All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
11 05, 2015

Jurassic World Dinosaurs are not Accurate – So What!

By | May 11th, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Movie Reviews and Movie News, Press Releases|1 Comment

Jurassic World = “Dumb Monster Movie”

A number of news stories have appeared in the media over the last few days criticising how the dinosaurs are depicted in the forthcoming film “Jurassic World”, which is the fourth film in the hugely successful “Jurassic Park” franchise.  Articles with headlines such as “Jurassic World branded “dumb monster movie” with unrealistic T. Rex without feathers” from the Scottish Daily Record and “New Jurassic World film slammed as “dumb monster movie” because dinosaurs were covered in fluffy feathers in real life” from the Mail Online, are typical of the adverse publicity.

Knocking a movie before it has been released is not new, prior to the release of the first three Jurassic Park films there were criticisms.  In this article, we want to address the balance a little bit and to put some of the statements made into context with regards to the idea of extracting genetic material from amber in the first place.  The fluffy dinosaur debate will come later.

“Jurassic World” Gets Criticism

A "feat" of genetic engineering?

A “feat” of genetic engineering but are the dinosaurs accurate?

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

Getting the Terminology Right – What’s in a Bionomial Name?

First of all, let’s get out of the way one inaccuracy from the headlines.  The dinosaur name “T. Rex” should never be written with the species name – rex given a capital letter.  There are rules and conventions as to how the taxonomic hierarchy is expressed, rules that we, at Everything Dinosaur do try to stick to.  Formally, the names of all genera in this case Tyrannosaurus, should always begin with a capital letter.  The species or trivial name however, should always begin with a lower case letter.  The “King of the Tyrant Lizards”, should be written as T. rex or Tyrannosaurus rex, note also that the names of genera and species are always printed in italics.  We at Everything Dinosaur do try to adhere to these conventions whenever we can, but we do admit, whilst we try to put the binomial name into italics, when stating the genus, we don’t normally revert to the italicised form.

Despite claims that dinosaur fans could end up being extremely disappointed when this film finally gets released (June 12th), it is just a film, it’s entertainment and from what we have seen from the trailers “Jurassic World” is going to be very entertaining.

The extremely talented and eloquent vertebrate palaeontologist Darren Naish, is quoted in a number of articles (Sunday Times, Business Standard, Daily Mirror to name but a few), he states:

“The original film [Jurassic Park released in 1993], showed dinosaurs that were not simply roaring, scaly monsters but were active, social, bird-like animals with dynamic bodies.  Now, Jurassic World is simply a dumb monster movie and there has been a deliberate effort to make its animals look different from the way we think they should.”

Let’s try and put some of these “headlines” seen in the media into context.

The Amber Effect

The idea that genetic material can be extracted from the bodies of blood sucking insects that have been preserved in amber, the basis for the entire franchise, simply, is not true.  In fact, whilst we at Everything Dinosaur try not to say “never” as advances in science will change circumstances, it is highly improbable that DNA, that forms the basis of a “de-extinction” of a species, will ever by successfully recovered from amber.  The author of the book “Jurassic Park”, Michael Crichton, admitted that experiments to extract insect DNA from fossilised tree resin did influence his writing.  Not long after the book was first published, a number of academic institutes published papers, reporting sequencing DNA from a variety of ancient insect species that had been preserved in amber. There was even one report of DNA being extracted from a weevil that had lived in the Early Cretaceous.  Fascinating stuff, but much of the claims made in these papers have now been retracted.  It was just too good to be true.

Michael Crichton – The Author of “Jurassic Park”

Wrote the original book at a time when breakthroughs in DNA extraction from amber were being reported.

Wrote the original book at a time when breakthroughs in DNA extraction from amber were being reported.

Picture Credit: EPA

Back in 1997, roughly around the time when the sequel to “Jurassic Park” was in cinemas “The Lost World”, a team of scientists from the Natural History Museum (London), tried to repeat the experiments in order to validate the earlier results.  They used amber and copal (the pre-cursor to amber), but they failed.  The team were unable to recover and authenticate ancient insect DNA.  They did find insect DNA, even when they used pieces of amber and copal that actually contained no insect remains.  The sophisticated “DNA detectors” used were picking up ambient, contaminating genetic material from our modern ecosystem, not the distant genetic echoes of ancient life from millions of years ago.

