All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//August
31 08, 2014

Explaining Some Terms in Palaeontology

By | August 31st, 2014|General Teaching, Key Stage 3/4|Comments Off on Explaining Some Terms in Palaeontology

Paleontology versus Palaeontology

When Everything Dinosaur team members are working in schools delivering workshops about evolution, fossils and dinosaurs we are happy to advise and assist teaching teams where we can.  Although we send out lots of free teaching resources, lesson plans, activity ideas and extensions, we do see a lot of other teaching materials, some of which have been downloaded from educational company websites, that are inaccurate. Some of these teaching resources are purchased, sadly, teachers might be unwittingly misleading students as well as wasting the precious school budget.

Our team members try to help where we can.  For instance, whilst working with a Key Stage 3 class we were asked to explain how come the word palaeontologist can have two different spellings.

Palaeontology – It is Global!

Palaeontology is a global science.

Palaeontology is a global science.

The term “paleontology”, note the second “a” is missing is the American form of the term palaeontology.  We at Everything Dinosaur tend to use the non-Americanised version of the word to describe the study of ancient creatures and their fossils.

Helpful Terms and Explanations

Palaeontology (UK) Paleontology (USA) – The study of extinct organisms and their fossils.
Palaeontologist (UK) Paleontologist (USA) – A person who studies extinct organisms and their fossils.
Vertebrate Palaeontologist (UK) Vertebrate Paleontologist (USA)  – The branch of palaeontology that studies animals with back bones.
Invertebrate Palaeontologist (UK) Invertebrate Paleontologist (USA) – The branch of palaeontology that studies animals without back bones.
Micropalaeontology (UK) Micropaleontology (USA) – The study of microscopic fossils (micro-fossils).
Palaeobotany (UK) Paleobotany (USA) – fossil plants; traditionally includes the study of fossil algae and fungi in addition to land plants.
Human Palaeontology (UK) Human Paleontology (USA) –  The study of prehistoric human and proto-human fossils.
Palaeoanthropology (UK) Paleoanthropology (USA) – As above (prehistoric human and proto-human fossils).
Palaeoecology (UK) Paleoecology (USA) – Ecology of extinct and prehistoric organisms.
Palaeoclimatology (UK) Paleoclimatology (USA) – The study of past climates.
Palaeogeography (UK) Paleogeography (USA) – Study of geographical features of the past.
Palaeomagnetism (UK) Paleomagnetism (USA) – Study of the magnetism remaining in rocks and related magnetic fields.

 Credit: Everything Dinosaur

31 08, 2014

Palaeontologist versus Paleontologist

By | August 31st, 2014|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|1 Comment

Palaeontologist v Paleontologist – What’s the Difference?

During our school visits to carry out dinosaur and fossil themed workshops we often get asked to help with various aspects of the teaching scheme of work.  Everything Dinosaur’s team members are happy to provide advice and to assist where they can.  We even send out lots of free teaching resources, lesson plans, activity ideas and learning aids related to fossils and prehistoric animals.  However, we do see a lot of other teaching resources, many of which have been downloaded from education company websites, that are inaccurate.  Some of these resources have cost money, thus depleting an already stretched teaching budget.  We try to do what we can to help out.

Everything Dinosaur Provides a Lot of Teaching Resources to Schools

So many events, so many activities, so many photographs.

So many events, so many activities, so many photographs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Today we will deal with a very simple point, the difference between “palaeontology” and “paleontology”.  We know that a number of the resources used by teachers and learning support providers (home educators too for that matter), are sourced from other countries, such as America.  Herein lies the confusion.   The word palaeontology is often seen in these resources (and elsewhere) with an “a” missing.  We have the term “palaeontologist” and also “paleontologist”.

So let’s start at the beginning – what is palaeontology or paleontology? 

