All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
11 06, 2014

Teaching About Extinction Events at Key Stages 3 and 4

By | June 11th, 2014|Key Stage 3/4|Comments Off on Teaching About Extinction Events at Key Stages 3 and 4

Developing Thinking Skills – Challenging Current Theories

With the roll out of the new curriculum in England now only a few weeks away, it is an opportune time to reflect on how aspects of scientific enquiry will be taught at Key Stages Three and Four.  There is a greater emphasis on the individual science subject areas underpinned by the concept of applying scientific thinking and by “working scientifically”.  The fossil and dinosaur themed workshops conducted by team members at Everything Dinosaur already apply these principles, they demonstrate the links between observation, investigation and experimentation.  Team members are in the process of developing a range of new lesson plans, aimed at students in Year 7 and above.

Developing Creative Thinking to Challenge Established Ideas

Helping to reinforce learning by exploring ideas.

Helping to reinforce learning by exploring ideas.

With subject areas such as genetics, evolution and natural selection now covered at the Key Stage Three level, it is important that teaching is directed towards encouraging the development of higher order thinking skills.  Students will be asked to build on acquired knowledge from previous studies and to make connections between science subjects.  For example, learning about Darwin’s theory of natural selection as outlined in his ground-breaking book, “The Origin of Species”, then applying this knowledge to other curriculum topics such as climate change, extinction and the interrelationships between living things.

The new curriculum in England is described as “rigorous”, it will challenge both students and teaching professionals.

To receive more information about Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools: Contact Us to Learn More about School Workshops

Higher order thinking skills can be seen as a hierarchy, with a taxonomic structure from simply knowing about something to moving through several cognitive phases where by the student develops greater understanding and can apply similar concepts in other related areas of study.  Teaching professionals should encourage students to analysis and evaluate ideas.  Ultimately, when combined with a method that embraces scientific working, more able, confident students might be comfortable with challenging theories and established ideas.

11 06, 2014

Dinosaurs, Fossils, Extinction for Key Stages 3 and 4

By | June 11th, 2014|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Higher Order Thinking Skills Encouraged in Key Stages 3 and 4

Science remains at the core of the national curriculum for the United Kingdom.  Although there may be differences in the structure of the education systems in Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland, there is a strong emphasis on studying science subjects and with the new curriculum due to roll out in England from next September, the focus is on learning how to work scientifically.  The dinosaur and fossil themed workshops conducted by Everything Dinosaur have always attempted to demonstrate the links between observation, investigation, experimentation and evaluation.  Staff are busy preparing new lesson plans, specifically aimed at students in Year 7 and upwards.

Dinosaur, Extinction and Evolution (Key Stages 3 and 4)

Looking at the evolution of H. sapiens with Key Stage 3.

Looking at the evolution of H. sapiens with Key Stage 3.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

For Key Stage 3 for example, science teaching is now directed towards outcomes such as the encouragement of higher order thinking skills.  Students are encouraged to build on acquired knowledge learned in Key Stage 2 and to make connections between different areas of science.  At Everything Dinosaur, we use real aspects of palaeontology to explore key elements such as food chains, the interrelationships between living things, environmental change and extinction.

We aim to enthuse, motivate and engage, there are some fascinating and intriguing lesson plans and schemes of work coming together.

To learn more about our dinosaur workshops in schools: Dinosaur Workshops in School

10 06, 2014

The Dinosaur Four – Summer Reading

By | June 10th, 2014|Book Reviews, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Fiction for Older Dinosaur Fans

Everything Dinosaur team members undertake a lot of work with students who are in the formal education system.   Part of our focus, particularly with primary schools, is to help teachers by encouraging children to write about dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.  We are keen to see the children’s creative writing and yesterday, we wrote a short blog article about the letters received from a Key Stage 1 class in Lancashire.  However, in the United Kingdom many adults struggle with reading and writing.  The National Literacy Trust has reported that about five percent of adults in England have literacy levels below those expected of a child aged eleven.  That is something like 1.7 million adults.

We do what we can to encourage adults to read more, the mums and dads that we meet on our travels, when team members are working in museums and other institutions.  One of the best ways to get back into reading, to gain more confidence as a reader and to increase your vocabulary is to read books which relate to your hobbies and interests.  Over the weekend, we heard about a new novel written with the science fiction/dinosaur enthusiast in mind, the book is called “The Dinosaur Four”, written by Colorado based Geoff Jones.