Truth is, the properties of amber make it a very unlikely safe haven for any ancient DNA, insect or dinosaur DNA for that matter.  Amber is light, it can float on salt water.  It is permeable to gases and even some liquids.  Any biological material such as genes are not entirely isolated from the outside world.  The expression “entombed in amber” might be quite commonplace, a term we have used ourselves, but DNA trapped inside amber is not sealed off.  A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur explained:

“Any genetic material trapped within amber or copal is not cut-off.  Imagine a prison cell full of tiny microscopic doors, the delicate DNA is going to be exposed to forces that degrade and destroy it over time.  In addition, as copal changes to amber and whilst the amber remains in the strata, it will, in all likelihood, be subjected to pressure and tremendous heat that will obliterate any DNA.”

It always surprises us that the media picks up comments about the CGI dinosaurs and is happy to produce articles centred around the “accurate dinosaurs debate”, but they nearly always seem to miss the fundamental point that a genetically engineered dinosaur theme park is very much in the realm of science fiction and as such the idea of not having “accurately depicted dinosaurs” is something of a mute point.  This is a sci-fi movie and ultimately, the characters and creatures depicted within it don’t have to reflect the latest scientific thinking.

Non-fluffy Dinosaurs

Darren, is quite right in the comments that he makes, there are certainly many scientific inaccuracies, that is, if the trailers are anything to go by.  In the twenty-two years since the first film, there have been huge advances in our knowledge of the Dinosauria.  One of the main criticisms made by experts, dinosaur film fans and prehistoric animal fans generally, is the lack of feathers on the Theropod dinosaurs, that’s the Velociraptors, Tyrannosaurus rex, and so forth.

Naked Dinosaurs – Beware of our Feathered (or Unfeathered) Friends

Not feathered!

Not feathered!

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

The picture above shows a pair of “naked” Velociraptors as depicted in the forthcoming movie.  Although, no actual feather fossils are associated with Velociraptor mongoliensis, it is widely thought that these members of the Dromaeosauridae were feathered.

The original movie, when it was released in 1993, received some praise, but it too was also criticised.  Advances in CGI enabled film makers to depict dinosaurs as much more dynamic, active animals.   A nod was given to those scientists who had portrayed the Dinosauria as social animals living in herds with very bird-like characteristics, hence one of the most famous lines in the film when the ornithomimids run towards Dr. Alan Grant’s party “they’re flocking this way.”  This is exactly, one of the points that we think Darren was making, however, in the original “Jurassic Park”, the Tyrannosaurus rex was depicted as being somewhat akin to a reptilian Usain Bolt.  The character John Hammond, portrayed by the late Sir Richard Attenborough, excitedly exclaims “we clocked the T. rex at 32 miles an hour”.  Bio-mechanical studies and other evidence strongly refutes the idea of a speedy T. rex, one that in the film, nearly catches up with a Jeep.  If truth be told, based on what is known about large Tyrannosaurs, the “King of the Tyrant Lizards”, would have been lucky to have caught up with the fleeing scientists if they had been riding in a golf buggy.

Problems with the Pterosaurs and Mosasaurs

Let’s not just focus on the dinosaurs in the film, many of the other prehistoric animals depicted show considerable discrepancies from the fossil record and published research.  An oversized, shark eating Mosasaur for example, the shiny skinned flying reptiles several of which, just like the marine reptile, seem to have been subjected to a film makers “growth ray”.  Scientists like the highly respected Darren Naish are quite right to make such points.

Snack Time at the Mosasaurus Feeding Show

Come and see the "oversized" Mosasaur.

Come and see the “oversized” Mosasaur.

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

Feathered or naked, scaly dinosaurs.  Pumped up members of the Pterosauria or mammoth Mosasaurs are choices made by the Director.  It is simply a film, one that will be enjoyed by a great many people including palaeontologists and other scientists who are quite happy to suspend belief, at least for a couple of hours, roughly the running time of the movie –  (124 minutes with credits according to Colin Trevorrow, the Director).

The “Jurassic World” Legacy

We think that this film is going to inspire millions of young people to learn more about dinosaurs and animals that lived long ago.  Many of those young people in the cinema audience marvelling at the monsters, will go on to pursue academic careers of their own.  Perhaps, there might even be, amongst the millions of people who see this film, a girl or boy that will become an evolutionary biologist and contribute to the research on the genomes of extinct creatures.  Actually, this is quite likely, given the predictions regarding the box office potential of “Jurassic World”.

