, was composed by Edward Williams.  For team members at Everything Dinosaur, this television series remains right up there with some of the best programmes that the BBC has ever made.  Some of us can recall watching this programme when it first was shown back in 1979.  It helped fuel our interest in the natural world and evolution.  Although, some of the information and imagery used in this television series has now been made redundant as our understanding of evolution and fossils has progressed somewhat, it is still compulsive viewing.

“Life on Earth” won the Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Best Documentary Series, it was also nominated for four BAFTA television awards in the following categories:

  • Best Television Factual Series (lost to Circuit 11 Miami)
  • Television Craft/Film Cameraman (lost to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)
  • Television Craft/Film Editor (we are not sure who won the BAFTA in 1980)
  • Television Craft/Film Sound (lost to Speed King)

We are pleased that the dedicated team behind this series received recognition for their superb work, we think Sir David Attenborough was granted Fellowship of the BAFTA academy in 1980.  However, for us this television series is still a great pleasure to watch and it does bring back happy memories of when we first saw these programmes more than thirty years ago.

11 01, 2014

New Species of Slender-nosed Crocodile Discovered in Africa

By | January 11th, 2014|Animal News Stories|1 Comment

African Crocodile Diversity Just Gets More and More Complicated

It seems that today’s extant reptiles have still got a lot to teach us about their phylogeny and taxonomic relationships as a team of scientists studying crocodiles in central Africa have discovered a new species of these ancient creatures.  According to a scientific paper published in the academic journal “The Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biology)”, the rare Slender-snouted crocodile (Mescistops cataphractus) is actually two species and these two species diverged from each other at least seven million years ago.

An analysis of molecular data and genetic samples provided the University of Florida team, who working in collaboration with scientists from Gabon, with the evidence to suggest that there are two distinct species present in the central African crocodile population.

A New Species of Slender-nosed Crocodile May Have Been Identified

New species of Crocodilian discovered.

New species of Crocodilian discovered.

Picture Credit: Matt Shirley

Describing how the discovery was made, lead author of the paper Matthew Shirley stated:

“It was simply a matter of going to places people before us never wanted to go or thought possible to go.”

This part of Africa had been beset with civil war, local militias and lack of infrastructure, the sites where Slender-nosed crocodiles could still be found were remote and very difficult to get access to.

Post doctorate researcher Shirley and his team have not only identified two genetically different species, but they have noted anatomical and physical differences too.

The researcher explained:

“There were actually two different species of Slender-snouted crocodile, as well as one sub-species, described in the past.  Over the years these were all synonymised with Mecistops cataphractus, but we are now faced with the necessity of determining if any of these previous names is equally applicable to the new taxa.”

When it comes to the scientific names of organisms, any binomial name attributed in the past may take precedence, it will be a question of trawling through the archives to see if such a name exists.  This new discovery has very important implications for the conservation of these small, Africa crocodiles.  The split between the two species suggests that the West African Slender-nosed crocodile is on the verge of extinction.

Matthew Shirley commented on how vulnerable to extinction these crocodiles are:

“Over the past eight years of effort I and others have detected less than fifty Slender-snouted crocodiles in the wild in West Africa, and of these less than seven were adults, compared to nearly 2,000 in Central Africa over the same time period and survey effort.  We recently evaluated its status for the 2014 IUCN [International Union for the Conservation of Nature] Red List and found that it is Critically Endangered making it one of the top Crocodilian conservation priorities globally along with  the decline of Gharials, Siamese and Orinoco crocodiles.”

The research team called for drastic measures to help these critically endangered crocodiles.  It has been suggested that captive breeding programmes should be introduced with what crocodiles left in the wild being captured and put into zoos to permit the population to be boosted before any animals bred in captivity are released back into the wild.

