All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
5 12, 2014

Dinosaur Bone Damaged by Vandals is Removed

By | December 5th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Vandalised Dinosaur Bone is Removed from the Dinosaur National Monument

The 150 million year old dinosaur bone had slowly weathered out of the rock, its location, on part of the Fossil Discovery Trail at the Dinosaur National Monument (Utah), meant that thousands of visitors to the park could see the beautifully preserved fossil lying in situ.  However, the thoughtless and reckless action of vandals has resulted in the bone having to be removed from the trail for fear that it could crumble away.

Back in September, Everything Dinosaur reported on the incident of vandalism at the famous Dinosaur National Monument, one of the richest sources of Upper Jurassic fossil material anywhere in the world.  A Ranger spotted the damaged fossil bone (humerus of a juvenile Sauropod), whilst taking visitors on the 1.2 mile long Fossil Discovery Trail that runs between the Quarry Visitor Centre and the Exhibition Hall.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s report of the vandalism: Fossil Damaged at Dinosaur National Monument – Utah

A fist-sized chunk had been removed from the bone, a thoughtless act of vandalism, probably inspired by the high prices fetched for the sale of dinosaur fossils at auctions.  Palaeontologists assessed the bone and decided to remove it to prevent further damage and the possibility that the bone could break up over the winter as frost and freezing conditions would lead to cracks in the fossil widening.

Brooks Britt, a palaeontologist from Brigham Young University (department of Geological Sciences), carefully extracted the specimen, using techniques and tools that would not have been unfamiliar to the scientists who first extracted bones from this location over one hundred years ago.

Commenting on his work, Associate Professor Britt stated:

“This bone is easy to get out because it is in relatively soft rock.  The vandals took a chunk out about the size of my fist, that destabilised the fossil.  It propagated fractures, it opens them up and then the weathering process starts attacking the bone, so you can’t leave it out in the open.”

 Carefully Does It – Removing the Sauropod Humerus (Upper Arm Bone)

Vandalised bone is removed to prevent further damage.

Vandalised bone is removed to prevent further damage.

Picture Credit: Geoff Liesik/KSL TV

Daniel Chure, the Monument’s palaeontologist, described his reaction on hearing the news of the vandalism of one of “frustration and anger”.

He added:

“Hundreds and thousands of visitors have been able to come here and actually look at dinosaur bones as they are naturally exposed by erosion.  Now because of the thoughtless actions of one person, future visitors won’t have the opportunity to see this particular bone in the field.”

Park Rangers are still optimistic about finding the culprit.  They are asking for people who may have witnessed the act of vandalism to come forward.  A reward of $750 USD is being offered for information that could lead to a conviction.

What is the future for the Sauropod arm bone?  The Park Service has plans for it.  They would like the fossil to be fully prepared, stabilised and cleaned up ready for display at the Monument’s Quarry Visitor Centre.

A spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur stated:

“Hopefully this fossilised bone will serve as a reminder to visitors not to damage or to attempt to take fossils away with them.  It might prevent future fossil thefts or acts of vandalism, we sincerely hope so.”

An Illustration Showing Typical Sauropod Bauplans of the Late Jurassic of the Western United States

Long necks for different feeding envelopes.

Long necks for different feeding envelopes.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

4 12, 2014

Paying Tribute to the New Replicas from Safari Ltd

By | December 4th, 2014|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur videos|0 Comments

New for 2015 Safari Ltd Prehistoric Animal Models

Team members at Everything Dinosaur announced sometime ago the new additions to the Carnegie Collection and Wild Safari Dinos model ranges (Safari Ltd).  We are looking forward to stocking these models and can’t decide between us which one we like the best.  As we look forward to 2015, we have taken time out to produce a very quick teaser video which features the five new models from Safari Ltd which will be available from Everything Dinosaur next year.  After all, if a teaser trailer can be made for “Jurassic World”, then why not one for these exciting prehistoric animal replicas.

Everything Dinosaur’s “Teaser Trailer” – New for 2015 Safari Ltd Prehistoric Animals

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view Everything Dinosaur’s current range of dinosaur and prehistoric animal models made by Safari Ltd: Carnegie Collectibles, Wild Safari Dinos. etc.

In this short video (under forty seconds in duration), we show pictures of the five new figures, the Archaeopteryx, the horned dinosaur Nasutoceratops, Sauropelta and the feathered tyrannosaurid Yutyrannus huali.  We also showcase the only scale model to be added next year, the 1:50 scale (approximate) replica of Velociraptor (V. mongoliensis).  No doubt we will comment more on the potential scales (as in scale size, not to be confused with feathers) when we create individual reviews of these prehistoric animals.