Those young people will want to quench their thirst for all things dinosaur!  The very fact that there are no “fluffy dinosaurs” in this film, will probably inspire young minds to find out more.  A very good place to start is to seek out the many books, papers and articles authored by the likes of Darren Naish and his counterparts in the scientific community.

“Jurassic World” is just a film, it is science fiction, it is entertainment.  The science behind the study of the Dinosauria and other prehistoric creatures has moved on dramatically since the very first “Jurassic Park”.  Research will continue long after films like “Jurassic World” have faded from the memory, and that research, will in all likelihood, reveal even more astonishing information about these fascinating creatures.

10 05, 2015

In Praise of Pegasus Hobbies Dinosaurs

By | May 10th, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Pegasus Dinosaur Model Kits – Produce Top Quality Models

Everything Dinosaur has added a number of new product lines to its range of dinosaur inspired merchandise over the last six months or so.  One new addition is the superb series of scale model kits from Pegasus Hobbies.  Currently, there are three to collect, a Triceratops, the Tyrannosaurus rex and a fantastic Spinosaurus.  Each kit has been designed by top figure sculptors and they are aimed at model makers from fourteen years and upwards.  Fans of top quality dinosaur replicas have the opportunity to produce museum quality, highly professional prehistoric animal themed dioramas and we have been really impressed by the many pictures sent into us by customers who have built these kits.

Pegasus Dinosaur Model Kits – A Range of Top Quality Prehistoric Animal Model Kits

Pegasus Hobbies Dinosaur model kits are available from Everything Dinosaur.

Pegasus Hobbies Dinosaur model kits are available from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To see Everything Dinosaur’s range of Pegasus Hobbies Dinosaurs: Pegasus Dinosaur Model Kits

We are always pleased to hear from our customers and we really enjoy looking at pictures of dinosaur fan’s model collections.  We know that we have some very talented customers, some of the photographs that we are sent show fantastic and highly creative prehistoric animal dioramas.  Take for example, these pictures of a finished Pegasus dinosaur model kit sent in by David – they really are most impressive.

The Pegasus Spinosaurus Model Kit

Beautifully crafted model.

Beautifully crafted model.

Picture Credit: D. Wigley

The photograph above shows the amazing detail on the model.  The colour scheme chosen by David reminds us of the Papo Spinosaurus figure and the end result is a fantastic diorama.  The Spinosaurus, which scientists believe was a specialist piscivore, has caught a large fish and it is leaning over the body roaring.

A Close up of the Prehistoric Fish that the Spinosaurus has Caught

Xiphactinus, the victim of the Spinosaurus.

Xiphactinus, the victim of the Spinosaurus.

Picture Credit: D. Wigley

David has done a wonderful job on the fish, the metallic look to the scales and careful painting on the inside of the mouth make this feature on the model’s base really stand out.  Everything Dinosaur would like to congratulate David and all the other Pegasus Hobbies dinosaurs fans who have sent in pictures.

In addition to the photographs sent in, we have received lots of feedback and reviews on the Pegasus dinosaur model kits.  For example, Andrew wrote in to say:

“This model kit is of Sideshow Dinosauria quality, the sculpt is even sharper in the teeth than the promotional photographs.  The head fits perfectly on the base and the standing leg is of a more rigid plastic than the rest of the kit to hold the model rigidly when assembled.  Make no mistake, this will impress the most discerning of collectors, it truly is a fantastic model of Sideshow Collectible quality.”

9 05, 2015

It was a Worm’s World Back in the Cambrian

By | May 9th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Palaeontologists Name New Species of Ottoia Worm

Whilst many a television documentary or published article on the fauna of the Burgess Shale focuses on the nektonic predators (actively swimming creatures above the sea floor), such as the formidable Anomalocaris, lurking in the soft mud of the sea floor itself was another very nasty hunter, one that left an extremely rich fossil record.  The most abundant type of creature preserved in the Burgess Shale is a type of worm, a member of the Phylum Priapulidae and now thanks to a detailed study of the teeth, hooks and spines on this tubular predator, scientists have discovered a method of identifying new species and also of determining just how abundant these creatures actually may have been.

An Ottoia Fossil (Burgess Shale)

An Ottoia fossil (Burgess Shale).