 The Front Cover “The Dinosaur Four”

The Dinosaur Four

The Dinosaur Four

Picture Credit: Geoff Jones

Colorado is a great place for a writer of dinosaur themed novels to come from, after all, the state fossil of Colorado is Stegosaurus!  This book has already attracted a number of very positive reviews:

A vivid journey through time!

“If you are looking for a good book for the summer, look no further!  Going back in time with this ensemble cast was a thrilling and visceral adventure.  I highly recommend digging your teeth into this tasty novel.”


“I loved this book.  It was exactly what a book about dinosaurs should be: a fast paced adventure that’s exciting and smart.  I enjoyed the characters almost as much as I enjoyed reading the descriptions of the dinosaurs they encountered.  Highly recommended.”

The book has been described as a Stephen King-style science fiction thriller and it tells the dramatic story of ten ordinary folk who find themselves transported back some sixty-six million years to the Late Cretaceous.

In the notes we received, the plot is briefly outlined..

Business is brisk at the Daily Edition Cafe as Tim MacGregor arrives to meet his new girlfriend.  Two joggers enjoy a hit of caffeine before work.  A delivery man takes a break from his route.  Behind the counter, the baristas are busy brewing, frothing, and pouring.  However, on this morning, the cafe and the people inside are suddenly transported millions of years into the past.

Ten strangers find themselves in the world of Triceratops horridus and Tyrannosaurus rex.  Three survivors compete for leadership of the group, while another plots to keep them all in the past. Tim only wants to find out what caused the disaster and how to get home.

With a background in the video game industry and with a degree in creative writing from the University of Colorado, Geoff’s debut novel “The Dinosaur Four” is described as a fast-paced action-adventure mixed with carnage and suspense in the tradition of Jaws, the Mist and Jurassic Park.  For those grown-ups getting their prehistoric animal fix with the movie Godzilla, but who can’t wait for Jurassic World to come out next year, this book might be just what they need to fill the gap.

Triceratops horridus – features in “The Dinosaur Four”

Bringing "three horned face" to life.

Bringing “three horned face” to life.

Picture Credit: Julius Csotonyi

As the summer holidays approach, perhaps this is one book that dinosaur fans might want to consider adding to their reading list.

To learn more about the book and where it can be purchased, visit the authors website: Geoff Jones Writer

A word of warning though, this novel deals with adult themes, it is not suitable for children.

9 06, 2014

Class 2T Learn About Fossils and Dinosaurs

By | June 9th, 2014|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Year 2 Pupils at Morecambe Primary School Study Dinosaurs

After a morning of dinosaur workshops working with children studying Key Stage 1, Everything Dinosaur set the pupils a challenge.  We had done our best to answer their questions as we explored fossils and prehistoric animals but inevitably there was not enough time to answer some of the questions that the children had prepared.  So with Mrs Todd’s and Miss Bolton’s permission (Year 2 teachers), a creative writing exercise was proposed. The children were challenged to write to the Everything Dinosaur offices telling us about their favourite dinosaur or prehistoric animal fact.  If they had a question, then this too could be sent into us for our dinosaur experts to have a look at.

A few days ago, we received a big pile of letters from the children in class two.  There was even a drawing of a fearsome looking monster on the back of the envelope that contained the children’s correspondence.

Colourful Envelope with Prehistoric Animal Drawing

Colourful drawing from school children.

Colourful drawing from school children.

Picture Credit: Class Two

There were certainly a lot of amazing questions contained in the letters and plenty of dinosaur facts as well.  Class 2 certainly enjoyed themselves, Billy, Alice B, Jack B, Ellie, Amy, Darcey, Jenny, Nathan, Freya and Zara all declared that they would like to become palaeontologists when they are older.  With over 1,200 different types of dinosaur having been discovered, I think we will be glad of their help.  The children had illustrated their letters with lots of beautiful drawings of prehistoric animals, we have posted some up onto our warehouse wall.

Zara Drew an Orange Coloured Dinosaur

A bright orange dinosaur.

A bright orange dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Zara (Class Two)

Whilst at the school, we met a budding scientist called Alexa so we told her and the rest of the class about a dinosaur that had a similar name to hers.  We discussed Alxasaurus and on return to the office we emailed over some further information about this particular dinosaur.  Gabby was pleased to hear about Alxasaurus and in answer to the question asked, scientists think that this dinosaur would have been about a metre taller than Mrs Cronshaw (teaching assistant).

Jasmine’s Letter Featured a Purple Long-Necked Dinosaur

A purple dinosaur by Jasmine.