Recently, crocodiles native to the African continent have gone through a considerable taxonomic revision.  Up until recently only three species of Crocodilian were recognised in Africa, the very dangerous Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus), the Slender-snouted nosed crocodile (Mescistops cataphractus) and the Dwarf crocodile, also often referred to as Broad-snouted crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis).  Studies (also involving staff from Florida University), have suggested that there are two distinct Nile crocodile species, and three, genetically different types of Dwarf crocodile.

Potentially Two Species of Nile Crocodile

Scientists research the dentition of Crocodilians.

Scientists research the genetic characteristics  of Crocodilians.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

If the scientific community recognises all of these new species then the species count for Africa will jump from three to seven.  These changes will mean a re-evaluation of total crocodile numbers in the wild and will have implications for future Crocodilian conservation.

10 01, 2014

Dino Toy Forum Soon to be Up and Running Again

By | January 10th, 2014|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|2 Comments

Dino Toy Forum and Dinosaur Toy Blog Temporarily Down

Fans of dinosaur and prehistoric animal models may have encountered some difficulty logging onto the Dino Toy Forum and the related Dinosaur Toy Blog  over the last few days.  With so many new replicas due to be introduced this year it can be a little frustrating for all the enthusiastic and dedicated forum members.  However, Everything Dinosaur has been assured that the current difficulties will soon be sorted and these vibrant forums will soon be up and running again.

The reason for the downtime, is that both these sites are currently in maintenance mode prior to transfer to a new server, normal service will be resumed very shortly.

Over the last few days, Everything Dinosaur team members had received a number of emails from forum members asking what might have happened, we have been doing our best to allay any concerns replying to all those received, a spokes person from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We are confident that it will be business as usual very shortly.  It has to be remembered that these sites are a real labour of love for the forum administrators and they have fit in updates, amendments and any changes into their busy work schedules.  All concerned should be congratulated for doing such an excellent job.”

Speaking on behalf of the Dino Toy Forum and the Dinosaur Toy Blog, Adam Stuart Smith, one of the leading lights of these two sites, stated:

“Yes, there has been a small hiccup during the migration and there have been some small difficulties with the login page.  However, we are working hard to resolve the problem and that both the blog and the forum will be up and running again ASAP.”

Everything Dinosaur has been assured that nobody’s streams and comments have been lost, everything will be functioning back to normal very soon.

In the meantime, Adam recommends checking the Dino Toy Blog for additional information and updates: Dino Toy Blog

Update

Just as promised, those clever people behind the Dino Toy Blog and the Dino Toy Forum have sorted everything out, and these sites are now up and running once again.

9 01, 2014

Papo Introduce Set of Mini Dinosaur Models

By | January 9th, 2014|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

New for 2014 A Tub of Mini Dinosaur Models from Papo

Papo of France, the innovative manufacturer of models, figures and replicas will be adding a set of six mini dinosaur models to their growing prehistoric animal themed product range.  The six dinosaurs, are just part of a number of product extensions that Papo have planned for 2014.  A source at Everything Dinosaur commented that Papo would be adding more than sixty-five replicas to their overall portfolio, the new additions include an eagerly awaited model of Archaeopteryx, as well as a Dilophosaurus and a baby Triceratops.

To learn more about the Archaeopteryx figure and other new Papo introductions: New Prehistoric Animal Replicas from Papo

The Set of Six Dinosaur Models From Papo

A set of six dinosaur figures from Papo.

A set of six dinosaur figures from Papo.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

These are the first images that we have received, the appearance of the models may vary slightly from the pictures shown but they do give an impression of contents of the tub.  This is the first set of dinosaur models in the “mini Papo” range.  We have identified the models as a Brachiosaurus, a raptor (possibly a Velociraptor), Spinosaurus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus rex, and a Stegosaurus.  Papo currently offer these animals as part of their larger “The Dinosaurs” model range, perhaps these mini figures could represent juveniles that can then be displayed with the bigger models.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s current range of Papo prehistoric animal models: Papo Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animal Models

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated that this set of mini dinosaur models would probably be available around late May/June of 2014.