An Ottoia fossil (Burgess Shale).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Ottoia fossils from the Burgess Shale of British Columbia (Canada), measure just a few centimetres in length and they are one of the few types of creature preserved in those 5o5 million year old sediments that can be associated with a living animal group, the entirely marine priapulids.  At least fifteen hundred specimens have been excavated from the Burgess Shale deposits.  These creatures may have lived in “U” shaped burrows and ambushed other creatures that wandered or swam to close to the burrow’s entrance.  It could grab food with a proboscis, an extendible mouth which was equipped with tiny hooks and lined with teeth and spines.  The team of scientists from Cambridge University and the University of Leicester, writing in the on line Journal “Palaeontology” used a variety of techniques to examine micro-fossils to identify different types of teeth from Ottoia  It is from this analysis that the team discovered that the most common type of priapulid associated with the Burgess Shale, Ottoia prolifica, actually represented two species.

As a result of this research, a new species of Ottoia worm has been identified in the Burgess Shale deposits – Ottoia tricuspida.  O. tricuspida has been so named as it has distinctive, three-pronged teeth.  Using various microscopy techniques to examine the tiny teeth recovered from drill cores and from other samples, the scientists propose that subtle variations in the teeth could help to identify more species in Cambrian biota and in addition, as the teeth are more likely to be preserved than the soft bodies of these creatures, the teeth could help to establish how widespread such worms were in the Cambrian geological period.

Ottoia prolifica was named by Charles Doolittle Walcott in 1911.  Walcott,  an American invertebrate palaeontologist, discovered the Burgess Shale deposits in the Canadian Rockies back in 1909.  These bands of mudstone and shale are very rich in fossils.  The frequency of Ottoia fossil material might not be anything to do with the abundance of these types of animals in the biota, the numbers found could reflect the fact that these animals lived in soft sediment.  If one of these worms died in their burrow, then they could set in motion the fossilisation process.  The soft mud would act as an excellent medium to promote the preservation of creatures that lived in the sediment.

A Model of Ottoia (Safari Ltd Cambrian Life Toob)

A model of Ottoia (Safari Ltd Cambrian Life Toob).

A model of Ottoia (Safari Ltd Cambrian Life Toob).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Safari Ltd have a wonderful model of Ottoia in the Cambrian Life Toob.  This Toob contains a set of eight prehistoric animals that represent the bizarre fauna of the Cambrian explosion.

To view this Toob and other prehistoric animal model sets: Prehistoric Animal Toobs and Model Sets

A Teeth, Hooks and Spines Associated with Ottoia spp.

The variety of fossil teeth, spines and hooks associated with Ottoia spp.

The variety of fossil teeth, spines and hooks associated with Ottoia spp.

Picture Credit: Palaeontology Journal

8 05, 2015

Everything Dinosaur’s #VoteDinosaur Competition Ends

By | May 8th, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Press Releases|0 Comments

Win a Dinosaur Soft Toy Competition Ends

Over the last month or so, Everything Dinosaur has been running a competition to win a dinosaur soft toy on this blog site and our accompanying Facebook page.  Just as we promised when we started our #votedinosaur contest back in April, the competition would close when the polls closed at 10pm BST on Thursday May 7th (the same time as the polls shut in the UK General Election).

We had seven candidates, having tried to represent the leaders of the seven main political parties with a dinosaur soft toy.  Each soft toy dinosaur being in the colours of the respective political party.  The voting was tight with lots of votes for “Nigel” our purple Triceratops and for “Nick” our yellow Velociraptor, but in the end there was almost a dead heat between “Ed” our red Spinosaurus and “Dave” our blue T. rex.

With the polls closed it was simply a question of ensuring that all the entrants were placed in our “ballot box” and a lucky winner being drawn out at random.  This person has subsequently been sent a message on Facebook to let them know that they have won a soft toy dinosaur.

As for the result of our #votedinosaur poll, here is our very own version of the “state of the parties” after our dinosaur election.

Heading for a Hung Parliament?

Vote Dinosaur.

Vote Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Our Returning Officer “Tyrannosaurus Sue” stated:

“I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the winner of the dinosaur soft toy, we will get this sent out as quickly as we can.  In addition, I want to thank everyone who took part, who shared our posts and liked Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook page.”

THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED

The Colourful Array of Dinosaur Soft Toys that were Our Candidates

Vote Dinosaur! #votedinosaur

Vote Dinosaur! #votedinosaur – this competition is now closed.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the range of soft toy dinosaurs available from Everything Dinosaur: Dinosaur Soft Toys

THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED

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.