A purple dinosaur by Jasmine.

Picture Credit:  Jasmine  (Class Two)

We had lots of prehistoric animal drawings to admire.  Adam drew some Ammonite shells and asked how old would the oldest T. rex be?  This is quite a tricky question, but palaeontologists think that the biggest Tyrannosaurus rex known, the dinosaur whose fossils can be seen in a museum in Chicago (USA), was probably around thirty years old when she died.  The biggest Tyrannosaurs probably reached lengths of around thirteen to fourteen metres, we hope this answers Alissia’s question.  Our thanks to Isaac who informed us that T. rex lived in North America.

The most popular question that we received was why do dinosaurs battle?  This question was asked by Hannah, Harry, Jack and Lawson.  Dinosaurs fighting can be seen in films and on television, although, like animals today, for much of the time, most dinosaurs kept themselves to themselves.  The carnivores would have hunted and attacked herbivores, whilst some herbivores like the horned dinosaurs may have fought amongst themselves to settle disputes in the herd.  Some meat-eating dinosaurs would have battled others of their own species in fights over resources such as territories or disputes over rights to claim a carcase of another dinosaur for a meal.  In most cases, when dinosaurs of the same species argued, it would have been rare for them to come to blows.  Usually, as with animals today most disputes were settled with displays before a fight.  Amongst most dinosaurs fighting one of their own species would have been very much a last resort – good question though.

Colourful Prehistoric Animals Drawn by Jack

Thanks for the labels Jack.

Thanks for the labels Jack.

Picture Credit: Jack (Class Two)

Kaylee asked how many bones in a Tyrannosaurus rex?  This is another tricky question, as since no complete fossilised skeleton of Tyrannosaurus rex has ever been found, nobody knows for sure.  A typical human body contains 206 bones, T. rex probably had more bones than we do, it may not have had as many fingers but it had belly ribs called gastralia which we do not and it had a lot of bones in its long tail, perhaps as many as forty.  The bones that it did have in its body were much larger than the equivalent bones found in a human being, after all, Tyrannosaurus rex was much bigger than us.

Kaylee’s Prehistoric Scene in Her Letter to Everything Dinosaur

A long-necked dinosaur.

A long-necked dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Kaylee (Class Two)

We also received questions about extinction.  Some children wanted to know how big was the space rock that crashed into Earth, scientists estimate that it was around ten kilometres (six miles) in diameter.  It was travelling at over thirty kilometres (eighteen miles) a second, that is quick enough to travel from Morecambe in Lancashire to Sydney in Australia in around five minutes.  Some of the very last dinosaurs to have lived were Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops and Edmontosaurus.  Questions about the space rock, its size and which were the last types of dinosaur were asked by Joe, Eve, Lydia and Alice T.W.

A big thank you to all the children for the letters, hopefully we have been able to answer them all.  A special thank you to Mrs McGowan, Mrs Cronshaw, Miss Bolton, Mrs Coulthard, Mrs Jackson and Miss Woodcock for their assistance during the dinosaur workshops.

Now it’s time to pop into the warehouse and pin some more pictures up onto the wall.

To learn about Everything Dinosaur’s prehistoric animal themed workshops in schools: Dinosaur Workshops in School

8 06, 2014

Prehistoric Shark Helps Key Stage 2 Get to Grips with Maths

By | June 8th, 2014|Key Stage 1/2|Comments Off on Prehistoric Shark Helps Key Stage 2 Get to Grips with Maths

Fossilised Shark Teeth as “Greater Than” and “Less Than” Symbols

Everything Dinosaur team members have developed a number of creative lesson plans to help Key Stage one and Key Stage two pupils to get used to mathematical terms and symbols.  Whether it is using a list of extinct, prehistoric animals to encourage thinking in terms of how data might be presented or learning how to record information accurately by measuring dinosaur teeth, the Everything Dinosaur staff have developed an array of creative lesson plans.

A number of Higher Learning Teaching Assistants have approached us asking for advice on how our fossil collection and dinosaur knowledge could be used to help primary school pupils get to grips with mathematical symbols and their correct usage.  For instance, our hard-working staff were asked to think up ways to help children from six years of age recognise and recall what certain signs and symbols represent.

A great deal of emphasis has been placed on young learners being able to make connections between numbers, shapes and symbols.  During upper Key Stage one, school children develop knowledge of and an understanding of symbols used in mathematics.  If we can build in a fun and creative prehistoric animal theme then the pupils will be encouraged to apply their knowledge – so why not use some giant, fossil shark teeth to help children learn about the “less than” and the “greater than” symbols.