The Stegosaurus Dinosaur Model from the Mini Dinosaurs Tub

A mini Stegosaurus dinosaur model

A mini Stegosaurus dinosaur model

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

8 01, 2014

Update on Everything Dinosaur’s Social Media Activities

By | January 8th, 2014|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates|0 Comments

Checking on Everything Dinosaur’s Social Media Progress

It has been a very busy 2013 for Everything Dinosaur team members, what with all our outreach work with schools, universities and museums.  In addition, to packing and despatching all our customer orders we remain committed to updating all our social medial platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter etc.

As part of our New Year predictions, team members outlined the plans and targets for Everything Dinosaur’s social media activities over the next twelve months or so, these included the following:

  • Blog – to post up at least 365 articles in 2014 (if we do we will have posted up in excess of 2,800 articles it total on the Everything Dinosaur web log).
  • Ezine – to have 685 articles posted up on this platform by the year end
  • YouTube – to have produced another 35 videos and seen viewing figures go over the 800,000 mark in total
  • Pinterest – to have over 3,000 pins up on the Everything Dinosaur boards by December 31st 2014
  • Facebook – 1,200 likes and to continue to post up pictures, articles, snippets and so forth to encourage lively debate.
  • Twitter – 2,000 tweets

To read the article about Everything Dinosaur’s predictions, what news stories and features this blog will cover in 2014: Everything Dinosaur New Year Predictions – 2014

Let’s just take a few minutes to review progress/plans to date concerning some aspects of Everything Dinosaur’s social media status.

The blog is scheduled to have on-going maintenance on it throughout the next few months.  At the same time, team members are committed to posting up another 365 articles over the year.  If the maintenance is completed and if the articles are posted up, in reality Everything Dinosaur will have nearly 2,900 on line articles.  An extremely creditable performance.

The Ezine target is quite a challenge.  To date the company has posted up around 560 articles on this particular platform.  Although, it is not a priority for Everything Dinosaur, this does equate to ten, original articles approved and up each month.  We shall see how things progress.

YouTube videos, we enjoy researching, writing and producing these short (five minute) videos and they have been very well received by our customers.  We intend to post up new videos at the rate of three per month and if our current viewing figures are repeated throughout the year, then we should go past the 800,000 views figure in the next twelve months or so.  Over the next few days we expect to break through the 600,000 views mark only having celebrated reaching half a million views early in December.

Celebrating Reaching the Landmark of 500,000 YouTube Views

Half a million views on Everything Dinosaur's Youtube channel.

Half a million views on Everything Dinosaur’s YouTube channel.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

 As for the image platform, Pinterest, to date we have posted up around 1,590 pictures, articles and features, it is our aim to have over 3,000 up by the end of 2014, this equates to an effective doubling of our Pinterest presence, or to put it succinctly, we need to post up an average of thirty pictures a week to reach this target.  With our vast dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed database we certainly have the pictures and images to hand to enable us to do this.

With a target for Facebook likes of 1,200 genuine customer likes for the year, we have to earn a “like a day”, as Tyrannosaurus Sue says, so far we are just about on target to achieve this.  However, if you like this blog, our dedicated customer service and the fact that we are all round, nice people, feel free to visit our Facebook page and to give us a “like” it would be greatly appreciated.

Everything Dinosaur on Facebook

Click the logo to visit our Facebook page and to give our page a "like".

Click the logo to visit our Facebook page and to give our page a “like”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Our Twitter feed, is another social platform that we have been very proud to be involved in.  We have supported anti-bullying campaigns, promoted educational events and “tweeted” in support of teachers, the National Autism Society and other notable bodies.  We shall continue to work with this platform this year, but we won’t “tweet for a tweet’s sake”, we shall restrict our correspondence to pertinent and relevant information only.  Two thousand tweets is around 1,300 for the year, or about twenty-five per week.

We shall see how we do, keeping you posted on Everything Dinosaur’s progress.

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