6 05, 2015

Dinosaurs and More Dinosaurs in 2015

By | May 6th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, TV Reviews|0 Comments

“Dinosaur Britain” Documentary Commissioned by ITV

By now it could not possibly have escaped your notice that “Jurassic World”, the fourth in the “Jurassic Park” movie franchise opens next month (June 12th).  Another teaser trailer has just been put out and the film is certainly one of the most eagerly awaited cinema events of this year.  However, you don’t have to visit Isla Nublar to view dinosaurs, travel back in time and “dear old blighty” was home to a huge range of prehistoric animals including three types of Tyrannosaurs*.

The very first scientific descriptions of dinosaurs in the early to mid 19th Century were all based upon fossil discoveries made in the UK.  To mark the United Kingdom’s contribution to this sub-division of vertebrate palaeontology, ITV has commissioned the production company Maverick Television to transport Britain back to the Mesozoic to depict how this part of the world was once home to a myriad of prehistoric animals.

“Dinosaur Britain” A New Television Documentary

soo

Different dinosaurs and approximate locations.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

 Over one hundred different species of dinosaur have been identified so far from fossils found in the British Isles.  This includes those three Tyrannosaurs as mentioned above* [Eotyrannus lengi (Isle of Wight), Proceratosaurus bradleyi (Gloucestershire) and Juratyrant langhami (Dorset)].  Back in 2014, Everything Dinosaur reported on the first formal survey of British dinosaurs undertaken by a group of scientists, which included the very talented Darren Naish, a vertebrate palaeontologist from the University of Portsmouth.  In August of last year, we reviewed the excellent “Dinosaurs of the British Isles”.  This book provided a comprehensive guide to the different types of Dinosauria that once roamed around Britain.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s review of “Dinosaurs of the British Isles by Dean Lomax and Nobumichi Tamura: “Dinosaurs of the British Isles” Reviewed

“Dinosaurs of the British Isles”

A comprehensive guide to British dinosaurs over 400 pages.

A comprehensive guide to British dinosaurs over 400 pages.

Picture Credit:  Siri Scientific Press

For further information on this fantastic book and to order a copy: Siri Scientific Press

Britain = Dinosaur Island

Not entirely accurate as for much of the Mesozoic, this part of the world was underwater and when dry land did occur in the past, it formed part of a much larger continental landmass, but that’s not the point, for the last eight thousand years or so, Britain has been an island and there is a wealth of dinosaur and other prehistoric animal fossils to be found in the British Isles, so much so, that it has inspired the commissioning of a new two-part television documentary series.

ITV has commissioned Maverick Television (creators of programmes such as “Embarrassing Bodies” and television make-over shows such as “How to Look Good Naked”), to make two, one-hour long documentaries examining the types of different dinosaur that existed in the British Isles.  Everything Dinosaur understands that the working title for this series is “Dinosaur Britain” and CGI techniques will be used to place ancient creatures in modern-day settings.  So if you fancy seeing an Iguanodont wandering around Kent or a Megalosaurus taking a stroll through the centre of Oxford then this new television series might just float your boat!

Director of Factual Output for ITV, Richard Klein has ordered the programmes which will attempt to educate viewers not only on the types of dinosaur that once existed in the UK, but also to provide information about the habitats and ecosystems of the UK during the Age of the Dinosaurs.  Dinosaur fans can expect lots of hunting and fighting sequences too.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“Britain has a rich fossil heritage, of which the Dinosauria makes up only a small part.  However, with more than one hundred different dinosaurs identified from fossils found in the British Isles, documentary makers have a huge cast list to choose from.  Giants like Pelorosaurus and Brachiosaurs to fearsome predators like Becklespinax and Megalosaurus, which was the first dinosaur to be scientifically named and described.”

At the time of writing we are not sure when these programmes will be shown, but one thing is for sure, with all the hyperbole surrounding “Jurassic World”, we can expect dinosaurs to have a much bigger media footprint (even bigger than usual), over the next couple of years.

5 05, 2015

Great Work from Great Wood Primary School

By | May 5th, 2015|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Year 2 Learn All About Dinosaurs in the Great Outdoors

It was certainly an interesting morning when Everything Dinosaur visited the two classes of Year 2 at Great Wood Primary School (Morecambe).  The children had just started learning all about prehistoric animals as part of their term topic “Jurassic Forest”.  One of our fossil experts visited the school as part of the planned scheme of work to help inspire and enthuse children and teachers alike.  Unfortunately, the fire alarm sounded part way through the first session and the whole school had to be evacuated.