C. megalodon Shark Teeth Fossils Help Children with Maths

The shape of the teeth helps children learn mathematical symbols.

The shape of the teeth helps children learn mathematical symbols.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur team members use pictures of the gigantic, fossilised teeth of a huge prehistoric shark commonly called Megalodon, with the scientific epithet – C. megalodon, to create the mathematical symbols.  As children move on from Key Stage one, they are expected to be able to recognise that the position of a number gives its value and to use correctly the “less than” and “greater than” symbols.

Scale drawing of C. megalodon.

Scale drawing of C. megalodon.

The shark teeth are from the company’s extensive fossil collection.  Fortunately, this prehistoric shark became extinct around 1.5 million years ago, extinction is another topic area that team members explore using fossil material.  Teeth from these monsters fascinate children and being able to handle one and view it up close is a memorable experience – helping to reinforce learning.

8 06, 2014

Microwarmer Soft Toy Dinosaurs from Everything Dinosaur

By | June 8th, 2014|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Dinosaur Soft Toys – Microwarmer Dinosaurs

Just in stock at Everything Dinosaur and timed nicely it seems with the return of cold and showery weather for most of the UK, are these super microwarmer soft toy dinosaurs.  There are three in the series, a cuddly T. rex (if you can imagine such a thing), a friendly Stegosaurus and a cute Triceratops.  These soft toys have a special pocket in their tummies, inside you will find a cloth sachet that contains linseed.  Put this sachet into the microwave to warm up and then pop it back into the dinosaur to create a super, warm and cosy soft toy dinosaur.

The Microwarmer Tyrannnosaurus rex Dinosaur Soft Toy

A soft toy that also acts as a hot water bottle.

A soft toy that also acts as a hot water bottle.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

With sales of these items supporting the Natural History Museum, mums and dads are going to like them too.  The sachet pops inside the tummy of the dinosaur and it keeps warm for quite a long time.  These microwarmer dinosaurs are so much more practical than a hot water bottle.

The Soft and Cuddly Stegosaurus in the Range

We have taken out the linseed sachet so you can see how big it is.

We have taken out the linseed sachet so you can see how big it is.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Microwaveable dinosaur soft toys make excellent bedtime buddies for young dinosaur fans. We think these are suitable for children from three years and upwards.  A point made by one of our reviewers was that the material was not only very soft but also sensible, it is sponge washable.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of soft toy dinosaurs including microwaveable dinosaurs: Dinosaur Soft Toys

The Microwarmer Triceratops Dinosaur Soft Toy

A friendly, cute Triceratops soft toy.

A friendly, cute Triceratops soft toy.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Each of these microwaveable soft toys measures at least twelve inches in length, the Stegosaurus is nearly fifteen inches long and they are bound to prove popular with young dinosaur fans.  Each soft toy comes with easy to follow instructions.

Microwave advice as follows (based on a microwave with a turntable and on full power)

Microwave rating 0 to 800 Watts – maximum heating time sixty seconds

Microwave rating from 801 to 1,000 Watts – maximum heating time forty-five seconds

If for any reason you heat up your linseed pouch for too long, and it becomes too hot, no need to worry, simply carefully pick up the sachet and place it on a heat-proof surface to cool down.

7 06, 2014

Design a Dinosaur T-shirt Competition

By | June 7th, 2014|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Design a Dinosaur T-shirt Competition from Everything Dinosaur

Team members at Everything Dinosaur have been working on a number of new ideas and designs for the company’s own range of prehistoric animal themed T-shirts for children.  We have lots of ideas, but we thought to ourselves why don’t we give a budding palaeontologist the chance to design their very own, personalised dinosaur tee?

Please note this competition is now closed.

Stegosaurus has been busy helping the team members sort out all the ideas, but with a brain the size of a walnut, our poor Stegosaurus is struggling – so it is over to you.  Simply design a dinosaur themed T-shirt and email a picture of your design over to us and we will print the one we all like the best and then send the designer their very own, unique piece of “dino wear”.

What Prehistoric Animal Themed T-shirt Can You Come Up With?

What dinosaur themed design will you come up with?

What dinosaur themed design will you come up with?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Just email a picture of your design to: Email Everything Dinosaur

Remember, we are looking for a T-shirt designed for children, from age ranges 3 -12 years, so nothing too complicated.  Ideally, the design should fit on the front of a T-shirt covering a space 10 inches wide by 12 inches long (25cm by 30cm) approximately.  Apart from that anything goes – a Tyrannosaurus rex  attempting to hang glide, a Triceratops using its horns to help wind up knitting wool, our Stegosaurus struggling with maths – whatever “shakes your sieve” as we palaeontologists say.