To read a little more about these new introductions: Safari Ltd announce new models for 2015

Our dedicated team members will be researching and writing fact sheets to accompany these new animal models.  For every named prehistoric animal replica Everything Dinosaur supplies, a fact sheet all about that creature, is included.  Scale drawings of all these animals have now been completed and the fact sheets themselves will be completed shortly.

Looks like 2015 is going to be an exciting time for dinosaur model and figure collectors.

3 12, 2014

Carnivorous Plant Remains Found Preserved in Amber

By | December 3rd, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

The Mystery of The Very First Carnivorous Plant Fossil Leaves

Some types of organism, despite having been on our planet for tens of millions of years have such a poor preservation potential that they rarely, if at all appear in the fossil record.  One such group are the carnivorous plants, be they Venus Fly Traps, Sundews or Pitcher plants.  The trapping structures are often derived from primary growth, this reduces the preservation potential and these types of plants tend to be found in areas such as peat bogs and tropical forests where rapid breakdown of organic material occurs.  Up to now, carnivorous plant fossils have consisted of micro-fossils such as preserved pollen with the occasional fossil seed.  However, a team of scientists from the Botanical State Collection of Munich as well as Bielefeld and Göttingen Universities have found the first fossils of a proto-carnivorous plant preserved in Baltic amber.  Two leaves, trapped in pine resin over between thirty-five and forty-seven million years ago, have been identified to belonging to the family of flypaper plant traps.  These types of plant produce sticky substances that trap small insects and other Arthropods.

The sticky hairs on the leaves can be clearly made out under a microscope.  The amber was found in a mine near Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave on the Baltic coast.  Amber from this part of the world, referred to as Baltic amber is relatively common and remarkably as amber floats in sea water, from time to time pieces of Baltic amber are washed up on the coast of East Anglia (United Kingdom).

The Fossils of a Carnivore (Roridula spp.)

Leaf remains trapped in amber.

Leaf remains trapped in amber.

Picture Credit: PNAS and University of Göttingen/Alexander Schmidt.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (United States), the research team led by Professor Alexander Schmidt (University oGöttingen), have identified the leaves, with their long-stalked multicellular glands as being reminiscent of extant plant species in the Roridula family.  Plants in the family Roridulaceae are not true carnivorous plants in the strictest botanical sense.  In contrast to the likes of the Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea spp.), Roridula do not trap, kill and digest their animal prey.  These plants are not capable of producing the enzymes required to breakdown the bodies of their victims.  Instead, they rely on a symbiotic relationship between types of carnivorous Heteropteran insects (bugs), that feed on the trapped organisms.  In turn, the nutrient rich excretions from these scavengers are absorbed by the plant through its leaves.

Today, living members of the carnivorous plant Roridula are restricted to southern Africa, however, during the Eocene these plants must have been much more widespread.  For much of the Eocene Epoch, the world was warmer than it is today.  The discovery of these fossils provides a mystery for the research team to solve.  Firstly, it suggests that the flora in the forests that were to produce the tree resin that was to eventually become amber, must have been more diverse than previously thought.  Secondly, it had been thought that the ancestors of the Roridula evolved around 90 million years ago in Africa and these plants evolved in isolation as Africa became separated from other land masses as the southern super-continent of Gondwanaland broke up.

However, as Professor Schmidt points out:

“The new fossils from Baltic amber show that the ancestors of Roridula plants occurred in the northern hemisphere until around 35 million years ago, they were not restricted to South Africa.”

These plants seem to be have been more widespread than previously thought, the fossils also confirm molecular dating that hypothesised that these types of plant had been distinct from other plant families for at least 38 million years.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of the University oGöttingen in the compilation of this article.

2 12, 2014

Chinese “Sea Dragon” Fossil Hints at Triassic Fauna Recovery

By | December 2nd, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Monster Nothosaur from China Suggests Ecosystem Recovery after Mass Extinction Event

A team of Chinese scientists, supported by palaeontologists from Bristol University, Washington D.C. and Australia, writing in the academic journal “Nature: Scientific Reports”, have described the fossilised remains of a giant marine reptile.  This fearsome hunter provides evidence that by around 245 million years ago, much of the world’s marine habitats had recovered sufficiently from the Permian/Triassic mass extinction event to support complex food chains.  The Permian/Triassic extinction event is often referred to as the “Great Dying”, a huge portion of life on Earth died out, scientists debate just how many different types of organisms perished, but it has been suggested that as much as 95% of all life on Earth became extinct.

To read more about how mass extinction events are defined: When is an Extinction Event a Mass Extinction?