However, it was a sunny day, so undaunted, we were able to continue by moving everything outside.  With the minimum of fuss, the pupils in Mrs Parkin’s class settled themselves down in the playground  and we were able to deliver a second workshop.   Everything Dinosaur’s “Dinosaur Mike” challenged the two classes (2T with Mrs Todd and 2P with Mrs Parkin), to send in thank you letters as part of an agreed extension activity to help encourage the children with their composition and sure enough, at the end of last week, we received a large envelope which contained letters and some very colourful dinosaur drawings.

 A Wonderful Set of Letters Sent in by Year 2

Letters and drawings sent in by children at Great Wood Primary.

Letters and drawings sent in by children at Great Wood Primary.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Great Wood Primary School

Writing a thank you letter to Everything Dinosaur is a good way for the teaching team to check learning following a recount activity.  This composition exercise helps young learners practice sentence sequencing, planning their writing, as well as spelling and the layout and format of a letter.  The children can also read their letters out aloud as part of a further teaching activity within the class.

Examples of Thank You Letters Received by Everything Dinosaur

Super examples of letter writing from the children.

Super examples of letter writing from the children.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Great Wood Primary School

Thank you Eva and Zak for your lovely letters.

Some children had taken the opportunity to draw pictures of fossils and prehistoric animals on the back of their thank you letters.  We were impressed with the drawings and we shall pin some of these up onto our warehouse notice board.

Year Two Sent in some Colourful Drawings

Can you spot the Ammonites?

Can you spot the Ammonites?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Super writing from Izzy and Mae with two lovely drawings too.

So Many Letters for Us to Read!

An example of one of the letters we received, thank you Dylan.

An example of one of the letters we received, thank you Dylan.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaur Mike commented:

“Once it was realised that the fire alarm going off was due to building work being undertaken around the school, the teaching team and administration staff at Great Wood Primary soon got all the children organised.  After the fire drill procedures had been carried out, we were able to continue the dinosaur themed workshop outside.  Fortunately, it was sunny and not too cold.  We were able to adjust our lesson plan and continue working.  We do appreciate that, just like the teachers, we sometimes have to be very flexible.”

Nina’s Very Bright and Cheerful Thank You Letter

We were sent lots of very colourful letters.

We were sent lots of very colourful letters.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Nina asked “How long did the dinosaurs last?”  The first dinosaurs evolved perhaps as early as 240 million years ago, the last of the Dinosauria died out 65 million years ago.  That’s a really good question, well done Nina.

Our thanks to 2T and 2P for sending us some wonderful examples of writing.

4 05, 2015

Win with Everything Dinosaur – Competition Closes at 10pm on 7th May

By | May 4th, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Vote for Your Favourite Soft Toy Dinosaur to Win?

Now there are less than five days to go until the UK general election and just five days left to enter Everything Dinosaur’s free to enter competition.  Choose your favourite soft toy dinosaur for Prime Minister #votedinosaur!  When the polls close on Thursday night, we will close our competition and then one lucky winner will be sent their very own dinosaur soft toy.  The winner of Everything Dinosaur’s “dinosaur election”

We have seven candidates, having tried to represent the leaders of the seven main political parties with a dinosaur soft toy.  Each soft toy dinosaur being in the colours of the respective political party.

THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED

Vote Dinosaur! Which Political Dinosaur will you Vote For?

Vote Dinosaur! #votedinosaur

Vote Dinosaur! #votedinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In alphabetical order we have:

Ed – the red Spinosaurus, Dave – the blue Tyrannosaurus rex, Leanne – the green and red Spinosaurus hat (closest item we have that looks like a dragon), for the Party of Wales, Natalie – the green Stegosaurus, Nick – the yellow Velociraptor, Nicola – the Utahraptor and Nigel – the purple Triceratops.

The votes have been coming in thick and fast on Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook page, here is the current state of play.

The Voting So Far – State of the Dinosaur Parties

The voting is quite close.

The voting is quite close.

Table Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A Bar Chart showing the State of the Dinosaur Parties

The current state of the parties.

The current state of the parties.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Vote Dinosaur for the Chance to Win a Dinosaur!