Words, pictures or a combination of both it is entirely up to you.

The Range of Colours in the T-shirt Range 

Five colours for the T-shirts being considered.

Five colours for the T-shirts being considered.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed clothing: Dinosaur Clothing Ideas

At the moment our team members (aided by Stegosaurus) are looking at five colour options for the T-shirt range.  There is a yellow, green, pink, blue and a Tyrannosaurus red currently being considered.  Our dinosaur themed T-shirts are going to be quite colourful – how will  your design turn out?

The winning design will be made up into a T-shirt and then this shirt, (once we have the right size measurements) will be sent out to the lucky winner!

Just email a picture of your design to us at Everything Dinosaur: Email the T-shirt Designs

Terms and Conditions of the Design a Dinosaur T-shirt Competition

Automated entries are not permitted and will be excluded from the competition

Only one entry per person

The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative will be offered

The Everything Dinosaur name a dinosaur caption competition runs until June 17th 2014.

Winner will be notified by private message sent by email.

Prize includes postage and packing

For full terms and conditions contact: Contact Everything Dinosaur

Please note this competition is now closed.

6 06, 2014

Anthracosuchus balrogus Giant Palaeocene Crocodile

By | June 6th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Columbian Giant Crocodile – Anthracosuchus balrogus

Vertebrate fossils from a coal mine in north-eastern Columbia have provided palaeontologists with a fascinating insight into life in the tropics in the first few million years after the Cretaceous mass extinction event.  The dinosaurs may have gone but preserved in the Cerrejón Formation are the remains of giant reptiles who were the apex predators within this rainforest community.  A paper has just been published in the scientific journal “Historical Biology” that reports on the discovery of yet another large crocodile genus from this locality, one that probably preyed upon giant turtles, it in turn may have been hunted by Titanoboa, the largest snake known to science.

Crocodiles may be referred to as “living fossils”, a term that most palaeontologists dislike as it suggests that organisms do not change much over time.  True, the basic body plan (bauplan) of the Crocodilians may not have changed much since the early Mesozoic, but the fossil record shows that crocodiles evolved to occupy a vast array of ecological niches.  This new discovery, a crocodile named Anthracosuchus demonstrates this as it had a blunt, short snout, in direct contrast to its long-snouted close relatives.

The new species lived in what was an inland, freshwater environment, an extensive tropical floodplain that was covered in dense jungle and crossed by a number of large rivers which led into the nascent Caribbean Sea.  South America was an island, there was also a substantial marine intrusion to the west of the Cerrejón Formation, this marine environment stretching into what is now central Bolivia.  Reptiles dominated the ecosystem and at 4.8 metres in length Anthracosuchus, with its very powerful jaws was probably a top predator.

 Views of Skull Material Ascribed to this Genus (A. balrogus)

A crocodile with a blunt, broad snout.

A crocodile with a blunt, broad snout.

Picture Credit: Alexander K. Hastings et al

The picture above shows two of the four fossil skulls assigned to this new genus.  The top images are a view of the skulls looking down onto them, viewing the top (dorsal view), the two images underneath are views of the underside of the skulls (ventral view).  All the fossil material including limb bones, teeth and osteoderms (armoured scales) were excavated from a clay layer immediately below a layer of coal in the Cerrejón mine.  The fossils date from 58-60 million years ago (Palaeocene).  This crocodile has been classed as a member of the dyrosaurid crocodiles, a widely dispersed group of Late Cretaceous/Palaeocene crocodiles that, for the most part are marine and characterised by long, narrow snouts.  Here is a member of the Dyrosauridae, with a very different snout and one from strata laid down inland.  These types of crocodile are now extinct, it is believed an ancestor of the dyrosaurids was the mighty Sarcosuchus whose fossils are associated with Cretaceous aged strata from Niger (Africa).