The fossil represent a new species of Nothosaur, it is potentially the largest Nothosaur discovered to date.  The discovery is significant as it indicates that on the eastern side of the Paleotethys Sea, marine life had recovered sufficiently to support complex food chains, with carnivorous marine reptiles as the apex predators in the environment.  As similar sized apex predators are known from the western fringes of the Paleotethys Sea and also from the eastern seaboard of the Panthalassa Ocean, this provides evidence to support the theory that by the early part of the Middle Triassic there had been a global recovery (a synchronous global recovery), of marine fauna and flora.

The Nothosaur fossil consisting of an almost complete lower jaw, isolated teeth and post cranial elements was discovered in 2008.  The only known specimen was collected from Bed number 165 of the Dawazi section of strata, a highly fossiliferous zone that represents a shallow marine environment.  The fossils are located in Luoping County, Yunnan Province in the far south-west of China.  This part of the world is famous for its Middle Triassic marine fossils, many thousands of specimens have been collected including a number of Ichthyosaurs as well as other marine reptiles.

The Nothosaur Fossil Material (a) Line Drawing (b)

The specimen has been named Nothosaurus zhangi

The specimen has been named Nothosaurus zhangi

Picture Credit: Nature: Scientific Reports

Nothosaurs were a group of marine reptiles related to the better known Plesiosaurs.  They evolved from terrestrial ancestors and typically were between one and three metres in length.  They had relatively long snouts, quite narrow skulls, and their fingers and toes may have been webbed to help propel them through water.  The were also capable of hauling themselves up onto land and although well adapted to a marine environment, they probably rested and bred on land.  The Nothosaurs evolved very early on in the Triassic Period and as a group they persisted up until the beginning of the Jurassic.

 A Model of a Typical Nothosaur (Safari Prehistoric Sealife Toob)

One of the models in the Safari Prehistoric Sealife Toob.

One of the models in the Safari Prehistoric Sealife Toob.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows a typical Nothosaur bauplan (body plan), it is one of the models from the fantastic “Prehistoric Sealife Toob”, part of the range of prehistoric animal and plant replicas made by Safari Ltd.

To view this range: Safari Ltd Prehistoric Replicas

This new giant species of Nothosaur has been named Nothosaurus zhangi.  The species or trivial name honours the discoverer of the Luoping biota, scientist Qiyue Zhang.  Although far from complete, a comparative analysis using fossil material from the Nothosaur species known as N. giganteus, whose fossils come from Middle and Upper Triassic aged rocks in Germany, suggests that Nothosaurus zhangi was between five and seven metres in length.  Think of this ancient reptile being about the size of a large Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus).

The jaw was lined with a number of sharp, pointed teeth, many of which projected outwards to give the impression of elongated fangs.  These were adaptations to grabbing and subduing struggling prey, such as fish and cephalopods.  Given the size of Nothosaurus zhangi, it very probably hunted other, smaller marine reptiles in the shallow, tropical sea that once covered much of China.

These fossils from what would have been the eastern side of the Paleotethys Sea, when considered with the fossilised remains of other enormous Middle Triassic marine reptiles, suggests that across the world marine environments had recovered sufficiently to support complex food chains by around 245 million years ago.

A Map of the Middle Triassic Showing the Location of Apex Predator Marine Fossil Finds

Marking the location of apex predator fossils.

Marking the location of apex predator fossils.

Picture Credit: Nature: Scientific Reports with additional material from the Palaeobiology database

The map shows a whole world projection of the Middle Triassic. The super continent of Pangea is firmly established and the locations of potential apex predator marine reptile fossils have been marked.


  • Thalattoarchon O – (T. saurophagis) a giant Ichthyosaur estimated to have measured 8-9 metres in length (YELLOW)
  • Cymbospondylus (several species), a basal Ichthyosaur estimated to have reached lengths in excess of 10 metres (BLUE)
  • Nothosaurus giganteus – estimated to be about 5-7 metres long (PURPLE)
  • Nothosaurus zhangi – estimated to be about 5-7 metres long (RED)

Thanks to the astonishing variety of fossils from the Luoping Province, scientists have been able to build up a great deal of knowledge about life in the seas surrounding the ancient land mass on the western fringes of Pangea, that was to eventually become China. The researchers have been able to develop a complex food chain diagram and the newly described Nothosaurus zhangi is placed at the top of the food chain as the largest predator discovered to date.

A Food Chain Constructed Using Luoping Biota Fossil Data

Nothosaurus zhangi at the top of the food chain.

Nothosaurus zhangi at the top of the food chain.

Picture Credit: Nature: Scientific Reports

It may have taken terrestrial life slightly longer to recover from the end Permian extinction event, but based on this evidence, many of the shallow sea environments had recovered fully and new types of fauna had filled ecological niches.