Voting is easy to do, just visit Everything Dinosaur on Facebook (see logo/link below), like our page and comment under the picture of our seven dinosaur candidates telling us which dinosaur soft toy you want to see at Number Ten.  Competition will close when the polling booths close at 10pm on May 7th and we will announce the winner the next day.   A prize draw will be held and one lucky voter will receive the winning soft toy.

So to enter Everything Dinosaur’s competition, all you have to do is “Like” Everything Dinosaur’s FACEBOOK page, then comment on the picture (either here or on Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook page)  voting for the dinosaur that you want to be the next Dinosaur Prime Minister.

Everything Dinosaur on FACEBOOK: “LIKE” Our Facebook Page and Enter Competition

For example, if you think that the green and red Spinosaurus called Leanne is your favourite, just comment “Leanne” either here or in the comments section on Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook page.

We will draw the lucky winner at random and our #VoteDinosaur competition closes at 10pm Thursday, May 7th.  Good luck to all our competition entrants.

Don’t forget to “Like” Everything Dinosaur’s Page on Facebook!

Like our Page (please).     Like our Facebook Page!

 

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

Terms and Conditions of the Everything Dinosaur #VoteDinosaur Competition

Automated entries are not permitted and will be excluded from the draw.

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Only one entry per person.

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

The Everything Dinosaur #VoteDinosaur competition runs until 10pm on May 7th 2015.

Winner will be notified by private message on Facebook.

Prize includes postage and packing.

For full terms and conditions contact: Contact Everything Dinosaur

It’s just for a bit of fun, but we thought we would give everyone the chance to vote for a real “political dinosaur” !

#Vote Dinosaur!

For a chance to win with Everything Dinosaur Toys and Games.

We apologise for not including all the political parties/candidates that are standing on the 7th of May, remember this is only just for a bit of fun!

THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED

3 05, 2015

Cretaceous Cockroach – A Deadly Night Time Predator

By | May 3rd, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Predatory Cockroach  Manipulator modificaputis – An Insect Chimera from the Cretaceous

Stalking the forest floor, most probably in the dead of night around 97 million years ago, was a little Cretaceous critter, a predatory cockroach that possessed a range of characteristics making it look like an insect chimera.  At around one centimetre in length, it was not going to break any records for size but with its triangular shaped head, elongated legs and mouthparts it would have been a formidable hunter of other nocturnal Arthropods.  The fossilised remains of this insect, a new species, were found in a piece of amber collected from a mine in Noije Bum, northern Myanmar (Burma).  It had a narrow body resembling that of an extant Crane fly, graceful wings and it grasped prey using its modified front legs that were covered in short, strong spines.  The insect has been named Manipulator modificaputis, placed in a new family of extinct cockroaches (the Manipulatoridae) and it represents the first cockroach family to be reported exclusively from Burmese amber.

A Fearsome Night Time Predator of the Late Cretaceous

Cockroach predator of the Cretaceous.

Cockroach predator of the Cretaceous.

Picture Credit: Peter Vršanský 

Peter Vršanský (Geological Institute in Bratislava, Slovakia), along with co-author Günter Bechly (The Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Stuttgart), have produced a paper on this new discovery.  The paper has been published in the academic journal “Geologica Carpathica”.  Readers of this blog may recognise the Stuttgart Museum as being the institution that co-operates with the German figure manufacturer Bullyland to make their museum line prehistoric animal models.

To view the Bullyland range of dinosaur and prehistoric animal models: Bullyland Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals

A Close Up View of the Predatory Insect

Preserved in amber.  The delicate wings, long neck, large eyes and modified mouthparts can be clearly made out in this dorsal view (top down) of the specimen.

Preserved in amber. The delicate wings, long neck, large eyes and modified mouthparts can be clearly made out in this dorsal view (top down) of the specimen.

Picture Credit: Peter Vršanský 

During the Cretaceous there was an extensive radiation of the Insecta Order.  Many new families evolved to take advantage in fundamental changes in flora as the Angiosperms (flowering plants) evolved and became the dominant land plants.   During this geological period, several different types of predatory cockroach-like lineages evolved, but only one Order survives today – the Mantodea (the Mantises).  The scientists conclude that this insect was probably not a direct ancestor of the Praying Mantis, but that it probably represents a early side branch of the stem group that makes up the first of the Mantodea.

An Exquisite Line Drawing of the Fossil Material

Potentially an ancestor of the extant Praying Mantis.

Probably not an ancestor of the extant Praying Mantis.