The first skull of this new dyrosaurid was discovered in 2005, but the skull was missing its front end.  The back of the skull indicated that this type of crocodile probably had a blunt, short snout.  This was confirmed in 2007 when a second skull, this time with its front end intact, was found.  Two more skulls were excavated later on that year, making the total number of individuals known to be at least four.  The new species of crocodile was discovered by a team of University of Florida researchers, led by Jonathan Bloch, Associate Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, Alexander Hastings (Florida Museum of Natural History), assisted by Carlos Jaramillo, a palaeobotanist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.  All specimens of the new taxon are deposited at the Museo Geológico José Royo y Gómez, Colombian Geological Survey, Bogotá, Colombia.  Casts of these specimens are also deposited at the collections of the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Anthracosuchus means “coal crocodile”, a reference to the fossil remains being found adjacent to a coal seam.  The trivial or specific name is derived from “Balrog”,  a fiery demon that features in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”.  Balrog inhabited the deep mines of Moria, so since this crocodile’s fossils have been found in a mine, the trivial name is very apt.

A number of crocodile fossils have been found at the Cerrejón site, to read about the discovery of another, related crocodile species: New Crocodile Species in Columbian Mine

Remains of turtle shells, discovered in close proximity to the crocodile fossils, show signs of damage.  There are scratches, most likely made by teeth and also at least one example of a healed bite mark.  The scratches and bite marks match the profile of the teeth of A. balrogus, this suggests that this crocodile, related to long-snouted dyrosaurids, adapted to an inland habitat and a diet of turtles.

 Fossilised Turtle Carapace Showing Traces of Crocodile Bites

Was this damage caused by a hungry Anthracosuchus?

Was this damage caused by a hungry Anthracosuchus?

Picture Credit: Alexander K. Hastings et al

The picture above shows a fragment of shell (A) and a line drawing (C) viewed from above (dorsal view).  Picture B and the line drawing D, are the same fragment but this time, viewed from below (ventral view).  Potential bite marks (bm) and bone regrowth after a bite (bm&p) are illustrated.

Picture E and line drawing G are of a fragment of turtle shell viewed from the top that shows further damage, once again bite marks (bm) are indicated.  Picture F and its associated line drawing H show another fragment, bite marks and drag marks (dm) are illustrated.  Picture I and drawing J show a tooth from Anthracosuchus balrogus is analogous to the damage seen on the turtle shell fragments.  Image J and L shows a turtle fragment viewed from the top (dorsal) with bite marks.

This crocodile certainly had a very powerful bite, however, it shared its environment with the largest snake known to science, the immense Titanoboa (T. cerrejonensis).  At more than three times the size of Anthracosaurus this constrictor may have preyed upon adult crocodiles.  Anthracosaurus in turn, may have hunted and eaten immature Titanoboas.  Battles between these large reptiles would have been a spectacular sight.

Titanoboa Tackles a Large Anthracosuchus

Titanoboa tackles the short-snouted Anthracosuchus.

Titanoboa tackles the short-snouted Anthracosuchus.

Picture Credit: Florida Natural History Museum

To read about the discovery of Titanoboa: Titanoboa – Giant Prehistoric Snake of the Palaeocene

The Dyrosauridae are one of the very few types of large, marine reptile that survived the Cretaceous mass extinction event.  The discovery of a broad-snouted genus in South America will help scientists to identify how these creatures adapted to new environments.  It will also help them to piece together how these crocodiles dispersed across much of the globe from their African origins.  Fossil evidence suggests that during the Cretaceous, when the Atlantic ocean was not as wide as it is today, there were a number of dispersals of marine dyrosaurid crocodiles from Africa to the Americas. This trend seems to have continued into the early Cenozoic, with migrations east to west during the Palaeocene epoch.

Researchers Map the Dispersal of Dryosaurid Crocodiles from Africa

Dispersal and resulting distribution of dyrosaurid crocodiles.

Dispersal and resulting distribution of dyrosaurid crocodiles.

Picture Credit: Alexander K. Hastings et al

5 06, 2014

Forty-Six Ichthyosaur Fossils Discovered in Chile

By | June 5th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Geology, Palaeontological articles|1 Comment

Retreating Glacier Reveals Ichthyosaur Graveyard

A team of German and Chilean researchers have just about finished cataloguing, mapping and recording one of the densest assemblies of Ichthyosaur fossils ever found.  Scientists from Heidelberg University and the State Museum of Natural History, Karlsruhe, in collaboration with colleagues from a number of scientific institutions in Chile, have identified a total of forty-six, complete or near complete specimens of Early Cretaceous Ichthyosaurs (fish-lizards).  The fossils represent at least four species, with juveniles, pregnant females and other adult Ichthyosaurs having been identified.  All the Ichthyosaur fossils represent ophthalmosaurids and the site is being heralded as the most important location discovered to date in South America that records a marine ecosystem that existed around 140 to 132 million years ago.