To read an article published in April 2014 about the discovery of a bizarre type of marine reptile (Atopodentatus) from the Luoping Biota: Bizarre Triassic Marine Reptile Described

1 12, 2014

Last Recommended Posting Dates (Christmas 2014)

By | December 1st, 2014|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Press Releases|0 Comments

Last Recommended Posting Dates for Christmas (2014)

Today is Monday the 1st December, also known as “cyber Monday”, the day forecast to be the busiest for on line sales. Everything Dinosaur team members have been in nice and early and they are busy organising customer’s orders.  The staff will do all they can to assist customers and here is a list of helpful hints and tips about posting parcels during the Christmas period.  We have also published the last posting date guidelines (Royal Mail).  Please note, these last posting dates are for guidance only, we recommend posting as early as possible to avoid any potential disappointment at Christmas.

In this way, Everything Dinosaur is doing what it can to ensure our customers have a happy Christmas.

Last Recommended Safe Posting Dates for Christmas 2014

Helpful table about Christmas posting dates.

Helpful table about Christmas posting dates.

Table Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Royal Mail

For example, the last recommended posting date for international standard parcels (formerly airmail to the USA, is Friday 12th December).

Additional Helpful Hints from Everything Dinosaur

1).  Remember to include the house number or house name with the delivery address information.

2).  Check postcode/zip code details carefully.

3).  Before pressing the “submit” button to send an order to Everything Dinosaur, check the delivery address one last time.

4). Remember, with PayPal and our own website’s ordering process customers can write a message to us in the order message box.  You can write in confirmation of delivery address or any specific, relevant information required to help ensure a rapid delivery.

5).  If you want to specify a different delivery address to your billing address, our website allows you to do this easily and without fuss.

6).  If you want to send an item to your work address, please ensure that you include the company name in the delivery address information.

7).  If you think it will help, you can always specify a neighbour’s address where the parcel can be delivered to if you will be out at work when the delivery is likely to occur.

If you have a query about Christmas deliveries, or indeed any aspect of Everything Dinosaur’s delivery service please feel free to contact us: Email Everything Dinosaur

To view the Everything Dinosaur website: Dinosaur Toys and Games

Happy Christmas shopping and remember, Everything Dinosaur’s team members will be on hand to help and assist you.

30 11, 2014

Putting the “King” into the Tyrant Lizard

By | November 30th, 2014|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

The Rebor KING T-REX  – An Appropriate Name

Everything Dinosaur team members are eagerly expecting the arrival of their shipment of Rebor 1:35 scale Tyrannosaurus rex replicas.  The shipment is expected very shortly and in the meantime, staff have been busy making sure that everyone who emailed asking for a model to be reserved has been added to our reservations list.

One of the things we have noticed about Rebor is that they tend to assign a moniker or nick-name to their sculpts.  For example, the rather wonderful model of Yutyrannus huali was nick-named Y-REX.  This term does not have any significance from a palaeontological perspective, after all Yutyrannus, from northern China, lived more than fifty-five million years before the more famous North American tyrannosaurid – Tyrannosaurus rex.  Ironically there is a body of evidence to suggest that Late Cretaceous predators such as the members of the Tyrannosauridae that roamed the landmass of Laramidia on the western side of the that shallow sea that divided the continent (Western Interior Seaway), were actually descended from Tyrannosaurs that migrated from Asia.

Imagine that, the most famous dinosaur from the United States and the pride of so many North American museum collections being descended from Chinese immigrants.

The T. rex is going to be the second replica released in the Rebor model series.  It too, is modelled in 1:35 scale, but since Tyrannosaurus rex was larger than Yutyrannus, the replica is considerably bigger.  This rather stylish photograph sent to us by our chums at Rebor illustrates this point nicely.

Comparing the T-REX with the Y-REX Rebor Replicas

Comparing the two 1:35 scale models together.

Comparing the two 1:35 scale models together.

Picture Credit: Rebor

 The Rebor Tyrannosaurus rex will have the nick-name KING T-REX.  Rebor states that by adopting this tactic, the products can develop personalities and it is the company’s intention to roll out such nick-names across their entire range.  Such titles do have other benefits.  For example, lots of parents and grandparents contact us and they struggle to pronounce many of the names of the prehistoric animals that they are trying to acquire for their children or grandchildren.  An easy to remember (and pronounce) name will certainly prove a boon to those folks who are perhaps not as well acquainted with the tongue twisting names of certain Dinosauria that young dinosaur fans revel in being able to pronounce correctly.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of Rebor replicas:  Rebor Prehistoric Animal Replicas

Providing regal status for the Rebor Tyrannosaurus rex replica is also appropriate as the binomial scientific name of this Theropod translates as “King of the Tyrant Lizards”.  However, this was not the first name used to describe what is now known to be T. rex  fossil material.  The first Tyrannosaurus rex bones put on the record were a pair of damaged cervical vertebrae (neck bones), one of which has been subsequently lost.  Edward Drinker Cope, noting the extensive honey-combed internal structure of these bones assigned the name Manospondylus gigas which means “giant air-filled vertebrae”, not the sort of name to inspire a generation of dinosaur fans.  This iconic “King of the Tyrant Lizards”, perhaps the most famous organism known from the fossil record, was also very nearly called Dynamosaurus (D. imperiosus), this translates to “Imperial Power Lizard”, at least the regal theme would have been retained.