Palaeontology or paleontology mean the same thing.  These words describe the branch of science that deals with the study of extinct animals and plants and their fossilised remains.  The word is derived from the Greek palaios which means “ancient”, a reference to prehistoric times.  Palaeontology (with an extra “a” added) is the term used in Britain and elsewhere in the world, whilst paleontology is the Americanised version of the word and it is customarily used in the USA.  Both words are interchangeable but most institutions tend to use one word rather than the other.  For example, Everything Dinosaur uses the term palaeontology, whilst the Chicago Field Museum (Illinois, USA) uses the word paleontology.  The dropping the “a” convention applies to all the sub-disciplines in this broad area of scientific study.

Common Terms in Palaeontology and Related Subjects

Palaeontology (UK) Paleontology (USA) – The study of extinct organisms and their fossils.
Palaeontologist (UK) Paleontologist (USA) – A person who studies extinct organisms and their fossils.
Vertebrate Palaeontologist (UK) Vertebrate Paleontologist (USA)  – The branch of palaeontology that studies animals with back bones.
Invertebrate Palaeontologist (UK) Invertebrate Paleontologist (USA) – The branch of palaeontology that studies animals without back bones.
Micropalaeontology (UK) Micropaleontology (USA) – The study of microscopic fossils (micro-fossils).
Palaeobotany (UK) Paleobotany (USA) – fossil plants; traditionally includes the study of fossil algae and fungi in addition to land plants.
Human Palaeontology (UK) Human Paleontology (USA) –  The study of prehistoric human and proto-human fossils.
Palaeoanthropology (UK) Paleoanthropology (USA) – As above (prehistoric human and proto-human fossils).
Palaeoecology (UK) Paleoecology (USA) – Ecology of extinct and prehistoric organisms.
Palaeoclimatology (UK) Paleoclimatology (USA) – The study of past climates.
Palaeogeography (UK) Paleogeography (USA) – Study of geographical features of the past.
Palaeomagnetism (UK) Paleomagnetism (USA) – Study of the magnetism remaining in rocks and related magnetic fields.

 Credit: Everything Dinosaur

So the terms palaeontology and paleontology are equally valid, but whilst working in schools and UK based museums we tend to use the terms with an extra “a”.

To learn more about Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools: Dinosaur and Fossil Workshops in Schools

30 08, 2014

Did Psittacosaurus Use Baby Sitters?

By | August 30th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Palaeontologists Suggest Dinosaur Fossil Material Shows a “Creche” with Baby Sitter

A team of international researchers have re-examined a set of Psittacosaurus dinosaur fossils that come from the Lujiatun beds of the Yixian Formation in Liaoning, China.  The rock slab has preserved the fossilised remains of twenty-four young Psittacosaurs and one older individual.  It has been suggested that the fossil represents a group of hatchlings being looked after by an older animal.  Could this be evidence of a dinosaur “creche” with a “baby sitter”?

The paper on this new research has been published in the academic journal “Cretaceous Research”.  The international team included University of Pennsylvania based scientists Brandon P. Hedrick and Peter Dodson as well as researchers from China’s Dalian Museum of Natural History, where the rock slab is currently stored.  The fossil material was first described ten years ago, the block, which measures a little over sixty centimetres in length was discovered by an amateur palaeontologist, it is believed to date from around 120 million years ago (Aptian faunal stage of the Cretaceous).

Psittacosaurus is one of the most studied of all the dinosaurs.  A number of species have been assigned to the genus, it remains the most specious of all the Dinosauria, although some species have been described as nomen dubium following a recent review (2013).  Seen as a transitional form between the Ornithopods and the horned dinosaurs, Psittacosaurus is regarded as a basal member of the Marginocephalia.  Rarely exceeding two metres in length, fossils of this herbivorous dinosaur have been found in China, Russia and Thailand.

An Illustration of Psittacosaurus

A typical psittacosaurid.

A typical psittacosaurid.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Despite its spectacular appearance, the fossil material has only been briefly described, although the idea of a “dinosaur creche” has been proposed before.  The exact location of the discovery was never recorded, this hampered the international research team but as PhD student Brandon P. Hedrick stated:

“I saw a photo of it [the block] and instantly knew I wanted to explore it in more depth.”

Dalian Museum of Natural History Slab of Fossil Material

Is this evidence of a dinosaur creche with a baby sitter?