One of the Many Ichthyosaur Fossils Found at the Site

Fossilised remains of Early Cretaceous Ichthyosaur

Fossilised remains of Early Cretaceous Ichthyosaur

Picture Credit: W. Stinnesbeck

In the picture above, the geological hammer provides scale and to the left of the picture elements of a limb and the small pebble-like bones that make up a flipper can clearly be seen.  The back-bones and ribs can also be made out.  The Ichthyosaur specimen has been identified as Platypterygius hauthali.

The fossils were found as a glacier retreated in the Torres del Paine National Park, southern Chile.  The retreat of the glacier (Tyndall glacier) revealing the fossils could be a case of global warming providing palaeontologists with benefits, affording them a unique insight into an ancient marine ecosystem.  Some of the Ichthyosaurs are so well preserved that skin tissue imprints have been found, along with the remains of embryos within the body cavity of female Ichthyosaurs.  Such is the concentration of “fish lizard” remains, that the Tyndall glacier location has been heralded as amongst the prime fossil Lagerstätten for Early Cretaceous marine reptiles worldwide.

The Remote and Beautiful Tyndall Glacier (southern Chile)

Retreating glacier reveals fossil remains.

Retreating glacier reveals fossil remains.

Picture Credit: W. Stinnesbeck

Ichthyosaurs were an Order of fast-swimming, nektonic and predatory marine reptiles with dolphin-shaped bodies.  They evolved in the Early Triassic and survived into the Late Cretaceous, eventually dying out as a group around eighty million years ago.  It is now thought ophthalmosaurid Ichthyosaurs like most other Ichthyosaurs, were viviparous, that is, the females retained fertilised eggs inside their body, until the embryos were sufficiently well developed to be born directly into the sea.

A Model of a Typical Ichthyosaur

Ichthyosaurus Model (Carnegie Collectibles)

Ichthyosaurus Model (Carnegie Collectibles)

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd

The first fossils were discovered in 2004 as scientists were mapping the retreat of the glacier.  It has taken a total of three  major field expeditions for all the Ichthyosaur material exposed at the site to be mapped and catalogued.  An academic paper detailing the research has been published in the scientific journal “The Bulletin of the Geological Society of America”.

Alongside, the remains of the reptiles, the research team found Ammonites, Belemnites, Bivalves and marine fish fossils.  In addition, there were plant fossils also preserved.  The Ichthyosaurs were not found at the same level in the strata, but scattered throughout the Formation Member at several levels indicating mass mortality events occurring in this marine ecosystem from time to time.

A Diagram Representing the Deposition of the Strata and Indicating the Location of Ichthyosaur Fossils

Evidence of mass mortality events in the ecosystem.

Evidence of mass mortality events in the ecosystem.

Picture Credit: W. Stinnesbeck

The joint German and Chilean research team have interpreted the geology of this location thus:

The gregarious Ichthyosaurs lived and hunted along the north-eastern edge of a deep sea that then separated the Antarctic continent from the southern tip of South America.  Cold water rising up from the depths of a deep underwater canyon provided nutrients to sustain a large population of primary producers such as plankton.  These were fed upon by large shoals of bony fish and Belemnites.  The Ichthyosaurs in turn hunted the fish and the Cephalopods.  With the rifting of the sea floor as geological forces gradually extended the Atlantic Ocean, there were a great number of earthquakes.  Some of these earthquakes were powerful enough to set off underwater avalanches that swept marine organisms down the steep slopes into the deeper water.  This led to the formation of several “Ichthyosaur graveyards”.

Commenting on the significance of this discovery, one of the lead authors of the research paper, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Stinnesbeck, Institute of Earth Sciences (Heidelberg University) stated:

“Occasionally, high energy turbiditic mudflows sucked down everything in their reach, including Ichthyosaurs.  Inside the suspension flows, the air-breathing reptiles lost orientation and finally drowned.  They were instantly buried in the abyss at the bottom of the canyon.”

The speed of burial and the lack of oxygen in the mud layers permitted the exceptional degree of preservation.

The professor went added:

“The deposit is Early Cretaceous in age [Valanginian to Hauterivian faunal stage] and forms part of a deep water sequence located in the Rocas Verdes Basin, a straight separating Antarctica and South America from Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous times.