To read more about the naming of this dinosaur: Tyrannosaurus rex – What’s in a Name?

Within natural history museum collections, the Tyrannosaur material can attain a special status.  These are the fossils that are requested to be photographed or used in video footage to support a news article.  Having Tyrannosaur material is often looked at as being a badge of honour for the museum, whilst in all honesty, other less high profile fossil material within the collection may have far greater significance in terms of importance to research.  As arguably, the most iconic of all the dinosaurs, after all T. rex has come out as number one in every single survey conducted by Everything Dinosaur with regards to prehistoric animal popularity, certain more complete specimens have acquired a degree of nobility in the minds of museum directors and administrators.

The 1:35 Scale Replica of the Rebor Tyrannosaurus rex

Beautiful 1:35 scale dinosaur model.

Beautiful 1:35 scale dinosaur model.

These “aristocratic” dinosaur fossils have become even more special and important in the minds of the general public as it is these fossil specimens that are the the subject of documentaries and television programmes.

As for the question of a “King T. rex“, as in the biggest specimen found to date, or even a new species to distinguish between the different T. rex morphologies known.  That is quite hard to answer.  “Sue” at the Field Museum in Chicago is regarded as the largest, she (believed to represent a female), is also one of the best preserved and the most complete.  But is this the largest Tyrannosaurus rex that ever lived?  Probably not, Tyrannosaurs seem to have grown differently to mammals, for as long as they lived they got a little bigger year on year.  It is likely that somewhere in the Badlands of Montana or South Dakota there is a fossil of an even bigger T. rex waiting to be discovered.

That’s the joy of palaeontology, you just never know.

So we look forward to welcoming the Rebor KING T-REX to our inventory, a very noble replica of a Tyrannosaurus rex.

To contact Everything Dinosaur so that you can reserve a Rebor T. rex replica: Email Everything Dinosaur

30 11, 2014

Providing Extension Activities to Support a Dinosaur Topic

By | November 30th, 2014|General Teaching|Comments Off on Providing Extension Activities to Support a Dinosaur Topic

Dinosaur Themed Extension Ideas Provided by Everything Dinosaur

Our team members are always keen to advise teachers and learning support providers with regards to extension activities to be conducted after a visit from one of our experts.  As part of our work, whether it is with Key Stage 1 , 2 or even Key Stage 3 students, we are happy to work in collaboration with the teaching team to ensure learning objectives are being reinforced.  For example, with Key Stage 3 students we can provide helpful support materials to ensure a lively and informed debate about the ethics of cloning when it comes to the resurrection of long extinct species such as the Woolly Mammoth. Whereas, with Key Stage 1 or Key Stage 2 students. we can help with recounts and activities that emphasis the concept of scientific working.

Key Stage 2 Teacher Lists Extension Activities after Dinosaur Workshop

Extension activities after a dinosaur themed workshop from Everything Dinosaur.

Extension activities after a dinosaur themed workshop from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Hurst Green Primary

In the example above, the teacher requested advice on how to build in a focus on English and hand-writing after a visit from Everything Dinosaur to Year 3.  We agreed to set a series of what we call “pinkie palaeontologist challenges” to the class.  These challenges involved the children recounting their work with Everything Dinosaur, writing thank you letters, producing scientific posters and devising their very own prehistoric animal based on a set of criteria provided by the Everything Dinosaur team member.  Such activities link nicely to other elements of the curriculum and we even promised to show case some of the children’s work on Everything Dinosaur’s web log, thus allowing elements of the ICT syllabus to be covered to.

Commenting on the dinosaur workshop, the teacher stated:

“It was an excellent session, informative and fun with loads of hands on activities for the children (and staff).  Five stars!”

29 11, 2014

Heading for a Sixth Mass Extinction Event

By | November 29th, 2014|Animal News Stories, Main Page|1 Comment

Past Mass Extinctions Linked to Changes in Global Climate

Planet Earth might be teetering on the brink of a sixth mass extinction event, climate change resulting in the huge loss of species associated with the Cretaceous mass extinction or the more devastating (in terms of species affected), Permian Great Dying.  That is the conclusion reached in a documentary being aired on the Smithsonian channel in the United States tomorrow.  The documentary entitled “Mass Extinction: Life at the Brink” explains what scientists now know about the Permian and Cretaceous extinction events, two of the five great extinctions recorded in the fossil record (Phanerozoic extinctions).   The documentary also explores how our activities are altering the climate, which could lead to similar collapses within ecosystems.