Is this evidence of a dinosaur creche with a baby sitter?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/University of Pennsylvania

In order to learn more about how these dinosaurs may have died, the orientation of their bodies was carefully studied.  Thin slivers of rock were examined under the microscope and further samples were subjected to X-ray diffraction.  The analyses suggested that the matrix was composed of volcanic material, indicating that these prehistoric animals were caught in a flow of material as a result of a volcanic eruption.  Since all the fossils were orientated in the same plane, the position of the fossils supports this idea that all these dinosaurs were engulfed in a flow.

As the fossilised bones showed no scorch marks or signs of heat damage, the researchers concluded that the flow was unlikely to be pyroclastic in nature.

Hedrick added:

“If they were captured in a flow, the long axis, their spines, would be orientated in the same direction.  That was what we found.  They were likely trapped by a flow.”

It is likely the flow was some sort of lahar – a mixture of water, mud, rock and other debris associated with volcanic eruptions.

Since no egg shell material has been found, it is believed that the twenty-four fossils represent a group of hatched dinosaurs.  The larger skull was found in close association with the fossil material, it is likely that this larger Psittacosaurus perished at the same time as the younger animals.  All the Psittacosaurs have been assigned to the same species Psittacosaurus lujiatunensis, the skull probably belonged to an immature adult, one not old enough to breed, so the researchers have hypothesised that this was an older sibling helping to care for its younger brothers and sisters.

Family members helping out to raise the following year’s brood is a type of behaviour found in a number of bird species.  It has been estimated that around 8% of all, extant bird species are involved in some form of co-operative breeding in which other family members help to raise young.  This behaviour is found in many types of song bird and the crow family for example.  The scientists emphasise that this material cannot be regarded as a dinosaur “nest”.

Hedrick explained:

“It certainly seems like it might be a nest, but we were not able to satisfy the intense criteria to say definitely that it is.  It is just as important to point out what we don’t know for sure as it is to say what we are more certain of.”

The scientists hope to continue their work by focusing on the micro-structure of the fossilised bones of the smaller dinosaurs to establish whether they were all at the same stage of development.  If this is found to be the case, this would support the theory that this rock slab represents the preserved remains of one clutch or brood of animals.

30 08, 2014

Dinosaurs Help Young Children with Phonics

By | August 30th, 2014|Early Years Foundation Reception|Comments Off on Dinosaurs Help Young Children with Phonics

Tripping off the Tongue – Dinosaur Names

A number of teachers and learning support providers are using dinosaur names to help young children to appreciate and understand the sounds of words. As dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals seem to be very popular with young children, so these long extinct creatures can prove very helpful when it comes to supporting phonics based teaching.  A three-year-old happily tells us all about their favourite dinosaur, a Stegosaurus, yet the same child struggles to come to terms with the correct pronunciation of the own surname.

Diplodocus not a Problem to a Budding Fossil Hunter

Why do children love talking about dinosaurs?  This is one of the intriguing questions asked of the Everything Dinosaur teaching team as they prepare to put together more lesson plans and schemes of work aimed at Foundation Stage children.  The ability to say correctly the name Diplodocus (and to correct anyone who does not pronounce the word properly), has been observed by many teachers as well as parents and guardians.  It seems that Diplodocus may not be a problem but saying “dafffodil” or “digital” can be quite a challenge to a young palaeontologist.  Even the word “palaeontologist” does not seem to phase them.

Diplodocus – A Popular Dinosaur Amongst EFYS

Diplodocus (pronounced either Dip-plo-dok-kus or Dip-plod-oh-kus) both are fine by us.

Diplodocus (pronounced either Dip-plo-dok-kus or Dip-plod-oh-kus) both are fine by us.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur’s experts were not aware of any study being currently undertaken into this specific element of children’s phonics and their grasp of speech.  Research has shown that young children up to the age of seven have an astonishing ability to pick up speech, language skills and enhance their vocabulary.  The sound of the words, particularly if accompanied with a picture of the prehistoric animal might make learning new words and sounds exciting.  The longest genus name, Everything Dinosaur’s staff were able to recall is Micropachycephalosaurus (mike-cro-pack-ee-sep-hal-oh-sore-us).  That’s a hefty twenty-three letters long.  Could dinosaur name pronunciation leave a tingle on the tongue?  Certainly, most young children learning about dinosaurs seem to relish and enjoy saying the names of dinosaurs.