4 06, 2014

American Fossil Dealer Jailed for Dinosaur Smuggling

By | June 4th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Fossil Smuggler Receives Prison Sentence

Yesterday, fossil dealer Eric Prokopi was sentenced to three months in a federal prison, plus fifteen months of supervised release for entry of goods by means of false statements, conspiracy and interstate and foreign transportation of goods converted and taken by fraud.  What ended in a Manhattan court room, had begun back on May 20th 2012, in a New York auction house, when a mounted specimen of a fearsome meat-eating dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous was sold.  Everything Dinosaur reported on the sale of the almost complete fossil skeleton of a Tyrannosaur known as Tarbosaurus bataar.  The specimen sold for over $1 million USD (£630,000 GBP), but even before the auctioneer brought down the gavel, suspicions had been raised as to the origins of the specimen.

Tarbosaurus, a close relative of the North American Tyrannosaurus rex is known from fossil material excavated from Upper Cretaceous aged sediments found in Mongolia.  Specifically, this predator’s fossil remains are associated with strata making up part of the Nemegt Formation.  It has been against the law in Mongolia to remove from the country fossils or any other artefacts regarded as culturally significant.   This law has been in effect for more than fifty years, it existed even before the formal scientific description and review of the fossilised bones and teeth that led to establishment of the Tarbosaurus genus.

To read more about the New York auction: Tyrannosaurid fossil up for auction

The mounted fossil was seized by U.S. custom and immigration officials and in May of last year, we reported on this specimen’s safe return to Mongolia, such had been the profile surrounding this Late Cretaceous dinosaur that even the President of Mongolia ( Elbegdorj Tsakhia), had become involved and lobbied for the fossil material to be returned back to the Asian country.

For an article about the return of the fossils: Handing a Dinosaur Over to Mongolian Officials

The prosecution had claimed that between 2010 and 2012, Mr Prokopi had acquired and subsequently smuggled into the United States a collection of fossilised dinosaur bones, including two specimens of Tarbosaurus bataar, the remains of two duck-billed dinosaurs belonging the the Saurolophus genus, one of which was subsequently sold at auction but confiscated by U.S. customs and the remains of two Oviraptors.  In addition, it was alleged that in 2010 false documentation was used to import from China the remains of a feathered dinosaur.

Mr Prokopi, who had admitted to a number of charges when he appeared in court in December of last year, learned his fate yesterday.  A self-styled “commercial palaeontologist”, referred to by prosecutors as a “one man black market in prehistoric fossils”, Mr Prokopi’s sentence will hopefully act as a deterrent to anyone considering or already engaged in fossil smuggling.

The Tarbosaurus Skeleton Offered for Auction in New York (May 2012)

Back in Mongolia.  The mounted skeleton offered for auction.

Back in Mongolia. The mounted skeleton offered for auction.

The defendant stated:

“I sincerely love fossils.  What I did was wrong and I failed to appreciate the gravity of what I have done.”

United States District Judge, Alvin Hellerstein commented that a prison term would send a message to others engaged in the field of commercial palaeontology.  With the high prices that dinosaur fossils fetch on the black market, no one knows for sure the extent of fossil smuggling activities.  However, it has long been suspected that criminal gangs are involved and that the practice of fossil thefts and illegal sales is actually widespread.

In a statement the Judge added:

“He [Eric Prokopi] is clearly not a bad person, but he has done a bad thing.”

The sentence handed down to Mr Prokopi, could have been far worse.  However, the fact that a lot of the fossil material was recovered and that the defendant co-operated with State officials helping with investigations into other suspected cases of fossil smuggling was taken into account when the punishment was decided.  There are currently a number of investigations on going in New York, Wyoming and California.

But what news of the other Tarbosaurus specimen.  Everything Dinosaur team members have been led to believe that this specimen was sold and has ended up in the United Kingdom, however, this fossil has yet to be recovered.  Police in the UK have so far been unable to locate the second Tarbosaurus specimen.  It too would belong to the people of Mongolia and if found it would most likely be confiscated and returned to Asia.

Mr Prokopi Leaving the Court Yesterday

Eric Prokopi photographed yesterday.

Eric Prokopi photographed yesterday.

Picture Credit: Reuters

Although the fossils procured by Mr Prokopi fetched high prices when they were sold, he has forfeited all the proceeds that resulted from the criminal activities.  He has also forfeited the fossilised skeletons and any other Mongolian fossil material that entered the United States between 2010 and 2012.

A spokes person for Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Hopefully, the extensive publicity that this case has attracted will deter fossil smugglers and fossil thieves.  Although, given the high prices that such material can make, it is very likely that the illegal sale of ancient artefacts is going to become an ever increasing problem.”

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