All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
21 05, 2015

May 21st Remembering Mary Anning

By | May 21st, 2015|General Teaching, Key Stage 1/2|Comments Off on May 21st Remembering Mary Anning

Mary Anning – Fossil Hunting Pioneer

Today, May 21st, we remember Mary Anning, the Englishwoman who did much to assist in the development of the science of palaeontology in the 19th Century.  Mary Anning was born on this day in 1799.  Sadly, during her lifetime, her exploits and contribution to our understanding about fossils and prehistoric life were not recognised to as large an extent as they should have been.  If Mary was alive today, she would find the academic world much more accessible than it was back in Georgian and early Victorian times.

Mary helped put the small, Dorset town of Lyme Regis on the scientific map.  The fossils she found and her work in studying the many specimens excavated from the the Lower Jurassic marine shales did much to shape the nascent sciences of geology and palaeontology.  Although Mary became well known as an expert in fossils and fossil hunting, she did not receive full credit for her work.  In those less enlightened days, the concept of women in science was frowned upon by many academic institutions.  Mary is credited with the discovery of the first Plesiosaur fossils (1821) and the first Pterosaur from the British Isles (1828).  The responsibility for studying and describing this Pterosaur specimen went to the Reverend William Buckland (1829), although the fossil was well-preserved, it was missing the skull and as a result , the Reverend Buckland mistakenly identified the creature as belonging to an already described flying reptile genus known from Germany (Pterodactylus).

Remembering Mary Anning – A Pioneer in Fossil Hunting

Mary Anning 1799-1847

Mary Anning 1799-1847

In fact, the fossil represented an entirely new genus of long-tailed Pterosaur.  Sir Richard Owen re-examined the original fossil evidence along with a number of other fossil finds and in 1858, over a decade after Mary had sadly passed away, he established the new genus Dimorphodon.  Look out for this toothy Pterosaur terrorising visitors to the Isla Nuablar theme park in the forthcoming movie “Jurassic World”.

Mary died in 1847, she is buried at St Michael’s church (Lyme Regis), each time team members at Everything Dinosaur visit the Jurassic coast we pop along and pay our respects to her.

When visiting primary schools to talk about fossils and rocks we tell the story of Mary Anning and show the children typical fossils that Mary would have found as she searched the beaches and cliffs along that part of the Dorset coast.

21 05, 2015

Would a Dinosaur Make a Good Pet?

By | May 21st, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Teaching|0 Comments

Year 2 at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School Consider a Pet Dinosaur

Children in Year 2 at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School (Matlock, Derbyshire), have been tackling the tricky question of would dinosaurs make good pets?  This poser is one of the questions being explored as part of a series of themes for the summer term.  So far the children have learned about dinosaur eggs and taken part in some outdoor measuring activities under the guidance of their enthusiastic teacher Miss Sutcliffe.  It’s a good job the school has a large playground, especially when it comes to working out how tall a Brachiosaurus was.

Brachiosaurus was one of the largest of the dinosaurs, a huge plant-eater, fossils of which have been found in Upper Jurassic rocks.  The children estimated that a twelve metre tall Brachiosaurus would be the same height as nineteen Year 2 children.  This is a super exercise and certainly helps children gain an appreciation of the size and scale of some of the biggest dinosaurs.

One of the Biggest Dinosaurs of the Late Jurassic

A typical Brachiosaur.

A typical Brachiosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Trouble is, Brachiosaurus (the name means “Arm Lizard” as the forelimbs were larger than the back legs), was not the tallest of the Dinosauria.  As more fossils have been found so different contenders for the “tallest dinosaur “accolade are proposed.  One contender, known from four neck bones and a handful of other fossil specimens found in rocks dating from the Early Cretaceous of the United States, is Sauroposeidon (the name means “Earthquake Lizard”).  Sauroposeidon is pronounced sore-oh-poh-sigh-don.  One of the neck bones measures 1.4 metres long, that is taller than most of the Year 2 children at the school.

Size estimates for Sauroposeidon do vary.  With so few fossils to study, it is difficult to work out just how tall, or indeed just how long or how heavy this dinosaur was.  Palaeontologists are not even sure if Sauroposeidon had the same basic body shape of Brachiosaurus.  However, if it did, then it could have been around 18-20 metres tall.

Sauroposeidon Compared to Brachiosaurus

Scaling up Sauroposeidon and comparing it to Brachiosaurus and an extant African elephant.

Scaling up Sauroposeidon and comparing it to Brachiosaurus and an extant African elephant.

If nineteen Year 2 children are as tall as a twelve metre high Brachiosaurus, then can the class work out how many of them would be needed to be the same height as a twenty metre tall Sauroposeidon?

Miss Sutcliffe and her teaching assistant have certainly developed a challenging and engaging scheme of work for the class.  The dinosaur workshop we conducted certainly helped as we were able to answer the children’s questions and some of those questions were quite challenging.  For example, we were asked how did dinosaurs chew bones?  Fortunately, some of the fossils we had with us were useful in demonstrating how some types of dinosaur ate.

The spacious and well-organised classroom had lots of dinosaur themed displays.  We were informed that after our visit the children would be designing a habitat for their dinosaurs.  This links nicely into the English national curriculum as this enables the children to learn about living creatures and what they need to survive.  Perhaps the children can compare the world of the dinosaurs with habitats seen today and the types of animals that exist in those habitats.   It was pleasing to note that Year 2 had a good grasp of the terminology related to ecosystems and food chains.  For example, the children were able to explain all about omnivores.  Our cast of the lower jaw of a Pachycephalosaur (Dracorex hogwartsia), proved useful when it came to explaining about animals that ate both meat and plants.  Dracorex might make a good pet dinosaur, it would have helped keep the school’s vegetable garden pest free, but a downside might be that it would be tempted to eat all the flowers!

A Colourful Dinosaur Themed Display in the Classroom

St Joseph's Catholic Primary School (Year 2) dinosaur display.

St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School (Year 2) dinosaur display.

Picture Credit: Year 2/Everything Dinosaur

We set the class a number of challenges as part of the extension ideas and activities we discussed with Miss Sutcliffe and we look forward to hearing how the children get on as they explore all things dinosaur for their summer term topic.

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