Although global warming is still dismissed by some, most of the scientific community supports the theory that the Earth’s climate is changing and that the planet is getting warmer.  One of the key points in the film concerns the issue of if the Earth warms very suddenly, when climate change is examined against the backdrop of geological time, then what would be the consequences?

This documentary and a book written by University of California (Berkeley) palaeontologist and professor of integrative biology, Anthony Barnosky (Dodging Extinction) is just one of a series of increasingly alarming accounts of the impact of climate change on our planet, produced by the academic community.  Back in 2010, a United Nations report stated that about 30% of all the flora and fauna on Earth was in danger of dying out by the end of the 21st Century due to the rapid industrialisation of parts of the world and the West’s inability to curb greenhouse gases that were potentially leading to dramatic changes in climate.

To read more about the United Nations report: Are we Heading for a Sixth Mass Extinction Event?

Professor Barnosky and his wife, Dr. Elizabeth Hadley (a biologist/ecologist at Stanford University), appear in the documentary, helping to explain the evidence that has been amassed that suggests climate change is happening and such shifts in Earth’s climate led to mass extinctions in the past.

Professor Barnosky, now in his early sixties explains:

” I go back to places where I was doing coal exploration geology, beautiful places in western Colorado and now the trees are all dead, mostly from beetle kill because winters have warmed enough so that the beetles can reproduce twice in a season rather than once.  In my lifetime, I have seen it go from verdant forests to literally tens of thousands of acres of dead trees, and that’s just in Colorado.  There are literally millions of square miles of dead trees up and down the Rocky Mountain chain.  All because of greenhouse gases warming the atmosphere”.

Scientists Suggest Global Warming is Leading to the Deaths of Many Forests due to Unchecked Insect Populations

Dead Trees in Yellowstone National Park

Dead Trees in Yellowstone National Park

Picture Credit: Tangled Bank Studios

A Table Listing the Five Major Extinction Events of the Phanerozoic

Mass Extinction in Summary

Table Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The table above documents the five mass extinction events from the Phanerozoic Eon (the eon of visible life from approximately 545 million years ago to the present day).  The table also provides information about the major animal groups affected.

The documentary film’s executive producer is evolutionary biologist Sean B. Carroll, he states that scientists and academics have learned more about what caused the great extinction events of the past.  Dramatic events like asteroid impacts and massive volcanic eruptions led to climate change on a global scale wrecking the world’s ecosystems and devastating life on our planet.

Professor Carroll explained:

“We now know with high confidence from recent work that The Great Dying [Permian extinction event] was caused by massive volcanic eruptions underneath present-day Siberia and that just pumped out massive amounts of climate-changing gases, including massive amounts of carbon dioxide.”

Also appearing in the documentary programme is Walter Alvarez (University of California, Berkeley), who along with his late father, the physicist Luis Alvarez, first uncovered evidence that an extraterrestrial impact had struck the Earth at around the time of the demise of the dinosaurs.  Whilst there has always been extinctions (known as the background rate of extinction), the programme makers warn that as humans reduce the habitat available for other species and alter the composition of the atmosphere, animals and plants are being pushed towards extinction twelve times higher than the background level.

Are We Heading for an Extinction Event as Dramatic as the End Cretaceous Extinction?

Death of the dinosaurs.

Death of the dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

For instance, temperatures may rise by perhaps as high as four degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st Century, a rise almost as great as during the end Permian extinction event, which resulted in the loss of some 95% of all life on Earth.  It has been suggested that most of the coral reefs may vanish by the year 2070, as the oceans become more acidic due to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  This could result in the loss of 25% of the fish species in the sea that depend on coral reefs resulting in the loss of 10% of the ocean’s fisheries with direct implications for the human population.

There may be still time to help avert this catastrophe, recent agreements on the restricted use of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emission limits if implemented effectively, could help minimise the impact.  In the book, authored by Professor Barnosky, he proposes a series of steps that people can take to help prevent further global warming:

  • Reduce the amount of intensively reared meat that you consume
  • Avoid foods which contain palm oil (palm oil plantations replacing large amounts of natural forest)
  • Only eat fish that has been sustainably harvested

In addition, the authors and the documentary makers urge people to lobby political and business leaders to help bring about fundamental changes in the way that we as a species perceive the natural world and its resources.