There might be a strong sense of achievement after the pronunciation, as for many young children, the names of dinosaurs might be the longest and most complicated words that the child has encountered.  Children could be picking up cues from parents who might be expressing a strong sense of pride as their child says Tyrannosaurus rex, just like an accomplished academic.

Dinosaur Name Pronunciation Helps Teachers

A number of parents, learning support providers and home educators have exploited a child’s fascination with dinosaurs to help them with their writing, reading and sentence construction.  If the young pupil loves Stegosaurus, then using this Late Jurassic plant-eating 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 already open door.

Stegosaurus Speech Bubble Dinosaur Themed Teaching Aid

Stegosaurus helps with sentence construction.

Stegosaurus helps with sentence construction.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur provides some handy, free, downloadable, dinosaur themed pronunciation bubble pictures.  These are available from the downloads section of the site along with other helpful teaching resources.

To visit the EYFS/Foundation/Reception Downloads: Teaching Resources for EYFS etc.

29 08, 2014

Achievosaurs – Key Learning Skills in EYFS

By | August 29th, 2014|Early Years Foundation Reception|Comments Off on Achievosaurs – Key Learning Skills in EYFS

Developing Key Learning Skills – Thanks to Dinosaurs

Children either entering formal education or at an early stage of their careers in school can be helped to develop important skills thanks to dinosaurs.  Many learning support providers are keen to drive a culture of development and achievement, reinforcing key learning skills that will serve the students throughout their education.  Developing learning skills can form part of a coordinated plan to improve life-long learning.  The “Achievosaurs”, or as they are sometimes referred to as the “Achieveosaurs”, aims to teach children about positive ways in which their ability to learn can improved.  Qualities such as being determined and staying focused on a task, being prepared to ask questions and share ideas are rewarded by permitting the child to look after one of the “Achievosaurs” – a dinosaur soft toy which represents a character that shows that key skill.

One of the “Achievosaurs” Dinosaur Soft Toy Ranges

Dinosaur Soft Toys helps to reinforce key learning behaviours.

Dinosaur Soft Toys helps to reinforce key learning behaviours.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Soft Toy Dinosaurs

A set of soft toy dinosaurs can be used to help reinforce these key learning skills.  Staff members at Everything Dinosaur, with their teaching backgrounds have assisted learning support providers by offering all sorts of innovative learning materials for use in schools and nurseries.  For instance, a large number of schools use Everything Dinosaur’s soft toys to help deliver the “Achievosaurs” teaching concept.  However, as manufacturers alter their product ranges, so many of the dinosaur soft toys used in the original schemes of work become unavailable.  No worries, as Everything Dinosaur specialises in the supply of prehistoric animal toys and games, our team members are on hand to provide advice and to help teachers develop the “Achievosaurs” teaching concept.

Adopting the “Achievosaurs” Concept

Many schools adopt the “Achievosaurs”concept across all their classes in Early Years and Reception through into upper Key Stage 1, it often ties in with a related term topic covered by the children in Year 1 and 2 which enables them to learn about rocks, fossils and dinosaurs.

Key Learning Skills Typically Covered in the “Achievosaurs” Teaching Concept

  • SOLVEOSAURUS REX – I can solve problems and improve (based on T. rex the most famous dinosaur of all)
  • TRYCERATOPS – I try new things, don’t give up and work really hard (based on Triceratops, a very well known horned dinosaur with three horns)
  • STICKASAURUS  – I stick at tasks and persevere (based on Stegosaurus a popular, plant eating dinosaur with plates on its back)
  • THINKODOCUS – I think carefully about what I learn (based on the big, plant-eating dinosaur called Diplodocus)
  • SHAREOSAURUS – I share my ideas and can work well with others (based on the Spinosaurus)

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of prehistoric animal soft toys: Soft Toy Dinosaurs

Helping young children to develop such important skills for learning later on in life.  Teachers are free to come up with their own variants and new additions, this is where our team members can help, by advising on educational matters and guiding teachers as to their choice of prehistoric animal to represent the particular skill or learning behaviour that they wish to develop with their class.  After all, what five-year old can refuse the chance to look after their very own soft toy dinosaur?