Picture Credit: Peter Vršanský 

A further four specimens have been reported including an immature individual.  These specimens are just a few of the dozens of preserved insect remains that have been preserved in amber found in this part of Asia.  Dr. Vršanský commented that the Noije Bum area, of northern Myanmar is the most important site of dinosaur-age amber in the world.  Many amber pieces contain complete adult insects, this fossil evidence is providing scientists with extensive information about some of the smaller creatures that inhabited terrestrial, arboreal environments that were dominated by the Dinosauria.

The etymology of the name Manipulator modificaputis alludes to the extremely long extremities that this insect possessed. These were used to capture, hold and manipulate prey.  The large eyes which gave this little insect excellent vision would have helped it to spot predators, after all, it would have made a tasty snack for a small dinosaur on a night time patrol.

2 05, 2015

How to Clone a Mammoth (Book Review)

By | May 2nd, 2015|Book Reviews, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

How to Clone a Mammoth by Beth Shapiro – Book Review

There is a saying “may you live in interesting times”, thought by many to be an ancient Chinese proverb.  We may not be too sure as to the derivation of this phrase, but for a geneticist, the early years of the 21st Century are most certainly “interesting times”.  Our understanding of DNA, that double helix shaped set of building blocks for life itself has come on in leaps and bounds over the last two decades.  Our species is on the brink of some startling developments in genetics, one of which is the ability, through the manipulation of an organism’s genome, to bring back once extinct creatures, or at least to produce a population of closely related living things that have characteristics of organisms that existed in the past.

Evolutionary biologist and ecologist Beth Shapiro, neatly summarises the current research and sets out some of the hurdles – scientific, moral and ethical, that mankind will have to overcome if the likes of a Woolly Mammoth will ever roam the Earth again.  Her book “How to Clone a Woolly Mammoth”, published by Princeton Press sets out to explain how state-of-the-art science can lead to genetic modification, consequences of which, include the possibility of the return of the Passenger Pigeon to North America or the Mammoth to the tundra of Russia.

How to Clone a Woolly Mammoth by Beth Shapiro

The science of de-extinction by Beth Shapiro.

The science of de-extinction by Beth Shapiro.

Picture Credit: Princeton Press

Written in an informative but never patronising style, Beth an Associate Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, takes the reader on a journey beginning with the tricky subject of which species to consider for “de-extinction” and then how to go about finding a suitable specimen for the all important donation of genetic material.  Her frank and knowledgeable account of Pleistocene fossil hunting expeditions in the Yukon and on the Taimyr Peninsula in the far north of Russia provides a fresh perspective on the difficulties involved in hunting for long extinct Ice Age creatures and the potentially game-changing genetic treasure that they may contain.

For further information and to purchase this book visit: Princeton Press

“How to Clone a Mammoth” provides a comprehensive account of the current research and sets out the role that genetically modified organisms will play in conservation.  Beth has skilfully blended cutting edge science with an overview of the ramifications that resurrecting lost fauna might have for the restoration of declining ecosystems.  This book will be of interest to a very broad audience, from academics and students, to the general reader with a lay person’s curiosity for the ways in which genetic engineering is shaping life on Earth.

The Author Associate Professor Beth Shapiro

A well-written and comprehensive account.

A well-written and comprehensive account.

Picture Credit: Kris Krug

 This field of scientific endeavour is moving at a rapid pace.  Recently, an international team of scientists, including Dr Love Dalén, from the Swedish Museum of Natural History (Stockholm), successfully sequenced the Woolly Mammoth genome.  In a separate study, researchers have highlighted the alarming decline globally of large herbivores, that might lead to “empty landscapes”.  Associate Professor Shapiro argues that elephants which have been genetically modified so that they are able to tolerate cold conditions could well play a significant role in habitat and ecosystem preservation in the near future.  “How to Clone a Mammoth” may soon date as the science of “de-extinction” progresses, but it provides the reader with a road map for understanding the path that genetic research developments may take us down.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“This is a skilfully and conscientiously crafted book that explains the challenges and potential pit falls that lie ahead.  The author has done much to de-bunk the myths and misleading information that surrounds this topic and “How to Clone a Mammoth” provides the reader with a comprehensive account of the state of current research as well as tantalising glimpses with regards to what risks and potential rewards “de-extinction” might facilitate.”

Highly recommended.

For further information on “How to Clone a Mammoth” or to purchase a copy: Princeton Press

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