28 11, 2014

British Palaeontologist Discovers New Species of Dinosaur in a Canadian Museum

By | November 28th, 2014|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|1 Comment

Those Complicated North American Chasmosaurs

It has happened before and we are certain that it will happen again.  A scientist examining the fossilised remains of dinosaurs within the collection of a museum, finds that on analysis, specimens ascribed to known genera, turn out to be new species. Dr. Nick Longrich from the Biology and Biochemistry department of the University of Bath was studying Ceratopsian (horned dinosaur) specimens at the Canadian Museum of Nature (Ottawa, Canada) and thanks to his research, two horned dinosaur fossils, known from the Dinosaur Provincial Park Formation of Alberta and previously believed to represent Anchiceratops and Chasmosaurus may actually represent animals new to science.

Writing in the scientific journal “Cretaceous Research”, Dr. Longrich proposes that the fossils he studied, although from Canada, resemble dinosaurs known from much further south, from New Mexico and Utah to be precise.

How could this be?  Let’s start with by looking at the landmass we now know as North America and what it looked like some seventy-five million years ago in the Late Cretaceous.  In the Late Cretaceous, rising sea levels and tectonic forces led to the formation of an immense shallow sea that covered much of the continent.  This sea, which effectively linked the Arctic Ocean with the Gulf of Mexico, is known as the Western Interior Seaway.  The extent of the seaway changed over millions of years, shaping the landmasses and also influencing the flora and fauna that lived on them.  Towards the very end of the Cretaceous further plate movements and a phase of resulting mountain building led to the shrinking of the sea, the seaway retreated shrinking to represent a marine environment less than 10% of its maximum area by the beginning of the Cenozoic.

North America in the Late Cretaceous

North America 75 million years ago and 65 million years ago

North America 75 million years ago and 65 million years ago

Picture Credit: Dr. Ron Blakey of Colorado Plateau Geosystems, Inc

 The picture above shows how the shape of the continent is believed to have changed over the last ten million years or so of the Cretaceous Period, now back to Dr. Longrich.  The landmass that existed on the western side of this seaway is known as Laramidia.  Dinosaurs dominated this part of the world, just as they did in all the other terrestrial environments during the Cretaceous, but the fossil record preserved indicates that there was a tremendous variety of dinosaurs in this part of the world.  What is more, there seems to have been distinct faunal provinces, the southern portion of this landmass had different dinosaurs to those found on the northern parts of Laramidia.  The fossil record seems to show ethnicity in the fauna that evolved, how and why this occurred (even if it actually occurred at all), has been hotly debated by palaeontologists.  Some scientists have suggested that there must have been physical barriers between populations that over tens of thousands of years permitted new, distinct species to evolve.

To read an article related to this:  A Surge in Mountain Building May Have Led to Dinosaur Diversification

The horned dinosaur specimens studied by Dr. Longrich had previously been classified as Anchiceratops and Chasmosaurus, species known from Canada, the north of Laramidia.  However, after re-analysing these particular fossils, he realised that they more closely resembled dinosaurs from the southern part of the Laramidia landmass.  Two frill fragments from the uppermost Dinosaur Park Formation, found near Manyberries, south-east Alberta, that had thought to represent Anchiceratops have been re-classified as Pentaceratops dinosaur material.  These Canadian frill bones are sufficiently different in their morphology from Pentaceratops sternbergii, which is known from New Mexico, that they have been ascribed to a new Pentaceratops species – P. aquilonius

An Artist’s Impression of Pentaceratops aquilonius

A new species of "northern Pentaceratops".

A new species of “northern Pentaceratops”.

Picture Credit: University of Bath

Pentaceratops aquilonius may have been very closely related to the southern Pentaceratops (P. sternbergii), but it was smaller and it had differently shaped frill bones and a different arrangement of hornlets (epiparietals).  The genus name means “five horned face”, although, just like the much later and more famous Triceratops, this dinosaur only had three horns.  The elongated jugal bones on the side of the skull  had horny outgrowths, when viewed from the front, this dinosaur had the appearance of having five horns.  The species name aquilonius means “northern” – a reference to where this dinosaur roamed.

The second horned dinosaur fossil specimens, studied by Dr. Longrich had been thought to represent Chasmosaurus.  However, the British palaeontologist noted that the partial skull in the Canadian Museum of Nature’s collection closely resembled another type of horned dinosaur called Kosmoceratops.  Fossils of Kosmoceratops have been found in Utah, (Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument), this horned dinosaur was named and described back in 2010.

To read more about Kosmoceratops: Those Curious Ceratopsians

Phylogenetic analysis of the skull’s characteristics places this specimen in a sister taxon to Kosmoceratops richardsoni, the name ascribed to the Utah fossil finds.  More fossils are required from the Dinosaur  Provincial Park Formation before a new species of Kosmoceratops can be erected.

Not So Distinct Northern and Southern Provinces in Laramida

A mixing of faunas, at least amongst elements of the Ceratopsidae.

A mixing of faunas, at least amongst elements of the Ceratopsidae.