29 08, 2014

In Pursuit of the “Shiva” Crater and Dinosaur Extinction

By | August 29th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans|0 Comments

In Search of Dinosaur Extinction Theories – The “Shiva” Crater

The controversial tear-drop shaped Shiva crater located off the western coast of India has divided opinions for decades.  Whilst many people may be familiar with the extraterrestrial impact theory that led to the end Cretaceous mass extinction event, most would argue that the Chicxulub crater located off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula (Mexico) is the most likely candidate for that “smoking gun” evidence to indicate that a large body from outer space crashed into the Earth.  Not so, according to Professor Sankar Chatterjee and his colleagues.  Professor Chatterjee, a Horn Professor of Palaeontology and the Curator at the Museum of Texas Tech University, believes that an object from space perhaps a comet or an asteroid, some forty kilometres in diameter smashed into the Earth around sixty-six million years ago and this too contributed to the Cretaceous-Palaeogene extinction event.

The Shiva crater is named after the Hindu god of destruction, transformation and renewal.  It is estimated to be around six hundred kilometres in length and around four hundred kilometres across at its widest part.  Professor Chatterjee has been awarded the prestigious “Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award”, which includes a grant which the Indian-American scholar intends to use to fund a visit to Western India next spring to continue his research on the crater.  The Fulbright Programme is an international educational exchange programme sponsored by the Government of the United States with the aim of increasing mutual understanding between the people of America and the rest of the world.  Professor Chatterjee will join the Koyna Drilling Project and analyse rock cores drilled through the sea bed in a bid to establish the age of this geological phenomena and to learn more about its formation.

Professor Sankar Chatterjee (Texas Tech University)

Our congratulations to the Professor.

Our congratulations to the Professor.

Picture Credit: Texas Tech University

The crater was discovered when geophysical surveys of the Mumbai Offshore Basin revealed a huge, tear-drop shaped depression in the strata that forms the western continental shelf of India.  The crater is buried under layers of rock which are between two kilometres and seven kilometres deep.  Professor Chatterjee explains that the strange shape of the crater may have been caused by the shallow angle of trajectory or by subsequent rock falls or as a result of ancient volcanic activity – after throws of the immense volcanism that led to the formation of the extensive Deccan Traps.  The area is believed to hold vast reserves of fossil fuels, both crude oil and natural gas.

It is hoped that this new research will confirm that this crater was caused by an extraterrestrial impact, a theory challenged by a number of scientists and academics who contend that this feature does not represent an impact crater at all.  The Shiva crater for example, is not recorded on the Earth Impact Database of the Planetary and Space Science Centre at the University of Brunswick (Canada).

The Site of the Shiva Crater in Relation to the Deccan Traps

The estimated location of the Shiva Crater.

The estimated location of the Shiva Crater.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Last year, Everything Dinosaur reported on some new research carried out by an international team of scientists that dated the Chicxlub crater to 66,038,000 years ago (plus or minus 11,000 years).  This was the most accurate date proposed yet and places the impact event at around the time of the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs and about seventy percent of all terrestrial life.

To read more about this research: Most Accurate Date Yet Established for Chicxulub Impact Crater

It has also been suggested that no, one single extraterrestrial impact event was the cause of the extinctions.  Indeed, it has been suggested that the dinosaurs, pterosaurs and other groups that perished may have been subjected to more than one Earth/space collision.  In addition, Everything Dinosaur reported last year on research that proposed a comet was the most likely culprit for the Yucatan peninsula impact.

