All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
7 05, 2015

Great Wood Primary School and Dinosaurs

By | May 7th, 2015|General Teaching, Key Stage 1/2|Comments Off on Great Wood Primary School and Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs Inspire Creative Writing with Year 2

Children in classes 2P and 2T (Key Stage 1), at Great Wood Primary School (Morecambe), really enjoyed their dinosaur workshops with Everything Dinosaur.  Even the interruption caused by the fire alarm going off did not spoil the day.  Year 2 pupils have been learning all about dinosaurs and prehistoric animals as part of a term topic called the “Jurassic Forest”.  Everything Dinosaur was invited into the school to conduct a workshop to help inspire and motivate the budding young palaeontologists.

One of the teaching aims was to act as a provocation to help enthuse the children (and teachers), as they began this topic.  The dinosaur expert who visited the school suggested a number of extension activities including writing thank you letters to Everything Dinosaur after the workshops had been concluded.

A Super Set of Thank You Letters Sent in from Year Two

Dinosaur Workshop inspires children.

Dinosaur Workshop inspires children.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Great Wood Primary School

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We try to cater for the learning objectives required by the teaching team and build them into our dinosaur and fossil workshops.  For example, one of the aims of this workshop was to help inspire the children with composition writing.  All the wonderful letters we received provides evidence as to how successful this was.”

To enquire about Everything Dinosaur’s visits to schools: Contact Everything Dinosaur/Request a Quotation

Dinosaur Workshop Inspires Year 2 with their Creative Writing

A Dinosaur Workshop inspires Key Stage 1 children helping with creative writing.

A Dinosaur Workshop inspires Key Stage 1 children helping with creative writing.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Great Wood Primary School

The very tactile and practical dinosaur workshop appealed to visual/spatial learners and certainly inspired the children with their writing.  We received lots of letters, some of the children even sent in two pieces of writing!

7 05, 2015

Early Birds Winding Back the Clock

By | May 7th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Early Birds from the Early Cretaceous

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have published information about a new species of ancient bird which suggests that the clade of Aves that produced today’s modern feathery friends, the Ornithuromorpha was around at least five million years earlier than previously thought.  The new species comes from strata that is estimated to have been laid down around 130.7 million years ago (Barremian faunal stage of the Early Cretaceous).  This new type of early bird, named Archaeornithura meemannae has been described from two beautifully preserved fossils (mostly, see below), discovered in the Protopteryx horizon, part of the Huajiying Formation (Sichakou basin, Fengning County, Hebei, north-eastern China).

 Archaeornithura meemannae – A Very Early Bird

Archaeornithura meemannae - believed to adapted for wading.

Archaeornithura meemannae – believed to adapted for wading.

Picture Credit: Institute of Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (Beijing)

The picture shows an artist’s illustration of this little bird that measured around fifteen centimetres in length.  The fossil has been preserved in fine-grained volcanic sediments and much of the plumage surrounding the delicate bones can still be seen.  Sadly, the skull and neck bones are not well preserved in either specimen and the researchers have been unable to confirm whether this bird had teeth in its jaws or not.  However, writing in the academic journal “Nature Communications”, the scientists identify this creature as the earliest known example of the Ornithuromorpha, the branch of the bird Order that led to the Neornithes (modern birds).  The previous earliest known example of a member of the Ornithuromorpha dates from rocks around 125 million years ago, this fossil too, was found in China.

The Holotype Fossil of  Archaeornithura meemannae

The slab and counter slab showing the holotype.

The slab and counter slab showing the holotype.

Picture Credit: Nature Communications

The picture above shows the slab (left) and the counter slab (right) of the holotype fossil, which like the second specimen is part of the vertebrate fossil collection at the Tianyu Museum of Nature (Shandong Province, China).  These early birds should feel very much at home at the museum, as it houses one of the most extensive collections of vertebrate fossil material excavated from Lower Cretaceous sediments in the world.  The binomial name Archaeornithura meemannae comes from the Greek “Archae” for ancient and “Ornithura”, so the genus name means “ancient Ornithuromorph”.  The species name honours Dr. Meemann Chang in recognition of her work in the study of the Jehol Biota.

The environment of this part of north-eastern China during the Early Cretaceous was one of a sub-tropical climate, dominated by extensive forests interspersed by numerous large bodies of fresh water. The absence of feathers on the legs of A. meemannae and the long legs has led to speculation that this bird may have lived in a lacustrine habitat and been adapted to a wading life-style.  Little is known about the skull, so the diet can only be guessed at, but perhaps this ancient bird ate insects or pecked at water plants.  Although the research team cannot be certain, it has been stated that this early bird was not that interested in catching worms, as the proverb goes,  but it probably was a herbivore.

The Remarkably Well-Preserved Plumage (Wings)

A close up of the feathers on the wings.

A close up of the feathers on the wings.

Picture Credit: Nature Communications

The picture above shows:

a). Left wing main slab holotype

b). Right wing main slab holotype

c). Feathers on the remnants of the head and neck

d). Alular feathers on the left digits with one very clearly visible wing claw.

Alular feathers are found on the leading edge of the wings of birds (they are also associated with the limbs of some feathered dinosaurs, we think).  They help direct air over the upper surface of the wing, thus improving control and lift.  More primitive birds such as the confuciusornithids lack these feather adaptations.  Ornithuromorpha are believed to have comprised about half of the bird species that lived during the Mesozoic, the descendants of some of these birds from the Ornithuromorpha clade survived the Cretaceous mass extinction and evolved into modern birds.  The other major bird clade of the Mesozoic Era was the Enantiornithes, although common, this group died out and are not directly ancestral to modern birds.

Co-author of the study Wang Min (Chinese Academy of Sciences) stated:

“The new fossil represents the oldest record of Ornithuromorpha.  It pushed back the origination date of the Ornithuromorpha by at least five million years.”

To the casual observer, if you had travelled back in time to view Archaeornithura meemannae, it would have looked very similar to modern wading birds, except for the small claws visible on its wings.

The Chinese scientists conclude that by around 130 million years ago a number of avian lineages had already evolved and that it was quite likely that the Aves rapidly diversified during the early part of their evolutionary history.

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