Picture Credit: University of Bath

The diagram above maps the two dinosaurs (coloured red)  in situ with other Chasmosaurine dinosaur fossil discoveries.  Dinosaurs would spread from one part of the continent to another and then diverge from their “home” ancestors to evolve into a new species.  Competition between the different species then would have prevented the dinosaurs from moving between the northern and southern provinces, although changes in climate and flora may too have had an affect.  The established populations may have been able to resist migrations as they had specifically evolved to cope with local conditions.

Dr. Longrich stated:

“We thought we had discovered most of the species, but it seems there are many undiscovered dinosaurs left.  There are lots of species out there, we’ve really only just scratched the surface.”

But why were there so many species of mega fauna in this part of the world during the Late Cretaceous.  This pattern is not seen in many ecosystems today.  Dr Longrich has a theory, he thinks:

“In living mammals, there tend to be relatively few large species, and they have large ranges.  With Cretaceous dinosaurs, we see a lot of large species in a single habitat.  They also tend to be very regional, as you move from one habitat to another, you get a completely different set of species.”

These patterns of distribution might help explain why palaeontologists keep finding more types of dinosaur, when they sample different habitats, they find different species.

Dr. Longrich speculates that the biology of these reptiles could be the reason for these patterns:

“In this sense, dinosaur biology seems quite different from mammal biology.  It could be that mammals are more intelligent and so they tend to have more flexible behaviour, they adapt their behaviour to their habitats.  On the other hand, dinosaurs may have had to adapt themselves physically to survive in a different habitat and as a result, they evolved into new species.  Perhaps that’s the reason why there are so many species.

The Ceratopsian fauna of Laramidia has posed a number of important questions for palaeontologists. For example, in Alberta bone beds of Centrosaurine dinosaurs (one group of Ceratopsians) are relatively common, a number of bone bed deposits have been found, whereas fossils of Chasmosaurines (the other group of Ceratopsians) are much rarer altogether and very little bone bed evidence has been discovered.

Why might this be?

We said at the beginning of this article that there had been previous cases of a new species of dinosaur being discovered when museum collections are re-examined, to read about a similar case, but this time involving the Sauropoda, see the link below.

Where’s the best place to find a new species of dinosaur: Look in a Museum for a New Dinosaur

27 11, 2014

Extension Ideas for Key Stage 2

By | November 27th, 2014|Educational Activities, Teaching|0 Comments

Fossils and How Fossils Form with Everything Dinosaur

Year 3 at Hurst Green Primary have been studying rocks, fossils and dinosaurs in the second half of the autumn term.  3H have even been split into five teams for this topic that explores dinosaurs and life in the past.  The teams are Tyrannosaurus rex, Velociraptors, Sabre-Tooth Tigers, Mastodons, and Pterodactyls.  Our dinosaur and fossil expert, praised the teaching team for their innovative approach to delivering the learning objectives for this topic, however, it was pointed out that there were one or two concerns over the names chosen for the teams.  For example, although “Sabre-Tooth Tiger” is a term in common usage, the cats within the genus Smilodon are not closely related to modern tigers.

The Table Teams in Class 3H

Teams in the classroom learning about dinosaurs.

Teams in the classroom learning about dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Hurst Green Primary

We did point out the other errors in the team names and sent over information to help the teacher make the corrections.  In addition, we gave the class one of our “pinkie palaeontologist challenges”!   In collaboration with the teacher, we challenged the children to create a scientific poster of the prehistoric animal that their team name was based on.  We promised to email over some teaching resources all about these prehistoric animals. Could the children create a display all about T. rex, Mastodons, Velociraptors etc.

To set up the task, we explained how scientists display results and data on poster boards.  We asked the children to create scale drawings, diagrams of the animal that their team was named after (with proper labelling of course).  Could they explain what the animal ate, where it lived and how long ago these animals roamed the Earth?

A Teacher Makes Notes About Suggested Extension Ideas for Year 3

A teacher lists the extension ideas during a dinosaur workshop.

A teacher lists the extension ideas during a dinosaur workshop.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Hurst Green Primary

The posters would provide an example of a non-chronological report.  This activity would help the children recount what they had learned during the Key Stage 2 dinosaur workshop and it would link nicely in with teaching objectives related to English, Maths, History and Geography elements of the national curriculum.

Our dinosaur expert spent the morning helping Year 3 study dinosaurs and fossils.  With a focus on ICT, could the children’s posters be pinned onto a classroom wall and a picture taken of them?  This photograph could then be emailed to Everything Dinosaur, all part of helping the children to learn about how emails and websites work.

The teacher commented:

“Thank you Everything Dinosaur, an excellent session – informative but fun with loads of hands-on activities for the children (and staff).”

For an explanation about why it is not valid to use the term “Sabre-Tooth Tigers”: How Smilodon Got Stripes

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