To read this article: American Researchers Propose Comet Caused the Chicxulub Crater

28 08, 2014

Walking Fish Provides Clues to the First Tetrapods

By | August 28th, 2014|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Researchers Study Living Fish to Gain Insight Into Fossil Record

Arguably one of the most significant events in the history of life on Earth occurred when the first vertebrates walked on land.  The date when types of prehistoric fish made the move to land and began the evolutionary journey that would lead to the Tetrapods keeps changing in the light of new fossil discoveries.  Tetrapods are vertebrates, this group includes the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals and that means, we are Tetrapods too.  One of the most important fossil discoveries in recent years, was made in a limestone quarry in Poland.  On one stone slab scientists discovered strange track-like marks about fifteen centimetres wide.  These were controversially interpreted as having been made by the limbs of an animal capable of moving around on land.  It was envisaged that whatever strange creature made these marks, it must have been more than two metres long.  This trace fossil suggests that the first animals walked on land around 400-395 million years ago, some thirty-five million years earlier than previously thought.

To read more about this Polish discovery: Clues to the First Land Animals?

A team of researchers from McGill University (Montreal, Canada), have turned to a living fish in order to gain a better understanding of the evolutionary changes that must have taken place to allow certain types of fish such as the Sarcopterygians to adapt to a more terrestrial lifestyle.  If, sometime around 400 million years ago (Lower Devonian Epoch), a group of fish began exploring terrestrial environments, the first stage on the long evolutionary journey to the Tetrapods, how did these fish do it?  What changes to their bodies and fins took place to allow them to adapt to this new habitat?  Helping to answer these questions was the aim of the research team at McGill University and to do this they turned to a living (extant) fish called Polypterus.

Little Fish Takes Part in “Ground Breaking” Experiments

A giant leap for fish-kind!

A giant leap for fish-kind!

Picture Credit: McGill University

There are ten or so species in the Polypterus genus, as far as we at Everything Dinosaur know, they are all African and freshwater fish.  Polypterus is the only vertebrate known to science that possesses lungs and is capable of breathing air but has no trachea.  These little fish have been studied for more than one hundred and fifty years, Thomas Huxley no less was involved in some of the earliest research.  He placed them in the Order Crossopterygii, now regarded as a synonym of the Sarcopterygii – although this classification has now been largely disproved.  The first successful domestic breeding programme commenced in 2005, this paved the way for laboratory studies.

The McGill team in collaboration with the University of Ottawa, studied Polypterus fish to show what might have happened when fish first attempted to walk out of the water.  These air breathing fish can “walk” on land, (really it is a bit of shuffle), but they do superficially resemble Devonian Sarcopterygians, (hence Huxley’s classification).  The scientists raised juvenile Polypterus on land for nearly a year, with an aim of revealing how these “terrestrialised” fish looked and moved when compared to Polypterus specimens raised in a more normal environment.

Project leader, Emily Standen, a former McGill University post-doctoral student stated:

“Stressful environmental conditions can often reveal otherwise cryptic anatomical and behavioural variation, a form of developmental plasticity.  We wanted to use this mechanism to see what new anatomies and behaviours we could trigger in these fish and see if they match what we know from the fossil record.”

The team discovered that these fish underwent remarkable anatomical and behavioural changes in response to their stressful environment.  These fish walked more effectively by placing their fins closer to their bodies, lifted their heads higher and kept their fins from slipping as much as fish that were raised in water.

Polypterus Showed Anatomical and Behavioural Changes

Helping to explain the evolution of Tetrapods.

Helping to explain the evolution of Tetrapods.

Picture Credit: McGill University

Fellow researcher, Trina Du (McGill University PhD student) explained:

“Anatomically, their pectoral skeleton changed to become more elongate with stronger attachments across their chest, possibly to increase support during walking and a reduced contact with the skull to potentially allow greater head or potential neck motion.”

Hans Larsson, Canada Research Chair in Macroevolution at McGill and an Associate Professor at the Redpath Museum added:

“Because many of the anatomical changes mirror the fossil record, we can hypothesise that the behavioural changes we see also reflect what may have occurred when fossil fish first walked with their fins on land.”

The “terrestrialised” Polypterus is unique and provides fresh ideas on how fossil fishes may have used their fins in a terrestrial environment and what evolutionary processes may have been involved.  Hans Larsson went onto to say that this experiment was the first example that they were aware of, that demonstrated developmental plasticity may have facilitated a large-scale evolutionary transition, by first accessing new anatomies and behaviours that could later be genetically fixed in the population by natural selection.

The study was conducted by Emily Standen, University of Ottawa, and Hans Larsson, Trina Du at McGill University and supported by the Canada Research Chairs Program, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Tomlinson Post-doctoral fellowship.  It has been published in the journal “Nature”.  Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of McGill University in the compilation of this article.

27 08, 2014

Cracking the Secrets of Dinosaur Eggs

By | August 27th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans|2 Comments

University Team Hope to use Synchrotron Light Source to Scan Dinosaur Eggs

Scientists from Mississippi State University hope to learn more about the contents of dinosaur eggs using the Diamond Light Synchrotron facility based near Didcot in Oxfordshire to “virtually dissect”  fossil material.  In an international collaboration with researchers from the National Museum of Wales, the intention is to produce three-dimensional, X-ray images of two batches of Late Cretaceous dinosaur eggs from Montana.  The first set of fossilised dinosaur eggs, each one about the size of a Galia melon, was found in 2002, the second clutch of eggs was found last year at the same location.

It is the first time, (as far as we at Everything Dinosaur are aware), that scientists will examine dinosaur eggs using a synchrotron in a bid to identify the dinosaur species from an embryo.  Leading the research, is Geosciences doctoral student at Mississippi State, John Paul Jones, he was lucky to have found the dinosaur eggs whilst exploring part of the Judith River Formation.  One of the batches of eggs has already been subjected to CT (computerised tomography) scanning, this has helped reveal evidence of dinosaur bones in some of the eggs, however, the images and data produced by the Diamond Light Source should help John Paul Jones identify the species and perhaps even the gender of the embryos.

Both the CT scans and the synchrotron method are non-destructive, the actual fossil material remains undamaged and intact.

The Geosciences student explained:

“If you cut it, then you have a damaged egg.  It’s just a rock that has been sliced in half.  With the synchrotron technology, we will get the actual image that can be used to make a model.  We should get a three-dimensional replica of the bones.”

If the images are able to provide greater clarity of the skull material along with the pelvic bones, it is hoped that the species of dinosaur that laid the eggs will be revealed.  The scientists are fairly confident that the eggs were produced by a Hadrosaur, trouble is, a number of Hadrosaur fossil remains are associated with the strata that make up this part of the Judith River Group.  Could the eggs be from a Brachylophosaurus or a Lambeosaurine duck-billed dinosaur?  Indeed, the eggs could provide evidence of other types of Hadrosaur living in this part of Montana at this time in the Late Cretaceous (between 80 and 75 million years ago), or perhaps the eggs could be from an entirely new to science species of dinosaur.

Some of the Dinosaur Fossil Eggs Having a CT Scan

Dinosaur eggs being CT scanned.

Dinosaur eggs being CT scanned.

Picture Credit: Megan Bean

Recently, Everything Dinosaur reported on a media day that took place in southern Alberta at the famous Devil’s Coulee fossil site.  A team from the Royal Tyrrell Museum took members of the public and the media on a tour of this highly fossiliferous location looking at the remains of dinosaur nests and eggs that had been found there.

To read more about this article: Updates on Alberta’s Scrambled Eggs

The Devil’s Coulee site is part of the Oldman Formation of Alberta. This strata is between 77 and 75 million years old.  These rocks are contemporaneous with parts of the Judith River Group, so it is possible that these locations may share closely related Hadrosaurine fauna.

At this stage, the scientists are reluctant to speculate on any species identification. From the lower resolution scans a potential skull crest has been identified on one embryo.  The synchrotron should be able to create a series of three-dimensional slices through the fossil material.  These slices can be used by a computer programme to build a 3-D model of the contents.  If the resolution is high enough, a species identification could be made.  If this is the case, then we at Everything Dinosaur think that this might be a first for palaeontology.

The doughnut shaped Diamond Light Source (Didcot, Oxfordshire) is in essence, a particle accelerator, with a circumference in excess of half a kilometre.  Electrons are generated and fired out into the synchrotron, these electrons are then accelerated to very near light speed.  They give off energy in the form of intense light.  This light can be channelled via “beamlines” and it is this very bright light source that enables scientists to X-ray solid objects such as rocks containing fossils to produce 3-D pictures of the contents.  As these extremely strong X-rays travel through an object, the different densities of the fossil material and the surrounding matrix absorb different parts of the X-ray light spectrum.  These different absorption rates are then used to plot data and produce the images.

One of the Images Generated by the Recent CT Scans

A labelled CT scan showing dinosaur embryo fossils.

A labelled CT scan showing dinosaur embryo fossils.

Picture Credit:  Megan Bean; submitted image highlighted by Hayley Gilmore

The picture above shows an image from a CT scan, the egg shell and fossilised bones have been labelled and highlighted.  In the other eggs, the resolution of the scanner was not high enough to create a definite internal image.  Researchers involved in this joint project between the American university and National Museum of Wales, hope to use an analysis of zircon crystals deposited amongst ash from ancient volcanic eruptions within the Judith River Formation to more accurately date the eggs.  A better idea of the age of the dinosaur eggs will help the team to assess which dinosaur species potentially produced these clutches.

26 08, 2014

Everything Dinosaur’s New School Website Is Launched

By | August 26th, 2014|Educational Activities, Main Page, Press Releases, Teaching|0 Comments

Dinosaur Workshops In School

Everything Dinosaur’s new teaching themed website has been launched today.  This new site, aimed at helping teachers, learning support providers and home educators is packed full of dinosaur and fossil themed teaching ideas, blog articles, helpful hints and free downloads.

Dinosaurs for Schools

Everything Dinosaur aims to help teachers, museums and home educators.

Everything Dinosaur aims to help teachers, museums and home educators.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To visit Everything Dinosaur’s educational site: Dinosaur Workshops and Teaching Resources

The new website has been designed to act as an educational resource to help teachers, teaching assistants and other member of the teaching profession to cover science subjects aimed at school children from the Early Years Foundation Stage right up to Key Stage 4 and beyond.  Home educators too, will find this new resource helpful.  Everything Dinosaur’s team of teaching professionals have worked over the last six months or so to provide reliable assistance with the challenges posed by the new curriculum.  The intention is to help learning support providers and teachers by permitting access to dinosaur, fossil and evolution teaching resources that have been checked over by dinosaur experts and fossil collectors, thus providing a reliable set of resources and guides to assist educators as they instil the skills needed to develop an interest in and perhaps a career in the sciences.

A spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur commented:

“It is all about getting students to develop scientific skills such as enquiry, investigation, observation and analysis.  For many teachers the challenge will be to help pupils to work scientifically, whilst for those teaching professionals working at EYFS and Key Stage 1 a dinosaur themed teaching topic is a great way to help engage the children.”

26 08, 2014

Dinosaur Workshops in Schools

By | August 26th, 2014|General Teaching|Comments Off on Dinosaur Workshops in Schools

Official Launch of the Everything Dinosaur Schools Website

Today, marks the official launch of the Everything Dinosaur teaching and schools website.  The idea behind this new site is to provide support, help and resources to educationalists including those who teach at home.  The website will offer lots of articles, features and teaching tips.  In addition, free downloadable resources including lesson plans will be available.

The Official Launch of the Everything Dinosaur Teaching Website

Launch of the new website from Everything Dinosaur.

Launch of the new website from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

With the company’s dinosaur and fossil themed teaching activities including dinosaur workshops already very popular, this new site will provide further assistance to learning support providers.  A spokesperson for the teaching team at Everything Dinosaur stated:

“This new site represents a major investment for the company in terms of resources and staff time.  However, we feel it is an investment worth making if we can continue to help inspire, motivate and educate the next generation of scientists.”

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